Watching yourself age can be an emotional experience. No matter how often people say that beauty is more than skin deep, seeing fine lines and wrinkles can bring up sadness and frustration.
“When we look in the mirror, we confront ourselves,” says psychologist and registered dietitian Ellen Albertson, who specializes in working with women over 50 on appearance and body changes. You may be “confronting the fact that you’re not happy with your appearance.”
This can have a major emotional toll. Your appearance is your calling card to the world, your first method of presenting and expressing yourself to others.
While looks aren’t everything, the way you look is a deeply personal matter. If you’re unhappy with it, it can impact everything from your mood to your motivation to your desire to be socially engaged.
One solution to aging is to start or continue cosmetic procedures. But how do you know when enough is enough?
Experts share that it’s ultimately up to you. Here’s how to decide.
Worrying about aging may seem trivial compared to other troubles happening in the world, but Albertson advises not to invalidate your feelings around aging.
“All feelings give you information,” Albertson says. “It’s a good opportunity to think deeper about what’s bothering you … when we stuff our emotions down, they do not go away.”
On top of that, there are very real social consequences to aging that often go overlooked, putting the onus on the individual to “keep their chin up” in the face of it all.
According to a 2017 qualitative studyTrusted Source of more than 1,800 women over the age of 50, there are both physical and psychological impacts when it comes to aging.
The study noted that the experience of aging can be accompanied by injustices, inequities, and unique challenges, along with “a plea for recognition of the need to maintain a contributory role in society.”
These are all significant loads to bear that go much deeper than simple vanity.
As you navigate your experience of growing older, you may want to consider procedures that can help you soften the effects of aging.
According to a 2020 report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, some of the most common cosmetic procedures in this category include:
- chin augmentation
- botulinum toxin type A (Botox)
- injections, including wrinkle fillers and collagen
- laser skin resurfacing
Facelifts or chin augmentations are surgeries, while Botox, injections, and laser skin resurfacing are considered minimally invasive.
Essentially, they all promise the same thing: To turn back the clock and help make skin look more youthful. What that means varies based on the individual, and none are miracle procedures.
“There are treatments we can do to reverse sun damage and some of the aging process or slow it down with new technologies to boost collagen and elastin,” says Dr. Roberta del Campo, a board certified dermatologist and founder of Del Campo Dermatology & Laser Institute.
“However, there’s nothing on the market that can overpower what our DNA does, which is age over time.”
What’s more, minimally invasive procedures like Botox are not one-time, quick fixes.
“Many of these treatments … require regular follow-ups for consistent results in the form of younger, firmer, and smoother skin,” says cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green.
Before starting a treatment, it’s essential to have an honest conversation with a professional to ensure it can meet your needs. Del Campo notes that every person will age differently.
Bringing pictures of your desired results to the consultation may help with your decision-making process, but only to a point.
“This can be helpful only if the patient understands that there is no guarantee that a surgeon can make them look like somebody else,” says Dr. Alexander Zuriarrain, a board certified plastic surgeon with Zuri Plastic Surgery.
“There’s nothing on the market that can overpower what our DNA does, which is age over time.”
— Dr. Roberta del Campo
After speaking with your dermatologist or surgeon, you’ll want to decide how — or if — to proceed.
Common reasons for opting out of procedures include:
- potential side effects, such as bruising
- dissatisfaction with previous results
- the desire for less invasive procedures
- the desire to age naturally
Costs of procedures will vary based on where you live and what professional you use.
For instance, del Campo says Botox costs about $800 per session on average. Sessions usually last 10 minutes but need to be maintained. Expect to go back about every 3 months for upkeep.
When deciding whether or not to proceed with a treatment, experts suggest asking yourself some questions.
Why am I doing this?
The old cliche goes that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. But sometimes, appearance can affect how you feel.
A 2015 pilot studyTrusted Source involving 41 women who received Botox showed that they did so for their own self-confidence rather than to please others.
“Is it benefiting you on a superficial level, or is it going to help you in terms of your confidence, putting your best foot forward? What do you want to get out of this, and is this really going to do that for you?” Albertson suggests asking yourself.
But Albertson has seen this perspective backfire.
