We could ask endless questions about aging, but we want to start here: The term "aging gracefully" is commonly used in the beauty world. How does it strike you?
If I’m honest, I have to tell you that using the term "aging gracefully" implies something very different from what actually happens. The kindest thing I can do is give you the truth, brutal though it may be: there is simply no magical way to decay and die that isn’t somewhere between unpleasant and downright horrifying. The notion of “graceful aging'' is perpetuated by the young in an attempt to gloss over the terror of impending physical decline with reassuring phrases. However, this state of blissful denial starts eroding about the same time as the losses start piling up: hearing, eyesight, friends, beloved pets, teeth, hair… and bear in mind that the calamities, as in global warming, only increase in number, variety and severity as one nears the end of one’s allotted time. Any old person can tell you all this but whether you’re ready to listen or not depends on where you happen to be on the age spectrum.
Is there even a way to “age gracefully”? Our concept this month is “Owning Your Age.” What do you think about that?
The answer, like life itself, is brief. No. Don't kid yourself; decay is not attractive, nor is it graceful. The only thing you might possibly retain at the end of it all, when you've lost hair, teeth, relatives and most of your senses, is your sense of humor, though why the hell you should retain that is beyond me. Check back with me in a couple of years on that one.
Owning your age suggests that aging is the enemy in the corner that you just have to face up to. If aging gracefully reeks of denial because there's nothing graceful about decay, “owning your age” strikes a note of defiance that also misses the mark. Both phrases speak to fear underscoring the issue here— “Oh aging, I am afraid of it.” Yes, it's sensible to “own up to” fear of aging, but it's not necessary to stop at that point—in other words, being realistic about your fear is a good thing, but it does not mean you should succumb to hopelessness.
A strange comfort is to be had from using the scientific method to look at the facts—and the fact is entropy (measured at the rate at which energy loss to the system increases to the point where the system can no longer function) in a human system is always going to win in the end. You will decay and eventually die. However, there are things that you can do to slow the rate of entropy, and this is where science works in your favor. We know that for skin the biggest single entropy accelerator is free radicals from solar radiation causing sun damage. In fact, the stats are that 2% of wrinkles are caused by aging, and 98% are caused by sun. So you can slow skin wrinkling (a sign of aging) by staying out of the sun during peak hours and wearing zinc oxide only sunblock whenever you go out, even if it's raining (because UVA rays (think A = aging)) come through clouds and glass. Taking sensible precautions such as this can slow the rate of entropy, and it's a reasonable course of action you can take. We are beginning to find out how the body and the skin ages in other ways as well that can be addressed with other ameliorative actions, some topical, some nutritional. So. Aging. Inevitable yes, but visible signs of it like wrinkling can be ameliorated with sensible protective measures. You can't stop the decay, but you can delay certain aspects of it. We can’t change reality, but we can offer perspective, and aging is a journey that is unique to every individual—how you deal with it, what you do to cope, etc. Entropy is in all of our futures—including the planet's—but you can do things to slow the rate down. The scientific method makes facing the inevitable tolerable for me, while taking advantage of scientific advances makes the journey more pleasant for all of us. My concept suggestion would be, “Delay the Decay!”
How has your personal skincare routine changed as you've aged?
It fluctuates as life does, but mainly I just use more of everything. It’s just hardwired that one desires to be attractive—it cuts across all genders, ethnicities, ages and even species (peacocks with the prettiest tails get the peahens). In humans it starts in puberty and lasts well into old age, beyond the time we are in the business of attracting a mate. Caring about yourself and how you look is not about vanity—it is a deeply ingrained part of being alive.
How often should people re-tool their skincare routines? How would one know when it's time to do so?
I’m (obviously) highly biased, but my best advice is to form a relationship with a company like ours that makes products that are designed to support skin health, not some ideal of skin perfection. Above all you want to focus on strengthening your skin, not stripping it or otherwise disrupting its natural genius. It’s important to have a partner who can help you choose skincare products and practices that address your specific needs and concerns. Just like the rest of your body, your skin never stops changing. No skincare regimen will last forever. You need knowledgeable, trustworthy people in your life who can help guide you through ALL of life, including big shifts—teenage acne, pregnancy, menopause, etc.—that can and will show up on your skin. We suggest checking in with us once a year at minimum so we can determine whether adjustments need to be made.
If you had to choose, which would be your favorite product from the Marie Veronique line?
