Older Women Are Winning the Skin Care Game

And it’s due to more than just good products.

Recently my husband mentioned, “women have really figured out skincare.” I asked him what he meant. He said that everyone just seemed to look better. He noticed smoother, healthier skin in older women and attributed it to likely having better products and better professional advice online.

He’s not wrong.

The Multi-Decade and Ethnicity (MDE) study, led by Dr. Alexa Kimball, professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, with Olay, and 23andMe, looked for (and found) the genetic commonalities among women whose skin looked younger than their age-matched peers. The study began in 2012 and examined female skin aging throughout six distinct decades and across four different ethnicities. The researchers looked at over 20,000 genes and identified around 2,000 genes responsible for a range of key biochemical pathways, including skin and moisture barrier formation, DNA repair and replication, and anti-oxidant production. 

Although we all have these genes in our skin, the study participants who had not undergone cosmetic procedures but looked younger than their actual age (“exceptional skin agers”) had a much stronger expression of these genes. However, the MDE study also found that these genes can be influenced by environmental factors, lifestyle choices and even skincare habits. Those findings have been used to help create new products and lifestyle recommendations that have proven to help slow skin aging. So yes, women have better products and professional advice available these days. 

But it’s more than that. 

As we age, we become more confident about how we spend money, and women have learned to prioritize self-care over recent years at all income levels in terms of both time and budget. At the same time, more skin-related products and services are available than at any time in history, and women in midlife are simultaneously enjoying more stable incomes and exercising more than any previous generations. As a result, women have built a habit of keeping fit, doing activities they love and taking good care of their appearance with money our mothers and grandmothers didn’t necessarily have.

We all know that simple daily rituals including exercise and good skin hygiene positively impact our appearance. 

But again, it’s more than that.

Emotional maturity, kindness, confidence, a good sense of humor, independence, being emotionally supportive to our loved ones, and even intelligence all contribute to how good we feel about ourselves, and women are winning here too. In other words, our mental health, relationships, work-life balance, ability to love, find purpose, be curious, and laugh all make us feel good inside, and when we feel good, people can see it. It shows and we glow.

You Simply Can’t Hide Happiness!

When I think of beauty, I think of it holistically, wanting to nurture and develop all parts of myself and let my appearance reflect it. The way you feel inside has little to do with products or makeup.

When you feel good, you look better. And when you look good, you feel better.

Our job is to learn to create and maintain this virtuous cycle. As we get older, we tend to have more time to contemplate what matters most in our lives.  Women today are beginning to see themselves not as “old ladies,” which women were once thought of by age 50, but as renewed spirits in an important, meaningful phase of life. Fading are the days when women reach midlife and dream of reliving their youth (misspent or not!). 

More and more of today’s women are looking forward to life. Not back at it.

Social stereotypes have a huge impact on women’s life goals. Past generations could see only one goal: getting married and having a family. Few women dreamed of having a career. And there were far fewer opportunities and career paths for them if they did. 

Not that long ago, many women reaching midlife wanted to turn back the clock and re-experience the freedom, fun, and carefree lifestyle they enjoyed before the increasing pressures that home and family responsibilities placed on them. Unlike our mothers and grandmothers, who grew up with limited choices, young women and girls today are raised to be able to see a path towards achievement, choice, independence and possibility that doesn’t dead-end at midlife. 

The Mindset About Midlife is Changing

Women over 40 are beginning to understand that they are entering the best years of their lives. 

We are embracing the confidence and self-awareness that can only come with having lived a little longer and younger women can only look forward to that. This shift in our collective mindset encourages a view of aging as something to welcome instead of fear, avoid or fight against. 

One of my clients commented recently, “I used to see women older than 40 as pretty much just mothers and wives. Today I see women in their 40s just beginning to reach their prime.” – P.D.

A friend recently told me that growing up, she thought 40-year-old women were old (ha!). When she reached her 40s, she didn’t even consider her 68-year-old mother to be old. And by the way, her 68-year-old mother didn’t feel old either. She was very involved with the family, active professionally and socially, and had many friends of all ages based on shared interests and experiences. 

A colleague noted, “my grandmother had her first grandchild at 40. I had my first baby at 40.”

Many women I speak with are surprised at how vital, strong, and sexy they feel now. The comfort in their own skin, the power of believing in themselves, and the confidence about where they’re going in their lives are palpable. Young women, in turn, are shifting their mindsets at a younger age, creating solid boundaries and dedicated self-care programs. How we feel is tied to how we look.

We are learning to accept life’s normal ups and downs, the physical changes we experience with aging, find meaningful pursuits, optimize what we can while minimizing what we don’t need, and stay healthy. These are all pillars of building inner beauty in our lives so that it shows on our faces.

The irony is that while the media and the internet inundate us with easy access to skincare, self-care advice, and products that work, women are pushing back at advertisers who try to prey on insecurities, fears, and anxieties. 

Beauty is more than make-up and a good haircut. Feeling calm and relaxed, being rested, clean, alert, and keeping our hair and skin hydrated are all far more naturally attractive than a face hidden underneath makeup (although we love to play with makeup, too!).

A study performed in 2015 found that men actually find women to look more attractive as they age and mature. Studies have also shown that being willing to try new things and take some minor risks, among other traits, is associated with attractiveness. Why aren’t we doing more studies about it? Imagine if we could find more ways to make ourselves feel beautiful aside from daily regimes built around our appearance?

The Halo Effect

The same study found that kindness and friendliness are also often associated with physical attractiveness and that these personality traits may represent a “halo effect,” which is a hypothesis that the presence of pleasant personality traits will make someone appear more attractive. We don’t care about wrinkles on a person who is friendly, trustworthy and kind.

This isn’t to say that lacking self-confidence makes you inherently unattractive. But being comfortable in your skin and able to understand and express your needs and wants in a relationship is important. Emotional maturity is a magnetic quality.

Women in midlife have lived. They have interesting insights and conversations.

Having confidence in yourself is also very attractive. Knowing what you want and seeking it out is liberating rather than relinquishing those decisions to others. Self-confidence doesn’t always come naturally and can be challenging to achieve when the media pounds us with messages about what is and isn’t attractive and who we should be. Not everyone is in the same life position nor has the same comforts and much of our inner happiness comes from peace of mind. 

Growing up, I somehow internalized a media message that the age of a woman’s beauty and vitality began fading by age 40. It was the beginning of being ‘old.’ But the stereotypes have changed and now we understand that at age 40, we are entering the most rewarding decades of our lives! We don’t worry about these numbers anymore. We feel vital and vibrant and this mentality positively affects our appearance.

Final Thoughts

Today’s women in midlife are creating a blueprint for younger generations when it comes to self-care. We are mastering our knowledge and application of great cosmetics and skin care products and sharing what we learn with our friends and family. But studies are showing that beyond maintaining clean, vital-looking skin, self-confidence and overall happiness contributes to our overall appearance, and that a combination of great skincare practices and feeling that our lives are interesting and fulfilling is the real winning combination when it comes to mastering the skincare game. 

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