Sunday, November 1, 2009

Beauty after 40: while nurturing your inner beauty, pay more attention to the maintenance of innate beauty.

Hi there! It's me Svetlana.

Today George and I are on the plane coming back from a wonderful vacation in California. During this long flight I was thinking: what ultimately is beauty? Everyone has a unique answer to this question; however, there are universal components of what we call beautiful. First of course are good looks, and the other one is the beauty coming from within: kindness, generosity, warm heart, love for people, wit, sense of humor, optimism. So what is more important: looks or the inner beauty? I want to turn the tables around for a moment. Many books on beauty and self-improvement preach the same: do not obsess about the exterior alone and pay more attention to the inner beauty, wisdom, self-confidence, love for others, and peace of mind. This advice is great, of course, as long as it’s not taken to extremes and evolves into advocating the advantages of NATURAL BEAUTY only. Natural beauty is great in the 20s when a girl can jump out of bed and look drop-dead gorgeous, but as we age, going out without makeup may not work out that great.

Homemade beauty on a budget for women after 40 does not mean “natural beauty”. By no means have I advocated natural beauty after a certain age. The notion that the real beauty is natural beauty at all ages is a myth cultivated by women who may be less fortunate than the others in their innate beauty and stop pursuing the best looks they can achieve and maintain (“the quitters”), or simply are in denial that the outer beauty is just as important as inner beauty (“the oblivious”). All the endless discussions about the importance of INNER BEAUTY fade when a middle-age woman, even with the most brilliant personality, wears no makeup and a greasy bun of hair or wears a belly-exposing top.

The ultimate beauty is a combination of both: the innate and the inner beauty, and as we age and learn to appreciate the later more and more, we still have to keep the balance between the two in check, so the façade remains as presentable as possible. While the inner beauty thrives with age, our innate beauty gradually fades, and maintaining it requires more time, money, and resources. All in all, we do not want to become attractive only from within, but also want to be still as sexy, desirable, and feminine as possible. To keep the façade presentable at any becomes more and trickier with age. And we still want to do it as fast, simple, and cheap as possible without compromising much in quality. Eventually it may not be possible to do it all at home and at some you may consider an occasional more expensive professional intervention to reverse signs of aging (Botox treatment, face lift, or microdermabrasion), however the bulk of your self-care routine still can be and should be home-based and as natural as possible.

In this post I would like to give you my perspective on how to approach the growing need for more elaborate self-care as we age without spending tons of money. First of all, let’s see what we can do to keep what we have as long as possible. In my opinion this is the wisest investment: to preserve what nature gave us as long as possible (including skin, hair, teeth, nails, weight, muscle tone, bone strength, youthful gait and posture). How to do this? Certain things in our beauty routines should be non- negotiable, and they cost little or no money at all.

This is what you do:

1. Commit to meticulous and consistent sun protection, even on a cloudy day, even in winter. SPF of at least 30 is desirable. Do not forget that many cosmetic manufacturers mislead about the actual SPF level, and in reality it may be twice lower than stated on the package. Personally I chose SPF of 45 to 50 for my face. Here is a picture of me George took in the Death Valley National Park in California less than a week ago, and  here I wear SPF 55 all over my body.

 SPF product has to contain a mechanical sun-blocking agent (titanium oxide) for the best results. Avoid at all costs unprotected exposure on a beach or in a tanning salon. THE SUN IS THE NUMBER ONE SKIN-AGING FACTOR! If you like the sun-kissed appearance (not extreme, unnatural, “baked” look) all-year-around (I think it makes anybody look better), reserve to a self-tanning product. In the prior blog post I went over how to apply a self-tanner like a pro.

2. Avoid smoking cigarettes or second-hand smoke exposure. Cigarette smoke makes skin look sallow, wrinkly, ashen, thin, and lifeless. A woman who smokes looks at least 5 years older her age, and the condition of her skin (and teeth!) unquestionably gives away the bad habit.

3. Treat your hair, hands, and neck the same way you treat your face. My mother used to say that a woman’s hands, neck/neck line, and hair give away the age instantly, even if the face looks perfect. Extend your skin routine to your hands and neck, including exfoliation, masks, moisturizing, sun protection, and age spots removal. The same is true about hair. Apply weekly hydrating masks and hot oil in winter; prevent dryness with leave-on conditioner and sun block (designed for hair) in summer. Avoid perms or cheap at-home color formulas. If you do color at home (which I do), follow hair color instructions precisely and do not keep color on longer than recommended to avoid “burning” hair with chemicals.

4. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. I try to floss after each main meal. Clean teeth professionally twice a year and whiten at home with over-the-counter whitening strips (“Crest 5 minutes whitening strips” are my personal favorite). Even though professional whitening delivers much more dramatic results, it costs a fortune, does not last, needs repeat treatments, and sometimes looks unnatural (too white teeth can look like artificial veneers). So unless you work in entertainment industry or on TV, you may consider more natural shades of white.

5. Never go to bed at night with your makeup on.

6. Identify the time of your life you were in the best physical shape (for me it was ten-year period between the ages of 20 of 30 when I averaged 138-139 lbs at 5’6”), and do everything possible to always remain within 10-15 lbs of that “ideal” body weight.

My plane is going to land in Philly soon so I have to finish this post. Much more to come. Keep reading!
So long.

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