Sunday, July 5, 2015

"Geezer Grease:" My Missed Opportunity to Make Bazillions

“It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life 
appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone.”

One of my least favorite parts of advancing into Geezerhood has been nature's insistence on making me pay for past indiscretions in the way I mistreated my body.  For instance, in younger years it was quite the thing for those of us with white skin to deliberately burn it and try to turn it into the ideal "tan."   We applied "sun tan lotion" not "sun screen" or "sun block" because the hope was that it would promote quicker, darker tanning not prevent it.  SPF 4 was about the highest I recall using. Plus, I grew up in Colorado, where sunny skies, low humidity and high elevations guaranteed a massive dose of UV rays.

Well, those years of exposure have now resulted in many nasty little pre-cancerous thingies on my forehead that require special treatments and regular visits to my dermatologist, whom I have on speed dial. I've undergone exotic-sounding procedures in an attempt to stave off worse developments, like "liquid nitrogen thermal destruction," "microdermal abrasion" and "photodynamic therapy," and I have an arsenal of lotions and potions that I apply daily.  And of course I don't set foot out of the house without SPF 50 and my broad-brimmed dufus hat (aka "Geezerware").*

My childhood solar epidermal abuse has also led to skin that is irritatingly delicate and prone to injury.  The most irksome form of this for me is that my forearms bruise so easily that often I can't recall the source.  And when I am aware of the cause, I have watched helplessly as bruising from even the smallest bump or scratch spreads like purple watercolor on wet paper and develops into a hideous, leprosy-like discoloration that lasts 10 days, minimum.  Unlike the precancerous thingies, the bruising and bleeding aren't life-threatening, but they do a real number on my vanity because they symbolically shout "OLD MAN WALKING HERE!!!!"  Along with "age spots" these bruises are almost guaranteed to get you the senior discount at your local retailer without even asking.

I've quizzed my dermatologist repeatedly to see if there is any preventative treatment for my susceptibility to bruising, and barring that some ameliorative cream, pill, or injection. The answer is always "No," delivered with a sympathetic but somewhat patronizing smile (she's a young'n, after all).  Indeed, the current scientific consensus seems to be that this condition is a common aspect of normal aging (assuming more serious causes have been ruled out) that comes from losing some of the protective fatty layer in the skin that protects the blood vessels -- we literally become "thin-skinned" as we get older -- and my dermatologist argues that this process is accelerated by sun exposure -- those who abused their skin when young are likely to be even more susceptible to losing the fatty layer.  Although there are many pseudoscientific-homeopathic-biodynamic-synergistic-astromagnetic-universallifeforceallaroundus remedies available for sale, there is very little hard evidence they do much except bleed your wallet**

The authoritative Mayo Clinic puts it this way:
"Most bruises form when small blood vessels (capillaries) near the skin's surface are broken by the impact of a blow or injury — often on the arms or legs. When this happens, blood leaks out of the vessels and initially appears as a black-and-blue mark... As you get older, your skin also becomes thinner and loses some of the protective fatty layer that helps cushion your blood vessels from injury." [my emphasis]
And to make this even more depressing, the Mayo Clinic says that
 "Once a bruise has formed...not much can be done to treat it. Most bruises eventually disappear as your body reabsorbs the blood — although healing might take longer as you age [my emphasis]. It might help to elevate the affected area and apply ice. If the sight of a bruise bothers you, cover it with clothing or makeup."
Thanks, doc. I should put ice packs on my bruises and walk around with my arms held in the air, while wearing a long-sleeved shirt in Hawai'i?  That's all you got?  If we can send rockets to distant comets and develop nanobots that can deliver drugs to specific tissues in the body, surely we can come up with something better than that.

I was recently discussing this with some fellow geezers (well, one was a soon-to-be geezer still in denial).  We had just been hiking and had the cuts and bruises to prove it.  Over much-needed beer we engaged in some "competitive complaining" (see my blog "Geezer Olympics") about bruising and other skin problems but then started talking more productively about possible preventive measures.  Of course much of what came out was "alchological," meaning it makes much more sense when you are under the influence of alcohol. So have a couple of shots before reading on.

In particular, we concluded that what the world's geezers need most is a special transparent cream that contains (a) nanoparticles that form a thin, flexible, protective shield on the skin, maybe like the new kinds of body armor that rely on nano technology (see Discovery, 4/2/13),  (b) a highly concentrated antioxidant of some kind (c) super sun block of at least SPF 100,  (d) a broad spectrum antibiotic just in case (a) doesn't work completely, and (e) moisturizers and various beautification agents (why not?).  Of course, for vanity's sake this wonder-cream would be completely invisible on the skin.  Lather up with it before your morning coffee and voila!  No more bruises!

