Perhaps you’re stuck in a make-up rut or need to rethink your skincare regime? Could you do with updating your haircut or fine-tuning your diet? Whatever plans you have for a new routine, the secret to turning it into a lasting success is to keep it simple, fun and, above all, do-able. It’s amazing how just a few basic adjustments can make a major difference not only to your image, but also to your self-esteem.
Keep it up, and the more compliments you get, the more confident you’ll become. Isn’t that an attractive notion? Time to put your best self forward.
Let’s get started!
Put your best self forward
Does your skin need a boost?
Give your face a daily workout
Eating for radiance and vitality
Boost your hair’s potential
Best moves towards a better you
The lift in your make-up bag
… And relax
Put your best self forward
Start looking younger now with these top ten image boosters
1. Think younger, stay brighter. That’s the first – and only – major change you’ll have to make. Adopting a youthful attitude is the positive spin behind the vitality programme that puts a new spring in your step and boosts your looks.
2. Stand taller. Trim pounds off your age and looks. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, pull in your stomach muscles without tilting your pelvis and imagine your weight centred over the middle of each foot. Let your head rock gently until it falls into a neutral, comfortable balance.
3. Keep hands youthful. Buff the backs, then smother in SPF handcream to prevent age spots. Keep nails short and oval and choose polish shrewdly. Brown and red tones highlight age spots; shell pink freshens and brightens without emphasising veins. A touch of sheen helps to disguise ridges.
4. Smile! It’s the instant facelift that biofeedback studies say also helps you to feel happy. Be scrupulous about dental checks and hygiene. Pick lipsticks that make teeth look whiter. Avoid yellow-based peach and beige; go for blue-based pinks and reds.
5. Spritz yourself positive. Choose perfumes for their mood-boosting potential. Research says those you associate with good times are most uplifting, while citrussy scents give you a younger, slimmer image.
6. Buff skin until it glows. Soak a cotton-wool pad in rosewater and glycerin (from chemists) and massage all over cheeks and forehead. The massage boosts circulation, the rosewater softens and the glycerin moisturises and gives dull skin a dewy softness that helps foundation stay fresh longer.
7. Ban processed foods. It’s the easiest way to look and feel youthful. Go for fresh, low-fat, low-sugar, high-nutrition wholefoods. Steam, don’t fry; grill, don’t roast, and let your body do the processing.
8. Get walking. Even five minutes’ brisk walking lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, boosts bone density, stimulates brain power, fights flab and kicks the blues. Afterwards you feel physically empowered and mentally more relaxed. Plus, it’s something you can do at any time anywhere.
9. Look lively. Practise yoga’s ‘shining skull’ anytime you feel tired or sluggish. Sit cross-legged, back straight and relaxed. Breathe deeply through your nose into your abdomen, then tighten your tum and push air back out through your nose. Repeat 20 of these breaths for shining eyes and glowing skin.
10. Run a double-mirror check. Make sure you look good front and rear. Stand with your back to the wall mirror and look into a hand mirror, angling it so you can see clearly. Check for tangles, ‘holes’ and flat hair patches, plus body bulges, rucks and bumps. Think this is obvious advice? Look around and see who hasn’t taken it. It’s worth it for your confidence’s sake.
Even five minutes’ brisk walking lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, boosts bone density, stimulates brain power.
Does your skin need a boost?
Has your moisturiser stopped pulling its weight – or is it your skin? Here’s how to keep up with the changes.
Diminishing oestrogen means that in the five years post-menopause, skin loses 30% of collagen (its main support protein), causing it to slacken and lose its spring. An astonishing 57% lipid (oil) loss and a decrease in ground substance (gel surrounding cells) means skin loses moisture and seems thinner, dryer and less ‘bouncy’. But you don’t need a complex skincare regime to help you face the changes. Here’s what to look for now.
Skincare – the essential edit
Cleanser. This is the cornerstone of good skincare. If skin isn’t properly clean, creams can’t sink in and do their work. Cleansing last thing at night is crucial, since studies show that pollution damages and irritates skin as much as stale make-up. Foaming gel cleansers shift grime and dead skin fast, while oil-based balms suit dry skin. Whatever you use, rinse or remove thoroughly afterwards.
Exfoliator. As cell turnover slows, gentle buffing encourages dead cell removal. Avoid grains, which can irritate. Instead, polish damp skin with a cloth while cleansing or use a facial brush two or three times weekly.
