The other day I looked into the mirror and recoiled from my own image: I looked like I was 65. The skin under my eyes was hanging in folds, my neck was wrinkly and droopy, and I felt like I was waking up from a dream in which I had been young and smooth. I realized that I am finally getting old.
Inside my head, I’m still 25. I feel like 25, I have the energy of a 25-year-old (only when tackling projects that I actually look forward to doing, mind you), I behave like a 25-year-old at best, a 16-year-old at worst, and a 3-year-old if I don’t get my way. Until the other day, every time I looked into the mirror, my face looked still the same as it has for the past 25 years. But a few days ago, it appears that my age has finally caught up with me. In about 5 years time, I will be able to enjoy the senior discount in restaurants. And if we get rid of our son, my husband and I will be able to live in an “adults only” complex.
It seems my skin finally got the message.
At first, I thought my eyes were just puffy from some allergic reaction, and my neck was wrinkled from dehydration and not enough moisturizer. Which seems plausible, because I don’t think I ever put any sort of cream on my neck. My neck is fine. My neck doesn’t need all the attention my cheeks and my undereyes get. My neck can take care of itself. It don’t need no stinkin’ moisturizer. Same way my stomach and chest never get any of that fancy body lotion arms and legs enjoy so much. Yes, I admit it: I don’t treat all my body parts with the fairness they deserve.
Google to the Rescue
A little research about my skin condition confirmed my worst fears: My skin was showing a demonstrative loss of collagen, and therefore less resistance to gravity. I don’t live on the moon, where bags don’t exist. The fat deposits around the eyes drop with age, and then they just hang around as bags, reminding you and everyone else around you that you are not 25 years old any longer. And the neck skin, which for years was clung precariously up-side-down under your chin, holding on with graceful firmness to the elegant curve of your neck, has grown tired. So after years of neglect, it simply let go. And now it hangs, paying tribute to age and gravity, in silent solidarity with the eye bags.
Something had to be done. Everything needed to return to what it was. I could not accept that I could be getting old. I could NEVER be that old. For the next couple of days, at every encounter with someone, I would study their skin, mostly around the eyes. Was it hanging? Was it droopy? Firm, or loose? Fresh looking, or tired? And it seemed like everyone I came in contact to had better, firmer, and younger looking skin than me. I frantically searched the all-knowing internet for solutions to my problems. Snake oils, firming creams, plastic surgery - there is plenty to go around because a lot of people seem to suffer from the same bagginess. Some sites suggested it could be irritation and recommended the Canadian version of Preparation-H, which appears to have an immediate effect on swelling caused by irritation (duh) - models swear by it, I heard. I ran to the nearest drugstore and scooped up a tube of the wonder drug, but I chose a store with a self-checkout lane because I sure as hell didn’t want to have to be seen with that yellow-blue tube in my hand. The ingredients seemed innocuous enough, so I applied a bit under my eyes, but the scent of the stuff was too much to handle. Preparation-H literally smells like ass. It smells like it has been already applied to someone’s ass, scraped off and then refilled in tubes. I tried to get rid of this thought and applied the cream religiously for two days, several times a day, without ever noticing any difference. So I buried the tube in the depths of my bathroom cabinet and wept.
I had begun to doubt that anything short of surgery could actually be done to reverse the signs of time. No cream, no potion, would ultimately fix what I had neglected for years. I was ready to give in to my destiny of my premature ageing. That is until I stumbled across a video from a lady that seemed to be approximately my same age. She, too, suffered from droopy bags under her eyes (and dark circles to boot), and she had discovered a product that, when applied regularly, would shrink the fatty deposit under the eyes and therefore make the eye bags appear less prominent. “Oh - what miracle ointment are you selling?” I wondered, “Sign me up for 3 buckets!” However, the lady wasn’t selling anything. She wasn’t endorsing anything either, nor was she getting any form of compensation for her recommendation.
