These were the days before extractions and lasers, before cooling gels and warming peels, before pores, period. We were nine and 10 years old and bored—little girls who couldn’t wait to be women. We’d flock to one another’s homes after school, where a favorite activity was rummaging through the kitchen for “beauty ingredients.” I would like to say that we possessed some natural compulsion for the holistic, a Darwinian instinct steering us toward ripe avocados. A sea salt-and-lemon-juice scrub perhaps? An oatmeal-and-olive-oil mask? I don’t think so. You can’t possibly fathom the ins and outs of a prepubescent beauty treatment until you’ve felt the strange but exhilarating tingle of a cottage-cheese-and-Pop-Rocks facial.
Flash forward two decades. At 32, my personal beauty routine has advanced only marginally. Today I wash my face with a gentle cleanser and apply Kiehl’s moisturizer before bedtime. I use Ole Henriksen eye gel when I think of it, and go for facials when spa gift certificates appear as a professional thank-you or in a gift bag. Once ensconced in a facialist’s chair, I let myself be coaxed into all sorts of treatments, because I’m there already, so why not?
But as I approach my mid-30s, the consensus among my female peers is: It’s time to get serious. The beauty apocalypse is drawing nigh, and the signs—they are everywhere. Almost overnight I’ve become conscious of showing my upper arm to the best advantage in photos and of the tiny threads of gray that hide out near my temples. These minor annoyances are easily overlooked…for now. I’ll soon hit a point, however, when it’s “all downhill from here.” The billion-dollar question is, Where’s “here,” exactly? The answer, say researchers at Japanese skincare company SK-II, is 35.09.
Yes, after measuring the skin’s “power quotient” in women of different ages, SK-II scientists have concluded that the age of 35.09—or approximately 33 days past your 35th birthday—is the precise tipping point: You’ll start to look older from the moment you wake up that morning. And that’s not all! From that instant on, everyday stresses will have a more profound and lasting impact on the condition of your skin. Theoretically, you can hamper the onslaught of fine lines, wrinkles, and decreased elasticity—if you never leave the house. Alternatively, you can start using SK-II’s beautifully packaged Skin Signature Melting Rich Cream now. Or, you know, else.
I understand that the concept of antiaging skincare is founded on fear and insecurity. Still, the specificity of 35.09 got to me. According to SK-II’s press materials, this finding is the result of a collaborative study that the company conducted with Fukui University. I’m a bit of a Japanophile myself, but even I had to arch an eyebrow (at the risk of more forehead wrinkles) when I pronounced this institution’s name aloud. In addition to the graph charting the inevitable decline of my face, I would have liked to see the graph charting just how seriously I was supposed to take all this stuff. Is beauty not in the eye of the beholder—especially if it’s dark and the beholder doesn’t have his glasses on? One woman’s 35.09 is another’s 27.06. I’m talking to you, Demi Moore.