Part 1. The privilege of ageing
Age is - let's face it - a construct. We know that depending on where in the world we live, we may hold very different views on ageing. But, when exposed constantly to unrealistic images, the more we tend to question our own image staring back at us in the mirror.
How funny that when we’re kids we think of being in our 20s as unimaginable, and when we're a teenager we think of being in our 30's as ancient.
Once we hit our 20's, being 40-something is heading for retirement and as we hit our 30's, over 60 means we're in the obsolete pile and on and on it goes...
For me at almost 60, age is about perspective.
I have been pro-ageing since I formed MV back in 1999 and more so since 2001 when I lost my best friend to ovarian cancer. There is no greater reminder of how precious life is than when confronted with death.
Some years after my friend's death, a mutual friend pointed out to our close circle, that our friend would never go grey or have to worry about wrinkles reflecting her time on earth. That's when I made the decision to stop dying my hair. This was at a time when 'silver' was not on trend in any way shape or form. My hairdresser raised an eyebrow - she thought I'd gone mad! - while many of my friends repeated, "are you really sure?!".
Never one to swim with the current personally or professionally, I have been outspoken about the anti-ageing marketing machine within the beauty industry going back more than three decades.
From early on, I rejected the notion of 'anti-ageing' and found it quite a ridiculous phrase. My outspoken views on the disempowerment of women through fear of ageing ensured that for decades, I remained on the periphery of the beauty industry. But being on the periphery is something I am very comfortable with as it means I can run my own race and be true to my core values.
I hoped for change decades ago when I first entered the beauty industry but it did not come. In fact, things got worse with the rise of the youth-obsessed media and air-brushing in every single magazine and I felt that the disempowerment of women knew no bounds.
As the years rolled by, my seemingly 'controversial' views remained and earned me the moniker of Beauty Rebel. I found my niche away from the mainstream and hunkered down, realising the changes I had hoped for may be many more years into the future.
Part 2. A Powerful Conversation
It was 2009. My first trip to London and New York as a travelling facialist - servicing International clients and media with my own very unique style of facial.
It was slightly scary and I admit to feeling quite naive, so when a friend offered to connect me with another facialist who serviced high-profile clients, I jumped at the chance. While sipping tea together in a London cafe, the subject of Botox and fillers came up as her speciality treatment was helping her clients get 'red carpet ready' before significant Hollywood events. She was working on a select group who had been exposed to injectables long before they became affordable to the general public.
I asked her thoughts on the subject, as some of my Sydney-based clients had been asking me for advice about Botox and fillers and I really didn't have an answer for them. The facialist said, "What do you think happens to muscles that are repeatedly frozen?". The answer was obvious but honestly, at first, my mind went blank. Finally, the lights went on and I said "Oh, muscle atrophy".
She then explained that after many years of Botox and fillers, the majority of her clients were in a cycle they found hard to get out of.
She also explained that there was very little emphasis by those administering Botox and fillers on what could go wrong and that some of the damage could be irreversible.
I walked away wondering how many women were not being given the information they needed to make a fully informed decision and how many may be regretting ever starting.
Given the information she shared, I thought that perhaps this trend would die out
but no, it went from strength to strength and soon enough the marketing terminology shifted to ‘preventative’, capturing a whole new generation craving a wrinkle-free ‘filtered’ face.
The age of the ‘injectable’ was reaching dizzying new heights, while some of the beauty industry was reaching a new low by cashing in on a very much younger market.
Part 3. The beauty of friendship, wisdom and humour
Before Covid-19 I admit to being incredibly frustrated and disillusioned with the the youth obsessed beauty industry and ‘ageism’ in particular, but something happened during those Covid years and I'm happy to say there's been a paradigm shift in our understanding of beauty and the empowerment of women, and a growing chorus of women who are championing ageing.
This paradigm shift has occurred in the media, the workplace, schools and universities, the gym and in so many other spheres of everyday life. Our perspective is finally shifting and this gives me hope because it ultimately means the pressure is lifting and we have more options on how we age.
Botox and fillers should be a choice - not something we feel under pressure to do to remain ‘visible’ or ‘viable’ in today’s society.
Friend and UK times Fashion Director, Anna Murphy, is one of these women who is a beacon of hope and wisdom. We go way back. We both gave the bottle of hair dye the flick, and focused on our inner health and well-being through our yoga practice. Most importantly, we approach the idea of ageing with a healthy dose of style and attitude.
Anna is way more stylish than I will ever be, but in her brilliant book published earlier this year Destination Fabulous, she has encouraged me (and thousands of others no doubt) to find and embrace our own unique style. I've read Anna's book twice and I will be reading it again. It's bursting with wisdom, inspiration and guidance on how to be the very best and most authentic version of ourselves as we age.
As she puts it in her book, "Now at 50, I do belong. And I belong to the only person I can truly belong to: Myself.”
With age comes wisdom, a healthy dose of humour helps too! If you need a good chuckle, then check out the blog - 60.Life - by UK Telegraph journalist Jan Masters.
Humour is something Masters has mastered so do yourself a favour and check out her post titled ‘Just to be Clear’; 33 phrases we use in modern life, all with her own hilarious translations. I laughed so hard, I cried.
Jan is also helping to change the narrative on ageing and has this to say about herself...”I’d rather take my lead from the Japanese. As a Vogue Japan columnist for many years, I learned your 60th is a punch-the-air moment. It's called 'Karveki' and roughly translates to being reborn."
So here's to being reborn at any age. It's all about perspective!
Love, Sharon xx
MV Founder, Sensitive Skin Expert, Celebrity Facialist & lifetime Beauty Rebel.