How to look younger

posted in: Style advice | 11

Little girls want to look older – that’s me in my Mum’s Nylon nightdress, feather trimmed bed jacket, gold slippers and sunglasses. Then once we are older we want to look younger. Perhaps we all just want to be 19 forever.

Kate Davies as a girl, dressing up
I’m a laydeee

Beautiful young people are fit, straight-backed with good muscle tone. They have fresh complexions, bright, glossy hair and strong white teeth. They are energetic and curious and open to what the world has to offer. And when they get their A level result they leap into the air. Yea!

six young people jumping in the air

If we can retain these qualities, and hopefully marry them with wisdom and compassion, then we will look youthful into old age.  I realise I am covering a sensitive topic. If your life is hard and your health is compromised some of this may seem glib. It is not meant to be – just some ideas that may be worth considering, and perhaps make you smile.

  1. Body shape: We find slimness gorgeous because it is a youthful body shape, and one that is hard to achieve and maintain as we age. Putting on weight is not inevitable but staying trim requires an active life and healthy diet. If you are overweight a well-chosen wardrobe will enhance you, but good muscle tone and a lower BMI will make you look even better. This 72-year-old man works out. I am not recommending an extreme look, just indicating that you can develop good muscle tone at any age. This is not a health and fitness blog.
    72 year old body builder Jeff Lite
    72 year old body builder Jeff Lite
  2. Posture: A youthful body posture is lithe, flexible and straight. A physically strong body combined with yoga or Pilates will help preserve good posture and prevent bone and muscle wastage.
    Posture changes with age
    Posture changes with age
  3. Hair colour:  Greying hair is a sign of ageing, so it is no surprise  that many women, and increasing numbers of men, resort to hair dye. Personally I think dyed hair, unless it is very subtle (ie slightly lighter and the same tone as your natural colour), is ageing. Ultra-blonde, extensions, and the Zebra stripes are allpasse, and will age you. So avoid all peculiar hair colours such as maroon or orange. Grey hair is very fashionable at the moment, so maybe give natural a try.
    David Tennant has dyed
    David Tennant has dyed
  4. Hair cut: Long hair is great for young women but unless it is very well-tended can drag down an older woman. Long hair on older men is ridiculous; if you arereceeding too it looks like your hair piece has slipped. A huge fringe to cover your wrinkles doesn’t really work either.Following trends is important, otherwise you get caught in the past – go for a modern hair cut and visit your hairdresser at least four to six times a year.  Men need to go every 6-8 weeks. A hairdresser you trust will help you to choose a cut that makes the most of your face shape.
    Jamie Lee Curtis with short grey hair
    Jamie Lee Curtis (56)

    Apart from a nice cut Jamie has full eyebrows (which may be subtly made up). Eyebrows frame your eyes and unfortunately often lose their colour and density with age. They don’t need plucking and could use a little extra definition instead. Don’t use a hard pencil on them.  Men may experience the opposite problem – their eyebrows get bushier and bushier (like Denis Healy).  Ask your hair dresser to sort them out.

