What is Looking Young Anyway?

April 8, 2014
Is this young enough?

Is this young enough?


As a makeup artist, I get lots of questions from people on how to look younger. Maybe it comes in the form of “How can I erase my wrinkles?” Or a person points to their least favorite facial attribute and says, “What should I do to get rid of this?” Or, “Should I get Botox to look younger?”


Mostly, I just say, “You look great”, because the answers are so complex, and life is short. But I’m realizing that these questions are based as much on confusion regarding what cosmetic antiaging can actually do as they are in some personal insecurity on the part of my questioners.


Certainly we overvalue youth in modern culture. Growing old is not as rare and special as it once was, so instead of having the few treasured “super-survivors”,we have lots and lots of elders – who we will probably be joining. And youth is attractive – it’s generally more pain free than old age, and it’s way more photogenic. So even though we expect to grow old – we paradoxically hope to look and feel as young as possible while doing it.


“Looking younger” can be many things, but there is one thing it is not: no one, ever, can really turn back the clock. We can slow it (Madonna may have found the wall), we can alter it, we can partially shield ourselves from it, but in the end, we all age – or we die.


And there’s another wrinkle in this: how we approach antiaging creates a certain look of aging on its own. Because in slowing, altering, or protecting ourselves from the signs of aging, we are creating a look that’s unique to us. The same as if we did nothing. But different.


Here are two possible antiaging outcomes, one resulting from an all natural approach, and the other using every modern medical technique. Both subjects are respected health and beauty professionals who strongly practice what they preach:

Susun Weed

Susun Weed

Dr. Fredric Brandt. Photo: NY Times.

Dr. Fredric Brandt. Photo: NY Times.


Susan Weed is a Wise Woman herbalist and women’s natural health expert and advocate. She lives in upstate New York and writes, teaches, hosts a radio show, and runs a goat farm. She drinks nourishing herbal infusions, eats whole foods, and has an active, outdoor life.


Dr. Fredric Brandt is a world renowned dermatologist who pioneered the use of Botox and other fillers, and freely admits that he experiments with new techniques and fillers on his own face before using them on his celebrity clientele. He lives in a penthouse apartment in New York city and consults out of several offices, as well as hosting a radio show, running a skincare company, and lecturing at medical conferences.


These are extremes, and I show  them to make a point: how we approach antiaging is related to both what we “do” and to the general lifestyle we lead. Susan Weed’s Wise Woman vitality is based on nutrition and outdoor living – she probably doesn’t pop into Sephora for a new cream, and I seriously doubt she’d she do a medical grade peel – she’d have to stay out of the sun. (The goats would be pissed.) But thanks to her herbal infusions and active life, her skin glows, and she looks good.


Dr. Brandt’s look is visually the result of Botox, fillers, peels, and quite likely some implants or surgery, though as a regular yoga practitioner he’s probably into healthy living as well. But city living affords him the opportunity to stay out of the sun, and around his celebrity clientele, his going first on his own face with any new treatments means that he’ll have experienced advice for their own. He and his clients represent the state of the art in medical antiaging techniques.


I don’t know about you, but I don’t live on a farm or in a penthouse. Everyone’s lifestyle has its own unique needs and opportunities. Which makes a lot of antiaging hype so confusing. Aging – both intrinsic and cosmetic – has so many dimensions, and quickie articles can never address the complexities. So we get news stories asking if such-and-such is the “fountain of youth” and if You Should Be Doing It. And rarely is any antiaging technique broken down to what concerns it might really address, if any.


“Looking Young” is not a thing that any one supplement, technique, product, or procedure can actually produce. We can do bits and pieces as we go along on our life’s journeys, based on our lifestyles, aesthetic preferences, budgets and tolerance for pain. I hope to break this subject down further in future posts – looking at what aging involves (in relation to beauty), the ways lifestyle can influence how we approach the things we’re offered to counteract it, and looking at the things themselves to parse what it is they’re actually good for.


p.s. Can you believe that I got offered my first free cosmetic procedure while writing this? Yes, it’s true, and while I have to think a bit about what this means*… I do want to find out more about what these procedures entail – from the experts who perform them.

*Being offered Free Stuff tends to put me in the mind of trying The Thing out, even liking it before I try it (as one must, for a potentially painful treatment). Yet I am pretty sure that my lifestyle and preferences would not be currently complemented by most of what is offered in the cosmetic dermatology realm. So, I am torn between my previous distaste, and my curiosity combined with the free offer. Know what I mean?

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  • Mary T April 8, 2014 at 8:31 am

    What a great piece! I haven’t read your blog before but certainly will do so again. As a 44 year old women in the media industry I constantly feel the pressure to ‘look good’. I’ll admit I’ve tried the odd spot of botox/filler, but not looking like Dr Brandt yet thank goodness! I feel inspired and determined to embrace my appearance (I can’t bring myself to use the word ‘natural’ it’s such nonsense when I’ll always dye my hair, wear lipstick etc). – with lots of makeup, a good haircut and great clothes!

    • Meli Pennington April 8, 2014 at 10:50 am

      Thanks, Mary, and great point on the word “natural” – it’s easy to forget that even a haircut is appearance-altering!

  • Jennine April 17, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Oh my goodness, such a great piece! I recently started freaking out about my pores since having my baby… after a closeup photo of the two of our faces together. OMG. Well, let’s just say whoever can put baby skin in a bottle will win some kind of Nobel Peace Prize.

    Congrats on getting your first offer! That’s great!

  • Jennine April 17, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Oh, and Dr. Brant looks crazy. I’ve also found his products ok, but not worth the price. Botox doesn’t always have to make you look frozen. I used it once or twice a year to get rid of my 11’s for a couple of years. I haven’t used it for two years, and it still makes a huge difference… though I’m probably due to go back in once I stop nursing… who knows when that will be.

    Been loving Avon’s Anew and Neurtogena’s Rapid Wrinkle repair for the anti-aging cremes.

    • Meli Pennington April 17, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Thanks, Jennine, it seems the happiest Botox customers (that I know) are the ones with the 11’s, especially people who “look” angry but aren’t. (As expression habits go, furrowing one’s brow doesn’t always signify anger – I know people who furrow their brows while deciding what to have for dinner!

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