Genetics Lottery: Are We Destined to Age Like Our Mothers?

By Arden Edelcup (aka: The Beauty Babe)

“And the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows.” —Audrey Hepburn

I am hardly making an original observation when I suggest that we live in a youth-obsessed culture. Through the random luck of the genetics lottery, some women are blessed with great looks. They sashay into this world with dazzling smiles and long, toned legs with skin that has never met a pimple. Yet, the undeniable truth is that those looks change as we age.

Even stunning, flawless starlets inevitably succumb to the same drumbeat of time, under the unforgiving gaze of the public who witness the transformation from nubile young sex objects to middle-aged sitcom moms.

I have always wondered how it must feel for these women who transfixed a room with their beauty, only to be relegated to the sidelines once their beauty fades. Well, that drumbeat thumps on for all of us, and while we all make quips and jokes about our sagging boobs and crow’s feet, I find that we are all dancing around the deeper subject of the “currency” of beauty in our own lives.

I also am fascinated with how different generations incorporate the changing role that beauty plays as we age. Within each generation, opinions vary tremendously amongst women on how to face the challenges of aging and all of the conflicting emotions that accompany it.

Not every woman succumbs to the prevailing “pro-youth” pressures, while others morph into frozen-faced shadows of their former selves.

However, like everything in life, most of us navigate the waters somewhere in between these two extremes. I interviewed some “ageless” women in my own life to piece together some insight, wisdom and hardcore honesty on the subject. Needless to say, the opinions were breathtakingly honest and forced me to re-examine my own fears and insecurities on aging.

Research has revealed two different approaches to aging. Should women simply grow old naturally since their looks don’t define them, or should they fight the signs of aging since beauty and youth are their currency and power?

“Face It”  by Vivian Diller, Ph.D., is a psychological guide to help women deal with the emotions brought on by their changing appearances. As a model turned psychotherapist, Diller has had the opportunity to examine the world of beauty from two very different vantage points. She delves into unmasking the underlying issues — the “Uh-Oh” Moments that reveal the reality of changing looks.

Recently, I asked my own Mother about those “moments” and needless to say she had plenty to say. Let me give you some background on my Mother’s beauty regime. Growing up, her arsenal of beauty products consisted of a gigantic blue jar of Noxzema Cold Cream and one pair of tweezers.

My Mom loved those tweezers. But here is the thing, she was ALWAYS hot. Not the Lululemon yoga pants-wearing MILF hot of today, but the ’70s type of Mrs. Brady “hot”.

You get the picture. Exercise consisted of racing through the house with a Hoover vacuum and a cigarette. No tennis matches and Hot Yoga classes in her world, yet she always oozed sex appeal that made men’s heads turn.

Today my mother is 70 years old and she is still hot. She is that sexy older woman (think Jane Fonda) who illicits stares from men. To be honest, as I struggle with my own insecurities about aging, I am slightly annoyed every time my mother is mistaken for my sister. I don’t even have the nerve to ask those admirers if they believe she is at least the OLDER sister. I am truly afraid of the answer. While she beams with joy to hear the compliment, I always feel like somehow it is also a negative reflection on how damn old I must look. To add insult to injury, she does nothing heroic other than religiously attend her monthly hair color appointments that disguises her gray with a buttery youthful golden blonde. And while she does not obsess about her wrinkles, her slowing metabolism means that she “religiously” walks on the treadmill at her gym without fail. And damn, her legs still look good.

While we often joke around about the “ravages” of aging on both of our bodies, Mom and I had never discussed it in any serious manner until I asked her point blank: “Mom, do you still feel beautiful?”

It was a simple question, that garnered a complicated response. Without a doubt, she lamented, she had always enjoyed the intoxicating feeling of being considered a “Hot Mom” and said that she really felt her most sexy and beautiful in her late ’30’s. (Studies support that most women feel their MOST beautiful in their 30’s and 40’s. Only a mere 7 percent of women feel their most beautiful in their 20’s). However, she stressed, she does not miss the insecurities and self-doubt that plagued her younger self. Today, she cherishes her health, yet still relishes the “attention she gets for a woman her age”.

What began as a conversation about beauty, quickly changed into other subjects like her marriage, financial stresses, and freedom. Like most of us, how we feel about our physical beauty is intertwined with deeper issues and feelings.

When I called my Mother-in-law to ask her the same question, she also launched into reflections that were equally complex. Like my Mother, she quipped that sometimes, she admires those women who have the courage to “just age naturally”.  However, she quickly added that she just is not one of those women. Unlike my Mother, she doesn’t color her hair and has been gray for most of the 25 years I have known her.  However, she has a dazzling vocabulary on all of the breakthrough anti-aging ingredients on the market. We often banter about the Fraxel machines at her dermatologist’s office.  When asked to sum up her thoughts on beauty and aging, she replied: “With all of the options out there, that our own mothers didn’t have, why NOT maximize our own attributes. If a little filler to smooth out a bothersome wrinkle helps put a bounce in your step, I am ALL for that.”

