Welcome readers, old and new! If you’ve found yourself washed up on the pink sand beaches of HNTFUYF and you’re happy to be here, please tap the little ❤️ above. It releases a stream of tropical sunshine to all dark corners of the world.
I wasn’t planning to write about the jackassery surrounding Madonna’s reconstructed face, especially since Jessica DeFino wrote what I think should be the last word on the subject in The Unpublishable. But now that I’m back in Tokyo for a while, I’m struck by how unlikely it is to see a woman here sporting a similar transformation. Though plastic surgery has become more accepted (and therefore more popular) in Japan—one survey I came across ranks Japan fourth for most procedures performed in the world after the US, Brazil, and Germany—I personally can detect few to no facial modifications. I’ve read, though, that double eyelid surgery to create a more prominent upper lid is the most popular procedure, followed by nose jobs, which sadly suggests that (racist, classist) Eurocentric beauty ideals persist.
As far as nonsurgical procedures, the same survey found that hair removal was the most popular choice in Japan. That strikes me as pleasantly quaint. And it might help explain why there are so few oddly frozen faces here.
Now, a query from a reader wondering whether using an at-home device is worth the effort.
Q: I’ve been gifted a very pricey, space-agey, red light/infrared wand. My sister, who gave it to me, is using something like it for rheumatoid arthritis in her hands; a friend’s chiropractor treats her shoulder injury with one. I’ve found similar wands for sale at every price point. What do your experts say about using such a device on an aging face that was raised on a SoCal beach (see: baby oil + iodine)? By the way, the cost of my wand ranges from $2,500-$3,000—that’s a lotta clams!
A: First, I have to say that every time I see someone touting one of these at-home devices on social media, I enjoy a sweet, nostalgic moment followed by a pang of sadness. Why? Because it’s likely that the device will prove to be insufficient in producing a visibly beneficial effect on the skin. Which means that the person who’s invested her clams will not only be disappointed, but also remorseful. If the device was a gift, as in your case, the only commodity you stand to lose is valuable time. On the other hand…is there an “other hand?” I emailed DermDiva, Heidi Waldorf, to find out.
“Red light LED (light emitting diodes) may be helpful by stimulating collagen and reducing inflammation,” she says. Whether visible improvement is possible depends on the particular device, how often it’s used, and the condition of the skin. (Severely damaged skin requires more than LED to see improvement). “So, if you have early skin changes and if you were consistently using it, a red light device may add to (but not replace) a good skin regimen. It may also help you maintain results from in-office procedures,” Waldorf adds. Are you noticing the frequency of the conditional tense in Waldorf’s assessment? But there’s more! “What we don’t know is whether one device is better than another. The device’s website mentioned by the reader refers to NASA technology, which is misleading: NASA may have studied LEDs but did not develop the device.”
Okay, my original take is unchanged. If I tried to sell you this newsletter by telling you my advice may be informed by NASA (I study them assiduously on Instagram) and you’d definitely see a change in your complexion if you followed every suggestion offered here by me and all the fine doctors I interview, I doubt you’d sign up for a paid subscription. On the other hand…
For the lowdown on more dependable in-office light therapies, check out this post. But please tap that button first!
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A Moment of Personal Horn-Blowing
HNTFUYF was recently included in a roundup of the “23 Best Health and Wellness Newsletters of 2023” by the (what else?) health and wellness website Ness. Thanks, Ness, and thanks to all you HNTFUYF-ers for inspiring me with your thoughtful questions and comments. xo
HNTFUYF, a Payola-Free Zone
Readers, a few of you have asked if I get a cut from sales when I mention a product. I do not. I only mention products I’d like to buy myself, and therefore think you might like, too. I share this so you know my recommendations are offered without obligation.
Val Asks You
Don’t be shy! What’s your most vexing or intractable appearance issue? Send your beauty-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll find someone who does.
I wonder if there are any studies on systemic, cultural mental health/ happiness in the countries that have the highest rates of plastic surgery as opposed to those that don't. IE: does managing our faces and bodies 'just so' result in happier people? Perhaps we can only observe anecdotally, but I must say, your description of so many unadulterated faces has me jonesing for a long trip to Japan. What does it signal that the mere IDEA of more natural looking human beings makes me happy...? xx
Madonna is bored (and boring). Jess's excellent critique notwithstanding (and it is brilliant), Madonna's face is what happens when humans forget that we die. Madonna, uber wealthy and no longer au courant, seems to me a death taunt: "Come and get me f*cker! I dare you!"
Weirdly, as an American, I relate this to 9/11. A few weeks after the towers came down, I encountered an old dude in a store treating others in line at the checkout line at JoAnn's Fabrics with some rather rude behavior. I remember thinking, "More than 3,000 people dead, gruesomely, and suddenly, their loved ones left in shock, and this guy turns abusive because he's not getting his 50% discount for what -- he's buying Velcro!!! Let's have some perspective, people. "
And I find myself thinking that way constantly still. We think we will never die, we should never *have* to die, and are outraged when someone puts a limit on us. So, f*ck you. I will show you who's boss.
To paraphrase Cher, Madonna can put a boob on her face, and no one should say a word about it because it's her business. Put two boobs on your face, lady, for all I care, but the boobs or the grill or the other surgery "statements" ultimately aren't the story.
It's that when you've shown you will take life's invitation to live it to the fullest into the realm of conquering life so that it bends to your greed for domination of it rather than the immortality of cyclical dominion and peace with what is, that insanity can only manifest as mutilation.
First her face, next what? I am curious...what else is up for her Midas touch? And what more mean things will the men who publicly criticize her say? They are the ones she really annoys because that kind of power to shape -- or misshape-- life should not belong to a woman, goes their thinking.