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Age and the mirror

A good haircut does wonders at any age - I only wish I had the face to go with it...

I had one of those uncomfortable epiphanies recently. In dire need of a haircut, as my long bob had grown out, I hightailed it to my hairdresser Tania and asked for something more radical. She obliged and I now have a gorgeous short bob with a wispy fringe and two big wings that cut across where my jawline would be, if I had one, almost identical to the bob I wore throughout my 20s.

It looks fantastic and I am gathering compliments (and apparently this cut is becoming known locally as 'A Trish'). The only problem is, my hair looks a hell of a lot better than I do.

Welcome to the late 40s.

I have never much liked my looks and quite how little came home to me one day many years ago - about 20 in fact - when a caricature was drawn of me. I was at a PR bash, with about 80 people in the room, and the caricaturist chose me as the second subject. His first was a skinny red-head with Crystal Tips frizzy hair and massive glasses, and it suddenly hit home to me - I was obviously the second-most ridiculous-looking person in the room.

I managed a weak smile when the artwork was presented to me, but I asked my (then) boyfriend (now husband) to put it away and I never looked at it again except by accident. I would never destroy it - after all, it's the fruit of someone's labour and talent - but it was then, and is now, terribly depressing to look at the bug eyes and miniscule chin and think: is this really what I look like?

A caricature is an exaggeration, of course, but there is more than a nugget of truth in there. And with age, I look increasingly like the incipient Spitting Image that the artist spotted all those years ago - the rosebud mouth, the eyebags, the slightly mad stare that I recognise from my mother.

Back then, I looked like Edina from The Incredibles with my black bob (I rather think, actually, that she was modelled on Edith Head). Now, the bob is slightly choppier and, of course, blonde, but the facial features are more exaggerated and where, five years ago I could see myself in the mirror and flash back to that younger self, when I see myself now, I can flash forward to how I will look in old age. It is not a pretty sight.

Oh la. What can one do? As my skin's relationship with my bones becomes increasingly distant, and wrinkles suddenly appear where there were none before (like wrists, elbows and ankles, good grief), my devotion to yoga and meditation become more necessary than ever.

And vanity-wise, my search for a decent lip pencil to draw back in a fake lipline becomes more urgent, along with finding a becoming shade of lipstick - perhaps something that matches my thread veins?

The search continues…

A basic skincare regime

When it comes to skincare, as you get older you have to do more to get less.

Ageing skin has different issues from younger skin - it tends to be dryer, more sensitive, less prone to acne but more prone to rosacea, and of course, it wrinkles, which is why so many women now use anti-ageing products.

Although I believe that the skin is aided most by diet, you can also benefit your skin with a good care regime. So here I'll describe here my daily skincare and skin makeup routine, which takes about 12 minutes all told. It may differ from what you want to do, but if you want to follow it, this routine results in a calm skin, and a finished face that will last all day.

We each have our particular issues with our appearance, and areas we'd like to correct. Mine are:

* I have rosacea, which means my skin flushes easily.

* I have broken veins on my nose, cheeks and chin. They are worst on the sides of my nostrils.

* My skin is also terribly sensitive and increasingly dry, especially in winter. I need to be very careful about what products I use on my face or I get bad reactions.

Cleansing

Since you presumably weren't wearing makeup overnight, in the morning you don't need 'cleanser' as such. I use aqueous cream BP to cream off my face, or wash with emulsifying ointment BP. Both of these products are dirt cheap and come in huge tubs from any UK pharmacist. They also have the advantage of being fragrance- and lanolin free - they're based on white paraffin wax. Emulsifying ointment is used in hospitals for people with skin conditions, and makes a good bath-oil substitute. It's also useful for shaving your legs. Aqueous cream makes a good body cream but takes a while to sink in - it's not as comfortable to wear as something like Dove Silk.

Scrub

Days when my skin feels a little scaly, I wash with home-made almond/honey scrub. This is made from

1 tablespoon liquid honey

1 tablespoon ground almonds

Few drops of lemon juice.

Blend this lot together and use as needed. If you pot it up, it will keep in a jar for ages, as honey is an effective biocide, and it also works well as a body scrub.

Rinsing

After cleansing, I rinse my skin 50-60 times. This seems excessive, it's true, but I've found it has hugely beneficial results, removing every scrap of product from your skin and hydrating it beautifully. Use nicely tepid water that doesn't shock your skin. This rinsing is part of the Sher skincare method, along with drinking large amounts of water, and replaces the 'toning' part of a skincare routine.

Moisturising

After washing, don't dry your face, only pat your skin lightly with a clean towel and then apply your cream to skin that is basically wet rather than damp. The idea is to lock in a layer of moisture under your skin cream - you'll also find you need less moisturiser with this technique.

