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October 5, 2007
Posted in: Beauty,Body Care,Skin Care,Skin Problems by cindypk @ 2:06 pm

“To be beautiful is to be exactly like everyone else…”
From experiments with human collagen to the current explosion in synthetics, cosmetics firms are becoming increasingly extreme in their quest for lost youth. But are the anti-ageing mantras they promote simply outdated? All hail the new beauty revolution.

According to countless surveys, press releases, and adverts that is. Forget walking home alone at night, politics, career, climate change, domestic violence, whether the trains are running on time, how much milk there is in the fridge, or sex life status. Maybe the ‘W’ in WMD really stood for Wrinkles – apparently they’re the only thing that keeps us awake at night.

If that’s true it’s a scary prospect for society; but looking at the $20billion US currently spent on cosmetic surgery, and just-over $7billion spent on age-related skincare – the survey-mongers could be worryingly right.

According to a 2004 Mintel report, 53 percent of French women, and 64 percent of German women claim to use anti-ageing or anti-wrinkle creams (some from as young as 15- years old). And the figures are climbing – especially when coupled with the increasing male market in anti-ageing products and surgical enhancements. The Economist reckons the global beauty industry to be growing at twice the rate of the developed world’s GDP.

New injectables such as Cymetra and Fascian that utilize human collagen, and fillers like Restylane and Perlane that use synthetics such as Gore-Tex, promise to be the next Botox cash cows. Stem cell research is being used to grow collagen and tissue for beauty applications. Lab2l’s DNA Face Cream promises to restore a more youthful appearance, with a cream that “taps into the power” of a customer’s own DNA.

Obsessed with achieving Teflon-smooth faces and bodies, the anti-ageing market capitalizes on our insecurities and fears of mortality, by offering hope in a jar/needle/scalpel to combat all visible signs of the advance away from our reproductive zenith and towards death.

But why?

The anti-ageing beauty mantra is so ingrained in people’s minds, they rarely stop to ask what makes them want to obliterate fine lines and wrinkles. What’s wrong with ageing; why don’t they want to look older? “The anti-ageing stance of the beauty industry baffles and confuses me,” says James Vincent, make-up artist and founder of the Pretty Pretty cosmetics line, which uses non-patronising images of “real” women in its promos, ( “I see beauty in wisdom and life experience, laugh lines and wrinkles explain a person’s history. These are the features I find so interesting and expressive.”

Vincent is one of the industry’s few outspoken voices against the unified worship of baby’s arse beauty. “My background is women’s studies and social work, so I’ve given a lot of thought to the way in which I make my living. I have always been strongly against anti-ageing surgery and spoken out against it. When it comes to ageing, people are so afraid to show signs that separate them from the young ideal, and it frightens me. In the beauty industry we reward sameness. We admire and sell the myth that to be beautiful is to be exactly like everyone else.”

The most surprising thing about the recent Dove “real women” ad campaign wasn’t the campaign itself (which after all wasn’t exactly groundbreaking), it was the hoo-haa that followed it. Had it not pushed buttons, it would have passed by as innocuously as a toothpaste commercial.

In the last couple of years over two thousand anti-ageing products have launched onto the beauty market. New magazine titles dedicated solely to plastic surgery such as Plastique and Cosmetic Surgery & Beauty have hit the shelves. There’s heightened attention of the ‘have they-haven’t they’ variety in the celebrity fodder mags. And TV shows like Nip/Tuck, Cosmetic Surgery Live and Extreme Makeover have become commonplace teatime viewing. “What do people think of the fact that cosmetic surgery has become a form of entertainment?”, writes one visitor to the chatroom for Extreme Makeover.

Of course, the beauty companies and surgeons are laughing all the way to their off-shore bank accounts. Staving off the ravages of time is a completely pointless – and forever lucrative – exercise. We are genetically programmed to degenerate: at some point our chin falls down around our arse, our skin thins, and our face rumples. That’s an unavoidable fact, and neither a vat of firming cream nor any amounts of surgery will ever permanently halt senescence. Just look at Jackie Stallone for proof-positive that it’s better to leave well alone. That woman should be used as a poster child for the anti-surgery movement – no slogan needed.

Is the look Ageless or Alien?

The point is, maintenance cosmetic surgery is increasingly being touted to mask the effects of ageing. But when you look at a face that’s had any large amount of surgery, it doesn’t look young – it defies gravity, (why does it always look as if the recipient’s face has stuck in a wind tunnel?). The person doesn’t look ageless, they look alien. “These questions are always treated as very big generalisations,” says photographer Nick Knight, “but the weird thing is that cosmetic surgery makes people all look very much like the sort of thing you wouldn’t want to look like.

