I am 50, and I am confused about my face.
I’m confused because I think it looks… okay.
I think it looks older than it used to, because I am older than I used to be. I think it looks a bit tired, because I am a bit tired. It looks like it’s seen some sun. Like it’s done its share of laughing and crying and eating and drinking, of being out in the world, because it has.
Still. I think my 50-year-old face is… okay.
But everywhere I look, I’m told that’s not possible.
Faces with lines don’t look okay.
Hooded eyes don’t look okay.
A looser jawline doesn’t look okay. Or deepening eye sockets, or a forehead with lines.
Freckles aren’t okay. Red bits aren’t okay. Crinkles and bumps and dints aren’t okay.
I know this because the women I see on the screens that surround me have done away with all that.
A choice has been made among the privileged to dispose of face texture if you possibly can. If you have the means, and the time, and the know-how.
But I haven’t. Not yet. And let’s be honest, it’s getting a bit late in the day to start now. When 22-year-olds of my acquaintance are “investing” in “preventative” fillers, I think it's fair to say that a ship has sailed, and my face is on it.
It’s a bit of a shock to find out that your face is radical.
That there’s a name for your approach to ageing (who knew you had an approach to ageing) - that it’s called “No-Bo”, short for no-Botox.
That there are people who think your eye wrinkles are “brave”, and others who think they’re “a shame”.
And it’s a bit of a shock to realise that even now, in 2022, the worst thing a woman’s face can be is old.
Look around. The people who tell us how it’s desirable to be, the ones in our phones and on our streaming screens and news broadcasts and reality shows, they’re all sending out tiny, coded messages about our faces.
And the message is, it’s better to look like almost anything other than old.
It’s better to look strange, than old.
It’s better to look unrecognisable, than old.
It’s better to look emotionless, than old.
It’s better to have wise, storied eyes peering out of a smooth, mono-toned kabuki mask, than to look old.
I know that all those things sound judgemental. And I don’t mean them to be. I believe to the depths of my being that women should do whatever they damn well please to themselves. I would march in the street for your right to look the way you feel on the inside. I genuinely would.
But it’s not one woman’s individual choice when every visible woman is doing it. It’s not freedom when the price of entry to visibility as a grown-up woman is to erase all evidence of you being one.
It’s not empowerment when a woman’s fear of irrelevance and ridicule is what’s driving her to disappear her experience, once fine line at a time.
Listen to me, Mia Freedman and Jessie Stephens talk about injectables on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below.
Still. Here comes the pivot.
There’s an assumption that being No-Bo means you are not vain, that you are “one of those women who don’t care what they look like”.
I am not one of those women. I care what I look like. I care quite a lot. I care about good hair days, and glowy skin, and lovely clothes that fit and a lip that pops, and all that shit I’ve been conditioned to think is important. I do.
Which is why I am more than a little obsessed with skin care, like the next basic 50-year-old. And also why I was stoked to host a segment for Mamamia's The Skin Summit - two nights of sessions from the absolute experts on all things face, without leaving the house. The session I got to do - you'll never guess - is called Ageing Without Needles and in it I interview Dr Shammi Theesan about all the things you can do to your skin to keep it glowy and firm and all the things you want it to be - everything short of injectables.
(Side note - Early bird half-price tickets are on sale now but only for a short time before we go to full-price. And if you become a paid annual subscriber to Mamamia, your ticket is free!)
Look, I have never been a great beauty and I will never be one, but when I look in the mirror and no longer think I am doing “okay”, I may yet cast off my No-Bo choice, and prove my face to be only human, like the rest of me.
But until then my mantra is a mangled quote from an unknown female source: “A woman not hating herself is a radical act.”
I don’t yet hate what I see in the mirror. Maybe I never will.
The fancy offerings I’m rubbing on it daily are in honour, not in disgust.
At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Please pass the serum.
So, this is what I do to my No-Bo face
Disclaimer: I know a lot of the things in this list below are "Spendy". But this is where I choose to spend some of my hard-earned dollars. And make it all last as long as I can. The kids don't need shoes, right?
