Considering Plastic Surgery? Before You Do That, Do This.


Author Barbara Hannah Grufferman on why it’s time to re-frame how we look at how we look

Recently, I went to a lecture about women, aging and self-esteem. It was … disconcerting.

The lecturer, a therapist in her mid-50s, deals frequently with women who are unhappy with how they look, and who feel unprepared for the changes that they are seeing as they get older. The lecturer acknowledged that women in their 50s (and over) are in a “beauty bind.” In the past, women (like our grandmothers) aged together. The playing field was level. Very few of them had the option to have any kind of plastic surgery (that was the domain of Hollywood movie stars), so they all aged together.

The problem is when a woman feels that she must look younger to compete for a man, a job, a place in the world without feeling invisible; it’s then that she does things that she may not want to do, like plastic surgery. The therapist also pointed out that if a woman feels that she is aging and losing the battle to compete, she can get depressed and engage in unhealthy and counter-productive behaviors like drinking too much, using drugs, and developing eating disorders that are normally associated with much younger women. The statistics were dramatic.

The lecture started me thinking about all the ways the media make us feel like aging is such a horrible thing, and one to be avoided at all costs. Books with titles like “How Not to Look Old” and magazine covers and ads with perfect, young bodies and faces just perpetuate the belief that younger is better. True, it’s always been like this, but the means to achieve a more youthful look have never been more accessible than they are now. All you have to do is go to a Botox Party, and voilà, you’ve turned back the clock (at least for four months).

I decided that this was a kind of wake-up call for all of us, no matter what our ages. In other words: it’s time to re-frame how we look at how we look. We can’t look 20 when we’re 40, and we can’t look 30 when we’re 50. It simply isn’t possible. And, if “looking younger” is your goal, then you may be in for a lot of heartache.

I’m not saying to give up and give in. Far from it! Nor am I telling women to forgo having plastic surgery or other kinds of procedures. But before you start to think about trying to make yourself look younger, ask yourself first whether you’ve taken the steps to make yourself be the most healthy, fit and engaged at whatever age you are.

Have you:

  • Stopped sitting in the sun and started using sunscreen?
  • Stopped smoking?
  • Started a good skin care program?
  • Gotten and kept my weight down to where it should be?
  • Started an exercise program where I walk (or run) every day?
  • Began a sustainable strength-training program incorporating sit-ups, push-ups, and squats?
  • Did an honest assessment of my hair, clothes and makeup?
  • Made a commitment to improve my health by eating the right foods and staying away from the wrong ones?

When I turned 50, I stepped back and assessed every part of my life, and I saw that I was heading in the wrong direction. The post-menopausal weight was piling on, my muscle tone was gone, and I was starting to look, for lack of a better word, frumpy. Not wanting to continue along that path, I put myself on simple, uncomplicated programs (including what’s listed above), which helped me lose the weight, get strong and lean, improve my skin and “fight the frump.”

The real message, from one “woman over 50” to another, is this: Embrace, engage, take control, and live your life. Take care of your body, exercise your mind, be a part of the world, stay connected with people who are supportive, and you’ll discover a secret that many women over 50 who are doing these things already know: if you feel good, you look good. And if you feel and look good, age will be the furthest thing from your mind.

Barbara Hannah Grufferman is the author of The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More

7 Responses so far.

  1. avatar anneh says:

    Excellent advice!  They say that “nothing ages you like a face-lift” and I really think that we need to get back to aging gracefully/healthfully and naturally.  And, while we’re at it, can we please stop pointing to celebrities who are in their 50’s and 60’s as if they are role models for aging gracefully?  Please, most of these folks have had serious “work done” and so to act as though they can be role models for most of us who cannot afford/do not want to get such invasive procedures is ludicruous and misleading and actually harmful!

