50 today! I’m 50 today! My milestone birthday is finally here =toot toot=
(That “toot toot” is me blowing on a party horn, in case that wasn’t clear…!)
And as always on my birthday, my blog has a blogiversary as well: 11 years today. Started on my 39th birthday, I have officially been blogging in my 30s, 40s AND my 50s.
It honestly doesn’t feel that long since I wrote my 40th birthday/1st blogiversary post. And it’s a blink of an eye since I wrote last year’s 10 year blogiversary post where I talked about my 10 years online.
[15 mins read]
Disclosure: This blog uses affiliate links (at no cost to you) and any items listed as* were PR samples sent under no obligation within the last 12 months. Full disclosure
Anyway, I’ve reached another milestone. I love birthdays. No, I LOVE LOVE LOVE birthdays (especially mine). And I finally feel like I’m part of another club (did I mention I’m 50 today?), one that I’ve been waiting to join for a while now, and it feels rather special. Ageing IS a privilege, it’s NOT a dirty word, and attitudes ARE changing. It’s all good.
Well maybe the aches and pains aren’t so good but, on the flip side, when you’re young you don’t know what the hell you’re doing and you make mistakes. Today, we’ve learnt from them. We’re still making mistakes(!) but we are definitely older and wiser. So there’s no “magical” age, there are pros and cons to all ages. We just have to accept that we can’t do anything about the date on our birth certificates or the number of candles on our cakes and instead just bloody roll with it.
If we don’t, it’s simply time wasted.
This birthday post’s theme: ageing!
Or should I say… optimal ageing? I stopped using the term “anti-ageing” quite a while ago* and will continue to be against it – hence my term “optimal ageing”.
*The beauty industry has been very slow to catch up with this, so anything you can do to put pressure on the media and brands and the beauty industry to keep fuelling the idea that ageing is something to be anti, i.e. against, is a worthwhile cause IMO. Call them out on it whenever you see it, especially if you work with brands and are asked to promote “anti-ageing” products. Feel free to suggest my term “optional ageing” instead.
Ageing in the very best way is far more positive. And with that in mind – especially reaching 50 – it got me thinking about what I actually look like, feel and think at this milestone age. It’s certainly nothing like what I expected to be at this age when I was in my teens or 20s: in fact, I’m pretty happy with the way I am now I’ve reached my sixth decade. I know we all moan a bit about our aching bones and unwelcome jowls (all tongue-in-cheek, of course!), but ask a teenage me what I’d look like at age 50 and I’d have described a wizened old lady with short grey hair and a walking stick.
A question I get asked a lot is what do I do to “stay looking young”. Now I think we all have to reevaluate our attitude to this somewhat: a woman aged 50 in 2022 is nothing like women aged 50 in 1952, not even the 50 year olds in 1992 if you ask me. I KNOW that celebrities aren’t really an accurate measure of what 50-year-old women look like in the 2020s – there’s no denying there are few who are completely untouched by needles or knives (Jennifer Lopez will be 53 tomorrow and looks UNREAL) – but most friends I have (online and IRL) are nothing like the 50 year olds of yesteryear.
(By the way I’d like to apologise for the title of this post: it’s kind of awkward. It was hard to come up with a title that didn’t sound condescending, or ageist, or just, well, awkward. See my disclaimer, below .)
So yes, I am very flattered when people are surprised when they find out my age. Yes, I would like to think that I look younger than 50. But for me, what’s more important than looking young is looking youthful – or to put it even more simply, looking great and just generally healthy and glowing. You can still look 50 at age 50, but you can be a youthful-looking 50. It’s all in your attitude, your confidence, your kindness towards others and your general “presentation” (for want of a better word).
And let’s admit it, the sooner we don’t give a crap about our age – no more getting hung up about growing older – the sooner we can get on with enjoying what we do have. Which is ageing AT ALL. It IS a privilege… I’m sure we all know many people in our lives who never made it to anything like 50.
