I love beauty products. I love the whole beauty industry (except the part where women over forty are unfavorably compared to twenty-year-old swizzle sticks). Over the years, I’ve learned a lot through it, written a lot about it, and bought a lot of it.
I’m turning 59 this year, which got me thinking about beauty lessons I’ve learned, over the years, that remain timeless. We may be 35 or 75. We may shop at Nordstrom or Rite Aid. But some things are true no matter what your age.
1. Be careful with cosmetic intervention. Your face should not look 20 years younger than the rest of you. Too much, and you don’t look younger. You look weird.
2. Wear sunscreen. Every single day. Only infants can look like Yoda and still be considered cute.
3. Don’t make hairstyle decisions after 9 p.m or more than two glasses of wine. Spontaneous hair chops while in exhausted or half-gassed conditions (or God forbid, both), have resulted in far too many morning-after cries “OMG, What was I thinking??”
4. No matter what the spa brochure says about their “Painless Bikini Wax,” there’s No. Such. Thing.
5. Skin care is a forehead-to-boobs concept. Unless you spend 365 days a year in turtlenecks, the skin on your neck and upper chest gets the same amount of sun exposure as your face, and can look just as weathered. If you do it for your face, do it for your boobs. You’ll thank me later.
6. Every woman should wear red lipstick, even if it’s just once in her lifetime. Something about it is powerful. It’s the ultimate “Don’t mess with me. You won’t win” badass makeup product.
7. Determine your best asset and buy only those clothes that show it off. Voluptuous curves, great legs, tiny ankles, pretty arms, beautiful back, great clavicles, long neck? Every woman has something that the rest of us would love to have. Dump everything that could double as an emergency pup tent or makes you feel fat, old, or invisible. Start buying clothes that accentuate your unique fabulousness. It’s the best confidence builder ever.
8. Clean out your closet once a year. Get rid of the anything that’s falling apart, out-of-date, or just plain ugly. Start with the prairie skirt your ex-husband bought you six years ago (which might explain the “ex” thing). Toss anything, including scarves and shoes, that no longer fits or is uncomfortable for any reason. Be ruthless. Then see #7.
9. If you do only one thing this year, try a new hair cut or color. Virtually every reality TV makeover starts with the hair. There’s a reason for that. Mall cuts or mousy, faded hair color makes you look like Great-Aunt Agnes from Des Moines. A good cut or a rich, vibrant color can make your skin glow and your eyes sparkle. Boom.
10. Use the best moisturizer you can afford, but recognize that it’s topical and has limitations. If you really want to reduce those crow’s feet around your eyes or the vertical creases around your mouth and nose, you’re talking injectables (yep, Botox). Start saving up.
11. A good magnifying mirror can be your best friend. How else can we spot those tiny little chin hairs or keep that lip pencil actually on the lips?
12. Always test a self-tanner before you apply it from head to toe. Most of them smell nasty and make you look like a bottle of Tang.
13. Minimize shimmery products on any part of you that is lined or droopy. Sparkle catches the eye, making it what people notice first. If your nipples point south like divining rods searching for water, and you sprinkle your chest with sparkle powder before your high school reunion, you’ve just enlightened the entire class of 1974. If your eyes are lined or creepy, shimmer can settle in the folds, turning your makeup into a glitter craft project at your kid’s preschool.
14. Never shop when you’re depressed. And never, ever shop for jeans or swimsuits when you don’t have your game on. If you must buy something when you’re feeling blue, shoes are the perfect choice. A new pair of fabulous black boots is guaranteed to pick up your spirits, with no dieting or spinning classes required. Winning.
15. Have a professional makeover at least once every 10 years. If you’ve been wearing the same haircut and the same makeup for 10 years, you’re in a rut and you probably look dated. Your skin changes. Products change. Trends change. So should you.
16. If you’re feeling in a fashion rut (yoga pants and t-shirts, anybody?), enlist the help of your best-dressed girlfriend. Hit the mall and let her pick out your options. (You’ll just grab new yoga pants, and you already own eight pairs.) Promise to try on everything she hands you. You might be surprised at what you can rock.
17. Learn to use hair products. Together. Mousse and volumizing spray, with styling brushes, are often required as hair thins after menopause. Repeat after me, “Product is my friend.”
18. Makeup product junkies (like me), yes, you can have too many. Pull out your stash. All of it. If you have have 15 lipsticks, 5 mascaras, a dozen eyeshadows, 4 concealers, 2 bronzers, 3 different self-tanners, and a half-dozen nail polishes, it’s time to declutter. Pare down to what you actually wear, then give the extras to your DIL. She’ll trade you the grandkids for the weekend.
19. You can’t live a stressful life, with too much alcohol, too little exercise, the not-so-occasional cigarette, a daily dietary habit of pretzels and Diet Coke, and have good skin. Beauty products assume you’re a team player. So take care of the rest of you, and your skin will reflect the love.