Take inspiration from the fashion pack and embrace your mid and late 40s, a powerful new demographic for the beauty industry, says Sarah Halliwell
These days, there are two camps: you either “Love your Age”, in the spirit of Judi Dench – or you fight every visible sign of it tooth and nail, with every bit of tech and cosmetic trickery at your disposal. Our 40s are certainly a new zone, beauty-wise. We can only laugh hollowly when 30-year-olds talk anxiously about wrinkles – because it’s at 45-plus that your face really starts to change. It takes longer to ease the transition from pillow face to face-the-world face. The creases stay put for longer, your joyful years of sun-worshipping turn to dark clouds across your face, and a vicious tornado of hormones suck the life and moisture from your skin.
But it’s not all bad. The words “anti-ageing” have, at last, fallen out of fashion, as beauty companies realise we don’t actually believe in turning back time, or that getting older is somehow a bad thing. Mintel research shows that sales of facial anti-ageing products declined last year, with “multi-benefit” products taking over from speciality ones. It’s still a billion-dollar industry, but it has a subtle new language: Slow Age (Vichy); bareMinerals’ Ageless Genius; and Drops of Youth (The Body Shop). The promise is still that you will look younger. Endless press releases discuss “decelerating age”, “intercepting ageing at its source”, and looking “just young enough”. I test gallons of creams sworn to “reverse” the signs of ageing. Beneath all these serums, surely, I should look 25. But the fact is, I’m 47, and won’t be looking 20 again any time soon, whatever serum I drench my face in. And that’s fine. Our choice is to chase eternal youth down a narrow corridor – sign up for every lift, light-blast and injectable going – or take the path less bothered. Anyone who even glances at social media, with its daily bombardment of airbrushed faces, could become depressed about the lines and lack of elasticity in one’s own face. In a recent interview, actress Romola Garai talked about not getting the young parts any more – she’s 35.
The fact is, of course, it’s a privilege to grow old. “We can’t slow the process down, it’s about managing it,” notes Irish beauty entrepreneur Roz Martin. We’d rather learn how to make the most of what we have, whatever age we are. Which eye pencils stay on, despite saggy eyelids (the term is “hooded” when applied to Charlotte Rampling or Kate Moss. It’s all in the terminology). Which creams hydrate skin properly so it looks as healthy as it can, and which lipsticks look best on thinner, more lined lips – for example, the liquid metallics popular with teens will, as a rule, do nothing for you (so drying); the soft “blurred” lip looks for spring are far more flattering (do not miss Chanel’s moisturising Lip Blush for both lips and cheeks). The products I recommend are only those I have tried and honestly rate.
My mother-in-law says that her 40s were her favourite time – you’re more sure of who you are, less concerned with what others think. And that positivity should seep into all aspects of life. If you’ve always admired the French aesthetic of pulled-back make-up and insouciant red lips, now’s the time to muster the necessary panache. Take inspiration from Emmanuelle Alt of French Vogue: “I see myself changing in the mirror in the elevator every day … But I’m so against surgery. I can tell you for sure I will never do anything to my face. Who would you want to convince you’re ten years younger? Who do you care about? The people who know you, they know your age, so deal with it!” At a beauty counter a few years ago, I was told I couldn’t wear winged eyeliner. Which only made me want to wear it more, like a recalcitrant teenager. And if I want to tip my lashes in Christian Louboutin’s red mascara – fierce, and appealingly rebellious – I shall. The whole beauty of beauty is that it has no rules. If you’re ever in doubt, look at Iris Apfel, the 96-year-old champion of brilliant colour in both clothes and make-up. “Beauty is largely in your head,” she says. “Confidence is very important. No matter how pretty you are, if you look ill at ease in your own skin, then you’re not going to look so beautiful. I think serenity can be a large part of someone’s beauty.” Experiment, be daring – and above all, be yourself.