Look your best at any age

Two of the most attractive “older” women I ever saw were thousands of miles and several income brackets apart.

The first was actress Linda Gray at a press gathering in Pasadena, Calif., to promote a Dallas reunion movie. The second, in search of her prints at a photography shop in Stouffville, near Toronto, was an anonymous shopper.

What these 60-something women had in common: natural salt and pepper hair cut in chic short styles, elegant understated outfits, confident smiles and attitude to burn.

Sure, Gray’s pantsuit was probably Armani but her Stouffville counterpart was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. What made her so eye-catching: her T-shirt and lipstick were a warm tomato red, carefully chosen to set off her shiny white bob.

As for attractive “older” men, think of ABC news anchor, Peter Jennings (64), and actors Richard Gere (52) and Christopher Plummer (72).

Get the picture? As the old saying goes, there may be snow on the roof, but there’s fire in the furnace.

Takes more maintenance
Okay, okay, aging is not all fun, and those of us who will never see 50 again are particularly prone to reminiscing about how rgeous we were — once. But the point is everyone can be beautiful at any age. It just takes a little more work — and a lot more maintenance — to get that coveted effortlessly- turned-out look.

Yes, good genes help but, in terms of appropriateness, good sense and good attitude are just as important.

To preserve and enhance our outward selves, we also need to nurture good skin, good teeth and good clothes. Good grooming, in fact, “gives the illusion of youth,” says Toronto makeup artist Diana Carreiro.

Top of the grooming list: good hair.

Handling your hair
The pros will tell you that hair ages the same way the rest of the body does. It loses its lustre. It loses its bounce. It turns coarse and flyaway. It leaves our heads and sometimes migrates to other parts of our bodies. It becomes more difficult to handle.

But handle it we must: nothing signals an “I-give-up” approach faster than a ponytail, especially on a balding 60-year-old man, or a tight perm riveted to the head of a suddenly matronly looking woman.

Les Dalzell, a stylist at World Salon in Toronto, has many clients over the age of 50, both men and women. Their most traumatic concern?

“Lots of them are not ready to face the silver.” Like many younger hair pros, Dalzell, 37, thinks people see grey hair as a stigma — especially for women — of being old. But other stylists think attitude changes everything.

Keep hair short
Toronto salon owner Marc Anthony says the difference between deciding to dye or not to dye is “your own self-assurance and confidence.” Carreiro says, “It can look stunning if it goes with your personality.”

If, like Richard Gere or Linda Gray, you do look stunning in silver, Dalzell’s motto is “keep it close.” Long hair — especially when it is gray — tends to pull the face down and drain it of colour.

That’s why Dalzell recommends a chin-length bob or shorter for women. For men who are losing their hair, he suggests a Phil Collins crop.

“Don’t overcompensate with that monk’s fringe,” he says.

Shave off moustache
Another stylist in Cornwall, Ont., who just cut a friend’s hair short, nearly scared him out of his denim shirt by suggesting she shave off his moustache to boot.

“It’s too ’70s,” she pronounced.

The friend, a handsome 52-year-old with iron-grey hair, met her halfway. He allowed her to trim his big bushy moustache and lightly thin his sideburns. The result was “Marlboro Man meets GQ,” admittedly tidier and more modern than “mountain man meets aging hippie.”

Condition from inside
As for conditioning the hair, most honest stylists will tell you it’s what goes in the body not on the body that makes the most difference. A balanced diet with lots of protein from beef, nuts and beans, fish or flax will help the shine.

Still, conditioners do smooth flyaway hair, and some volumizing products work to plump up thickness in conjunction with the heat of a hair dryer. Many manufacturers are making products especially for aging hair.

Try different products on different days. And get the best cut you can afford. Then, maintain it: get it cut every six to eight weeks.

Along with the hair on their heads, men should ask their stylists or barbers to trim hair that has sprouted in their nostrils or their ears.

“Nose and ear hair has a high yuck factor,” says Carreiro

Next page: Skin deep beauty

Skin deep beauty
Next to hair, good skin is vitally important to a healthy, youthful appearance: just ask anyone who has baked in the sun for so many years her face looks like a topographical map of New Zealand.

The number one rule for soft, clear, even-toned skin at any age: wear sunscreen.

And drink plenty of water, too.

“It is the simplest, cheapest thing you can do for yourself,” says Carreiro.

Even if the damage has been done, sunscreen will still help ward off skin cancer, so it’s always important to lather it on.

Evelyn Lauder, head of the skincare empire, once surprised a gathering of middle-aged women by advocating another very simple grooming idea: get plenty of sleep.

“When you get older, being tired makes you look sad,” says Carreiro.

