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Before You Judge Plastic Surgery, Read This

Curious girl

Have you ever jumped to criticism after seeing someone with plastic surgery or hearing of a friend or relative’s decision to alter their appearance? Or if you have had cosmetic surgery, have you ever faced judgment from others for your decision?

Truth be told, plastic surgery is a controversial subject, and such responses are typical. In a compelling article from the September/October issue of Spirituality & Health magazine, one poignant story stands out:

“I was at a pub one night where I liked to sing karaoke with my friends, about six weeks after having breast implants,” says Michelle, 55, of Nevada. “There was a group of very competitive ‘mean girls’ who would come in. When I got up to sing, one of them said, ‘Whoa! How do you spell plastic surgery?’”

Women, is this really how we want to be treating one another? Does one person’s decisions need to perfectly align with our own beliefs in order for us to treat them with respect? Before we condemn the perceived vanity that goes into a decision to receive plastic surgery, let’s try on the hat of compassion and take a look at some of the real reasons people – women in particular – opt for that course of action.

Nearly 40% of the U.S. population is 45 years old and above, and 14.2% of American women are 65 years and over. Many of the cosmetic concerns women face in later years – wrinkles, sun spots, greying or thinning hair, loss of pigmentation – can be attributed to age, which, after all, is one of the most natural processes human beings go through. There is nothing inherently shameful about aging, and if anything it should be a source of pride. As Oprah Winfrey wrote recently in an article for Huffington Post:

I’m well aware that trying to stay fresh and current can be a challenge, especially if you live a lot of your life in public view. Of course I want to look my best. I want to feel strong and vibrant. But I know for sure that the pathway to your best life isn’t the route of denial. It’s owning every moment. Staking a claim in right now. And, with gratitude, embracing the age you are.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, by far the largest age group for both surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures is 35-50 years of age, with the 51-64 age group following as second largest for nonsurgical procedures. Nonsurgical includes Botox injections, chemical peels, microdermabrasion and the like.

That means a sizable amount of women past their 40’s are looking in the mirror, feeling uncomfortable with how they look, and undergoing cosmetic alterations to their appearance. But even nonsurgical procedures are not devoid of risk. Such procedures can cause burns, scarring, darkening or lightening of the skin, and other unwanted side effects.

That’s not to say these procedures shouldn’t exist, but it’s important to fully understand what you’re getting into and ask yourself a few questions before choosing that path. For one, does your interest in cosmetic surgery arise out of deep introspection and soul-searching, or is it born of fear, shame, or insecurity? If the latter, explore some other options for increasing happiness and self-esteem, first.

As Jane Ganahl writes in Spirituality & Health:

Cultivate inner happiness by giving of yourself. Volunteer at a senior center, organize a book club, audition for community theater. Doing for others keeps you from obsessing about those crow’s-feet.

Buck the cultural impediments to visibility. Walk tall, refuse to take a table by the kitchen, make your opinions known. Change the way you look at yourself, and the world will change too.

What are your thoughts and experiences with cosmetic surgery? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 12.18.59 PMSpirituality & Health is a magazine for people who want to explore the spiritual journey and wake up to our capacity for self-healing, vitality, and resiliency. Read the entire article on plastic surgery in the September/October edition of Spirituality & Health, on newsstands now! Get your first issue FREE here.

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The Secret to Beauty and Healthy Skin Starts Within

woman-washing-face

Skin is the largest organ in – or on – the human body. That means there’s a lot of it to enjoy, but also a lot of it that can be harmed and impacted by life. Such common conditions as wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots and moles are usually nothing more than symptoms of age, but there are other ways your skin can suffer over time, too. Sun, for instance, is a big one. As are toxins, makeup, and lack of cleanliness.

With such a premium placed on “beauty” in our culture – which, by the way, is so relative and often arbitrary – many people feel dissatisfied with the skin they inhabit. Too rough, too curvy, too hairy, too many freckles, too many wrinkles. If we spent as much time practicing self love as we do worrying about our skin and our bodies, we’d undoubtedly have a very happy society on our hands. The sad irony of this, though, is that many of the things that plague us about our appearances are within our control to mitigate.

Our weight, for instance. If we could learn to love wholesome food, enjoy moving around in physical activity, and end troubled cycles of dieting, binging, and fasting, we might also learn to love the bodies that serve us so well.

Our skin, too. If you love the sun, wear makeup, exercise, travel the world – more power to you. But follow the simple advice of skin care expert Alison Thurston, of Sports Club/LA, who soberly advises, “Going to bed without cleaning your face is the same as not brushing your teeth. The best thing for your skin is to clean it, even if it’s just a hot terry cloth towel at the end of the day.”

Wear sunscreen, wash your face, and give your skin the time and space it needs to recover from the wear and tear of daily life. Pretty simple, eh? “Skin is an organ, it needs to breathe.”

Now, how do we possibly handle aging? Is that the one chink in this self-positive wellness scheme? Obviously there is no way to “escape” aging, and there shouldn’t need to be. Growing older is a rite of passage, a natural development of maturation and wisdom-gathering. The lines on the face of a 90-year-old tell the story of thousands of tears shed, smiles cracked, kisses given and received, and thoughts contemplated.

As Alison reflects, “Aging is inevitable and how a person’s skin ages, i.e. wrinkles, is based a lot on their genetics.” That said, healthy skin care practices over a lifetime can at least protect your from skin cancer and sun spots, which “should be a very real concern for anyone at any age.”

One thing to do as you get older, in particular, is to let go of appearance-based fears by looking closely at yourself in the mirror. Really take a good look. “A healthy lifestyle should always include a little daily close attention to your skin,” Alison suggests. “A great way to pay attention to your skin is to clean it and examine it on a regular basis.” This can be especially difficult to do when we feel any amount of shame regarding our appearance, but the practice is both essential for our physical health and potentially tranformative for our emotional health.

Ultimately, our happiness and sense of self are often wrapped up in our appearances, for better or for worse. If it is beauty or a perceived lack of it that troubles you, then find the courage to take a good look at yourself today and notice all the beautiful things looking back at you in the reflection. If it is health and wellness you are concerned about, then take action! Wash your face, let your skin breathe and recover, and set the intent for healthy living NOW. The power is in your hands.

Try the mirror exercise Alison suggests and tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

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SPortsClubLA2012Sports Club/LA has been recognized as an urban lifestyle brand that serves as the ultimate health and wellness destination. Visit a Sports Club/LA location in Boston, Chestnut Hill, Miami, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York Upper East Side as well as their sister club, Reebok Sports Club/NY. For more information visit www.SportsClubLA.com.

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