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anti-aging Claudia Cardinale
Italian screen siren Claudia Cardinale, moisturizer fanatic.

The Case For “Pro-Gorgeous”

Anti-aging is a physical impossibility, so let’s focus on the glam instead.

When my like-clockwork morning and evening skincare routine includes a luxurious application of an anti-aging skincare product, I often think of my mother when I was very young. She would be getting dressed up on her way out the door to one of several bars or nightclubs that my parents owned back in the day in and around San Francisco. But my favorite and most impactful “anti-aging” memories were when my Mom was headed to a philanthropic event or dinner house (Julius’s Castle near Coit Tower, La Scala on Union St., or Robért’s were the “it” spots). Incidentally, the last is where I spent my senior prom night via a “heads up” to the Maître D’, cream tux tails and all, with my wild gold lamé-clad, avant-garde date, Karen. We drove up to valet in my new FIAT X-19, and they were all ga-ga that it wasn’t a 450SL or Rolls Royce… Back then, any stab at grooming (would that be called “anti-aging”?) was to look older. I thought then—and believe to this day—that no one was more glamorous, more beautiful than my mom on those evenings so many years ago. Think Ann-Margret sultriness with a healthy dose of Sophia Loren Italian elegance: Perfection.

My family grew up on the water, so we learned at a young age not to burn and to moisturize. Of course, we should have swapped Bain De Soleil #8 for SPF #30, but at least we were drowning in head-to-toe moisture. I bought my first jar of Lancôme at seventeen. Boy, have we come a long way!

Dona del Debbio
Personal photo of author’s mom, Dona del Debbio, skincare inspiration.

I’m thinking about my mother lately, because as a beauty editor and a licensed cosmetologist in numerous states, I know more than anyone that the term shoved down our throats and, in fact, how the multi-billion dollar beauty industry refers to itself, is “anti-aging.” I feel strongly that it’s time we change that.

Besides being a borderline misogynist concoction—how many male-dominated industries would ever refer to itself as age-based?—it’s also a physical impossibility to “anti-age.” I suggest the term I’ve been using for years (as I said, I’m strongly anti anti-aging) as a viable alternative: pro-gorgeous. Think about it for a moment. Isn’t the goal of all of our dedicated morning, day, and evening beauty rituals—scrubs, toners, serums, fillers, facials, and on and on—to actually look the most possibly beautiful at our given age? Why would an entire industry set itself up for failure by naming itself something it simply cannot do? None of us can anti-age, but all of us can strive to become pro-gorgeous.

Look, I’m well aware that we live in a complicated world with legitimately huge problems—climate change, a recovering economy, Donald Trump—and there are indeed bigger fish to fry than how some beauty product in a jar refers to itself. But if we can serve up a viable alternative that doesn’t harm anyone’s sensibilities and, in fact, empowers women (and men) to be the best versions of themselves, then we’ve made a small step in the right direction.

All of my beauty sections for all of the magazines and websites I’ve worked for have always been called “Gorgeous.” Now, at last, you know why. Won’t you join me in this pro-gorgeous skincare revolution?

I remember in July 1992 I was celebrating the end of Italy’s Fashion Week (where the Italian couturier’s were showing in Rome). I had earned my hair styling stripes with every possible pay or no-pay J-O-B job I could get, and then a group of twenty or more us had traveled down to Mykonos, Greece to get our clubbing, tanning, and dancing on. I was staying with the legendary socialite Prince Egon Von Fürstenberg and his favorite working pals (not the jet-set, yet…). Before we could be introduced, I noticed the most undeniably gorgeous woman in her (‘50’s?) who was breaking through a crowd to say “hi” to my friend Prince Egon – or so I thought. But in reality, this Italian starlet, Claudia Cardinale, came straight up to me and started rubbing and touching my perfectly tanned 4-pack (not six) and beefy chest through my open denim jacket with no shirt. I was 29 years old. It was hot as heck that Mykonos night, and the energy in the air was pure mischief. Then Egon came to my rescue and introduced this ultimate Italian icon. Where am I headed with this? Claudia demanded I tell her what I was using on my skin as Egon rattled off sexual cradle robbing-themed ribbing at us. The product, at least for that whole summer, was Savon de Marseille, 80 percent olive oil soap and moisturizer. Claudia said, “Si, bellisimo!” but had never relied on it, as famous as the moisture-rich brand was—until that moment.

Having seen that siren up close and personal, clamoring for my skincare secret, I promise you that she was breathtaking, and her skin positively glowed. I cannot bear to think of anything touching her being “anti-aging” – she was and is pro-gorgeous through every inch of her pores.

So why are we stuck with this horrible, antiquated phrase?

The headline is this: Science and skincare have accelerated technologically at such an advanced rate that we haven’t had enough time to acknowledge each major anti-aging breakthrough. I don’t think the beauty consumer public is so jaded, as just happy to accept all the unwrinkled, saggy, unspotted good that comes our way in the form of slowing down the hands of time—or wear and tear. Not just scientific ingredients, but plant-based skincare organics that can act as their own delivery system to go deeper into the topical layers of the skin. Also discoveries like Ester C (versus plain topical C) serum for the skin – the inside skin or white meaty part of an orange or citrus are called bio-flavonoids, capable of delivering their concentrated organic nutrients almost effortlessly because the skin is not fighting a synthetic hero ingredient.

Claudia Cardinale on set.

Now that we’re all feeling pro-gorgeous, I implore you to act the part as well, just like my glamorous mother taught me all those years ago. (And we’ll give a nod to that feisty Claudia Cardinale, too.) So many men and women over 55 years of age look absolutely fantastic, no matter their routine. The important thing is here is that they have a routine, for it is the consistency of continually lubricating the skin or at least the constant awareness that has proven that time can stand still (or slow down greatly).

Case in point: A dear friend’s mother, 84, has never, and I mean never, used anything but Pond’s Cold Cream all day, every day, and applies the legendary cold cream heavily at night (think Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest). Her skin? Looks amazing.

For me, I guess I love science, products, and brands way too much to not mix it up and constantly be on the lookout for my new absolute favorite. But whatever “it” is, just keep doing it 25 hours a day, eight days a week. Here’s to taking pride in our efforts of looking the best we can, forever, without looking back and trying to do the impossible and “anti” away time itself.

Although with vigilant care, we can at least put Father Time on stopwatch duty.

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