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60 is the new 40 - here's the proof

Updated: Jan 11

A patchy frost crisscrosses the pathway to a remote cottage on the outskirts of a coastal town in the rural South West. The dusting of white glistens in the harsh early morning light. I can hear its stone-cold crispness being crushed beneath my size five UGGs as I take the first of many steps up a steep drive to a well-maintained stable-style front door.

60 is the new 40 graphic

I've taken a crack-of-dawn bus ride and trudged what seems like miles to meet a woman who shares my belief that 60 is the new 40.

Waiting to greet me and looking decidedly nervous is Sarah*, who sent me an email after reading on this website about how I became addicted to beauty products during cancer treatment.

She went out of her way to explain her addiction to cosmetics was not caused by illness.

Keen to find out more, I asked if she would be willing to meet up. She was - and that's how I came to set my alarm for 5am and take an hour-long journey to her home.

I am immediately struck by her sleek, blonde hair and glass-smooth complexion. As we exchange pleasantries, I wonder what she thinks of my efforts to roll back the years and whether or not they meet her expectations.

She ushers a lively small dog into what looks like a kitchen and leads me to an unexpectedly modern lounge. It has bi-folds that separate her neutral living space from the spectacular scenery outside. Even on a cold winter's day, the room is bathed in natural light. It's the sort of light that can emphasise even the most subtle signs of ageing. She has few.

Faint crease lines look as though they have been expertly flat-ironed at the outer corners of her eyes and I note the makeup she is wearing has been purposely applied to look natural.

I am practically hugging an extremely welcome hot brew before she slips into an oversized armchair facing the sofa she directed me to.

"I'm 63," she declares, and I want to gasp. She doesn't even look 43. In fact, had I been meeting her under any other circumstances, I would have guessed she was in her late 30s.

"I'm 57," I tell her, feeling very inferior.

cosmetic products on a yellow background with flowers

Looking younger, feeling confident

I was intrigued by her obvious success in creating a look that defied her years by decades. How did she do it and, importantly, why?

Sarah's initial trepidation appears to vanish like the lines on her face.

"I am one of those women who prefer people to guess my age. I don't normally volunteer it," she points out with a wry smile.

So, what was it about my story that resonated with her?

"I haven't had cancer, unlike you," Sarah tells me. "Apart from the odd cold and Covid, of course, I very rarely get ill. But I did have a life event that caused me to take a long, hard look in the mirror. I realised that I didn't look how I felt. I was starting to age, and it depressed me. It made me want to do something about it."

Sarah tells me that the 'life event' she refers to was work-related.

"I was made redundant," she imparts. "It wasn't from a particularly senior role but it paid well and I'd worked hard to get where I was. It hurt to have that taken away. I guess, at the time, I was looking for the 'Why me?' reasons and felt my age must have had something to do with it.

"I worked in sales and spent a lot of time meeting people and engaging in face-to-face marketing. I wouldn't say I'd 'let myself go' but, compared to most of my younger colleagues, I was veering towards frumpy. I rarely wore make-up and, I suppose, I just didn't appreciate how much first impressions count when you are connecting with new people. I was relying on learned selling tactics in an environment that was increasingly focused on networking. It didn't click where I'd gone wrong until it was too late."

Sarah stresses: "I am not saying looks are everything in sales, because they are not, but feeling confident about yourself is really important. I'd lost that confidence. You have to be comfortable in your own skin to be able to speak with confidence about the products you are selling. The two go together. I can see how my sales started to slide before I was let go."

Sarah's redundancy came at what she describes as 'an awkward age'.

"I was 52, so no spring chicken," she tells me. "I'm single and have two grown-up children, so I have to be self-sufficient. The prospect of having to start again filled me with dread. I imagined people judging me for my age and struggling to find a decent job. It was soul-destroying. I didn't think I could face it."

So what changed?

"Bills," she tells me. "They weren't going to pay themselves. I had to get another job to keep this house. I knew, if I didn't do something to help myself, I'd be pushed into a low-paying job and struggle to meet the mortgage payments. It was a sink or swim situation."

woman looks 40 at 60

Making beauty count

Sarah says she had a 'lightbulb moment' while scouring the internet for a simple anti-ageing skincare routine.

"I was lining up some job interviews and didn't want to look my age. I came across a link to a YouTube video and found myself watching a podcast about the benefits of exfoliation. I guess, I was hooked after that. I realised that cleansing, deep cleansing, is the key to ensuring anti-ageing treatments are given the best chance to work. I'd never thought about dead skin hampering the process before watching that video."

What surprised Sarah at the start of her anti-ageing journey was that she didn't have to spend much to achieve results.

"It is all about ingredients and layering products in the correct order," she tells me. "I saw an improvement in my skin tone less than two weeks after starting to take skincare seriously. After that, I was determined to tackle fine lines around my eyes and to get my skin to look plumper."

She says she read the original Beauty Bible and, apart from layering serums for more benefits, started wearing day-time moisturising creams with SPF and drinking 'much more water'.

"It definitely flushes out toxins that can make the skin look dull and patchy. Nowadays, I even drink a glass of water before I have a coffee.

"My go-to skincare ingredients are hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. Retinol brings me out in red patches. I am not swayed by patented, scientific-sounding stuff, because I know what works for me. I also know I can maintain my skincare routine because it is affordable."

How many years does Sarah think her early efforts knocked off her appearance?

She is brutally honest. "About five, I'd say. After that, the routines I adopted merely slowed down the ageing process. Exfoliation is central to my cleansing and, over the years, products have become a lot kinder."

I tell her she looks in her late 30s and she laughs.

"Really? I've always aimed for the mid-40s."

skincare products

Anti-ageing cosmetics

Sarah tells me that she loves make-up but attempts to keep what she wears to a minimum. She rarely experiments.

"Too much make-up is ageing," she says. "I stick with powder over facial oil, a light dusting of bronzer on the cheeks, mascara and a medium pink lip gloss. I rarely wear eyeshadow."

That intrigues me because I lean heavily on eye makeup to achieve a younger look.

"Not everyone can get away with it," she tells me. "What I do try to do is change the shade of my face powder according to seasons. I tend to wear the palest in winter and the warmest shade in the summer. It is an easy way to be relevant with cosmetics and project a healthy look. Of course, having clear skin and keeping pores in check are very important. I also keep an eye serum in the fridge and use it over serums as part of my evening routine."

What makes Sarah feel she is addicted to beauty products?

"Because I have to have at least two of everything, at all times," she reveals. "As soon as I start using a product, I buy another. I am so invested in what I have achieved that I can't bear the thought of breaking a routine because an ingredient I rely on is not available. I've got two of each serum, each moisturiser and everything else I use - including the exfoliating wash.

"I don't purchase by brand, just ingredients. For example, I use a high-strength vitamin C serum and will buy whichever one with the same strength is the cheapest. I mostly buy online for convenience but also stock up when I'm shopping in a big town or Exeter."

The combination of great skincare and careful use of makeup has worked in Sarah's favour.

She told me that, after all her worrying, she found another job in sales 'quite quickly'. However, with renewed self-confidence, it wasn't long before a career change beckoned. She is now a middle manager in the tourism sector.

anti-ageing cosmetics

Is 60 the new 40?

"Definitely," says Sarah. "Women are more aware of what works and what doesn't, and good skincare doesn't have to cost a lot. I think we are all much more switched on when it comes to knowing about the damaging effects of the sun. Even relatively cheap moisturisers now include sunscreen.

"There are so many free tutorials out there that can help someone get started on the anti-ageing journey that more and more people are doing it - even men.

"I think I still look like I'm in my forties but I leave other people to reach their own conclusions. Wanting to look younger can become an obsession but it probably takes up 15 to 20 minutes of your life a day. When you see how such a small investment can make a big impact, it's easy to keep doing it."

She adds: "And I think face powders have become a lot finer. They are easy to set with oils and sprays, and you don't get that caked look that can emphasise a person's age."

* Sarah asked me not to use her real name in this feature.

2 comentarios

19 feb 2023

I've never believed any of the aims made by the beauty industry, especially when it come sto anti-aging products. But the placebo affect can be a powerful thing, so if you think it works, then that's all that really matters

Unwanted Life |

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19 feb 2023

Some interesting things that Sarah said on this post. And I agree, there are many tutorials online these days.

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