Fashion & Beauty

Firm Believers

August 28, 2022


She probably doesn’t need any tightening cream. / iStock photo.

Can’t get enough Valerie Monroe? There’s more at

By Valerie Monroe

For nearly 16 years Valerie Monroe was the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the popular “Ask Val” column.

If you’re interested in feeling happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading what she has to say about it. For more of her philosophical and practical advice, subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face

WADING INTO the old “Ask Val” archives, I was flooded with affection for a well-known Someone I once worked with who consistently saw the world through rose-colored glasses. Without further ado:

“Ask Val” answers your urgent questions.

Yes, you, in that gorgeous Hervé Léger bandage dress?

Q: How do firming body lotions work?

A: The aforementioned beloved former colleague claimed she was sure she got a tighter bottom when she applied firming body lotion. One of the reasons I’m fond of her is that, among her many other lovely qualities, she’s a terrific optimist. If you think your bottom looks better and that makes you happy (and why wouldn’t it?), I say more power to you.

But in the sometimes dark and often skeptical world of “Ask Val,” firming lotions are good for one thing only: moisturizing. Because moisturizing has a plumping effect, it improves the skin’s appearance temporarily. And by “improves,” I mean if you were to position your face so close to another person’s moisturized bottom that both of you were extremely uncomfortable, you might notice a slight difference in skin quality. The antioxidants added to some formulas may help reduce collagen breakdown but won’t appreciably stimulate new collagen and skin thickening, which is what you would need for a more permanent visible change in texture.

So: There’s no evidence that the ingredients in firming lotions produce long-term effects. Save your hard-earned lucre.

I want to offer a little good news along with the less-good news since I know you all like product recommendations, with which I tend to be fairly stingy. (So much of what you can buy is ineffective.) But here’s some fun with an undereye “miracle” cream from Peter Thomas Roth. In case you haven’t yet seen the viral TikTok video about how it works, this is it.  I haven’t tried this product, though I did try a prototype for a similar one years ago and was fairly pleased with the results.

Though the effect looks miraculous, it’s not a miracle; the FIRMx formula contains clay-like ingredients called silicates that tighten the skin the way a clay mask does. Which means that when you wash off the product, you also wash off the effect. Peter Thomas Roth sells a similar product for the whole face because . . . of course. It has mixed reviews, though, mostly due to some difficulty with applying it and issues with chalky residue. Also available is a range of products in the FIRMx collection, which essentially look like pricey moisturizers banking on a clever name (and your hopefulness).

Which brings me back to the rose-colored glasses. (By the way, I like these and these.)

I’ve written about the positive aspects of denial and the benefits of gathering ye confidence where ye may, whether it’s by learning to see your face with loving awareness, or by tinkering with a doctor’s bag of tricks, or both.

Slipping on a pair of rose-colored glasses—choosing to see the best possible outcome—can help increase your resilience, your success in relationships, and even make you more disposed toward better health. Research shows that optimistic people tend to live longer.

But I’d keep those glasses in my pocket when perusing the beauty aisle. There, you’re far better off with a prescription that sharpens your perspective.

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