Last week lunching with my young friend, Haley (43), she mentioned her budding interest in cosmetic procedures and asked: How much work is too much? It’s a worthy query. Knowing how to put your best face forward through chemistry is difficult. No one I know asks her plastic surgeon to make her look like she belongs in Madame Trussard’s. Yet, everyone has an example of over-the-top plumping, lifting, filling, injecting, and sculpturing—if not from personal experience then from those of other women.
My first response to Haley was that the days are gone when those who had work done generally came out looking like a deer in a headlight. Today’s products and procedures are developed to allow for a wide range of outcomes. But better procedures don’t eliminate the issue of, if a little is good a lot is better. There’s still a fine line between wanting to plump up the aging kisser and ending up looking like Goldie Hawn in the opening scene of First Wives’ Club.
So, what’s a girl to do? Through dealing with my own issues as to what, when and where, plus talking with plastic surgeons and aestheticians and combing through the media, I’ve made up a list of questions that serves as a guide for newbies.
Why do I want to enhance my appearance?
At first glance, this might seem self-evident. We take measures because we want to look better, younger, more attractive. When I speak to women’s groups I say that we want to look like ourselves–but better.
But leaving it at that begs a deeper question which should be answered before you head to the clinic. Too often, something other than wanting to correct at the first sign of crows’ feet lurks underneath. When this is the case, getting Botox and some filler won’t scratch the itch.
Injections, surgery and lasers can make you look younger, BUT THEY CAN’T FIX YOUR LIFE. No amount of work can shore up a failing relationship, end loneliness, enhance your personalty, curb depression, take away addictions, make you more effective in the workplace or make you feel better about yourself. This is tough talk. But, it’s true. A plastic surgeon worth their salt will interview surgery candidates to determine motivation. When I had my eyes done I was required to have such a talk with my surgeon. I asked him if he’d ever turned anyone down. He had. He’d turned down quite a few. He was a surgeon, not a shrink.
How far back do I want to turn back the clock?
Sometime back at a lecture I was sitting a couple of rows behind a late middle-aged woman. From the back she was fairly nondescript looking–black hair, medium built, nicely dressed. She’d caught my attention because she asked lots of good questions. When the lecture was over and she turned to go I almost gasped out loud. Her face had been pulled so tight, so many times that it was four or five shades lighter than her neck and arms. She looked like a 100-year-old skeleton.
Procedures can’t turn us into our twentysomething selves. Yet, they can age us. Our bodies change way too much over time to push the enhancement envelope successfully. Contrary to what we hear from the cosmetic companies, as the years mount we need some softness to our faces. I’d much rather look like fashion designer Eileen Fisher (66) (below)–beautifully aging with all the charm that years can provide than an aging hawk.
I love that softened features on midlife and older women are the hallmark of European beauty, a la Catherine Deneuve (69) (below). If older women want an ego-trip, head to the Continent. Age ther is simply another stage of womanly attractiveness. During our recent trip to Iceland I was coming out of a restaurant while a group of French tourists were going in. I wasn’t wearing make-up and had spent the morning trekking up to a glacier. An older, very attractive French man gave me a rather obvious once-over and said “bonjour madame” without acknowledging anyone else my group. I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day.
How much am I willing to spend/how much work will I want to have done?
This is a loaded question because it’s hard to answer before getting work done. Yet having a handle on ‘how much’ is an important component of whether to have or not to have . . .
Cosmetic work is expensive. When it comes to shelling out your pennies, the initial cost is one thing. But cosmetic corrections are like Pringles: It’s hard to have just one. First off, procedures have a shelf life. Also, it takes more product and more extensive procedures to produce the same look as we age. So, at the outset you need to be honest with yourself in committing what easily can be a shipload of future $$$$.
Secondly, understand the extent to which you are willing to go to get the look you want. I relate this to buying a new lamp and realizing when you put it in your living room that the whole house needs to be redecorated. Get your eyes done, and find that your cheeks look as it they could a lift as well. As if this didn’t present a possible problem, faces aren’t the only areas that age. Extensive face work can’t cover a crepey neck. And a boob job on a woman whose jawline all but meets the new girls looks cartoonish.
The key is moderation. The more drastic changes you make, the more they will show up the aging in other areas.
In winding the conversation down I have a few suggestion as to how to proceed.
- Meet for a consultation with your prospective provider. These should be free, and most practitioners require them.
- Be specific at the outset of your procedures regarding what you want done.
- Start little and work up as you see fit.
- Enjoy the work you have done. To get an updated you, you’re going to spend time and money, not to mention feeling pain (Oops! Did I forget to mention pain???). So, allow yourself the lift of spirit that comes from looking your best. You will have earned it.
If you’re reading this and have had work done, let us know what else you would add to my suggestions. We’re all in this together and can learn best from each other.