  5. Hair products If you use hair gel, setting lotions, Brylcream, mousse, hairspray  or putty keep it imperceptible. Same goes for straighteners and blow drying. Hair is supposed to move and be soft to touch, not sticky, oily, crispy or stiff.
  6. Balding This is a fact of life for a significant proportion of men. All the solutions are worse than the problem – hair transplants, comb-overs and wigs. The old monk  or “egg in the nest” look is just sad. Cut it short and enjoy it – it does not undermine your sex appeal. And don’t feel you have to grow a beard to compensate.
    Sean Connery bald
    Sean Connery – maybe just cut it off?
  7. Make up Older women do benefit from wearing a little make up. Again keep the colours close to your natural shades. Avoid  bronzers, contouring,sunbeds, false eye lashes. Good skin (rosy from fresh air and exercise), adequatelymoisturised, is far more attractive than thick foundation,blusher,claggymascara, obvious lip pencil, etc. Heavy make up emphasises wrinkles, and dark lipstick which bleeds into lines around your mouth is just scary. As ismascara on the lower eye lashes.
    Narrow lips on older woman with bad lipstick
    Lipstick bleeds
  8. Clothes that fit Clothes that are too tight are ageing. If you are bigger than you want to be please don’t squash yourself into tight clothes. Your health and comfort will suffer. You don’t want too loose either. Get the right size, or make your own clothes to fit your shape. Nothing looks better.
  9. Stylish clothes
    • Many women (less so men) find their skin looses its tone – in which case cover it up with sleeves, tights and reasonably high necklines.
    • Don’t ignore fashion but choose what suits you from what is current.
    • If you go into Topshop/Topman or Zara and try to find an outfit that will make you look young you may be disappointed.  They are cut for young figures and manufacturers skimp on the fabric. The grain may be off, the skirt too short, the menswear is for immature frames, the tops won’t tuck in etc. So go to better quality shops and just get the odd item from the trendiest shops.
    • If you stick with a look you had when you were young you will  inevitably look dated and stuck in a time warp.
    • If you adopt a look you think is suitable for your age that would be a disaster. The Mail has good advice on this, and here are their pictures of Linda Kelsey (age 60) wearing a shapeless bias dress and a comfy, unstructured brown cardigan. This mid calf length is particularly ageing and should be avoided. Same for the horrible shoes. In the second photograph Linda  has a fitted dress which is considerably better. The colour is vibrant, the length just right and the neutral shoes are classic. Personally I don’t like the cut away shoulders which I think emphasises her rather large shoulders but overall the look is so much more youthful.
  10. Teeth. Your teeth are nearly as old as you are. They get damaged and stained as you age and it is important to see your dentist regularly. Personally I feel that the “perfect teeth” worn by Americans are so obviously “false” that they look like dentures. That’s cultural. So long as your teeth are in good shape, clean and healthy that is probably enough. But broken, stained teeth, unhealthy gums andbreath really need attention.
    Older man, white teeth
    Older man with nice teeth
  11. Footwear Dad trainers, orthopaedic sandals, trashy heels, librarian shoes, anything with Velcro – choose classic shoes, elegant heels and stylish boots.
    Ageing footwear of uncertain sex
    Ageing footwear of uncertain sex
  12. Facelifts and other surgery Wrinkles start in our 20s so get used to it. They are a sign of life and not worth worrying about. Keep out of the sun most of the time, and  get enough sleep. There are more fun things to do in life than have unnecessary surgery – the best face lift is a smile. If you want to feel good about how you look search “face lift” images on the internet – it’s a truly horrible industry.
    Man before and after a facelift
    Can you tell the difference?
  13. Attitude: Excitement and enthusiasm are attitudes of mind associated with youth, before life grinds you down. So a positive, outgoing approach where we see the fun in life rather than focusing on our difficulties can make older people appear younger. A youthful mentality implies a willingness to try something new, to play, to be effortlessly active.

11 Responses

  1. Nick Johnson

    Very good! I feel younger just getting to the end of it without the need for a lie down and a coffee. What about a blog on ‘glasses’ – now there is a challenging brief! By the way….I don’t really like pictures of me in the blog…..even at 72.

  2. Anne

    Lovely and clear as ever thanks Kate. Appreciate not seeing the more typical Mail images taking women and their surgery/body failings/sheer being themselves to task and stoking their inner turmoil. Meanwhile, do you think the lovely Linda K dyes her hair? (Asking for a friend *ahem*).

  3. fabrickated

    Yes, undoubtedly Linda dyes her hair, and it looks fine doesn’t it? It probably cost hundreds of pounds. She would grim with a DIY dye, which I will devote a whole post to next week. And thank you for your kind comments Anne.

  4. sew2pro

    Great article! If ever I get the kind of cash to throw at making myself look younger, it’ll be spent on teeth, teeth and teeth.

    But I’ve never heard of Linda Kelsey. Does that mean I’m young 🙂 ? Or old :-/

  5. Stephanie

    Love the photo of you as a girl!

