Are Today’s 40 Plus Women More Attractive Than They Were in Their 20s?

Are Today's 40 Plus Women More Youthful Than They Were in Their 20s?

This week I was looking through my boxes of photos trying to find a photo for a friend and I came across some truly awful photos of me. (This one above isn’t anywhere near the worst.)

It got me thinking: Why do I think I look better now? Is it because I pose better in photos? Or was it just because of what I was wearing, along with my hair and make up of the time that made me look so awful (by today’s standards)?

Have you ever had this thought: Are today’s 40 plus women more attractive than they were in their 20s?

The thing is, there are so many variables.

Of course there are changing fashions. Are we misled by the dated hair and makeup of the 1980s and 90s… or do we simply embrace a more youthful look these days?

There’s the expectation of grooming today: More and more of us are aware of getting our hair done, doing our nails, getting facials, grooming our eyebrows… I don’t remember women talking about it when I was in my 20s – nothing like how young women of today do it as a matter of course. I don’t remember anyone whitening their teeth, going for a bikini wax or getting their eyebrows threaded (or even plucked – in the early 90s we just attacked them with a tweezer frenzy until there was almost nothing left and we were left looking permananetly surprised).


Do celebrities look better today?

When you consider older celebrities today, think how many of them look a HUNDRED times better in their 40s and 50s (and older!) than they did in their 20s. BUT (and it’s a big but) they have access to all the treatments and, er, “tweaks” in the world. When money isn’t an object, I guess we could all look as groomed and glowing as they do. (And =cough= smooth.)

The ones that come to mind for me would be the three Kates: Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Kate Beckinsale. Now I’m not saying for a minute that they haven’t had anything done, but all three look so much more gorgeous now than they did in their 20s. You can see that grooming has a LOT to do with it. None have succumbed to fillers, thank goodness (not that I can see, anyway) – no pillow faces or overfilled lips.

(And I really hope that none of them ever do…)

If they have had anything done, it’s been done very, very well – all are radiantly beautiful IMO.

Are Today's 40 Plus Women More Youthful Than They Were in Their 20s?

Kate Winslet (both Getty Images, leftright)


Are Today's 40 Plus Women More Youthful Than They Were in Their 20s?

Cate Blanchett (both Getty Images, leftright)


Are Today's 40 Plus Women More Youthful Than They Were in Their 20s?

Kate Beckinsale (both Getty Images, leftright)


(I’ve deliberately chosen red carpet photos as opposed to studio portraits: They’re less likely to be Photoshopped. Rarely are paparazzi photos retouched because they’re often the occasional “terrible” ones that the press like to splash about *she rolls her eyes*)



Personally, I think it’s a little bit of everything: old photos (especially of the 1980s and 90s) will ALWAYS date someone and therefore make their overall appearance less appealing. But I also think we embrace more grooming and expect it from today’s celebrities – glossier hair, whiter teeth and warmer, sun-kissed glowing skin. All things that make you look more youthful.

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And in a way that expectation has filtered into the lives of us regular ladies: Whether it’s pressure from society and the media or pressure we put on ourselves (we always have to be “social media-ready” at the drop of a hat for goodness sake), I do think that overall we ARE more youthful, and therefore more attractive. More products, more technology, more access to everything means we experiment more and try new things.

I don’t think the majority of midlife women in the 1970s, 80s or even 90s did the same.

I think I look better now than when I was 22 because I had very chubby cheeks (even though I was slim). My bone structure has come out more and I take more care of my appearance now. I’ve learnt how to take a “good” photo – what my best angles are (see my selfies tips post from the other day if you want some pointers). I’m more aware of what looks good and what doesn’t on me – plus I have more confidence overall.

We all have a little bit of that happen to us. It makes me wonder if they’ll look back at us in another 20 or 30 years and think how rough we looked…?!





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  1. 27 May 2017 / 1:32 pm

    I'm afraid I most certainly look worse at 45 than I did in my twenties. I'm overweight,covered in cellulite (even my arms) and have varicose veins…she sighs!I'm working on it but goodness I wish I had appreciated effortless loveliness when I had it! #brilliantblogposts

    • Stacy
      28 February 2020 / 8:36 pm

      I am 42 and look way better now than I did in my 20s and 30s. I started being attractive around 38 based on all you’ve described in this post. When I was in my 20s, I was overly thin, awkward, acne ridden and gangly.

  2. 26 May 2017 / 8:34 pm

    Oops, posting a week late! Great question – I think I may have peaked in my mid- to late-forties when I was doing lots of yoga, had good hair and was fairly slim. I'm only a year or two on now and am getting back into yoga after my collarbone surgery, so maybe I'll revisit that peak 😉 .

