(Skin)

5 Notable Women Over 50 Share Their Best Advice About Beauty

There’s nothing a good cream and plenty of humor can’t solve.

Courtesy of Joanna Czech, Constance White, Jin Soon Choi, Caroline Hadfield, Arlinda McIntosh
Photos of the five women featured in the story

When talking to people of a certain age, you’ll often hear the refrain that “aging is a privilege.” To someone in their 20s, or even 30s, this may seem like a lame platitude — something old people say reflexively, almost defensively, when they hit their later years. In the beauty world especially, age is the final frontier, and to the many people interested in preserving a youthful appearance, few good things happen after the age of 50 — or so they’ve been led to believe.

Collectively, society is slowly overcoming bias after bias — color and size, acne and stretch marks. But aging still makes us deeply uneasy, and fighting against old age is beginning earlier than ever. People as young as 20 will routinely get “preventative” Botox or ask their skin care providers for a little bit of filler to keep the effects of gravity at bay. But in 2021, there is a much larger conversation to be had about beauty and aging, and who better to consult than people currently going through it?

The women interviewed for this piece truly do consider aging to be a gift, but they didn’t all come to that realization easily. Some previously bought into the anti-aging messaging, but then hit 50 and realized that life was still incredibly worthwhile — wrinkles, gray hair, and all — and slowly deprogrammed the internal voices that told them otherwise. There are still moments of doubt, however, and times that they yearn for all that lost collagen and elastin. But through it all, they’re rediscovering their love for beauty in their 50s and beyond, experimenting with their routines, taking pleasure in caring for themselves and their bodies, and accepting the great privilege that age has bestowed upon them.

Fortunately, they are more than willing to share the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Joanna Czech, 57

Joanna Czech

For more than 30 years, celebrity esthetician Joanna Czech has had her hands on the most expensive facial real estate in the world. Her job involves molding and massaging the visages of Jennifer Aniston, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Kim Kardashian, and countless more, from her Dallas and New York City spas. However, it’s only recently that she began thinking of herself as an expert. “Many years later, now I recognize my value,” she says. “For the first time, I would name myself a beauty and skin expert, because 35 years allows me that. My dermatologist told me he doesn't understand skin as much as I do.”

She reveals this in an honest conversation about aging, body insecurities, and how she’s learning to appreciate herself a little bit more. “I think that's where it all begins — really appreciating yourself. And it's a difficult thing.”

Beauty Philosophy

Skin aging doesn’t bother her much because Czech has long been a model skin care practitioner, so her routine needed few changes when she hit 50. “I understand what my skin needs, so it’s always been the same approach,” she reveals. A product routine featuring vitamins A, C, and E and peptides has long been her go-to for cellular turnover, collagen production, and skin elasticity. That isn’t to say her skin didn’t change when she reached 50. Czech realized that sleep wrinkles, which tended to disappear soon after waking, started hanging around till almost mid-day, and pigmentation started appearing faster with even minimal sun exposure or heat. She considers herself lucky that she hit menopause just a few months ago at 57, which is later than most women, so her skin benefitted from the protective effects of estrogen for a longer time. “Now it's a different story, my skin is a little more dehydrated and more reactive.”

To put it simply, Czech’s recipe for great looking skin: “You need to work out, get your massages, get the proper amount of rest, and drink lots of liquids. Then, your skin care routine, that's your final 30%.”

Her Beauty Routine

For Czech, nothing matters more than consistency and dedication, whether that’s for beauty, exercise, or her diet. She urges her clients to be consistent with their facials, massages, and LED treatments. Massage for the face and body helps with the oxygenation of blood and the skin’s repair processes, while LED treatment — which she’s been a proponent of for decades — keeps the skin supple and elastic. She also stresses that the face doesn’t end at the jawline — it extends from the hairline to the nipples, and everyone’s skin care routine should factor that in.

Body Care Routine

Environ
Alpha Hydroxy Derma-Lac Lotion
After the shower, Environ’s Alpha Hydroxy Derma-Lac Lotion goes on from her toes up to her neck, followed by Environ’s body oil with vitamins A, C, and E, all vital antioxidants for skin health. “This has been my body regimen for over 20 years to speed up cellular turnover, elasticity, and hydration.”

