real beauty = choosing to grow old gracefully

April 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

I work in advertising and this week has me thinking a lot about how I’m marketed to when it comes to beauty. I’m reminded of the Dove campaign for “real beauty” where they use real women of all shapes, sizes and ages instead of models. One of the key messages of the campaign is “Imagine a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.” It’s a campaign I’ve always admired for trying to change perception around beauty being skin deep.

But then I remember Dove is in the business of selling skincare products. While Dove’s campaign is great and all, it’s still inevitably tying beauty to what you put on your skin, not who you are as a person. They still sell “aging” creams like the rest of them; theirs at least is deemed “pro-aging” vs “anti-aging” like the others, even though the ingredients are roughly the same. Even Dove can’t ignore that age reversal is definitively the latest trend in skincare. If Dove were about “real beauty” they wouldn’t even be doing anti-aging ads, period.

The two phrases that keep going around in my head this week are “beauty is only skin deep” and “growing old gracefully”. Do I try to force my skin into submission to retain the beauty of my youth or do I try to gracefully advance forward come what may? I think it’s safe to say which side marketing wants me on (no matter how good their intentions may be). But what does it mean to grow old gracefully?

After being in LA last week, I know what it doesn’t mean. It’s pretty common to run across women who have had more than their fair share of plastic surgery. I suppose I should say here, “to each his own”, but I’m not going to. I think it’s sad that our culture has now added another hoop to jump through to be considered beautiful…you have to look like you’re in your 20’s for the rest of your life.

I’m 36 and am definitely starting to see the signs of aging here and there. I’ve spent a bunch of money in the past trying different anti-aging products over the years to make my skin look better, clearer, less wrinkly, younger, smoother and whatever other reason I can’t remember. As far as I can tell, none of them have really done that much. For me, all those products tend to do is to serve as a daily reminder as I look in the mirror that getting older is something to be ashamed of and should be reversed at all cost (and that cost can get pretty high. I know from experience).

One actress I’ve always admired who bucks the LA trend of using plastic surgery is Meryl Streep. At an age when many actresses are simply playing overbearing mother roles, she is continuing to push herself and the boundaries of film.

I think it’s safe to say that Meryl Streep is the epitome of growing old gracefully. She doesn’t strike me as someone who is spending a lot of time and energy trying to look younger, but as someone who is comfortable in her own skin, whatever age it may be, embracing who she is and what she has to offer to the world through her acting.

I think aging gracefully isn’t about looking young, it’s about having a youthful beauty, which you can have at any age by smiling, laughing and enjoying who you are. It’s a confidence in who you are, not what you look like.

The fun thing about this project is where each week takes me. I didn’t really start this week out thinking anything about these things, but as I started examining what I do each day with my skin, it was hard not to. Buying skincare products is a slippery slope to find yourself on sometimes. It was good to stop for a second and ask myself where I was going with all of these products I was buying to “be beautiful”.

I’ve now re-directed myself down the path of growing old gracefully and accepting all the sun spots, wrinkles and fun along the way.

It felt really good to throw away all that crap.

§ One Response to real beauty = choosing to grow old gracefully

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