The Body Beautiful --- Physical
My lover spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.”
Song of Song 2:10
Yes, we all like to look pretty. While we know we cannot possibly keep the complexion of our twenties (and who in their right mind wants the blemish-prone look of our teens?), we’d at least like to think we could age gracefully. We look to the examples of movie stars and friends or family members who have done it and done it well, and we wonder what their secret might be.
My mother recently shared with me that she read an article stating you should always wash your face twice, beginning the process with warm water and finishing with splashes of cool water. She then said she remembered her aunt Mary Beth had always washed her face twice.
Aunt Mary Beth, at eighty-five or so years of age, continues to have one of the most remarkably beautiful faces a woman could hope for. But is washing the face twice the only right thing to do?
Most of us, unknowingly, are our own worst enemy when it comes to our faces. We spend too much time in the sun, unprotected. We scrub our faces as though we’re cleaning glass, and apply makeup and moisturizer as though we’re refinishing furniture. It’s insane!
I’ll tell you what else is insane: the contradictions you’ll find in beauty books. Moisturize, one says. Don’t moisturize, another says. Moisturize only if you have dry skin. Use only products with this ingredient. Avoid that ingredient. Never wear makeup to bed. It won’t hurt if you wear makeup to bed as long as you washed your face somewhere between morning and bedtime. Retinol A is A-OK! Retinol A is AB-solutely unnecessary for a beautiful face.
Good golly. How’s a girl to know for sure?
I don’t want to add to the angst, so let me just talk about what I have learned along the way. (And I say these things as a woman who is often being told I look younger than I am, a compliment I’ll take any day of the week and at any time of the day.)
If you don’t want your face to betray your age or if you’d at least like to be considered beautiful at any age, you’ll first want a clear understanding of the face’s number one telltale sign of aging: wrinkles. To understand, you’ll need to know what causes wrinkles.
It’s pretty simple, actually. Muscle contractions. Years of smiling and frowning and making other facial expressions a caboodle of times. The website for Facial Plastic Surgery Houston, Texas, has the following additional information:
Wrinkles are a byproduct of the aging process. With age, skin cells divide slower, and the inner layer called the dermis, begins to thin. The network of elastin and collagen fibers, which support the outer layer, loosens and unravels, which results in depressions on the surface. With aging, skin also loses its elasticity, is less able to retain moisture, oil-secreting glands are less efficient and the skin is slower to heal. All of these contribute to the development of wrinkles.2
Other factors leading to wrinkles are gravity, exposure to the sun and other damaging elements from Mother Nature (who, as a woman, really should be on our side), and excessive abuses to the body such as drugs, alcohol, and smoking. (The chemicals involved in smoking cause an increase in the aging process, not to mention what scrunching up your lips every time you draw on the cigarette does to your mouth.)
Now, you may be wondering, What if I stop smiling (or frowning) and making other facial expressions? Can I prevent wrinkles?
Probably not. Mainly because wrinkles also have to do with other factors, such as exposure to the elements and gravity. So keep smiling (avoid the frown) and think of other things you can do to help slow down the process (because you cannot stop it).
My guess is that your first thought here is to moisturize. Well, here’s the bad news: moisturizing will not prevent wrinkles. However --- and here’s the good news --- it will help wrinkled skin look less so. Dry skin just naturally looks older.
Though our ancestral sisters would use egg whites as a mask, vinegar for tightening the skin, rosewater for refreshing, and glycerin for moisturizing, today we are faced (pardon the pun) with a plethora of choices when it comes to fighting wrinkles. Everything from Botox to cosmetic surgery, AHAs to BHAs (alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids), Preparation H to clay masks, and everything else in between.
Ultimately the products you choose will depend on what works for you and your pocketbook; this is not to say that the most expensive products out there are necessarily the best. It truly has to be about what works for you.
“The only way to get rid of blackheads once you have them is to squeeze them out; they do not often get up and leave on their own.”
Paula Begoun, Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter without Me
So, product names aside, let’s just take a quick ten-point course I like to call “Facing Facts.”
Facing Facts 1: When applying moisturizer, youth serums, or foundation, do not pull the skin or rub in a circular motion. Rather, use gentle, outward motions, which help lift the face.
Facing Facts 2: Day moisturizers should include a sunblock. Nighttime moisturizers should be a bit heavier, as the skin’s absorption increases during this time.
Facing Facts 3: Remove your makeup with a gentle cleanser, again using outward motions. (And, by the way, always wash your hands before you wash your face or apply product.) When you are finished washing, pat --- never wipe --- your skin dry.
Facing Facts 4: Toners are an extra cleansing step that also leaves the skin refreshed. You’ll want to find one that’s alcohol free.
Facing Facts 5: Exfoliate once a week to once a month, according to your skin type (the more dry, the less you need to exfoliate). Same goes for skin masks.
Facing Facts 6: One of the best things you can do for your outward look begins inward. Drink plenty of water, eat a healthy diet, and take necessary vitamin supplements.
Facing Facts 7: Keep your hands off your face so you don’t pull or poke the fragile skin.
Facing Facts 8: Your face doesn’t stop at your neck; it goes down your neck and on to your décolletage. It is vitally important you moisturize these areas as well. When doing so, use downward motions rather than outward.
Facing Facts 9: As we get older we have to deal with a nasty little thing known as facial hair. Again, you have choices: pluck them, bleach them, remove them with hair remover or waxing, electrolysis, or laser hair removal.
Facing Facts 10: If you wear foundation, remember: you should never, ever look as though you do. Foundation should blend exactly with your skin color and tone and should not appear to stop at the throat. You can help avoid this by applying it closer to your nose and then --- using a sponge or brush --- bringing it outward.
Excerpted from OASIS: A Spa for Body and Soul © Copyright 2011 by Eva Marie Everson. Reprinted with permission by Revell. All rights reserved.