Fashion & Beauty

Aging Like a Baby

November 5, 2023


iStock photo.

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. She now splits her time between Manhattan and Tokyo.

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 at

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

I’VE BEEN thinking lately about what I’m calling “good enough” aging.

Maybe you’re familiar with psychologist and pediatrician D.W. Winnicott’s concept of “good enough” mothering. If not, here it is in a nutshell: Winnicott proposed that at first a new mother is completely devoted to her infant’s needs and submits to her every cry. As the baby matures, the mother allows her to experience small frustrations by not responding immediately, but consistently, as the baby learns to manage slightly postponed responses (a “good enough” strategy). The baby learns both to trust a relationship and the ability to manage for herself when help isn’t immediately available. In other words, in being “good enough,” the mother delivers exactly what the baby needs.

I’m not saying we’re all babies about aging—or am I? Maybe so, because aging successfully or happily requires adapting to a changing concept of the self. Bottom-line: It’s a finite one, at least in the physical realm. And if we’re to nurture ourselves through our transformation, I think we could use a similar kind of gentle strategy like the one Winnicott suggests. Let it in a bit at a time. In the beauty arena, if that means taking steps—however incidental or invasive—to ease your way into senescence, why not? The critical piece is that you’re conscious of your motivation—that it is your strategy and not unmindful adherence to an impossible beauty ideal.

Speaking of seeing clearly, a reader query.

Q: Do people still dye their eyelashes? Mine have gotten very thin and when I wear mascara (actually when I remove it), I’m afraid I’ll pull more out. I’m wondering if dyeing is an option.

A: To answer the important question about allowing potentially harmful chemicals near your eyeballs, I turned to HNTFUYF DermDiva, Heidi Waldorf. But first I want to suggest that you try a gentler eye makeup remover if you’re concerned the one you’re using is damaging your lashes.

As for Waldorf’s response, she was as emphatic as if she thought you were about to dash into a lash-dyeing salon. “The reader should NOT dye her eyelashes,” she wrote in an immediate response to my email. Why not? “There are no color dyes approved by the FDA for eyelash tinting,” she said. The use of permanent dye on eyelashes is illegal, but semi-permanent dye is allowed in some states. However, just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be, said Waldorf. Why not? Without FDA approval, there is no regulation of either permanent or semi-permanent dyes. Furthermore, in states where it’s prohibited, cosmetology schools can’t teach it.

I’m guessing you might imagine—and why not?—the risks involved. In case you can’t, Waldorf will kindly fill you in: They include corneal ulceration and blindness. Less serious but more common complications are contact dermatitis of the eyelids with swelling, skin redness and erosions, and conjunctivitis.

What to do instead of dyeing? Waldorf recommends a lash lengthening or “conditioning” product; some of these not only lengthen, but also darken the lashes. She suggests Nulastin and Revitalash. For more about lash serums, along with considerations—if you’re feeling fancy—about fake lashes applied in a salon, cast your eyes on this post.

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