For years, the beauty blogging scene has been dominated by 20-something women in their bedrooms sharing their favourite products and techniques. Now, a new crop of beauty bloggers in their 60s and 70s are getting behind their laptop cameras to share the beauty hacks that work for them. Fighting the stereotypes of being seen as “old ladies”, they’re demanding the attention that the beauty industry has denied them.
Tricia Cusden, 70, London
I decided to take on the beauty industry as a political act. It might sound grandiose but I’ve always loved make-up and in my 60s I felt angry with the industry and wanted to disrupt it. Casual ageism is rife. I was gobsmacked when Dior announced that Cara Delevingne was going to be the face of their new anti-ageing products. She’s 25. The outrage should have been loud but hardly anyone batted an eyelid. The industry language of “anti-ageing” is profoundly insulting. Adding that phrase to any product tells me, as a woman who is 70, that I must do everything in my power to stop this natural process.
I’ve written a beauty blog every week since 2013 and I must have made 50 videos. For me, beauty vlogging [video-blogging] is an extension of what I used to do in my career as a management trainer, standing in front of groups of people talking to them. My viewers feel like I’m a friend, and leave lots of feedback. I love the ease and immediacy that you get with social media.
I started getting involved in beauty in my 60s when I noticed a lot of changes happening to my face. Take my eyes. Because bones shrink as you age, my eye sockets got deeper; the skin on my eyelids became crêpe-y; and my eyebrows became less prominent. I kept trying different products to adapt to the changes and spent money on good stuff because I thought it would be better, but so much turned out to be a waste. At no point was anyone from the beauty industry telling me what would work better on my older skin. They don’t want to show their products on a face that’s less than perfect.
I realised that other women must be facing the same problems, so I decided to find a cosmetics manufacturer to produce a range for me. My idea was to put it all under one umbrella and say, “If you’re over 55, post-menopausal, this will work better on your older face.” With my two daughters, we launched Look Fabulous Forever at the end of 2013.
My most popular video is about eye and lip make-up for older women, and it has had more than 2m views. The products and techniques younger bloggers use just don’t work the same for older women. The beauty industry, like the fashion industry, designs for the perfect form – young skin. With older skin, you’ve got a loss of melanin that makes features fade, skin becomes dryer and make-up bleeds and doesn’t last as long. There’s a fashion at the moment for a feline flick with a dark, heavy line. If you tried a strong, straight line using a gel eyeliner on my eyelids, it would look ragged and messy.
But as older women, we don’t have to follow what the young ones are doing. In my videos and with my products I suggest not trying to get a perfect black line. Instead, use a dark powder eyeshadow and push it into the base of the eyelashes with a tiny wedge brush, making it slightly smudgy. It looks lovely and is a real solution to the problem.
Wearing make-up, for me, is about feeling able to face the day, not about looking younger. I like to wear nice clothes, do my hair, put my face on and feel the very best version of me that I can create. I love the transformation that make-up creates and I’m not ashamed to say it.
Living the Life More Fabulous, by Tricia Cusden, is published by Orion Spring; lookfabulousforever.com
Makrye Park, 72, Yong-In, South Korea
Make-up is so much better quality and more fun than it used to be. When I was young, we didn’t have highlighters, bronzers and contouring. There was just lipstick and powder. I love to mix my make-up and browse the beauty shops that young people go to. I hate feeling forced to be old-lady like.
A year ago, my granddaughter started to worry about me getting dementia because most of my older friends had started to. She wanted to keep me busy. So she quit her job and took me to Australia and we started making videos and posting them on YouTube as korea_grandma.
The most popular videos have been my make-up tutorials. The first one was me getting ready for a visit to the dentist. I used a cheap lipstick that cost 1,000 won (about 70p) and a very old technique to curl my eyelashes where you heat a toothpick with a lighter and press it against the hairs. It’s very different to what young women do these days. The video has had more than 2m views and it made me well known online in Korea.
In Korea, old women perm their hair, wear old people’s clothes and limit make-up to the basics. But it’s other old people that demand we stay that way, not young people.
Because of YouTube, my life has turned around completely. I’ve seen so much of the world, been kayaking, eaten the most expensive food in Korea. Unfortunately my friends don’t even know how to get on YouTube so they don’t watch my videos. I like to watch younger people’s YouTube channels and get inspired. Sometimes I miss my younger days. I’ve continued making the videos because they make me happy. It’s just me being myself and having fun. People have stereotypes of how “old people” should do their make-up, but my make-up is far from that. And what I’m doing is giving other women courage to do what they want.
Melissa Gilbert, 63, Tennessee
Back in 2013, I was watching some younger people’s vlogs on YouTube and when they talked about beauty I thought, “Well, gosh, I’ve been wearing make-up for 50 years, I’ve got a lot of experience, too. I wonder if I could do that.” I sat down in my son’s old bedroom and filmed myself. Then I researched how to upload a video. Two people watched it. But I didn’t care – I just kept going. I’ve now got 70,000 subscribers to Melissa55.
I didn’t necessarily feel I had anything to offer anyone else. I’m an average person. Like so many other women in America, I got married, raised children, haven’t had a big career – but I did want to show that you can still feel good about yourself when you’re elderly. My generation’s not ageing like our mothers did – we wear jeans with holes in them and keep our hair long or go grey if we want.
