Wrinkles are the new sexy


Wrinkles are the new sexy

After two famous older women rocked the fashion world in one week — one without make-up and the other unrepentantly ageing on a cover — MADELEINE BARNARD investigated the natural beauty revolution.


I OFTEN try to imagine what it must be like to attend Paris Fashion Week. The beautiful people, the clothes, the perfume clouds, the makeup, the generous smiles.

My fantasy is frequently spoiled by Dame Anna Wintour of Vogue, with that ramrod helmet of hair combed over her expressionless face and tightly sprayed. Or the plastic Kardashian troupe with their catalogue chins and cheeky Hollywood noses tucked tightly in their evening wear and smeared with thick layers of paint.

But last week, an older yet fresher superstar made the photographers reach for their cameras. Someone who was a member of the paint brigade for years. It was none other than Pamela Anderson — she who made hundreds of thousands of hetero boys sit on their hands in the 1990s when she briskly jogged along the beach in Baywatch, her dangling assets tucked into a bright-red Borat swimsuit and her mascara-heavy eyelashes flapping in the wind like an ostrich's.

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Looking fabulous

Pamela, 56, walked the red carpet at Paris Fashion Week with a scrubbed, natural face — and she looked fabulous. She made such an impression on Jamie Lee Curtis, 64, a naturally ageing actress who always loves a speech, that she experienced a bout of soapbox ecstasy on Instagram to praise her as one of the poster women of the natural beauty revolution.

Sometime last week, people also started sharing the cover of the latest Vogue Italia on social media. It features the legendary model and actress Isabella Rossellini, 71, with all her wrinkles that had escaped the brush strokes of Photoshop. And she looks … FANTASTIC! As the text on the cover says: “Bella così" (So beautiful).

Image: © thatsnotmyage.com

Silent revolution

For a few years, a quiet revolution has been raging among certain famous older women who are becoming fed up with the beauty standards that their industry — be it movies or fashion — set for them: to keep showing a face as smooth as sweet-smelling soap. To appear in public made-up to the hilt. And to keep colouring their greying hair with expensive salon treatments.

These expectations have driven the famous and the unknown — mostly women, but increasingly men too — to plastic surgeons, the people with long syringes full of Botox and fillers, as well as hair salons to have their locks expensively coloured and straightened. And if they appear on magazine covers, graphic artists doctor their photos to extremes to make them look younger.

Silver foxes

Early in the Covid pandemic Andie MacDowell, now 65, with her cloud of dark curls, experienced her own revolution. She couldn't get to the hairdresser and her grey hair started to show. When her daughters gave their stamp of approval by saying she looked “badass", she said goodbye to the colour bottle forever. And she made photographers and people “ooh" and “ah" with her salt and pepper head of hair when the Covid doors were unlocked. 

She and Dame Helen Mirren, 78, have been burning holes in the red carpet with their long, loose grey hair (formerly the domain of herbal healers and crystal ball readers) for several years.

Many women defected to the growing silver fox gang during the lockdown. And almost none have returned to hair colour specialists.

The natural beauty revolution previously had several other well-known proponents. Curtis, who made so much noise on the podium when she received her Oscar this year, has been an advocate of natural ageing for years. The women of And Just Like That (formerly Sex and the City) hit back at certain viewers who criticised wrinkles and grey roots. Sarah Jessica Parker, 58, has silver streaks in her hairline these days.

La bella Isabella has been showing off her wrinkles on Instagram for years as she walks around her farm and shows followers her animal friends. The beauty house Lancôme rejected her as its model (too old) when she was 43. After 20 years, during which she launched a thousand interesting projects rather than sitting in front of the mirror and feeling sorry for herself, it employed her once more. Revolutionary indeed. Because the company knows the growing trend is to live your age rather than hide it.

FROM TOP LEFT: Jennifer Lopez, Tyra Banks, Sofia Vergara, Rihanna, Kourtney Kardashian, Eva Longoria, Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and Cindy Crawford.
FROM TOP LEFT: Jennifer Lopez, Tyra Banks, Sofia Vergara, Rihanna, Kourtney Kardashian, Eva Longoria, Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and Cindy Crawford.

Naturally older

I approached Jackie Burger, style doyenne, Instagram influencer and salonnière, who chose to age naturally years ago. Her hair has been silver for almost 30 years; her face unchanged.

She mentions that she has never considered surgery. “You erase your character development; the mystery behind a smile line.”

She cites a great example in her life, the French designer Coco Chanel: “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”

Jackie Burger.
Jackie Burger.

From the world of beauty and glamour magazines herself — she was editor of Elle — Burger says the media has been determining the standard of beauty for years. Even now that the long-standing “anti-ageing" slogan is becoming stale, it has been turned on its head as "pro-ageing". “But it's still all about selling beauty products to capitalise on people's insecurities about their appearance."

Burger shares a quote from the designer Tom Ford, who has said how tired he is of the youth cult, the cultural rejection of age and the stigma attached to wrinkles. He expressed his admiration for three women who died years ago: the fashion editor Diana Vreeland and the artists Georgia O'Keeffe and Louise Bourgeois, “women who let time embrace them without ever cheating".

Burger's philosophy is inspired by the title of a Kurt Cobain song, Come As You Are. “It has always been my greatest motivation."

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