    I've always looked after myself, even as a 20-something punk in the 90s. But when I look back at photos you can definitely tie me to a certain time and place.

  3. 25 May 2017 / 8:25 am

    I used to say that men got better with age…a bit like fine wine, I now believe that women do to…is that because I hit 40 last year (maybe) but I actually think that women at this age are less daft with their fashion choices, more sensible with their make-up and diet and we all know that you are what you eat! So Hell Yeah! we're gorgeous! x

  4. 23 May 2017 / 6:33 am

    I have to agree with Samantha, I certainly don't think I look better now thank I did in my younger days (although I am in my 50's not my 40's). Yes, I am more 'put together' and I look way better than the generation before me did in their 50's, but I will never get that certain glow that only comes with youth.
    However, I do have something that the younger me never had, and that's confidence and belief in myself. So, I might have looked better in my 20's 30's and 40's but I am happier now than I have ever been and that more than compensates for a few wrinkles and the knowledge that gravity does indeed work 🙂

  5. 21 May 2017 / 10:40 pm

    Thanks for hosting and have a wonderful upcoming week.

  6. 21 May 2017 / 2:27 pm

    I think it is what we are looking for that determines how we feel about our looks. I want to look and feel healthy above all else at my age of 56. I kind of like my lines, especially when I smile. There is nothing that says more than a happy smile at any age. Peace!
    Cheryl Tucker

  7. 21 May 2017 / 1:45 pm

    This is interesting Catherine….and I have to Agree (a little) and disagree too.

    We certainly look better than previous generations of 40+ women…god knows 40 used to be ancient!! In fact 30 was practically decrepit!! :oP
    We are lucky enough to live in a time that it is acceptable for older women to dress fashionably, wear make up, dye their hair….do whatever they want.
    Generations ago we would have been regarded as weirdos, or desperate, or pathetic….or all 3!
    We are lucky to be 40 now.
    I hope the same thread continues for my girls.

    However….I must disagree about looking better.
    All that has changed is the fashion and what we have availible to us.
    I remember being able to get up, run my fingers through my hair, pop a bit of vaseline on my brows, lips and lashes and I was done.
    Perfect skin, perfect hair, shiny eyes…everything perky. Ahhh, I miss those days.

    At the end of the day I looked a hell of a lot better then.
    No amount of products or procedures can replace youthful, dewy and radiant skin.

    And much as those ladies look beautiful now they looked just as beautiful then.
    Nothing is as pretty as a fresh face and a genuine smile.

    One bonus to getting older…… confidence and acceptance. If only I had had that in my youth!

    A great post!

    Fake Fabulous | Fashion & Style, over 40

  8. 21 May 2017 / 10:49 am

    What an interesting post! I think so much of "attractiveness" is to do with confidence and how you carry yourself. Whilst I still have so many of the hang-ups that I used to (I don't think I'll ever truly ditch the idea that I'm too short, carry too much weight – but none of it in the "right" places! etc etc), I am much more confident in myself and have taken to heart the "fake it 'til you make it" mantra! As a result I am becoming more comfortable with myself and my style and think I am probably more attractive as a result. The more I am able to focus on how I feel rather than what other people think the happier and more attractive I think I become. I'm also someone who is genuinely looking forward to getting older. I like the way people grow into themselves. I love the laugh lines I'm developing and the grey hairs hiding amongst the red (I wish I could find a way of only dying the non-greys!), it's a badge of the experiences I've had, and what is more attractive than a fully lived life?

  9. 21 May 2017 / 8:28 am

    I think it mostly comes down to self-esteem. I know I feel so much better about myself than I did 20 years ago. Although back then, I could easily have worn something to show off my figure but I rarely did because I didn't have the confidence to carry it off. Now though, I know I could rock it lol!
    Super post, Catherine! I love the old photo of you!
    Suzy xx

  10. 20 May 2017 / 6:38 pm

    Well… may I have my measurements from my 20's? Otherwise I'll take my 60 years of living and wisdom. I feel WAY better about myself now.
    Great post!

  11. 20 May 2017 / 5:44 pm

    All I know is I wasn't super cute when I was young and I just try rly hard—doesn't come natural. 🙁

  12. 20 May 2017 / 4:07 pm

    I think my 30's were my best years purely from the perspective of looks. I wasn't as happy and confident then as I am now, but I looked better. I'd rather be happy and confident than just look good in a photo, so I'm cool with that! xx

  13. 20 May 2017 / 12:44 pm

    I thought I looked best when I was in my 30's/40's, but once I turned 50 it has been all downhill since then. But I do agree with everything you said. When we look at old photos we see dated hair, make-up, fashion and that influences our opinion. But we are also more groomed now. I didn't have the $ in my twenties to have my hair professionally done every six weeks or to buy the latest clothes.