Change old makeup 
Another sad look for women is an inability to let go of makeup they wore when they were 20-somethings.

Lose the metallic blue eyeshadow. Lose the peach lipstick and the harsh blue-toned reds.

Go for defining your features with softer smokier eye shadows and rosy-coloured lipsticks. 

If your skin is dry, use a good moisturizer to help it hold its natural moisture. To lighten so-called liver spots, try skin brightening products available at drugstores. 

Sleep and exercise
Along with the sleep, get plenty of fresh air. Walk the dog. Putter in the garden. Bicycle. Swim. Be happy.

And if none of the above works to your satisfaction, see a cosmetic dermatologist. Their procedures are not as dramatic as the major facelifts done by cosmetic surgeons, but include laser resurfacing of the skin and removing unwanted hair on women’s faces and men’s’ backs.

Botox number one
Of course, like cosmetic surgery, they aren’t covered by health plans, so they can be hard on the pocketbook.

Still, Toronto cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Fred Weksburg says some people believe looking better is worth the price and can make most anyone under the age of 60 look as if they have been on an extended holiday.

The number one cosmetic procedure in North America today is the injection of a diluted form of the poison botulinum toxin Type A, known as Botox, into deep frown lines to paralyze the muscles that make us look haggard and crotchety.

According to a Newsweek magazine cover story published last spring, more than 1.6 million cosmetic Botox procedures were performed last year in the United States alone.

Cosmetic surgery costs
Typically, Weksburg uses Botox on the upper half of the face and collagen on the lower.

Ballpark costs: $400 for frown lines, $300 to $600 to obscure lines around the mouth, and a total face procedure for $3,000 to $6,000.  

Botox injections, which have to be repeated every few months, may still be considered cheap when compared to the cost of a facelift–$10,000 to $20,000. 

Naturally, if you decide to investigate any form of cosmetic surgery, says Weksburg, you can expect to get what you pay for.  Ask your family doctor for a reference and investigate on your own–a good reference site is www.cosmeticsurgerycanada.com.

Next page: Look after teeth

Look after teeth
Good dentists take a pragmatic approach to making our teeth look better as we age. Toronto dentist Dr. Janet Tamo says people should always be conscientious about their teeth.

Bad teeth are unattractive, unnecessary and unacceptable. That’s because smart people know that if they look after their teeth, they will last a lifetime.

“Dentistry is not expensive. Neglect is expensive. And nothing makes you look old faster than losing your teeth,” Tamo says.

Age changes teeth
As we age, our million-dollar smiles need more attention. Getting long in the tooth is an old cliché that really means shrinking gums. But teeth naturally darken with age. They also tend to shift in the mouth and become more crowded at the front. The solutions are both good hygiene and good dental care.

Preventing gum disease
Gum disease is not inevitable.

“It can be prevented by flossing every day and brushing two or three times a day for at least two minutes each time,” Tamo says.

And brushing doesn’t mean using muscle to scrub, which men tend to do. She strongly recommends using an electric toothbrush to gently remove the detritus of the day. Brush the back of the tongue, too, but only with a manual toothbrush.

And remember that professional cleaning is required on a regular basis: every three to four months if necessary.

Rinse your mouth often and don’t chew mints or anything else sugary. The sugar is converted to an acid that attacks your teeth.

Keeping teeth white
Even careful brushing may not stave off darkening or yellowing, even with a plethora of brightening toothpastes, which, Tamo says, don’t really work.

After a lifetime of smoking or drinking coffee, tea and red wine, our teeth simply become stained and lose their sparkle.

Bleaching is, in fact, a very popular dental procedure, which promises to last a lifetime with periodical touch-ups. For $400 to $500, dentists will send you home with a kit especially designed for your mouth.

There are many products in the drugstore claiming to do what dentists do for a fraction of the cost. Forget about them, Tamo says. They may not work and may do more harm—to  your gums and even your tooth enamel—than good.

Cosmetics for teeth
Other cosmetic procedures include veneers (thin coats of porcelain applied to the front of misshapen teeth), orthodontics to correct crooked teeth, and crowns or caps either to protect broken teeth or to preserve them after root canals.
All three procedures are expensive. One cap, for example, can range from $600 to $1,000.

If you decide to opt for an implant instead of a bridge to replace a missing tooth, you will really have to bite the bullet. Implants, which dentists hail as the way of the future, cost as much as $3,000 each.  

The good news? As Dr. Weksburg says, “Science and technology are doing a lot to help people stay young. And I consider 50 young today. Generally, baby boomers and their older counterparts are coping with the years much better. And they are not going down without a fight.”