How Not to Look Your Age
I'm one of the nearly 40 million American women who were born between 1946 and 1964. Once upon a time, we women of the baby boomer generation burned our bras, shunned our mothers’ make-up, celebrated free love and overturned sexist stereotypes—or at least tried to.
Now, alas, time has caught up with us. We’ve discovered that, no matter how smart or talented or experienced we are, we have two strikes against us: We’re no longer young, and we’re living in a youth-oriented culture.
Enter Charla Krupp, a fashion and style expert and the former editor of Glamour magazine. Krupp is rallying boomer women to wake up and smell the ageism. And rather than fight a losing battle against our culture’s emphasis on youth, she counsels women to get over it and get practical. Do we want to stay in the game? Keeping up with appearances is the name of the game. Her battle cry? “Aging sucks—do something about it.”
Krupp is the author of the best-selling book, How Not to Look Old: Fast and Effortless Ways to Look 10 Years Younger, 10 Pounds Lighter, 10 Times Better as well as the upcoming How To Never Look Fat Again (scheduled for release next month).
As Krupp sees it, America’s youth obsession means women over 40 can’t afford to let themselves look like old ladies (or “OL” for short); we have to keep looking “Y&H,” or young and hip. She writes, “We’re going to fight aging and we’re going to look great doing it.” To Krupp, this fight isn’t about vanity—it’s a survival skill, especially for mature women in a Darwinian job market.
“Keeping a youthful appearance isn’t about getting a man or clinging to a relationship,” she told me in a recent interview. “It’s a way to remain competitive in the workplace.” Krupp stresses that the goal is to look fresh and up-to-date, not to pretend you’re still 20. “It’s about looking fresh, current, ageless,” she says. “You want the world to know you’re not past your expiration date.”
Krupp’s book is, essentially, a cheat sheet for mature women. She covers hair, skin, clothing and accessories in a breezy, easy-to-read format that includes quizzes, celeb close-up photos and hundreds of sidebars with handy tips. (Did you know you should tweeze your eyebrows after a hot shower, avoid dark lipstick, grow bangs and wear shapewear under everything?)
It’s a great read—one that inspired us to seek out local experts who also make a living fighting the lines of age. They had some savvy advice of their own. (We stopped short of plastic surgery, but there’s much you can do before you decide to take that step.)
Love the Skin You’re in
Anne Casanova-Schumacher understands the subtle interplay of make-up and skin. She’s Saks Fifth Avenue’s Chanel beauty specialist and a former theatrical make-up artist. “As you age, your skin changes; your skincare products should change too,” she advises. Before you change, consult the experts. “Let them evaluate your skin. They’ll find the right products and routine to enhance your appearance. Look for products with hydration and firming features.”
When it comes to foundation basics, Casanova-Schumacher says, “We try to match a woman’s face and neck color. My mature clients tend to go too dark. If you want to look young, keep it light!” A hint of bronze on the forehead, nose and chin can work wonders, but for blush, less is always best. “Women over 40 shouldn’t apply a stripe of blush across their cheeks,” she says. “It makes them look too gaunt. A touch of color on the cheeks gives the appearance of plumpness or youth.”
She adds that the eyes are the face’s focal point—and the first thing people look at. “Don’t neglect your eyelashes. Eyelash extension treatments create long and lustrous lashes that last for months.” If you wear eye liner or shadow, once again, less is more. “Your eyeliner should be thinner and mainly on top lash only, although a soft line on the bottom lash can create a kind of a shelf for the eye—and give it more contour.” Casanova-Schumacher says to use eye cream before applying a concealer. “If you do it the other way around, the concealer layers on the skin instead of blending in,” she says. She also recommends using a concealer that’s slightly darker than your foundation. “If you want to avoid the raccoon look, that’s the way to go.”
Cheryl Panebianco, spa manager at Body & Spirit Day Spa, says the right foundation is, well, foundational. She recommends Jane Iredale skincare products. “Their blend of water-resistant minerals and pigments allows the skin to breathe and protects it from toxins,” she says. “It’s a light-reflective cosmetic that obscures fine lines and wrinkles and gives the skin a healthy, youthful glow.” After applying foundation, she recommends a hydrating spray to “set the mineral bases and further conceal pores and fine lines.” To find what works best for you, keep experimenting.
