Dear Paula,
I was just flipping through More, the magazine for the 40-plus woman. Many of the women featured in stories or on the cover are in their late forties to fifties. Many of them are in "public life" as actresses or models. They look absolutely flawless, smoothed, wrinkle- and spot-free at their respective ages, and usually claim to have had no surgery. Now I know that there are lots of nonsurgical treatments available that can do much to improve the texture and firmness of skin. I guess what I'm wondering is whether these women are reasonable role models for the rest of us who cannot throw our whole retirement account into our looks? How do they do it? Is it photo retouching? Peels and lasers along with injections? Thanks to you I always read the label and often understand what I am reading!

Diane, via email

Dear Diane,
I agree, most female celebrities in their forties and fifties are looking better than ever, but I wouldn't look to them or anyone else as a role model for looking younger without help from a medical procedure (surgery or otherwise). These women did not reach their age and achieve their illustrious status and gorgeous appearance without a lot of expense and behind-the-scenes help.

Medical procedures aside, and though I am not much for believing tabloid reporting, candid photos of celebrities reveal a much less flattering image than the staged, photo-adjusted pictures that appear in ultra-flattering fashion magazines. In those cases, the celebrity is usually in a professional studio, and is assisted by a team of lighting technicians, wardrobe assistants, a hairstylist, a makeup artist, and perhaps even a personal trainer. If the photography is outdoors, trust me, every effort is made to control the lighting and make the subject look as flattering as possible. All of this goes on before and during the photo session, and even so the image is often significantly doctored before it's ever seen in print. Blemishes, moles, and freckles are removed, wrinkles and sagging skin are softened (and in some images completely erased), teeth are made whiter, and eyes are made brighter, all thanks to the magic of digital retouching software.

Combine this attention to image detail with the fact that most female celebrities regularly have nonsurgical treatments such as Botox and peels, and it's no wonder they're looking so good. Are they reasonable role models for the rest of us? I don't think so. Given that a female celebrity's face and body are her fortune, and that the public expects this appearance, these women must aim for a higher aesthetic standard than we generally can afford for ourselves. Rather than aspire to the whole package of image enhancement celebrities typically receive (and endure), we should instead consider the treatments within our budget and focus on taking the best possible care of our skin. Not wasting money on expensive antiwrinkle creams can add up, letting you consider a procedure at a doctor's office that can really make a lasting difference.

Last, as important as looks are, they don't begin to compare to the contributions we make to our families and friends by striving to be caring, compassionate, and loving people at every age, no matter what the appearance of our skin.

Source: Paula Begoun