Hope really does spring eternal. At least for women.
As I perused the shelves at my local drugstore the other day, my teenage daughter said, “Mom, if this stuff really did all the things the labels say it will do, everybody would walk around looking great!”
I remember my mother, when she was about my age, going to bed with her face literally white from the loads of cold cream she slathered on. She would have her hair done once a week, then sleep with toilet paper wrapped around it to protect it. And she never went out of the house without having her face fully made-up.
Still, she never considered any, um “age intervention” — i.e., a face-lift. Even when she got into her 60s and bemoaned what she felt was her relentlessly aging skin. (I thought she was beautiful, of course.) But she did laughingly fantasize about pulling up all that was dropping, from her ankles on up, and gathering it all on top of her head with a huge clip.
Modern cosmetic surgery can do almost all that, it seems, but I’m more intrigued by the “hope in a jar” that sits within reach, in terms of price and availability, of the average American woman.
Thirty years ago, when my mother was the age I am now, just what did she find on drugstore and department-store shelves?
Thanks to online archives, it’s easy to find out. In the early 1980s, it seems my mother could buy Estee Lauder’s “Maximum Care Eye Creme,” which, according to its advertising, provided “the best in protective and effective care for the delicate area around your eyes. This deeply beneficial non-greasy formula works against dryness and tiny wrinkle lines without interfering with your eye makeup at all.”
Lancome sold a “Protective Day Cream: A new beginning for your skin. Every morning.” Good old Noxema, its advertising declared, “cleans clean like soap without drying. Moisturizes without grease. Tingles your face alive.” The television commercials for Oil of Olay finished with the promise: “It can help you look younger too.”
Well, if all that was a local playground, what we have today is Disney World.
ReVive says in its advertising that its “Renewal Epidermal Science technology, which includes patented, Nobel Prize-winning and bio-engineered ingredients, encourages skin cell renewal.”
Immunocologie declares in its ads that its cream mimics “the paralyzing effects of Temple Viper Venom, the ultra-hydrating Immunocologie VenoMAX Complex. . . . ”
Many of the names themselves just give it away, like Orlane’s face cream, “Thermo Active Firming Serum.” And, today, Olay’s Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream offers what drugstore.com describes as an “amino-peptide complex and intracellular fortifier.”
Oh, and “Hope in a Jar” is a real product name, by the way.
I have no problem with any of this. In fact, in my circles I’m considered something of an expert on the latest in skin care. And what, exactly, is a glycolic acid vs. a retinoid, and when to use what anyway? (FYI, the former is an exfoliant; the latter essentially irritates the skin into producing more rapid cell turnover than it would without it. Really.)
Today this conflating of cosmetics and dermatology-grade skin-care products has given us what is often referred to as “cosmeceuticals.” Yes, we’ve come a long way, baby.
So, as I stood in the drugstore, looking at the flawless skin of my almost 16-year-old, I wondered about, at this rate, what would be available to her in 30 years. And no matter what it is, how could the hype be anymore intense than it is now?
Here’s one thing I do know. It’s easy to say at her age that, essentially, “it doesn’t work.” At mine? Hope springs eternal.
Betsy Hart is the author of the new ebook, “From The Hart: A Collection of Favorite Columns on Love, Loss, Marriage (and Other Extreme Sports).” Reach her through firstname.lastname@example.org.