Chicago Business October 10, 2011

Maxine Salon's Owner Maxine Kroll featured in Crains Chicago Business October 10, 2011Chicago Business: Powered by Crain's

Monday, October 10, 2011

A nip, tuck or some dye may help older job-seekers in a competitive market, but some take it too far

By Lisa Bertagnoli

Not too long ago, a businesswoman in her early 60s asked Josie Tenore for advice about a face-lift.

Dr. Tenore took one look at the woman and had her answer: No. The woman, she explains, had already had so many lifts that her face looked too small for her body.

“I said, ‘You can't afford another one,'” says Dr. Tenore, 51, who owns Highland Park-based Aesthetic Medicine Center Inc., which offers beauty treatments such as laser resurfacing (where a laser is used to reduce skin imperfections) and Botox injections.

Dr. Tenore sees other mistakes clients make in their quest for the fountain of, if not eternal youth, eternally youthful looks. One is extreme thinness, which results in the loss of full skin in the face and temples. “This loss prematurely ages them, and most of them do want to look better and more youthful,” she says. Another is oversized lips, which end up looking comical, not youthful, Dr. Tenore says.

Nobody can blame professionals of a certain age for wanting to recapture the dewy skin, willowy figures and luxurious tresses of their youth. After all, today's beauty icons are freshly into their 20s, and business tycoons are denim-clad thirtysomethings.

A youthful look says, “I'm ambitious, I'm in the game, I'm willing to do what it takes,” notes Maureen Costello, 55, founder and president of Image Launch LLC, a Lake Forest image consulting firm. “It's not as aesthetic as much as it's competitive.”

The 21st-century method of forging a career plays a part, too. “People are making careers out of a brand of ‘me,' “ says Paul Dobransky, 43, a psychiatrist in Chicago. Image, he adds, is a crucial component of that brand.

There are signs that the quest for youth is back in full swing after a brief recession-induced lull. Cosmetic surgery procedures surged 9% in 2010, according to an April 2011 survey by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, a New York-based organization of board-certified plastic surgeons. Non-invasive procedures, such as facial peels, decreased 9%.

Women account for about 90% of all cosmetic surgery, but there's evidence that men, too, are trying to look younger. At Maxine, a Gold Coast hair salon, demand for men's hair coloring has risen 20% in the past two years, owner Maxine Kroll says.

While a youthful, age-appropriate look provides a competitive boost, trying to turn back the clock too far draws ridicule instead of compliments.

In a corporate setting, looking too young creates a distraction, and not in a good way, says corporate image consultant Susan Fignar. It also raises questions about a person's decision- making and credibility.

Ms. Fignar recalls seeing a friend her age at a conference decked out in a funky outfit and jewelry and spiky hair.

“I thought, ‘What is that?' “ recalls Ms. Fignar, 56, president of Chicago-based Pur-Sue Inc. “That was the makeover she went through, and it was not a good one.”

For men, the equivalent is a big fuzzy beard and washed-out denim. “They try to look like guys in their 20s, and it looks silly,” Ms. Fignar says.

She adds that most who err on the side of looking young, rather than youthful, are unaware: “They think it looks great, and nobody tells them it doesn't.”


Carol Donohue sees plenty of makeovers that are over the top.

“I've seen so many people who've done too much—too much Botox, tanning, injectables,” says Ms. Donohue, 51, a registered nurse who works at various med-spas, including Dr. Tenore's.

She cringes inside when patients bring in photos of themselves in their 20s. “It's impossible to look like you looked when you were 25,” she says. “I tell patients, ‘The key to doing this well is to not lose you.' “

For many professionals, not losing themselves means saying no to the knife and yes to age-appropriate clothing, hair and makeup.

Ron Goldstein, 47, is founder of Silver Professionals, a Chicago-based networking group for job-seekers of a certain age. He tries for a youthful look by keeping his thinning hair short—”I spent thousands on Rogaine and just gave up”—staying trim and wearing appropriate clothing.

Apparently it works: “People comment, ‘You're representing silver professionals and you don't look like a silver professional,' “ he says.

Judith Arkes, an accountant who lives in Rogers Park, won a makeover consultation with Mr. Goldstein at a Silver Professionals gathering. She says he advised her to cut her hair shorter, advice she plans to ignore.

“When you're in your skin long enough, you know what looks best on you,” says Ms. Arkes, 64.

She also has decided against Botox or any other cosmetic enhancement because it's an unsound investment for her. “You have to put a cost basis on it,” she says. “If you're making a six-figure salary, it's a wise investment,” she explains. “At 64, it's not going to buy me anything.”


Coloring his prematurely gray hair brought Doug Willey new confidence about his looks.

Five years ago, Mr. Willey looked in the mirror and saw a vibrant 40-year-old with a full head of hair. Gray hair.

“I'd look at myself and say, ‘Everything looks normal but my hair,' “ says Mr. Willey, a commercial airline pilot who lives in Chicago. His wife agreed: “She'd say, ‘You're not as old as you look sometimes, with all that gray hair,' “ recalls Mr. Willey, 45.

Blasé about the gray, Mr. Willey let it be, until two things happened. First, he took a leave from the airline and began working in the aerospace sales industry. Second, he and his wife went to a wedding, where a friend looked at him and said, “Doug, no offense, but people don't want to hire people who look old.”

The comment made Mr. Willey look at the man in the mirror with new eyes. “With gray hair, you don't look vigorous,” he says. “There's a sense of pallor about you.”

He began getting his hair colored at Maxine in 2006. The process takes nearly four hours and costs him $270 every 12 to 14 weeks. “I hate spending the money,” Mr. Willey says, but he feels his inner vitality and outer appearance finally match.

Others let their careers guide them to aging gracefully.

Betsy Grizzell, a brunette, began to gray when she was in her 20s. A mezzo-soprano with Chicago A Capella and owner of Betsy's MusiKids, a music school in Naperville, Ms. Grizzell began coloring her hair to stay on stage.

“As mezzo-sopranos, we often have to sing the role of a teenage boy, and that's hard to pull off when your hair starts turning gray,” says Ms. Grizzell, 53.

In her early 30s, she gave up. “I just didn't have time to keep up with gray roots and things like that,” she says.

She also found that gray hair works in her favor at the music school, giving her a mature look that young mothers trust.

“It's not like they're leaving their kids with a fresh college graduate,” she says.

Still, the self-described “sweatpants girl” wears makeup and jewelry to maintain a youthful look.

“I have to say, there was a time when I could go without all that,” Ms. Grizzell says.

Others have toned down their wardrobes, preferring to let well-cared-for skin and figures send a youthful message.


Before her mid-40s, Mia Young favored long nails with trendy spackle-finish polish, short skirts and bare legs. Now in her 50s, she prefers a French manicure, closed-toe shoes, knee-length skirts and pantyhose.

“Even Kate Cambridge (the 29-year old wife of England's Prince William) wears pantyhose,” points out Ms. Young, president of MB Personnel & Screening Ltd., a human resources consultancy in Northfield.

Ms. Young also gets enough sleep, stays out of the sun and doesn't smoke. “I'm blessed; I have good genes and good skin,” she says.

That's working, for now. “Am I getting Botox and stuff? No, but who knows, in 10 years I might,” Ms. Young says.