“You can feel like you are less confident because you are showing up as an imposter or feeling fake,” Albertson said.
If you feel that way after receiving a treatment, you may want to re-evaluate whether it’s worth continuing.
Am I OK with potential complications?
Albertson notes that there are risks with any procedure, and del Campo says healing times can vary depending on the person.
“Some people say, ‘I don’t want to deal with a week of healing. I have too much going on,’” del Campo says.
Are my goals realistic?
Remember, you can’t completely stop time.
“I tell my patients that there are many procedures that will help them age gracefully, but it’s not possible to remove every brown spot or every wrinkle,” says Dr. Elaine Kung, a dermatologist. “We can probably achieve turning back the clock five to 10 years.”
After an honest conversation with the medical professional, take note of what they can and cannot do for you. Use that information to help you make your decision.
Is this an enjoyable experience?
Procedures and treatments can give you a mental boost — and that’s a good thing.
But if it’s becoming tiresome or taking away from other activities you enjoy more, you may want to step back and reconsider.
“I go with the guidance of a patient’s emotions,” says del Campo. “When I feel it’s too much of a hassle, they’re not enjoying it anymore, and it’s too much of a burden for them, I [discuss home remedies].”
If you decide to stop receiving cosmetic treatment, there are still ways you can practice physical and mental self-care.
At-home skin care options
Lifestyle and skin care tweaks can help you slow aging and feel your best. Experts recommend:
- Finding the right products. Del Campo advises patients to look for products with vitamin A (retinol) and vitamins C and E to minimize environmental damage.
- Dietary changes. Loading up on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts and salmon, and antioxidants like berries can help you improve your appearance from the inside out, del Campo says.
- LED light therapy. Light therapy targets wrinkles and age spots but doesn’t use UV rays, del Campo says. A dermatologist can help you find the best device for your skin.
- Wear SPF. Green advises people to use SPF of 30 or higher daily and reapply every two hours to aid in the prevention of sunspots, age spots, and wrinkles. It will also reduce your risk of skin cancer.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reportTrusted Source, people ages 45 to 64 had the second-highest rate of depression symptoms of any age group in the United States in 2020.
The same report indicated women were more likely to show depression symptoms than men.
While the reason for this isn’t clear, it’s possible for aging to play a role in mental health concerns.
Albertson says it’s important to focus on the emotions underneath the surface rather than outward appearance. Try the tips below.
Look beyond appearance
Focus on other qualities, hobbies, and aspects of your life that don’t revolve around your skin. “Looks are not the most important thing about you,” Albertson says.
Focus on other ways to care for yourself
Looking older doesn’t mean you have to feel older. You can find other ways to care for your body, mind, and emotions as you age that can help you feel full of life and vitality.
Humans are social creatures, and maintaining relationships and connections is just as important as you grow older.
A 2019 study of 60-year-olds found that those who visited with friends close to daily were 12 percent less likely to develop dementia compared with those who saw one or two friends every few months.
Change your media diet
Keep in mind that the celebrities who grace magazine covers have access to more resources to deal with aging, and editors still photoshop images regularly.
Likewise, filters have made it easier to cover up signs of aging on social media.
Sometimes, the appearance of maturing skin is simply the tip of the iceberg.
“You’re looking at mortality,” Albertson says. “You’re comparing yourself to an ideal and not measuring up. People I work with are like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not 26 anymore.’”
She notes that journaling can help people dig deeper into what’s bothering them.
Lines and wrinkles can appear where you smiled or laughed. Ask yourself: Would you trade those good times for smooth skin?
“See wrinkles as an expression of a life well-lived,” Albertson says.
Find a therapist
It’s common to feel emotions around aging, but if it’s affecting your day-to-day life, help is available.
“See wrinkles as an expression of a life well-lived.”
— Dr. Ellen Albertson
The physical effects of aging can bring on lots of emotions.
Cosmetic procedures can help, but they can’t stop aging altogether. At some point, you may choose to stop and let nature take its course for financial, physical, or emotional reasons. An honest conversation with your doctor or therapist can help you make the right decision.
Whatever you decide, know there are other ways to fill your cup, including eating well and working through your worries about aging with a mental health professional.