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Allure’s Linda Wells Leads Panel on ‘Growing Older, Feeling Younger’

Brooke Shields and Dr. Tina Alster helped the magazine editor weigh the pros and cons of cosmetically dealing with the hands of time.

Brooke Shields, Dr. Tina Alster and Linda Wells.

Leading Tuesday’s “Growing Older, Feeling Younger” panel, Allure editor in chief Linda Wells helped explained how to make that happen.

This story first appeared in the May 24, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Well aware that more Baby Boomers are wondering where their jawlines went, Gen-Xers are spotting furrows on their foreheads and Millennials are plucking stray gray hairs from their temples, she said. “There are lots of good things about getting older, but looking smooth and firm is not among them. But there is good news — advances in the science of aging mean that no one has to look their age anymore.”

So much so that most Americans think the ideal age is 31, the same age Bette Davis was when she starred in “Old Maid,” said Wells, citing an Allure survey. And 78 percent of respondents said women are under greater pressure today to look younger than they were 10 years ago. That said, the multibillion-dollar antiaging industry has grown 19 percent in the past five years, Wells said. “While still in its infancy, it has transformed our culture nearly as radically as the rise in social media,” she said. “People can now choose how they want to look as they age. And this has been the source of a lot of happiness and a lot of hand-wringing.”

Brooke Shields and Dr. Tina Alster, founder of Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, helped Wells weigh the pros and cons of cosmetically dealing with the hands of time. Alster made the point that “so many” of her patients usually need something done by the time they visit her office. But starting early on, using such safeguards as sun protection and antioxidants can help prevent aging. Sun protection is responsible for preventing 90 percent of wrinkles and 100 percent of sun spots, she said. Microdermabrasion, light chemical peels or fractionated lasers to enhance new collagen formulation were her in-office recommendations.

Torn between the holistic and the cosmetic, Shields suggested a little of both. “Balance is the thing I feel is most important. It’s a matter of making decisions for yourself and not apologizing for them,” she said.

And carrying a few extra pounds isn’t always such a bad thing, according to Shields. “I’ve noticed that when I’m heavier, I look younger. What is it they say? ‘You have to choose your ass or your face.’ Well, I go back and forth,” she said. “But I’m not against any of the [cosmetic-enhancing] things that are out there, if it can make you feel better about yourself.”

At 47, Shields thinks of herself somewhere between 28 and 36, though her husband set the record straight when she tried to pass off her age as younger to their children. “Just tell the truth. I think that’s the next level of aging,” Shields said.

But truth and beauty don’t always go hand-in-hand. Referring again to the Allure survey, Wells said, “The majority of people think they look younger than their partners, younger than their high school classmates and younger than their parents did at their age, which is delusional unless it’s not.”

She also was baffled by something else. “What’s astonishing to me is why anyone would have gray hair except the men,” Wells said.

In her Washington office, Alster has noticed that younger patients are being more proactive, whether that may be preventing facial wrinkles or dealing with a boyfriend’s hairy back.

Shields admitted that as a teenager she would use an album cover wrapped in tin foil and baby oil with iodine to maximize her suntanning. “We didn’t know better,” she said. “Now I appreciate self-tanning lotion. As the mother of two young girls, you have to educate them and teach them to be happy with their uniqueness rather than try to look like somebody else. I fell prey to that as well.”

“When I was 15, I was labeled on Time magazine as the face of the Eighties or the look of the Eighties or something like that,” she said. “I remember thinking it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. Because who…is it God who is saying, ‘Oh, that’s the face’? Again, it comes down to accepting the uniqueness, the happiness in what you do and being proud of who you are. That’s a lifelong endeavor — you don’t just decide.”

Wells offered her own insight: “The more that the connection is made to health, confidence or self-esteem, the more that beauty becomes a tool that women can use no matter how they feel. Not being the prettiest person in the room doesn’t disqualify them from being able to take advantage of whatever it is that is out there. That is the interesting thing about aging, too. It doesn’t mean you can’t participate or be attractive, sexy or energetic.”