So here are the reasons that I think I maybe look younger than my actual age. And here’s a disclaimer: I’m not claiming that these are things that anyone “should” do. This absolutely isn’t a post about “the things you should do to look younger”. It’s just that I’ve been asked on many an occasion what my “secrets” are… I’m simply listing what I think has contributed to how I look, aged 50. Nobody NEEDS to do any of this. But you might want to try them out, it’s entirely up to you.
(But I’d definitely recommend the not smoking, excess boozing/sunbaking or lack of sleep for your general health anyway.)
This might be a funny post to look back on in 10 or 20 years and say, “Wait, WHAT?! She thought she looked young for 50?! Women in their 50s look sooooo much better than that these days, LOL”…
1. I don’t actually THINK I’m “old”
You know when people say “I actually only feel about 30”? Well, I don’t feel any particular age at all. I have no idea what age I feel. Does that make me ageless? Maybe it means I have a more youthful outlook on life? I don’t have kids myself but my family has had a constant influx of kids who then became young adults who then had kids… I STILL say I’m the baby of the family [I’m the youngest of four siblings, and younger by 10 years+]. It’s not that I’m making a concerted effort to be “down with the kids” – I’m just… me. I’m happy hiding in a big box to surprise anyone who’ll walk by (not just to amuse the kids I mean) – and to be honest I’ll do it just to amuse myself.
And yes, I have hidden in a box. I come from a family of in-a-box-hiders (sister I am looking at YOU). In fact, I may just have a large box that my giant “50” helium balloons came in just waiting to be climbed into.
My point is: I don’t think about being “too old” for something. Or even TOO YOUNG for that matter. I know I bang on about my age here, but I do it to make others realise that older and ageing aren’t dirty words. They’re no different and no better or worse than young or youth.
2. I don’t smoke
Apart from smoking for about five minutes at some point in my 20s, I have never smoked. I think it’s a pretty well-known fact that nicotine – and whatever ever other chemicals are in cigarettes – destroy collagen and the elasticity of skin. I’ve seen photos of identical twins compared side by side, one of whom smoked and one that didn’t, and the twin that was the smoker had much, MUCH more wrinkled and sagging skin than the other. So not only is smoking (as we all know!) truly awful for your health, but it wrecks your skin too.
See Trying To Guess Which Twin Smokes Is The Perfect Way To Help You Quit (if this doesn’t convince you to quit then nothing will).
3. I don’t drink (very much)
I don’t drink wine or spirits, apart from the odd gin & tonic. I’m partial to a cold beer, but I can go weeks without drinking any booze at all. If I had to give it up altogether and couldn’t drink ever again, it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. Alcohol makes you dehydrated, and what does plump, healthy skin like to be? Hydrated. So like smoking, dehydration will drain your skin of moisture and elasticity: ergo, more wrinkles. I’ve never been much of a drinker – well, I did my best in my 20s in my “down the pub” and clubbing days – but I’m sure that not drinking wine with every meal has contributed to my skin being pretty good for my age.
I’ve read a lot lately about the effects of alcohol on your skin and how it can cause premature ageing. I’m not actively avoiding alcohol, but maybe the fact that I drink very little of it has contributed to my skin looking younger than it might otherwise look.
4. I stay out of the sun
I think this was a big game-changer for me: the last time I really properly sunbathed was in 2015, on holiday in Santorini (you can see the sun damage on my face in the very last image in that post, in the pool). So I was 43, and that was the last time I made an effort to lie out in the sun and bake ( of course I was always smothered in suncream, but that just stops you burning). It just dawned on me that I was doing serious damage to my face, and I became more aware of the risk of cancer and the wrinkles I could actually prevent by not exposing my face to the sun. But it was the pigmentation that brought it home to me just how dangerous the sun’s rays on my face were: it was there, splattered all over my forehead and cheeks like a geographical map of sun damage.