For my first layer of skin cream. I use Biafine, prescribed by my doctor. Biafine is used to prevent radiation burns during radiotherapy treatment, but is a remarkable and useful cream for other purposes, such as nappy rash and sunburn. It also has the handy property of holding up to 500 per cent of its body weight in water, so a tiny drop goes a very long way. Again, it is fragrance-free, so it's great for people with rosacea or sensitive skin.

Whatever skin cream you use, while it sinks in, clean your teeth, including your lips. Brushing your lips removes any dead skin and gives your lipstick a better base to cling to. Daily brushing in this way results in a smoother lip over time. If you find it makes your lips too red in the morning, just do it at night. Afterwards, apply lip cream and lip salve.

Also apply eye cream if you use it. Currently, I use a thick eye cream by Evian, which doubles as a lip cream. It's the best one I've found so far and definitely helps with wrinkles.

If you have normal skin, at this point, you should go and get dressed, or walk the dog, or check your email. There's no point in applying makeup to freshly moisturised skin, as it won't adhere, so you now have to do something else for at least 10-15 minutes.

However, my skin needs more work than this because it is very dry and also because of the rosacea. So I now apply a second moisturiser. This is currently the anti-ageing cream by L'Oreal called Revitalift, which contains a sunscreen of SPF 15. It's a good cream and I've noticed an improvement in the texture of my skin since using it. Step three depends on the time of year. If it's a sunny day, I apply an SPF 60 sunscreen, but in winter, my skin is really incredibly dry, so I apply Nutric 5% cream by La Roche-Posay. This is a very hydrating but non-greasy moisturiser. And then, after all that, it's time for me to go check my email too....

Demaquillage

In the evening, the process is pretty much the same, except more complicated.

Firstly, remove your eye makeup, with either water- or oil-based remover. I don't wear waterproof eye makeup, so I don't really need oil-based remover, but in any case I find this irritates my eyes, so I use a water-based remover. Pour a reasonable amount of liquid onto a clean cotton pad and hold over the eye for 10-20 seconds to allow it to do its work. This way, you can avoid rubbing your eyes and stretching the skin. Don't forget the roots of your eyelashes - use a cottonbud if necessary.

Then apply an oil-based cleanser over your whole face and remove with dampened cotton wool pads. There are two reasons for using them damp - one, you'll drag at your skin less and two, you'll use less product. Once the pads come clean, which takes 2-3 applications, apply a water-based cleanser and repeat the process. When every single scrap of makeup has been removed, rinse your skin 60 times in warm water, then apply your night-time moisturiser. Generally these contain AHAs to brighten your skin overnight, but lack sunscreen because you don't need it. Once again here, I use Revitalift, but this time the night cream. Then clean your teeth (and lips), and apply lip cream, eye cream and lip salve.

If you have sensitive skin, it's very important to remove every single scrap of makeup, and if you have dry skin, it's crucial to keep it hydrated overnight. So I also apply cold cream (and yes, I confess to sometimes doing this in bed after lights out, so my DH can't see it). If you get up in the night to use the loo, don't miss the opportunity to apply another layer of moisturiser either. Your skin does its main repair work while you're asleep, so give it the tools to work with.

A basic makeup routine - skin

As you get older, your makeup routine needs to focus increasingly on your skin. Keeping your skin looking peachy as you hit 40 and above takes more time, but clear, healthy, moist, natural-looking skin is one of the things that makes a woman really glow, and you can fake this at any age if you know how to do your makeup.

The best products are those with a little sheen rather than being ultra-matt or ultra-shiny, both of which look ageing. Personally, I've also largely switched from away powders towards creams, mousses and pencils, which glide on easily and don't gather in your wrinkles. As you get older, the less you drag your skin around the better because the collagen that once made it bounce back is on its way out.

Assessment

Firstly, you need to look at your face in a good light to assess what you need for the day. Some days concealer and powder will be enough - you don't need foundation every day for daytime.

I don't have good light in my bathroom, so I take a magnifying mirror out to the landing window, which faces north, and make a quick note of hot spots (of which I have many, because I have rosacea), and any papules (white-headed rosacea zits) or pimples that need fixing (I'm lucky enough to still have spots, especially during my period, what joy). I also have other areas which may need dealing with - thread veins on my nose and cheeks, and blue circles under my eyes if I have a bad night.

Preparation

Mat your skin down before applying makeup. When I can get it, I use papier mattifiant from the Body Shop, but I'm told that a sheet of medicated loo paper does the trick just as well. It simply removes any excess moisturiser. Some people like to use a skin primer or anti-oil primer, which sounds a good idea, but I haven't tried them yet.

Under the eyes

If you're looking a bit tired, under the eyes try using a yellow concealer. Yellow cancels out the blue tone of under-eye circles and works far better than a flesh-colour concealer, which simply highlights the area and can give you raccoon eyes if you overdo it. I use a lipstick-type one by Couvrance. This stick type works best if you apply it to the back of your hand first and allow your skin warmth to soften it before dotting it under the eyes and blending in - you need hardly any and at this rate, this one stick will last me about 150 years. If memory serves, Bobbi Brown also makes a yellow concealer.

