Justine Bateman on why she hasn’t had plastic surgery: 'I could, but what would it get me?'

Brittany Jones-Cooper
·4 min read

Back in the 1950s, plastic surgery was just being introduced to the masses. Today, there’s a growing menu of procedures to choose from — enlarged lips, filled wrinkles and skin seemingly de-aged.

It’s all possible, but Justine Bateman wants women to ask themselves one important question before making their next appointment: Why?

“I hope that for all women, they could just look into what’s making them think they need to change this one square foot of skin,” Bateman tells Yahoo Life. “What would happen if we just continued to become more and more and more ourselves?”

Bateman explores beauty and aging naturally in her new book, FACE: One Square Foot of Skin. Filled with short stories about women at different ages dealing with beauty standards, Bateman says she interviewed and included experiences from famous actresses — changing their names and details to protect identities, but sharing nonetheless because of how often actors are eviscerated online for their appearance.

That's something she knows from experience.

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“I had Googled my name and there was an auto complete that said ‘Justine Bateman looks old,’ and I was like 40, 41 at the time. And then I went into this rabbit hole and read all the things that people were saying. It affected me more than I thought it would, and for a longer period of time than I thought it would," says Bateman. 

After a life in front of the camera, the 55-year-old filmmaker and actress is familiar with the public weighing in on her looks. At 16, she became a household name while starring as Mallory Keaton on the show Family Ties.

“When I started Family Ties, that was the first time that there was much more attention on my looks. 'She’s so beautiful, she’s this and that,'" says Bateman. "And you go, I guess by society's standards I’m attractive looking, but I didn’t feel that my face was some sort of accomplishment or something.”

After Googling, Bateman started to realize that aging naturally wasn’t a choice she was allowed to make. Somehow not having work done had become a negative. Being interesting and accomplished seemed less important next to a youthful face.“Why do we have these sort of anchors in society that women’s faces need to be changed? That we have this assumption that a woman’s entire self worth is just this piece of skin that’s on their head,” she says.

She's never had work done, but Bateman did visit a plastic surgeon to mark up her face for the cover of the book. “He said you’re a candidate for the works,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Cut in on the eyes and take these bags away. And then take some extra skin away from here, and do a little bit of a brow lift.”

“I mean, I could, but what would it get me?" asks Bateman. "Because there are some crappy people online who don’t like what they’re looking at?” 

Instead, she is staying true to the path she set out on as a teen — when she thought crow's feet looked cool. She used to idolize the bags under the eyes of older European actresses like Anna Magnani, and the hooded eyelids of Charlotte Ramplings. “I wanted to look like all of these older European actresses I was watching in these films,” says Bateman. “And I won’t get there if I do anything to my face.” 

When she was younger, she didn't look at her face as some kind of accomplishment, but when she looks in the mirror these days, that's exactly how she feels. "It's been there through every fun moment I've ever had, every frustrating event I've ever had," she says. She sees "satisfaction and happiness" where others see lines. 

In a culture where reality TV stars drive beauty standards, aging naturally can seem like a rebellious act. Getting work done is a personal choice — Bateman knows that — but she wants women to just give themselves an opportunity to address the underlying fear that may be influencing the decision. 

“I’m just suggesting through this book that a lot of the negative ideas women have about their faces just aren’t true," she says, "so why should we keep them alive inside ourselves?” 

Video produced by Jennifer Miller

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