Many of us wish to preserve our youthful looks for as long as possible — but still want to look natural, believable. A plastic surgeon, a dermatologist, and a makeup artist weigh in.
I love it when I bump into someone I haven’t seen in ages — at my age, it could mean a decade or two — and they say I look the same.
But I don’t, really.
I feel time, gravity, smoking, too much sun exposure, and possibly, too much laughing, have taken their toll. I make a bit of effort with occasional facials — lasers to brighten the complexion, RF to firm the skin, and once, HiFu for a V-shaped jawline. It made the roots of my teeth hurt so much I doubt I’d try it again.
Am I doing enough? I’m not sure. What might the future hold?
How We Age
Plastic surgeon Dr Leslie Kuek notes that many women put on weight over the years; this affects not just their bodies, but also their faces.
“Typically, to be considered young and beautiful, you need a peach- or oval-shaped face and firm, smooth, even-toned skin. If you put on weight, your face tends to look more square/rectangular, heavyset and jowly,” he says.
“Changes in hormone levels, and environmental factors such as sun damage, cause changes in skin tone and texture, leading to hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, sags. You’re also likely to develop eyebags, turkey neck, loose skin over the eyes, and frown lines. Lips get thinner. Past your 50s, you lose fat and volume from certain parts of your face so everything sags, leading to that Huckleberry Hound look.”
Dermatologist Patricia Yuen elaborates: “Our important facial ligaments droop as we get older, leading to concavity in facial contours, hollowing of the temples, depression of the malar mid cheek, nasojugal groove or tear trough, deeper nasolabial and marionette lines, laxity of lower eyelid skin with enlarging eye bags, hooding of upper eyelid skin.”
Dr Yuen says patients in the 30s to 60s age range tend to express their most common complaint nonverbally: “They point to their jowls, and then pull tightly upwards towards their ears to show how they want their faces lifted”. She usually recommends a nonsurgical facelift, using a combo of fillers and Botox.
I’m in my mid-40s, so it feels I may have to step up my anti-ageing aesthetic regimen soon.
But I fear ending up crossing over to the dark side — I’ve noticed many women who look stunning, in that fake, slightly weird “I got lots of work done” sense — completely line-free, with bulging cheek apples, tiny thin noses, trout pout lips, and eyes that don’t laugh along when they do.
They look young, but nothing like their younger selves. What gives?
Is it the doctor’s fault if a patient ends up looking overdone, puffy and unnatural?
Dr Yuen recommends having realistic expectations. “A good dermatologist or plastic surgeon can make you look five to 10 years younger; don’t go in wanting to look 20 years younger. You look more natural if you have a few wrinkles as opposed to none at all.”
Dr Kuek says: “A patient’s perception of beauty may be extreme, influenced by movies and celebs. Some aesthetic doctors can also have flawed beauty ideals; their skills may not be that good, or their philosophy may be to give the patient what she wants. Furthermore, certain aesthetic trends are short-lived, and thus better avoided.”
He notes how patients used to ask for higher, deep-set double eyelids, but now want a smaller crease. Tight “wind tunnel-effect” face lifts have fallen out of favour. A few years back, K-inspired under eye “love bands” were hugely popular, but not anymore.
“My philosophy is to help someone look the best she can — I give my expert opinion on whether a procedure is suitable, what results look best, how the patient is going to look a few years down the road. One asked for big round eyes, but I felt she would look strange once she hit her 50s, so we agreed on something less drastic. Another wanted love bands but I felt it was too faddish, so we compromised on a reversible procedure,” he explains, adding that he has turned away patients who ask for procedures too soon after their most recent one.
More Than Meets The Eye
The experts note that some would-be clients think they’re being fleeced if they go in requesting for one procedure, and get recommended a totally different one, or several, instead. Truth is, the docs just want to help you achieve the best results.
“The patient’s problem area is not where I would necessarily inject. Take nasolabial line: the new way of injection is actually on the fusion bone between the zygoma and the lateral orbit (in the upper cheek). That creates a lifting effect on the whole cheek area so nasolabial lines automatically look better,” explains Dr Yuen.
Adds Dr Kuek: “I adopt a holistic approach because I don’t want you to look weird. Say, if you ‘erase’ your marionette lines, the bottom half of your face might look 20, but if you didn’t do anything about your crow’s feet and eye bags, your top half still looks 40.”
Like Dr Yuen, Dr Kuek is a big believer in looking “believable”. “Women who manage to look 28 or 30 well into their 50s are few and far between. It’s more realistic is to look 28 for about three years, 29 for three years, and so on. Basically, to delay the progression of the ravages of time — not halt it indefinitely, or change its course completely.”
How To Cheat Time Gracefully And Believably
(Tips by Dr Patricia Yuen and Dr Leslie Kuek)
- Start in your early 30s — don’t wait till everything has gone south, then go for a full surgical face lift. Think prevention, maintenance and rejuvenation — in that order.
- Snap, and bring your favourite photos of yourself from your younger days for an accurate representation of what your “best self” looks like.
- Know that the effects of non-invasive procedures last between six months and one to two years, while surgical procedures last five to 10 years.
- Think in terms of regular maintenance: discuss with your aesthetic doc a proper, regular regimen that suits your needs and goals.
- Your lifestyle matters: diet, exercise, whether you smoke or drink, sun exposure, your skincare regime, can and do affect the rate at which you age.
- Don’t shop for aesthetic procedures based on price alone. Results may vary widely based on the aesthetic doctor’s skill, experience and philosophy.
Fake It With Makeup
1. Do skin prep
Makeup on hydrated skin always looks best, and lines will be minimised. Always mask or moisturise before makeup. A good make up primer before foundation prevents oxidisation and clogged pores.
2. Less is more, the older you get.
Go easy on false eyelashes — you don’t want to look like a scary old doll. Finer, lighter lashes make eyes look naturally bigger. Avoid loud makeup colours unless attending a fancy dress party. Neutral earth tones are safest.
3. Ditch the powder
Powdered makeup products, especially those containing talc, don’t do well on mature skin because powders sink into creases, magnifying them. Swop your 2-way cake for hydrating or lifting foundation formulas.
One of my favourites is Make Up For Ever liquid lift foundation and concealer. It contains Tensine, an anti wrinkle ingredient, and is light and creamy, with great coverage. Cream blushers or liquid cheek tints, help reduce the appearance of pores and lines.
4. Choose buildable coverage
Find the right foundation for your skin type, with the right coverage. The trick is seeing whether you need one with low or high pigments. Instead of layering more product, learn to blend properly with less; you’re not repairing cracked walls with cement.
5. Go for bronze
To create the illusion of a more defined V-shaped jawline, lightly brush a bronzer from under your jaw, starting from the back of your ear where the jaw starts, and fade off just before the chin. Avoid heavy contouring if you have saggy jowls —not doing it right will emphasise rather than camouflage them.
6. Avoid harsh black
Liquid and cream liners make lines more obvious, and if not done right, make eyes look even droopier. Avoid black; switch to softer eyeliners like pencils or powders in browns or soft greys.
7. The brows have it
Well-groomed and defined eyebrows can give an instant “face lift”. A common mistake is to draw them according to their natural shape when you have naturally thin and droopy brows. This gives the face a saggy appearance. If your natural brows are succumbing to gravity, have them reshaped and learn to draw them straighter with an arch.