My daughters regularly arrive downstairs with requests to buy the latest skincare that algorithms have bestowed upon them (they don't realise they're being constantly digitally dissected). Serums, acids, light moisturiser, heavy night cream, blackhead remover, must-have primer, lotion for a dewy look, a face mask to tighten and brighten skin, setting spray and on the list goes. They're 14 and 11.
I seem to recall being quite obsessed with make up and trying all shades of brown from a fave Rimmel eyeshadow palette and maybe the occasional copper shimmer from Outdoor Girl in the 80's, possibly an occasional dabble with electric blue mascara sometimes brown and overrated Body Shop cream blusher. It was all about the drawing and different colours on my face and making it look different. It seems there is a shift now towards less art on the face and more about the preservation of the skin which is great but at such a young age? I didn't even think about skincare back then. No wonder it's a zillion pound industry and growing - snapping young girls in early for a life long sentence of insecurity and expensive skincare.
All of the brands they're presenting and showing to me I hardly know. But all of a sudden it's a rave, must have product until it's replaced by the 'next best thing.' Pedalled and showcased like vapes in bubble gum colours and flavours thanks to the very visual Tik Tok. I'm not a TT user (I've tried but I get so unbelievably bored; instead I get a craving instead to read - for me skill lies in words on a page, not doom scrolling in a sea of paid for promotion and shallow ads that are all trying to flog something. But this social media 'advertising' is powerfully frightening. Are there rules on these platforms bar parental control? I don't think so. It's the wild west and our kids are consuming it daily. Imbibing (albeit subonsciously) that younger looking skin is more desirable possibly borderline essential in this society that worships at the altar of youth.
This 'preservation' of youth meandered into one of my yoga classes earlier this week. I asked my students how they were feeling today and a few mumbled simply 'old.' There was a mention of not wanting to look in the mirror because of looking old. This is something that as a yoga teacher I come across a lot. Particularly amongst women - I can't imagine many older men publicly lamenting their aged faces. It so happened I had read something really interesting that morning by the very sparky Eleanor Mills, founder of Queenagers (check her great Substack here). Having read her piece about age being a privilege, it resonated really forcefully and directly made its way as my response to the class audience. I said exactly the same thing back to all of the beautiful (younger and older) ladies sitting in front of me. Age is a privilege I said, because it's true.
I, and I am sure you have also known people who have died way too young. Suddenly, tragically or slowly from illness. All of it is unbearable to live through or imagine. When I focus on this mindset and remember those that have had their lives cut tragically short, it immediately jolts me out of a negative (I'm old!) mindset and makes me tell myself to remember to be grateful. In fact one of my mantras in life is EVERYDAY, grateful. It's cliched yes but so too is the response back when you ask someone over 40/50/60/70 how they are. More often than not, there's many that simply reply "OLD." And then the pause of expectation for me as recipient to assume that that little three letter word is euphemism for telling me you feel 'past it,' 'invisible,' 'with a dull future because being no longer at the precipice of youth I'm less worthy,' yada yada, yah. But really, is that true? Do you feel like that just because you are old? Or is that the warped societal conditioning we are having rammed down our throats is taking over and we're bleating the expected response? Hardly surprising given all the bullets we have to dodge daily about how about how ugly old is. What if we turned it around and said, 'I'm wiser, I have a lot of experience, I'm old enough to know better or sometimes not (which is fun) and I have exciting times ahead of me because I am at a stage in life when I know what I really want (and importantly don't want because I've been there, done that and the t-shirt's in the textile recycler and I'm onto the next thing). Oh and yes my face has changed it's not as tight and line free but I'm ok with that.
We need to stop to feeling apologetic and responsible for the inevitability of nature and looking natural. Look at the ancient old trees and how we admire their strength, their incredible beauty, their staying power. And how young and fragile the new trees look but within them, a promise of future, but they're not ready yet. Later, when they're older.
Are my girls, even at their tender young age beginning their journey already to this youth worship mindset obsessing over skin preservation? Or is it just an innocent part of growing up and shopping in a different way to how we used to? Honestly, I don't know but excuse the pun, there is an undertone these days. And of course there are exceptions that maybe in the forward thinking marketing departments of some brands, savvy ad people are saying let's actually be those that worship at the altar of older. Recognising on a public platform that old is more, not less. The choice of 88 year old Maggie Smith to front Loewe's fashion campaign back in December 2023, say.
I teach all ages - I've taught young children aged 3 and my oldest student was 91. She was an amazing mover, mostly because well, she didn't stop moving. She made sure to do something daily. She didn't cave in to what she should be doing at her age - she just kept doing it. Point in case Tao Porchon-Lynch was the world's oldest yoga teacher. She died aged 101 in 2020. She did yoga for 93 years. Her secret to longevity was staying active and trying to keep a positive mindset. 'Whatever you put in your mind materialises,' was one of her mantras.
So if you wake up one day and are feeling 'old' or stiff, or aching or that you 'can't be bothered' I want to suggest that the answer to feeling less like that is to simply move a little bit more. It doesn't need to be a big hardcore workout, lifting one arm up over the head and leaning down to the opposite side and then to other side first thing in the morning before you get in the shower can release something albeit tiny but it's a start and it takes a few seconds. Repeat it each side if you like how it feels. And if you want to move more and feel less old/stiff/achey I can recommend my yoga classes to properly dust off those cobwebs and afterwards guarantee a free shot of endorphins that you'll have created for yourself.
Perhaps we could change the approach to how we view moving and exercising and think of it more as a work 'in.' When we stop believing that the goal of exercise is to achieve a certain body aesthetic and instead see it as an investment in feeling better mentally then we may schedule it more into our lives.