How Not To Look Old – book review

If you want information on how to look younger over 40, here’s the place to find it.

blog imageI’ve had Charla Krupp’s book How Not To Look Old on my desk for a few weeks now, awaiting a review. The reason it’s taken me so long to get round to it is that I wanted to be fair.

I wasn’t keen on the title and the fact is that Krupp and I clearly see the world in rather different ways. In her tongue-in-cheek quiz at the start of the book, she happily admits to being high maintenance – that’s mostly A’s. I answered mostly B’s, which makes me medium maintenance, but as I progressed through the book, I started to feel that I was so low maintenance that I was actually off the scale. (And I’m more interested in fashion and beauty than virtually anyone I know.)

Maybe it’s that although I am interested in clothes and fashion and beauty, they’re still only a small part of my life. Asked to choose between spending money on my garden or on my wardrobe, I’d choose the garden without hesitation. Or beads, or music, or books. Krupp, in contrast, is a beauty editor – she’s spent her life evaluating beauty and fashion products, trying one procedure after another, and readily admits to spending about $7,500 a year on beauty maintenance (that’s about two thirds of my income). She also has rather a dictatorial approach to beauty. You MUST, she asserts, make the most of yourself, because otherwise in this dog eat dog world, you’ll be out of a job in no time. With this, I do not agree.

However, let’s not criticise this book for what it is not, and look instead at what it offers. The truth is, if you’re over 40 and looking for tips on how to dress, specific makeup products, foundation primers, brow shaping, shapewear, the best lipsticks, eye shadows and dermatology procedures, this book is jam-packed with information. Krupp has no truck with the idea that more expensive is necessarily better, and many of the products she has approved are from cheap fashion chains and drug stores. This alone makes the book very useful because she has no axe to grind – she’s not a manufacturer trying to plug her own product, nor a make-up artist unwilling to offend a supplier.

She is also refreshingly upfront about her own beauty hangups, her lack of willingness to endure pedicures or paraffin hand treatments, the fact that she didn’t know her own bra size, and that she’s had plastic surgery herself.

The division into low, medium and high maintenance options is a useful rule of thumb, as you can see roughly where you are on the scale (and have a good laugh at the idiots in the other categories…), and there are many nice photographs of women over 40, both famous and unknown, to illustrate Krupp’s points.

Overall, although our attitudes to fashion and beauty may differ (and I dislike the peppy cheerleader approach), she and I are pretty much on track in terms of advice: having a smaller wardrobe of clothes that you wear all the time; only wearing brown eyeshadow; lightening your hair colour and lessening your makeup. Other advice, such as what to wear after Labour Day means nothing to a European, and some I think is plain wrong, such as not wearing nude-colour tights but going bare-legged instead. (Not that I wear tights at all, but for many women, this is just not an option.)

The chapter on jeans is very useful – personally, I had never thought about pocket size – but many of the names mentioned mean nothing to me (I wear Boden, Next and La Redoute). And I still wear dark velvet scrunchies to tie my hair back – so if that’s out of fashion, then tough tits: I’m not about to split my hair follicles with elastic bands.

We seriously parted company in chapter eight, about dermatology, because I am dead against procedures such as Botox and Restylane-type fillers, the very idea of which fill me with horror (since they don’t stay in your face, where do they GO exactly?). Here’s where I draw my personal line in the sand, along with plastic surgery and Lasik eye surgery. Krupp, in contrast, though not in favour of the full face lift or permanent silicone fillers, is a fan of procedures I would rate as beyond the pale. But if you’re thinking of having a procedure and want to rate it, you will find here a very fair appraisal of costs, dangers, what to expect and recovery times.

Overall, I liked about 90 per cent of this book very much. Where we differ, we differ strongly (I principally believe in diet, exercise and meditation to stay young), but for most of it, we’re in total agreement.


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