General concealer

Flesh-coloured concealer is for any red bits, spots, hot spots, thread veins etc that you need to cover, and you should apply it with a brush. Despite all advice, the brush I've found most useful is the small, free one you get in a lipgloss palette. I use Maybelline's Dream Mousse concealer, which is just fantastic. You need so little of this that you really do have to use a tiny little brush - use a fingertip and you could apply it to yourself, your husband, all your friends and still have some left over. For touch-ups during the day, if needed, I use Touche Eclate by Yves St Laurent, which fits into a handbag easily and has its own brush - Dior makes a similar product. Other manufacturers make other types of concealer, including sticks and powders.

You should apply concealer only where it's needed. On an average day, I apply it to the sides of my nostrils and the thread veins on my chin and cheeks if they're flaring a bit. Wherever you use it, blending is crucial, and worth taking time over. On a bad day it feels like I've done half my face, but I still prefer this to using a foundation all over.

Green concealer

If you blush easily, or really have a bad case of all-over redness, which can happen with rosacea if you let your diet slip, use a green concealer (most manufacturers now make them, including Bourjois and Boots No7), then foundation and powder on top. Go easy with it � you're just undercoating, not painting yourself green. If you use this stuff, make sure to use blusher too or otherwise you'll look like a corpse.

Foundation

If you use foundation every day, stop for a moment and consider whether it's just habit. You may be fine with nothing more than concealer and powder.

A foundation is meant to even out your skin tone and make you look healthy, not cover blemishes - for that, you should use concealer. If you have desperately oily skin, or really need a large degree of general coverage, or have bad rosacea, acne scars or other tough blemishes to deal with, think about seeing a dermatologist - they have access to products that you won't find out about otherwise.

Personally, I hate the feeling of makeup on my face, and I also have the bad habit of touching my face all the time, so for a long time I used Dior's Airflash, which is wonderfully light and matt and you hardly know you've got it on. Now I use Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse instead, applying it with a finger and blending thoroughly. I like this product because you can really use very very little, so you don't feel like you've plastered your face.

Blusher

Lots of women don't wear blusher, but it's one of the makeup artist's chief weapons. Applied correctly, it makes you look happy and healthy, and I also couldn't help but notice that in makeup artist Kevin Aucoin's books, EVERY face without exception used blusher, even if the model wasn't wearing mascara, lipstick or eyeshadow.

Like many other makeup products, blushers now come in liquid, gel, cream, mousse and powder forms. Liquids and gels go on under your foundation, and have to be worked with quickly before they set a stain. Powders go on over your powder, and creams and mousses go on over your foundation but under your powder. I feel these are the easiest to work with if you're not a professional - personally I use Maybelline Dream Mousse Blush for its whippy texture. It might seem a bit daft to use blusher when you've already got a red face, but my rosacea has the lovely habit of affecting one cheek only, and in the wrong place, so I cover that up and then put blusher where it 'should' be.

There are trends in blusher application, in case you hadn't noticed. In 'my day' (an expression I hate, and which was the 1980s, by the way) you applied blusher right across from your cheekbones to your hairline in a sort of slash, preferably with highlighter above and contour cream below (and dark eyes AND lips to boot - check out Fran Drescher in Spinal Tap). This approach is now considered outdated and you're meant to apply blush to only the apples of your cheeks.

To find your apple, smile broadly. It's the fat part of your cheek, directly in line with the centre of your eye, so apply your blusher here and blend outwards just a little. Go easy, and keep stepping backwards to assess your progress, as if you were pruning a shrub. What you're aiming for is a healthy glow, not Sally the old rag doll.

Powder

The last step is loose translucent powder. Why loose? Because loose powder gives a much finer finish than pressed powder, and contains fewer waxes and fillers, so it won't make you flare if you have allergies. Currently I use Luminelle from Yves Rocher, which on its own is a bit matt for my taste, so I've added a bit of gold body powder to lighten it a little (an all-over powdered look is very flat and ageing). For daytime touch-ups, pressed powder is easier to carry around - I use Dior for its fine finish.

To apply loose powder you'll need a big fluffy brush, with a head 2-3in across. On days when you need greater coverage, apply your powder with a latex sponge, then blend in well with the fluffy brush. On days when you only want a slight coverage, shake the compact (with the lid on!) to bring up some powder, dip the fluffy brush into it head-on, knock off the excess and apply by mashing the brush head-on into your skin and working the powder well in. Now apply powder blusher, if you prefer this to cream.

The last step with your skin routine is to firmly brush your facial hairs downwards (ie: in the direction of growth), using something like a blusher brush that you keep only for this purpose. This makes any hairs which have perked up lie flat back down again.

That's it, skin done. If you've done it right, it should just look like you're in good condition, not like you've slathered your face in a ton of product.