Image: Getty | Words: Sara Conway
Wrinkles, grey hairs, body parts heading south – this is what I’ve started to notice since becoming a mum. “Having kids has made me old!” I complained to a friend, who laughed and said “you are old!” I went to another friend because that wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. “You haven’t slept for two years, of course it’s aged you,” this kinder friend said. “I know!” I wailed, “but what can I do?!” “Nothing,” she replied cheerfully, and poured me another glass of wine.
After that, I started researching the ageing process and concluded that, yes, having kids could speed things up. Lack of sleep: check. Grabbing sugary snacks on the go: every day. Feeling stressed: isn’t everyone? Of course, my pre-baby life could also be to blame. I didn’t sleep much then either. I lived on wine. What was it Coco Chanel said? “Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve.”
Whatever I deserved, I refused to accept my wrinkles. I started hiding in photographs – behind my daughter, a book, a wooden spoon. Maybe it’ll look arty, I thought. It didn’t. It looked weird. I tried wearing more make-up, but it sat caked in the wrinkles and made them more obvious. I smeared on potions, which made my skin feel and smell lovely but didn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the lines.
Then, one day, I saw a photo of me and my daughter and deleted it in horror. There were these great furrows forking out from under my eyes. That’s it, I thought and started googling Botox. “Why have you just deleted that lovely photo?” asked my husband. He pointed out what I’d missed. Behind the wrinkles, I’m laughing, caught in a moment with my daughter. All I’d seen were my crows’ feet. “Your laughter lines,” said my husband.
I’d like to say I had an epiphany – that now I realise each laughter line is a memory. That I’ve given them names and treat them like little pets. But let’s be realistic – I’m still looking for ways to stall the ageing process. I have kept that photo, though, to remind myself to look beyond the wrinkles.
5 ways to look and feel younger…
1 Get more sleep
It might seem impossible when a restless small person rules our days (and nights), but it’s worth sacrificing your evening to have an early night. According to scientists, growth hormones encourage cells to rebuild and repair themselves while we sleep. Plus, more sleep makes us feel less stressed, which means less frowning. Out of everything I’ve tried, sleep has had the biggest effect on how I look and feel. After an unbroken 6 or 7 hours’ shut-eye, there’s a springiness to my skin that just isn’t there when I’m sleep deprived.
And if you’ve had a bad night? Make-up artists advise that dabbing concealer in the corner of your eyes is the best way to conceal dark circles.
2 Drink plenty of water
OK, drinking 20 litres of water won’t magically make our wrinkles disappear. But not drinking enough water (about 8 glasses a day) can make us dehydrated, which is shrivelled-up-prune territory. I’m generally hopeless at remembering to drink water, so I bought myself a fancy water bottle. You could try setting a reminder on your phone. Or remember to pour yourself a drink when you sort them for the kids. Why are we so much better at looking after them than ourselves?
3 Don’t diet!
Woo-hoo! It’s been reported that crash diets can make us lose weight in our faces, which in turn makes us look older. So we should all go out and eat some pies. OK, I made up that last bit. But it’s nice to finally feel fond of the extra baby weight I’m carrying. Now, pass the cakes…
4 Eat plenty of healthy oils and vegetables
OK, hold the cakes. Researchers have found that adults who consume more fish, olive oil and vegetables are far less wrinkly than those who eat sugar and saturated fats. It’s all stuff we know already, of course, but I need reminding. It’s so easy to reach for a chocolate-based energy boost when trying to keep up with my toddler. Now, I’m trying to snack on nuts and dried fruit and I’m swapping convenience food for fresh fish, which is quick and easy to cook.
5 And finally… have more sex
Sex is exercise, which boosts the circulation and gives you a healthy youthful glow. Plus, it helps you to destress and sleep better. I was going to recommend pilates, which has pretty much the same outcome. So choose whichever you’re in the mood for!
I hope you find this advice useful. And remember – the most important thing is to look after yourself.