A new study of 2200 British women by Cosmetify showed that women feel their most confident at 45 with 61% saying they look and feel 5-10 years younger than they are.
I could have told you that. In your twenties you don't appreciate your youth, in your thirties you're typically focused on career or children, but your forties? That's when you refocus on yourself, hone your style and amplify your best assets.
Here's what I know about the art of looking ageless: it’s not about the pursuit of youth, being wrinkle-free, having the latest haircut. Nor is it about following ‘anti-ageing’ rules.
There’s a difference between getting older and growing older: at 45, I feel more youthful than I did 15 years ago. Not only that, when I look back at pictures, I prefer the way I look now. Most of its down to eating well (ish), stressing less, enjoying life, working smarter.
Some of it is down to the superficial stuff: hair, skin, nails, brows. As with all things in life, when it comes to your beauty routine, it's the small things done well that make the difference.
With each year, I grow more into myself. I've embraced my flaws instead of trying to cover them up, and I use products that make me feel good, regardless of whether they’re age-appropriate. Not to mention, it's the women my age, and older, that are the new beauty role models.
Jennifer Lopez, Victoria Beckham, Louise Redknapp, Kate Moss, Amal Clooney, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman all look as good, if not better, than they did 10 years ago. And that's just the famous ones. When I look around at the women I know over 40, there's an agelessness about them that I aspire to. Heck, there's never been a better time to get older.
Indeed women over 40 are taking care of themselves more holistically than in previous generations. They put the work in at the gym, they eat well in moderation, they continue to pursue their careers, travel more, laugh more. Perhaps most importantly, they're no longer chasing youth - it's actually passé to obliterate lines. Indeed, radiance is the thing that beauty companies are focusing on now, not wrinkles.
Of course, one's beauty routine is a key part of maintaining a youthful glow. These are the six things I believe are the secret to looking and feeling radiant at every age.
Six ways to youth-proof your face and body over-40
1. Keep your hair age-fluid
The idea that after a certain age, your hair should go shorter, blonder, more ‘age-appropriate’ went out with the Blair administration.
Whether I go shorter, darker, bigger, bolder, my hair mantra is grown-up with a playful twist – working with what I’ve got, not against it. A former blow-dry addict, I’ve embraced my natural waves, concentrating on a glossy texture with movement.
Something my hairdresser, George Northwood, instilled in me is that ‘youthful hair moves and breathes’. I have since ditched my long choppy layers for a mid-length cut with blunt ends, the foundation from which I adapt to trends by going up and down a few inches, adding invisible layers or a sweeping fringe depending on how I feel.
I use a cleansing conditioner instead of shampoo: Purely Perfect Cleansing Creme, £35, takes care of frizz without a separate conditioner. Styling demands the lightest touch: I rarely use more than a smoothing spray to take care of flyaways, for which Elnett Satin Heat Protect Styling Spray, £6, is my go-to.
When the weather calls for it, Color Wow Dream Coat Supernatural Sealant, £22, deals with puffy hair by dehumidifying without the oil-slick finish.
2. Feel-good skincare = radiance
I’m 45, and, in theory, I ‘should’ be using anti-ageing creams. I don’t. I have just three criteria: Does the texture of a product feel good? Is the scent uplifting? Does it make my skin glow with health? Clever make-up, glossy hair and a sharp dress-sense will take care of the rest.
My only rule: cleansing is everything. The white t-shirt of my skincare wardrobe, Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Solution for Sensitive Skin, £10.80, melts off make-up effortlessly.
I follow with Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser Conditioning Face Wash, £15, which leaves my skin baby soft, not without that tight and squeaky-clean feel. In winter, I go for something richer like an oil cleanser - Origins Clean Energy Gentle Cleansing Oil, £23.50, is my repeat buy.
Environment proofing my skin with an anti-oxidant serum is my only extravagance – I’m married to SkinsCeuticals C E Ferulic, £129, because it’s potent without being irritating.