  2. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I remember my grandmother who was in her 70s when she died but didn’t look a day over 40 – the only secrets I know of she used were Ivory soap and Elizabeth Arden.  The cremes and “Firmo-Lift.”  Believed in the “8 glasses of water” a day, with a little lemon juice, and lunch, rather than dinner, was the “heavy meal” of the day. Holiday dinners were always at 2. When she went out for dinner, she was “vegetarian” and people who had her for dinner learned early on apparently to not bother with the “main course” for her. 

    Still she loved the “heavy meal” and loved the beef and the sauces and the gravies and while she looked young outside, she aged quickly inside. They didn’ know about cholesterol and hardening of the arteries and while the doctors always thought she was the picture of health she wasn’t and died of a massive coronary one morning while she was at her dressing table. 
    On your list of “to dos” the most important is the smoking.  I noticed around 50 that while I didn’t have the lines others did, my skin just didn’t look the same.  Smoking probably is worse for the skin than the sun.  And the lines are arriving finally. 

  3. avatar Jan Hall says:

    Don’t forget to pick the right parents because genes really do matter.  Yesterday I was sitting outside next to a girlfriend who’s a few months younger than I am, and couldn’t believe the wrinkles, sags and sallowness of her skin.  I’m 66, my routine has always been to wash my face twice a day with Dove, put on a good moisturizer, some makeup (most people think I go without makeup!), and that’s it.  I always get comments on my great skin, most recently from my dentist.  I couldn’t have bought this skin.

    I look good, feel good, and am healthy.  I don’t want to be a size 2 because I’d tip over from my large boobs, which, I know from experience, never shrink no matter what my size, and I think most of the Hollywood women my age look ridiculous. 

    When you reach my age, attitude and good health are much more important than looks.

  4. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    Good Genes for sure!! Having dealt with some health issues over the last few years has done a number on my weight and exercise routine. I am really trying harder than ever to get back to exercise and weight control. I see slow progress but progress none the less. I am determined to get there.

    • avatar Miss Lee says:

      Keep on doing what you can and you will see results.  I an 55 and have several health challenges most significantly, asthma and a back injury.  It took me awhile to find a routine that did not add to my physical challenges (yoga and pilates).  A year later, I am pretty pleased with the results.  I focus on strength, balance and increasing my range of motion and feel that this will suit me best as I age.  At 70, running a mile won’t really in the cards but I will still want to be able to bend over and pick something off the floor.  A gym membership is not necessary.  You can get the same results from DVD’s. has a huge selection and if you call, their operators can help you select a program as they have done many of the routines themselves.  They have really helped me select the appropriate program.

  5. avatar annee says:

    You’re all right. I’m in my early 70’s and have RA. The thing about aging that irritates
    me the most is how fast the weeks and mos. go by. I do believe that almost everything
    is connected to the genes -. and I had good ones. My condition is just the draw, far
    too many people have much worse. My vanity has dictated a lot of good things for me.
    I”m big on the mid afternoon meal (between 3 and 4:30). As you mentioned I can eat
    almost anything = later gets an appetizer. I’ve done isometric forever and I hate meds.
    I never don’t get my sleep and I’m not against a face needle occasionally. To sum it
    up. I was blessed with a naturally good attitude and sense of humor but I never
    just assume, and I know maintenance is the name of the game. Even in the worst of
    times I am grateful for all I have been given and spend these years trying to help others. Unlike my early years, that’s what makes me happy. I surely am not Mother
    Theresa but that’s what I learned when I got a little wisdom! Cheers

  6. avatar Michelle Cook says:

    What is even more distressing than aging (to me) is looking in the mirror and seeing my mother.  When I was younger, there was not even a hint of resemblance and now, I could be her twin! My mother was not an attractive woman and her personality made her even less so. It is so disturbing to me that I avoid looking in mirrors whenever possible and do everything I can to lessen the resemblance (positive attitude, different hair, makeup and fashion). I always thought that when women say that they don’t want to become their mothers, they were referring to the life their mothers had, not literally turning her doppelganger! Even though my life is vastly different than hers, the genes won out in the end! LOL