Older celebrities are looking younger, younger celebrities are looking older…it seems like no one wants to actually look their own age. Martha Stewart’s recent no filter selfie launched what seemed like a full scale social media interrogation of her beauty regime, and whether or not she’s had any work done. And people like Kylie Jenner have seemingly gotten so much work done in their early years – they end up looking like they’re in their thirties long before then. And the most recent, troubling trend, buccal fat removal – is something plastic surgeons say they might seriously regret as they get older. So, in our heavily filtered, face-tuned world, are we all in danger of trying to reach for some idea of perfection that forces everyone to turn away from their natural looks?
Older celebrities are looking younger…younger celebrities are looking older…it seems like no one wants to actually look their own age.
Martha Stewart’s recent no filter selfie launched what seemed like a full scale social media interrogation of her beauty regimen, and whether or not she’s had any work done. And it reignited the conversation around aging celebrities.
Meanwhile child stars like Millie Bobby Brown are in the kind of high fashion couture and full glam makeup that doesn’t exactly scream “I’m still in my teens.” And people like Kylie Jenner have seemingly gotten so much work done in their early years – they end up looking like they’re in their thirties long before then. And the most recent, troubling trend, buccal fat removal – is making celebs look gaunt – something plastic surgeons say they might seriously regret as they get older.
Gary Linkov: You get this additional hollowing, so you can get this almost premature type of facial aging. - Dr. Gary Linkov: City Facial Plastics/YouTube
So, in our heavily filtered, face-tuned world, are we all in danger of trying to reach for some idea of perfection that forces everyone to turn away from their natural looks? Here’s our take on Hollywood celebrities not looking their age – in either direction – and what we lose when everyone’s aspiring to something unattainable.
Celebrities who are able to age without so much as a wrinkle have long been lauded – their skincare routines sought after – but now having a face without lines is basically a celebrity requirement – even into your 80s.
Martha Stewart’s brand has always been aspirational. How to have the perfect home and live the perfect life. Add “having the perfect look” to the list, too. Her recent selfies were accompanied by advice on how to keep the perfect complexion that ranged from no chlorine in the swimming pool, to daily pilates, to regular dermatologist appointments. Regardless of the fact that the general public almost unanimously agrees that there’s no way she hasn’t had any surgery done – when the treatments she is getting are so involved and luxurious, does that really even matter? This “look” is completely unattainable to non-celebrities.
Stephanie Jones: I looked at this woman’s picture and went ‘are you kidding me?!’ Whatever this woman’s doing it works. - Daily Blast
These days, it feels like “aging well” is equated with not aging at all. Jennifer Lopez’ career revival was fast-tracked by her appearance in Hustlers, where she was able to show off how incredible she still looked for her age. The same could be said for Jennifer Aniston’s recent photoshoot in Allure. It feels like women, specifically, have to prove that they’re still youthful to maintain their social currency in an industry so focused on looks.
And while men get off the hook – free from being interrogated about “what treatments or surgeries they’ve gotten” – there still seems a pressure to look “ageless”. Glowday’s Victoria Palmer interviewed three cosmetic surgeons who between them suggested that Paul Rudd probably has had some wrinkle softening and laser treatments, along with some medical grade skincare. So, while it may not be as talked about – men are clearly also feeling the pressure to stay young.
Graham Norton: It is weird, you don’t seem to age.
Paul Rudd: I feel awful on the inside. -The Graham Norton Show
Whether celebrities admit to going under the knife or the needle – people will constantly speculate. There also seems to be an attitude that they can’t win no matter what they do. We expect them not to age – but hate when it’s obvious that someone’s had surgery. At the same time – more celebs are being open about it – even profiting off of it – like housewife Lisa Rinna or Kylie Jenner selling lipsticks based on their artificially plumped lips. And while it might be a positive thing to avoid unrealistic beauty standards by saying “this was achieved artificially” – is it inspiring more people to seek out plastic surgery? The answer is yes, and it’s trickling down to younger celebs, too.
Plastic surgery seems to have almost the opposite effect on young people – making them look more mature before their time – even if that wasn’t its intended purpose. Stars like Bella Hadid and Kylie Jenner, who have admitted to getting work done at a young age – have consistently looked older than they are. But that hasn’t stopped other young people from attempting to look like them.
Plastic surgeons have said that the popularity of these surgeries and injectables – thanks to the popularization by celebs and social media has gotten “completely out of hand.” Beverly Hills nurse practitioner, Jennifer Hollander says, “The combination of social media filters and injectables is toxic. It’s a completely warped reality, a mirage, and I’m scared to think of what these young people who are subjecting themselves to this will end up looking like 15 years from now.”
The teen loved the results, and began the school year on a positive note. - Inside Edition/YouTube
Social media has a bad habit of creating viral trends out of expensive, dramatic beauty treatments and regimes, the latest of which being buccal fat removal. Vogue’s Hannah Coates writes that there have been 252 million views of buccal fat related videos on TikTok, and now that people know what to look for — celebrities who once had soft, normal looking cheeks gaining dramatically sculpted cheekbones overnight — the fashion is growing. Lea Michele, Amelia Hamlin, Dove Cameron and several others have all had their new looks picked apart by surgery savvy online sleuths.
