The Quest for Beauty is a Beast

I love commercials.  They give me good laughs when I am having a busy day.  Every day is a busy one, but I am speaking of those days with many tight timelines.  You know the days when you have to travel to each side of town twice, and still leave a chore off the list.

I especially love the Oil of Olay commercials.  They say, “We can help you look younger, too!”  At almost $20.00 per bottle, I believe them!  In comparison to department store beauty lines, Oil of Olay is reasonable.  Macy’s and Dillard’s have some beauty creams near $100.00.  Ladies, it is possible to be beautiful on a budget.  The choices are countless.  Mayonnaise and raw eggs make a wonderful conditioner for the hair.  Lemon juice, plain yogurt, and an afternoon in the sun can give the hair some natural highlights.    The lemon juice lightens the hair and the yogurt acts as a protector against the sun’s rays.  Be sure to use sunscreen on your skin!  Mixing natural oatmeal and almonds in the blender and adding to a plain facial cream can make a nice exfoliating paste.  You can use home remedies, Dollar Store products, multi-level marketing products, or top of the line products.  Your beauty is your choice.

I have chosen organic foods since my college days.  I still spend a block of time in the beauty aisles in Whole Foods.  They know me and are not annoyed by me reading all the labels as I browse.  I have severe and life threatening allergies and must be very cautious.  You are fortunate if you can wear any lotion or just grab a new product without careful inspection.  Even with my allergies, I am doing all I can to remain youthful from the inside out.

The quest for beauty has caused some to make more permanent choices.  Permanent eyeliner, blush, and lipstick were popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Saline breast implants are extremely popular among models, moms, college students, and business women.  The quest for beauty is a beast!  An activist in the 1960’s coined the phrase ‘by any means necessary’, but some eager beauty buffs have taken these means to a new level in their quest to defy age.  I will never forget one of the medical secretaries at one of my previous hospitals who lived for cosmetic surgery.  She was gorgeous!  She led the way and influenced many to get some procedure performed.  Our department was full of life hearing all of the stories of these ladies looking for beauty.

I have many years of research and clinical expertise.  Having grown up in East Texas equipped me with a gentle way of dealing with people.  But my true love is academic medical world.  I love teaching tomorrow’s medical leaders and finding cures in the laboratory.  I started this morning in the usual way, with the New York Times and The Washington Post.  I read the headline articles and remained fixated on one particular article.  The article written by Joby Warrick was so powerful that I read it twice.  The title of the article is, “Officials Fear Toxic Ingredient in Botox Could Become Terrorist Tool.”  According to the article, a mysterious cosmetic trader, Rakhman, began showing up at salons in St. Petersburg, Russia offering a popular anti-aging drug at suspiciously low prices.  Rakhman showed a briefcase filed with vials and promised he could deliver “as many as you want” from a supplier in Chechnya.  The vials were actually clones of the popular drug Botox.  A larger concern is that an illegal factory in Chechnya is turning out raw botulinum toxin, the key agent in the beauty drug and one of the world’s deadliest poisons.  No factory was found in Chechnya but a search continues across Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  Al Qaeda has sought botulinum toxin, according to this article.

According to Warricks’s article, the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and other groups have bought and sold counterfeit drugs to raise cash for their missions.  The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization.  Terror experts see an opportunity for terror groups to infiltrate the beauty market.  Imagine Botox as a weapon of mass destruction!  Scores of American and European women would be exterminated at the spa!  In a project sponsored by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, two scientists predicted that a biologist with a master’s degree and $2,000.00 worth of equipment could easily make a gram of pure toxin.  A gram is approximately the weight of a paper clip and enough to kill thousands.  By scientific standards, $2,000.00 worth of equipment does not constitute a sophisticated lab.  I have seen laboratories in basements of some of my colleagues’ homes that were worth $25,000.00, and are considered starter labs.

