Red Carpet Ready

Ok, maybe not the REAL red carpet, but I am prepping for a big event: the summer wedding of dear friends in a swanky venue. I have to look my best and have less than a week to pull it together! That means body buff, skin glowing, nails immaculate and hair frizz-less.

I have to admit, although I am usually pretty disciplined, I have been off the rails since July 4th, indulging myself in 3 no-nos: alcohol, cheese and sugar. We were entertained by new friends here and it would be rude NOT to drink their wine and nibble their cheese, right? And I offered to bring dessert which was a “from scratch” key lime pie. It was my first ever so I had no idea that it was loaded with sweetened condensed milk, maybe the most caloric-ly dense, sugary food on the planet! But hey, it was great, I enjoyed every toothsome bite, and now I have to pay the price. Since I will be wearing two close fitting frocks this weekend, drastic measures are called for.


Starting the day with lemon water

Starting the day with lemon water

I started last night by skipping dinner and substituting a protein shake, shocking my body into training mode. Now I plan to adhere to my Fast Metabolism Diet which has worked wonderfully and fast, when I follow it. No gluten, no sugar, plenty of fresh veggies and fruit and lean protein with a little quinoa and brown rice thrown in for filler (see previous post that outlines diet). I am starting each day with lemon water; ½ lemon squeezed into warm, not scalding water. The benefits:

  • Daily detox and flushing of toxins
  • Stimulates digestive tract
  • Pectin, a soluble fiber in lemon, aids weight loss
  • Eases bloat and tummy upset
  • Diuretic action
  • Energizing and mood enhancing
  • I’ll be swigging water and green tea throughout each day.

From there, it’s eating the right stuff at the right time, meaning every 3 hours to goose my metabolism. At the same time, I am doing daily cardio, Pilates once this week, and free weights for my arms every other day. I’m going sleeveless or I’m not going at all!


Dr. Dennis Gross 14 day Challenge

Dr. Dennis Gross 14 day Challenge

Planning ahead, I purchased Dr. Dennis Gross’ 14 Day Challenge, a 2 week, nightly alpha beta peel with a ferulic acid and retinol chaser for the face. Only 3 days left and my skin is looking and feeling great. On order: Gross’ Medi Spa peel, a stronger, once weekly version to maintain my results. I’ve been exfoliating my body daily and applying self tanner after with religious fervor. Since I start from a place of blinding whiteness, I don’t exactly have the JLo glow, but I do have color from head to toe which looks natural and healthy. I will be packing the new Jergens BB Body Cream to maximize my efforts through the weekend.


Since I had a cut and color 3 weeks ago, my too dark color has now sun- lightened to an acceptable copper shade. I’ll be lugging my usual glut of hair products to cover shine, frizz removal and volume. Believe me, with my thin, fine, prone to frizz hair, it takes a village! Not to mention a strong hair dryer (I always bring my own) and a flat iron. In case of extreme humidity or, God forbid, rain, I will be prepared to whip it into a top knot, sprayed to the max.


With all the unpacking and household chores, it’s tough to keep them lacquered. So I am filing my nails super short and will do a DIY the day before we leave. I’m thinking Find Me An Oasis, a pale blue on my fingers, and Trophy Wife, a deep, metallic blue on my toes to go with my navy lace dress. Gotta love it for the name alone! (Both by Essie.)


Special bra essential!

Special bra essential!

It’s critical to try on your event dress prior to packing to make sure you have the right stuff to cover your ass(ets) and be comfortable. That means the appropriate Spanx for the outfit so there are no lines, no bulges, no muffin top. I purchased the high top version. And since my dress features a cut out back, that means a strapless, backless stick- on bra with extra double stick tape to make sure it’s going nowhere. Be prepared!, the only thing I remember from Girl Scouts.