Toner. Strictly speaking, if your cleanser’s doing its job, you won’t need one. But if you miss that fresh feeling, microscopic oil droplets in micellar water mop up any last traces of grime and gently remove mascara too.
Day moisturiser. Essential protection keeps skin supple and comfortable while buffering it from environmental irritation and damage. Make sure it contains antioxidants and a sunscreen.
Night cream. Designed to support the skin’s nocturnal repair rhythms, night creams aid cell renewal while acting as lipid-intensive treatments that maintain the skin’s barrier against moisture loss.
Serum. Whether oils or fluids, serums contain the highest concentration of active ingredients, it’s claimed. Apply them under moisturiser, sunscreen or night cream as a seasonal booster for dull or dry skin.
Neck and eye creams. These are optional extras. Your regular creams may be enough, but go easy round the eyes. Skin is thin here and heavy creams can irritate.
Cleansing last thing is crucial, as pollution damages skin as much as stale make-up.
Top six active ingredients
1. Sunscreen. Over 80% of skin ageing is UV-related. The good news is that studies suggest sunscreens can help to repair environmental damage. Make sure your day cream has SPF30+ to shield against UVB rays, plus high UVA protection, and wear it year-round.
2. Antioxidants. No sunscreen is 100% effective. Antioxidants provide back-up by neutralising free radicals in the environment that cause oxidative damage to cells. Look for energising co-enzyme Q10, firming vitamin A, brightening vitamin C and lubricating vitamin E.
3. Retinol (retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate). Derived from vitamin A, retinoids are ‘gold standard’ wrinkle-smoothers that boost collagen and cell turnover. But they can also increase sun-sensitivity. Use only at night, then wear sunscreen during the day.
4. Essential fatty acids (EFAs). Ceramides, omega-3 and cholesterol (lanolin is a good source) maintain a healthy barrier mechanism, so skin retains moisture, stays supple and resists irritation and infection.
5. Peptides. These amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which help to smooth wrinkles and keep skin firm. Ones to look for include matrixyl and copper.
6. Hyaluronic acid (sodium hyaluronate). Found naturally in skin, this gel-like substance can attract 1,000 times its weight in water. An excellent ‘low-fat’ moisturiser that sinks in fast, plumping lines and wrinkles.
Sore, puffy eyes. Fat pads under the skin cause eye bags, which only surgery can correct. But puffiness – especially when you wake – is due to fluid retention.
Avoid creams that can overload thin skin and creep into eyes, and sleep with your pillow raised. A cold compress (keep a damp flannel wrapped in clingfilm in the fridge) eases swelling.
Red, sensitive skin. Hormonal changes and stress can trigger dryness, sensitivity and rosacea. Avoid rapid changes in temperature, alcohol and spicy foods and keep skincare free from alcohol, witch hazel, menthol and fragrance. Moisturisers with liquorice, green tea and hyaluronic acid calm flushes; BHA (salicylic acid) lotion helps to reduce flaking and inflammation. Wearing sunscreen is also essential.
Dry, taut and itchy skin. Heat, cold and central heating cause flare-ups on both face and body, especially lower legs where skin is thin. Avoid over-washing with alkaline soaps and foams in very hot water. Moisturise while skin is damp – non-perfumed lotions containing urea or oat extracts are soothing.
Dry, cracked lips. Lips lack sebaceous glands to lock in moisture, so are prone to dryness especially in winter. Vaseline softens flakes overnight, then gently buff with a soft toothbrush next morning. Keep lips soft and hydrated with a hyaluronic acid-based lotion topped with a lip balm.
Age spots. Mostly caused by a lifetime of UV exposure, there’s evidence that inflammation such as post-acne can trigger patchy pigmentation. Creams with vitamin C, kojic acid and azelaic acid, plus SPF30/UVA sunscreens prevent them worsening and may help them fade in time.
Treat hands and feet. Sunscreen during the day prevents age spots on hands, while a rich cream at night prevents dryness and brittle nails. Massage feet with a non-greasy cream to avoid hard skin build-up.
Give creams a chance. Studies show that even prescription-strength formulas take six to 12 weeks to produce visible results. Use your cream each day or night and stick with it.
