I'm 27 — & I'm Terrified Of Aging

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Ben Franklin said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." With all due respect to the guy, he missed a crucial third point: aging. (He also didn't predict a president-elect who views taxes as a light suggestion, but that's for another time.) Wrinkles, dark spots, sagging skin — these are sure things. And yet, as ungraceful as refusing to accept the inevitable is, I haven't been able to get on board with the "Smile lines are the marks of a lifetime of laughter!" mindset.

"Beauty editor" wasn't a career I grew up dreaming about; it's not exactly one you hear about at the middle school job fair, or even in college journalism courses. I fell into it, like most in the industry, because I wanted to be a writer. My first magazine internship happened to be in a beauty department, that internship led to my first gig at Allure, and the rest is a blur of lipstick swatches and mud masks.

I caught the anti-aging bug at Allure, where meeting gossip centered around which A-list actress had just undergone a secret facelift that week, and all the editors had the late Dr. Brandt's number in their phones. It stayed with me when I moved on to Harper's Bazaar, land of supermodels and 24K face creams. There, I spent increasingly more time interviewing plastic surgeons, visiting derms' offices, and touring pharmaceutical plants, and I became obsessed with having a face that was "perfect." There are only so many articles you can write about preventing drooping lids, fat pockets under the chin, and weak jawlines before starting to see all of those things on yourself.

My line of work provides easy access to the fixes for these "problems," and I took them without hesitation. During one Botox appointment, a dermatologist asked, "How frozen do you want to be?" and the question made me weirdly giddy. "Pretty frozen!" I said — and I remember thinking I looked my best in the three months that followed; taut, shiny, and with a limited range of expression. I was hooked — and I figured every other beauty editor was, too.

There are only so many articles you can write about preventing drooping lids, fat pockets under the chin, and weak jawlines before starting to see all of those things on yourself.

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Only recently, after many conversations with those in the industry who are five to 10 years older than me (I'll be 27 next month — and, yes, I fully realize how ridiculous it is for someone my age to obsess over fine lines), have I started to realize I might be the exception. Not everyone takes the carrot simply because it's dangled in front of them; not everyone connects some part of their self-worth and happiness to the absence of crow's feet.

I went to Ohio a few months ago for my friend's wedding, and the subject of injectables came up at breakfast (as it always does, because I'm always bringing the subject up). None of the moms had ever gotten any, and, on top of that, had no desire to. And they looked great. I was slack-jawed. Part of me envies that; part of me never wants to give up my smooth, tight skin.

Of course, I worry about the implications of starting all of these anti-aging procedures so early. There isn't a whole lot of research on the long-term effects of repeatedly injecting a neurotoxin into the face: Some doctors say it can lead to muscle-slackening over time; others insist it's preventative — the line of reasoning being, a little now and you won't need a lot later. But it's not just that I don't know for certain if years of cosmetically lifting my brows will lead to my forehead muscles collapsing — there's also the financial commitment.

Botox is measured in units, with each unit costing between $15 and $20. You need multiple units for just one area of your face, so you're looking at anywhere from $300 to $600 every three months. I tell anyone who's considering going in for Botox (or fillers) to think of it as a variation on the old Pringles slogan: "Once you shoot up, you can't stop." Or, at least, I can't.

Some people put on red lipstick or make an appointment with their colorist to feel prettier; I get an injection.


Because while the difference is subtle, it's there. People (friends, family, random dinner-party guests) call me crazy at first. They say that I don't need to do anything to my face — a face, mind you, that already has Botox and Restylane in it unbeknownst to them. But when I pull up before-and-afters, even the most skeptical acknowledge that I look more rested and approachable in the after photo. Why have heavy, sleepy-looking eyelids when you can open them up? Why embrace a deep laugh line when you can make it disappear? Why not make your jawline a little bit sharper, your chin more symmetric? It's that kind of thinking that keeps me coming back for more every four months: I don't want to go back to semi-defined jowls, as my derm referred to them, when I've seen the light.

But I also know very well that the answer to "Why not?" is because it's a slippery slope to a lifetime of fixation, of always needing more, always finding a new self-identified problem to correct. As with my skin-picking, anti-aging procedures are a way for me to feel in control — I can hyper-focus on my appearance and make tweaks to feel prettier. Some people put on red lipstick or make an appointment with their colorist; I get an injection.

As much as I want to believe that all of this is actually preventative (because that whole muscle-degeneration thing would really suck), I know that I will get older, I will get wrinkles, and I will lose my twentysomething body. I'm not going to swear off fillers or a future facelift, but the challenge for me, to ensure that I never get to a Human Barbie place, is to work harder at separating my appearance from my sense of self. Or I need to find whatever devil J.Lo made a deal with, because that woman knows something she's not telling us about staying 30 forever.
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