I’m Getting Old. Not Really.

I’ve been thinking about aging a bit more than usual lately.  Some of its been vanity related, but some of its been a matter of just settling in with the realities of life.

I had my first moles removed two weeks ago.  One was unplanned, but the other was a mole that I knew I wanted to get rid of.  I’d had it on my back since I was a baby, and it was just starting to look funny.  It was raised, and not particularly pretty, but I guess it had never really bothered me that much.  My dad would take a look at it every so often because he tends to have an eye for these things, and for the most part I wasn’t concerned up until about three years ago.

I first started becoming anxious about this particular mole while I was at Disneyland with a friend when a woman tapped me on the shoulder and loudly asked, “Excuse me!  Have you ever had that checked out?”, right smack in the middle of Main Street, citing the mole on my back. I looked around and saw passers-by sort of staring at me, waiting to see how I’d react.  I felt so embarrassed.  Suddenly this thing on my back that I’d never really given a second thought was literally drawing the attention of strangers at Disneyland.

I told the woman that I had had it looked at (by my dad, and at a yearly check-up).  She proceeded to say, “Okay.  Well, my husband had skin cancer.”  I don’t really remember what else she said, if anything as I was feeling flustered and a bit put off by her flat, abrasive tone.  It didn’t exactly jive with Dole whips and Mr. Toad.  For one thing, she didn’t mention if her husband managed to beat the cancer (hence the past tense “had skin cancer”) or if he was no longer around because of the cancer (hence the past tense “had skin cancer”).  And I didn’t dare ask.  All I know is that there was no husband with her when she approached me; she was only accompanied by two teen daughters that looked equally as embarrassed as I was.  I got the sense that this was a pretty regular part of life with Mom.

But regardless, the incident stuck in my head (as most things do).  You had to admit, as it is with so many folks, that she was only trying to help.  However, a couple weeks ago, I had just enough of a fire lit under my butt to bring me to make an executive decision.  I came across a shared page on Facebook asking for donations and prayers for a young mother who’d been suddenly diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in her lungs, on her spine, and somewhere else that I can’t remember.  It may have been her brain.  She’d been experiencing back pain for the past two years, and while they’d been attributing it to athletic training it only seemed to be getting worse.  It became unbearable a couple months ago, and it wasn’t until a trip to the ER that the cancer was discovered.  She’s been given a 15% chance of survival.  That was in January, and I can’t remember which friend shared the page so I have no idea what’s happened since.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist one week later and had the mole on my back, along with a bonus one on my thigh that looked too dark for doc’s comfort, promptly removed.

It’s funny how little things like this begin to creep up on you as you start to round out your twenties.  Moles, wrinkles, dry patches – things you don’t think about when you’re twenty-two, or even twenty-five really.  Over time we become more vigilant for health reasons, as in the case with my moles, but we also start to think about getting … older.  I know some of my friends are laughing at me right now, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that the late twenties are when such things seem to universally begin crossing peoples’ minds.  It’s true what they say, that things will catch up to you.  Some of its preventable, but some of it’s just reality.

Some of that reality hit perhaps four months ago, as I was looking in my magnified mirror scoping out pimples when I began to notice the lines that had cropped up across my forehead.  Huh, when’d those get there?  Huh, I wonder if they’ll get worse?  Huh, I wonder if they make anything to help stuff like this?  Oh wait, I forgot, there are literally billion dollar industries to help with these suckers.  And just like that, I’m researching things like peels, retinols, retinoids, vitamin C serums, glycolic acid, and all kinds of other fun things that level-up your skincare world beyond “zit cream”.  I’ve come a long way, Clearasil.