  14. 20 May 2017 / 12:41 pm

    I definitely think that women in general are looking far better in their 40s and beyond than they ever have before, maybe because we are finally shaking off the idea that midlife means fading into the background and giving up on our appearance. Whether it's true for me personally, I'm not sure! I've always been a bit of an ugly duckling (I'm still waiting to turn into a swan), but I think my thirties were my peak. It's true that in my mid forties I've finally figured out my style, so I think I present a much more polished image, but my age is definitely catching up with me now.

  15. 20 May 2017 / 11:46 am

    Catherine, I think all of what you mentioned are part of why we look better in our more mature years. But I also think a lot of it can be attributed to maturity. With maturity and life experiences and growth, we become so much more confident. And that confidence radiates through all of it and manifests as beauty. Don't we always say that the best accessories one can wear are a smile and confidence? I am not saying that young people don't have confidence, but I think there is a completely different level of confidence that comes with age and life experiences and wisdom. And that shines through in older women. I know it sure does for me! Great post.


  16. 20 May 2017 / 8:33 am

    I like myself better now, so I look, to my eyes, better. In the end it is what you project and feel.
    Happy weekend, dear Catherine

  17. 20 May 2017 / 8:31 am

    I also think I look better now than I did 10 years ago. I take much better care of myself and I have developed a skincare routine I didn't used to have. However, I also believe there's a psychological factor involved. In photos from 10 years ago we are wearing things that are out of fashion and that's why they look worse to us.

    Thanks for the linkup, Catherine! I hope you have a wonderful weekend xo

  18. 20 May 2017 / 7:43 am

    Love this post Catherine. I know I looked shocking in so many photos when I was younger – that is what inspired me to start photographing – with the mission to make everyone look beautiful on a photo!!! Will send you a picture next time I am in NZ – that will make you laugh!!!

    Have a lovely weekend!
    xxx Yvonne

  19. 20 May 2017 / 7:14 am

    Sorry, but no I don't think that. In my twenties I didn't have the means to groom myself much, but when I look at photos from 30 to 45… I definitely looked good and better than now. I do agree that we look a hell of a lot better than previous generations of women after they became 40/50/60 etc.

    • 21 May 2017 / 1:47 pm

      I certainly agree with that last sentance Greetje!
      Over 40 used to be OLD.

  20. 19 May 2017 / 10:29 pm

    I think midlife people (women especially) look better because we're healthier and more educated about nutrition and exercise, wear sunscreen, and use good skincare products . I remember in the 80s anyone who worked out/went jogging was labeled a "health freak"! I'm sure my huge permed barnet put at least ten years on me…oh well, it was acceptable in the 80s. Thank goodness we didn't all do selfies then!

    Emma xxx

  21. 19 May 2017 / 10:24 pm

    It's an interesting theory, Catherine!! Because it's true that I sometimes look back and think—eeek!! Although there are times it wasn't so bad.
    I think one thing is true…that at least as bloggers, we are definitely more used to having our photos taken! And I throw out the bad ones so they won't be around later—ha ha!!
    And as for the celebrities—you have to think they have bad days too!
    But overall—I'm certainly happier now in my 50's than I ever was when I was younger!! Maybe that's what is showing through??

  22. 19 May 2017 / 9:50 pm

    I 100% agree that some people just seem to get better with age. Im not sure if I am one of them, but I certainly look after my skin, know what make up suits me etc, so I suppose that we improve in that way. My experimental phase with my style in the 80's and 90's was a sight to behold. I also think we embrace how we look as we get older, and confidence is always beautiful. I do however hope that we come away from the over botox/filled faces as I personally, think a face that expresses emotion and lights up is one of the most beautiful things. Great post x

  23. 19 May 2017 / 9:04 pm

    What an interesting write-up Catherine- I love it!! I don't know if I LOOK better now, in my mid 30s than I did in my 20s- but one thing is for sure: I FEEL AMAZING i.e. 1000x better!!! It's been said that looking better starts from within, perhaps we all seemingly look better because we feel better, about ourselves and this journey called life.

    • 19 May 2017 / 9:22 pm

      that's a very good point, Joi… though right now I don't feel so good, I'm so flat out busy with work!!!!

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