When it comes to health, many of us neglect our skin. But think about it: its protection allows us to function and when it is well cared for and it allows our inner beauty to shine through. And yet, few of us think beyond the obvious appearance issues to the fact that the effects of aging on skin can lead to certain dermatological conditions that cause illness and even death. Researchers say that in the U.S., a majority of people over the age of 65 have at least one skin disorder; in the UK, 70% of older people experience skin conditions, many of which are preventable.
Guess what? I’m not simply talking skin cancer. Rather, I’m referring to dry skin, inflammatory eczema on the lower extremities, pressure ulcers (when an area of the skin breaks down due to pressure placed on it) tears, wounds itching and an increased bacterial and fungal infections.
The environment: Some of the challenges that we face are directly related to the environment. Factors like air pollution, smoking and of course, regular exposure to UV radiation can lead to deep wrinkles, age spots, and leathery appearance. The message is simple, if not obvious: don’t smoke, wear sunscreen and try to minimize regular exposure to smog infested cities (of course, the latter cannot always be avoided).
Physical factors: A condition known as xerosis cutis i.e. abnormally dry skin, occurs in up to 85% of older adults. It is related to a decline in skin fats and reduced secretion of sebum — the oily, waxy matter that is secreted to keep the skin lubricated and waterproofed. When the skin is abnormally dry, it can increase the inclination to itch and scratch, with in turn, may breakdown the skin and cause wounds and infections. Although there is little that can be done to avoid some of the natural processes of aging, it’s critical to avoid overwashing with soaps and detergents, both of which can remove grease from the skin and lead to scaling and itching. Importantly, air condition and heating. which dry out the air, can exacerbate dry skin and while humidity is uncomfortable, it’s critical. During winter, hydrate the air by running a humidifier. Regular use of emollient-rich creams and moisturizers, like Aveeno or Roc or Nivea can also ward off the time effects of dry skin. Be sure to read the label of popular moisturizers to insure that they contain humectants, which help draw water to the skin.
Another important consideration is the physical integrity of the skin and the way that the skin remodels itself as we age, increasing the predisposition to tears, wounds and pressure ulcers. Unfortunately, science has not caught up with the natural aging process and there isn’t a lot of strong evidence to support one strategy over another. There is indication, however, that knowing your risk before being exposed to situations that might cause pressure ulcers (e.g. bed rest) can help to insure that you take steps before they happen. Avoid rigorous scrubbing of the skin, especially over the bonier areas, as this can increase the risk of later problems. Treat stress incontinence or overactive bladder now, before it regularly exposes the skin to moisture that again, can cause problems down the line. And that eight glasses of water rule? It my actually help your skin in the long run – hydration is key! Avoid too much caffeine and insure that you are eating fruits and veggies with high water contents, like melon, tomatoes and lettuce.
An additional solution may be the use of 0.4% topical retinoids. Research has shown that retinoids can make skin look ‘more youthful, ‘ and may even increase the ability of polysaccharides to retain water in the outer skin layer and promote the production of collagen, which keeps the skin elastic. Additionally, some studies have shown that prolonged use of topical retinoids may improve the skin’s matrix, making it less susceptible to injury and pressure ulcers.
The bottom line is that our skin deserves a lot more attention than we give it and engaging in protective strategies now may result in a payoff later in life. Basic skincare is essential. There is no panacea but taking the appropriate steps will keep your skin the game of life longer.
When was last time you thought to yourself, ‘I’m fat?’ How about ‘I’m old?’ Sound familiar?
If you are like most women, these words have likely crossed your mind at least once if not several times. And while we tend to pay lots of attention to the ‘fat talk’, less attention appears to be paid to how ‘old talk’ similarly impacts how women feel about themselves and perceive themselves. Not surprisingly, both are connected to the thin-ideal/young-ideal concept of beauty in Western society; just look at the number of products, drugs, and surgical procedures feared towards the preservation of youth and a youthful, wrinkle-free, cellulite-free appearance. As researcher Carolyn Beck writes in the Journal of Eating Disorders, “as women age, they increasingly move away not just from being thin but also from fulfilling the young element of the thin-young ideal. Accordingly, aging creates new opportunities for discrepancies between women’s bodies and cultural body ideals.”
