Discover more from How Not to F*ck Up Your Face
The Oldest Trick in the Book
plus, when in doubt, (probably) throw it out
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One of my walking partners, L, whose side-gig is accidental muse, wondered idly the other day as we huffed our way up a hill in Central Park, whether the sunburns her kids got on a recent trip were the result of expired sunscreen. “Expiration dates!” she said, brightening at her idea and giving me a little jab. “Next post!”
A great suggestion and expiration dates just so happened to coincide with some material I stumbled across recently that got me thinking about…longevity. Beginning with the most amusing/sad, from the online newsletter Skin Inc.:
“Consumers are starting to protect their skin at earlier ages, looking for formulas that can prevent wrinkles and dark spots before any have appeared. Brands are shifting products to match the demand, offering collagen-infused cleansers or nourishing oils with a boost of retinol to add longevity to youthful-looking skin before signs of aging start.”
Want to know the best formula for preventing wrinkles and dark spots before any have appeared? It’s sunscreen (more on that later). Collagen-infused cleansers? You’re swiftly washing the stuff off! Even if you got distracted trying to read the fine print on the tube and forgot to rinse, the collagen molecule isn’t likely to penetrate your skin. The idea of preventing damage and maintaining skin health is terrific—but the suggestion that you can prevent signs of aging is not; it’s dangerous. I bet you are among the most physically and spiritually well-groomed creatures on the planet, my pets, but you’re still animals—and your physical structure (that includes your hide) is going to eventually manifest signs of wear and tear. Trying to prevent signs of aging before they start can lead you to think of them as not only representing aging, but also failure. That’s negative and backward thinking: If you’re aging, you’re succeeding.
For me, the logical next question is: Then why do we dislike our faces showing age? It’s complicated. For one thing, an aging face reminds us we won’t be grazing on these mortal plains forever. For another, we live in an obsessively and cruelly ageist culture. Now that I’m in my 70s, I’ve realized I care less (not nothing, but less) about my face showing age than I do about it communicating good health and attentiveness, which allows for and supports an engaged presence.
And speaking of an engaged presence, or at least an enduring one…
If you’re familiar with these posts, you know that my adored son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old granddaughter, M, live in Japan—one reason I read The Japan Times daily. There, I discovered that Japan’s 65-plus crowd has ballooned to a new high of 36.4 million—220,000 more than the year before. And 88 percent of Japan’s 86,510 centenarians are women. Teetering (I’d guess) at the crowd’s pinnacle is the world’s oldest person: Happy belated 119th birthday, Kane Tanaka-san!
With these marathoners in mind, you might want to try this beauty of a trick that employs a theory of relativity. (I believe comparison is the death of happiness. Except when it’s not.)
1. Print out a photo of a smiling 100-year-old woman.
2. Write the word “GOALS” on it.
3. Tack it up next to your bathroom mirror.
4. Enjoy your new youthful reflection!
At last, product expiration dates. I emailed dermatologist Heidi Waldorf (she of these entertaining and informative Instagram videos) for her wisdom. She’s the daughter of a dermatologist, so it didn’t seem at all odd that she prefaced her response with, “Doctors are notoriously bad about expiration dates in their own medicine cabinets. The older the doctor, the older the products they’ll continue to use.” I like this personal and refreshing honesty, don’t you?
The three most salient thoughts she shares about sunscreen expiration dates include:
First, you should be using enough sunscreen daily that you finish the product long before it expires.
Second, if you have some left past the expiration date—more likely if it’s product for the body—you should chuck it. Sunscreens are often stashed in beach bags and glove compartments where they’re exposed to heat that can speed up the breakdown of ingredients. Waldorf says she’s more confident about using sunscreen powders if they’ve passed their expiration date but it’s important to keep the stick or brush applicator clean, just as you should be doing with your makeup brushes (as I do…never).
Third, she points out that people rarely use the required amount of sunscreen to reach full UVA/UVB coverage, so starting with a fresh product is probably a good idea.
As for when to chuck other kinds of products, Waldorf’s refreshing honesty persists. She says, “…I’ll continue to use a moisturizer or cleanser with preservatives past the expiration date as long as it looks and smells OK, and hasn’t been sitting in a jar that’s been double-dipped by fingers...” Of course, pay more attention with prescription products and cosmetics that you use around your eyes. According to Waldorf, expiration dates relate to concerns about preservative activity against microorganisms—some of which may be unfriendly to your eyes, so to preserve their longevity, hew to the dates on the packaging.
One last expiration-related note, a memoir I wished would never end: Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. Like all great chefs and writers, she leaves you hankering for more.
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.
HNTFUYF, a Payola-Free Zone
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