Years ago as a fledgling scientist I attended an exhibition in Paris sponsored by les Nouvelles Esthetiques, then owned by Pierantoni, now deceased, the man who started the beauty trade magazine business.
I recall one booth advocating ‘The latest in anti-ageing technology from France’ (then a new buzzword instead of the hackneyed over-used phrase it is today) The woman in the booth had carrot-henna hair teased into a massive bubble, improbable slashes of rouge on her cheeks, heavy blue eyeshadow with weeping black liner, lips that looked like a chicken’s bum and skin that looked like she fell asleep on a chenille bedspread! In an oily and exaggerated French accent she was touting anti-ageing treatments to mesmerised young beauty therapists!
I was mesmerised also – by how she could get away with it – so I politely inquired if she were new on the job? Maybe the products had not taken effect yet?
I was blasted by a torrent of Gallic rhetoric (I think there were a few mental fingers involved) and I went away vowing never to not look like what I was doing.
Since then I’ve been a guinea pig for numerous experiments, some of which I have reported on in these pages and it is a small miracle I have any skin left, but I have always believed that if a professional skin therapist is going to “sell” potential clients on what they have to offer, then they must look like someone who practices what they preach. Too often have I seen people at exhibitions who claim they’re “just too busy” to bother with doing the very treatments they are pushing as miraculous. And think about it; how many hired models at stands do you see featuring tanning systems, facials and makeup that are older and appear to need the products badly?
There is not one advantage in looking older—there is no “grace” in ageing outside the experience of life itself. And what good do those experiences do for anyone when the doors to life start slamming shut just because someone appears older than they actually feel inside?
Here in Beverly Hills, we see a lot of older movie stars. Some, like Tippi Hedren (The Birds) and Kim Novak (Vertigo) still look sensational in person while others are unbelievable and unrecognisable wrecks. Sophia Loren, out of all of them from “that era” is a triumph to not only looking beautiful at age 74, but sexy as well! These are the very few that felt they had a professional obligation to the film industry and to the public to preserve what they had for as long as possible – and do it with style.
Many of the top makeup artists I have seen get around with faces like pudding, scrubbed and featureless—a look that can only be pulled off by a naturally beautiful boy or girl in their pre-teens!
Then there are the fashion designers that wear the most ghastly hodge-podge of clothing to major fashion week events! Is it the lot of unattractive, aged and dumpy people to control all aspects of the beauty industry? Wherein lies the credibility?
Not everyone has to be born beautiful to look like what they do professionally. Good, healthy skin, a fit weight, appropriate clothing for one’s body type, skillful makeup (if one is a makeup artist) and face-enhancing hair are all part of the package I call “Leading By Example”.
I cannot tell you how many men, way back in the ‘70s, when it was “not done” for men to take care of their skin, were influenced by my approach to non-gender skin revision treatments. I am talking bank presidents all the way down to rough and tough blue collar workers in the south side of Chicago! Not only did I do everything I was offering (at times allowing them to “view” me in a treatment room with an enzyme masque on my face) but I always maintained a fresh clinical look to my premises, foregoing anything that reeked of excessively feminine décor of the kind formerly associated with the beauty palaces of Elizabeth Arden, Sonja Of Hungary and Christine Valmy. These institutions, while great for their time, were simply too intimidating to men. Today, almost 50 per cent of all DMK clinic clients around the world are male.
There are those that say I am vain. Damn right I am vain! I enjoy the fact that smiles conferred upon me are not the forced and piteous smiles a doddering old man usually receives. I am very aware of my age, and will admit that it does take more time to maintain this visage and body than it did when I was in my 30s—but the fact that people in their 30s and much younger make it obvious they would like to “get to know me better” is testament to the fact that the extra time and trouble is worth it.
However, the main reason for all this due diligence is my unending curiosity of why we age as much as we do and what can be done about it. I have always believed in pushing the envelope and doing things because they can be done and, most importantly, as an example to other professionals. I remember a recent lecture I gave in South Africa where a handsome 28-year-old dermatologist was looking up at me with shining eyes and nodding affirmatively at every point I was making. Later, he rushed up, all enthused, and told me how I had changed his way of thinking and how did I manage to stay so young? We exchanged email information on how he could take training, but I noted his emails were always accompanied by provocative photos of himself on sunlit Cape Town beaches. I was highly amused and touched—anyone who is 65 would relate to this.
The psychology of feeling guilty for looking after one’s self past age 40 must be challenged and changed within the industry. The message needs to be sent clearly to the public – your clients – that there are no rules in society. Whoever designed the calendar was either a woman suffering from massive PMS or a disgruntled man who could never get to first base with anyone. And for decades we have literally chopped our lives up into decades and then, lemming-like, underwent the changes suitable for that decade. First you are a teenager then, chop! You’re an adult and must look like one. Then you are middle aged and you chop your hair. Your wardrobe and belly must look middle-aged (love handles are alright, hee hee!)) Then you are old, and by gum—you have just got to get down to that discount store and load up on pastel stretch polyester with comfortable waist-bands that expand and sensible shoes. God forbid any leg above the calves should show and besides, there is all that cellulite and those spider veins to cover up!
