As a beauty editor, I’ve heard time and time again how everything slows down as we age: Cell turnover, collagen production, and skin elasticity are just a few things that begin to dwindle in your mid-twenties. I thought I was prepared for all the ways my body would change. I’ve always imagined myself aging gracefully, accepting every extra line with pride. But when cellulite, chin hair, and weird moles became my reality, I started to lose some of my body positive bravado.
These visible changes tested the way I perceived myself. I found my facial hair unattractive. I never wanted to wear short skirts, in case someone would see my spider veins or my cellulite-dimpled thighs. I spent a long time in front of a magnifying mirror, wondering about the tiny black spots that were now sprinkled across my entire face. So I did what any beauty editor would do—I went down a deep Google search to see what beauty fixes existed that could erase these newfound “flaws.” But a curious thing happened—the more I searched for solutions, the less I started to care. In reporting, writing, and editing stories on the myriad ways our bodies seem to betray us as we get older, I realized that these changes aren’t betrayals at all. They’re normal, they’re natural, they can even be beautiful. Most importantly, the older I get, the more I think “f*ck it—it’s NBD.”
You may or may not feel the same way, which is totally fine, of course. But for me, accepting these body changes as normal and inevitable—and here to stay—was the body-positive act I needed for myself. Below are six body changes I’ve experienced that used to bother me, and how I learned to accept them.
I’m one of the suckers who fell for that beauty myth that dry brushing and coffee scrubs could erase cellulite. Now, I know better. Nothing can get rid of the dimples on my thighs. But I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not alone—somewhere between 80 and 98 percent of women have cellulite (it’s hard to know the exact percentage, but experts agree it’s a lot). That means even Beyoncé and Michelle Obama probably have cellulite.
Cellulite appears when fat below the skin begins to press against the connective tissue around it. It creates this cottage cheese effect. It has pretty much nothing to do with weight—even thin people can have cellulite. Mostly, it’s genetic.
There are things that, in some cases, can minimize the appearance of cellulite, like strength training to build muscle to support the tissue, stretching to increase the flexibility of muscles and tissues, and doing skin-care treatments regularly to help with the skin’s elasticity. None of these options are a complete cure, and sometimes even these healthy habits won’t lessen the look of cellulite (remember: genetics).
So just like the dimples on my face, the dimples on my butt are something I’ve gotten used to. And if there are haters, they can kiss my…well, you know.
2. Stretch marks
Some people think that stretch marks are something only new moms have to deal with. Not exactly, I learned in my early teens, when the stripes started to show up on my hips and butt. I thought losing weight would help, so I started following along to the Tae Bo tapes in my parents’ bedroom. Spoiler alert: I’ve still got the stretch marks (although my respect for Billy Blanks lingers).
Fifteen years later I realize that nothing I do will make my stretch marks disappear—and I’m not alone. They are super common, and like cellulite, largely based on genetics. The marks appear when there is rapid stretching of the skin, like in pregnancy and puberty. “The skin stretches more quickly than it can accommodate, leading essentially to scarred tissue in those areas,” dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., previously told SELF. Growth spurts, breast development, and weight fluctuations can all contribute.
There are treatments that you can do to make stretch marks less obvious, like applying retinol or getting laser treatments. But do you know how much it would cost to rub retinol all over my hips and butt every night? That stuff is way too valuable to use anywhere but my face. Plus, this remedy works best on newer marks, not decades-old ones. So, you can catch me dancing in my bikini with tiger stripes on full display. Holla.
3. Spider veins
When the spider veins started popping up on my thighs, I admit, I freaked out. I tried giving myself leg massages to make the blue splotches disappear, but nothing would erase them. It seems spider veins are my new reality.
There are things you can do to help with the appearance of spider or varicose veins, but they all involve a trip to a specialist. A professional can either use a laser to collapse the tiny blue veins or a process called sclerotherapy, which involves injecting a foamy detergent or concentrated saltwater solution into the vein, irritating the area and stopping the blood flow. Treatments like these can cost around $500 per session, and while they work, they can’t prevent new visible veins from popping up. You can also wear compression tights every day of your life to keep spider veins from getting worse, but for me, in my life, that’s not happening. So I’m accepting my new blue lines and saving my sclerotherapy-and-compression-wear money for a few new pieces in my wardrobe or a beach vacation instead.
4. “Family moles”
I don’t do my mole checks on my body as often as I should, but when there’s a new dark spot on my face, best believe I notice. These tiny black moles started to pop up when I turned 28, and they continue to multiply. WTF! Like many things on this list, these harmless spots—officially called dermatosis papulosa nigra—are genetic, and they are most common in African Americans and those with darker skin tones.
Getting rid of these spots is simple: A dermatologist can literally burn them off your face. Reality check: The idea of someone coming towards my face with a cauterizing tool immediately had me reconsidering. Now, I truly believe the bumps aren’t that bad. I mean, Marilyn Monroe had beauty spots—these are kind of the black girl version of that.
5. Uneven boobs
I’m a lefty—meaning my left boob is significantly larger than my right. Being lopsided used to make me feel abnormal, but it’s actually very common, women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., previously told SELF. There can be a difference of one to two cup sizes in your breasts, which, other than making bra shopping a pain, is completely normal and harmless. (Pro tip: Always fit your new bras to the larger breast.)
Asymmetrical boobs are mostly due to genetics, but fluctuating weight can also cause a change in your boobs. For me, gaining five pounds means I have an extra two pounds in my left boob, one pound in my right boob, and two more pounds in my butt. (At least that’s how it feels to me.) When I got interested in lingerie, I started to be more concerned with the fit of my bra than the size of my actual breasts—and that helped me realize that I didn’t need to be symmetrical to be sexy.
6. Facial hair
My first chin hair came in this year. To be honest, this was an eventuality I was prepared for (a few women in my family have facial hair). But still—so annoying. I’m already used to dealing with body hair from the shoulders down and all the gorgeous natural hair on my head, both of which take up an unreasonable amount of my weekly grooming schedule. Now, I have to add plucking errant facial hair to my routine.
There are other options, of course. I could go for electrolysis, regular waxing appointments, or try to Nair it off. But honestly, until my full mustache arrives I’m good with taking tweezers to my face every once in a while, and if I miss a hair in the meantime, so be it. Who knows, soon I might just roll with it. If a man can grow a beard without public censure, I can leave the hair on my chinny chin chin.