It felt like my nails sprouted hard, lumpy tumours. But I dealt with it for the sake of journalism.
"I look 100 years younger," I squealed as I began to exit the dermatologist's office on Fifth Avenue this week. There was a Victoria's Secret model in the waiting room and an A-list actress passed by as I was paying my bill. But I wasn't looking at either of them. Instead, as soon as the words "100 years younger" came out of my mouth, the most gorgeous (UGH, crackling with sex and electricity gorgeous) man sidled up next to me and said, "I think you look great." Then, as if this guy couldn't get any sexier, he turned to the receptionist and said jauntily, "I'm here for the tattoo removal."
My panties curled. I sipped my water. I fidgeted nervously.
So why do I share this anecdote? Do I think that the tattoo this guy was removing was one of a past lover because the instant he saw me, he fell madly, hopelessly, head over heels in love? Nope. (I wish.) I share it because this incident combines the Big Four of the secret to reverse aging: sex (arousal, stimulation or the act itself), water (lots of it), exercise (fidgeting, in this case) and a quality dermatologist (I'm a devotee of Colbert MD).
But because I'm also a big proponent of listicles coinciding with a birthday (see my list of 50 reasons why Jane Pratt is awesome -- she had just turned 50! Get it?), I'm not just giving you four. I'm giving you a whole whopping 39 tricks.
Disclosure: A few of these products I received as samples (read: free). The majority I stumbled upon or found via great recommendations from friends and those in the industry.
And with that, let's count to 39. Which is the new 99. Which is the new 19. See what I did there? Let's start with the most pricey (but also the most effective when it comes to straight up dermatological rejuvenation), and we'll mix it up from there.
1. The Triad Medical Facial, $800.
Is it an investment? Yes. Did the first time I buy one I gasp as I looked in the mirror, saying, "It's like 10 years were taken off my face"? YES. It's a three-part non-invasive facial and it uses laser toning (I also like the boop-boop-boop sound of the lasers as they warm my face), a gentle glycolic acid peeling and finally, microdermabrasion, I can't emphasize how effective this one procedure is. You glow and the effects truly last.
2. Injectables, $1200.
There was a time where anytime I wrote something on xoJane, because I discussed using Botox in an earlier story, there was this one specific commenter who would scream: "YOU'RE HIDEOUS! YOUR FACE IS WARPED! YOU RUINED IT WITH INJECTABLES!" Well they probably didn't say "injectables" because that's kind of dermatologist speak, but you get the gist. Here's the thing, though. While I absolutely believe you can "ruin" a face with extensive plastic surgery (although that's kind of cruel, I prefer to call it "bad work"), injectables do not actually last. They're a temporary (a few months or so) little mini-lift.
Injectables include: Botox for minimizing frown lines and gently lifting the mouth -- and facial filling like Restylane to minimize nasolabial folds and marionette lines.
When this procedure is overdone, I agree that it's distracting, puffy and fake, which is why you really have to go to a doctor who is a conservative artist as well as a doctor -- and it's comforting when you see a lot of your favorite actresses and models in the waiting room, because you know they trust the doc with their face. Also: As I said to that person who relentlessly told me how warped my face was, Dude. You just think I'm ugly. Which is OK. But don't blame it on the injectables. They did nothing wrong.
3. Illumino oil, $138.
Before Illumino, I was a Rodin devotee, but Illumino blows Rodin out of the water as far as I'm concerned (although I'm willing to get into an impassioned facial oil debate if you like). And it's cheaper. Two things I very much like. The ingredients are: borage seed oil rich in gamma linoleic acid, yangu oil and marula oil with oleic acid. And I don't know what I just typed but I like the way it makes my face look. Even when I've had a terrible night, if I put this on, the next morning or that evening, I look so much better instantly.
4. Laughing, free to $50.
OK, this could go higher than $50, but I'm thinking of a great showplace to see comics like this week's New York Comedy Festival which begins today. Laughter is crucial to beauty. In fact, sometimes a pretty person to me just radiates when she smiles or belly-laughs. Bring out that inner glow. Laugh your butt off.
5. Nuun water tabs, $21.
I stumbled upon these while searching "what will make me drink water" and "water supplements" and "oh my God I hate drinking water." The reason I like these are that it's not a sugary additive but rather a sugar-free electrolyte tab that just makes water tastier.
