Nothing But a Number

Aging. The very word makes most women cringe, cry, run and scream, right? Actually, no, according to a new study by Allure magazine and the AARP.

The study, which focused on how women feel about aging and beauty, found that most women are comfortable with growing older.

During their research, the collaborators asked 2,000 women between the ages of 21 and 72 how they felt about aging, how they felt about their body and their skin care routines, and how they felt about the depiction of women in the media.

They found that despite age differences, the responses of the participants were comparable across the board; the women were not as concerned with aging as they were about the lack of women their ages represented in media and pop culture.

More than 60 percent of the survey participants said they felt women their age were underrepresented in the media, and nearly 75 percent of those polled stated they wished images of women in advertising and on social media were more realistic and depicted more "normal" body types.

Those who responded to the survey also said that when advertisements and social media featured women their age, the images were retouched.

"Many women struggle with body image as a result of airbrushed or retouched images they see online or in magazines," said Dr. Mona Alqulali, a Bettendorf, Iowa, OB-GYN and cosmetic surgeon.

Negative feelings about body image can cause individuals to develop body dysmorphia, a condition that causes them to fixate on a flaw or perceived flaw.

"Social media and selfies are also causing an uptick in body dysmorphia," Alqulali said.

Some research has linked higher rates of dysmorphia and negative body image to increased demand for cosmetic procedures. A 2018 Rutgers University study found that when taken from a distance of 12 inches away or less, selfies distort the image by up to 30 percent for some features.

The Rutgers research also found that this distortion is causing more people to believe their image is flawed.

Other research from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons shows that negative self-image is also causing individuals to use more photo filters to improve their online appearance.

Just 17 percent of women who participated in the survey said they were hesitant to reveal their real age; however, the researchers concluded that it was not because they were embarrassed about their age, but instead, for these individuals, age did not matter.

Less than 30 percent of survey participants believed that their age was a defining factor in their lives.

Instead of being focused on age, the participants were concerned with living a healthy life. Sixty-four percent of women in the millennial and Generation X groups and 75 percent of women in the Baby Boomer group said that "healthy aging" was vital, and they exercised regularly, saw their doctors for regular checkups and ate healthy diets.

Although the women were not focused on aging, they did admit to using beauty products to reduce the signs of aging and to look more youthful.

"People want to look good at any age," Alqulali said.

The products the women used were not wrinkle creams, however, but Botox, dermal fillers and skin-rejuvenation therapies.

"These treatments can help reduce the signs of aging and also prevent the signs of aging from ever setting in," Alqulali said.

Some researchers believe that the feelings expressed by women in the study make an argument for the creation of a new age demographic, perennial, to include those who don't care about their age.



Allure. The 12 Biggest Myths About Women and Aging. 2 November 2018.
Live Science. Selfies Distort Your Face by 30% — And Here's the Math to Back It Up. 1 March 2018
Allure. Plastic Surgery Trends for 2018 Are Being Shaped by Social Media. Allure. 30 January 2018.


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