Seven years (and counting) of no sunbathing. I simply fake the tan now and continue to smother myself in SPF whenever I venture near the sunshine.
Products I swear by: Institut Esthederm Adaptasun Sun Protection Body Lotion* / Ambre Solaire Self Tan Face Mist / Ambre Solaire Self Tan Body Mist (for above the waist, it’s crap on my legs for some reason) / St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse (for legs) / Ambre Solaire Over Makeup Protection Mist SPF50
5. I always wear sunglasses (plus a hat)
I honestly don’t know how people cope without wearing sunglasses. I’m a squinter and I get watery eyes; even in winter I often wear sunnies as I find even overcast days can be really bright. So my reckoning is that the more I wear sunglasses, the less I squint, therefore the fewer crows’ feet I have around my eyes. I’m also an avid hat wearer (on my walks in the morning I always wear a cap even if I don’t wear sunglasses) which I think also contributes to less squinting.
I more than make up for the lack of squinting with the smiling and laughing through, so maybe it’s swings and roundabouts…
6. I use moisturiser with SPF all year round
What a shame I didn’t start doing this earlier! For about… 8? 10? years or so I’ve worn facial moisturiser with a minimum of SPF15 in the winter and one with SPF50 once spring rolls around. I firmly believe in this one, and I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to stop sunbathing and wear SPF daily. But starting late is better than never starting at all, so I’m just glad that I treat SPF with the holiness it deserves.
Also: I ensure I wear moisturiser with SPF on my hands too. Think how much your hands get exposed to the sun; no wonder they age so quickly.
7. I always remove my makeup
Not sure how much of a contributing factor this is, but I NEVER sleep in my makeup. Even in my more =ahem= carefree days of my 20s, I would always, always take off my makeup even if I came home a little worse for wear. In fact, I never sleep without cleansing my face full stop, even if I’ve had a makeup-free day. I’d like to think it gives your skin time to breathe and repair itself whilst squeaky clean.
8. I wear a lot less “dark” makeup than I used to
Now by this I don’t mean that wearing makeup is bad for your skin. I mean that, for me, as I’ve got older I’ve found that I look younger and fresher with less heavy eye makeup. No false lashes (I use an eyelash serum these days), rarely any eyeliner or eyeshadow.
As well as that, the full face of makeup that I used to wear – with lots of blush and really defined lips too – is ageing on me. So for me personally, I think that women tend to look younger with almost no eye makeup: mascara, eyebrows, maybe a touch of soft brown to define the lids. I’m just not keen on loads of black around the eyes [on me]. And I stopped using powder blush and powder bronzer lonnnnnnng ago. Anything that’s cream or liquid-based (i.e. soft and dewy) is what I use now.
You know how when you see some celebs who’ve been papped (on their way out of the gym or similar) and they look remarkably youthful, almost 20 years younger (or is it just me)? It’s that effect that I’m talking about… the lack of heavy eye makeup makes them look like young girls. Don’t get me wrong: I’m ALL for women wearing what they want, and that goes for hair and makeup too. If women want to wear literally no makeup age 20 or a full face with false lashes and everything aged 80 then they should bloody well go for it IMO.
But for me, blogging meant I saw pictures of myself in my 40s and found that heavy makeup just wasn’t doing anything for me anymore. Honestly, if I was given the choice of having naturally perfect, bronzed, flawless skin with long, curled lashes and beautiful, full brows, then I wouldn’t wear makeup at all. Ever. So the look that I go for these days is the flawless (if only!) skin, and nothing but freckles, a (fake) sunkissed look and naturally long lashes.
Oh, and this might be a horrific thought to some, but I don’t wear under-eye concealer at all anymore. None. Maybe on a special occasion I’ll wear a tiny bit of Touche Eclat in the inner corners (the only product I’ll use under my eyes), but I always, always looks heavy on me, doesn’t really do all that much to conceal anything and instead just looks cakey. I literally prefer the slight shading under my eyes to obvious coverup.
