A girlfriend called me last weekend, all stressed out because she’d gotten out of bed that morning, and when she looked in the mirror, she was stunned to see an “old lady” looking back at her. “How the hell did this happen?” she wailed. “I thought I looked pretty good. But if I saw me on the street, I’d say ‘That woman is in her mid-sixties.’ I wouldn’t mind if I was in my mid-sixties. I’m 58. What am I doing wrong??” I knew exactly what she was asking.
Studies show that Boomer women don’t necessarily want to look younger. We understand that once we hit fifty and beyond, we’ll never be mistaken for thirty-five again. Many women have tried. Most have failed miserably, looking like caricatures of their original selves. Hollywood is a shining lesson in “What could go wrong??” attempts to recapture youth. (Google Meg Ryan, Mickey Rourke, Goldie Hawn, Kenny Rogers, Priscilla Presley, or Cat Woman. I’m so cancelling my next Botox appointment.)
Even if we could take a decade or so off our faces (with a perennial money tree in our back yard and a licensed plastic surgeon on speed-dial), the lined skin on our hands and chests, the cellulite on our thighs, and the matronly widening of our hips, all shout out to the world “Yes, you little Twinkie, I’m old.” But intelligent Boomers are letting go of the depressing and futile chase to regain lost youth, and are now claiming to want to look simply more vibrant, more “awake.” Less weathered, less tired. This is actually easier than you think.
If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person staring back at you, or you’ve ever been told that you and your mother look like sisters (yes, your mother is beautiful, but the fact is, she’s at least twenty years older than you. Ouch), consider changing a few habits that can make you look beyond your years. Yes, you can be gorgeous at seventy, when you’re seventy. But if you’re sixty at that time, consider dumping these habits:
Using the same skincare products you’ve used for years. The skin you had in college is not the same as the skin you have as a grandmother. Over time, our skin gets thinner and more fragile. Years of environmental damage, alcohol, stress, smoking, fatigue, tanning beds, and questionable lifestyle choices can turn our faces into topographical maps of the Himalayas. Women will sometimes say things like “I love my lines. They show a life lived.” (Call me shallow, but I don’t want every dumb thing I did during my misspent youth outed to the world from my face before we’ve been introduced.) Teenage skincare products won’t do a thing to put the glow back in skin that resembles a wizened Tunisian goat herder. Get anti-aging skincare products from any of the heavy hitters (Lauder, Lancome, Clinique, Kiehl’s), and your skin will keep your secrets, well…secret.
Not exfoliating your skin. Exfoliation is The Key to making everything else you do actually work. Dead skin cells lie on your face like a shingle roof. You don’t want that. Products can’t get in. $85 for a night cream that’s not absorbed into the skin will just give you expensive pillow cases. Toxins can’t get out. They sit there for weeks and screw with your collagen levels, hydration, and cell turnover (all essential to healthy, gorgeous skin). The result is dull, patchy skin that many women try to resolve with makeup. Can’t be done. The problem isn’t your makeup. It’s the skin underneath it. Exfoliate gently every day. You’re not refinishing a coffee table, so elbow grease is not required. Virtually any exfoliating product will work, but the simplest and cheapest method is to use an exfoliating mitt, available at drugstores. You can use it in the shower. Slip it on. squeeze on a dollop of your favorite body wash, and gently massage your face for about fifteen seconds. Use the leftover suds on the rest of your body. And there you go. Skin like a baby’s booty. This one will make a more dramatic and immediate difference than anything else you can do.
Using sunscreen only during the summer. When you’re at the beach. Sun damage can occur any time or any day of the year. Summer sun (UVB rays) and winter sun (UVA rays) are both capable of turning your skin into an old boot. The is an equal-opportunity skin enemy. It doesn’t care what you’re doing in it. Whether you’re lying on the beach with a space blanket and baby oil, or going outside to walk your dog, if you’re not practicing safe sun, it will show up on your face. And UVA rays are sneaky little skin wreckers. They lull you with false beliefs, calling you, assuring you that they can’t do any damage because it’s February. And it’s snowing. They’re lying. Find a good sunscreen, in at least a 15 SPF, and make it part of your morning routine. Don’t look outside or Google the weather forecast for the day. It doesn’t matter. Wear your sunscreen. Every. Single. Day. Rain or shine. You’ll kill it at your 50th high school reunion.
Avoiding hair color products. After fifty, our hair color begins to lose it’s vibrancy. It fades and goes “mousy.” The beautiful pale hair you had growing up is now dishwater blonde. Your gorgeous rich chocolate color has become rodent-brown. Your stunning jet black is now more faded charcoal. If you’re feeling adventurous, this is a fun time to experiment with something new. (You’re sixty. You get to do whatever the hell you want.) Bleach it blonde. Try a fabulous shade of red. Add a little burgundy to your black. If you’re a nature baby, get a product designed to cover just the gray. Hair color products have come a long way, and can actually get your hair in better shape than it was before. They’ll add shine, depth, and light-play to your hair. Boom. 30-minute “youth-er-izer.” (My new word. Don’t you love it?)
Wearing the same makeup you’ve always worn. In the same colors. Clothing trends change. So do makeup trends. And new products arrive almost daily. Many makeup products now also work as skin care products, simplifying our morning routines. This isn’t about jumping on every dramatic trend you see on overpaid tweener fashion models (cat’s eye liner, iridescent blue eyeshadow) who wear stupid fleece boots with their Daisy Duke shorts. It’s about being open to trying new colors and products that work with your age and your skin at this moment. If you’re in a makeup rut, go to Nordstrom, Macy’s, Sephora, or Ulta and find a salesclerk in the cosmetic department who wears makeup that appeals to you, and have her do yours. It’s a free service. Yes, she’ll probably try to upsell you on more products than you need or want. That’s her job. But you don’t have to buy everything she shows you. They don’t expect you to. And who knows? Maybe you’ll finally find that elusive, but perfect lipstick.
Now you can say, “This is what 58 looks like.” And it’s fabulous.