When nature starts fighting in earnest, change the rules.
By Colleen Attara
I have a vision of me when I’m in my late eighties: My hair’s gray and in a pixie. My eyes are very blue, young and mischievous. My face is wrinkled, but I’m wearing just a drop of cover-up under my eyes, red lipstick and mascara. The skin on my arms is no longer taut, but it’s not so loose.
I’m hopeful that I’ll age into that spirited woman, but I have no desire to see her anytime soon. Still, I catch fleeting glimpses of her every so often, in a photo, in the mirror. It’s enough to make me more curious about aging and what I can do to stall its progress, just in case I’m not content with aging gracefully.
I made an appointment with Dr. Nicole Schrader, a friend. Dr. Schrader is double-board-certified in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery and otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) and head and neck surgery. She maintains a practice in Princeton, NJ. We’ve sat across from each other at dinner several times, but this is the first time I’m visiting her office and talking with her in a professional context.
“The aging process may look quick, but it is very slow,” she says. “Loss of collagen and elastin are major factors because they give your skin the elasticity. But there is also loss of facial volume due to loss of fat and bone absorption. Both make the facial tissue more descended.”
Loss of fat worries me. I’m slight to begin with.
“There are many things we can do ourselves to delay aging,” Dr. Schrader says. If she suggests adding another meal, I’m already there. “Apply sunblock with an SPF of 35 or higher year-round to protect your skin and diminish damage to the elastic fibers. And skincare products that are rich in moisturizer and antioxidants are so important.” Using Retin-A, which must be prescribed, is also key because topical retinoids have proven to be one of the best aging combatants available on the market, according to Dr. Schrader.
Of course, even the most vigilant home regimen isn’t a complete remedy. That’s where Dr. Schrader enters the picture. I use sunblock daily year-round, but I’m starting to see hyper-pigmentation on my face and neck in the spots I habitually miss. It’s a common issue, Dr. Schrader says. She sends me home with a tube of Hydro-Q, a skin-bleaching gel. I’ll apply it nightly before bed for a month and then return for the first of three to five Intense Pulsed-Light laser treatments.
About the only time I considered med-spa treatments and plastic surgery was when I stared at tabloid covers in the checkout line at the grocery store. And the verdict I almost always registered in my head was, Better left alone. But, my companion in Dr. Schrader’s waiting room was a 67-year-old woman who was waiting for her seventysomething sister to finish with a facelift. She had one done herself at Dr. Schrader’s hands five years prior, she says. I never would have known. She looked youthful, but not obscenely so.
Before I even reach the car, later, I know that my interpretation of aging gracefully is markedly changed. I picture the late-eighties Colleen: gray pixie, red lipstick, mascara and maybe a few less wrinkles.
Category: Scene And Be Seen