Gentle Retinol Night Serum, followed closely by Vitamins C+E+Ferulic Serum.
The heaviest hitter of all is retinol, which explains why I’ve spent years researching and developing retinoic acid products that strongly deliver without causing irritation. In my ideal world EVERYONE has a go-to retinol product that they use, starting at age 30 or so. We’ve seen this not only in the science of how it affects skin cell aging, but on the faces of people who’ve been using retinoids for years — their skin frankly just looks better than everyone else’s.
Other heavy hitters are Vitamin C (in the form of l-ascorbic!) and Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), both of which should be applied topically as well can be supplemented internally. Our Vitamins C+E+Ferulic Serum, C-Therapy Serum, and Soothing B3 Serum are meticulously formulated to deliver these nutrients without irritating the skin, because keeping skin healthy is all about modulating inflammation as much as possible.
To that end, a zinc oxide-only daily sunscreen is another “duh” requirement. (Question: do I need it daily even if it’s cloudy, raining, or I’m not going outside? Answer: UVA rays come through clouds and through your windows, so yes!)
We've read you suffered from acne as a teen, and then rosacea later in life. What is it about Marie Veronique skincare that makes it not only ok, but also good for those who suffer from a range of skin ailments?
Because the source of all skin ailments starts with inflammation (including aging) you want to focus on products and treatments that decrease inflammation and support skin function. Ours do. Most products and treatments do the opposite, so they exacerbate problems over time.
Did you become a chemist because of your skin issues, or was chemistry something you always wanted to study, for other/different reasons?
I became a chemist because it reveals at the smallest discrete unit, i.e., the element, the beauty of nature’s design. If nature provides an infinity of puzzles for us to solve, chemistry provides an ingenious means by which to solve them.
We know how you keep your visage looking so...graceful! What about your spirit and mind? What are some practices and rituals that you perform regularly that help you to feel healthy and full of vibrancy?
You have to laugh! I amuse myself by snarling whenever something inane is said. (I do a lot of snarling these days. It keeps my facial muscles toned and fit.)
I have also been deliberate about keeping up my intellectual pursuits (I’m currently writing another book) and cultivating relationships with people who keep each others’ best interests at heart. And have I mentioned that I recently achieved a lifelong dream of having a very small farm? Spending time with animals and creating a small natural ecosystem to play in has been incredibly rewarding.
How do you unplug/unwind after a busy day?
I read books. And drink tea.
What is your personal definition of clean beauty? What, if anything, does it have to do with “aging gracefully” or
“owning your age
” or whatever one chooses to call it ?
Since we agreed above to drop the “aging gracefully” business, let’s move on to a more honest way to think about getting old. The French call it the Third Age. Which is not so loaded and is perfectly acceptable as a term. The more I think about it the more I think aging gracefully is code for “cooperate, damn you,” and no self-respecting old person wants any part of that. I do not have an opinion about clean beauty either except that that’s another phrase that badly needs a name change. I like the idea of functionality, that is, where everything works the way it is supposed to. This includes skin and how it functions when we’re in the Third Age.
MARIE VERONIQUE GENTLE RETINOL NIGHT SERUM
"As I mentioned above, retinol is the heaviest hitter of all. Long term retinoid users enjoy an epidermis with less age spots and wrinkles supported by a lovely thick dermis. Our high tech formula contains both Vitamin C and retinol, delivering near-miraculous results."
MARIE VERONIQUE VITAMIN C+E+ FERULIC SERUM
"The high daily amount of Vitamin C the body needs to function normally may not leave enough left over for our skin to repair itself, which is why it’s critical to deliver it topically. It’s imperative to choose a well-formulated Vitamin C serum such as ours — getting a serum that actually delivers to the skin is very, very tricky."
MARIE VERONIQUE BARRIER LIPID COMPLEX
"This strategic and rich oil blend replenishes the same key lipids that are naturally found in the barrier lipid layer of the skin. There is simply nothing else like it."
KOSAS WEIGHTLESS LIPSTICK
"Lipstick for me falls in the category of a beauty esthetic – my features look more in line with the Golden Ratio, i.e., the numerical relationships that define the ideal proportions of the human face, when I have color drawing the eye to the bottom third of my face. This is a real thing, I learned about it in math class. In a university calculus class, not in beauty school : )"
"Having good circulation is critical to skin health, and I do a lot of walking to keep mine up. Another circulation tip I learned from Kristina Holey is to dry-brush before you go into the sauna."