    I agree with all of your points. Very kindly and gently written. I guess I wonder sometimes about why looking young is so important to our culture. I have to admit that I like getting older, even with respect to how my looks have changed, which might make me strange. I figure that as long as I remain healthy, active and excited by life then I will also feel attractive by extension. I have no motivation for trying to fool anyone into thinking I am still twenty, when my forties are just fine. Since I began taking drawing and painting classes years ago, I also realized that beauty is so varied but in everyone – young and old. People with experience on their faces are often much more appealing than is the blank slate beauty of youth. An older French man who was a good friend of mine until he died said that when he was a little boy growing up in a small French village he thought that the dark circles under a woman’s eyes made her beautiful and mysterious! Well, that was a digression. Incidentally, Audrey Hepburn had a crooked smile. I’ve always preferred more natural-looking but healthy teeth to the artificial American-style mouth, too.

  6. amaryllislog

    Thank you for this perfectly timed and insightful post Kate. I’m in my early 50s and work in an industry that is very young. I think keeping a healthy amount of young people around you is really wonderful, but my favorite person happens to be a lovely 93 year old woman.

    Thank you for pointing out what works and the correct mindset, embrace and work with the gray, wrinkles and changing body (I believe it all adds up to wisdom).

    I’m an American and I agree, we bleach our teeth to the point where the white is almost blue. There is nothing more odd than teeth that are more white than the whites in ones eyes. It isn’t attractive, it distracting.

    Really a spot on post!

  7. Arlene

    No need for all the American bashing about teeth! The average American, much like the average Brit, has his/her own teeth. There are lightening processes that take older, stained teeth back to a more youthful look. I see nothing wrong with making what you have better. No one wants to look at yellowy or stained teeth!! But also, as you age, the enamel wears away and more of the underneath layer, which is actually grey, shows through. There are good and bad dentists and the good ones will actually tell you, to the point raised above, do not lighten your teeth to be lighter than the whites of your eyes.

    There are celebrities, politicians and people with excessive amounts of money in both countries who will change their teeth to make them perfect and often they are too perfect and too white–the “Chiclet” effect. Joe Biden in this country is an example. In England, David Beckham, Gordon Ramsay and Elizabeth Hurley are examples. But there are plenty of notable Americans who leave their crooked or imperfect teeth alone–Madonna, Kirsten Dunst, Meryl Streep, Lauren Hutton, etc. just as you have Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley etc.

  8. Arlene

    You might hear something like that occasionally by a comedian, on a talk show etc but it’s not the norm in every day life. I don’t think Americans are used to seeing crooked teeth as much as you see them in the UK because orthodontics is more prolific here. But it’s not just cosmetics–it’s about having one’s bite aligned and other factors, ostensibly for longevity though this is not always achieved and is surely oversold in the US. But many of us have our own teeth and don’t lighten them when it is often stated, and I have heard this in the UK, that all Americans “fix” their teeth. I would say not even 5% of my friends and colleagues have significantly altered their teeth and many do not have perfect or close to white teeth. But many have had orthodontic work.

    Best not to generalize, I think. There are so many examples in the UK and around the world that Americans are this, that or the other thing and they are often just generalizations: ugly American, loud American, etc. I suppose there are ugly and loud Americans just as there are British with bad teeth. We just don’t want our countries judged on the whole this way, I think.

  9. sweatyknitter

    Before I retired I wore my silver-white hair (which made its appearance when I was in my early 30s) in a style similar to by Jaimee Lee Curtis. It worked then – I was a working professional who wore designer suits etc. and was always carefully made up. Then I retired! I have no desire to to visit a stylist every month (my hair grows quite fast) or wear business attire. I donated all my business wear to a woman’s shelter looking for work clothes for women re-entering the job market! Nor do I feel the need to carefully apply makeup every morning (except for mascara). My once cropped styled spikey silver hair is waist length though when I go out I wear it in a French twist (etc) . I apply makeup only when I go out for dinner etc. I kept my silk shirts and blouses and wear then with slacks or jeans and a sweater or swing jacket. I kept a few dressy pieces but rarely wear them! At home it’s yoga clothes and an apron as I experiment with artisan bread making! 🙂

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