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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Aging naturally -- kind of

Recently Nora Ephron came out with a new book, title of which escapes my mind, but in it she claimed the reason women today look younger for their years is hair dye (as well as surgical anything and everything). Her clear goal was to look younger for as long as she could-- which makes sense given she is surrounded by those who believe you can never been too young and that old age is something to be hidden and denied.

No matter what a person does to try and look younger, I believe, it'll fail. I have seen photos of women who have had many thousands of dollars worth of surgery and the question is asked-- how old are they? I usually am right with my guess. In my opinion it's better to be who you are and that in the end will make you happiest. I do not want to turn my face into a mask. Plastic aging Barbie does not look young. The things I do are for helping my face not sag until it absolutely must, look refreshed, relaxed, and as I get older, that takes some effort.

My first and biggest tips are the obvious-- drink lots of water. It sounds simple but it's so true. If I don't like how my skin looks, I increase my water intake and the next day it's better. There is no moisturizer you can take that will duplicate what drinking water does. To go with that, when I have had much sugar, my skin always shows it for the next few days. Healthy diet is definitely a factor in good looking skin-- sunscreen too but everybody knows all of those things. So what! We still sometimes want chocolate or to be out in the direct sun and it's worth paying the price but there is a price and the skin shows it.

For me, next comes facial exercises. I began them maybe as much as 10 years ago. I bought a paperbook on suggested exercises for a natural face lift. It made sense to me because we exercise the rest of our body. We do exercise our face by our expressions, but sometimes those don't lift but rather sink our faces.

I ended up not sticking with the ones in the book but have my own that I do relatively religiously-- like especially after I have looked in a mirror and saw something sagging that wasn't. Mine are what I call isometric. They are very simple and a bit like yoga for the face. You concentrate on moving the muscles you want lifted or built up. Lift, tighten, hold, repeat.

If you have not worked with your facial muscles, it might take a bit of doing before you can feel the muscles tightening on command, and possibly that would be helped along by starting with the book to get familiar with controlling them.

My practice is to lift cheek muscles, nose, corners of mouth, under jaw, around eyes, and forehead. You can do some of those at the same time or concentrate on first one area, then the other. Ideally, you would do these with your hands on the forehead to block more wrinkles from forming there, but to kind of show what it looks like, I am not doing that. It's hard to get a photo that shows how you would take your mouth, extend it some to both sides, tighten and lift at the same time under the jaw.

The beauty of isometric is, although one looks a little peculiar doing them, basically it's not too odd-- not enough to have someone, who saw you driving down the road, wondering what the heck that was all about (I saw a picture of Goldie Hawn doing the ones in the book I have, and they made the tabloids online with what the heck was that all about).

If this is new to you, you will see a secondary benefit in that these are good for feeling more relaxed afterward. It's a release of tension. Facial exercises are not going to have anyone looking like they are in their thirties-- unless they are-- but they don't cost a dime (even the paperback book was pretty inexpensive) and in my experience, do make a difference. You can do them reading, driving or watching TV; so they aren't even time consumers.

They say our lips narrow as we age. I think this is mostly because we press them tightly together from tension, pain or habit. I can increase the width of my lips by relaxing them. I will catch myself (as I just did) tightening up with discomfort or from something I just read in a newspaper. If I purpose to relax my mouth, it increases the width of upper and lower lips. Check it out for yourself.

I did try those lip plumpers they advertise and to me they did nothing except make my lips sticky, tingle and give them an odd color. Better by far is practicing relaxing the mouth, let the lips loosen and release the tension. If you then turn up the corners, nothing is more attractive to others than a smile.

I don't know if it matters which moisturizer someone uses; except do find one that works for your skin. I have not found expensive meant more effective. My personal favorite is Oil of Olay simply because, even in my 60s, if I use anything with oil in it, I get a pimple. How attractive-- wrinkles and pimples side by side! I wash my face with Cetaphil cleanser, use either Oil of Olay moisturizer or right now am trying StriVectin-SD, which is supposed to improve skin condition (more expensive but available from Costco for anyone wanting the lowest price I have seen for it). Oil of Olay puts out quite a variety of products and I've played with many of them just for fun because at their prices, I can afford to try this or that.

For about five years, involving more effort and cost, I have off and on had fotofacial treatments when I can work one into my schedule as well as afford it. They are light treatments that improve skin tone, texture, and tighten some. While there is a bit of discomfort to them, for me it's been mild, and does not leave sores nor is there any healing times (there is a lot of information about them online if you are interested and the spelling changes with the patent). After a fotofacial treatment, I walk out looking like I went in (when there is any redness, it can be covered with a concealer stick); then my skin improves over the next weeks. They say it stimulates the collagen.