Give your face a daily workout
Practise smile yoga for a youthful expression
A smile takes years off your look instantly, while an expression that’s open and optimistic goes a long way to nurturing a youthful image. Smile yoga helps to keep underlying muscles toned and boosts circulation, so skin appears fresher, plumper, more lifted and glowing.
There’s biofeedback evidence, too, that smiling can actively boost your mood, because your muscles trick your brain into believing you’re happy. Practise these ‘happy face’ exercises any time you have five minutes – the more often the better and especially after long periods of staring at a screen. In time, ingrained ‘sad’ or ‘grumpy’ expressions are replaced by a sunnier, more youthful outlook.
Five minutes to a happy face
Ease lip lines and lift cheeks. Hide your teeth with your lips and make an O shape. Then smile wide without showing your teeth. Repeat six times. Next, smile and with your index finger on your chin, tilt your head back and move your jaw up and down as you do. Relax and repeat three times.
Brow and eye lift. This opens eyes, eases brow and frown lines. Place index fingers on mid-forehead, parallel with brows. Pull downwards and as you do, push up eyebrows. Repeat 10 ten times. Now with fingers pressed down and brows raised, do mini push-ups until you feel a tightness building. Hold up for a count of 20, then release.
Neck and chin up. Rest fingertips on your collarbones and gently pull down. Leading with your chin, stretch your neck up towards the ceiling. At the same time, jut your bottom lip upwards and over your top lip, pull your mouth corners down and feel your neck muscles pull even tighter. Hold for a count of 5. Stay chin-upwards and try not to swallow as you pull and release 10 times.
Love your workout so it shows on your face. Play beautiful music, burn a scented candle or simply imagine a favourite scene to ramp up the pleasure principal.
Six steps to glowing skin
Turn your moisturising routine into a rejuvenating facial
Facial massage relaxes muscular tension – a major cause of skin ageing. Circulation, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to cells, also gets a boost, so skin heals and renews itself faster.
Last but not least, massage encourages moisturisers to penetrate deeper and work harder, instead of merely sitting on the surface. Do these movements on warm, cleansed skin – the best time is at night, when you can really afford to relax and enjoy.
Boost and brighten
1. Warm up. With thumbs under your chin, pinch with the knuckles of your first three fingers kneading along the jawline, up and over the chin.
2. Wake up. Make a two finger V with one hand, rest it on one cheek and knead inside it with the first two fingers of the other hand. The V prevents skin dragging, keeping the massage deep and precise Repeat all over both cheeks.
Smooth and firm
3. De-tense. With the middle fingertips of each hand, starting at the bridge of your nose, circle outwards over your brows and round over your cheekbones to your inner eye corners.
4. Firm up. Starting at the outer eye corners, moving down and round along the cheekbones, press 4 times at finger-width intervals, finishing at the sides of the nose.
Lift and tone
5. Plump up. Boost circulation by lightly raking your cheeks with your knuckles in deep circular movements. Then sweep upwards over neck, then each cheek in turn with the flats of both hands, alternately.
6. De-puff. Cross your first and second fingers. Massage in criss-cross movements up and down the folds either side of your nose, from just above your nostrils to the corners of your mouth.
Sleep your skin younger. On your back, pillow slightly raised, is the best position to avoid cheek creases and puffiness next morning. There’s also evidence that pillowcases and sleep masks made from copper oxide fibres help to boost wrinkle-shrinking collagen.
Eating for radiance and vitality
The best foods for body and beauty
There’s a link between what you eat and how you look and feel. We all know that a balanced diet is crucial to health. However, research has identified some foods that work especially hard in the fight against silent inflammation – one of the key causes of early ageing and disease. Make sure your vitality diet includes these.
Top eight superfoods
1. Avocado Rich in potassium, fibre and oleic acid (an anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fat), studies show avocado lowers dangerous LDL cholesterol while raising beneficial HDL cholesterol. Vitamin E, folate, plus antioxidants help to decrease the risk of cancer, while high levels of potassium help to regulate high blood pressure. Omega-9 rich oleic acid also helps to reduce skin redness and boost healing. Avocados are also known to relieve arthritis and joint pain.
2. Nuts A great source of plant protein and cholesterol-regulating mono- and polyunsaturated fats and fibre and antioxidant vitamin E. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that eating nuts five times a week lowered heart disease risk by 35%. Almonds (in their skins) are rich in polyphenols shown to regulate cholesterol; walnuts contain the amino acid l-arginine, which supports a healthy vascular system; and pistachios, rich in lutein, beta-carotene and vitamin E, help to regulate blood pressure and cholesterol. Nuts are also a good source of magnesium, zinc, calcium and phosphorus needed for healthy bones, immunity and energy.