And if this feels like it’s in direct contrast to the beauty trends of the last few years – it’s because it is. Dr. Sagar Patel, a Beverly Hills facial plastic surgeon notes that, “In 2017, it was about looking young and cute, but now people are like, I don’t want to look like I’m 15. I want to look like I’m 28 and sexy.” The quote unquote “snatched” look is now a new beauty standard for young people to worry about.
Bekah Day: When you create unrealistic beauty standards, that’s when it becomes a problem. [email protected]/TikTok
With the advent of social media and the ease of access to TikTok filters and beauty secrets – it feels like, even without going to the plastic surgeon’s office – young people are maturing a bit too fast. The Corsair’s Sydney Adams Smith writes that teens are losing that “crucial awkward phase”.
And this becomes much more difficult when it feels like we’re watching people grow up on our screens. Millie Bobby Brown emerged in Stranger Things at age 12 – but since then the show, and its young cast, have exploded in popularity – being wheeled out on the campaign trail every time a new season drops. At the same time, Eleven’s character has developed into a pretty typical — if traumatized — teenage girl, and this has been mirrored by Millie’s own stylistic evolution, with some commenting that her stylists are fast-tracking her to the adult stage. Millie even has her own skincare line – reinforcing the fact that younger generations are starting these regiments earlier and earlier each year.
Millie Bobby Brown: I have a great team that’s pushing me in the right direction. - Margaret Gardiner/YouTube
It’s impossible not to be alarmed by how things have changed in a relatively short period of time, and how the all consuming presence of social media is accelerating things at lightning speed. We may like to think we’ve become more progressive, but the way young, up and coming celebrities are styling themselves suggests that there’s still a huge pressure to look and act a certain way — even if they’re not ready for that.
All beauty standards seem to have one common goal: staying ageless. But when we look at the stars who do embrace their age, is getting older really that bad?
In Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, Emma Thompson plays a character who feels like she’s at an age where all the excitement of her life has gone past her, and admits to criticizing the younger generation who are, in her eyes, growing old before their time. But over the course of her relationship with the young escort, Leo, these defenses slowly get taken down. And it’s not just her understanding that as an older woman she can still be beautiful, sexy, and desirable – but also us understanding that too. We’re invited to consider the nonsensical nature that a woman as beautiful as Emma Thompson could ever have these insecurities – but we also see how society and our experiences can instill them in us, and make them hard to shake. When the final scene arrives — where Thompson looks at herself in the mirror — it feels almost refreshing, and we imagine she’s at the start of a new journey of embracing this new phase of life.
Nancy Stokes: I have felt more alive and more powerful in this last month than I can ever remember. - Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
Perhaps the most iconic real life example of recent years has been Jennifer Coolidge. New Statesman’s Emma Garland writes “Whether she’s the gold-digger or the mine itself, almost all of her characters are hyper-sexualised dramatizations of the completely unfair position women often find themselves in as they mature.” Ever since she was Stiffler’s Mom, Coolidge has always been the “desirable older woman”, but she’s never been a passive object of desire. Rather, she’s been an active agent of it. And even as she’s gotten older, that appetite has never gone away, with The White Lotus giving her a larger stage than ever before to showcase that.
Some stars, like Halle Berry, have completely eschewed the demand to focus on physical aging at all, saying, “We’re all going to get older. Our skin is going to shrivel up and we’re going to look different. I see things changing with my face and body, but I’ve never put all my eggs in that basket. I’ve always known that beauty is deeper than the physical body you’re walking around in.”
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, it’s interesting to witness the reaction Jojo Siwa has gotten for not following the same path as some of her child star contemporaries. Her signature look is bright colors, big bows, and more recently an embrace of LGBT iconography and drag culture. But she’s consistently been criticized for ‘not acting her age’ – especially in her earlier teen years – , when really, she was just enjoying being a kid…
Jojo Sina: When people say bad things about you it isn’t fun to hear. I’m unfortunately used to it. - Yahoo Life/YouTube
There’s an authenticity that comes with this ownership of age, which helps these stratospheric celebrities feel more relatable. There’s a subtle difference between “how do they look so young?!” and “yes, they look their age, but they look amazing” – but it’s an important one. And one we need to see more of.
Trends are short term things, and they’re hard to see in the moment. People often compare what older people look like now against what they used to look like in the past as evidence of things changing, but some have argued this is an example of the phenomenon of retrospective aging — essentially meaning, when we see photos of the past, with older styles, older filters, and older iconography, of course the people in them look older.
So maybe we’ll look back on this era, when today’s styles have fallen out of fashion, and think exactly the same. But right now – especially when the trends are less hair and makeup and more knife and needle – why not dial down the pressure a little? A beauty standard is only a standard if everyone does it. Why bother, when we could just act our age?