Over the last few years, more people have been searching online for videos of women over 50 doing make-up, and that’s really helped me and other older beauty vloggers to grow. My top make-up tip is to visit a beauty store and have a free makeover to find the right foundation for your skin type – it’s the base for everything else. I use a Laura Mercier oil-free one that gives me a glow. I’ve stopped applying powder altogether. For cleaning my face, I find regular terry washcloths too harsh, so I knit my own for the perfect texture. Skincare’s always been important to me and since my 30s I’ve used Retin A from my dermatologist.
I’m friends with other older vloggers and we all buy the newest technology. We’ve learned how to edit nicely, add music, set up lighting. It takes time to do it well. We do get comments like, “You old hag, why don’t you get off YouTube?” But we continue to fight to be heard.
It’s hard being an older woman in society in general. Much of our lives we did our duty and mattered to our children and it can be a challenge to feel relevant. Advertisers don’t recognise us. When we look at the TV or at models, we don’t recognise those girls. It bothered me when Estée Lauder used Kendall Jenner to advertise wrinkle cream when she doesn’t have a wrinkle on her.
Most of my audience is women my age. I’ve become close friends with many of them and that kinship is part of the reason I make the videos. There’s a group of us that met online and talk every day. We lift and support each other, whether it’s problems with kids or health or husbands, or just feelings about getting older. It means everything to me.
My children don’t really like me doing beauty vlogging but they’ve learned to accept it. If you have the right attitude about it, this is a time in your life where you feel a lot of freedom to try new things.
Nichole Grice, 55, North Carolina
I started my YouTube channel because I couldn’t find many people reviewing wigs for hair loss. Lots of younger women were reviewing wigs for fashion, but I didn’t see anyone else going through all the heartache and pain of losing their hair and turning to wigs as a necessity. When I started, my two children were like, “Mum, are you really going to be on YouTube with your bald head and no make-up?” I thought, “Yes, because you don’t see it and we need to be represented.” It shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of. It happens. People lose their hair, especially women of colour.
My hair loss began in my late 30s. Then when my son went through chemotherapy aged 15 for cancer, I cut my hair off too, so that he could feel more comfortable. With the stress of his chemo, plus just ageing, and years of wearing weave and braids, my hair didn’t really grow back. But I decided I wanted to be an example to others that you can get through it. I received so many emails from women, men, even young children, who thanked me for being out there. Even though my channel wasn’t drawing the masses, I was helping others.
My subscribers started asking if I could do make-up for bald women and older women. For example when you wear a wig, you can’t put make-up on parts of your forehead because it stops the wig sticking. You also have to think about how bright you want your make-up to be, depending on the wig’s colour and style.
My channel now focuses on beauty for older women and is called Ageless Beauty. I use the term pro-ageing rather than anti-ageing, because I’m not trying not to age. For me it’s about skin and hydration. I’ve been using Ambi Skincare every day for over 30 years and that’s kept the elasticity in my skin. When I went through the menopause I shared tips like putting powder on before foundation to help prevent make-up melting when you’re having hot flashes. Although sometimes nothing can stop it.
It takes a lot of courage to remove your hair and make-up and put yourself on YouTube to be judged and criticised. There are days when I don’t want to turn the camera on, but by the time I’ve finished the video I’m pumped up. Make-up and hair can change how you feel and get you out of a funk, and I love showing that.
Margaret Manning, 69, Zug, Switzerland
For four years, I pretended I was 59. I just didn’t want to embrace that 60-year-old milestone. I’d worked at Microsoft for a long time and it’s a young culture. While I felt vibrant, I was afraid that other people would view me differently.
Then when I was 64, I was on holiday and had a nasty fall. I was in bed for five days and it gave me time to think. I realised I’d fallen because I wasn’t connected to my body and to the real me. It was time to accept that I had to look after myself, physically and emotionally, to let the old me go. I knew there had to be other women holding back from making that leap into 60. From that bed, I launched Sixty and Me via Facebook.
It took off immediately. I work with my son and his wife and we produce content for women over 60. From listening to the community, we saw older women feeling invisible in society. People see them differently and when they look in the mirror, they see themselves differently. The beauty articles I write and videos I make address this.
I like to empower women and pull them into our shared experience. I’ll look into the camera and say, “I wouldn’t worry too much about us having wrinkles under our eyes, because that’s just what happens when we turn 60, right?” My beauty videos are about simple things. For example, I don’t use concealer to erase the lines around my eyes any more – what’s the point? It can’t do it. But I do use it to mask shadows when I haven’t had enough sleep. If you apply it quite low, almost above your cheekbone, it reflects back up to your eye and hides the darkness.
A lot of women in their 60s are dealing with a reinvention that spans relationships, family and work. In my late 50s I went through a divorce and in the 2008 financial crash I lost my house and savings. Many older women are also very creative. My approach to make-up is: “Just try it.” You see the years ticking and you know there’s less ahead than there is behind, and this is a time to really express your true nature. When people say they want to age gracefully, I think, “How about magnificently? Or creatively?” Pink hair. That’s what I’m trying next.
Now when people ask me how old I am and I say almost 70, they stop and say, “Oh wow, you don’t look it.” Remembering Gloria Steinem’s quote, I reply, “This is what 70 looks like.”
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