3. Tomatoes Studies indicate lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, contributes to healthy bones and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis and breast cancer. Alpha-tomatine may inhibit prostate cancer cells. Fresh tomatoes and tomato extracts have also been shown to lower total cholesterol.
4. Salmon Oily fish contains omega-3 fats, which contribute to brain function, a healthy heart, joints and general wellbeing. Eating oily fish could also lower the risk of many cancers and chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s, asthma, depression, diabetes, macular degeneration and rheumatoid arthritis. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), one of salmon’s EFAs is particularly linked to brain function and a healthy nervous system.
5. Dark green leaves Kale contains higher levels of nutrients than most green veg, especially vitamins C, A and K, calcium, folic acid, iron, quercetin (a potent antioxidant), plus system-cleansing sulphur and isothiocyanates. Spinach is especially high in folate (a B vitamin), iron and magnesium, which aids a good night’s sleep. Broccoli is a rich source of vitamin D, plus A and K for bone and vein health; and flavonoids, which improve resistance to allergies. All green veg are important sources of fibre, which draws cholesterol out of the body; and indoles, which can protect against breast cancer.
6. Red and orange fruit and vegetables Carrots, mangoes, apricots and sweet potatoes are all rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that protects against cancer and heart disease, while boosting immunity and eye health. Blueberries are also rich in vitamin C and anthocyanins – antioxidants that reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Strawberries contain folate for heart health; cherries are high in potassium, which lowers blood pressure; and watermelon has ‘healthy heart’ lycopene.
7. Mushrooms These are low in fat and cholesterol, yet a good source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium. They also contain the B-vitamins pantothenic acid, which regulates hormones and the nervous system, riboflavin for healthy red blood cells and niacin for healthy skin and digestion. A good source of immune-boosting minerals and beta-glucans, mushrooms may also aid fat and sugar metabolism.
8. Herbs and spices As well as adding flavour, so reducing the need for sugar and salt, herbs and spices are kitchen therapies. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral; its active extract, curcumin may also protect against some cancers, while easing allergies and arthritis. Oregano is high in antioxidants and bone-building vitamin K. Sage is rich in plant oestrogens, which help ease hot flushes and night sweats. Fennel seeds contain ‘detox’ antioxidants kaempferol and quercetin, which help to remove free radicals from the body. Gingerols and phenol in ginger ease nausea and muscle pain.
Strawberrries, cherries and watermelon are all good for the heart
How much water should we be drinking? There’s no real evidence to support eight glasses (1.5 litres) daily – remember, around 20% of our daily intake comes from foods such as fruit, vegetables and dairy products. But we do need to drink enough to flush out toxins, combat fluid retention, prevent dehydration, beat fatigue and remain alert.
Experts say if we’re thirsty, we’re already dehydrated, so up your intake during hot weather or after exercise. Best tipples? Avoid diuretic, caffeine drinks in favour of flavonoid-rich green tea, which studies show has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-ageing effects.
What to avoid
Sugar In a process called glycation, sugar bonds with proteins in the body, weakening tissue and causing inflammation and diseases, including obesity, diabetes and liver disease. In the skin, it degrades collagen resulting in lines and wrinkles. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends we cut total sugar intake to 6 tsp a day (or 5% of our daily diet). Avoid sugary, fizzy drinks and limit fruit juices, smoothies and other high GI (glycaemic index) foods, as their carbohydrates are converted into sugar by the body. Also avoid fructose (fruit sugar or corn oil) sweeteners. If you need to sweeten food, opt for stevia/erythritol or xylitol (derived from birch wood) instead.
Alcohol is known to increase oxidative stress and deplete cell energy. It is a hormone disruptor, which stimulates the release of cortisol and is linked to cancers including breast and liver. It also shortens telomeres (the terminals of chromosomes containing DNA) and is therefore linked to ageing. As a high GI carbohydrate, alcohol also piles on the pounds. However, red wine contains resveratrol, a potent antioxidant linked to longevity. Best limit your tipple to the occasional glass of red, then.