I wash it in the shower with only water.
Then I use a Vitamin C serum - this is my current one, but I’ve used a few. Glowy and brightening.
Then a moisturiser. If I’m feeling flash, I use my absolute favourite - Tatcha Dewy Skin Cream. Or my second favourite (is this normal, to rank your moisturisers?), Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench.
But if I’m in a fallow patch, like… now, I use whatever I have around.
Then I leave it all to hang out on my face for a bit.
Then I use Trinny’s BFF Cream - I bloody love it. All I’m trying to do is get glow. How many more things do I put on my face to do that?
I know what you’re going to say… SUNSCREEN. Yes, yes, don’t shout.
If I’m venturing out, I do love my Ultra Violette Screen Queen, because I’m a bit boujee like that.
On the weekend, I put that over my Vitamin C instead of moisturiser.
So… if it’s a “put on some make up" kind of day, I do a ‘proper’ base over my BFF.
That might be… My Rageism Mineral All day foundation (Aussie lady startup brand, best foundation, hands down), mixed with a pump of Trinny DeStress tinted serum for a bit of thinning out and extra… glow.
Concealer, obvs. I just splashed out on a fancy one, it’s Armani Power Fabric Concealer.
I love a wand for concealer, and it has to be super creamy and super dewy and completely incapable of getting all cakey in my lines. This one does all that. And it should, because it’s freaking $62. I know.
Eyebrows. I'm using Rimmel London’s semi-permanent Wonder Last Brow Tint For Days. Tint and brush. If I do nothing else, it’s non-negotiable.
Always, always, always mascara.
I only use tubular, because my eyes water and my lids are heavy. I love MCo Xtend Lash. You can’t really beat it, and you buy it in the supermarket. It’s every bit as good as the fancy tubular ones from Mecca.
Then, some bronzer rubbed under my cheekbones and some blusher above.
I haven’t used a powder on my face or eyes for well over a year, and I can’t picture myself going back… creams are kind to grown-up skin.
I love a lip. Trinny, again, really. I find her Lip2Cheek a bit drying, but I love her Lip Glow in Honor, over a bit of Rossy. Or Lip Luxe in Demon.
I’m always looking for the perfect easy lip colour that gives me a bit of life but isn’t too overwhelming. Tell me if you find it.
Okay. At nighttime.
I always use an oil cleanser. I love oils. Again, grown-up skin never wants to feel stripped or tight or dry.
I use Go-To Fancy Face. It’s not too heavy.
Or I use Ipsum Best Skin Cleansing Oil Balm, $32 - this is a brand I have only just discovered and everything they do is heaven. All natural, all oil, all smells divine and works.
And I even have a glowy-scrub kind of cleanser too, called Yo Glow by Wishful and I just mix and match depending on the day.
Then I take off my eyes with Micellar water.
Then I alternate…
Every second night I use Beaute Pacifique Vitamin A high power booster thingy. Vitamin A is basically retinol. My guru Leigh Campbell told me to use it, and she's always right.
And a serum or nourishing face mask over the top after it’s done its business.
Beaute Pacifique Instant Hydrating Mask is lovely. But my very fave is a super-duper spendy called Midnight Radiant Mask by Omorovicza (you get it at Mecca, if you'd like to go bankrupt). I like to leave it on and sleep in it. I’m currently psyching myself up to spend the money on it again (like Tatcha, it can only be purchased on a very good month).
Once a week I use Alpha H Liquid Gold Midnight booster.
I used to use Liquid Gold which is the first proper exfoliator I ever tried and it’s a game-changer. It’s sort of fallen out of my routine lately but this super-powered doo-dah gives me the tingle that tells me my wrinkles are being eaten alive.
On non-resurfacing nights, I use my Ipsum Face Oil Intense, which is the best thing that ever happened to my face. The end.
And I might use some eye cream - I love Mukti - another organic Australian brand and all their products smell like seaweed but do wonderful things.
There we go.
The very vain face diary of a 50-year-old No-Bo Wobbler.
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