Skin Care Routine

Environ
Dual Action Pre-Cleansing Oil
Twice a week, Czech does the same deep cleanse that she performs on her clients: a massage with this pre-cleansing oil that dissolves sebum and softens dehydrated patches. With the oil still on, she applies a hydrating clay mask with kaolin, which works to detach and sweep up the impurities loosened by the oil.

Best Piece Of Advice On Beauty & Aging

Despite caring so diligently for her skin, Czech wants women to know a routine doesn't have to be overwhelming because “spending tons of time in front of the mirror and analyzing yourself is not very helpful. I believe in an aging process that’s as healthy as possible. I don't use the word anti-aging because aging is a privilege. I believe in slowing down noticeable effects of the aging process.”

Constance White, in her 50s

Constance White

Constance White is the original media multi-hyphenate, an influencer in the true sense of the word. She’s served as EIC of Essence, style director at eBay, a fashion reporter at The New York Times, and Elle’s first Black executive editor. She’s the author of How to Slay, a chronicle of the influence of Black icons on fashion, and Stylenoir, a sartorial guide for Black women.

As a Black pioneer in media, White’s been both celebrated and underestimated. And much of the latter has happened as she’s aged. She’s acutely aware that people don’t see her the same way they did when she was younger, and put limitations on her that are entirely unfair. One instance particularly stands out for her: In her 40s, while at dinner with a top media headhunter, White inquired why she had been recently passed over for a few job opportunities. She was told that she might be too old. White, though shocked, didn’t push further; she had believed the answer was racism. “But whatever the truth was, the fact that she felt she could say that with credibility was crazy to me. Women, in particular, do face age discrimination in their careers.”

Still, White looks forward with positivity, crediting baby boomers’ transition into maturity as the impetus that will slowly move the needle forward on the intersection of age and gender discrimination. “We have a president in his 70s, a female vice president in her 50s, a treasury secretary and the editor-in-chief of Vogue in their 70s, and more women divorcing later and starting new careers or their own businesses later in life,” she says. “So, while the challenges are real, we are far beyond where our mothers were. We owe it to them, to ourselves, and to our daughters to push the limitations and discrimination put on us.”

Beauty Philosophy

White’s been a longtime believer in the idea that beauty blooms from the inside out, both physically and metaphorically. Her beauty philosophy is “watch what you eat and mind your spirit and mental habits. No one who has anger and hurt written all over their face looks beautiful.”

However, after 50, there have been some changes to her body that she’s had to address. She reports that there are more lines on her face, and cellulite (which she never had before) now dimples her skin. She’s swapped thinner lotions for rich creams to keep her skin hydrated (although, luckily, acne products are a thing of the past), and she suspects her hair is starting to thin. Still, as she says, “I've embraced the changes. I tend to put a positive spin on life. That doesn't mean I wouldn't appreciate life standing still for some things!”

Her Beauty Routine

In addition to her beloved skin care products, White has some clever DIY beauty tips, like mixing a tablespoon of oil (she likes olive) into body cream when you need more richness. For chapped lips, she holds a soaked-through teabag, either green or black, between her lips for a few minutes to help heal them.

Body Care Routine

Skin Care Routine

Rose Ingleton MD
Signature Moisturizer
$85
White’s skin care routine starts by washing her face with a cream cleanser. She prefers moisturizers with a cream-like consistency, like Rose Ingleton MD Signature Moisturizer, making sure to massage her neck and finishing with upward sweeping movements on her forehead, “thinking it will make my forehead lines disappear. It does. For three seconds.”

Makeup Routine

BLK/OPL
Total Coverage Concealing Foundation
$9.95
She saves makeup for her weekly Instagram lives. After skin prep, she applies Black Opal cream or liquid foundations, often mixing two shades to get a perfect match.

Best Piece Of Advice On Beauty & Aging

“[Self-care] really starts with a determination to put some time into taking care of yourself,” she says. She does that by indulging in regular exercise, especially lifting light weights, and taking a short walk a few times a week, which has been proven to help depression and prevent its occurrence. Daily meditation and prayer are at the top of her morning to-do list.