Sandra M. Day, president of NeoDerm Aesthetics, says that routine skin maintenance is a must for mature women. A daily skin care regimen should include topical application of an antioxidant product that “permeates the top layer of skin and helps reverse the sun damage of youth.” According to Day, these multi-tasking products also improve surface texture, correct blotchy skin tone and promote healthier skin.
She adds that periodic (every six to eight weeks) anti-aging skin care facial treatments are imperative. These include exfoliation, micro-dermabrasion, photorejuvenation or a higher-level chemical peel. Some treatments produce no downtime; others require juggling your schedule. But it’s worth it. “You can compare effective skin care to dental hygiene or hair styling,” says Day. “Professional care amplifies the results of your home care. You do it daily and we boost it.”
Day is also a strong believer in injectable therapies. “The new generation of injectables creates an awesome rejuvenation of appearance,” she says. “They’re the next best thing to invasive and highly expensive surgical procedures.” Wrinkle fillers are one wonder product. Day says they provide instant gratification in restoring lost facial volume; benefits also include lifting the nasolabial fold (that deep groove from the corner of the nose to the lip) and the marionette lines at the mouth’s corners. Results can last more than a year. She adds, “If you’re concerned about deeply furrowed frown lines or crow’s feet, muscle relaxer injections are worth the investment. You can still express yourself, but without the lines and wrinkles of repetitive facial gestures.”
The Amazing Laser
There’s no Fountain of Youth. Fortunately, there is science. In the hands of Dr. David J. Holcomb, the laser is a tool for good—and good looks. One of the newest procedures is Acculift. Holcomb describes it in layman’s terms. “It’s a new laser-assisted, facial contouring procedure that allows us to selectively remove the fat that’s descended in various areas of the face and leads to the features of aging.” (He’s talking about jowls, baggy eyes, sagging cheeks and turkey necks.) The procedure removes fat, though it doesn’t tighten skin. It’s not a true facelift, though the results are “essentially permanent.” The laser liquefies subcutaneous fat deposits; a cannula (think of it as a tiny straw) drains the fat; a small suture closes the incision.
“Essentially, it’s laser-assisted micro-liposuction,” Holcomb says. Apart from a pinprick, Acculift is non-invasive—and almost instantaneous. Unlike laser resurfacing and other procedures, Acculift rarely results in any bruising, swelling or downtime. “There’s only local anesthesia,” notes Holcomb. “It’s a completely outpatient procedure. Some of my clients go out on their first night.”
Those Glasses Make You Look Young
Real-life grannies should avoid granny glasses, says Sharon Katzman, founder and president of IOptics, a hip area eyewear boutique. “Rimless frames can be aging and boring,” she says. “Color enlivens skin tones. Frames in bright colors make you look young.” While mature women may be champions, Katzman advises them to avoid the colors of Olympic medals. “Bronze, silver and gold tend to age us.” To find the right frame, try as many as possible and get expert help. She adds that, when it comes to you, the No. 1 expert is you. “Do you like what you see in the mirror? Your selection should make you smile in approval!”
Top sins for over-40 four-eyes? Katzman is quick on the draw. “Don’t wear scratched lenses you can barely see through. Don’t wear two to three pairs of glasses around your neck. Don’t let your husband borrow your purple reading glasses to read the menu. Buy a cool black pair of readers for yourself and let him get his own.”
New Clothes, New You
Dress your age, says Sally Schule, general manager of Sarasota’s Saks Fifth Avenue. “After age 40, stop trying to dress like you’re 20. Classic sophistication is best.” If your birthday is a closely guarded secret, Schule advises you to shun trends (“Just because leggings are in, not every 60-year-old should wear them”) and dress to emphasize your best features. “Clothes are an extension of who you are,” she says. “Your wardrobe shouldn’t be a challenge. Wear your clothes; don’t let your clothes wear you. What you wear should say this is me—and truly celebrate the real you.” Above all, find your signature style—and stick with it. “Mine is black! Identify your best look and build on that,” she says.
Wendy Getchell, the owner of Lotus, a clothing and gift emporium, says great fashion is the first line of defense for mature women. “Build a wardrobe of good quality classic styles; add a few current fashion pieces every season,” she says. “Subscribe to and read at least one fashion magazine every month; this will help you keep current and young.”