The pull of gravity, relentless sun exposure, stress and hormone flux will result in lumps, sags, wrinkles, hands like spotted gloves, Austrian drapery swags around the neck, facial skin that resembles congealed gravy left in the fridge and raddled decollates. Breasts will wander in the vicinity of your stomach and bums will wobble south like pillows with half the feathers missing and wet. But none of this is necessary – and it’s certainly not professional to allow this to remain in view of clients! How can people suffering from acne vulgaris believe in a therapist who has acne or acne scars? How can a woman wishing to rid herself of cellulite have faith in a therapist who is themselves a walking orange peel? A lot can be sold to a client with personality and a pushy presentation—many people are desperate for any kind of result to their problems. But imagine yourself a man in his late 30s; an actor whose youthful roles in television series are drying up because his “freshness” is gone due to drugs or alcohol, or both. You come into a Beverly Hills clinic and are diagnosed by a pleasant-looking man whom you assume is a year or two older then yourself. You’re almost reluctant to believe the treatments he is offering could possibly work because, hey, he does not look old enough to really relate to your fears of ageing and not getting film work. Then he announces he is 65 years old!
Would you book an appointment with him?
I cannot tell you how many times I have been part of this exact scenario. And not just at my Beverly Hills office; it has been repeated at cocktail parties, fund-raisers, travelling in airplanes, on the street, and yes, exhibitions and lectures. In fact, if the crowd does not gasp and murmur when I lecture and announce the years I have been on the planet, I will know either I have been sloughing off or science has let me down at last!
And science we do have, by the truck-load. To be sure, there are still a lot of dodgy products and machines in the industry (despite my journalistic attacks over the years) but things are changing. The main reason: the public really do want fundamental results for their hard-earned money spent with us. We live in an increasingly stressful and uncertain world, but rather than decreasing the beauty business, world crisis is increasing people’s interest in finding things to take their minds off The Middle East, terrorism, the economy and who will be the next American President – and will Britney survive yet another rehab stint on her way back to the trailer park. And one of those things is at least looking good, no matter what the circumstances may be or how old one is.
Yet the actual conversion to this mindset of maintaining the look of health and vibrancy is still an issue with most people and their peer groups. It is up to us, the professionals, to not only reassure them that it is “alright to look better, younger and fit”; that vanity does not have to automatically be buried with the decades piling up, but to set the example by being our own best advertisement.
It is important to realise that there is no one-off approach to this type of maintenance. True age management takes skill, commitment and education. A lot of it has to do with combinations, of many things, including fitness and eating habits. All the cells of the skin and body have “memory” and kick into new metabolisms if the concepts of treatments are consistent. Waiting to have laser treatment, cosmetic surgery or Botox and fillers is not the answer. Healthy skin responds to all of these hi-tech modalities much better than skin that has been ignored or neglected. A person with badly sun-damaged skin and a coarse texture reddened by transepidermal water loss is not going to look 20 years younger with Botox and a few fillers. A person with skin that has shed its redundant cuticle, has all of its immune systems going strong and good hydration, healthy skin cells being maintained and “bounce” to the inner matrix can look 20 years younger with these marvelous medical tweaks available in the modern combinations of aesthetics and medicine available today.
Lastly, there is the “greening” of America (and the rest of the world will follow suit) Certainly global warming is a real issue—but it is more about emissions destroying the ozone layer than whether or not a product contains parabens or sodium laurel sulfates. Unfortunately this has a huge political aspect to it; current contenders jumping on the bandwagon to the Whitehouse etc. I opened a recent issue of ELLE magazine – their “Green” issue – and was astounded by the plethora of products, high-end over the counter cosmetics and heretofore little-known “natural ranges”, all with full page ads replete with organic, natural, mineral, no parabens, no anything that has more than six letters in the word! This, of course, will leave competitors scrambling to re-formulate, focusing on ingredients as opposed to performance of product.
In the end I suppose, the cream will rise to the top and perhaps we will have better, healthier systems. Things like this always galvanise genuine scientists into finding better ways to treat the skin. But it will still be concept as opposed to ingredients that will rule the day. There are only so many mechanical ways one can treat the skin, only so many actions that can influence the cells and the vascular systems, and delivery is the most important factor (which by the way, does not always require penetration). Nanotechnology looks very promising, but we are light years away from safe nanotechnology for skincare. Currently nanotech scientists can compound delivery systems with tiny molecules that can reach the dermis like a topically applied injection. But, what then? What happens when these miniscule ingredients start piling up and then enter the body systemically? How does the body deal with this over time? Who is going to monitor it and how? And at what point will we know if something that is perfectly safe for the epidermis to handle will be equally safe if or when lodged in the kidneys, liver or vesicles to the heart?
Fortunately, there are labs that can gauge the size of the molecules and even the shape—so that there will be a control and monitoring factor. This I am most interested in! I will be going to China soon, to a little known nanotech facility with unlimited resources. I am now wracking my brain for ideas that they say they want from me. I welcome any suggestions from readers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org