We could market this stuff and make bazillions!!! ("How about another beer?")  A name. We need a name for our product.  Something that our intended market would immediately identify with and rush out to buy.  I've got it!  How about "GEEZER GREASE?" 

The next day the practicality of our idea seemed to have faded considerably. Still, it was a very appealing notion even if a bit fantastical.  The name in particular had a nice ring to it.  Then, just for the heck of it I Googled "geezer grease," not really expecting any results.


Mill Creek Catalog
Turns out someone has beaten us to the name and is already using it for a skin balm. Their grease doesn't have any nanoparticles, but it does include an interesting ingredient we hadn't thought of ---- Cannabis.  Yup, a pot-infused ointment to "cure" your skin troubles (or at least make it so you don't care as much).  The product is sold at a couple of outlets, including Mill Creek Natural Foods  and Green Stop Cannibis.  Mill Creek is especially enticing in their description: "When you need serious natural skin care for dry, itchy or chapped hands, feet, elbows, or to help with minor scratches, excellent on small cuts. This rich blend will feel so smooth and soothing...just a tiny amount is all you need. Hand blended with extra virgin olive oil, cannabis, calendula blossoms, comfrey root, goldenseal, vitamin E, rosehips & beeswax." [my emphasis].

Well, we missed our opportunity to make bazillions of dollars by ourselves, but maybe we could join forces with the cannabis company and come up with a new product that combines both sets of ingredients.  We could call it "Super Geezer Whoopee Grease."

*My apologies to those of you who (a) look good in broad-brimmed hats, (b) think you do, and (c) those who don't but aren't vain like me and feel sun protection is more important than looking good.  I, however, am vain and know I look like a dufus in most hats, particularly those with a broad brim.

**There are a few products that may have some small degree of protective or ameliorative effects but have mainly anecdotal evidence or inconsistent scientific support.  Retinol, proven to stimulate collagen production and reduce fine face wrinkle might work on forearms by improving the supportive structure of the skin.  Alpha-hydroxy compounds which promote exfoliation and new skin growth on the face may also work on arms, but this has never been shown scientifically.  Arnica, a substance derived from aloe, has weak and inconsistent data supporting its efficacy in speeding healing of bruises.  Oh, and a method sure to work is the use of forearm guards, or chaps --a real geezer fashion statement.


Anonymous said...

I spent the better part of an hour trying on hats in Asheville, a place with a high concentation of coolness and environmental consciousness and growing population of hip geezers, and I still look like a dufus in anything that would protect me from sun. Cecilia

Richard Sherman said...

Cecilia --

I have tried on hundreds of hats and have about three that I dare wear in public. I'm envious of my wife, who looks great in almost any hat, including one in which I look like a dufus. Must have something to do with bone structure or shape of the face. Whatever it is, I don't have it.


Richard Sherman said...

A friend just emailed a direct response to my blog, suggesting that the reason I can't remember the source of my bruising is my failing geezer memory. Touche.

Coleen Hanna said...

I love your postings about geezers. This one was great. Today I took my cousin Maureen to see a movie. She got in line first and asked for a senior ticket to The Gallows. I was next. Before I could speak, the kid (boy?) said, "Same as her?" I said, "OH MY GOD, DO YOU THINK I AM 65?" (I am 60; Maureen is 72). He said, "I meant did you want to see the same movie." I said, "I am really sorry. I am getting so sensitive now that I am old." He laughed, I laughed. How embarrassing.

Anyhow, I have always had fair skin and have been seeing dermatologists since I was 34 yrs. They say I have extensive sun damage from my childhood (I had severe sunburns then and there was no sunscreen). But I got a handle on it while still a young adult so the consequences haven't been too bad (yet). You mentioned going hiking. Lots of people I know in your age bracket can barely walk to the mailbox, so it's good you've still got the hiking thing going for you.

Sorry about the bruises. We all get there someday. My mother-in-law can end up with a gaping, bleeding wound just from getting out of the car. Her caregiver, her daughter, tries to keep her mother from touching anything, especially around the legs.

Richard Sherman said...

Coleen --

Great story about the movie tickets. Besides the interchange with the young ticket seller, though, I had to snicker at the lead-in -- "A senior ticket to the Gallows, please."

Today I got my dermatologist to admit that using prescription-strength retinol on my forearms would indeed stimulate collagen production which in turn *might* better protect the blood vessels. All very iffy and definitely expensive. Let's see, if I give up my pricey craft beer habit and my fondness for techno-toys ..........