Anti-Aging Creams and Other Fairy Tales

Not long ago, I needed paper towels, baking soda, a birthday card, facial wash, and a cheap copy of Bridesmaids, and I only wanted to make one stop, so I went to Target. I flew around the store plucking items off the shelves and after ten minutes the only thing left was the facial cleanser. Generally, I am not picky as long as it’s oily skin-balancing with mostly natural and gentle ingredients that smell nice. In the cosmetics aisle, the smiley Boots “beauty advisor” descended upon me. I smiled back, putting up my anti-sales shield which magically deflects silver-tongued pitches designed to trick me into impulsive spending. I told her what I wanted and she picked up Shine Away Mattifying Cleansing Mousse, which was chocked full of plant extracts developed in the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, something that spoke to my inner botanist. Surprisingly, it was also under $10, making it a clear winner.

I was so satisfied with the find that the blah-blah-blah trickling from the Boots girl’s mouth about the benefits of pairing it with anti-aging cream didn’t bug me until it came around the third time and I raised an eyebrow. “Well, not that you need anti-aging stuff. I’m in my thirties too, but it’s never too early to start,” she said before dribbling on about the craze in America following the nod from Dr. Oz and hadn’t I seen the video of women lined up for hours at the mothership Boots drugstore in the UK for the release of said anti-aging cream.

I most certainly had not, I told her, backing out of the aisle with my face wash. At home, mostly because I was having a hard time picturing British women swarming anything, I YouTubed “Boots beauty products,” and over eight hundred links popped up including a random “Butt Like a Brazilian” workout. I clicked on one and there in the background behind the reporter were British women swarming Boots drugstore. I watched it three times, sad to see so many looking for salvation in a jar, but understanding why the Boots beauty advisor was pimping the cream. Demand is high.

In the days since watching the video, I’m seeing with new eyes the proliferation of anti-aging products in magazine and web ads, offering hope beyond reason for freezing your face at some favorable point in time. Is it me or was somebody not paying attention in biology class?

I expect to age. My one superpower, however, is that I have an eerily young face that often gets me pegged for thirty-something, and I suspect the Boots beauty advisor would have swallowed her tongue if she knew I could probably have given birth to her.  Sure I sometimes get a kick out of the whiplash that makes a run around a room when my twenty-seven year old daughter calls me “Mom,” or the person IDing me says OMG—which FYI, compliment or not, is never appropriate to say after eyeballing someone’s driver’s license. Still, I’m not delusional enough to think this game has no end.

Last week, I saw a creative-license “before” photo of Barbie, who, at fifty-four is two years older than me. Before primer, concealer and foundation, she had crow’s feet, baggy eyes, an uneven complexion—possibly even rosacea—and she did look older, but not half bad for half a century and a smile would have helped. I get that little girls would probably not want to play with her after years and years of Mattel’s shoveling her agelessness, but she, like anti-aging serums, are shady fairytales and the Boots beauty advisor’s words, It’s never too young to start, continue to haunt me.

I don’t think the Fountain of Youth lives in a jar, but I think plant-based products are the way to go and I like my Shine-Away, although, in a pinch, I’ll probably still use body wash or hotel soap on my face too. I don’t know what makes the difference in how young I look except that I laugh a lot, live in the moment, meditate, pamper, play, sleep well, eat mostly “super foods” and, in the interest of self-kindness, don’t look at myself too critically first thing in the morning.

What I do know is that I don’t have six seconds to sit around strategizing about preventing my first wrinkle. I’m not afraid of looking older. Feeling older scares me though and I have to work on that because it’s coming too, but I doubt that kind of courage shows up in a jar either, so I’ll see where staying healthy, active and engaged in the life I’m living take me.

To aging gracefully,

N. Shami

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