Five beauty gurus-over 40, at the top of their game and gorgeous, share their inspiring philosophies.
The truth is, most of us know that we look better now than we ever have. In fact, we can only laugh at photographs of ourselves from, let's say, a decade ago. Who would want to go back to the overworked hair, matte lipstick and spiky lashes of our younger years? And yet, because we are constantly bombarded with messages saying that each passing year makes us less attractive, less vital and less valuable in the job market, we ignore our gut feeling. We scrutinize the mirror for lines, sags, circles, dents, spots, bulges, recesses or concavities that could be attributed to age. We assume every change is a deterioration that must be overcome. We shift into fight mode—and we stay there. Indefinitely.

Feeding our insecurities is the fact that plastic surgery and skin care technology have made it possible to turn back the hands of time in a very visible way—you can erase a decade if you choose to. The question is: How do you choose to live peacefully with your looks when the pressure to do just the opposite is overwhelming?

If only you could see the changes in your appearance objectively—not in the harsh light of ageism but in the natural glow of real life—you would be surprised to discover that you do indeed look better than you ever have. Let me count the ways. For starters, your face, free at last from the pudginess of youth, has gained definition. Not only are your cheekbones more visible but your eyes are now more expressive. And how about your skin? Dryer yet softer, it no longer breaks out. Properly hydrated, it has a natural radiance and requires less makeup. And your lips, though admittedly not as full as they used to be, are now more likely to arch into an enticing smile, communicating a wider range of moods and feelings. Truth be told, the intelligence of a mature face can be much more compelling than the sometimes insipid beauty of someone whose main assets are smooth eyelids and pouty lips that provide the perfect surface for the latest high-lacquer gloss.

As renowned makeup artist Laura Mercier, 41, puts it, "Age is sexy because it brings wisdom and knowledge of yourself. As for style, you know what looks good on you. You've learned from your past mistakes; you are not distracted by trends." Who can argue with that? Yet while some women have the wherewithal to age gracefully, others feel that as soon as they hit their thirties they've got to fight to stay on top: They test all the latest high-tech antiwrinkle skin-care treatments, graduate to Botox injections, go for repeated chemical peels and, eventually, schedule an appointment with their best friend's plastic surgeon.

But before succumbing to the prevailing antiaging madness, maybe we should listen to what a few successful maverick beauty experts have to say. Despite the especially intense pressure in their profession to stay young forever, each of these women has chosen to live peacefully with her changing looks, adapting as she goes along, adding new beauty rituals and getting rid of others.

Each woman has translated what she has learned from personal experience into a successful cosmetics line, in hopes of encouraging the rest of us. "If you want to look your best, you don't need to put on a lot of makeup," says Sylvie Chantecaille, 55. "Instead, do what makes you deeply happy. Become successful. There is a true radiance in the face of a woman who takes joy and satisfaction in her own life." And Bobbi Brown, 43, who's always pragmatic, suggests, "Look at yourself as you are now, not in comparison to how you used to be. You may be surprised at your own beauty."

Next: Laura Mercier, Isabella Rosselini, and Iman share their beauty wisdom


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