Every week, it seems, we hear news of another beauty product or procedure designed to erase years from our face and body: lasers to zap sun damage; moisturizers to vanish wrinkles; injections to tighten sagging jowls and frown lines; liposuction to flatten the stomach; veneers and whiteners to give you a radiant smile.
Join our discussion: Do men age better than women?
"It's no wonder people have complicated feelings about their appearance as they age," says AARP Ambassador Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at the University of Washington. "We're constantly getting the message that thin, young and sexy is the best way to look."
That message, no doubt, is behind the recent surge in cosmetic surgery. As increasing numbers of people push past 50, women — and increasingly men, as well — want to look as young as they feel and they’re doing something about it. According to the American Academy of Plastic Surgeons, the last 10 years has brought a 77 percent increase in cosmetic procedures, despite the severe economic crisis.
Women are by far the biggest consumers of cosmetic enhancements, accounting for 91 percent of them. Millions of women each year, most in their late 40s and early 50s, go under the knife for such procedures as face-lifts, breast lifts, eyelid surgery and buttocks implants. Millions more get so called noninvasive procedures, such as Botox injections, cellulite treatments and chemical peels.
But more and more men are opting for a nip and a tuck, as well. Between 2009 and 2010, the number of male patients who got a face-lift increased by 14 percent. Other procedures that saw a spike? Ear surgery, Botox and Juvederm injections, liposuction, eyelid surgery and dermbrasion.
Intellectually, most of us know that crow's feet, a bald head, a thickening around the middle don't really change the core of who we are. But the truth is, the physical effects of aging can throw the most resilient among us off track. For those who have prided themselves on appearance, reality can be harsh.
"It's perfectly natural for our bodies to change as we get older, but many people view signs of aging as flaws and imperfections," says Schwartz.
She believes that it's essential to come to term with those changes if you want to grow old gracefully, feel vital and look your best. While you can't change the physical process of aging, you can change your experience of it by figuring out why you feel the way you do and then doing something about it. Schwartz offers these five suggestions: