Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Aging

I'm just going to come out with it. I'm aging. Boo!

Still there? That should come as no surprise to anyone since we have all been growing a day older since the day we were born. Still, I have reached a point where the thought of losing my looks, whatever those are, is starting to feel like something to be swept under the rug and pretend it isn't happening.

When I was younger, my fresh-faced looks opened doors, but now that my once-sharp eyesight is fading, I try not to walk into those doors. In fact, I recently picked up my first sexual deterrent from the pharmacy, better known, dear readers, as READERS, so I can make out the tiny print on the bottom of my lipstick tubes. Mr. Zuzu agrees that the OTC spectacles don't foster that Sexy Librarian look, even if I manage to look very stern. Oops.

Some of us visibly age more slowly or quickly than others, but I suspect we all arrive at that fated day when say to ourselves, "Holy cats, I never noticed that before," when suddenly our freckles no longer fade in winter or turkey wattle is all we see. Or a crazy thought comes to us one morning in the shower that perhaps the real reason our eyelashes stopped holding a curl is because our eyelid creases are pushing against the lashes! Or when we finally lost that weight, The Girls, who used to sit up high and perky, are now pointing due south, such that you could almost toss them around your neck in a flesh-toned pashmina.

I have thought about fading outer beauty in the months since I started this blog. If I were not so guarded about my privacy (I really don't want colleagues to know what I get up to in my spare time) I'd regularly feature my face on this blog so you could see what over 40 looks like.

As fun as all the product reviews have been for me to write, I have reached a saturation point. Buying new makeup just isn't as much fun as it used to be—at least not if I do it every week. I'm not a makeup artist, so there's little point in my being a curator. Too much stuff makes me stressed and unhappy. Remember this, when last summer I drove to Ikea and bought an Alex to consolidate my masses of beauty products?

Since then, I have carefully culled down those six drawers to one. One drawer contains all the products I use every day. And along the way, as I was testing the makeup I wanted to keep or not keep, I made the interesting discovery that I actually look better with less.

No, that was not a typo. This beauty blogger thinks she looks her best with not so much makeup. And it's not because I am some fine-boned, classic beauty. It's more about looking real. This crazy thought became obvious to me recently when I went through photos of myself from teenage years to present. I was gathering them because I was looking my natural hair color to bring to my color consultation. I noticed that the candid photos taken of me at times like Christmas mornings (hair by Dairy Queen) or on weekends—both of which are times when I tend to wear little more than tinted lip balm—were times that I looked fresher, younger, even prettier. And not just when I actually was younger.

The looking-younger revelation should not have surprised me, as one of the surest ways to add years is to put on makeup. All we have to do is look at the 12-16 year old models on the pages of any fashion magazine to witness that.

So what's "a little makeup" to me? I'll write a separate article for the desert-island items I reach for every day, but for now let's just say that my daily items are the ones that allow much of my own skin to show through, flaws and all, because flawless skin looks good only in advertising ... and maybe not even then. I choose colors that either match my skin completely or extend colors present in skin, veins, hair, and eyes. Pale pink, antique rose, dusty lavender, muted peackcock, cadet blue, dove grey,  etc. Currently this translates to:
  • The simplest skincare possible with the fewest ingredients possible (unscented, of course).
  • My ever reliable foundation (Jane Iredale), which I apply to the T zone only, so I don't dull the glow on the high planes of my face.
  • Well-groomed brows. Above all, brows are essential. Eyebrows frame the face, and as we get older, the hairs thin, lighten, and might even turn white.
  • An easy, subtle eyeliner for those days when I want to make my lash roots look thicker. (Brows aren't the only hairy bits to thin—less volume on head, brows, lashes, and ... elsewhere are what many of us have to look forward to. Tightlining lets me skip mascara.
  • A skintone-evening eyeshadow or primer for the entire lid space, preferably in a semi-matte or satin finish.
  • A matte eyeshadows for subtle contouring, one that mirrors the colors found in my skin.
  • A face-brightening lipstick. Being an ashy "Summer" type, I need something to liven up my bland coloring. A sheer, clear, rosy shade is ideal—something just a touch darker than my own pigment but not too dark. A punch of color is more important than ever as I get older and my coloring fades and becomes more cool.
  • [Optional] a glowy blush, like NARS Gaiety.
My current don't-leave-the-house-without-it look is:
  • Eltamd UV Clear SPF 46
  • Clinique Brow Shaper in Shaping Charcoaled
  • Lipstick 
All other items negotiable.

I expect the above list will change over time. Certainly the go-to products I used in my 20s/30s do not all work now, and I have even noticed changes in the last 5 years. I also have a few friends 10-15 years older than I who say they no longer wear eyeshadow at all, but most every woman of a certain age I know is still wearing lipstick.

I love makeup. It's part of who I am because I love to adorn myself, even if the adornment is very subtle. So I don't intend to go completely barefaced any time soon, and I still want to have fun.

My personal definition of what real beauty is may evolve as I begin to accept the reality of what I see in the mirror. I would live a very sad and shallow life if beauty were only skin deep, so I wonder what the new face of Everyday Beauty will be this year.

No matter your age, young or not so young, have you noticed any changes? If so, how do you deal with them both mechanically and in your head space?


  1. So inspiring for me and very timely...the eve of my 40th birthday. Great tips. You have given me food for thought :)

  2. Just shot you to the top of my blog list!

  3. I love this post. I think of all the young people who have youtube channels and such and look so perky. If I were young, I probably would too. However, the hardest thing in life that I have had to understand is youth doesn't equal beauty. Inner beauty is what makes a woman stand out. I could write an entire post on this but I won't just yet. Inner beauty is one of the hardest things to develop because it means change and acceptance.

    I agree that less is more. I do love makeup though but only now as an enhancement. I know there are times when I wish I could really wear a certain look but it doesn't go with my personality or my inner beauty anymore. I think that is why I am trying to simplify the tutorials on Into the Palette. It is for everyday people who want to look like a better version of themselves and not some caricature like some of the people out there. Beauty is from within and that comes with experience and age not some tablet of inexpensive and sometimes ridiculously expensive talc.

  4. Love you! You go girl! I must admit I feel a tiny bit depressed reading this. I'm going through a funny phase where I'm falling in love with beautiful colours that are more out of my comfort zone while at the same time starting to feel concern that maybe I look ridiculous rather than more beautiful at times. I'm blame my dork husband for his comment on Saturday for that. LOL
    I hate feeling that while I'm doing so much (likely miles more than others) to prevent ageing it's still biting me in the ass. *sigh*

  5. May I just say that I love you for having a Paul Klee poster?

  6. Love this! Today is my birthday and I am 45. Not scared to say it. And I've been thinking the same thing as well and noticing that the less makeup I wear, the younger I look. Not just less makeup, but lighter shadows make a difference A glowy blush is also my anti-aging weapon. And I've decided to buy less as well because of these discoveries.

  7. I'm still LMAO at breast pashminas! Snort.

    Great post, Zuzu. I'm turning 34 but still get told I look like I'm in my early 20s. It pisses me off so I've been wearing more makeup lately to try to look my age, even though my fave look is the natural. I do believe in less is more but got caught up in product fever this year as well.

    Whether you choose to bare your face to us here or not, you bared your thoughts and I appreciate that. Keep 'em coming!

  8. Michelle, happy birthday! The 40s are actually a really great time.

  9. Cheryl, welcome to my weird little blog. I hope I can keep you reading. :)

  10. Olivia, I agree completely about inner beauty. I think about some of the most beautiful older women I know (meaning older than me), and they have such a quiet grace or are full of joyous life, but whether they are introverted or extroverted, they all share a common civility, something that seems to be lost nowadays. That kind of beauty to me isn't just about inner acceptance, but an inherent kindness and politeness to others.

  11. PP, there's noting wrong with experimenting with color. I see your FOTDs and they are gorgeous and natural. I suspect one of the secrets to aging gracefully is to do it with confidence and joy. I really believe that. There are some very colorful ladies on Ari Seth Cohen's blog! Maybe you should check that out and you'll surely feel lots better.

  12. Lara, if I could afford a real Klee (or Modigliani or Chagall or Miro), I'd give away all my makeup and just sit in the glow of all that beauty.

  13. Tracy, happy birthday! But, wow! Never in a million years would I have guessed your age. Clearly you have good genes and are doing something right!

  14. Great post! I've been correcting some pretty impressive sundamage for the past eight months after noticing that my face was heading due south! I've learnt so much about simple, effective skincare and my skin has improved vastly by DIY-ing my own serums, cleanser, ZnO sunscreen, and so on. I try to remain realistic about what I can achieve (we will all age, this is a fact of life) but so far I'm really happy to not look like a Nanna just yet ;)

  15. Oops hit send to fast. I meant to say that yes, lighter colors and glowy blushes! No more smoky eyes or flat, matte cheeks. I have Dain to thank for introducing me to my new favorite blush by Shiesido, and I really like my Clinique blush in Iced Lotus. Both let me skip highlighter.

  16. Liz, enjoy being thought of as younger! There will come a day when you miss it, I guarantee it. The last time I got carded I was 35. The end, lol. And one day I was walking with a young niece of my friend, and the men were checking her out, not me! I think that was when I said to myself, "Okaaaay." Some people do think I am in my 30s, but late 30s. And when I proudly tell Mr. Petals that, he says, "Really?"

    INTERPRETATION: Are they blind? She's a bleedin' old hag. Not really, but he loses major points for not saying, "Yeah, totally!" (No nookie for you Mr. Petals.)

    If you want to look older instantly, try a deeper lipstick. I know, I know. but you could practice getting your nerve up by wearing it around the house.

  17. Demps, I've seen your recipes and before and after pictures and have been very impressed. I know someone using one of your recipes, and she loves it. I think when it comes to skincare, the simpler the better!

  18. Love this post, Zuzu, very thoughtful and inspirational. I think I need to embrace this philosophy, too; lately I have tried to pare down the list of products that go on my face every day and I feel like a better, fresher person. Less IS more!

  19. Hi Zuzu,

    I never would have guessed that you were a 40-something! I was quite shocked to hear that. I always imagined you to be in your late 20's or early 30s. However, in retrospect this is probably why your blog is full of keen insights.

    I often waver between the 'fresh-faced' and made up looks. Lately I would agree that a simple natural routine is ideal. However, for me this may be a product of the coming spring season. When it comes to autumn (or just random times when I feel like it) I still feel like I want to try harsher colors and looks. Ultimately, I've decided to just go with the flow and do what I feel like from day to day--- and when in doubt go in favor of 'less is more'.

    I'm impressed at how much you've pared down your drawer. Wow! I think for a beauty enthusiast I have a pretty tame collection. If anything, I can be a bit obsessive compulsive about controlling my purchases. I will often toy with the idea of a new color for weeks before diving in! (Honestly, it can get a little tiring and is a little crazy). I don't think one needs a lot of products to be a beauty blogger or beauty enthusiast! If anything, knowing more about beauty (especially with your level of experience) can help you choose your one drawer full of things you absolutely love :)

    Thanks for this awesome entry. I can always count on Everyday beauty for some excellent food for thought.

    P.S. I also had an lol on the pashmina comment!

  20. Great post! Yes, indeed, I am noticing more and more of those age-related changes and trying to come to terms with them. I don't enjoy buying makeup the way I used to and also wear less of it than I used to.

  21. From the heart to our hearts. Funny how we try so hard to write witty, intellectual posts when the plain truth speaks loudest? Brava, ZuZu.

    I held together nicely until I hit 50, and am dealing with noticing these 'small changes' now. Like Olivia says, we need to stand together proclaiming beauty is more than skin deep. Our beauty is deep and rich and full of experience and empathy.

    We need to read more posts just like this. Well done, girl friend. Oh, how's my lipstick? OK?

  22. I really enjoyed this post, Zuzu. I finished losing a lot of weight (127 lbs.) in my early 50s, and I'm having trouble accepting my deeper nasolabial folds and un-taut neck. I don't regret the weight loss, but really wasn't prepared for the consequences. For the first time I look my age. It's sobering.

    I vacillate between liking a spare, minimal makeup stash and a fuller, more diverse (and inspiring?) one. Congrats on paring down your look to a more authentic you.

  23. Hi Zuzu, I found your blog some time ago, but this is my first comment. And I must say I agree with all you wrote in this post. Less is more. There is no worse thing than trying too much and pretending that you are not who you really are (also if it's coming to age). We women should be proud of ourselves and of the way we look.

  24. Susan, congratulations! What an incredible accomplishment.

  25. escritora, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I have been enjoying the paring-down process and considering which of my items gets to stay and which ones get the boot.

  26. BTW, does Blogger's new Reply (in comments) work for everyone but me? I am wondering if I need to update to the new blogger interface, but doing so wouldn't change the look of my blog posts.

  27. I'm 42 and I feel as if I'm running from "time effects" and they catch me because they are faster. (Can you picture this image in your head?) And I think if I slow down or stop they will get me faster. These are my crazy thoughts on aging. :D

    (reply works here)

  28. Renata, yes I can definitely visualize running away from the ravages of time!

    Looks like threaded comments is off because I have my blog feed on short. Oh, well.

  29. Age is change, change is inspiring and exciting. I feel so much more confident in my appearance now at 48 than I ever have! And i only started wearing makeup when my confidence in all that i have become over almost 5 decades was genuine and profound. In my earlier years, I just wanted to be invisible, and makeup was out of the question. So for me, it's just fun, expressive and enlivening, but i have lots and lots of practice with going without.

    And I'll second the Klee comment!

  30. I am very excited for you! I think this is the most important moment in a woman's life in terms
    of world view and wisdom. You have just set yourself free to finally be wise and therefore beautiful! You should feel so proud of yourself right now as many women simply never get there and now you are free to accumulate wisdom voraciously. I'm willing to be that a year from now you will feel more beautiful than you ever have in your life. I am so happy for you!!

  31. Can I give an Amen! I find that a simpler and subtler routine is much more youthful-looking as I try to age (dis)gracefully. That goes for skincare for me too. I do still love a bright lip, but I have to be careful with a dark lip and I know that a dark lip is more ageing. I still like to wear one sometimes though - what else would I wear for a trip to IKEA? ;)

    I've mentioned on my blog before that I find it a little sad that we spend so much time in our teens and early twenties trying to look older, and then later trying to look younger.

    Great post.

  32. Great post. I am a 40+ blogger and like you in love with make up and serums but lately have tried to streamline what I am using daily. I have switched over to mostly natural products and believe in a daily dose of skin brighteners :)

    Cant wait to see your final list.

  33. Wonderful post, and one that so closely mirrors my feelings these days. Although I haven't begun freaking out about ageing (much), I have found that purchasing color doesn't make me as happy as it used to, and I'm in the process of turning my skin care ritual into something much more natural and organic than it has been in the past. The lip colors I've chosen lately have toned down from my typical drop-dead reds to more understated plums and sheerer finishes, and rather than smokey, my eyes have been more natural. I, too, have been posting more reflective pieces and plan to continue doing so, and just today I wrote about a fragrance for the first time, not because I wanted to highlight my perfume collection, but because I wanted to share the emotional journey the scent took me on, inspiring feelings in me that weren't there before.

    I applaud you, as always, for your insightful writing and your ability to connect with us!


  34. Aw I felt quite emotional reading this post, probably cos it's so close to home and I've thought about doing something similar but not felt brave enough yet. I recently turned 42 and it's hard watching what I once had deteriorate. I try to embrace it and wholly agree on the what's inside counts theory. I also hope there will come a day when I can just accept myself as I am and not mind the ageing process. With you on the less is more element too...

    Nic x (ps totally agree with the last line of Shannon's post above)

  35. I'm sixty, so those of you lamenting your forties have my sympathy.
    I'm often told that I look like I'm still in my forties; this is no comfort to me because, let's be honest, we all want to look as though we're in our twenties. It's not possible and probably not even desireable. Plastic surgery and injections will not make you younger. You'll be an older woman trying to look young.
    However,don't ever give up. Vanity is healthy. My mediterranean olive skin held up for a long time and only recently has gone dry. I've had to re-think my foundations and colors and entire approach to makeup. No more black eyeliner and shimmery or smoky looks. Blush is a challenge as is lipstick.I fell in love with the new Nars blush, sadly aware that I can't wear it. I walk the fine line between subtle and boring, but I'm determined to have some fun with it.
    I hate seeing older women who have given up. The cliched cropped hair designed to be "easy", the frumpy "comfortable" clothes and shoes,discarding contact lenses for glasses.... you get the can still be attractive, even sexy at any age. The Woman Desperately Trying to Look Like a Hottie is nearly as bad but at least there's an attempt being made to look good, albeit delusional.
    I've beeen lucky in my family life, career and health. Genes were part of my good looks, but the time-worn advice of "don't smoke, don't drink too much, stay out of the sun, exercise and eat well" helped,too.
    Diana Rigg once remarked that as women get older, they become invisible. Be prepared for that and try not to take it personally. Stay kind and pretty and be sure that you use your younger years wisely, meaning save money and have a strong network of friends to love you at any age.
    Great blog! Thanks for letting me sound off.

  36. Nic, what a sweet thing to say. At 42 I still looked young, far younger than my biological age. Nearing the end of that decade is where the shock took place for me when I looked in the mirror and said, "Wait a minute! I am aging." I feel young (hell, I feel 17 inside still) and what I saw in the mirror did not even remotely match up to the way I felt inside.

    I agree with Ammie's excellent comment that vanity is a good thing to hang onto, looking good, the best I can, is a goal I set for myself every day. I also think we vain women, with our fading beauty, have a harder time with the aging process than someone like my mother, who was so no-nonsense about her looks; that is, she cared how she looked, but more along the lines of being clean, smelling good, and looking elegant. Her simple beauty routine was lush bath products, perfume and scented powder every day, and lipstick. Her happy personality and high energy always made her look beautiful to me. Of course it helped that she stayed slim and in great shape well into her 70s, where she still goes to Curves 5 days a week.

    1. Gosh your mum sounds like such an inspiration! There are days when I absolutely can not be bothered to even try, but most of the time I do and agree that it's important for our own self esteem.

      I am also inspired by Ammie's comments :)

      Nic x

  37. Ammie what an excellent comment. Very uplifting and affirming. Thanks for so much. I agree that plastic surgery is not really fooling anyone. All a woman has to do is raise her hand to her stretched face and you can instantly see her age. Plus, they don't seem to have figured out what to do with the neck, and my neck is the first place I have noticed signs of aging, NOT my face (except for the loosening crease thing).

    I also feel sad when I see older women who've given up. It's almost like the poodle do was a rite of passage at one time. That and the weird house-coat frock thing my grandmother wore. What on earth are those things called anyway? It's like an apron coverall. And I agree that as bad (maybe even worse) is the woman desperately trying to look younger. I have some friends who are like that, and although they still have amazing, tight bodies it just looks weird to see them prancing around in very high heels with very tight pants or short skirts. To be honest, that was never my thing, even when I had the youth and body to pull it off. I'm more a cashmere sweater over trim khakis kind of person. :)

    Cindy Joseph is in her early 60s, and as far as I know the only artifice in her look is her self-admitted hair extensions, which she has dyed to match her grey hair. She doesn't wear tons of makeup, but she does wear some, She also embraces her flawed skin from having tanned in her youth, and I think she looks fabulous.

    As I explore this more and blog about it, I suppose I will depress some readers, but I really want to be open and honest about what aging feels like, the ways I find to make myself feel and look better--mostly for myself because Mr. Petals would love me fat, thin, young, or old--and I continue to seek ways to get what I need from within.

  38. What a nice, reflective article. My world has not yet felt rocked by aging (I'm recently 36) but I've given the matter some thought and I'm not naive enough to think it might not bother me someday. It helps to feel like I have had totally awesome aging role models in my life (my grandmothers are deceased now but their examples live on, as well as my mom) and I've always been very self-accepting as I've noticed changes with my body. I remember coming to realize years ago that less was more in makeup; in fact, my whole life is on a path to minimalism and simplicity in every way. The authenticity feels great and I hope that it will help my mindset as I continue getting older.

    Btw, I loved seeing your Ikea Alex drawer and recognized it right away - I have 2! I adore them! Beautiful minimal style with excellent functionality. :)

    1. Thank you, Claire. I am also on a path to minimalism, but not asceticism. I want less so I can enjoy it more.

      The Alex is almost Shaker in its simplicity, isn't it?


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