Ever wonder what happens when you put an esteemed group of beauty industry insiders in the same room? On Wednesday, Town & Country, in partnership with Kybella, did just that with T&C Talks: Beauty & Wellness, a panel discussion led by T&C beauty director Jamie Rosen about how the digital age has impacted both women and men's attitudes towards aging, health, and wellness.
Joined by Dr. Jason Bloom, double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Main Line Center for Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Philadelphia, Brooke Alpert, registered dietician, author, and founder of B-Nutritious, Dr. Jill Blakeway, a board certified acupuncturist and clinical herbalist specializing in women's health and founder the YinOva Center in New York City, and Michael Stefanov, market editor at Esquire, Rosen moderated a candid conversation during which the experts discussed everything from the impact of social media on their patients to the main culprits of aging (we're looking at you, sugar).
On the best way to combat aging:
Brooke Alpert: "Sugar is the number one ager. I wrote about it in the Sugar Detox, which I co-authored with a dermatologist. The truth is: Sugar makes you fat. Sugar makes you old. It doesn't do anything good for you. It's sad because it tastes delicious, but it's true. Too much sugar in your bloodstream can't be used by the body. It just floats around, and all that extra sugar attacks protein in your skin. Those proteins are collagen and elastin. Those are the two things you need to keep your skin from wrinkling and to continue to be supple. When that collagen and elastin break down it is sort of like the foundation of a house and there goes our face. It's blunt, but it's true. It is the only way I can get it across. The number one thing to do is to limit your sugar intake."
Dr. Jason Bloom: "We always get our patients on a good skincare regimen and tell them to wear sunscreen-SPF 30 or higher. Then, they can kind of tip-toe into some these aesthetic procedures such as using Botox or something where you are going to actually prevent some of the lines and wrinkles. A patient in their late 20s isn't going to need the same amount of product that someone in their 50s is going to need. You have to individualize the treatment to each individual patient."
Dr. Jill Blakeway: "The ancient Chinese saw aging as an imbalance of your yin and yang. Yin is all the things that nourish you and cool you. Yang is all the ways that you transform. In a sense, you either pucker or you bloat. You either get very drawn or you get swollen. That's an imbalance of yin and yang. So what I do is give someone herbs and bring them back into balance, and it's amazing how good that is for your skin. Balancing your yin and yang is how I would say it."
Michael Stefanov: "I like to go a bit more practical in my approach. I'm a camel, not literally, but I drink a ton of water on a daily basis. I find that no amount of products will help if I don't get enough sleep, if I am not exercising, if I'm stressed out and not meditating and not drinking a lot of water. I find readers get wrapped up with a lot of the products and gimmicks as opposed to just general well-being and taking care of yourself on a fundamental level."
On how people's idea of health and wellness has evolved in the last few years:
Dr. Bloom: "Things have changed in my practice mainly because of what the public knows can be done. I am a facial plastic surgeon, so I see people for surgery but also for non-surgical things. People come in say, 'Oh, I've heard about one thing or another that could fill in tiny lines or folds,' and now technology has progressed even further to where we are doing things to give volume to areas like lips and cheeks and shaping faces."
Alpert: "I've been in practice for just about 10 years now, and when I first started, everyone was just coming to me primarily for weight loss. What I've noticed over the last few years that, as a practitioner, I am really excited about, is people are talking less about the number on the scale and more about the total health and wellness transformation. They are more responsive when I talk to them about sleep, and stress, and mediation, and limiting screen time."
Dr. Blakeway: "One of the things I noticed in my practice is that people are coming to me a lot and asking about the effect of hormone imbalances as they age on the way they look and the way they feel. Men are worried about testosterone going down and that effecting vitality. Women worry about estrogen levels going down and them looking drawn, or they are worried about estrogen dominance and putting on weight. What's changed in the 17 years I've practiced is that back in the day, people just took synthetic hormones and now people are very scared of that, which I think quite rightly."
Stefanov: "When I first started at Esquire seven years ago, there were three or four grooming products coming across my desk at any given time. Now, it's everyday I see a new men's grooming line launching. What does that say? The men's grooming industry has exploded. What does that say? Men care more about their appearance and overall grooming regime more than ever. It's not just using whatever is in your girlfriends or whoever's medicine cabinet. It's actually finding something that works for you."