“It pushes that one stereotype of the Barbie look which, clearly if you just had to wave a magic wand, you wouldn’t choose to have. The whole thing seems to be based on the fallacy that perfection is equal to beauty, which it isn’t. There’s also the fact that one doesn’t quite understand why the people who are least likely to produce an artistic vision of beauty, are the people who are supposedly promoting it.

“You have to think where these people have come from. They’ve come from studies in medicine, very long and very complicated studies in medicine, and very often one would not go to them for any concept of beauty at all, and I find that odd. You know, why aren’t we turning to people who represent the artistic community and represent some sort of artistic vision of the world, rather than people who represent a medical vision of the world?

“Give it to Tracey Emin to do – that would be at least a more interesting result. The other side of me is thinking I’d be quite interested if this whole thing went a lot further, and people were having completely radical cosmetic surgery. If you’re going to use this stuff, if it’s becoming so available now, then why aren’t we doing more interesting stuff with it?”

Someone who is mentally active appears far younger

Thinking of the faces we find engaging, it’s those that have individual identities, personal quirks, something going on behind the eyes. Of the people who really epitomize agelessness, it’s those who are still doing something with their lives that knock the bollocks off the image of a doddery decline. Someone who is mentally active appears far younger than someone with a shrink-wrapped face. “I would be hard pressed to find a favourite face that I have made up that is under 50-years-old,” says Vincent. “Deborah Harry, Jane Fonda, Gladys Knight, these are some of my favourite faces I have worked on, and they are more beautiful today than they were in their twenties and thirties.”

If looking as though we’re at our physical prime is related to power and reproductive value, a.k.a the preservation of the species (as if we need preserving), then isn’t it in our biological interests to be able to make good on that promise? Unless you’re of the school of thought that it’s better to have a taut face than a long, physically fit life. If we’re really so hot on holding back the years, then shouldn’t we be concentrating on brain anti-agers rather than face-savers?
Studies have shown that sustained mental activity is one of the best ways to maintain mental acuity later in life; while other research links optimism with longer life. One such study began in Ohio in 1975, and has been tracking a group of people to see those with the greatest longevity. Participants, who’d profiled with a positive outlook on life, were shown to live an average of 7.5 years longer than their pessimist counterparts. For purely morbid kicks, the website will calculate your date of death, based on a handful of biological and lifestyle details.

Pessimistic over Optimistic

Those who select “pessimistic” over “optimistic” shave around 27 years off their life clock. “Maintaining a healthy and ‘young’ brain has an impact on the rest of the body in areas such as immunity and hormonal balance,” says anti-ageing physician Dr Marios Kyriazis, founder of the British Longevity Society (, and author of Anti-Ageing Medicines, (Watkins). “It is well known that a positive mental attitude and positive ageing thinking have knock-on effects on the immune system, which protects against infections and cancer. So if one follows a brain anti-ageing programme, they would increase their chances of a generally longer and healthier life.”

Exercise and Nutrition

Using a combination of conventional and alternative treatment methods, plus advice on exercise and nutrition, Dr Kyriazis therefore believes that anti-ageing of the brain can also have a physical anti-ageing effect. It all sounds terribly Victorian – a healthy mind equals a healthy body – but degeneration of the brain could become the next big commercial anti-ageing movement. There are already brain anti-ageing pills, foods and treatments on the market.

Dr Kyriazis recommends brain-boosting drugs and natural supplements like:
Bacopa monnieri – an Ayurvedic brain booster that’s thought to repair damaged brain cells and increase memory;
Centrophenoxine – which increases use of oxygen and glucose in the brain to boost brain energy, memory and learning;
and Vinopcetine – an extract of periwinkle that stimulates brain function and metabolism.

Meanwhile, psychiatrists are currently road testing “head pacemakers”, (electrodes that link to a pacemaker in the chest which stimulates the brain), on illnesses like Parkinson’s disease, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder. However, gerontologist research such as the MacArthur Study of Successful Aging, increasingly finds that the best way to achieve good physical and mental ageing, is to remain socially, mentally and physically active. In other words, don’t just sit on your arse with a face like a drum-skin, musing on the date of your next maintenance procedure.

Don’t even waste precious grey matter looking at wrinkles and wondering whether Retinol, AHAs or microdermabrasion will keep them at bay. Or, in the words of another, (Mark Twain): “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Liz Hancock is i-D’s Beauty Editor and also Editor of new ethical fashion magazine, Project.

I-D Vol. II / IV No 254 – The Age Issue

At The Organic you will find chemcial-free natural and organic skincare, haircare and cosmetics, click here for some specifically for Anti-ageing.

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