Dissatisfaction with appearance and one’s body has been known to be correlated with binge eating, emotional eating, stress, low self-esteem, depression, and use of unhealthy weight control behaviors. When Dr. Beck and her colleagues set out to discover if fat talk and old talk had the same effect on body image, they found that among a sample of over 900 women, those who reported frequently talking about how fat they were or how old they were tended to have more negative body images. Importantly, an overwhelming majority of women — 81% — engaged in ‘fat talk’ at least occasionally and a full third reported frequently ‘fat talking.’ Their aging peers? At least 66% engaged in ‘old talk’ with friends and family occasionally, while 15% reported talking old more often. What’s more, the frequency of old talk tended to increase the older that women became.
Dr. Beck says that women’s self talk, be it about fat/thin or young/old, is an important public health issue as are the factors that play a role in causing, sustaining or deepening a women’s displeasure with her body. And while the two ideals are related, when women are young, the most salient aspect of self image is ‘thinness;’ conversely, as they age and enter midlife, both thinness and youth appear to be important. Overtime, thinness loses out to youthful.
When do we, as women, give ourselves a break? By buying into the thin-ideal/young-ideal constructs, we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to recreate our individual ideals, those that work best for ourselves. When 1,000 women between the ages of 18 and 87 agree that image plays such an important a role in how they view themselves, it should cause us to pause. We seem to be doing a lot of talking without saying or DOING much, other than to self-criticize, self-demoralize, self-dissatisfy, self-disconnect and self-sabotage. I would posit that it’s time to change the dialogue.
Have you heard of VaginaCon? If not, you need to click your way over to the site, which as co-founded by the amazing Nina Perez. VaginaCon is a safe place for women to connect with one another and build relationships. Sort of like Flashfree but on a broader scale. But I digress because this post is really about Nina. I was fortunate to meet Nina via the Interwebz when were were members of the same Facebook group. She is an astonishingly creative, intelligent go-getter who is redefining the meaning of ‘hawt.’ More importantly, however, is that last week, Nina posted a raw and honest piece about her weight loss journey and self-acceptance. Frankly, the post resonated so deeply that I asked if I could repost it here.
The next time you start criticizing yourself about your weight, beating yourself up about falling short of impossible goals or creating a standard that is a bit out of the realm of possibilities, step back. Carve those goals into smaller pieces. And take a look back in the mirror. Bet you’ll see what others are seeing; the beauty that is you.
Yeah, sounds cheesy but Nina has shared a journey that demonstrates that it’s really true. And by the way Nina? You are one hot gorgeous woman inside and out.
Show some love, eh?
When I started my weight loss journey on January 2, 2012, I was 238lbs. The healthy weight for my height falls between 143lbs and 179lbs.
Even if I were aiming for the high end, 179lbs seemed far, far away and losing 59lbs seemed like something that would take a long ass time. I gave myself a year. But still, a year? Holy hell.
Like most people fed up with being overweight, I wanted the pounds to melt away. I knew almost immediately that I’d have to set mini-goals to keep my head in the game. Luckily, Weight Watchers sets your first two goals for you: First, you strive to lose 5% of your starting weight. For me, that was 11.5lbs. I hit that by January 25th. Next, it was 10%.
But to keep it interesting, and to keep myself motivated, I gave myself goals that had nothing to do with the number on the scale along with a few that did. For instance:
- I wanted to be 214lbs by March 23rd when I had the first VaginaCon at my house. (Did it.)
- I wanted to be less than 200lbs by my birthday, August 18th. (Done.)
- I wanted to fit into a size 16 jeans. (Been there, did that.)