Jin Soon Choi, 59

Jin Soon Choi

Jin Soon Choi, manicurist and founder of Jin Soon Spas and nail lacquer, has spent her career on set with a host of legendary photographers, creating surrealist images with Irving Penn and those signature, model-heavy Steven Meisel editorials. She’s a fashion designer favorite and a backstage fixture for everyone from Marc Jacobs to Vera Wang. Though she runs in rarefied circles, to beauty geeks, it’s Choi who is the celebrity. Her meticulous manicures are works of art, her four NYC nail spas make the most atmospheric oasis, and every piece from her line of 10-free non-toxic polishes is a collector’s item.

Since Choi works so hard at her day job, she makes sure her beauty and wellness routines work hard for her. She’s picked exercise modalities that she can do on set or while cooking, and her skin care is optimized to deliver hydration.

Beauty Philosophy

In her younger, more idealistic days, Choi had little use for skin care, even in her 30s and 40s. “I was into being as natural as possible, to the point of shunning the use of many beauty products, especially non-natural ones,” she says. “I was lucky, and there was little apparent need for cosmetic interventions.” But when she entered her 50s, she started noticing her skin and nails felt drier, and nail ridges started appearing. Another blow was when her swath of swishy, shiny hair — the trademark of the women in her family — started losing its luster and began thinning. “But I take solace in that, aside from about a hundred white hairs, I still have a pretty full head of hair for my age,” says Choi. It’s a trait she inherited from her mother, who at 95 is blessed with a full head of hair.

But more than the physical changes, she says turning 50 marked a milestone. “It marked the first time in my life when I really accepted myself as the person that I am. I am grateful for what I have and try to be positive by embracing this stage of my life.”

Her Beauty Routine

Makeup doesn’t really excite Choi, but she dedicatedly follows a daily skin routine that dials up hydration and glow. “I upgraded my skin care products and now skew toward thicker formulas to lock in moisture, many of which I thought were too thick when I was in my 30s and 40s.”

Body Care Routine

Estée Lauder
RE-NUTRIV Intensive Smoothing Hand Creme
$70
Choi is not about to ignore her nails, which get slathered in Estée Lauder Re-Nutriv Intensive Smoothing Hand Creme. “I put that on and wear dish gloves while doing the dishes, which act like a hand mask. My methods are simple and anyone can do them, even people who are lazy about beauty.” She has another DIY trick for the feet — putting on a thick coat of moisturizer and sleeping with cotton socks.

Skin Care Routine

SK-II
LXP Ultimate Revival Eye Cream
$195
Next up is SK-II LXP Ultimate Revival Eye Cream, which is actually an old favorite. “I’ve been using eye cream since I was young and this formula continues to be good even as I age,” she says.
Farmacy
Honey Grail Ultra-Hydrating Face Oil
$48
Into the mix goes a glow booster Choi started using in her 50s. “I added the Farmacy Honey Grail Ultra-Hydrating Face Oil on top of what I had been using, mostly during the winter months, to give my face a glow and a lot more moisture.”

Best Piece Of Advice On Beauty & Aging

Choi’s not one to sugarcoat aging: “Of course there are downsides to aging, because it is, by definition, the loss of youth,” she says. But, for her, it’s become the time in her life to appreciate herself by caring more for herself and the people she loves.

Caroline Hadfield, 62

Caroline Hadfield

Caroline Hadfield has spent her career building beauty brands, with stints at Sephora, The Body Shop, and LVMH. Her latest is Rose Inc, a new beauty brand by model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, where she serves as CEO. Before that, Hadfield spent time at squalane-powered skin care brand Biossance, and Pippette, a mama and baby line.

It might be reductive to say that Hadfield really knows product and her own skin, but her routine proves that. It’s precise, targeted, and is a comprehensive head-to-toe, 360-degree holistic type of program that also focuses on nutrition, exercise, and supplementation. She does admit to earlier fails at sun protection, though. “I’m British, we're not very good with using an SPF,” she says, but she’s remedied that in recent years with copious sunscreen use. Better late than never!

