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Selfish Or Self-care?

In the age of Instagram and selfie sticks, when it comes to aging gracefully, where do you draw the line between self-care and self-absorption…
By Adriana Ermter
Blame it on pop culture and our love/hate affair with reality television stars like the Kardashians, Queer Eye’s Fab Five or even a Real Housewife or two, but there’s no denying we are living in the era of picture perfection, where the concept of getting old has been replaced with the idea of agelessness through the practice of self-care. While candlelit bubble baths and an oily rubdown by a strong-handed RMT may have cut it a decade ago, this new and improved version of how we’re supposed to grow and age runs the gamut from light therapy-induced sleeping chambers and 10-day yoga retreats in Bali to vampire facials and paid meditation apps named Calm, 10% Happier and Headspace.
Sure, we’re embracing it, and maybe even grateful for all of the options. Yet with nearly 12 million Instagram posts (and counting) using the hashtag #selfcare – each one better lit, curated and filtered than the last – it can be challenging not to feel the pressure to up your own self-care game beyond eating healthy, getting eight hours of sleep and carving some me time into your schedule. Particularly when you consider that the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery documented more than 4.5 million Botox procedures just two years ago, complete with an 87 per cent hike in users ages 19 to 34 years old.
“Everyone wants to look good and feel good,” explains Dr. Nowell Solish, a cosmetic dermatologist and founder of the Cosmetic Dermatology Toronto Yorkville clinic in downtown Toronto. “It’s normal to want to take care of yourself and be the best you can be.”
No matter who we are, our responses to aging can be similar – ranging from feelings of denial, insecurity, fear and betrayal to resignation and acceptance; and either choosing to take action or to do nothing at all. But biological aging affects men and women differently. Men tend to show an almost imperceptible steady decline where smooth skin is slowly replaced with crow’s feet and laugh lines before being followed by greying temples, deeper facial wrinkles and age spots. Women, on the other hand, tend to retain an even and relatively unaltered aesthetic façade until menopause, when there is a “steep drop,” says Dr. Solish. “It’s all related to hormones. Your estrogen decreases and with it your skin’s water, moisture and collagen, leaving an increase of fine lines and wrinkles, and a decrease in radiance and plump skin.” What’s left behind can often look like a very different version of you.
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Taking preventive measures – such as finding a qualified and experienced doctor who focuses on cosmeceutical anti-aging procedures such as facial fillers, laser facials, chemical peels and Botox injections – as well as creating a daily routine with anti-aging-specific topical face creams and products, can help to reduce the impact, both emotionally and physically. And, no, none of this is selfish behaviour. Responding proactively to your skin’s needs is often just good sense.
“One of the most important anti-aging products for all genders and all ages is daily UV protection, which is as easy as choosing a daily moisturizer that comes with built-in SPF,” says Frauke Neuser, the principal scientist for Olay. “Studies have shown time and time again that UV damage is the biggest culprit of visible skin aging. Looking good and keeping your skin healthy go hand in hand.”
Sunscreen (often referred to as SPF or UVA/UVB blockers), found in products such as Olay Whips Fragrance-Free Moisturizer with SPF in both the Olay Regenerist and Olay Total Effects lines, is the number one ingredient to incorporate into your self-care skincare regimen, whether you’re Gen Z, a Millennial, Gen Y, a Baby Boomer or otherwise. “Your skin is a body organ just like your heart or your brain,” explains Neuser. “So aging gracefully means keeping it in the best possible condition – not for vanity but because you need it to be strong and healthy for as long as possible.”
Additionally, she recommends seeking out products containing anti-aging ingredients like retinol and vitamin C to help repair and regenerate skin (especially when significant sun damage is visible), as well as to brighten your skin and tackle brown spots, respectively. Hydroxy and glycolic acids provide exfoliation by removing dead skin cells to leave your skin looking fresh and glowing. Peptides boost collagen production and aid skin regeneration, helping tackle lines, wrinkles and sagging skin, while vitamin B3 (niacinamide) is great at keeping your epidermis strong and resilient with an even tone and texture.
“Topical creams should definitely be part of your self-care and anti-aging regime,” adds Dr. Solish. “They’re the first step in prevention and maintenance and, if you choose, can be followed by Botox, then fillers and then lasers, depending on your needs. But at the end of the day, no matter how you wish to age, if what you choose to do makes you feel better, happier and confident, then it’s self-care, not selfish – and that is actually very empowering.”

ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.

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