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When Did 'Face Shaming' Become a Thing?

The pressure on women to look perfect is mounting — and must be resisted

Woman taking selfie

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Move over, body shaming. You have new company, as older women face the pressure of looking wrinkle-free.

There's a new elephant in the room, and it's the only one with wrinkles.

I'm talking about "face shaming," or the peer pressure to look perfect.

Think about it: When was the last time you saw a 50+ woman in the public eye with wrinkles? Not recently, I'll bet. Of course talk show hosts, CEOs, actors, supermodels and politicians have been flaunting their suspiciously egg-smooth complexions for years. (HDTV and 40-foot-high movie screens can be scary, after all.) But no longer, it seems, is this synthetic flawlessness limited to celebrity types; now it's afflicting everyday mature babes like us, too!

Having conquered our obsession with weight (more or less) by wearing whatever we like, have we simply replaced it with the fear of looking older? "OMG, that's ridonkulous," as my daughters like to say. Yet as we find ourselves competing not just professionally but socially with peers injected to Photoshop perfection, the temptation looms large to judge others — and even ourselves — for "letting their age show."

The driving force here isn't narcissism, it's obsolescophobia. Here's my three-point plan for facing up to reality:

Wear makeup like you mean it. Have you heard about this "no makeup" trend? It's merely the latest installment of "The Emperor's New Clothes," so don't let it cheat you out of looking your best.

Yes, notables like Alicia Keys and Gwyneth Paltrow are "outing" their bare faces. But at ages 35 and 44, respectively, have they yet earned a single wrinkle, sag or line? Besides, what's wrong with looking like you have makeup on? Like a certain presidential candidate and this country's tax laws, it would be crazy not to take advantage of the benefits.

Strategically, makeup gets us going on a bad day, elevates our mood and restores our confidence. Tactically, it defines facial features and can counteract a host of aging-related concerns, from brown spots, rosacea and saggy lids to skimpy brows or thinning lips. (Sandy Linter and I talk about how to find the right shades and textures in our book, "The Makeup Wakeup.")

Use photo filters on social media. Unless you have a seven-figure cosmetic, film or TV contract, toss that 10-times magnifying mirror and doctor your social media photos. New "beauty filters" are constantly being added to sites such as Instagram, so use them to warm and brighten your selfies before sharing them online.

In general, gold or red hues make you appear healthier than blues. Skip filters with a faux vintage look — as if we need that! And check out mobile apps such as Pho.to, AirBrush and TouchRetouch; all three can remove brown spots, whiten teeth, brighten eyes and buff away unwanted facial lines or under-eye circles.

That said, authenticity still rocks — so favor natural light over indoor snaps whenever possible.

Reset the clock with better threads. Stop fixating on tiny details. Instead, rejuvenate your look from head to toe by editing your wardrobe down to 10 basic outfits, plus new glasses.

There's no need to go all out. Just make a base of one or two expensive-looking neutrals (white, black, beige, gray or navy) in the best fabrics you can afford. My own sartorial recipe draws heavily on these ingredients:

  • white silk shirts
  • V-neck cashmere sweaters
  • an unstructured, tailored coat
  • slouchy, high-waist ankle pants
  • oversize ribbed sweaters
  • tapered-toe loafers or loafer mules

Wearing these in a heavy mix-and-match rotation will make you feel cool and sexy. What's more, clothing solutions always outlast dermatological treatments, which require frequent tune-ups.

Perhaps the best way to fend off the Perfection Mafia is with this mind-set: Isn't a wild garden more interesting than a manicured lawn? A roaring ocean more riveting than a placid pool? And why live in a never-ending pursuit of impeccability when all it does is raise the bar for next year? I hope you'll let me know your thoughts!

For more beauty and fashion tips, take a look inside my book The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love After 50, as well as AARP's new Beauty & Style digital magazine (available on iPad).

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