Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Aging Gracefully (plus a giveaway!)

I've never been one to spend a lot of time on my looks. When I first tried make-up as a teenager I felt like I was pretending to be someone I wasn't. (This was in the days of blue eyeshadow...) And I didn't want to waste time trying to make it look right. I just wanted to get up and do the basic shower and deodorant, run a brush through my hair and be on my way. A good haircut, to my mind, is one that looks halfway decent without requiring styling. When my big sister put highlights in her hair I scoffed, "I'll never dye my hair."

Lesson learned: never say never. Also, never scoff at your big sister. She doesn't forget a thing.

Undeniably in my forties now, I've truly never felt better, but my perspective on certain things has changed. I still don't style my hair, but could I maybe stop it from thinning so much? Still don't want to wear make-up, but I now accept the need to moisturize. And if I'm going to moisturize every morning, might it be a good idea to find a product that also evens my skin tone? And, what the heck is my skin tone, anyway? I stopped reading those articles in Teen magazine when I was 15.

And also, fashion. Help! When I was younger I knew what was in, and I either wore it or didn't. Now I know what's in, but if I wear that I'll look ridiculous. How are forty year old women supposed to dress these days? Not like my mom did at forty, that's for sure. (Now a lovely seventy-something, Mom wouldn't be caught dead in those clothes either.) When I shop, I see skinny teen clothes and old-lady-on-a-cruise-ship clothes. I don't see a clothing section that reflects who I am.

Here are two books that offer different perspectives on aging beautifully without resorting to drastic measures like plastic surgery.
Bobbi Brown's Living Beauty adds quotes from and lots of pictures of real-looking women in their forties and up. There's also a chapter on dealing with menopause, and another on late-life pregnancy (not to be an issue chez Worducopia, I trust). The sections on eating right and clothing choices are brief, while more of the 204 pages are allotted to those fun "before and after" makeover pictures and problem-solving tips for things like darkness under the eyes, uneven skin tone, and droopy eyelids.

Charla Krupp's How Not to Look Old deals with similar issues but with a no-nonsense "You don't want to wear that, darling," tone that readers will either find refreshingly honest or mildly judgmental, depending on their own perspective. Krupp has been Beauty Editor for Glamour magazine, and offers specific advice: lists of clothes that look dated and "forbidden fashion items for every woman past the age of thirty;" products for everything from skin care to tooth whiteners; and three levels of interventions for various beauty issues. Both of these books prominently feature women of different shades and ethnic backgrounds but How Not to Look Old gives more specific advice for women of color.

So, what kind of time do you spend on your beauty routine, and has that changed as you've gotten older? Do you care about looking chic or hip? Does your mom/aunt/grandma/daughter?

All comments about this topic (hint: Do you want a free book isn't the topic) will be entered to win one of these books! (if you're interested in one and not the other, let me know). Hachette Book Group is offering three copies of each, to readers --or their moms, wives or grandmas!--with U.S. or Canadian mailing addresses (sorry, no P.O. boxes, please). Winners will be chosen by random drawing on May 4th.


  1. You sound a lot like me. I don't color my hair and don't bother with make-up much. I do use moisturizer with sunscreen religiously, though. milou2ster(at)

  2. Shower, moisturize head to toe (very dry climate), blowdry my very short hair - done :).

    Once in a while, a quick bit of makeup -- seldom enough that it's fun when I wear it, not a chore.

    My new routine is to use a nighttime moisturizer on my face, neck, and upper chest - I found one that feels lovely to my skin. I do use sunscreen now, but didn't in my 20's and early 30's, and the sun damage shows now :(.

    I don't care about looking chic or hip, but I do know what style clothes work best on my figure and I choose those. (It's amazing the difference something as simple as going from a rounded-neck shirt to a v-neck shirt can make to my appearance!)

    My mom's definitely more stylish and girly than I -- it's always been that way tho, and I don't mind.

  3. I used blue eyeshadow a couple of times as a teen. NOT pretty!

  4. You sound a lot like me too. I do have some makeup that I wear occasionally, and it's very subtle. Purple eyeshadow doesn't sound like it would be subtle, but oddly enough it works on me. I have dark brown eyes and my lashes and and brows are dark on their own. I can't explain it, but it works.

    I've always thought it would be fun to go on a makeover show and see what they could do with me.

  5. You are so funny, Ali! Especially about the fashion.

    I wanted to stop by and tell you there is an award waiting for you at my blog:

  6. Two words: Eye Cream
    Luckily, I have no gray in my hair, at age "closer to 50 than I want to be". Maybe it's because I "highlight" all my hair every 6 weeks or so?
    p.s. there's a No Makeup rule at the lake! But moisturizer is o.k.
    Love, Ka

  7. I always liked playing with make-up as a child, but the older I get the less I want to deal with getting all dressed up. But I walk a fine line of not wanting to scare the people I work with either! I want to instill in my young daughter as well as my son that beauty is only skin-deep. Easier said than done.

  8. My hairstylist says I'm about one of 5 of her clients that doesn't color their hair! I guess I just never think of doing it.

    I do wear makeup generally and fix my hair, but I would love some tips as I get, um, older.

  9. I also just turned 40.. (shhh) and apparently had no idea there was a dress code, lol.