The woman who understands what each life stage brings - from her teens to her later years - is best placed to tackle their challenges. Ageing assuredly has its issues - from spots, to sagging skin, to oily and brittle hair, it seems there's always something sent to try us.
Viva sought the advice of well-qualified women who deal daily with appearance issues related to skin, hair and makeup. Our experts offer various approaches to deal with common concerns faced by women in four different age brackets. Your personal preferences and income level will dictate your response, but whether you favour simple daily routines or high-tech intervention, it's worth finding out what works for you.
A year or so ago I interviewed a well-travelled Frenchwoman in her 70s who was mystified that many women from other countries don't take better care of themselves. She was no overworked glamourpuss, but she was petite, pert and utterly comfortable in her own skin - which she made time to massage daily. This sort of small, frequent investment in self-care can pay great dividends, be it taking a tranquil bath or a brisk walk, maintaining a healthy diet or nurturing a healthy head of hair.
As a beauty editor I've been lucky enough to try some terrific products and treatments, but I've become increasingly convinced that these offer mostly incremental improvements.
Self-acceptance and self-motivation are more important than pricey potions, appealingly indulgent as they are. Resorting to drastic appearance alteration doesn't guarantee an uplift in attitude.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and sigh, but I try not to fixate. Nothing's more unattractive than a woman riven with self-doubt or vain glory. Best we try to paper over the cracks, step back, consider the big picture and get on with enjoying what each stage of life has to offer.
Young women are often obsessed with appearance to a degree their elders are glad to have left behind (as much as we'd like the lustrous hair and firm skin!). Breakouts are the biggest woe, but unless you have serious acne that needs professional treatment, try to keep them in perspective.
Now's the time to establish regular routines and seek sound advice. Teenagers tend to wear either no makeup or too much. Same goes with hair - it mostly hangs lank or is tortured with heated tools and dye. Once you hit your 20s, it's high time to get on top of this sort of thing. The internet generation is better equipped than those previous in terms of accessing information, but all that social media and celebrity stuff seems to have spawned some unhealthy image obsessions.
What to do: Start by taking simple steps. Auckland hairstylist and skincare company founder Lucy Vincent-Marr says sebum production in under 25s' skin and scalp is at its peak. "To make the most of this, use a natural boar-bristle brush to help distribute the natural sebum away from the root area and up the hair fibre, to keep hair in optimum condition and ultra shiny."
Caci's managing director, Jackie Smith, says contending with acne can be tricky, but medication and sticking to a regimen of specialist products to reduce clogged pores can help.
Beauty therapist Samantha Gent, who runs the Day Spa at Auckland's Mollies Boutique Hotel, says the over-cleansing and skin scrubbing common among teens should be replaced with gentler care. "So they often have a real combo, confused, sensitised skin that gets worse as they dry it out more and cause the surface to become blocked - therefore it looks like bumps or spots, but it's actually caused by sebum not getting through the pores on to the skin."
Maintain the protective acid mantle built up overnight by restricting cleansing in the evening, she recommends. Exfoliation should be gentle, once per week, and scratchy scrubs should be avoided. To guard against the accelerated ageing caused by overexposure to the sun, get into the habit of using sunscreen after or with a light daily moisturiser.
Mecca Cosmetica's Rhian Morris suggests a tinted moisturiser to even out the look of young skin. (BB creams are another option.) "Amp up the glow even more by mixing in some illuminator, and press a cream blush on to the apples of your cheeks."
You can get away with having some fun with cosmetics, so play with bold colours. Purple hues are big for lips this winter. To finish you face, curl your lashes, apply two coats of your favourite mascara and ensure your brows are kept groomed and full. A professional brow shape is a way to ensure you have a guideline for plucking at home, which can easily go awry. Makeup and skincare lessons are good gift ideas for this age group.
25 to 40
These are the years when you should be at your best - young enough physically and old enough mentally to take on the world. In truth, this is a roller-coaster time when the pressures of work, finances and family kick in. Self-doubt and stress can undermine your success, so focus on taking control of what you can. Look after yourself with regular health and beauty appointments, and self-affirming time out with girlfriends.
If you have disposable income, now is a good time to consider fixing flaws such as bad teeth. Pricey procedures like laser hair removal may prove better "cost per wear" value if you have them now than when you're older. But if you're the DIY type, consider how much you might save if you opt for at-home hair removal and manicures, and save spa treatments for special needs and occasions.
What to do: Ensure you're wearing the right foundation for your skin by having a consultation with an expert, says Morris. Mismatched makeup is all too common. Some skins suits dewy coverage, others are better with a velvety matte finish.
"A great foundation can take years off you and make you look youthful and flawless," she says.
Neisha Henry of Smashbox says dark circles can be more ageing than grey hairs or wrinkles. Conceal darkness using under-eye brighteners, and when superficial lines start to show, smooth and plump them away by applying primer under your makeup.
Most women colour their hair, and overexposure to chemicals, UV rays and heated tools is standard stuff, says Vincent-Marr. "To combat this, hair needs a super dose of small molecular proteins to keep it strong and resilient." That translates to giving hair a little TLC using serums and masks. Look out for shampoos designed for colour care, finishing products with UV filters, and styling products that offer heat protection.
Body hair can also be an issue, says Gent, cropping up in unwanted places such as the top lip, the chin, and around the nipples and navel. This is due to hormonal fluctuations, which might be related to stress, pregnancy, breastfeeding or the Pill. "It's a problem for about 90 per cent of the women I see in this bracket. Unfortunately, they generally start to fix the issue themselves by plucking or shaving."
Left alone such growth may subside, but once disturbed it tends to strengthen. Trimming and bleaching is the best home remedy, or stick to professional electrolysis, which cauterises the blood supply to each individual hair.
