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"If I could turn back time … I don't know why I did the things I did."
Who can say how much healthier I'd be today if I'd paid close attention when Cher warbled those lines by Diane Warren way back in 1989? Would I have spent the next 27 years sunbathing my pale skin to a well-done barbecue? Days and nights prancing about in stilettos? Decades frying my naturally brown hair ultrablond, then heat-styling it to a crisp?
Well. Back then my Official Worry List had not even begun to countenance brown spots, wrinkles, crunched toes or damaged locks; instead its top three items were sunburn, sore feet and "I wonder if I unplugged that flatiron before I left the house?" Channeling my inner Lady Macbeth, I'm here to tell you that what's done is done — and that I've discovered four ways to move on.
Stop mourning the hair you had. Once upon a time — which I define as the year 2000 — I rocked long, thick, bright blond hair and bangs. Such luxuriance is a far cry from the way my thin, damaged, overprocessed locks look today. Sure, I miss my golden-girl mane. But by tweaking the color and routine to a lower-maintenance version, I've managed to keep my signature style while losing the damage.
Regardless of the length of your hair, some combo of subtle layers, shaggy bangs and a slightly tousled cut that moves will always look cool. Consider going ombré in color — that is, darker roots and gradually lighter ends. Or, if you prefer, experiment with a more realistic shade of blond, red or brown, as opposed to any extremely light, bright or dark hues.
Baby your skin. Resetting your beach-babe complexion with a deep dermatological chemical peel or a laser treatment hurts like hell. And not only is it expensive, but — trust me on this — the recovery process is a nightmare.
Vow, therefore, to use a daily moisturizer containing both a broad-spectrum sun protection factor (SPF) and a hyaluronic acid ingredient that delivers an immediate wrinkle-plumping effect. For longer bouts of sun exposure — a walk at lunch, some outdoor mall-hopping or even a cloudy-day drive (when those aging UVA rays still penetrate) — reapply a light, nongreasy SPF 30+ sunscreen over your makeup. Mere sunscreen can never retrieve that "starter complexion" you had at 20, of course, but it should stave off new damage.
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Wear makeup every day. A bare face at 25, even 35, is just fine. But at 55? I dunno … Whether you report to work every day or not, a little color, camouflage and definition pays off in how others perceive you — and therefore in how you see yourself. No need to go all Painted Lady here. All that's required is a quick routine to cover skin imperfections and warm you up. If you're time-challenged — and what XX-chromosome individual ain't? — use a pair of statement glasses to provide instant eye emphasis.
One of the newest fixes I've discovered is a cushioned-sponge-compact foundation in a brand that offers a wide range of shades. Jump up a shade or two for a sunny, summery glow. Then swipe on a chunky lip pencil that's enriched with moisturizing shea butter. (You can apply it as cheek color, too.)
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Break up with your heels. Your podiatrist has been urging you to ditch your stilettos for years. But if you truly can't bear to say "Good riddance," plant them with faux flowers, recondition them as wall art or turn them into chic Christmas-tree decorations.
A big part of allure is being self-assured, but that's just not possible when you're tottering about with blisters, bunions and barking soles. Get used to mini heels and flats with tapered toes — from sleek, sophisticated leather or suede versions to bejeweled and sparkling ones. Even d'Orsay flats and mules provide the same leg-lengthening benefits as 4- or 5-inch monster pumps. Simply go for a pointy or almond-shaped toe, and keep the vamp low at the front.
Cher, did you get all that?