6. Fiber, $10-$40.
There are a lot of ways to get this, but I have gone years where I forget to make it a priority. Lately I've been forcing myself to remember because I always feel (and look) better -- not to mention I feel fuller so there's less overeating. I use a lot of different brands but tend to gravitate toward Fiber Choice. It's cheap, it gets the job done and I like the taste OK. No matter what brand you chose, make sure you're getting plenty, because it's critical for your immune system and your digestion. PS: According to the American Dietetic Association, the recommended amount is 25 to 30 grams, but most Americans only get about half that amount. EAT YOUR FIBER. Damn it.
7. Coconut oil, $9-$65.
Benefits include: stress relief, skin care, weight loss and an overall boosted immune system. I was told to incorporate coconut oil by a few healthcare professionals anecdotally, and today I found out that the gorgeous (and timeless) Lauren Hutton has been "slathering" herself in it since she was 22. I like a range of brands and lately have been using Dr. Bronner.
8. A vibrator, $7-$140.
Yes, you can buy a vibrator as cheap as $7 but I find that a good vibrator is a good investment into overall well-being, relaxation and happiness. Recently I tried a very different kind which I found I liked better. The Revel Body SOL focuses totally on the clitoral stimulation, and you can vary the speed from thumping to buzzy to powerful and vast. Something interesting happened to me when I used it: I had a much more physical than mental experience. Meaning, a lot of times I will search for porn when I masturbate, but with this vibe, I was just lost in the sensation. That's a huge thing for me, so consider this a big endorsement. Also: Waterproof.
9. A professional haircut and color, $200-$600.
Here's a little trick that dermatologists probably don't want you to read. The quickest way to give yourself highlights on your face? Get a good coloring. Matching your color from youth is a great way for the color to pop, which is exactly what Federico Calce (who has styled everyone from Kelly Ripa to Meg Ryan to Kevin Spacey) recommends, although he's open to experimenting. To me, the sign of an excellent cut and color is when people close to you do a double-take upon seeing you, which is what happens without fail after seeing Federico. "What happened? Did you fall in love?" Nope. Just a great cut and color.
10. Pets, free to $2 million.
OK, you're probably not going to get the $2 million puppy but if you do, please email me so I can get you to write an "It Happened to Me." There are so many health benefits to owning a pet -- from helping with depression to actual longevity studies -- but honestly, my favorite benefit is an abundance of love in your life. Nothing makes you look and feel younger than pure unconditional love. Also, they force you to get outside and exercise. Sometimes they even recommend Ace of Base.
11. Essential oils, $20-$40.
Essential oils are heaven to me. They were first introduced to me by an acupuncturist who dabbed some "immune stim" under my nose, and I noticed that I immediately felt better. That led me onto a shopping spree down at Kamwo in Chinatown where I bought several of my youth-invigorating favorites like: Beautiful Skin, Energize, Detoxify, Stress Relief, Sweet Dreams and when I'm sick, Adult Cold & Flu. That last oil knocks a cold out of me better than anything else I've used.
I'll be honest here: It was Olivia Pope who got me back into swimming. Watching her working out the stress of dating the president and his greatest nemesis through a hardcore swim reminded me: Oh yeah, there are forms of exercise I actually enjoy. I've gone to a variety of gyms to test out their pools (ranging from Olympic-sized to pretty teeny-tiny ones), and right now my favorite is the saltwater pool at New York Health & Racquet Club. Plus: Unlike running, swimming doesn't wreck your knees and you'll quickly see increased flexibility, strength, physique, circulation. All you need is two and a half hours a week to see a significantly lowered risk of chronic disease.
13. Taking walks
I could very easily watch Netflix for eight months straight if given the option. Thankfully, since I have dogs, they force me to get outside. And once I am, I feel better instantly. In the long run, it also makes you look younger, too. If you're looking for a benchmark, get 30 minutes of walking and you'll accomplish everything from reducing the risk of diabetes to reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Do it. Get a dog if you need to, but do it.
I'm simply not elevated enough in my consciousness to meditate without someone taking me on a detailed, guided journey of EXACTLY HOW I'M SUPPOSED TO RELAX. That's how I discovered Kelly Howell. I searched iTunes and looked for the highest-rated meditation albums and found myself getting hooked on a few of her tracks. Some of her spoken word borders on the amusingly silly ("you see a man...is this man a trickster or a sage?") but it helps take me to another state, which is what your body needs to relax and refresh. If you need the science to convince you, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that practicing eases anxiety, depression, even pain itself.
I also like the comforting ritual of it. When you meditate, be sure to set the stage for the perfect environment if you can. I find at least one candle essential to creating the mood. My new favorite: this affordable and stylish binary candle, made of motherboards and computer chips and hard drive disks by the artist Benjamin Rollins Caldwell.
