White hair wisdom – redefining beauty in your 60s

I’m not sure when I stopped buying a special dress for Christmas Day. I do know that in my 20’s it was something I did every year as a way of giving myself a Christmas bonus for getting through another year of being a wife, a mother, a daughter and a full-time worker.

As I got older, I think Christmas got harder, as in, instead of turning up at my family home or my husband’s family home and helping out a bit, it was at my home and that meant making Christmas happen. Who has time for a new dress when there’s a turkey to cook!

But this year, at the age of 61, a new Christmas fairy will be turning up in the shape of me, a silver haired, fully made up, glamour ambassador for older women. It’s a look and a feeling I intend to continue, thanks to Instagram.

Social media gets a very bad rap these days and rightfully so when it is used to spread disinformation and misinformation or persuade people that they should look or act a certain way. But over at my Instagram account I carefully curate what I see and often block, hide or unfollow anything which upsets me or makes me feel bad about myself.

So, there are no fit, young influencers peddling miracle nutrient supplements, or women who have lost heaps of weight or women who feel bad about being older, or women who have different political views from mine. Instead, I have a constant stream of a new brand of influencer – older women with silver hair, commonly known as silver influencers.

Here before me are women my age or older giving me make-up tutorials and tips on silver hair management, and most of them seem to be really good at yoga.

When I discovered this bunch of glamorous oldies I realised that when it comes to make-up I have been applying it the same way all my life. The way I learned in my 20’s which is 40 years ago. A slap of foundation, brown eyeshadow, eyeliner for an evening out, mascara, bright red lipstick and we’re set to go.

As for skin care I still basically do what we were told to do by a woman from Nivea when I was in intermediate school and all the girls were herded into the school hall for a skin care tutorial. That really did happen in the 70s.

I do remember in my younger years loving playing with make-up and clothes. Going to the chemist and buying a new shade of eye shadow, or a mascara then coming home and trying it out the way they told you to in Seventeen magazine.

What I hadn’t realised as I aged was that when you have grey hair and some wrinkles you need to change that make-up routine completely. You are obviously no longer young, but your hair is a completely different colour.

To be fair I spent my 50’s not wearing much make-up at all as I was living on an isolated country property where no one saw me except the postie. I was also terribly menopausal and just getting out of bed and throwing a t-shirt and leggings on was about all I could manage on the average day as I sweated and ached and groaned and definitely looked terrible.

But then I hit 60 and I felt better. I swim most days now, I have lost weight by eating a better diet and drinking less alcohol and when I look in the mirror I see someone I’m quite happy to be. Basically my 20-year-old self with grey hair and wrinkles.

I found myself watching make-up tutorials by my new silver influencer friends and being really intrigued. Concealer! Blush! Highlighter! Pink lipstick!

I headed off to Mecca and put myself at the mercy of one of their young but understanding staff. I had a list as long as my arm of every brand and every piece of make-up I was going to need and for the first time in years had a make-up kit – at great expense I must add.

But oh, the joy of playing with make-up again.

Slowly and surely, I practised my new make-up routine just as I did in my twenties but this time with a magnifying mirror. Shading darker shadow in my eye socket, putting blush on the apples of my cheeks, highlighter on the outer cheek, the whole routine.

Every morning I would wake up and check out my team of silver influencers and be encouraged to try something different in the way I dress, do my hair and apply make-up.

It would be fair to say that my silvers are all incredibly beautiful. One of them @greceghanem has 1.4 million followers and is regularly featured in the fashion mags. She has silver hair and poses in bikinis, glitter underpants with black stockings, strapless gowns and seems to live a life where she travels the world’s fashion capitals with her daughter wearing top designers.

Grece is a 56-year-old former microbiologist from Lebanon who moved to Canada and became a personal trainer. To quote Vogue “Ghanem has become a byword for ageless style, and her growing profile serves as a riposte to the lazy (but lingering) assumption that women resign themselves to a wardrobe of waterfall cardigans the moment they reach 50.”

Then there is Lynn Shabinsky @whitehairwisdom who is 60, good at yoga, and proves that when you know how to do your make-up properly you can head out the door looking drop dead gorgeous but also full of confidence. She is a yoga trainer with a mass of silver hair and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of make-up brands to promote to her 706,000 followers.

The thing about these women is they never intended to become influencers. They just started posting about their daily routines and found a huge audience of women like me, looking for a way back to glamour and there they were, happy to help.