I’m certain that aging can be done quite well, and without any kind of invasive procedure if you really try.  I’ve seen it.  I’m gunning for the method of the right food, enough water, enough sleep, and a couple helpful topical treatments over advanced procedures.  A couple products I’m interested in for my particular dilemmas:

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Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum – I actually bought this for my mom a year or so ago as a present, and it yielded the surprising result of erasing a prominent dark spot clean off her face.  Dark spots are something that I know I’m going to have to deal with; they run in both sides of my family.  I love and trust Caudalie as a brand so much, and since I’ve literally seen this stuff work on someone else I’d happily try it out on my own dark spots and discoloration.  I have a new spot coming in on my right cheek as we speak, so it might be time to save up.

EDIT – It’s actually the night detox serum that I purchased for my mom.  I look forward to purchasing it over the day serum, as I have a plan for the day serum below and they both feature relatively the same properties.

Caudalie Glycolic Peel – I have yet to try a peel, and since I’m a wimp, I’m going to stick with the brand I love.  However, Caudalie’s peel happens to have awesome reviews.  Fading dark spots, instant brightening, improved texture, lack of irritation, diminishing pores – all of these benefits are mentioned in twenty-eight out of thirty-five reviews on Sephora.com.  Trust me, I counted.  I currently have Kate Somerville’s ExfoliKate that I received as a gift from a friend, but I’m afraid to try it!  I’m so afraid of redness and irritation, even though that may not be a problem.  I’m currently on an antibiotic for my stitch wound after having my mole removed- the wound wasn’t healing properly.  I’m nervous to that some kind of peel will trigger a reaction with the antibiotic.  I may just be paranoid, but the thought of a rash or bad reaction on my face is one of my worst nightmares.

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Collagen Booster –  Vitamin C is a powerhouse when it comes to age-defense.  Obviously it’s great to intake your vitamin C through citrus fruits, leafy greens, bell peppers, and berries, but a topical can’t hurt either.  I’ve sampled this one and I probably didn’t use enough of it to yield truly significant changes, but I liked the texture and immediate results.  I like that this serum has a combination of five different kinds of vitamin C extract, with one of those being rose hip, the unsung hero of extracts.  Rose hip contains 50% more vitamin C than oranges, and has been known for its scar-healing and elasticity-building qualities among a bajillion other benefits.  If you’re not into serums and prefer a more nature-based anti-aging regimen, rose hip tea is supposed to be the way to go.

A yearly trip to the dermatologist – Though an hour away (ask my insurance provider why that’s the case), my visits to the dermatologist out here have been completely worth it.  I’d only had my moles checked once by a primary care doctor that specialized in dermatology back in California, but he wanted to biopsy the mole first before removing it.  I just wanted it gone.  The dermatologist out here felt the same as me; what’s the point in keeping track of a somewhat abnormal mole when you know you’re eventually going to have it removed?  Dr. Kolton checked out every other mole on my body, too.  He said that the most common place for melanoma in women is on their legs, and you can’t forget to check under your feet and in other places that you never look at.  And know that the moles that need to be removed don’t always look “weird”; the “bonus” one that Dr. Kolton took off was very small and I’d never paid attention to it but he noted how dark it was, like it was almost black.  Dermatologists aren’t just there for collagen fillers or Acutane prescriptions.  They can be real life-savers, and they’re worth visiting.

I’d rather start attacking these issues now so I’m not having to put out a bunch of little fires as I get older.  I believe the earlier you become naturally conscious of what happens with aging and the earlier you start taking care of little things here and there, the less it scares you in the long run and the less it feels like some looming doomsday on the horizon.  And honestly, the idea of tackling my forehead creases and finding something that works is like a fun game for me.  Both sides of my family carry a pretty strong youth gene, but I don’t want to bank on that alone.  I don’t have feelings of paranoia surrounding my aging so much as feelings of strategy and determination.  It’s the difference between playing a game of Wheel of Fortune and playing a game of Jeopardy.  One you can study and research and plan for with a strong sense of purpose; the other you just hope and pray you hit the jackpot and don’t lose a turn.  And I, being the lifelong learner that I am and the niece of a Jeopardy champion (little known fact!), would rather play Jeopardy.  xo, MR

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