By Doris Day, MD
I was looking at photographs from my childhood with my daughter for a mommy-daughter project we’re working on. We looked back from when I was a little girl of two, all the way through my teens and college years. My daughter looked at the photos, paused, looked at me, looked back at the photos, paused, looked at me… Finally she looks back at me and says: “mommy, this was you???” I said “yes, that’s me growing up”. “Mom, by the time you die, you’re going to be a supermodel.” She replied in awe.
This altered the lens through which I viewed the relevance, meaning and perception of beauty. As an aesthetic physician my job every day is to make my patients, both men and women, look and feel more beautiful. The requests come in many forms. Patients use terms like “I look tired,” “awful,” “old,” or one of the most common ones I hear, “one day my face just fell apart!” It’s very interesting that there’s a commonality in how we describe ourselves: it is always by our flaws.
The first thing I notice and comment on as my patients and I look in the mirror together, is their beauty. Everyone has it - I see piercing green or blue or brown eyes, defined bone structure, shapely brows, sultry lips, perfect facial symmetry and balance. All feel seemingly nonexistent or irrelevant relative to certain perceived flaws. There’s beauty in all of us and if we don’t see it then how can we enhance it? My main job and focus is to help you see your beauty and to understand how to maintain and enhance your best features. That doesn’t mean changing how you look; it means looking like the best version of you. And what that version is, may change as you age, seamlessly tailoring your definition of optimal beauty to fit and match who you are is what I call truly aging gracefully.
Don’t confuse aging gracefully with aging helplessly. Where I see people run into trouble is when they chase youth. There are changes that happen at every structural level - from bone to fat to collagen and elastic tissue in the skin that affect how we look as we age, so it’s impossible to look 20 when you’re 50. What I’ve observed through 20 years of practice is that beauty is a feeling and expression as much as it is physical. It is as much about a life lived to the fullest as it is about the skin that drapes the face. My greatest fulfillment comes from learning about my patients and helping them see the best in themselves and to bring that to the surface so what they see in the mirror is their true beauty.
This transcends youth and is the main reason we can look even more beautiful and radiant at 50, 60, 70 and beyond. But living life to the fullest without regard for known skincare data can have its repercussions; The fact is, up to 90% of wrinkles, not to mention uneven skin tone and broken blood vessels, and oh yes, skin cancer too, come from sun exposure. If you add on a few or more years of smoking, decades of stress and other lifestyle factors, those are the cause of what you see in the mirror, and just a few changes can turn things around so you like what you see in the mirror.
This is where the need for great skin care and attention to detail plays an immense role in enhancing the health and beauty of your skin. Truly aging gracefully means doing what it takes to look your best and understanding that it is your prerogative to have aesthetic treatments, or not. When done well, fillers and botox, along with lasers, can truly bring out the best in you without looking like you’ve had anything done. More important than the product or treatment, is the training and skill of the physician doing the treatment. We’ve come to think of the product as the treatment, which is the same as the idea that milk, eggs and flour make a great cake- you need the right chef to combine and use the ingredients to make the final masterpiece.
As important as what you have done is how you maintain your skin. It’s never too late to start taking care of your skin and it’s never too early either. Besides sun protection, which I really can’t emphasize enough how important that is, there are other measures that you can take as well. The first step is proper cleansing. This is critical because we now know that makeup and pollution left on your skin can damage and age your skin while you sleep. If you’re out late or too tired to wash your face before bed on any given night, or if you’re traveling and can’t follow your regular routine, you can use a pre-moistened cleansing cloth instead, but that should be the exception not the rule. I often use a cleansing cloth to remove makeup and then wash with a gentle cleanser to make sure my face is clean and ready for the next step.
For skin care we’ve come a very long way in creating products to help prevent and treat insults to the skin. My next most important skin recommendation is to use retinol. It can be over the counter or prescription strength but this ingredient is the most studied and well-understood ingredient in skin rejuvenation. The final step is moisturizer. Completing these 3 steps on a daily basis will help maintain optimal skin health and give you the best protection against the daily wear on your skin.
Helping my patients look and feel beautiful as they age is my main goal and I believe that process starts with appreciating your inner beauty and unique and beautiful characteristics. From there, these beauty tips and the host of non-invasive treatments can help you accentuate your own natural beauty.