Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Before Botox - Part 1

One of the odder books in my possession is Helen Hede's Dein schöneres Gesicht: Verjüngende Gesichtsgymnastik und neue Pflegemethoden, published in 1952 by Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag in Munich. The title roughly translates to "Your more beautiful face: rejuvenating face exercises and new methods of care."

The premise of this 60-year-old book is that signs of aging in the facial area can be staved off using two approaches:

The first involves restricting your facial gestures, not so much in their range, but their extent. So, for example, you can still look concerned, but you should be careful not to furrow your brows too much.

The second requires exercising the facial muscles regularly using the techniques provided in the book to ensure a firm support for the fat and skin that sits atop them and prevent sagging. A separate manual containing the exercises and how they should be used is included with the book.

To drive home how time can "ravage" a woman's visage, two photos are shown of (ostensibly) the same woman taken 40 years apart.

No, the bottom photo doesn't look staged at all.

Now that the reader is sufficiently scared as to her future appearance, she can see the necessity of such youth-preserving approaches.

Before and after photos of someone using Ms. Hede's
approaches to facial care and rejuvenation

What makes this beauty manual in my opinion so odd is not the former claim. I do not know whether toning certain facial muscles can produce noticeable results in the average human, but I do have a hunch that much of the sagging and changes in facial shape that increase with age are due less to the loss of facial tone than to the weakening of supportive tissue and the redistribution of fat. Still, I cannot imagine much harm resulting from a few regular facial exercises.

No, what bothers me is the idea that a woman should desire to limit how outwardly expressive she can be for the purposes of retaining a youthful appearance. To be fair, the author suggests
that curbing one's facial gestures must not lead to a reduction in the power of communicating one's emotions. Thus, according to Ms. Hede, the following young lady expresses her feelings to us as powerfully as someone whose gestures are more pronounced:

The young actress Gertrud Kückelmann from Munich

To me the effect is more like this:

Source: simonfrench.com

Basically Ms. Hede is advocating a sort of partial facial paralysis achieved not by Botox injections, but through constant vigilance created by nurturing a fear of wrinkles.

Perhaps I am being unfair to an author who probably believed she was doing her readers a service. It just makes me sad to think that women (or men for that matter) should develop an aversion to expression for the sake of beauty.

Here are the sorts of excessive facial gestures discouraged by this book:

A happy woman who tends to exaggerate her facial expressions...

The book does, however, provide some excellent advice on the topics of posture and unnecessary squinting. Here I have no qualms with her advocating that we stand up straight and protect our eyes from the harmful effects of the sun.

Put on those sunglasses already!

The purported reward for following Ms. Hede's methods? A pleasant, youthful-looking face:

Next week I'll present scans from the accompanying manual of exercises for your enjoyment, but here I wanted to focus on the basic ideas presented in the main body of the book.

As you can tell, I have some strong feelings on this topic. You should see my face right now! But I am curious what you think about Ms. Hede's advice. Is it helpful? Have you heard anything similar to it before? Do you think a person can be highly expressive while still using controlled facial gestures?

While we're at it, would you say there is a connection between Ms. Hede's advice and the modern fascination with Botox, or is that a stretch? Is Botox always bad, or can it be used in moderation to good effect?

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