Beauty Philosophy

For Hadfield, her 50s weren’t very different from her 40s. She had both her daughters later in life, at 39 and 40, and her 50s were spent running a family with her husband and two girls in middle and high school. “I've never really felt my age, I just think that's mind over matter,” she says.

Her Beauty Routine

Hadfield is diligent about caring for her body, from top to toe, with a variety of tried-and-tested products from her favorite brands.

Body Care Routine

Skin Care Routine

Hair Routine

Best Piece Of Advice On Beauty & Aging

Hadfield tackled getting older with two very British traits: forbearance and that legendary English humor. “[Menopause] is very different for everybody, but it's just another journey, and you know that you're going to go through it. You can't stop it, there's no solution to it.” She said looking at it through a humorous lens and joking about hot flashes with her daughters helped her.

On a practical level, she advises observing how your parents have aged, and to use that as a guide to mitigating some signs of aging. “Some people age more around their mouth, some people get a little bit jowlier, some people [age] around their eyes. Think about what you can do about diminishing that, as there's no solution to stopping it.” She thinks getting samples from brands, playing around with different products, experimenting, and having fun with beauty will lead you to a routine that works for you.

Arlinda McIntosh, 63

Arlinda McIntosh

Arlinda McIntosh will try anything once. The stylist loves to experiment, and no fashion or beauty look is out of bounds. Her signature voluminous skirts, puffed up with crinoline and a train trailing behind, are paired with crop tops for supermarket runs, and kids’ backpacks and hair barrettes are in her regular accessory rotation. Her approach to beauty is equally playful, featuring Fenty highlighters, fake lashes, and colored hair wax.

McIntosh’s past client list is basically ‘90s hip-hop royalty — P. Diddy, Faith Evans, Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, and Mary J. Blige. Today, she’s the founder and creative director of a line of skirts under the Sofistafunk label, through which she shares her exuberance for life and all things fun and shiny.

Beauty Philosophy

McIntosh’s No. 1 fashion and beauty rule is that there are no rules. Her hair is a canvas for peacocking — colored Mofajang wax one day, a wig or braids show up the next, and as her 64th birthday approaches, a mohawk with 24-inch extensions is pending. “I don't have any inhibitions,” she says. “According to society, I'm not supposed to do [all this] at a certain age. But I find that silly to even think, because who made these rules?”

One principle she’s happy to abide by, however, is avoiding products labeled as “anti-aging.” As she explains, “When will it be OK for me to age? Do I use [anti-aging products] until I'm getting ready to go in the coffin? Because clearly she's old! I want to know that I'm aging because that means that I'm here.”

McIntosh says she always looks forward to the next phase — as her 50s neared, she realized her kids would be grown and she’d have more free time to herself. She channeled that into ballet classes to improve her balance, because “as you start aging I hear there’s a lot of falling.”

Her Beauty Routine

McIntosh keeps her skin care routine very simple, sticking with a few vetted products that she knows work well for her complexion.

Skin Care Routine

Aura Cacia
Organic Rosehip Skin Care Oil
$14.51
$10.34
She starts by massaging a few drops of Aura Cacia rosehip oil into her face to remove any makeup. She then holds a warm, wet washcloth to her face till it runs cool; it softens the skin and helps her relax, and then uses it to wipe the makeup off.

Makeup Routine

Fenty
Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife
$36
McIntosh definitely has fun with her favorite highlighters — Fenty Beauty Killawatt in Trophy Wife and Diamond Ball-Out. She recalls being asked by surprised younger women if she’s wearing Trophy Wife, and she recognizes that the question was only posed to her because of her age. “My makeup is never for the people, it’s for me. So, if you make you happy that's what matters.”

Best Piece Of Advice On Beauty & Aging

McIntosh wants women to realize that many of the limits they put on themselves as they get older, like avoiding certain colors or makeup shades, come from societal conditioning. “If you see something that you like, try it,” she says. “Don't waste time because we don't know what we have left. People say life is short, but it’s not short for everyone. Life is unpredictable, so do something new.”