On the impact of social media:
Dr. Blakeway: "I treat a lot of celebrities and models and, in real life, they do not look like they look in magazines, although they are very lovely and they are under enormous pressure. I remember once having a young model come in and a photographer told her she had 'back fat.' She's like, 'Jill, you have to get rid of my back fat,' and she's tiny. Eventually I said, 'Point to this back fat' because I couldn't see what it was, and she pointed to her hip! I said, 'Oh that's your hip, it's a bone, you can't get rid of that.' How did we get here where someone that beautiful and that thin feels awful about herself? Now, that we are all our own paparazzi and we are following ourselves around taking pictures of ourselves, I think the pressure has become bigger. I think we need to not put ourselves under this kind of pressure."
Alpert: "I think in some ways it's great because information can be spread everywhere, which I like, but it's also really dangerous. People have unrealistic expectations and extra pressure. I had a male client, he was following this paleo/cross-fit expert online and was doing what he was saying, following what he was eating on Instagram, and was really surprised that he wasn't feeling great. You can't take nutrition advice from an Instagram star. If it's a registered dietician or some true professional that's one thing, but fame on Instagram or social media doesn't qualify as an expert. There is a lot of just misdirection that people can take from someone who is trying to do something well but perhaps doesn't know how to share their information with the public or, even worse, isn't a true expert."
Dr. Bloom: "Social media and selfies are super, super powerful. I have definitely seen a change in my practice over the last even two or three years. Now patients are bringing in pictures of themselves at bad angles. We call it 'tech-neck.' It's like turkey neck. Everyone is standing and looking down at their phone. But now we have some ways to improve it, whether it is tightening the skin, dissolving the fat with things like Kybella, non-surgical and even surgical processes if we need to do that."
On the importance of patient education:
Dr. Bloom: "I save people from themselves everyday. A young person will come in and say, 'When I do this, my neck looks fat,' or 'I have loose skin here.' Well, when I look down, my neck does the same thing because there is extra elasticity built into the body or else you wouldn't be able to raise or lower your chin. I spend a lot of time explaining to patients what is normal versus what is within the range of abnormal or maybe concerning to them that we can take care of."
On avoiding guilt:
Alpert: "I practice, and encourage my patients to practice, what I call 'intentional indulgence.' When food put on pedestal, it stays on pedestal and develops power. Plan for indulgence. Make room in your regular eating plan to sit down, enjoy every bite, and feel no guilt."
On the next big thing in health and wellness:
Dr. Bloom: "There are two things in the aesthetics industry that have really drawn a frenzy. The first being lips because of Kylie Jenner posting on Instagram. Now patients are coming in asking for it. The second one is this whole idea about the neck and the double chin, which we can treat with Kybella. It's an injectable treatment for the double chin, for the fat underneath the chin. Previously, the only way we had to treat this was with surgery or liposuction. Now we are injecting this product under the chin-it takes a couple sessions in the office with very minimal downtime-and you can actually eliminate the fat without surgery which is hugely, hugely important."
Alpert: "I think what I am seeing is that people are looking for a label like 'I follow paleo,' 'I do cross-fit,' 'I'm a vegetarian,' 'I'm an omnivore.' They just want a label and that is something that I would really try to shy away from because when you label yourself and put yourself in a box, things are very black and white and food is all sorts of shades of grey."
Dr. Blakeway: "Food allergies are a thing people are really frenzied about. I interviewed an gastroenterologist for my podcast Grow, Cook, Heal next week, and he said to me, 'I don't believe 20 million Americans became gluten intolerant overnight and the Italians didn't.' The Italians are still all eating pasta. The French are apparently eating bread, and we are all terrified of gluten. I think we are reacting to something. Our food has become increasingly toxic. But 'gluten intolerance' a label. It's become very faddy. I think when you do this for a long time, you see that things come and go in waves and this is a bit of a wave. We are going to settle down and going to actually look at what really is affecting us and causing inflammation and that kind of thing. I think it probably isn't a big thing like gluten."
Stefanov: "Have you heard of Warby Parker, the eyewear company? Their business model is genius. People are thinking, 'Why would I pay $300 for a pair of opticals, when I can get them for $95 and look awesome?' In grooming, brands like Dollar Shave Club and Birchbox provide quality products at accessible prices. I think the same thing is happening in menswear. Most guys I know can't afford a Hermes sweater or Etro coat. I love those brands, don't get me wrong, but stuff is available now at decent prices. Brands like Bonobos, even Topman. I hate using the word 'fast fashion,' but it is happening in grooming and menswear. I am excited about it because it's accessible to everyone, the common man."