- I wanted to fit into a size 14 jeans. (In them now.)
- I wanted to wear my sexy shoes again without feeling like I was asking way too much of my impossibly high heels – they have their limits, too.
- I wanted smaller panties.
- I wanted to stop wearing XL t-shirts.
There was one mini-goal I didn’t give much thought to, until I hit it, and it was the first one I achieved. One day, after losing about 8-11lbs, I was walking down the stairs wearing nothing but a short nightgown. As I hit the first floor, I realized something was different. To test that it wasn’t a fluke, I began to briskly pace in my kitchen. My husband came downstairs and asked, “What the hell are you doing?”
“My thighs aren’t rubbing together!”
I was thrilled.
But what about my overall goal? What should I shoot for between 143-179? I’m not very good at looking at someone and judging their height and weight. I couldn’t tell you what 175lbs looks like on a person who is 6-feet-tall or someone who’s 5’5″. In that picture above, I wouldn’t be able to guess that was 204lbs.
After some thought, I decided that 180lbs would be my look-and-see weight. I’ll get to 180 and then look and see if I like it.
How do I look in my jeans? Can I wear a bathing suit again without wanting to cry in shame? For as much as this is about being healthy and making sure I’m around to see my kids grow up, it’s also about, for me, how I look. I don’t want fat hanging over the waistline of my jeans, and I like my ass to look firm in them. I had a vague memory of what 180 looked like on me (see above), but more importantly, I know how I want to look and feel in my clothes.
I’m always looking at other women who are my height and (in my opinion) in great shape, wondering how much they weigh. While I want to be thinner, I don’t want to lose curves. So, that’s why when Donny and I went to see Prometheus – a horrible movie despite starring two of my Freebie Five: Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba – back in June, and I saw Charlize Theron, I whispered to my husband, “New goal weight: Charlize Theron!”
I went home and did a Google search: How much does Charlize Theron weigh? Granted, I’m not sure this information is entirely accurate, but word on the internet streets is that she is my height and weighs 135lbs.
I am never going to be 135lbs again. That’s just not happening. That’s below my supposed healthy weight range! If I were younger, and perhaps easily swayed by what celebrities do, I might try to hit 135lbs, but thankfully I am neither of those things. While I still feel like I would love to look like this in my clothes:
… I’m just gonna have to rock that at about 170′ish…and with a little more curve.
What is your ultimate weight goal? Do you have mini-goals that are not determined by the scale? What about weight loss milestones like an upcoming party or other special event?
About Nina Perez…
Nina Perez is the author of The Twin Prophecies: Rebirth, Blog It Out, B*tch, and The Twin Prophecies: Origins (Summer 2012). She is co-founder of VaginaCon.com, a contributor to Milk & Ink: A Mosaic of Motherhood, Choose or Die, Elephant Words and one of the merry band of independent authors rocking it hard at the Literary Underground. Her short story, Amongst the Tulips, was published in Foliate Oaks online literary magazine and their editors voted it one of the best short stories of 2009. She also runs the book review site for independent authors, Nina’s Nightstand.
This headline, which appeared in the LA Times on February 20, says it all:
Plastic surgery does make you look younger, study finds.
Earth shattering, right?
Actually, what struck me most about it is that on a day when scientists were reporting that the reasons that certain conditions associated with aging may be due to changes in the eye (e.g. narrowing of the lens and pupils) responsible for controlling our internal clocks, that headlines touting more nip and tuck were stealing the show.
Not too long ago, I wrote about a survey that was conducted in England that showed that a third of women would give up a year of their lives, forgo part of their salary or a promotion or sacrifice time with their partners to achieve an ideal body weight and appearance. Shortly thereafter, I featured an incredible piece by author D.F. Wolf about ‘anti-aging,’ in which she questions the need to appear young and literally erase our appearance. And right after that, we learned that ‘make-up makes the woman.’
What a perfect trifecta of misconstrued values about our worth as women.