The product she praised was a Nivea body gel of some sort. An 8-dollar concentrated firming gel for cellulite. “Apply it only to the areas with fat deposit you want to diminish. I don’t put it on my cheeks, I don’t want my cheeks to get smaller.” I was floored. There was a risk of actually diminishing ANYTHING? Then I went and researched the heck out of the product. And everywhere I looked, the reviews were stellar. Very few people actually used it on their eyes and neck, but almost everyone who used it saw some sort of a result. I was on board - for eight dollars, what can go wrong?
What can go wrong?
The first problem was the fact that the product is not available in Canada. It’s a Nivea product alright, and in Canada, they sell a different form of it, but it’s a very weak, alcohol-filled body gel that I don’t want anywhere near my eyeballs. And although Nivea is a German company, the product wasn’t available in Europe either. I had to have this wonder cream, so I ordered a couple of bottles from Walmart (free shipping!) and had it mailed to my mailbox across the border in Washington State. When I picked the parcel up from there last Friday, I had to stop at customs on the way back.
“What are you bringing across?”, asked the officer, eyeing up my Walmart box.
“Oh, a few bottles of body lotion. They were on sale.” I didn’t want to tell him that the product was actually not available in Canada, which opens a whole new can of worms such as import restriction for things that are not approved in Canada, which makes everything so much more complicated. I showed the officer my invoice.
“Do you mind if I look in the box?”, he asked.
“Only if you don’t judge me”, I replied. “It is a cellulite gel.” I turned tomato red. The officer smirked.
“I have seen everything”, he reassured me. “Nothing impresses me anymore, and I don’t judge anyone. If you only knew the number of silicone statues I have to look at every day - if you know what I mean…”, he said, winking.
I could only reply, “Oh my!”, as he opened the box, took one look at the brand name (NIVEA), and closed the box.
“Have a nice day!”
The second issue was the fact that I would be smearing this product on my eye area. I ignored the warning on the box about how I shouldn’t get the stuff into my eyes and started smearing. And smearing I was. This product was a honey-tinted gel that was not being absorbed into the skin what-so-ever. It was slippery, sticky, smelly, and totally unimpressed by my trying to tap it into the delicate skin around my eye area. Tap, tap, tap. More insistent. More tapping. Nope. Still sitting on my skin, glossy and shining like just applied salad oil. In the end, I decided to layer it over my foundation in the morning and just letting it sit there, and as the last thing at night, with a cotton bud and only to the area where the fatty deposits where hanging out. And of course, I smeared it on my thighs and my belly for good measure.
For the first couple of days, I didn’t notice any difference, except for my skin around the eye area to be more soft, and less dry. The skin on my body also started to feel more moisturized and softer to the touch. The smell was very strong, and I was painfully aware of the alcohol content of the product, but I kept on putting it on my skin morning and night. It just made my skin feel supple and nice. Four days in I started to notice something. The bags seemed to have gotten smaller… could it be? For a little while I looked at myself in any mirror I could find, with light coming from above, from the front, from below, at different times of the day, with makeup, without makeup, standing up, lying down… any way I could possibly look at myself. I was not wrong. The bags were smaller. Considerably smaller. They weren’t gone, but they were smaller. Less droopy. Just less noticeable. And then, another day in, I realized that there were no more bags. There were wrinkles, and a tiny little elevation where the fatty deposits were, but the folds that had been there last week were gone.
I couldn’t stop looking at the mirror. I cursed at myself for not taking a before picture, but I had so little hope that anything would happen that I didn’t bother with it. I’m aware that it could have very well been an inflammation of some sort. A swelling, caused by an irritation. A new mascara. Some pollen in the air. Maybe the gel just added enough moisture to make the skin smooth again, and that’s all that was needed. I don’t know. Does it matter?
It’s a hard product to use. I have to be careful with it, and patient. It doesn’t play well with elegant face products. It’s sticky and shiny and it smells. But it has given me back a few years that I thought I had lost. And for that reason alone, it’s worth its weight in gold for me. Shine, chemical smell and embarrassing questions at customs are no issues, when your bags have been reduced to pouches, and the spring in your step has returned.
I will be 50 next year. But I sure as hell will not let that number influence me. My age never dictated how I had to act. And for as long as I possibly can, I will not let it tell me how I have to look, either.