Saturated fats These are mostly animal fats, although coconut and palm oil are also high in cholesterol. Swap these for plant oils such as olive, rapeseed and sunflower, which are sources of omega-3, essential for heart, skin and joint health, plus sterols, which lower cholesterol. Remember oils are also calorie-rich – use sparingly and grill rather than fry.
Make breakfast your main meal
Frontloading food supplies energy for the day, which the body will metabolise more efficiently. Eat a lighter lunch and dinner and try to finish eating by 8pm. You’ll sleep better and control weight, too.
Resist snack attack. Tests show that snacking throughout the day increases insulin and inflammation levels and, not surprisingly, weight.
If you must graze, swap biscuits for a handful of nuts.
Eat well, stay slim. Chew slowly, pausing between bites to improve digestion, prevent bloating and feel more satisfied. And follow the 20-minute rule: wait until your brain registers whether your stomach is actually full before you decide to go for seconds.
Boosting your hair’s potential
Reclaim and maintain your crowning glory
Great looks rely on great hair. As the first thing that gets you noticed, your entire image depends on it. Of course, various changes jeopardise good hair days. A smart cut, colour and a flexible approach will help you keep a cool head.
Tailor your cut, flatter your features
If your face is…
Square: avoid chin-length styles that emphasise a broad forehead and jaw line. Go for face-framing, wispy layers or waves that soften facial contours.
Round: avoid very short or pulled-back styles that make your face look chubbier. Go for longer layers around your face to slim it down. A side-swept fringe helps, too.
Heart-shaped: avoid blunt fringes as they’re too hard. Go for fullness at jaw level to balance a pointed chin – a bob works beautifully.
Long: avoid straight styles that drag your features down and scraped-back styles that expose a high forehead. Go for full, wavy and bouncy styles that add width and plenty of movement.
Oval: lucky you – you can carry off a short crop beautifully. Hairdressers call it the ‘ten years younger lift’. It flatters your eyes and cheekbones, while shorter layers help disguise fine or thinning hair.
Brushing up on style
Quite simply, you won’t get the style right without the right tools. Good investments are a detangling brush to smooth wet hair and distribute styling products evenly; a vent brush with non-scratch plastic bristles for general brushing; and a barrel brush for smooth blow-drying. Plug-in musts include a hairdryer with ceramic technology to hold and distribute heat evenly; hot brushes to build bounce and make styling easier, since they leave you with a free hand.
How hair changes
As a sign of youth and fertility, your crowning glory is hormonally governed. Diminishing oestrogen after 40 causes individual strands to thin, so hair feels finer and harder to style.
The growth phase is shortened and shedding may seem to be more frequent – stress, illness, changes in diet and even the season may make it worse – yet it’s quite normal to lose up to 100 hairs daily.
Loss of melanin pigment is the most dramatic change: you may have noticed the first greys in your thirties; by your fifties, you’ll probably be at least 50% grey.
Seven ways to have good hair days
Aim for fullness, bounce and gloss – essential qualities of healthy, younger-looking hair.
1. Ease up on hairspray. You need control, but a ‘helmet head’ is seriously unflattering! Try keeping your look loose – tousles look softer and fuller than a rigid, uptight do. Tame fly-aways by spritzing hairspray onto your hairbrush before running it through your hair.
2. Forget perming and straightening. Both treatments dry and damage hair, leaving it dull, brittle and lifeless. Make gentle waves instead. Part damp hair down the centre and twist both halves into tight pin curls. Mist with hairspray and leave to dry naturally, before finger-combing gently through.
3. Build more body. Shampoo and condition with volumising formulas, then mist roots with volumising spray (less sticky than mousse!). Set hair all over in jumbo rollers and heat through with a hairdryer. Leave to cool for ten minutes, take rollers out and rake loosely through hair with your fingers for a soft, bouncy look.
4. Limit styling products. Too many or too much will weigh down your hair and flatten your look. Aim for volume, shine and light control from two or three different products maximum. And practise speed-styling – it’s the key to effortless chic. If you fiddle, you’ll lose that casual charm.
5. Change your parting, lift your look. Brushing hair in the opposite direction to its natural growth is a trick hairdressers use to get instant fullness and height into your style. A little light backcombing plus hairspray aimed at the roots will fix the lift.
6. Judge your colour. True, lighter shades help hide grey roots. But as skin becomes paler with age, both ashy and dark tones can be draining. For naturally flattering results, your new colour should be no more than two shades lighter or darker than your hair now. For bloom-boosting warmth and light-catching shine, rich golden browns work hardest, toffee or golden highlights nearest your face freshen your skin tone and liven your eyes.
