OPINION: Embracing aging is body positivity

An elderly woman putting away old photos of her younger self
(Jadyn Lee • The Student Life)

When I was young, I would watch all of my relatives smear black box dye on their hair in order to cover up their gray strands. When I got older, I started to stay out of the sun because I feared developing wrinkles too early. I even adopted an intense anti-aging skincare regimen because I was deathly afraid that my face would show signs of aging as I got older. 

Physical aging is often viewed as a dreadful aspect of growing up. However, it is imperative that we view and discuss it from a place of neutrality. Women, in particular, face far too much pressure to look young forever even though aging represents the natural physical changes they undergo as they grow older. The beauty industry, in particular, drives this baseless insecurity. We should focus on looking healthy, and aging is a healthy part of life. Also, we should stop discriminating against others with our beauty standards based on age. 

The fear of getting older for women begins when they refuse to say their age because they have already deemed themselves “too old.” Age secrecy sends the message that people should be ashamed of their age when they get older, when, in reality, there is nothing shameful about being old. 

On top of the general stigma around aging, many young people have become afraid of physically aging. Young women have begun their anti-aging endeavors because they are convinced that the more wrinkles they “fight” against, the more beautiful they will be. These ideas stem from how normalized treatments like Botox have become and how much we listen to celebrities and their extravagant anti-aging rituals

Similarly, there are countless articles online that list everything that will give you wrinkles, from chewing gum to drinking out of straws. It is unreasonable to avoid these basic actions in the name of anti-aging. Far too many people have become obsessed with keeping a youthful appearance for their whole lives, and the online articles about anti-aging always seem to be directed at women. 

Women face immense pressure to always look and feel attractive, so it makes sense that they would want to appear younger. From this, it is important to remember that women are more than their appearances, despite what sexism in our society may lead you to think. Their worth does not depend on how young they can make themselves look; beauty comes in a variety of forms. 

The beauty industry has successfully created the notion that you must have an anti-aging skincare regimen before you even start to show signs of aging. And how much of the industry’s signaling is just meant to sell beauty products?

While having an extensive skincare routine can be a great form of self-care, it is crucial to think about our own motives. If the only reason we have this routine is because we are afraid of looking old,  we should try to understand what is wrong with looking old in the first place. 

Most people would agree that we find our mothers and grandmothers to be beautiful, regardless of any anti-aging methods they’ve adopted. We do not look at their signs of aging with horror or disgust but, rather, with neutrality — they’re beautiful not despite their age but alongside it.

Instead of throwing out our straws and our chewing gum, we should focus on keeping ourselves healthy in the most non-obsessive ways possible. Spending time in the sun, ultimately, is good for mental health, and instead of worrying about wrinkles when you sunbathe, wear hats, sunscreen and sunglasses to keep your skin safe from skin damage and sunburn.

If we normalize signs of aging in everyone, we stand in solidarity with those who have been discriminated against by ageist expectations. It is our job to start normalizing physical signs of aging now: Uplift the older people in your life, and try to understand that your own beauty comes in a variety of different forms. 

Mishaal Ijaz SC ’24 is from San Diego, CA. She likes starting random arguments for fun.

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