Wrinkle creams–social panacea and or cover-up?

The other day I was in the grocery store and one of the employees went up to a grey haired woman and asked. “What can I help you with, young lady?” She gave him a surprised look and I had to hold myself back. What made him think that such a patronizing comment was welcome? It’s well known that older women are denigrated and rarely seen prime time. Once you can’t reproduce, you’re no good to men, only to children. Even young women dislike older women. Older and female? You might even be evil–with the exception of Hispanic culture. I suppose that’s why he thought he was doing her a favor, kind of like that boss I had who kissed all the women in a benevolent way.

My problem? I’ve sat on the sun far too long. I like to be warm. I want  my skin to make my vitamin D–it’s better that way.  But it’s like beer–no need for too much and I’m guilty of the “If a little is good, more is better” syndrome. Ultra-violet rays  break down collagen and the loss of collagen and elastin proteins forms folds of skin known as wrinkles. This is most pronounced for Caucasians. But UV light isn’t the only thing that breaks down collagen--sugar and stress can do the same. Wind and smoking will also add wrinkles. So will lack of sleep–ask any parent.

As child, I thought my grandmother’s wrinkles were fascinating and beautiful. Then, society told me different. So that’s why I say, until the partriarcy falls, there’s no shame in trying out wrinkle creams.

What do you want from a skin cream? Here are some substances to consider:

Retinoids increase collagen production but take several months to work and can be irritating. The new skin is sensitive and thin so it can burn more easily, too. That’s why this product is recommended primarily for night use.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and protects skin from UV exposure and can reduce wrinkles. It works by removing compounds that break down collagen. The beter way to get Vitamin C is to eat it rather than apply it.

Alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid exfoliate the skin and may remove wrinkles but how they work is yet unknown.

Niacin amide (B3) can also stimulate collagen production and there is some indication that riboflavin (B2) may do the same. A vitamin B analog known as DMAE could increase skin firmness but formulations that don’t harm the skin have proven tricky. These studies are preliminary.

Peptides–pentapeptides in particular–can work to stimulate collagen production.

Alpha hydroxyl acids used in skin peels have been shown to decrease blotchiness and skin roughness.

Hyaluronic acid can be applied or injected and does a good job of attracting moisture to the skin and plumping out minor wrinkles. The effects aren’t long lasting but there are few side effects.

Vitamin E. Tests about this one are inconclusive. It probably works to protect the skin but not as well as Vitamin C.

Collagen is not absorbed through the skin so its application isn’t known to reduce wrinkles. However, it might do so when paired with riboflavin.

Q-10 is produced by the skin as an antioxidant and decreases with age so it makes sense that putting it on your skin will renew it. However, no studies have shown any benefit from applying it to skin.

Most botanicals have produced inconclusive results in the lab when rubbed on human skin or rabbit ears. Aloe vera might increase collagen production. Soy might help remove fine wrinkles according to studies done with people and with hairless mice. But soy has its drawbacks. 

Moisturizers such as glycerin have shown mixed results. Some studies indicate that the skin becomes hydrated from them and others show that they act as a barrier to prevent dryness but do not increase skin hydration.

Here is a graphic highlighting the most effective substances.

One thing to remember is that looking young and feeling young are two different things. You can take a natural approach to protecting skin by eating plenty of  fruits and vegetables and getting enough sleep and exercise. It doesn’t help to produce collagen if you have weak bones for it to cling to. In fact, your wrinkles may be a sign that your bones need attention.

A toss away line in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 went like this.

“You remind me of an old lady”

“Oh, you mean wise.”

But were there any old lady characters in the movie? No.

Older women are wise, powerful, intuitive, and opinionated–this is why they are feared by the patriarchy. Nowhere is this fear more evident than the United States today. Until we put an end to this nonsense,  it never hurts to try out some skin products–because who wants to be wise and ignored or even worse, unjustly hated? However, keep in mind that your skin is an indicator of your overall well-being. Perhaps we dislike wrinkles because they are tattle-tales, telling the world of our sleepless nights and wild abandon or maybe that we had to work too hard. With that in mind, I wonder what the grocery store man should have said.

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Age before beauty? It should be the case.

 

Liberation Cakes from 1972

As I was decluttering, I found a wonderful stash of cookbooks with recipes I doubt you’d see today. I thought I’d share two of them and a touch of history.

They are both based on using boxed cake mixes. These handy mixes were invented in 1948 by Charlotte Cramer Sachs. (She was a prolific inventor.) With the introduction of cake mixes, cakes went from celebratory to common place. Food companies touted the release of women from the drudgery of cooking–freeing them to think and question and be full human beings. Push back made women feel guilty about doing anything but housework.

There is some feminist theory about this that’s pretty interesting.  We could talk all day about the guilt that’s heaped upon women. I know that I spent much of my early life trying to be a scientist and keep up with the housework and all of the duties expected of me had I been a traditional woman. Once I had kids, that began to fall apart as it was impossible. But let’s move on to the recipes.

Root Beer Angel Cake:

Prepare 1 package of angel food cake mix as directed except substitute root beer for water.

Prepare a frosting from 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted, 2 cups confectioners sugar, 1/4 cup crushed root beer candies. Add root beer a tablespoon at a time  and stir until the proper consistency.

Mock Pistachio Cake:

1/2 cup slivered or diced almonds

4 drops green food coloring

1 package of angel food cake mix

Shake almonds and food coloring together in a plastic bag

Prepare cake according to package directions. Fold in the green almonds before baking.

If desired, add a glaze of confectioners sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of water to cooled cake.

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We may look at these today and be appalled at how lazy or unhealthy they seem. However, put them into perspective: they allowed women to be both free and creative. They let women appear busy, as society demands, and yet maybe have time to read a book or even take a class at a local college or work and get their own credit card. (Although women couldn’t have their own credit cards until 1974.) You might even call them a stab at the freedom that still eludes most homemakers. And yet, as some have pointed out, for many women they simply filled time with meaningless and even unhealthy female busywork. 

Women have more choices today. Let’s keep it that way. Make the cake or go to the bakery or give up sugar altogether. It all depends on what you want to do on the road to your freedom.

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Vintage 1972. Freedom without the guilt, maybe.

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