Then, I pamper with aromatherapy face oils. I toy between Aveda Stress-Fix, £24, and Beautifying, £24, composition oils, which both infuse skin with a luxury spa scent. Finally, if my skin looks hung-over, I brighten with an exfoliator; try Lancer The Method: Polish Exfoliator, £62.70.
3. Smart train
Confession: I’m one of those annoying types that loves the gym. It wasn’t always this way. I used to drag myself to the treadmill, counting the clock and the calories burned with a glass of post-run Malbec on my mind.
Then it all changed once I got smart about the way I train. Since adding variety and challenge into my workouts, it’s raised my game.
I now incorporate strength and conditioning work such as skipping, weights and sprints with the functionality of training movements like bear crawls, squats and plyometrics – aka jump training. How does this translate into looking younger? I have more energy, better posture and a less floppy backside.
From boxing classes to weight training, the variety of exercise I now do is challenging, confidence-boosting and a blast. Start with a skipping rope in your front room, or try a boxing class at your local gym.
4. Underplay your base and let your skin glow
The best make-up advice I’ve ever been given came courtesy of Bobbi Brown:, ‘As you get older, use more concealer and less foundation and you’ll never look overly made up.’ This expert nugget has changed my game.
Now, I own a capsule concealer collection with light reflectors, colour correctors and spot cover-ups. I start on blemishes by blending a pin prick of opaque cover- up, like Estée Lauder Stay-in-Place High Cover Concealer, £23.50.
If I’m looking tired, I apply an under-eye brightener or colour corrector like Bobbi Brown Tinted Eye Brightener, £23, to knock back dark circles, then add underneath the lightest layer of creamy concealer – I recommend Bobbi Brown Long- Wear Concealer, £23 and Amazing Concealer Illuminate, £15.
From this point, I tend to need no more than a see-through tint of base. Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint, £20, is my favourite for add barely-there radiance. For a teeny bit more coverage, Chanel's Vitalumière Aqua, £34, is my favourite.
5. Groom nails and brows
Nails and brows are my two big- hitters; the perennial standing appointments that never go unattended. For nails, I’ve adopted a Parisian palette: red, neutral or dark, as each of these shades seamlessly transition between work, leisure and evening. I’m devoted to gel manicures, as they keep my nails glossy and chip-free for at least a fortnight.
But if you’re not prone to chips, like me, Essie Nail Colour in 64 Fifth Avenue, £8.99, is my ultimate timeless red. Eyebrow grooming is, in my humble opinion, the single best bang for your buck, as shaping and tinting brows lifts the face in ways that Botox never could, giving a certain gravitas that says, ‘notice me’ in a discreet kind of way.
In between appointments, I think of tinted brow gel as the killer heels of make-up; the final accessory. Benefit 3D Browtones Eyebrow Enhancer, £20, and Glossier Boy Brow, £14, both give the natural look.
6. Always throw a little something ‘off’
The final element to looking just young enough is to channel a certain nonchalance. Leave something undone, off-key, imperfect and I adopt this attitude into most of my beauty routine.
When it comes to hair colour, I will often leave the roots or the underneath of my hair a smidgen darker, adding a hint of masculinity against the prettiness that blonde brings.
When I put my hair up, I’ll craft it perfectly, but then pull out a few stray hairs or dishevel my parting a touch, because there’s something stiff and controlling (and thus ageing) about doing everything just-so. My make-up go-to is black liquid eyeliner against a fresh dewy complexion. Though I've recently become attached to a bright lip.
Yet, I’ll throw a thin layer of Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Eyeliner, £17, over the top, just on the inner corners, so it sparkles under the light. Think of this kind of playfulness like a frayed hem, a ruffled sleeve, a splash of embellishment upon your trainers or the peekaboo bright lining of a jacket.
To me, this element of spontaneity is the epitome of feeling youthful. Find your beauty vibe and have fun with it.