This is what a pickup line sounds like in your 30s:
"Wow, your skin is so nice," an old college acquaintance told me. "You don't have wrinkles like some of the other girls."
"Is this really what flirting has come to these days?" I thought, as I made my way from the bar back to my boyfriend. In my sorority years, a dude would tell me I had a great rack and nice shoes and buy me a shot. Now, at a wedding full of 30-somethings, a guy I haven't seen since college tells me I'm aging well.
Sure, the compliment made my day — since, as a beauty editor, I put a tremendous amount of effort into my skin care upkeep. And I'm proud to say, there's no Botox involved. But as my Champagne buzz kicked in, I had a nagging feeling that there was more to the topic: Women are obsessed with youthful skin. Men are obsessed with youthful skin. Society is obsessed with youthful skin. And this fixation keeps starting younger and younger.
My job as a beauty editor allows me to reach millions of millennial readers, so I feel a responsibility to help change the conversation about cosmetic dermatology treatments. I promise that you don't need Botox — at least, probably not yet. While women in their 20s are now getting what's called preventative Botox, I'm countering aging with a method I like to call "preventative moisturizing." But more on that later!
Yahoo Beauty's 30-something senior editor Joanna Douglas shares the same sentiments. In this essay about why she won't get Botox, she explains that even though she is offered the perk of free cosmetic treatments through her job, she rejects it every time (as do I). She writes, "Yes, our society is youth obsessed, and if media is to be believed, I've already passed my prime. But I refuse to spend the next 30, 40, 50, 60 years fixated on looking younger."
When I spoke to my friend Amber Katz, a beauty writer in her mid-30s who founded rouge18.com, she revealed that she is also needle-free. "I'm not saying I'll never do it, but I am comfortable enough with my face right now. I don't think freezing my forehead will make me look younger at this point. I can often tell when people I know have had injections. Many people have it done well, and you can't tell, but I'm not willing to take the chance at this moment."
Image Source: Instagram user kimkardashian
What Is Preventative Botox?
In 2016, Botox is relatively normal, especially in certain circles. If you're 25 and your derm is shooting Botulinum toxin (the formula known as Botox, which temporarily paralyzes muscles) into your forehead, no one lifts an eyebrow . . . that is, if their arch area isn't frozen.
I know a 26-year-old beauty editor who already gets Botox, despite having gorgeous, born-with-it dove-white skin. When I ask her why, she says, "I'm getting preventative." She is referring to a hot term in the cosmetics dermatology industry called "preventative Botox." The idea behind preventative Botox is that if you get the procedure early on, it will keep your face from making expressions that could cause lines, so you won't get those lines later in life.
"I do a lot of Botox and I do believe it has a preventative role, but there has to be a reason," said plastic surgeon and 111Skin founder Dr. Yannis Alexandrides. "So what is that reason? People who grimace or frown a lot; people who tend to have a special expression on their face that repeats the same movement and creates creasing in the skin."
OK, fine. But here's the thing: I have fine lines on my forehead. They were there 10 years ago, and they are expression lines, meaning the area around my mouth creases when I smile and my forehead crinkles when I am surprised. If I were to get injections in my forehead, I wouldn't look younger, I would just look Botoxed. I wouldn't look like myself.
Plus, the cosmetic treatment doesn't always work; you can get immune to it over time. Amber brought up another point: "Sometimes it can lead to 'bunny lines,' which are wrinkles around the nose and inner corners of the eyes," she noted. "Injections can be the aesthetic equivalent of course correction in time travel in a sci-fi movie: The wrinkles show up in some other form somewhere else."
Image Source: Instagram user jadeywadey180
My Theory on Botox
You've probably seen the Botoxed Instagram Face (or BIF, as I am calling it) on your feed. Thanks to social media, we have access to view an endless stream of stunning makeup artists and celebrities who have the BIF. The face looks like that of a mannequin, smooth and glossy. Check out the Instagram handles of Kylie Jenner (48.6 million followers), Anastasia Beverly Hills (8 million fans), or vlogger Huda Kattan (10.6 million). While I truly enjoy admiring these inspirational accounts, the women all have the same smooth, taut look. Perhaps it's due to skillful makeup or savvy photoshopping (via apps like Facetune) rather than cosmetic surgery, but it still sets a BIF standard of beauty that millions of women are subscribing to. In our high-def age, everyone seems to be unnaturally ready for their close-up.
Do people who have a BIF actually look like their younger selves? In my opinion, no. Absolutely not. I am going to go out on a limb here and say it: wrinkles and facial expression lines can be totally sexy.
Recently, I met with the French head of research of a major skin care company. She was definitely older than me with fine lines peeking through her dewy skin. And I found her to be so attractive — she looked unapologetically her age. And it projected confidence!
I had a similar reaction when I visited Provence, France, and met a 70-something woman who worked in flower fields, harvesting lavender for a skin care brand. The crinkles around her eyes were hard-earned from years of smiling and being happy. (Side note: Kim Kardashian has advised against smiling in photos because it causes wrinkles, and I think that is bat-sh*t crazy.)
These two French women are clearly knowledgeable about skin care as it is what they do for a living, but they've chosen to age gracefully and naturally. Though I enjoy looking at the BIFs on my phone, I aspire to age like the French women do, celebrating my life however it shows itself upon my face and neck.
Meet the Solution: Preventative Moisturizing
Make no mistake: I am not letting myself go, either. And I would like to clarify that I am not against Botox and do not judge those who get it at all (some of my best friends do). And I predict that one day, probably in my 40s or 50s, I will try it. I just don't believe we — women in our 20s and 30s — all need to get it now.
