Yumi Stynes has been working in the media for two decades now, and her mum was worried about her looks from early in her career.
Yumi Stynes has been working in the media for two decades now, and her mum was worried about her looks from early in her career.

Beauty secret my mum told me at four

"HI MRS Stynes," my boss said to my mum. We were at a work party and none of the staff had met my mother before.

"I wanted to tell you how much we love your daughter," my boss said. "She's doing such a great job on the music channels."

Yoshiko twinkled back at my boss and said, "Oh, yes, but she's getting so old, don't you think?"

Working in the TV industry as a presenter means that my looks are commented upon from time to time, but having my mum point out my dwindling youth to my boss seemed a lot like a hostile act, or at the very least, friendly fire.

Getting old and its attendant disadvantages has been top of mind for my mother since I was a little girl. My sisters and I were the first of our peers to be given moisturising cream.

I was four years old. She'd waited until my sisters were six but as I was the youngest, thought she'd get a headstart with me.

Yumi’s been a famous face for decades now, but has so far resisted the offer of Botox, despite her mum’s passion for beauty. (Pictured here with her mum and two of her four children).
Yumi’s been a famous face for decades now, but has so far resisted the offer of Botox, despite her mum’s passion for beauty. (Pictured here with her mum and two of her four children).

This is how it went: Yoshiko gravely places a glass jar in the palm of my hand and says, "Here. Put this on your face, morning and every night, and if you're lucky, you might not look like a raisin by the time you're 40."

Like many Japanese women, she has a horror of the sun directly hitting her face. Good skin is the ultimate luxury symbol, an outward expression of a life well lived, of privilege, and to some extent, a symbol of wealth.

For my mother, this meant avoiding UV light, wearing hats, wearing sunblock, and moisturising, moisturising, moisturising.

Unlike a designer handbag, good skin can't be bought.

Yoshiko belongs to the last generation of women for whom cosmetic surgery has not been normalised.

I once joked to her that she and I could get a 2-for-1 deal on Botox if we were so inclined and she frowned at me and said, "No way, why would you do that?"

Nowadays she mocks me for getting older and uses her doomsday voice to remind me every time my birthday rolls around - "Yumi, it's your birthday soon, oh my God, you are getting OOOOOOOLD."

But at the same time she also views her wrinkles and jowls as earned. And she's right, I mean, she did everything she could to prevent those lines from appearing, right?

Yumi and her mum, who encouraged her to use moisturiser at an early age.
Yumi and her mum, who encouraged her to use moisturiser at an early age.

I was first offered free Botox and "injectables" in 2012 and the offers have been fairly steady since. Local cosmetic surgeries are at the front of the queue, hoping that if I take up the freebie, I'll talk about the procedures on radio, giving said clinic free publicity, and I guess contributing to the normalising of these procedures.

So far I haven't taken any of them up, and I'd love to say it's because I am an upright feminist, steadfast in my refusal to bow to the pressures of looking good - but it's more because I can't be bothered and I think the way I look is OK, for now.

But as time marches on - I have to be honest - the face looking back at me in the mirror less and less resembles the way I imagine I look. The reflected me is tired! I'm not obsessed with looking young, I just want to look like … myself.



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