And personally, I think that with MY features, this style of makeup makes me appear younger as a result. The image in this post is me wearing the exact products below, nothing more.
Products I swear by: Beached Rays For Days Bronzer Serum* / Bare Minerals Illuminating Mineral Veil / IT Cosmetics Tightline Mascara / IT Cosmetics Brow Power Filler / Pixi Shea Butter Lip Balm (Natural Rose) / Revitalash Eyelash Serum
9. I’m religious with my skincare routine
I can honestly say I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve skipped my daily skincare routine. As an avid magazine reader in my teens [in the 1980s] I was really into reading all about a skincare routine of cleanse, tone and moisturise. I’ve followed that basic drill ever since.
The “optimal ageing” extras I’ve now added to my routine are retinols, hyaluronic acid, eye creams and leave-on masks, plus thicker night creams and exfoliation two or three times a week. I have very dry, sensitive skin. This is completely different to how it used to be; I used to have oily/combination skin. It was about five years ago that I realised that many products made my skin sting (lightbulb moment! it’s now sensitive) and I no longer had a shiny forehead come lunchtime… it was dry and totally oil-free. I now unfortunately get a lot of eczema and I’m very aware of how dry skin causes crêpy skin and wrinkles. I moisturise LIKE A NINJA.
Products I swear by (all recommended for sensitive skin): The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid / The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid / Nivea Q10 Day Cream SPF15 / Cetaphil Daily Defence Moisturiser SPF50 / Cetaphil Rich Night Cream / Beached State of Hydrate Leave-On Mask*
10. I’ve used Vaseline as an eye cream since my teens
When I was about 14 or 15 I read (those magazines again!) that using Vaseline as an eye cream at night would keep wrinkles at bay. So I tried it… and never stopped. It’s one of those habits that 100% stuck with me, and I continued because I got used to the squidgy softness of having oiled-up eyes at night. If I get into bed and have forgotten to put Vaseline on my eyes, I’ll reach out and get the little tub from my bedside table (it’s permanently there) and swipe a thin layer across my lids and under my eyes. I just can’t sleep with (what feels to me like) dry, tight eyes.
Added bonus: if there’s any residue eye makeup on your eyes, it can be wiped away easily come the morning.
It might sound gross to some, but I swear that >35 years of doing this has kept the skin around my eyes moisturised TO THE HILT and kept eye bags and crows’ feet at bay.
11. I look after my teeth (flossing every single day)
I’m sure that teeth that are past their best are ageing… when we think of witches or baddies in the movies they always have bad teeth, don’t they?! As one of my best (favourite) features, I think I’m a) lucky to have good teeth due to genetics (my mum is 88 and still has all her own teeth) and b) thankful that I’ve really looked after mine. I don’t drink anything that really stains them, so no coffee or red wine, and I brush, floss and use mouthwash twice a day, every day.
Flossing is not something I’ve done all my life; in fact, I’ve only started doing it religiously for the last five or six years. And if you want to know my secret to making sure you always floss, do this:
Floss your teeth in a super powerful magnifying mirror (one of those 10x ones or similar). Sorry for the gross-out nature of this, but have a look at what you’re flossing off your teeth, i.e. the plaque buildup. That’s just ONE day. What with the bits of food that get plucked out from in between your teeth (eww!), it’s so revolting you’ll never not floss again, I promise you.
(Plus I swear it helps with bad breath. Keith has amazing teeth: each morning and evening he brushes TWICE with a floss in between AND uses mouthwash. So yeah, four brushes. Seems a little excessive, but not once has he ever had bad breath in the 23 years I’ve known him. Thank you, husband.)
I also got my teeth whitened a few years ago – which I top up with a home kit every year or so – and I had my pointy canines and bobbly teeth edges filed down a little. I’m not saying that less pointy teeth make you look younger, but for me it was a confidence thing. I now love my teeth and have no qualms about smiling. Smiling makes you look more youthful, I’m sure.