The incidence of adult acne is overstated, says Gent; more often she finds women are suffering from stressed, dried-out skin or monthly hormonal breakouts, which antibiotics won't fix. An old-school therapist can do "lance" extractions to nix these ugly occasional spots, but attacking and picking them at home can cause scarring. "Time your monthly facial for your time of the month," advises Gent.
Signs of ageing start to show from your mid-20s, says Smith, when production of the collagen and elastin that keep skin firm starts to slow. Fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation marks may begin to develop, especially on those who have overexposed themselves to the sun. She recommends microdermabrasion to refresh and smooth the skin's surface.
Education manager for Estee Lauder, Hayley Wren, says now is the time to add a repair serum to your regimen. "It acts like a multivitamin for the skin." Eye care is also needed - she recommends using a serum and a cream to treat and hydrate.
40 to 55
Mid-life stresses are an issue for women juggling work, growing families and the increasingly inescapable fact that time is marching on. Some feel overwhelmed, but many feel liberated and more confident as they shrug off the tendency to "sweat the small stuff" or have unrealistic expectations, including about their appearance. Be mindful, however, that choosing to go grey is one thing, giving up is another.
Unrealistic youth-oriented and pseudo-scientific marketing is a turn-off for many women. They're too smart to be sucked in by "miracle" promises, but sadly may have become so alienated from the uplifting side of fashion and beauty that they risk neglecting basic care. A more nurturing, natural approach and holistic treatments may work wonders in restoring confidence to such women.
This is an ideal age to book in for lessons with a professional to help you to update your look. Ask your hair stylist to show you a few styling tricks, visit a dermatologist for a skincare consultation, whiten your teeth and try some new makeup looks.
What to do: Realise ageing is not a win-lose battle, it's a continual campaign. Adopting a healthy lifestyle helps, and try to factor in some downtime. If your budget allows, fix broken capillaries on the face and unsightly veins on the legs. "You might want to look into Botox," says Smith, who says that as the body starts to gear up for menopause, lines and wrinkles become more deep-seated. Always ensure you seek a range of opinions if you're considering appearance medicine.
Lipid decline in the hair and skin means you need to up the use of hair products high in ceramides or omegas, says Vincent-Marr.
The face also laps up lipids, especially oils applied at night, says Gent, so it benefits from anti-ageing facials and stimulating massage. She reckons more women should realise the benefits of booking a relaxing couple's massage, rather than spending a fortune in a panic about the previous neglect of their skin. "No matter what, it's always a good time to start. I also believe that $12 pot of cream or a $500 pot will be okay." Salon peels can help accelerate cell turnover, but should be used only in winter.
Cosmetically speaking, a primer worn under your favourite foundation will be your best friend, says Wren, and continued eye care is vital. "A perfect trick to refresh the eye area is to apply concealer at the inner and outer corners and then apply a mixture of eye serum and concealer underneath the eye area, blending softly. You can finish by pressing the mixture on to skin just under the brow bone for a more lifted look."
Bronzer, applied in facing figure-three shapes to either side of your face, will also lift your look.
Add blush and illumination to your priming and bronzing routine, says Henry. This wards off a dull complexion that will date you. "You may want to add a liquid iridescent highlighter for quick touch-ups on the go."
Light-reflecting foundation formulas are a favourite with Morris because they blur lines better than powdery formulations, which can settle more obviously on the skin. "Don't be afraid to go bold on your lips," she says, but choose a brand that doesn't bleed and lasts well.
Our 50s and 60s might once have been considered over the hill, but with the average female life expectancy still having another three or so decades to run, it really is way too soon to enter the twilight zone. Interesting, active older women are an inspiration, and there's plenty of them out there.
As we age, it's affirming to realise that enduring attraction really is more about who we've become than what we once looked like. Though with the right attitude and a bit of effort, there's no reason you can't continue to turn heads for purely superficial reasons.
You may be facing a retirement future on a fixed income, but try to ensure you plan to maintain some basic beauty care or encourage your family to come to the party and treat you for special occasions. Be it a lick of lippy or a fragranced hand cream, even the little things can lift your spirits and help you present your best self to the world.
What to do: Remember these words: "Ageing is a beautiful thing if done with grace." That's Gent cautioning against overdoing age-defying treatments, saying woman who have done so can by this stage be showing some odd side effects, such as "strange, over-pumped lips; slightly squiffy, lop-sided faces from fillers and Botox; and over-peeled, shiny, stretched complexions." Everything in moderation, she counsels.
Oestrogen levels decline with menopause, and this effects the skin's elasticity, pigment, firmness and tone, says Smith. The skin on the daacécolletaacé, arms and legs becomes slack and scaly. Gent concurs, suggesting body exfoliation and the daily application of rich creams and oils.
Smith says uneven facial tone and texture, pigmentation, red veins and more can be treated in a clinic with an extended personalised progamme to resurface skin. Day spas offer laser therapy, light rejuvenation and skin-rolling treatments.
Body hair is one thing that will be less of a worry with age, because hair growth slows markedly, meaning less waxing and plucking is required. The scalp needs continued nurturing, however, as thinning can be a worry. Vincent-Marr recommends omega-rich oral supplements for an inside-out approach.
As the skin thins and becomes more lined, it's wise to cut back on heavy makeup.
Instead, try using self-tan for the face to give a subtle glow. If your eyes water, switch to a waterproof mascara and smudge-proof liners. To ensure your makeup stays put, check out long-wear formulas, but ensure lasting lipsticks aren't overly matte as this can have a drying effect.
A radiant cream foundation is best, says Morris. Rather than backing away from makeup because of failing results, she urges women to prep with a smudge-proof eyeshadow base and lip plumper. "You may feel like you can't wear colour any longer, but this isn't the case."
- VIVABy Janetta Mackay Email Janetta