Without exception, every single conversation I have ever had with women in their mid forties about how they look always goes along the same lines. Aside from the few who feel nothing short of major plastic surgery, both of the medical and financial kind will do, most women feel just OK. The majority of us wish that there was a fairy god mother for the forty somethings who would come along and tell us exactly what clothes to wear to make us look fashionable without looking ridiculous, tell us exactly what haircut and colour would best enhance our newly aging complexion and who would put us through our make up paces so we could emerge looking honed and buffed whilst also managing dignified and elegant.
At this stage it’s often a bit too late to reverse damage that’s already been done. We were the generation that back in the day used to worship the sun and even went as far as putting cooking oil on our skins because someone told us it would make us tan better (you know who you are!!). According to the experts now, sun damage is the single most powerful cause of skin aging. Who knew? We thought it made us look fabulous and soaked up as many rays as we could. Still, better late than never. Bearing in mind that statistically we still have another 40 years to go it is definitely worth investing in a moisturer with a good SPF of 30 or more. There are several on the market but to be honest sometimes a decent sun cream is just as good. Put it on under your normal day time moisturiser and hey presto – you will hardly age a day from now on!!
Do remember to always cleanse you skin at night. I personally am not a fan of expensive products, not because I have anything against them but mainly because I am not sure how effective they are. However, a good cleansing routine will rid your skin of all the debris it’s accumulated during the day and also help to exfoliate dead skin giving a fresher look. Some people like a wash type cleanser where as some prefer the cleanse, tone and moisturise routine. Either works fine. The trick is to find a routine that suits you so that you will actually keep it up. Finish with a good eye cream and night cream and you’re done. Off to get some beauty sleep which will make more difference that all the expensive jars of cream in the world.
Don’t forget to moisturise your hands too. Hands age quickly and are subject to a lot of abuse. Keep a jar of hand cream handy in the kitchen and try to get into the habit of using it when you have finished washing up especially if you don’t use rubber gloves.
Think hard about your make up and hair colour. We all get stuck in a rut and just because light blue eyeliner is all the rage on the catwalks again do not mean it still suits you. It is really, really important to invest in a good foundation. Again there are loads of excellent mid range brands on the market costing anywhere from ten to thirty pounds. You are not aiming for something to ‘give you a bit of colour’ but something to even out your skin tone and smooth away or detract from any age spots or fine lines. Now is definitely the time to move away from heavy coverage to light (or medium if you have to). Heavy foundations will only accentuate lines and wrinkles and give you a finish like a melting wax work.
Use soft tone shadows which have very minimal sheen if you are using eye shadow at all. Harsh, strong colours do nothing for maturing skin and will make you look hard. A soft line along your top lid (brown, grey) will open up your eyes and make sure your mascara is not of the thick and clumpy variety or the effect will be weirder insect instead of elegant and well groomed. If you want you can use a soft line on your bottom lid also but again this has to be well done, tapering off towards your inner lid.
Eyebrows are a key feature. If you have never bothered too much with yours go and have them done properly. Get them reshaped and tinted and I promise it will make you look like you have had a mini face lift. The effect is astonishing. Invest in a good eyebrow brush and pencil and use them. Eyebrows frame your face and as your eyes start to sink a bit, well groomed eyebrows will lift them and make them look wider and more open.
In order to give yourself a bit of ‘bloom’ use a soft creamy blusher and gently blend it into the apple of your cheeks. Long gone are the days of cerise pink powder blusher to give us cheekbones like razor blades. Great when we were 18 but seriously – in our 40’s? Definitely not. Bin it and while you’re at it bin the bronzer too. Most bronzers are too orange and too addictive and one cannot stop with bronzer once one has started and the risk of looking like a bad joke is very real!
This is the age where lip lines start to appear and lips start to thin. Do invest in a good neutral colour lip liner. For some people this may conjure up negative 80’s images of strongly lined lips aka Boy George. However, as your natural lipline starts to disappear and lipstick starts to bleed a bit, a nude or very nearly nude lip liner will really help to cerate the illusion of plumpness and help to stop your lipstick/gloss bleeding. Soft lip colours are again a must. Anything with too strong a pigment will make your teeth look yellow and make the whole effect quite garish. For day time a little bit of gloss is lovely but remember little is the key word. Do not go for the ‘drippy lip’ effect. Not only will you collect a number of small insects on your lips but you will look like you’re trying too hard. For special occasions or indeed if you have the time on a more regular basis, using a proper lip brush to apply lipstick is a great way to achieve brilliant lips.