15. MicrodermMD, $299.
I realize not everyone can afford top-of-the-line $800 microderm, but there are still some solid options out there of the at-home variety. I'll be honest, I was nervous the first time I tried this portable MicrodermMD system at home, but after my very first use, those who see me frequently noticed right away that my skin was fresher. My only word of caution: Make sure you keep it to about 5 minutes. When it comes to a machine like this, it's excellent, but more is never better when it comes to a powerful skin technique like microderm.
16. RejuvadermMD, $199.
More portable than the MicrodermMD, I majorly screwed up the first time I used this. I think I was so excited by how great it was at suction that I held it too long on one particular problem area on my chin and left myself bruised. Of course, it went away within a day, but it was a good lesson for a powerful tool like this. As long as you keep a very light touch, however, and don't overdo it, you'll find this can become a twice or three-times weekly part of your routine. It's way more powerful than just your regular over-the-counter exfoliation for instantly revitalizing your skin.
17. Hydra-Pure Intense Moisture Cream, $125.
It's probably no surprise that with my obsession with all of these handy products, sometimes I totally overdo it. So one day I was freaking out because my chin was flaky and scaly after I used, like, half a tube of zit cream on what only required a dab. Enter this moisture cream which is insanely effective at fixing severely dry skin (using a detoxifying chelating complex) while protecting it at the same time. When my face was more normal and not severely dehydrated, I tested it out again, and it worked just as effectively. I found it decreased redness a bit, too.
18. A good fake tan, $80-$200.
The first time I got a fake tan, I couldn't believe how much better my legs looked instantly. Over the years I've experimented with the fancier ones, and my newest favorite is GlowJob which uses the heat-infused Evolv airbrush tanning system. Also, if you're traveling in and out of New York, this service will come to your hotel room (that's how I found out about it, after Paris Hilton tweeted the service), but that gets a little pricier.
19. Kettle bells, $30-$60.
Weight training is great for speeding metabolism and a complement to whatever cardio you may choose. But it can be hard to transport at times. Enter the Koreball, which can weigh up to 11 pounds with water and is 3 pounds unfilled. You can easily build muscle and find time for a 30-minute workout that will be far more effective than non-free weights. And if you take the work out a bit too far, lately I've been using the (very) powerful Rock Sauce to ease my muscles. My main point: Please find a form of weight training you like. It's one of the best forms of exercise you can do for your body.
20. Slippers, $10-$30.
Of course I've had all these recommendations for the face, but what about the opposite end of your body? Well I think that taking care of your feet with incredibly comfy slippers is just as key as pampering your face. Why? Nobody sees your feet, right? OK, no, not as often. But the way your feet feel affects how the rest of your entire body feels as well. A good pair of slippers (I like the Sonja model that Isotoner sells) can make all the difference to all the other relaxation suggestions I've offered for feeling and looking younger, too.
21. Affirmations, free.
These seem goofy, but I will never stop using affirmations. They completely change how you interact with the world and your ability to be resilient (perhaps the most youth-enhancing quality of all).
22. Acupuncture, $10 (with co-pay) to $300.
It was acupuncture that really saved my health when I couldn't find a mainstream doctor to do so about a decade ago. It's also one of the only forms of alternative medicine that many health insurance plans pay for and that the National Institutes of Health endorse. Every time I go see my acupuncturist, my entire body feels suddenly connected in a way it never does after any other kind of treatment.
23. Avoiding sulfates and phthalates, free.
Phthalates in your sex toys, especially, are creepy to be putting into your body. Both are not great for your skin or hair. And it's so easy to do: Just read those ingredients. Skip the products that have them. Easy!
24. Sodastream, $80.
This is another one of those "please drink water, y'all" pleas. I roll my eyes at boring old water. So on a whim I bought this, and I've been really pleased with the results. Boring old water enhanced via Sodastream actually tastes as good as expensive sparkling in a matter of minutes. The one bit of advice I'd give: Give it way more pumps than they recommend to approximate store-bought bubbly.
25. Vitamin B, $10-$24.
Everyone has their secret weapon when it comes to supplements. But the one I see lauded again and again for both its anti-stress benefits but also its beautifying elements is Vitamin B. The one I've been taking lately was recommended by a friend (who told me I needed its calming elements) and it has a pretty awesomely silly name: Busy-Brain Release. So far, I'm loving it.