Fotofacials are not cheap. Usually they start with a series and run from a hundred to several hundred each depending on where you live and if there is competition. I began them because I had a mild case of rosacea, and I didn't want it to get worse. They help that, shrink small veins around the nose, reduce pores, and take away age spots. For me, they have tightened my skin but not changed my looks. My last one was about 6 months ago and I am overdue.

On the comment Ephron made in her book about hair dye being the secret to looking younger. I don't necessarily agree. It could in some cases but generally it's easy to see who dyes and who doesn't. If it's an unflattering color, it doesn't look better than natural gray, silver or white. I had colored mine in my 20s for fun, went through the process of growing it out and then began again in my late 50s until I again tired of doing it. Over a year ago I began stopping by streaking less and less color through it hopefully avoiding the telltale skunk stripe down the part. My hair is now a mix of the natural ash brown, gray and white with the dyed ends slowly losing their color. It takes awhile to grow out hair this length.

I think whether a person dyes or not, it should be what lets them have fun and feel good. If we do color, they say it's more flattering to use lighter shades than when we were young. Having seen Gloria Steinem on Bill Maher last week with her hair blond and knowing she is about 73, I think they might be onto something. She is a good example of an older woman who looks great but doesn't remotely look young. She has sags and wrinkles but, at least to me, they didn't make her look unattractive-- didn't to Maher either.

Nothing I have mentioned is a miracle cure. I have lines, some sagging. When I was younger, I said I'd get my first face lift before 55; then I found out what they do with face lifts; and the idea of having my facial skin peeled open, cheek muscles restitched, sleeping upright if it's around the eyes, healing for two weeks or longer, oozing... I could go on... was a major yuck. Not to mention maybe I wouldn't look like me when they got through. Doing what I can in a non-invasive way has been fun and generally (other than the foto facials) not expensive.


Diane Widler Wenzel said...

The facial exercises are a great idea. Relaxation is good too. But I do not understand them from your photos. Do you relax for the count of 3 or 10? And then tighten for how many seconds? How many reps. I need a face fitness coach.
There is a commercial on TV with a drill sargent leading the face exercises. Hardly seems inducive of relaxation and bigger lips.
The other treatments, I don't know about unless it is for some specific symptom.
Can't agree with you about the hair dye. I see women up in their mid-ninties with brown styled hair and because they are active and have died hair they look much younger than their years. It is not just the hair but their general active movements in what ever they are doing that makes them young looking.

Dick said...

I am male so some of this might not really apply to me. I have lost so much of my hair & what is left I keep quite short, so it's color is kind of a mote point. I have been drinking a lot more water over the last three years although I didn't realize it would benefit my skin. So much the better. The facial exercises would probably help, too. I have heard that people who smile a lot tend to look better, so maybe that is part of it.

Thanks for the deeper explanation of your post yesterday in the comments section. That is making more sense to me now.

Rain Trueax said...

It might help to check out these books. I don't know for sure they are still available but most likely they are. Carole Maggio-- Facercse and The 15 Minute-A_Day Natural Face Lift by MJ Saffon. It is very difficult to describe these in a few paragraphs.

I'm sure with hair dye, it varies with women how good it looks.. or men who can color theirs also

Rain Trueax said...

If anyone has any tips they have found that help their skin or hair, please share them. It's always nice to get new ideas and I don't think because we are old-- or getting old, we stop enjoying looking nice.

Suzann said...

Thanks Rain - I agree, we can grow older and take care of ourselves and care how we look. I wouldn't want to have a face lift or any cutting procedure but I think I will look into photofacial - BTW, you look beautiful.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

I'll check out Saffon's book. Looking at your photos of the exercises I am certain these are expressions I see now and then on your face during casual conversation.
As for my tips for having a better looking skin. 1) Use colors and textures that compliment ligher and wrinkled skin tones. Compliment may mean pastels but also brite primaries can make you glow.

Mary Lou said...

I dyed mine for YEars from the time I was 21 until I retired, then I decided to let grow, and it is a pretty grey. However I look like my MOTHER now, and I am feeling old. SO I was thinking about streaking it with highlights.

I dont have many wrinkles as they are all full of fat cells. Another good reason to not diet!

sonia a. mascaro said...

Great post!
Sure, I also think that the first and biggest tips are drink lots of water, then never to be out in the direct sun and last but not least, absolutely NO cigarette!
Thanks for the tips!
By the way, you look beautiful!
Have a good week!

Sandy said...

Thanks for all of the tips and book suggestions. Natural with a little help with streaks in my hair is the way I go and most likely won't change with the exception of stopping the streaks and letting nature take over. Keeping fit, eating properly and yes, drinking plenty of water are all things that are a part of my daily life.