Is the use of cosmetic medicine a legitimate component of a successful health strategy, or is it something too frivolous to be taken seriously?
This question has nagged at me lately, especially when privy to women’s conversations about the visible aspects of ageing.
Women often only whisper about what they are doing in case they are criticised or belittled for their efforts to look youthful. Many feminists believe that resorting to cosmetic therapies means we are trapped in some sort of social prison aimed at keeping us looking a certain way—ultimately turning us into Stepford Wives instead of vibrant individuals.
Those of us beyond the 50-year mark are the first generation to hoe into the complicated discussion around whether we should modulate how we look as we age, and where we should draw boundaries.
If we go too far, do we have a body image problem that should be sorted via some other mechanism? If women are using cosmetic medicine when they are depressed or seeking to “fix” an inadequate life, then cosmetic medicine is something that feeds dysfunction and is not supportive of a healthy body image.
Longer lives mean more chances to embrace good health
One of the key issues with cosmetic medicine and its legitimacy is that there’s a lot of hype about what is achievable and desirable from a medical standpoint.
There’s another story about the use of cosmetic medicine, though. Our skin is our largest organ and these days must last a very long time.
In 1920, our life expectancy was about 54 – the same time today’s women are waking up and beginning their second acts in life.
We look forward to another 30 or maybe 50 years, but already our skins are showing signs of wear and tear. Cosmetic medicine beckons us to maintain our largest organ so instead of getting to later years looking worn out, we are in concourse shape.
Once we realise the benefits of a healthy skin, we start to look more broadly at how we support the skin. When we invest in cosmetic medicine, we want to make sure that investment isn’t in vain.
Cosmetic medicine provides the opportunity for us to choose the robust health practices we need to maintain energy and a healthy glow. For example, sugar kills collagen and elastin in our skin as well as our brains and hearts.
Anything exposed to sugar becomes a sticky mess and wreaks havoc in the organs around it. Choosing to eat healthy food and cut out extra sugar is good for our skin as well as our overall health.
The sun also sets up unhealthy processes that start with the skin, the body’s first line of defense. By using medically endorsed sunscreen, we not only protect our skin from ageing, but we prevent the rest of our body from being exposed to cancer triggers.
There are many nutrients that enable our skin to age less: vitamins B, C and E and superfoods containing lots of wonderfully supportive polyphenols—the actions of these of course work on other systems apart from the skin.
Cosmetic medicine can act as a positive step if it leads to us knowing more broadly about how to age less and stay well for longer.
Cosmetic medicine is a legitimate part of quality medical care
The cosmetic industry is a massive one, mostly based on hype. It peddles hope to the vulnerable, typically without any evidence to back its many and varied claims.
In the case of cosmetic medicine, however, the industry is built on what is known as an evidence-based approach. The players are meant to promote technologies and treatments that have been tried, tested and proven to work.
And there are really good doctors and other practitioners getting involved. Beware the practitioners that peddle a “younger you” and instead go to the ones that will delight in guiding you to think about your overall health and promote cosmetic medicine as only one tool in your healthy ageing arsenal.
We are living for decades longer than our grandmothers and will accumulate lots of spots and skin tags. What is the problem with systematically removing these as they appear?
I don’t like an untidy house, and I don’t want my car to fall apart unnecessarily. Why wouldn’t I use the equivalent of a good sanding and paint job if my body has to last the distance for another 50 years?
Cosmetic medicine isn’t about looking like a Stepford Wife – it’s about looking and feeling your best, whatever that means to you.
About the author:
Kate Marie is the founder of the Slow Ageing movement which aims to support women to embrace the beyond-fifties as a time to optimise personal health and wellbeing and to live a life of purpose and contribution. She is the co-author of the Slow Ageing Guide to Skin Rejuvenation and the best-selling book Fast Living Slow Ageing. Both books are available where all good books are sold. For more information visit www.slowaging.org.