The trade name Botox, Type A, is not a weapon.  It has been used for many years to cure complaints including migraine headaches, facial tics, and wrinkles.  Eight companies worldwide are licensed to make variations of the drug.  Botox is sold in the United States only by prescription, and is monitored by the Food and Drug Administration.  Each vial contains a tiny amount of the actual toxin, a naturally occurring nerve agent secreted by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum.  The amount of poison in a prescribed dose is so small that a terrorist would have to get hundreds of vials at $400.00 each, to kill a single person, according to bioterrorism experts.  It is sobering to think that terrorists are thinking of ways to harm the heart of a nation.  Mother and grandmothers seeking to extend their youth, now need to be informed about extraneous risks!  Clostridium botulinum is difficult to use as a chemical weapon in a missile because it degrades quickly when exposed to heat.  However, terror groups have planned to use the agent to contaminate food and water supplies.  Clostridium botulinim is a gram-positive rod shaped bacteria.  It can be found in soil, and is the same bacteria that produces the flaccid muscle paralysis seen in botulism.  It is anaerobic, which means it can exist without oxygen.

The door to door salesperson, Rakhman, has stopped his visits to upscale salons in St. Petersburg, Russia when local authorities began closing in.  How many more salesmen of his type exist?  These types of business people change business names and addresses frequently to evade the law.

Although, laws are more stringent in the United States, a Justice Department official raided a string of clinics in 5 states after discovering a network that traded industrial grade Botox for commercial grade Botox.  The inferior toxin, intended for laboratory research and not human use, paralyzed 4 patients.  They paid an extreme price for beauty.  The purpose of this article is not to scare, but to inform the lay public of the risks involved in making a decision of this magnitude.  Elective procedures are popular and accepted in our modern society.  Consumers should perform due diligence research on each elected procedure, to include a list of questions to your physician regarding the pros and cons of the procedure, and any possible complications.  It is also wise to ask the number of successful procedures completed in the office, and whether or not the clinician would consider the procedure herself.

Maturing gracefully is an art that we all need to master.  Updating a hairstyle has the power to transform a look without drastic consequences.  Going from shoulder length to jaw length can remove years from any lady.  Buying a sports car can also restore a feeling of youthfulness!  Selling your home and moving into a condominium can have a dramatic effect.  If all that fails, take tennis or golf lessons, and let the grandchildren teach you how to play video games!  Non-invasive facial treatments at the spa or dermatologist’s office are also an option.  I am not against an elected procedure if it can increase self-esteem.  I advocate being a wise medical consumer and setting realistic boundaries.  All patients should go to the doctor’s office with a folder or composition book with questions, applicable articles, and space to take notes.  Your physician or nurse practitioner will appreciate your interest and initiative regarding your own care.  I recommend a book called Beyond Botox: Seven Tips for Sexy Ageless Skin Without Needles or Surgery.  The book was written by Ben and Howard Kaminsky, who are a pharmaceutical chemist and dermatologist, father and son team.  Their book was published by Spinboard Press in 2006.  Botox has worked for many, but the side effects include droopy eyelids and uncontrolled drooling of the mouth.  These side effects rare, but are far from beautiful.

Mothers and grandmothers are very special people.  When I was a child my grandmother’s door was always open, literally!  It meant that all were welcome without an appointment.  Today’s grandmothers love their families just as much, but have a busier agenda.  I have met some who have thriving post-retirement careers as poets, extras on television sit-coms, storytellers, and crafts retailers.  The doors of their hearts are open, but you need to make an appointment before you drop into their homes.  There is no right or wrong style of life for retirement.  Each individual decides their vision for their life.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and is defined in many ways.  I was taught that you were pretty if you acted pretty.  Each of you is unique and beautiful.  I hope you have been enlightened by the information that was shared.  Continue to seek new information daily to have the highest quality of life.  Beauty does not have to have beastly consequences!

 

This speech was prepared for a group of retired ladies in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.

References:

1          The Washington Post, “Officials Fear Toxic Ingredient in Botox Could Become     Terrorist Tool,” Joby Warrick, January 25, 2010.

2          Clostridium Botulinum, Journal of Immunology, 2010

McKellar-Ntaka Lectures

Copyright Pending February 10, 2010

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