Lee Anne Swor, owner of L. Boutique in Sarasota, likes to keep it simple. “Elegance never goes out of style,” she says. Like Schule, Swor says it’s time to get off the fashion merry-go-round. “Timeless style is great; trying to stay trendy is strictly high school. Don’t try to wear everything you see in magazines. If you think it’s too short, too revealing or too tight, it probably is. What works for a model isn’t meant for everyone.”
What does work? Don’t think in bits and pieces—create a total package. “People look at the whole person—not just the features you’re unhappy with.” Be comfortable and confident in what you wear, she advises. That doesn’t mean a closet full of loose, baggy clothing. “Choose simple, timeless pieces that make you feel good. A great colorful cashmere wrap or sweater can be a great asset to your wardrobe,” she says.
Some more great tips? First, don’t underestimate undergarments. “Clothes will look 10 times better with the proper undergarments. Spanx, Yummie Tummie, Dimmers and Fashion Tape should all be in your drawer at home!” Next, wear leggings under shorter casual dresses: “Turn that sundress into a tunic, unless you have legs like Sharon Stone; then by all means show them!” When in doubt, cover up. “If you don’t like your arms, wear a great wrap.” And don’t forget the bling. “A great necklace and earrings can dress up a simple outfit.”
Above all: Flaunt your best features. “If you have great legs, wear skirts or dresses. If you have a small waist, wear fitted pieces.”
Christine L. Koval of Koval & Koval Dental Associates says tooth-whitening is an easy, affordable way to refresh your smile. She frowns at drugstore products. “An in-office laser whitening can reverse years of soda, caffeine and red wine damage.” How white is right? “An ideal shade is a color matching the whites of your eyes.” Koval cautions that older crowns might not whiten enough to match the rest of your smile; they may need to be replaced. She adds that million-dollar smiles aren’t just about white teeth—they’re healthy smiles. “Healthy teeth have pretty, pink gums that don’t bleed,” she says. To keep smiling? Get thee to a dentist at least once a year.
Hair, Beautiful Hair
When it comes to hair, think “cut, color and experience,” says Coral Pleas of Cutting Loose Hair Salon. “As your skin color fades, fabulous hair is the key to a youthful look.” To get fabulous, find a skilled, experienced stylist who “can transform traditional cuts, colors and styles into a contemporary look.” Women over 40 look great in short cuts, she says. It’s often the automatic choice—but not the only choice. “With today’s French cut, updos and make-up techniques, older women can have longer hair.”
Other tips? “Whether you’re letting your hair grow long or cutting it short, it’s best to change gradually. Add a few highlights to bring out your facial features, and get a little more dramatic with your make-up.” Finally, stay seasonal. “Think of your hair as another accessory. Go lighter in spring and summer and darker in fall and winter. Change your hair the way you change your wardrobe.”
Diamonds Are A (Mature) Woman's Best Friend
Your jewelry is a reflection of you. According to Tina Little, owner of Queens’ Wreath Jewels, that’s literally true. Her advice? “First, ask yourself: ‘How does each piece reflect the color of my eyes and my skin tone?’ Then find what works for you.” Little says diamonds are any woman’s best friend—especially chocolate diamonds. “They bring the light out in our eyes.” Little suggests that we think of jewelry as an extension of your make-up. “I always look at a woman’s skin tone to determine what kind of metal or stone works best. If you wear coral on your lips, choose a coral stone to match it.”
When it comes to fine jewelry, it doesn’t matter if you’re 23 or 93, says Little. “Jewelry should make you feel beautiful and alive. The minute you stop adorning yourself, you’re saying no to life.”
Our final advice? Keep thinking young. The experts we spoke to all stressed that looking great should be more than a grim struggle. It’s a way of saying, I refuse to give up. It’s a way of continuing to find pleasure in the joys of being a woman—no matter what age. That said, it is a struggle—and an old one. The battle against age has gone on since the beginning of time. And though women are more likely to be dismissed if they look old, men fight the age battle, too. Until they stop fighting. We all know what it’s like when men give up—and you see another poor victim of the fashion wars decide to spend the rest of his life as a doofus, mowing the lawn in black ankle socks, plaid pants and a striped polyester shirt. It isn’t pretty.
