Beauty and fashion trends are always a mix of the worst and best ideas. Championed on social media and retail sites, they usually have little to do with our 50-plus reality. But after the past few chaotic years we are all ready for something new. My advice? Just ignore the low-rise jeans, miniskirts and catsuits. Say no to yellow eyeshadow and emerald-green eyeliner and let the phrase “New Year, brave new you” be your guide to a fresh start.
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PHOTO BY: Paul Morigi/Getty Images; Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images; Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage
1. Go gray or gray-ish
Honestly, it feels like everyone’s doing it. Maybe we’re finally getting comfy with the idea that silvery gray hair works in our favor. It does light up our faces and bulk up thinning locks — just like tinsel on a Christmas tree. A fully gray head doesn’t happen overnight so partner up with a salon colorist to make the transition painless. Start by growing out your roots 1 to 2 inches (two to four months) to get a clear idea of how much gray there is, the shade and color pattern. A few face-framing silver streaks may be enough to get the change started with no obvious demarcation line. It will also add some dimension to your hair and a luminous look. Do DIY glossing treatments and purple shampoo to keep any yellow, dingy tones at bay during the process.
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PHOTO BY: Target (4)
2. Choose healthier makeup consciously
As drugstore beauty brands evolve in a cleaner, greener direction, so do we — often without noticing. That’s because many of the affordable mascaras, blush, foundation and liners we buy are now screening potentially toxic ingredients and going vegan and/or cruelty-free while continuing to deliver the up-to-date colors, textures and formulas we crave. But here’s the thing. The very gradual shelf rotation of products means you’ll find the usual basic formulas right next to the new healthier choices and sometimes within the same brand. Make an effort to choose “clean” options like the vitamin-infused L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Noir Balm Mascara in Black ($9, target.com), Revlon Photoready Candid Moisture Glow Anti-Pollution Foundation ($10, target.com), e.l.f. Putty Blush ($6, target.com) and the NYX Professional Makeup Lip Lingerie Lipstick ($7, target.com).
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PHOTO BY: CVS; Walgreens; Walmart; Robin L Marshall/WireImage
3. Set your hair
Trendy bouncy hair in bouffant bobs, flips and half-up, half-down looks have a ’60s vibe we know well. Although these dos go to extremes when celeb stylists get their hot tools and hair spray going, there’s no denying that stick-straight flat hair now falls … flat. It’s all about volume and body, whether you go smooth, wavy or curly. DIY sets from hot rollers to Velcro and sponge rollers are back (you can even sleep in the latter!) and so is hairspray to keep the va-va-voom going. You know the drill: Just section freshly washed hair, roll, dry and unroll. Brush through lightly and mist.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); H&M; Macy's
4. Try a sweater dress instead of sweats
While we’ve developed a fondness for joggers, leggings and track pants and their fleecy partners, some of us are itching to look more pulled together and “dressed.” Knit dresses that slip over curves without clinging could be your best alternative to athleisure. Choose a contemporary midi length that partners easily with any kind of boot or bootie, in a style that flows straight from bust to mid-calf, like the Ava & Viv Plus-Size Balloon Long Sleeve Sweater Dress in Blue ($35, target.com), the Who What Wear Women’s Plus Long Sleeve Dress in Red ($40, target.com) and the H&M Rib-Knit Dress in Black ($60, www2.hm.com/en_us/), or opt for a modified wrap with subtle waist definition like the Donna Ricco Crossover Midi Sweater Dress in Black ($109, macys.com).
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PHOTO BY: Target; Ulta Beauty; Target
5. Try a new version of your favorite face cream
If you’re browsing the skin care aisle don’t be surprised to find some makeovers. Two or three times a year, drugstore moisturizers get a few tweaks. You’ll see new “superhero” ingredients called out on the package, changes in the look of the jar or pump, innovative additions to an existing line or a completely new line from a brand you love and trust. Sure, it’s a way of enticing us to buy, but improvements do deliver better formulas that solve problems for mature skin. Who’d say no to that? Three worthy examples to check out: Olay Regenerist Shea Butter + Peptide 24 Rich Cream ($29, target.com), a luxurious cream for very dry skin that feels and behaves like the $400 stuff; Cover Girl Clean Fresh Skincare Dry Skin Corrector Cream ($15, target.com), vegan and cruelty-free and packed with hyaluronic acid, shea butter and jojoba; and Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer SPF 50 ($26, ulta.com), a hydrating hybrid with the high SPF we all need.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (3); Amazon
6. Stock up on hair accessories
If you’ve been on the fence about wearing hair ornaments at 50 give them a whirl. Elastics, scrunchies, headbands and clips offer a quick fix but need to be worn in a sophisticated way — one at a time. The secret is to choose items that don’t look cute, girly or too bedazzled with gems, pearls and beads. Simple scrunchies and elastics in neutral colors like the Kitsch Sand Assorted Textured Scrunchies Set ($10, ulta.com) and GIMME Beauty Fine-Hair Multi-Color Neutral Bands ($10, ulta.com) make pulling medium to long hair into a ponytail, knot, bun or twist stylish and damage and indent-free. Tone them to your hair color for the most sophisticated look. Headbands are trickier but you can’t go wrong with one in tortoise, leather or leopard, like the Yetasi Black Leather Knotted Headband ($15, amazon.com), which also comes in an elegant gray, or The Hair Edit Leopard Pleated Band Headband ($12, ulta.com).