What a mine field! If we keep it too long we look haggard. If we cut it too short we look masculine at best or like an extra from Prisoner Cell Block H at worst. If we have it in between we risk looking like our mothers 20 years too early. When you are deciding on a new hair style and looking in all the magazines for inspiration remember that something that seems funky and quirky on a 20 something will, most probably, make you look mumsy. You need to decide how much work you are prepared to put into the style on daily basis yourself and how the hairstyle will fit your lifestyle. Generally speaking, as with make up, a soft style is better as opposed to one with too many angles or spikes. And be careful with heavy fringes – they look cute on young girls and women but do not necessarily translate well into middle age.
If you are in a rut with your hair take the plunge and go and find a new hairdresser even just for one cut. It will be quite an adventure. Research well, ask friends, have consultations, even stop people on the street and ask them who their hairdresser is if you like the style (they’ll be thrilled with the compliment!). A new hairdresser will have no preconceptions about you and will look at your hair from a fresh angle. This should result in a great new look and if it backfires and turns out badly – well, hair grows!
Soft, soft, soft! Skin looses pigment as it ages and therefore harsh hair colours will be very draining. Hair that’s too dark or has too much ‘block’ colour will make you look pale and ill. Even hair that’s too blonde will have a detrimental effect on your skin tone making your skin look bleached too. Speak to your hairdresser. You will probably want something that covers grey at this point but that looks warm, healthy and natural. Hair colour technology is always improving so it is worth speaking to someone who is a colour expert (a colourist) as opposed to a run of the mill hairdresser. If you embark on the colour journey it is important to maintain it regularly. Grey roots will do nothing for your new found fabulousness and colour that is dull and fading will have exactly the same effect on you!
Choosing clothes in your mid forties can be the most soul destroying of experiences. We tend to fall back on what we know but this can be very boring. It’s probably fair to say that now would be the time to invest in some classics. A good pair of tailored trousers, a well cut coat and jacket and a wardrobe full of neutral colours which will flatter and compliment. Avoid cute or hippy – these look good from behind but from the front you will look dated and jaded as if you’ve been stuck in some girlie time warp. The same goes for anything too quirky or ‘out there’ as that will simply make you look silly and draw looks of ridicule from people on the street. On a positive note, this is an age where you can leave high fashion behind with the absolute certainty that you are better off without it. Women in their middle forties look great in classic, well made clothes that have nothing to do with catwalk hysteria. Don’t get me wrong, a nod to the fashionistas will make a classic outfit look bang up to date. This is how shoes, bags, scarves and other accessories will serve you from here on in and where you will be able to indulge any edgy side you might secretly miss!
Underwear is hugely important. If you have never done it before go now and have a bra fitted. Most women are wearing the wrong bra size and when you get it right it is a revelation. Like eyebrows, having the right support in the boob area is like having a body lift and clothes suddenly look so much better. Realistically, you can no longer get away with cheap and pretty in the bust market and therefore need to go for expensive but worth it!
There is no way around this – we need fewer calories as we get older. However only about 200 or so less so it’s not the end of the world. Fat goes on in the most bizarre places when you reach your mid forties, under your arms, on top of your knees and even on your feet! Most women complain of not so much weight gain as a ‘thickening ‘around the middle which is very hard to shift. Re-appraising your diet at this time is definitely a good idea. Try to (generally speaking) eat a diet low in saturated fat and high in fruit, vegetables and fibre. You don’t have to be too hard on yourself though. I have a friend who maintains a really healthy weight. She swears by eating functionally during the week, i.e. just what she needs with little treats and letting it all go at the weekend. If you’re honest with yourself, you probably have enough experience of your own body by now to know what you’re doing wrong. Now is the time to put it right – not only will you look much better but it will help to stave off many of those illnesses which we saw our parents’ generation suffer from too early. Watch your portion sizes. Remember you’re not cooking for strapping teenagers anymore! Learn to eat smaller portions and force yourself to eat them slowly. By doing this you will drop weight whilst still eating the foods you enjoy – simply less of them.
This may be a good time to start thinking about what you are putting into your mouth versus the amount of exercise you do! If you are a recently free mum (i.e. kids not long left home) then all the previous old excuses of having no time no longer apply!
The most important thing about exercise is to find something that fits into your day to day life and that you enjoy. Do not fall into the trap of believing that in order to get good results you have to go to a gym. This is rubbish and I personally hate the gym! Walking is excellent and it is also free. If you can rope a few other women in with you it’s very sociable as well. Check out swimming times at your local pool – often they have ladies only sessions or aqua fit which these days can be quite challenging. Some women pursue pass times which have been on the back burner for ages whilst the children were still around. Golf, badminton, tennis – try it out, take a few lessons and join in. You’ll feel fantastic after a good bout of exercise I promise. There is not pill in the world that will give you a high the same as the endorphin one you get from pushing yourself and it will improve your skin, hair and nails and confidence as well as making you fit and fab!