A year ago, I wrote about the bizarre in-between phase that is your 20s—where beauty treatments are still just preventative and you're living (arguably) like a kid with a few adult expectations. What interested me was how my peers felt about the prospect of aging—even if it was, in fact, far off in the distance.
Now I'm more interested in women in their 30s and 40s. How do they wrestle with aging once they've graduated from their 20s and find solace in who've they've become? We've talked a lot about whether or not we find the term "anti-aging" to problematic, if it causes shame or anxiety in women today, and if (as with so many other things) wisdom and acceptance knock those feelings away with every passing birthday.
Below, eight women describe their own personal thoughts on the aging process.
"I find the word 'aging' really polarizing. I don't like to think I'm 'aging' rather changing with the times and upgrading how I look accordingly. I'm turning 33 next year, which 21-year-old me would cringe to say, but I'm learning to embrace it. What I am getting anxious about, though, is entering the next chapter, which is reproducing.
"I don't want to wake up at 40 and realize I haven't had a child and then have a hard time wanting one by then. My husband and I are workaholics and are still figuring out our lives, so this next chapter still feels a couple of years away. As far as my looks go, I'm accepting that Botox may be in my future and that it's totally okay to do so if I feel like it. I don't want to compare myself to the younger me, but I want to make sure I stay happy in my skin no matter how old I get. That's my main goal in 'aging' and in life."
"I think 'aging' is an interesting word because there is so much about removing 'anti-aging' from the conversation in beauty at the moment. I had a birthday recently and turned 43, which was a big year for me. But I try not to focus on the number; I prefer to focus on how I feel. Taking a moment, which can be hard in the industry I am in, to remember not criticize or overanalyze myself has been a goal as I get older. I do try to take care of myself always—hot yoga, eating well, getting sleep, and taking moments to indulge. I have two amazing sons and love these moments happening now. I want to be my best for me because then I'm my best for them. I would tell my younger self to wear more sunscreen, expect miracles, and look up often, or you'll miss the beauty in the mundane."
"Aging is inevitable. We are all going to age! I don't have anxiety about aging; it's a process I've accepted and am ready to embrace, and I'm not obsessed with preventing it. However, I'd like to slow it down and ride it gracefully. My tips for this would be a healthy, happy lifestyle. I don't smoke or drink alcohol, and I stay constantly hydrated. I noticed I aged significantly in my son's first year of life, and I believe this was due to lack of sleep and other stress I was experiencing. I try to stick to a skincare regimen using high-quality natural active ingredients, and I've seen real improvements in the tone and vibrancy of my skin since doing so."
"Beauty isn't as easy as it used to be, but my attitude about it is better. I've reached that point where I'm starting to see the results of my earlier habits, good and bad—all that exercising in my 20s gave me a solid base of muscle, but all that not-wearing-sunscreen gave me lines that are increasingly obvious. It's clear to me that going forward, there are no more quick fixes. I used to be able to rebound from a month of bad behavior with a week of good sleep and good eating, or drop five pounds by cutting out booze for a week. Now any slip in routine takes much longer to repair.
"At the same time, I care a bit less than I used to. Thirty is the decade when I found real career success, real love, and real independence, and I did it all with an extra 10 pounds on me—so clearly those pounds never mattered in the first place. I'm more concerned with my health and my fertility: I was diagnosed with PCOS earlier this year, and the weight gain and changes in appearance it's caused scares me a lot less than what it might mean for my future. I mainly valued my body for what it looked like for a long time, and now I think much more about what it can do and making sure it's healthy for the long term. But you don't fall off a cliff appearance-wise when you turn 30, either. Most people meeting me for the first time still think I'm in my 20s, and I've decided to stop correcting them."
"My greatest personal and career accomplishments have happened in my 30s and 40s, which makes it very easy for me to feel positive about aging and what my future holds. In fact, I just recently hiked the Grand Canyon. Rim to rim in one day—17 hours straight! It certainly taught me there is nothing I can't do, which always brings incredible confidence. When it comes to aging, here is how I see it: I am not seeking a face absent of wrinkles. I'm simply wanting to look good for my age.
"At 48, most people think I'm in my late 30s, and I consider this to be a success. I take excellent care of my skin, yet I don't need to (and won't) go to any extremes to achieve looking unrealistically younger. I also view looking good for my age not just about my skin's appearance but rather how I live my life, how I dress, and how I present myself to the world. I am a person who tries to live confidently and boldly, doing my best to embrace every stage of my life. I strive to be well-rounded in all that I do, and embrace exercise, travel, music, artistic expression (I have pink hair!), and taking care of myself in order to live life to the fullest each and every day. This all gives me a healthy peace of mind so I don't weigh myself down with negative thoughts related to aging.
"Tip to my younger self: Surround yourself with people who inspire you and not bring you down. If something isn't working in your life, make a bold change if needed so you're truly in the driver's seat of your life. My favorite quite is from Henry David Thoreau: 'Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.'"
"I look young (thank you mom and dad), and so I always feel great in the 15 seconds I'm asked for my ID when ordering my bourbon on the rocks. But during those 50-ish hours a week that I'm at the office, as a minority woman, I feel a daily pressure to make sure people know I'm not in my 20s, particularly in a conference room. I am very conscious of how I deliver my ideas, what I wear, and even going as far as making the right late-'80s, early-'90s references. There is a difference of how I'm perceived among colleagues who know and those who don't."
"I'm nervous about the aging process, honestly, but I'm gonna go with it to the best of my ability. I do, however, want to age with an edge, so I cut in an undercut, as I like to be classic/trendy with my style. I love being in my 30s—I feel more confident in my body and my voice. I love that I feel more confident to say no to things that I don't really want to do. I feel overall more empowered being in my 30s."
"Aging for me definitely brings a little bit of anxiety—I worry about the wrinkles, my skin, and my body parts that gravity is taking a toll on. That being said, I'm more aware and in tune with my body than I ever have been, and it's an amazing feeling. Listening to your body and being able to give it what it needs to age well is so important, and something that I wish I would have started doing when I was younger. Now I try to get a minimum eight hours of sleep, drink massive amounts of water, always take off my makeup before going to bed, and put real food in my body. Dear 24-year-old me: Please take off your mascara, Diet Coke does not hydrate you, and cream cheese is not its own food group."