Both of the wise sages in my family agreed that the beauty you “lose” as you age, is replaced with something much deeper and fulfilling … but they still feel their best when they look their best.

Other women I spoke to about the subject, reflected with the same depth and insight too.  Susan Barr, (Lisa’s Mother-in-law) had a no-nonsense opinion on beauty and aging. She firmly stated that she was never a woman who obsessed about her beauty and resolutely refuses to fight the natural aging process.  It is aging with grace to the max for her … BUT she was quick to add that she has always used the best skin creams (Natura Bisse is her go-to skin savior) and swears by the results. Like the other women, the word “beauty” had meaning far beyond the subject of age spots and bubbe flubby.  As a matter of fact, the conversation of gray hair and wrinkles quickly bored her and we engaged in a lively discussion on the importance of “inner beauty” that only comes from creating a life that is filled with charity and family.

This ‘Zen Approach to Aging’ is supported by some Hollywood babes too. Diane Keaton, age 67, recently told More magazine, that with age comes more clarity in focus, attributes she said she didn’t have in her 20’s and 30’s. “I feel much more alive. When you’re younger, you have a tendency to be relieved by fantasies. But now, the drama of real life comes charging in.”

Interestingly, the “beauty” wisdom dispensed from these wise sages left me with the feeling that my generation of women have a lot of growing up to do.

As I walk down the street with my 22-year-old daughter, and watch the men gaze longingly at her, I still hold tightly onto the notion that “young beauty” holds a mystical currency in our society. It is still challenging for me to comprehend that its value diminishes as we “Grow Up”.  It is not whether or not you choose to freeze those forehead lines or laser away those age spots. If we do it right, a life with “real value” is one that is built on the wisdom we acquire from the challenges we overcame, the relationships that we carefully nurtured, and finding the joy in every single day. And that is the wisdom of growing old gracefully and beautifully.

Beauty Babe’s Anti-Aging Arsenal
The booming Beauty Industry is fueled by Baby Boomers over the age of 40 who constitute the most affluent segment of our society, and the beauty industry is catering to their every whim.  In the last 10 years, the scientific advancements in skincare research and hair color has been impressive:

Thinning Hair — Gone are the days where women had to begrudgingly accept their thinning hair.  Even women in their 30’s have suffered hormonal changes that can result in hair loss.  Spectral-DNC-N Hair Loss Treatment has been a revolutionary breakthrough treatment that far surpasses the Rogaine of yesterday. This hair treatment has been proven to increase hair growth in independent clinical studies and I have actually seen customers swear by it as well. Hair that has simply lost its luster should be treated to shampoos and conditioners that are formulated with proven anti-aging ingredients. The experts with whom I spoke agree that Pureology Nanoworks is the gold standard in anti-aging haircare. The products contain anti-aging ingredients that read like a vegan menu: green tea, sugar cane, citrus and wine extracts along with proteins and organic mushroom botanicals.  These ingredients combine to strengthen hair while soothing the surface and revitalizing the hair’s core.

Trendy Nail Color — The easiest way to look contemporary while also age appropriate is to stay super current on the trendiest nail hues. While glitter and nail art should be avoided at all costs, no color is off limits for any group. I have been at the epicenter of this nail polish revolution and I love it.  Gone are the days when women over 40 were “mandated” to wear sensible colors that matched their outfits. Funky colors are the new “black” and whether it is Essie’s Smokin’ Hot or Deborah Lippman’s Mermaid, I have seen women of all ages rocking these colors and it looks great. Women of all ages can connect with one another by admiring their daring new shades of purple. Even the names of these colors evoke smiles and camaraderie amongst us girls. (who can’t giggle at OPI Light My Sapphire or Essie’s Shake Your Money Maker)

Retinol and Sunscreen IS a Girl’s Best Friend –  I can’t say that enough.  The only FDA-approved anti-wrinkle ingredient is Retinoid (which is prescription strength Renova and Retin-A).  However, these can be very costly as well as irritating to the skin, so retinols are a great and affordable alternative.  My favorite is Skinmedica’s Tri-Retinol Complex which comes highly recommended by dermatologists. Retinoids/Retinols should be used at night only. During the day, I always recommend a Vitamin C serum or cream that fight off the nasty free radical scavengers (sun!!) that can destroy your collagen. IS Clinical Super Serum has a high concentration of stabilized Vitamin C, but there are many to choose from. Just remember to always use a sunscreen and don’t’ forget your neck and hands.

Time — There is not too much to elaborate upon here. Nothing wreaks more havoc on our psyche and our faces then stress. Whether yoga, jogging or a long hot bath is your anti-stress solution — just do it. Nothing makes a woman glow more than when she feels at peace with all the craziness around her and learns to embrace it as part of this wacky, unpredictable but always fascinating road of life.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Arden Edelcup is a Mom of three “Indiana Hoosiers” and owner, with her hubby Earl Edelcup, of Ross’s in Highland Park, Illinois. Check out her website: www.rosscosmetic.com.

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