12. I have a good diet low in saturated fat
I can’t claim to have the perfect diet: I eat a lot of naughty stuff (too much sugar) and have to be very careful otherwise I put on weight far too easily. But compared to some, I think I have a pretty good diet on the whole. Takeaways are very rare in our house, and although we have gone through phases when pizzas are a little more frequent than I’d like, it’s at most a couple of times a month – not like the “several times a week” stories I hear about some people’s diet.
Even with the naughty stuff on top of my diet, I’ll still eat a lot of veg and fish with some fruit, plus nuts and good oils. My diet is pretty colourful (literally). So if the dieticians are to be believed, that sort of diet is beneficial for your health inside and out – again, another possible contributing factor to how my skin and overall appearance belies my 50 years.
13. I drink a lot of water
I’ve always drunk lots of water. When I had an office job I’d take giant bottles of water to work (the tap water at my last job tasted awful and they didn’t provide a water cooler, #eyeroll) and keep topping up my pint glass all day. Now I stay hydrated with my 1 litre sports water bottle that goes everywhere with me.
I’m a firm believer in water being a real cure-all. Dehydration, headaches, skin problems, tiredness, faux hunger pains… water solves it all. And again, it’s no secret that experts say that drinking water regularly will improve your skin in just a WEEK or something; imagine what drinking it for years will do?
Products I swear by: Ghonlzin 1 litre sports water bottle
14. I fake my freckles
Now we’re into the more bizarre things that I do. Well, not necessarily bizarre, more… unique to me.
I’ve mentioned that I no longer bake my face [or body] in the sun. The downside of that, for me, was that my natural freckles disappeared. But since my early 20s or so I’ve drawn on freckles as part of my everyday makeup routine as I loved the cute smattering I had across my nose and cheeks as a kid. Now I don’t care what anyone says, freckles make you look younger. They automatically make any face look more childlike. And they may not be to everyone’s taste – even though they’re super on-trend right now – but I adore them, and I don’t like my face without them.
I’ve tried every technique under the sun (pun not intended) over the last 30+ years, and I’m sure that they make me look younger. I’ll be painting those damn things on when I’m 80, you mark my words I will.
Products I swear by: Maybelline Tattoo Brow Gel Tint (for use overnight, lasts a day or two) / Kyda Freckle Pen (for one day use, doesn’t rub off easily) / Rimmel Eyebrow Pencil (for super quick, one-day use but can be rubbed off)
15. I have had Botox (on and off)
This may be a surprise to some, it might not be a surprise to others, but yes I have had Botox. Although I’ve never written an actual blog post about it, I’ve not made a secret of it.
I first had it nine years ago when I left my last office job, really as a treat to myself and to rid myself of the “11” lines between my brows that I swear the stress of that job caused. In the first few years since I had it done every six months or so (nothing like the every three months they suggest), but since then I’ve only had it done every 1-2 years. In other words, it’s only when I can afford it, and I can’t afford it right now.
The last time I had Botox was in April last year (2021), and to be honest it was almost a bit too subtle and hardly worth it. I have it in my 11’s lines and a little in my forehead – I make a point of insisting that I don’t end up with a frozen forehead.
What I do think happens is that the more Botox you have (within reason), the less you actually need it, if that makes sense. As your muscles have been frozen, you can’t (for example) frown as much, so the lines don’t get worse. And if they’re not getting worse you have less need for Botox. So for me, having it done only about once a year is infrequent enough to keep my facial expressions mobile but also frequent enough to stop me moving them too much and thereby deepening the wrinkles more. Are you with me?!
Anyway… yes, I’ve had Botox. No, I don’t really have much of it in my face right now. I’ll have it done again as soon as finances allow, but I’ll still be going for the not-frozen look.