My first foray into glamour did involve one mistake. I was getting a manicure and pedicure, again, something I had not bothered with in my 50s when I noticed that the salon also did lash extensions.

I lay on the table and hoped like hell I wouldn’t have an allergic reaction to the glue they were using to add extra eyelashes and then emerged looking, well, weird.

It felt like I had just provided a home to two caterpillars on my eyelids and when I blinked it took an awful lot of effort to open my eyelids again.

My granddaughters reassured me that they looked great, as did everyone around me but those caterpillars were a lot to lug around especially at night when they would wake me up by getting stuck in my eye.

In the end I pulled them all out and with the new eyelashes went the old eyelashes leaving me eyelash-less.

Because that’s the other thing that happens as you age. Your hairy bits, your eyelashes and eyebrows become less hairy so now you have to actually draw in your eyebrows and do the best with what you’ve got on your eyelids with a bloody good mascara, and an eyelash curler according to one of my granddaughters.

Meanwhile with all that facial hair lacking, you seem to have one long whisker which insists on growing out of your chin. Nature and hormones can be cruel. But at least I bother to pluck it out these days.

I don’t think I’m alone in embracing glamour again in my 60s. Women no longer head to their hairdresser for a firm perm and a violet tint when they reach my age. Nor do they go for short and curly, easy care hair styles and stop wearing make-up except for a bit of lippy the same colour they have been wearing since they were teenagers.

I remember approaching my mother when she was at the age I am now and suggesting that bright blue eye shadow and coral lipstick – big in the 1970s – was probably not working that well for her anymore. I even supplied her with some expensive alternatives.

The problem is my mother didn’t like being told how to do anything, so the coral/blue combo persisted until the end as did her dyed hair. Despite pointing out to her that no one has brown/red hair in their 80’s she still did the home dye jobs which became increasingly dodgy as she aged.

I was recently having dinner with my daughter in Wellington when a vision walked into the restaurant. No, she wasn’t young, or fit, or skinny. She was a woman with grey hair gently tossed onto the top of her head in a devil-may-care top knot. She was wearing a cobalt blue and white striped shirt teamed with bright red trousers and a pair of Comme des Garcon Chuck Taylor shoes.

“Who the hell is that goddess?” I asked my daughter.

She told me and I immediately followed her on Instagram*. She is a well-known style icon in the capital city and now I have her to thank for my favourite outfit, blue and white striped shirt, red velvet pants (featured in my last column) and grey Comme des Garcon Chuck Taylors.

I don’t feel there is anything wrong with copying a look you like, especially if you live in another part of the country, and I remain grateful that there are increasingly more women emerging from menopause proudly flashing their grey hair and cool clothes.

But we are still not without our critics. I was really annoyed to see that the day after the election, after our Prime Minister Chris Luxon’s wife, Amanda, 54, was featured during the coverage handing out party pies and pizza to the waiting media.

“I want her work-out!” screamed the media headlines as the only point taken from this woman’s appearance was that she had mean biceps. ‘How dare she’, was the message. ‘Who has arms like that at her age?’.

Perhaps we should instead focus on the fact that she bothered to put on some slap and have her hair done. And also, the fact that she is married to a multi-millionaire who owns seven houses and perhaps she is a woman who has the time to have a personal trainer and work out because it is unlikely that she needs to work for a living. She’s also a former ballet dancer and teacher so one presumes she has a penchant for keeping fit.

Meanwhile the rest of us look at our flabby underarms and think, ‘well thank God for sleeves’.

Easy and chemical-free make-up remover

Once I was talking to a group of women and a very nice-looking older lady came up to me and said “how old do you think I am?”. I genuinely guessed 60 and she told me with glee that she was 75. Her secret? A bit of apricot kernel oil on her face every night.

In this country few of us covered up in our youth and so we are walking evidence that sun will age you and give you skin cancer. I’ve had several melanomas removed.

But, if you also shower your skin with love, as in a very natural oil, it does help, as evidenced by my Apricot Lady.

Instead of using harsh chemical make-up removers or worse still polluting wipes, take a tip from her and just use a good quality natural oil. I like almond oil as apricot kernel can be hard to come by but make sure it is cold pressed and hasn’t had chemicals used to extract it.

Simply wipe it on your face before bed and use a small flannel, or a hand-knitted make-up remover pad as I do, run it under warm water and wipe off your make-up. The make-up will come off in a jiffy and you have just moisturised your face as well instead of drying it out with harsh chemicals.

Spread the love
Rate This Article:
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Sign up to our email newsletters for your weekly dose of good