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PHOTO BY: Glossier; Nordstrom; Anthropologie; Nordstrom (2)
7. Buy feel-good purple
Pantone’s 2022 Color of the Year is Very Peri, a universally flattering and uplifting blue with violet undertones. But is it a good buy or just a trend? Let’s just say there are a lot of wishy-washy, watered-down versions of this hue that look too gray. However, riding on the coattails of periwinkle are clear lilacs and lavenders and super-saturated magentas, violets and vibrant pinks. Look for them as new shipments arrive in stores and online. For now try a creamy eye shadow like the It Cosmetics Superhero No-Tug Eyeshadow Stick in Epic Amethyst ($24, nordstrom.com) or Glossier Lidstar in Lily ($18, glossier.com) on lids; a pullover like the Anthropologie Pilcro Plus Cowl Neck Sweater in Lavender ($98, anthropologie.com) or the Jones New York Dolman Sleeve Tunic Top in Deep Lilac ($60, nordstrom.com); or a draped blouse like the Kiyonna Plus Promenade Top in Orchid ($64, nordstrom.com).
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PHOTO BY: L.L. Bean; Banana Republic; J.Jill; Old Navy
8. Find your most flattering basic T-shirt
Most of us buy the same basic crewneck tee year after year without analyzing whether it’s doing our body any favors. Taking the time to find the right style (and spending a little more) pays off in a longer-looking neck and torso, better fit at the bust, and a fabric that’s lightweight but opaque enough to be bra-proof. Four splurge-worthy long-sleeve versions make the cut. Try the J.Jill Pima 3/4-Sleeve Scoop-Neck Tee in Navy Blue, Black or White ($39, jjill.com), longer, with a curved hem and wide, shallow scoop; the Banana Republic Fitted Ribbed Boatneck Tee in Charcoal Grey, Black or White ($35, bananarepublic.gap.com), with a soft stretchy feel; the Old Navy Long-Shoulder Luxe Oversized Tee for Women in Date Palm or Black Jack ($23, oldnavy.gap.com), with drop shoulders and a wide crew neck; or the L.L. Bean Women’s Pima Cotton Tee, Long-Sleeve Squareneck Tunic in Royal Plum or Violet Chalk ($30, llbean.com), with a chic square neck. You’ll want more than one.
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PHOTO BY: Old Navy; Athleta; Victoria's Secret
9. Go ahead and buy print workout leggings
Most of us stick with basic black when it comes to leggings, sports bras and gym tops. It does the slimming trick just fine and simplifies our choices. But who can help eyeing the bolder colors and leopard or floral prints? Just by changing the leggings you can update your usual pieces. Choose a pattern with a black background or some black in the print, like the Old Navy Extra High-Waisted PowerSoft Light Compression Hidden-Pocket Leggings for Women in Black Multi-Floral ($40, oldnavy.gap.com) and Victoria’s Secret Flow On Point Essential High Rise Legging in Beige Leopard or Black Lois Floral ($20, victoriassecret.com/us), or opt for a solid bright like the Athleta Salutation Stash Pocket II 7/8 Tight in Electric Fuchsia ($98, athleta.gap.com) for a statement accent that still works with your black tops.
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PHOTO BY: Karwai Tang/WireImage; Taylor Hill/Getty Images; Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
10. Add fringe benefits
Bobs with bangs are really taking off as the hot haircut for 2022, but in truth bangs are the answer to just about any hair look, from short crop to long. They make sparse hair and hairlines appear thicker, hide forehead creases and give even damaged hair a healthier look thanks to frequent trims. You can’t lose. A long side-swept bang cut on an angle is easiest to maintain and grow out, while a full feathery fringe adds a contemporary look to long hair and lobs, frames the eyes to highlight them and restores structure to the face.
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.
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