26. Music, free.
See how happy and beaming I look holding that tambourine in the picture for this story? I can't imagine life without music, but I also know that I often get so caught up in work, I'll watch 24/7 news and not hear a song for days. And then when I do, it's as if my stress just melts away. Yesterday, I blasted Kool Moe Dee, danced around to it at home, and I think I lost an entire year off my looks.
27. Massage, free to $200.
I love doing massage bartering with friends. Or if you have a LOVER, even better. This promotes lymphatic drainage and circulation. Do it.
28. A sun hat, $10-$30.
Sometimes I look like a total idiot. A primary reason: My sun hat doesn't match my outfit, and invariably the staff at Starbucks laughs at me as the woman in the hat. But you know what? Devotion to wearing a hat (the recommendation is a 2-to-3 inch brim) every time you go outside (or as much as possible) is going to make you look 10 years younger down the line. At the very least, please put on that sunblock. For hat recommendations that lead to a little less ridicule, I've had more success with American Apparel's selection of late.
29. Defined brows, $20-$80.
There's no way I could advise you on this as well as Hannah could, so I'm just going to let her do that. Eyebrows are key for your beauty at any age. It's amazing what a good arch will do.
30. Bare Minerals, $30-$50.
Pretty sure it was a Sephora rando who recommended this product to me years ago but it has never failed me. The coverage. The quality of the minerals. And the sunscreen. We all have what works best for us, but if you've had trouble finding a great powder, give it a shot. I would advise avoiding the matte brand, though. I have very oily skin (probably the best genetic key to aging gracefully actually -- thank God I do), and I still don't like the mattified version of what is the flawless original.
31. Eyelashes that pop, $10-$28.
We all have our mascara we swear by, but I think the most important thing is this: Wear it. And not too much of anything else on your face. If you're overwhelmed by all the different brands out there, I've had multiple beauty editors (at different websites) recommend Hypnôse by Lancôme which proclaims lash volume up to 6 times. Are there better options? Probably. Has it served me well in drawing out my eyes and giving me the lashes of a younger lady? Definitely.
32. Freewriting, free.
How can writing make you younger? Well it led me to change my entire life and get in much better shape. There's something about getting in touch with all parts of your subconscious that opens up your inner spark -- which is very, very beautiful.
I work from home a lot, and one of the big parts of my routine is early on in the day aiming to have a terrific authentic conversation with someone where I really feel like I'm connecting, no pretenses. To me, this gives me the biggest glow of all. I've heard some folks on XO's comment threads talk about how difficult it is to meet people. To these understandable grievances, I would say: Try Citysocializer! Try Meetup! Just keep putting yourself out there. Friends will save your life (not to mention your looks).
34. Wear black, PRICELESS.
Sorry, I didn't know what to put for the cost. But I do know that without fail, in a world that often disappoints, black never does. It slims, it tightens, it's as timeless as you are.
35. Comfortable but sexy underpants, $10-$50.
Ever since I read this piece by Alison about the one pair of panties she owns, I've become a devotee myself. If you don't feel good down there, you won't feel good anywhere.
36. Sleep, free.
Here are some important facts to consider from the National Sleep Foundation. "Man is the only mammal that willingly delays sleep. In general, most healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep is just as important as diet and exercise." (Emphasis mine.) Do you frequently beat yourself up for being sloth-like in your sleep habits? Well, don't. It's one of the best things you can do for yourself. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: My no-fail tip for falling asleep is imagining going down a beautiful, relaxing set of stairs at night, descending into some relaxing environment. Try it. It works.
37. Learning, free to $250,000 (grad school).
Do you know when I honestly get the most compliments or the most "no way you're how old you say you are"s? It's when I'm wrapped up in learning a new skill or deep in a new book I'm listening to on Audible. So many people stop that quest to learn as much as possible when they no longer need to post-graduation. Don't. Keep seeing the world as your classroom, and you'll have the same vigor as a young student.
38. Being crafty/creative, free.
Right now my big project (that reminds me of dioramas from high school) is a makeshift collage for a book I'm working on. I can't tell you how fun this is. It's about as far away from the stuffy cubicle culture that represents old adult life for so many. Draw a damn horse. Get some glitter. Scribble all over your computer screen. Just do something. I promise you it will make you feel (and look) alive.
39. Acts of kindness, free.
You may think this is saccharine, but I feel completely selfish when I do kind things for others. There is nothing that makes you feel (and appear) like a kid at heart than completely making someone else's day. It only requires six little words: "What can I do for you?" And then one simple act: Listen.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.