16. I sleep with a satin-cased Save My Face™ pillow
Another game-changer, and one I can’t live without now: the Save My Face pillow. Looking like a weird, giant sanitary pad(!), this pillow is designed to curve around your face when you sleep on your side so that your face doesn’t get squished into the pillow, deepening wrinkles (specifically the marionette lines, the vertical nose to outer mouth/chin lines) overnight. It has two C-shaped sides, leaving a space where your cheek and nose are, and it’s so comfortable that I can’t sleep without it now.
I use the small (“Petite”) Save My Face which goes over your normal pillow, but you can also buy a large one that you use alone. I also use the satin pillowcases for it and change them twice a week to help my skin stay clean – by rotating it each night I pretty much sleep on a clean pillowcase every time.
In the morning I don’t have a smooshy face, which was something I just started to notice happening before I bought my Save My Face. No deep marionette lines – yes, I have them, I just think they’d be a lot worse as I’m an on-my-side sleeper.
Products I use: Save My Face™ pillow
17. I wear a lot of colour and very little black
This one’s easy. I swear black drains you as you get older. Some can pull it off beautifully, but as well as it draining all colour from my face, I feel pretty bloody lousy when wearing black (at least near to my face). It affects my mood enormously.
Put me in an abundance of orange, yellow and pink and I’m a happy bunny. It lifts my mood. Happy faces look more youthful than non-smiling, resting bitch faces (which I naturally have in spades). Bright colours lift skin tones. I guess this is just science and psychology… I’m basically tricking people into thinking I look younger than I actually am.
18. I haven’t had kids
Unfortunately, it’s a fact that having kids can often take a toll on your body and sometimes your face – both from the birth and from the pressures of raising them. It’d be very wrong to say I’m “lucky” in this regard – I’m sure there are countless women who’d gladly take on more wrinkles and sagging skin for the chance at becoming a mother. I’m not lucky in that way, but I have to attribute some of my youthfulness to the lack of stress from pregnancy, childbirth and raising children. My mother always used to say to me that having kids (she had four) wrecks your teeth and your body. As I’ve not given birth to children that’s not happened to me, and that’s simply down to the choices I made in life.
The choices you make in life nearly always have a knock-on effect on other parts of your life. Things that just happen to you (good and bad) will almost certainly have a knock-on effect on other parts of your life. This is just how life goes.
My choices/reasons for not having kids are my own (though I may write about it in a blog post one day), but nothing to do with not wanting to “ruin my looks” or any other such nonsense. It just… happened that way, nothing more than that.
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A final thought
Glancing back over all these points, it does kind of make me look like I’m obsessed with staying looking young… I’m not. I don’t do these things in a “Oh god I must do x, y and z to fight the ageing process” kind of way. I don’t really think about them all that much.
The big killers for your skin – smoking, drinking and not sunbaking – are easy for me. I could happily live without booze. I’ve never wanted to smoke. I always used to love sunbathing but when I realised my face was getting very, very patchy and pigmented, it was an easy decision not to lie out in the sun anymore (and of course there’s the cancer risk).
I enjoy my skincare routine – I don’t think that’s unusual among women – and would just feel dirty leaving my makeup on overnight. We like cooking from scratch so takeaways rarely feature in our day-to-day lives. The Vaseline thing on my eyes is a habit I’ll never stop, same with the freckles (when you’ve been doing something for 30 or 40 years you don’t easily stop that habit).
Yes, this is all stuff that comes easily/naturally to me. It’s just the way I live my life. Now, if I could ONLY get more sleep I might be doing a freekin’ Benjamin Button and start ageing backwards.
Your turn – got any optimal ageing tips for us? Would you try any of the things I’ve talked about here? Tell me in the comments…!
Stay safe XOXO
P.S. The follow-up to my last post My Perimenopause (and Menopause) Experience So Far will be coming next… I’m still working my way through replying to all the blog comments and emails I’ve had in relation to it, so do bear with me!
P.P.S. Happy birthday to me. Just like to say it, lol
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