That’s why this particular study is drawing a few questions in my mind. Published online in the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, it reviews an investigation of 60 patients (of whom 54 were women) between the ages of 45 and 72 who had undergone three different combinations of plastic surgery:
- face and neck-lift
- face and neck-lift, and removal of bags and sagging around the eyes/eyelids
- face and neck-lift, removal of bags/sagging around the eyes/eyelids and a forehead lift
The goal of the study? To prove that facial surgery not only makes you look better but definitively alters how others perceive you. To achieve this, they asked first-year medical students to view the before and after photos of the patients and then estimate their age. The researchers found that prior to surgery, the students estimated that on average, patients were 1.7 years younger than their actual chronological age, and after surgery, 8 years younger. By group, the raters perceived patients who had had the most facial surgery as the youngest.
The researchers claim that this study was conducted in order to provide a means by which facial surgery can be quantified However, what it doesn’t address is the degree to which attitude, self-awareness and a general sense of wellbeing also influence how we look and how others perceive us. Moreover, while surgeons now have “the ability to resuspend, excise, tuck, inject and augment, the question remains: ” how do you achieve a ‘look’ without robbing that person of their unique attributes or characteristics?
We live in a society where aging is a four letter word and fountain of youth is an abused. elusive goal, where teenagers often model in lieu of actual adults and where photoshop and air brushing is the rule and the exception. The message inherent in this study and in the headlines that appeared on the web that day is that more plastic surgery= more pleasure. However, how many of you recall news of Madonna’s new, new face or Jocelyn Wildenstein’s frightening New York Magazine cover photo in 1997? When does ‘more’ become ‘too much?’
Admittedly, there are days I look in the mirror and am shocked by the reflection staring back at me. And days I’d consider a nip and a tuck. But to what end? Am I trying to achieve a youthful glow or a bonefide bonfire of juvescence?
Maybe it’s time to step back, really step back, and consider the message that we are sending to ourselves and to the girls and young women in our lives. Don’t we owe it to us..and to them?Read More
Bet ya thought this was a post about the Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle. Actually, it’s about pink. Labia pink (did you know that someone has actually invented that colour? I did you not!) But I digress, because it’s Wednesday and time to re-burst this particular bubble. So, I ask you: are your labia feeling their age? Do they need a bit more pink? There’s an app for that. Literally.
‘My New Pink Button’ , a genital cosmetic colorant, will help restore your labia to their naturally ‘youthful’ pink color! Feeling a bit more daring? There’s a color for that too! Purple, bright red, amber, you name it. Any shade that you’ve ever dreamt of. Any hue that your partner desires. After all, if you’re going to dye your hair, why not dye down there?
While you’re at it, you can also reshape your labia to insure that they are more desirable in appearance. Vaginal rejuvenation, writes journalist Angel Bonvoglia for the Women’s Media Center Blog, is a procedure where cosmetic surgeons (mostly men), “carve, burn, cauterize, and stitch the female labia, clitoral environs, vaginal canal, and other points south… in order to create supposedly longed for “designer” vaginas and thereby “enhance sexual gratification.”” Ironically, Bonovoglia discovers that labiaplasty, the most popular procedure (which entails either leaving just the edge of the inner labia or cutting it off entirely) actually impairs sexual desire. Still, even a top surgeon is quoted as claiming that a tight vagina will keep any man around.
Granted, we live in a visual culture, where middle age is synonymous with invisibility and where older women reach a point where they virtually cease to exist. Women poke, pull, botox, dye, suck, lift and pout in an attempt to hold on to their visibility. Now they have the option to make sure that all is well down below as well, which when taken to extremes, also insures that they rob themselves of the very thing that they are trying to regain: their sexuality.
Why do we need to be worried about or spare our partners from discovering discolored or loose labia? (Really, if he or she is down there, are their eyes open?) Better yet, have our attempts to regain our sexuality insured that we have lost our sanity at the same time?
What do you think? What flava would you like your labia?Read More