But that’s an article we'll save for another day.
Charla Krupp answers our questions
Isn’t it superficial and sexist to focus on female appearance? I’d say it’s the opposite. I think it’s the ultimate feminist statement to look great and beat the system in this youth-obsessed culture. In today’s society, every woman knows she needs to look younger and hipper to stay competitive. It’s brutal, but you can fight back. Women need to stay viable, vibrant and visible. You need to look in the mirror and say, “Wow, I look fabulous.”
What’s the first secret for a youthful appearance? It’s no secret. Stay healthy. Watch your weight, don’t smoke and eat right. And, if you have to, whiten your pearly whites! Yellow teeth are a sign of age.
What do you say about make-up? Avoid the matte look, thick liquid eyeliner and bright-colored shadows. Especially avoid concealer that’s too cakey, too thick or too light. Go for a softer, neutral, more natural dewy look. For lipstick, don’t outline your lips with dark liner; do only the part that needs plumping, not the entire line. And lose the dark lipstick! You want a nice pink glossy lipstick that makes you look like there’s a spotlight shining on your face. Don’t stick with the same products for life. Make-up technology is constantly evolving. An easy way to keep up is to go to your favorite make-up counter and have them give you a makeover. You’ll look 10 years younger and get some fresh ideas.
Any hair-raising advice?
To look younger, you want softness around your face. Get bangs. Every woman looks better in bangs. They’ll frame your face in a really beautiful, soft way. When you start to go gray, a cheap hair color will take 20 years off your looks. But go for a great bottle of hair color—these products are constantly changing, too. And lighten up! Highlights are the make-up you never take off. They’re worth the investment.
Clothes? Every woman looks 10 pounds thinner in the right piece. Ditch the mommy jeans and slip into something sexy. Own at least one pair of amazingly fitting jeans. They should be dark denim and clean with no embellishments, and not super low-riding. You want to look young, but not too young.
After the age of 30, don’t shop in the Junior Miss department. Stop trying to look like you’re 14! You’ll just look ridiculous. Invest in a great bra with great support. The harsh truth is, our breasts sag as we get older. A good rule of thumb: They need to be lifted halfway between the shoulder and elbow.
Don’t be matchy-matchy. Nothing says old lady like a matching skirt, handbag, shoes and headband. Granny pants will make you feel like a granny. Burn the stretch pants, nuke the nude hose, and wear fishnets or great opaques instead.
Isn’t all this ridiculously expensive? It can be. I know it is for me. Hey, I’m a high-maintenance woman! I live in New York City, and I can’t go around with major roots in my hair and something I just threw on. I have to wear clothes that look good; I have to exercise and take care of myself. That means pedicures, manicures, hair stylists. All that stuff counts, and all of it costs money. But you can look good without spending a fortune. There are ways to cut corners. I talk about that in my book.
Final advice? Looking great isn’t self-centered. For today’s women, it’s a survival skill, both in your personal life and career life. It’s a way to stay in a game that’s not designed for you to win. It’s also great for the people you’re close to. If you feel good about yourself, they’ll feel good too. Confidence is contagious!
Body & Spirit Day Spa, 500 Southgate Mall, Sarasota; (941) 921-1388; www.bodyandspirit.net Cutting Loose Salon, 8429 Honore Ave., Sarasota; (941) 358-6000; www.cuttingloose.net Holcomb Facial Plastic Surgery, 1 School Ave., Sarasota; (941) 365-8679; www.srqfps.com/ I-Optics, 446 Burns Court, Sarasota; (941) 955-5133; www.iopticseyewear.com Christine L. Koval, D.M.D., 2477 Stickney Point Road, Suite 216-A, Sarasota; (941) 923-5406; www.askdrkoval.com L Boutique, 556 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota; (941) 906-1350; www.lboutiques.com Lotus, 1451 Main St., Sarasota; (941) 906-7080; www.lotussarasota.com NeoDerm Aesthetics, 1991 Hyde Park St., Suite 2, Sarasota; (941) 951-0388 Queens’ Wreath Jewels, 1310 Main St., Sarasota; (941) 365-2027; At The Met, St. Armands; (941) 388-3991 Saks Fifth Avenue, 3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; (941) 364-5381; www.saksfifthavenue.com