Beauty is so tied to youth in our society. The two ideas are almost inseparable. More often than not, the models you see in beauty campaigns are barely out of puberty, and the faces on magazines that have a few more birthdays under their belts are retouched to remove any signs life after 25. Let’s be real; we’re all vain here. We all want to look beautiful. But with such a limited definition of beauty, we leave out a lot of the real kind. Beauty isn’t a constant—it’s always changing; that’s kind of the, well, beauty of it, right? And certainly it doesn’t have just one definition, which is why we asked women ages 50 and above to speak candidly about beauty—how they view it, how they approach it, and how they wish the rest of society would understand it.
Aging Isn’t a Bad Thing
What do women over 50 wish you knew about their beauty style and concerns? One of the overarching themes that emerged was that they don’t view aging as a bad thing.
“Understand that we don't want to look like we wish we were 30. Let us be 50 and fabulous. We've earned that right.” — Kimberley, 54
“In an ideal world, the young would see the lines and aging on someone’s face as a marker of the life they’ve been lucky to live.” — Julie, 55
“I’ve turned aging concerns into a healthy, more subtle pursuit to look as young as I can. Still blond? Heck yes! Youthful but classic cuts? Absolutely. On-trend polishes? Toes only! The concerns about looking young are still there, but my approach is much more realistic than looking in the mirror and hoping to see a much younger version of me.” — Janet, 59
“We’re having so much fun in our 50s! We can breathe a little more and are more comfortable with ourselves.” — Katie, 52
They’re also real about it, though. Aging isn’t a bad thing, but no one is bemoaning youth here either.
“I still feel like the girl in her 20s or 30s, but the face and body have changed. I just don't remember the years going by so fast. That has been a challenge to accept and get comfortable with, but I am adjusting.” — Celia, 65
“Do I wish I looked younger? Of course. Who doesn't? But the bottom line is this is my face, it is my life, and I earned it.” — Kathy, 66
We Need to Stop Pressuring
Given this more positive outlook on aging, it follows that women over 50 aren’t pleased with the pressures to look younger—pressures that, as one woman shrewdly pointed out, don’t apply to men.
“I get tired of the constant push to 'do' something—to counteract aging. Sometimes I feel like parents at Christmas, being inundated with ads for expensive toys to put under the tree so their kids won't hate them!” — Kathy, 66
“I would like other people to remember that we all grow older. That is a concept that is hard to grasp in our youth.” — Celia, 65
“I know so many women who are so beautiful naturally. I wish the world would appreciate more the beauty of women who don't go under the knife or inject stuff into their faces, and because they live healthy lifestyles, look beautiful—wrinkles, droops, and all. The standard of beauty has been raised to a bar that is fake and can't be maintained by 98 percent of the world.” — Cynthia, 55
“I started with a few highlights, before my hair started going gray. And now I am trapped. I would like to grow my hair out, but I am just vain enough not to want to look like a skunk while I do it. And no stylist I know will help me make the transition. They all simply freak out, yelling that I will look old, overlooking the fact that I am not exactly 40 anymore. And it really frosts me that men do not feel the need to color their hair. They get to be gray and no one says a word or pressures them.” – Kathy, 66
The Stereotypes Don’t Fit
Not surprisingly, they also object to the preexisting beauty stereotypes out there—the woman-of-a-certain-age short haircut, the expectation for modest makeup.
“I wish that other people will not stereotype a certain beauty style for older women.” — Anna, 50
“As an artist, I believe there are no rules about what defines beauty. I believe each age has its own beauty regardless of the number.” — Janet, 50
“My routine is more minimal, but I still like to break the rules every once in a while.” — Katie, 52
“Older women still want to feel attractive—we're not our mothers.” — Elaine, 57
Similarly, and as is the case with most groups of people, it’s difficult to make generalizations. Some women praise the virtues of good highlights while others lament their decision to ever cover up their grays. Some women have scaled back on the amount of makeup they wear while others say they wear more now than they did in their younger years. But it’s the not specifics of hair and makeup that they hold important…
They Emphasize Health and Confidence
Rather than discussing the products they swear by, many of the women noted health, both physical and mental, as an important facet of beauty.
“My beauty style is about maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, enjoying my career, spending more time with family and friends. I consider these all part of my beauty regimen now, and I believe most of my friends feel the same way.” — Janet, 59
“I also strongly believe the power of exercise—for mind, body, balance, stamina, movement. I could go on and on. The physical benefits of exercise are just the cherry on top.” — Luanne, 55
“I think people should be more concerned about the healthy lifestyles of older women, with regular exercise and a healthy diet.” — Anna, 50
“Older women are concerned with the effects aging has on their bodies and mind, and they do the intelligent thing to take care of those issues. I do think the basics are important; taking care of oneself intellectually and physically by eating healthy foods, getting good sleep, and maintaining your flexibility and a healthy weight.” — Janet, 50
“My approach today is more holistic. Everything contributes to how I feel about beauty, from diet and physical fitness to mental health, and I believe that comes from greater self-awareness of my body and how I deal with life. That said, I’m still open to trying new products so long as they don’t settle into the cracks and gullies that I previously called wrinkles.” — Katie, 52
They also talk about a confidence that comes with age. Again, not one that comes from great product, but rather, experience.
“When it comes to hair and makeup, by the age of 50, you know what works and what doesn't. There's not as much experimenting. (Glitter lashes? Nope!) And you finally have the confidence you wish you'd had in your 20s and 30s.” — Kimberley, 54
“I think women in their 40s and beyond know what works for them beauty-wise, and although they’re willing to try something new, they’re confident in what works for them—and their confidence makes them glow.” — Cynthia, 55
Pearls of Wisdom
Ready for some inspiring beauty sound bites? These wise words apply at every age.
“My creed: Never look like I am trying too hard, but still seek people saying ‘you look great!’” —Janet, 59
“My grandmother, ‘Glam Gram,’ was always dressed in beautiful clothes, full makeup, great hair, nails well-manicured. She was beautiful, and I wanted to be just like her (and still do). But, when necessary, a baseball cap works well.” — Luanne, 55
“I buy less but better—and I realize product can make my appearance only just so youthful.” — Janet, 59
“I’m just trying to look like the best possible version of myself at this age—not young. And good highlights are a must.” — Cathy, 50