I took part in an anti-ageing feature recently for Red magazine (June issue, out now). I had to fill in a health habits questionnaire and supply some close-up pics of me in my smalls for their health experts to analyse. I thought it would be an interesting experiment given that I have a fair amount of stress as a single working mum, and live by the sea, where folk tend to resemble dried prunes far earlier than is natural.
Since I hit 35 there have been a few changes in my appearance. Stubborn grey hairs that multiply when I whip them out, fine lines around my lips, sunspots on my face, and a jiggly tum (post-baby) that I can’t seem to shift. My skin is also a little drier so I need to take extra care in the sun. I’m fit and active, always outside walking and I eat well. I don’t wear daily sun protection on my face though so have a few premature lines and wrinkles.
So, how did I fare? OK but changes are required. I didn’t realise that running accelerates ageing because it causes repeated minor trauma to the skin cells. Not sure how to remedy that unless I have my gait cycle analysed and invest in a pair of Asics. I also need to wear a daily sun cream with a higher SPF (30-50) than I’m used to for proper protection.
So, off to the Clinique counter later for some SPF30 face and body cream, and to M&S for a cowboy hat. ‘I always wear a hat or cap because even on the darkest of days the sun’s rays can penetrate through the clouds and cause damage,’ says Joan Collins (still looking fab at 76).
Hala El-Shafie, a state-registered dietician and specialist nutritionist at The Harley Nutrition Clinic.
Holly Pannett, a personal trainer at London health and fitness club, The Third Space.
Stefanie Williams, medical director at European Dermatology, London.
Apparently, my skin age now is 42 (I’m 36 – eek). In 10 years it will be 56-61. My body age is 34, and in 10 years – 48. Not too bad.
The dermatologist says: ‘Nicci’s skin is prematurely aged with static lines and irregular pigmentation caused by past sun damage (frying on a beach in Looe wearing factor 2 sunscreen). She recommends wearing an SPF30-50 on my face every day to counteract the skin-ageing UVA rays by the sea. ‘While moderate exercise boosts circulation, so is good for facial skin, the up and down movement of running can cause repeated minor trauma.’ Wonder if there’s anything I can do about this, as I love running.
The nutritionist says: ‘Because Nicci had an eating disorder in the past, Nicci is at higher risk of osteoporosis, so needs to eat more calcium-rich dairy foods, plus oily fish and egg yolks for vitamin D.’ I also need to up my fruit and veg intake as 5-a-day is the minimum guideline. ‘As well as lowering her risk of heart disease and cancer, omega 3s will also boost her sex drive.’ Well, bring on the mackerel salad.
The personal trainer says: ‘Nicci has a healthy body mass index (BMI) of 19.32 and 20.7% body fat, which puts her in the ‘fit’ category (between ‘average’ and ‘athlete’). However, she says that running outside may slow down the ageing process but can cause over-use injuries to the hips and vertebrae. ‘I’d advise Nicci to start resistance training to build calorie-burning muscle. Without it, over time her body fat will increase, especially around the tops of her arms and waist. Resistance training will also help balance out her posture – her right shoulder and left hip are raised. It will help prevent problems associated with ageing by increasing her strength, flexibility, bone density and muscle tone, too.’
I read a piece in the Daily Mail recently by Joan Collins called How to look sexy whatever your age. Perhaps she’s had a nip and tuck here and there but I like her down to earth approach to ageing and she still looks glam. She points out that there are tons of over-50 actresses who look stunning and far younger than their age including Sophia Loren, Susan Sarandon, Ursula Andress, Stefanie Powers, and Joanna Lumley.
Joanie’s Tips on Ageing and Allure
‘In France, they revere and respect older women, as they do in most Latin countries, where they consider them to be delightful and to possess true sexual allure. It is a fact that many of the most famous women in history were sexually active well into middle age and beyond.
‘Getting older should be just that: getting older, but not becoming old and losing one’s sex appeal. I believe that one is as young as one looks, so it’s absolutely crucial to keep your skin and figure in the best shape you can – advice which young girls today should heed. Maintenance needn’t be as time-consuming as so many seem to think. Protecting one’s skin with sunscreen and foundation takes as long as cleaning your teeth thoroughly.’
Joanie recommends a proper skincare routine: cleanse, tone and moisturise, wearing a hat or cap when you’re out and about, and doing 20 minutes of stretching, light weights and floor exercises (pelvics!) three times a week. ‘About 30% of facial ageing is genetic; the rest is due to lifestyle factors such as sunlight and smoking,’ she says. ‘The ageing process of the skin is attributable to so many factors – the pollutants skin has to cope with, air con, heating, general sun exposure, wind and the elements, not to mention the various toxins we put into our body through eating and drinking.’