7. Keep it fresh. Colour-enhancing shampoos and conditioners polish, while hair powders help to conceal roots mid-tint. Remember, when grey hair is tinted, the colour often ‘lifts’. Look for products with built-in UV and anti-fade protection, and always wear a hat in the sun.
Embrace the grey
Ditching the tint and letting the true you shine through can be liberating and prove an unexpected youth boost – radiant silver lifts your skin tone far more than harsh or yellowing tints.
Depending on hair length, it can take an average of 18 months to fully grow out a tint. Meanwhile, hair powders hide roots initially, while regular trims and wavy, no-parting styles help to conceal them as they grow.
Grey hair might seem frizzy, dryer and finer, so smooth and gloss it with a light oil-based finishing serum.
Flatter it with violet-toned shampoos and conditioners, which neutralise yellow and make grey hair gleam.
Should you shampoo every day? Yes, to shift dust, grime and styling product build-up, which makes hair stiff, sticky and hard to style. If hair’s tinted, some experts recommend washing every other day to help prevent colour fade. If you can’t always wash your hair, use a dry shampoo and brush gently.
Rinse, rinse, rinse. Residue from shampoo is often mistaken for dandruff, can irritate the scalp and leave hair looking dingy. Try using less shampoo and double your rinse time.
Never skip conditioner. It keeps hair moisturised and supple, not dull or brittle. Use it as you would a face cream, to prevent dehydration without overdoing the oils.
60-second scalp massage. Circle fingertips firmly all over the scalp to relax tension, boost circulation and strengthen hair follicles. Do this daily before you shampoo.
Best moves towards a better you
Get moving, feel fitter, look younger
First, the bad news. Whether it’s on transport, in front of the TV or a computer screen, we spend seven to ten hours simply sitting each day – a sedentary lifestyle, which experts say not only slows the metabolism, weakens muscles and increases weight, but also heightens the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Taking an active, two-minute break from sitting every 30 minutes is a move towards better health.
Daily exercise directly controls weight, lowers blood sugar and boosts stamina, muscle tone and mood. Studies also show that those over 65 who walk or exercise moderately reduce their risk of dementia by a third. The secret of age-defying vitality? Get a piece of the action.
Find your best action plan
Walking: best for all-round health, strength and stamina
Regular walking reduces the risk of heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers (colon, breast and lung). It regulates cholesterol and increases joint, muscle and bone strength while reducing the risk of osteoporosis. It also boosts the immune system, aids sleep and reduces anxiety and depression. Walking one mile (around 2,000 steps) in 20 minutes can burn at least 100 calories; two miles a day four times a week can help to reduce weight by 1lb a month.
How often? Try to walk 10,000 steps briskly (around five miles) daily – you can break it up into ten-minute chunks and incorporate it into your daily routine. Start with short walks, building up daily and gradually increasing the pace. Buy a step counter or download an app onto your smartphone to help you keep count.
More information: Ramblers Association, ramblers.org.uk
Swimming: best for low-impact, stamina-building and muscle toning
Regular swimming can reduce the risk of heart disease, Type-2 diabetes and stroke, while improving mood and controlling weight. Water is 12 times denser than air, so tones muscles more effectively than land exercises, while supporting joints – good news if you’re overweight or have arthritis. There’s evidence that swimming improves lung function, so helps asthma sufferers – and that it can be as relaxing as yoga.
How often? A 30-minute swim one or more days a week contributes to recommended weekly activity.
More information: Swim England, swimming.org; Scottish Swimming, scottishswimming.com; Swim Wales, swimwales.org
Yoga: best for strength, flexibility, posture and balance
There’s some evidence that it helps to control high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, stress, and aches and pains, especially in the lower back. Yoga helps to prevent falls by strengthening the lower body, particularly ankles and knees. It may also reduce the pain of arthritis and improve mobility.
How often? Aim for 45 to 60 minutes two or three times a week.
