O Magazine: How do you handle the constant pressure to fight age?
Laura Mercier: I am the first to admit that it's much harder to see your own beauty than the beauty of others. While I love the slightly crinkly eyes of my older friends, I have very little appreciation for my own fine lines. But I have taught myself, through meditation and therapy, to treat my particularities as gifts. I stay confident by refusing to compare myself with other women of any age. Instead of trying to look young, I try to look unique.
O: What do you do to nurture your own sense of inner and outer well-being?
LM: I stay in touch with the sensuality of my body. I've always loved sports for that reason, and I enjoy dancing as well. When I am on the dance floor, I am no longer critical of myself. I know that I am beautiful. If I may say so, it's the same in bed. I put on pretty lingerie and I feel extremely secure about my femininity.
O: What makeup techniques do you recommend to other women?
LM: The thing I do for my clients is the same thing I do for myself when I feel less than beautiful: I erase the visible causes of anxiety—blemishes, tiny lines, dark circles—but I don't cover the entire face in makeup. The biggest mistake I see women making is wearing too much foundation. It erases the character of the face.
O Magazine: What is your personal beauty philosophy?
Isabella Rosselini: Try to laugh as often as possible and always remember to wash my face!
O: How do you view the beauty industry's approach to aging?
IR: If you look at most beauty advertisements, you would think that makeup is only for beautiful women in their early twenties. I try to make sure the Manifesto [Rossellini's makeup line] advertisements include women of all shapes, colors and ages. Market research shows that older women like seeing older women in ads, and that younger women do too—because they see them and are not frightened of growing older.
O: Do you believe in fighting age?
IR: No, I don't do anything to look younger; this is one battle that you will lose eventually. It is more becoming to accept the unique characteristics that come with age. Women who stay true to themselves are always more interesting and beautiful to me, women like Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keeffe and Anna Magnani—women who have style, chic, allure and elegance. They didn't submit to any standard of beauty—they defined it.
O: What makeup advice do you have for women—especially those over 30?
IR: I always encourage women to let their individuality show by not covering up what they perceive as flaws. When I see a woman with the natural wrinkles of time on her face, I do not see the wrinkles at all, but when I see a woman trying to cover them up with too much foundation or concealer, all I see are her wrinkles. Instead of looking in the mirror and asking, "What's wrong with me?" use makeup to highlight your uniqueness, not to hide and correct.
O Magazine: About ten years ago you stopped modeling. Why?
Iman: I was feeling frustrated. The fashion business is so youth-oriented. As a model, a woman is considered old when she is 30. Yet by the time I was 40, I felt I was more beautiful than ever. I was more secure and I had more wisdom. I was not a little girl anymore. In Somalia, where I come from, being young is not a high priority. You look up to mature people for inspiration and guidance. I went into the beauty business to help women feel the way I did—attractive and confident— regardless of age.
O: How do you define beauty in an older woman?
I: Commercial beauty doesn't interest me. A woman who is 50 can be as attractive as a girl who is 17, as long as she recognizes her own strengths. For example, as a young girl, I was much more preoccupied by my flaws. Everyone teased me because of my long, skinny neck. To hide my so-called deformity, I was wearing a turtleneck when I was 3! Yet my neck is probably my best asset. At the end of the day, what counts is the entire package.
O: How do you enhance self-esteem?
I: For me, skin care rituals are a form of meditation—they keep me balanced. I am kind to my skin. I remove my makeup as soon as I get home and I apply moisturizer.
But just as important as being kind to my skin is being kind to younger women. Kindness is a lovely quality to nurture as you get older. It makes you feel good about yourself.
O: So what's the best advice you would give women to follow as they get older?
I: Don't try to look skinny. After a certain age, thinness is not attractive. You'd be surprised, but five extra pounds can make you look healthier, younger, more attractive.
Next: Tricks of the trade from makeup masters Sylvie Chantecaille and Bobbi Brown