Botox is not a magical band-aid that fixes bad habits like smoking, drinking, and sunbathing. It won't give you a lit-from-within glow — the kind that comes from being in love or eating tons of vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables. It will freeze your muscles so you can't make certain expressions and temporary fill in fine lines. Botox does not give you perfect skin; it gives you smoother skin.
Fortunately, there are other less-invasive tools that do the same thing. And I am sharing an effective antiaging method I've been doing since my late 20s that I call "preventative moisturizing." Here's what I do: whenever I see a fine line creeping into my forehead or around my eyes or lips, I put serum, moisturizer, or oil on the area, depending on what my skin needs that day. With enough hydration, the lines go away. Poof! It sounds easy and simple, but I promise you that it works.
When I look women my age in the face, I often notice that their skin looks dehydrated. And while lotions are also not magical potions, they do plump the skin with youth-enhancing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, retinol, or vitamin C. If you are acne-prone, be sure to choose a simple, oil-free products.
Dr. Alexandrides backed up my philosophy. "I believe in preventative skin care from an early age — even in the 20s — and the reason for that is that skin progressively loses collagen from the 20s but it's not visible," he said. "Usually the changes start becoming visible in the mid-30s, so that's when most people think, 'Oh now I have some fine wrinkles, let me start using some antiaging cream.' However, if you start earlier you would have pushed that time much later into life in a preventative way."
Don't freak out if you're 30 and those crinkles start showing up. Preventative moisturizing works on them, too! "Fine changes can be reversed with high-quality products if it's something consistent," Dr. Alexandrides noted. "I would recommend a serum and a retinol oil at night, because that will work long term. And I would say moisturizing is the first step."
When I asked him how much moisturizing is too much, he replied: "Well that's similar to asking, 'how often can I drink water?' You can moisturize as often as you want. I would say a minimum of twice a day. If you're in an extremely dry environment, do it more often."
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Benjamin Stone
POPSUGAR's executive editor Nancy Einhart is 37, has fantastic skin (pictured), and doesn't get Botox. She believes in preventative moisturizing, too. "I know moisture makes a difference with my wrinkles, because when I don't get enough, I look older — especially after a night of drinking or a long flight," she told me. "So I try to stay ahead of it with eye cream and moisturizer every day and every night, a retinol every other night, and a moisture booster or serum in the Winter. Plus, I do a moisturizing mask twice a week, and I spray MAC's Prep and Prime Finishing Mist over my finished face to make sure it doesn't get dry and cakey."
Amber — who swears by Dr. Brandt Needles No More 3D Filler Mask — follows a form of preventative moisturizing that extends to her makeup routine. "My mom famously eschews powder in all forms, even eye shadow," she explained. "I don't subscribe to the shadow thing, but I do skip setting powder and powder bronzers and blushes, unless I'm being photographed or videoed. My mom also looks about 20 years younger than she is, so I heed this advice! There are so many great cream products on the market, I don't feel like I'm missing out. Especially powder-to-cream formulas like Flower Beauty's blush in Tickled Pink. It's my favorite! "
It may seem like a lot of work — and you can read about my own personal skin care regime here — but it's a price we're willing to pay to avoid injecting chemicals into our faces. The official name of Botox (Botulinum toxin) even has the word "toxin" in it. I worry that it can't be good for you — especially when it sits so close to your brain. Personally, I spend so much money buying organic produce and detoxing at the spa. The act of getting Botox seems to go against all the hard work I put into having a healthy lifestyle.
Image Source: Andy Barnham
Extra Natural Ways to Tackle Antiaging
In addition to my moisturizing ways, I have picked up other antiaging tips and tricks. First of all, no tanning — especially on your face. Here's my PSA: if you lie in the sun without applying SPF 50 every 20 minutes, you will get wrinkles and sunspots. No exceptions. So don't do it! And wear a hat and oversize sunglasses to cover your eye area.
Dr. Doris Day told me not to chew gum for more than three minutes (as it can cause lines around the mouth) and to talk with my eyes (while relaxing my forehead). During a recent Tammy Fender facial at John Barrett Bond Street, my esthetician, Natacha Delacruz, advised me that my eye area was tense from squinting at the computer screen all day. I now actively practice resting my face (it's also good for stress levels!). Peach & Lily founder Alicia Yoon (read: the master of Korean skin care trends) told me she gently tugs her scalp every day to tighten her face. Massaging the area around the eyes when you apply eye cream is also a fantastic way to depuff the area. Get consistent facials every few months. (In the photo above, I am about to get an oxygen facial, and the image is completely unretouched.)
The rest you know: Eat clean. Drink water. Do yoga. Get enough sleep. Be mindful. All of these things add up, and they will make you look 100 times prettier and glowier than Botox ever will. On one hand, you have the older French woman who has practiced these methods throughout her life. On the other, there is the 20-year-old who stays out late partying, tans, and eats processed food. Again: Botox simply can't fix all of that damage.
My mother is in her 60s (you can see a photo of her here), and she has naturally crease-free, porcelain skin. She definitely hasn't gotten Botox — the woman doesn't even use moisturizer or wear makeup (except for special occasions), and she washes her face with water. Her secret is to stay out of the sun, and when you do go in it, wear SPF 70 and a big floppy hat. Before "organic" was a buzzword in the early aughts, she had our family on a natural diet. When it comes to my mom's youthful skin, I will use one of her favorite phrases: "the proof is in the pudding."
At the end of the day, you need to be your own doctor. These are only my thoughts and theories, and you need to decide for yourself how to care for your skin. Maybe I'll see you at the dermatologist's office one day, both of us waiting to get Botox injections. But I sincerely hope it's not for a very long time.