More information: British Wheel of Yoga, bwy.org.uk
Pilates: best for strength, flexibility, balance, posture
A fusion of calisthenics (stretch and resistance), yoga and ballet, Pilates relieves neck, back and head aches by improving posture and relieving stress on any single set of joints or muscles. Good posture makes you look taller and leaner, so you’ll feel more confident, too. The slow, controlled moves build muscle strength, especially at the core (back and stomach). One study found that within four weeks, practising Pilates significantly reduced back pain. Focusing on breathing also eases stress, improving sleep and concentration. A Chinese study found that ten weeks of Pilates improved memory and cognitive functions.
How often? One hour, two to four times weekly.
More information: Pilates Foundation UK, pilatesfoundation.com
T’ai chi chuan: best for balance, co-ordination and concentration
T’ai chi is a 13th-century Chinese martial art that focuses on both mental and spiritual strength via a moving meditation of 19 movements and one pose. The slow, graceful movements are especially beneficial to those over 65, reducing stress, improving balance and mobility, and increasing strength in the legs, knees and ankles. It may also help to reduce post-menopausal bone loss, relieve arthritis pain and reduce blood pressure. Enthusiasts also claim that t’ai chi helps to relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, and the deep breathing boosts energy and mental capacity.
How often? Aim for 15 minutes daily.
More information: T’ai Chi Union of Great Britain, taichiunion.com
The slow, graceful movements of t’ai chi are especially beneficial to those over 65
How much, how fast, how often?
NHS guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as cycling or fast walking every week), plus strength exercises that work all the major muscles in the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms (such as swimming and yoga) on two or more days a week.
Or do 75 minutes of vigorous aerobics (such as running or singles tennis) every week, plus strength exercises.
Or mix moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week, for example, two 30-minute runs or games of tennis; plus 30 minutes’ fast walking; plus strength exercises.
Healthwise, one minute of vigorous exercise equals two of moderate activity. Here’s how to judge the action:
Jogging or running
Bike riding fast or up hills
Ballroom and line dancing
Level bike riding
Mowing the lawn
Exercise pays off when you stick at it. Joining a class or group gives you support and encouragement and helps you to set realistic goals so you won’t overdo it.
Always consult your GP before embarking on any new exercise routine.
The lift in your make-up bag
Tints and techniques that airbrush the years
If you’ve worn the same old lipstick and eye shadow for years, ask yourself: is my make-up working hard enough for me, now? With time, our complexion and face shape changes. We may not always notice, but there’s a critical line between relying on trusted tints and techniques and getting stuck in a make-up rut that actually ages us.
The right approach can airbrush years off your looks – no needles needed. The attitude now is subtle definition that firms your features back into focus and refreshes a youthful glow.
Define your eyes. Problems now are likely to be droopy, ‘sleepy’ lids and shorter, paler lashes that rob them of their focus. Lift lids by brushing soft brown shadow into the socket lines, then add a ‘pop’ of slightly sheeny bone-coloured shadow on the lid domes, nearest the lashes. Open eyes by ‘tight-lining’ espresso shadow next to upper lash roots with a wedge-angled brush.
Gently pull each lid taut with a fingertip, and work from the outer corner inwards, tapering the line to nothing just before the centre lid. Echo the effect on the lower lash line. Eyeliner ‘focuses’ eyes and makes lashes seem thicker, so that a single coat of mascara is all you need now. Lining the upper, inner waterline with a felt-tip fluid liner (pull your lids slightly up to do this) will boost the effect without showing any mistakes.
Arch your brows. Hard, overplucked brows are a real age giveaway. To create a softer expression, sharpen a mid-brown pencil to a point, then ‘feather’ hair-fine strokes from just above the inner to just above the outer eye corners. A perfectly positioned arch works like an instant eye lift. Find the spot by looking straight ahead into the mirror and angling a pencil from nostril through pupil to brow bone. If your brows are sparse as well as skinny, sketch the shape with a lighter pencil before adding darker, hair-fine strokes.
Plump your lips. Lips lose both colour and fullness, often giving them a set, hard expression. They easily become dry, too. Priming them with a moisture-rich balm helps lipstick go on smoother and last longer. To create a plumper shape and block lipstick bleed-off, use a lip pencil just a little darker than your natural lip colour (match it to your rosier, inner lips).
Outline just outside the lip contours, use a brush to soften the line, then fill in lips with a toning lipstick. Or, brush liner all over your lips, then dab lipstick on the centres only for an even longer-lasting finish.
Coax a youthful complexion. If you’ve never worn foundation before, now’s the time. Today’s airy-light textures help even out redness, shadows, wrinkles and open pores, so skin seems livened and more luminous. Test a stripe against your jawline – if it vanishes, you’ve found the right shade.
Apply base where you need it most, such as around cheeks and nostrils, on lids and inner eye corners. Blend it up into the hairline and down below the jawline onto the neck, to give mottled, ‘turkey’ skin a smoother finish. Use a more opaque concealer to cover blemishes, such as age spots and under-eye shadows. A light dusting of powder, especially down the centre of the face sets foundation and dulls shine, but avoid around eyes where it will exaggerate wrinkles.
Fingers or brushes?
Fingers warm up creamy textures and make them easier to blend. But brushes make a little go further for a smooth, natural-looking finish. A firm, blunt brush buffs foundation evenly into skin; a soft, round-tipped shadow brush reaches crevices fingers can’t; and only a lip brush achieves that soft, but perfect contour.
If blusher is the secret glow-booster, highlighter and shader work like facial Spanx to pull everything up and in. Take a 3-D approach. Suck in your cheeks and dust bronzer or shader under the cheekbones and along the jawline. Blend paler highlighter high on the cheekbones and brow bones, sweeping past outer eye corners. Finally, buff blusher on cheek apples – for the subtlest, no-streak radiance, work the loaded brush on the back of your hand first. And that’s it –
your instant face lift.
Get the power right. Invest in a good-sized, double-sided mirror with one side at least 5x magnification, especially if you’re making up without your specs. Use this side for detailed lining and blending, especially on eyes and eyebrows. Then check with the plain side – and your specs – that the finished look is perfectly balanced.
For a longer-lasting, smoother finish, use a priming lotion after moisturiser and under foundation. It will give skin an extra glow and stop make-up pooling in wrinkles.
… and relax
Lighten up and think yourself younger
Worry affects our looks every bit as much as our health. Chronically raised levels of destructive stress chemicals in the body, such as cortisol, are not only linked to a wide range of diseases, including heart disease and cancer, but studies confirm that an acute period of stress through divorce, bereavement or moving house, say, can cause up to 35% of skin ageing in a single year as might naturally occur in a decade. Stress causes lines and furrows to deepen and skin to lose glow and tone.
There’s also evidence that it encourages fat to accumulate, especially around our middles. Learning to relax is crucial to our self-esteem. Exercise lowers cortisol levels, especially after a ‘fight or flight’ spike triggered by an argument perhaps, or fresh anxiety. Practising some form of relaxation daily will help you cope when things get tough, as well as lighten that clenched and ageing frown.
Stress causes lines and furrows to deepen and skin to lose glow and tone
Five easy stress busters
1. Learn meditation. Techniques such as mindfulness (being in the moment) have been shown to ease stress-related flare-ups of eczema and psoriasis. NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) also recommends mindfulness as a way to prevent depression. More information: bemindful.co.uk
2. Go forest bathing. A leisurely walk in the woods exposes us to phytoncides, essential oil-like substances released by plants and trees that have been shown to lower blood pressure and cortisol, while boosting mental functions and the immune system. Called shinrin-yoku in Japan, where it’s a recognised therapy, enthusiasts maintain that 15 minutes of silent natural healing in a forest is a simple way to beat the blues. More information: aquifoliumblog.wordpress.com/
3. Give yourself a massage. Tension carried in the neck and shoulders often causes headaches and muscle pain. Raise shoulders to your ears, squeeze and drop, breathing out. Tilt your head back and drop your jaw. Cup hands over your shoulders and knead gently along and up the neck to the base of the skull, circling your fingers either side of the spine. Now interlock your fingers behind your head and drop your head gently down, stretching your neck muscles.
4. Get better quality sleep. Exercise late afternoon – no later than 4pm – to boost metabolism and circulation and promote ‘satisfied tiredness’ come bedtime. A warm bath relaxes mind and muscles, plus the drop in body temperature afterwards causes pleasant drowsiness. Sprinkle sedative oils such as lavender and chamomile in the water and on your pillow.
5. Wake up and stretch. Start the day relaxed and energised. Lie on your back and flex your toes towards the ceiling. Arms straight, entwine your fingers above your head. Breathe in and bend your elbows until your hands touch the top of your head. Breathe out and stretch your arms and legs, shrugging your shoulders to your ears, keeping your feet flexed and feeling the pull in the back of your legs, feet, shoulders and stomach. Relax and repeat ten times.