I swear, it sometimes takes me as long to pack my makeup and skincare as it does my clothes! But I don’t want to arrive without the right shadow or custom mixed base color (see last week’s post). With heat and humidity guaranteed at the ocean front venue, I will be going very light in texture with my base, shadow and blush. Nothing worse than having your maquillage melting off your face (think “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”). Blotting papers are a must in the evening clutch and gloss trumps heavy lip color bleeding into my lip lines.So although I don’t have “glam team”, facialist and personal trainer like the stars do before hitting the kleig lights, my version has gotten me through many an event. And once I’m dressed, coiffed, cosmetically enhanced and aglow, I have a glass of champagne, hold in my stomach, and smile for the cameras.




Posted in beauty at any age, diet, hair, increasing metabolism, makeup, skincare, Sunless tanners | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mixing It Up

I was  all thumbs in high school chemistry, but when it comes to blending ingredients in my bathroom, I’m rather brilliant. Since summer snuck up on me while moving, it is time to fine tune my summer mixtures, all designed to give me the kind of glow I can only get the “better living through chemistry ”way.

I am normally pale, pallid, freckley; the polar opposite of the bronze, healthy look I covet. But I have learned to fake it with various products which I am only too happy to share with you.

Summer mixers

Summer mixers

Last year’s Eureka moment was the discovery of Clarins Golden Glow Booster. Just 3 drops mixed with your moisturizer, serum or sunblock turns it into a subtle self tanner. But we’re just getting started!

Australian Gold Sheer Coverage 45 Faces sunscreen does all the mixing for me, combining a robust, water resistant SPF 45 with instant bronzing and gradual self tanner. But why let my face have all the fun? I am now slathering it on my arms and legs before I hop in the convertible.

Everyone knows that white legs are the anathema of a sexy summer look so I have to dedicate more attention to my glaringly white limbs.  St Tropez Self Tan Luxe Dry Oil is great for legs but I found it too strong on color and too difficult to control a streak less application. Then I hit on mixing it with a body lotion and voila!, it worked like a dream. Just shake well to mix (being careful where you do this, the stuff stains) and add some to your cream or lotion mixing well. I keep empty sample jars for just this purpose.

Recently, I succumbed to a TV come- on from Jane Seymour and Dorothy Hamill for Crepe Erase, which they touted for its ability to firm up lax, crepey skin on arms and knees, the bane of the after 50 woman. After using up the tub I cannot say my skin has regained its former elasticity (I wish!) but I have to admit, it looks more moisturized and smoother. So it became my conduit for combining firming and self tanning. But anything will do.

My Armani's

My Armani’s

I am a huge fan of anything in the Armani cosmetic line. Since falling for the Maestro featherweight liquid foundation, I have added the Maestro Fusion Blush . A single drop dotted on cheeks and melted into skin with a damp makeup sponge or brush yields an easy to blend, believable and lasting flush. Now that classy Italian has added Maestro Liquid Summer to his arsenal. It comes in 3 shades and a dropper bottle like the others. Although you can use it “straight” as a bronzer, I love to add to either my liquid base, BB cream or sunscreen, turning any and all into a glow-y version of itself. No need to purchase foundations in various colors anymore when you can create your own bespoke version. And don’t stop at your chin! Continue your glow onto your neck and décolleté for  seamless, authentic color.

The latest entry in this market of chameleons is Cover FX Custom Cover Drops. The weightless and highly pigmented drops instantly infuse any water, oil or silicone based liquid product with sheer color. The more drops, the more coverage. With 24 shades, one is sure to duplicate YOU! It’s on my “lust list.”

My last mixer is Paula Dorf Transformer. I’ve used this for years to transform any eye shadow to a liquid liner. A teensy drop blended into shadow and applied with a skinny liner brush gives you custom color that lasts through blood, sweat and tears.

For summer when of less is most definitely more, a swipe of colored liner, a flick of mascara, sheer bronzy skin and soft peachy, pink or coral lip gloss will take you anywhere you need to go.

*A special shout out to my friend Susie Kane who finally taught me how to provide links to the products I mention. Hey, I’m old, it took awhile!

Posted in beauty at any age, makeup, protection, resources, Sunless tanners, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When Life Intervenes after 50

I know, dear readers, that I have been M.I.A. for awhile. What happened to Zoe?, you may ask. The answer is LIFE intervened.

After having spinal surgery in January, I needed a second surgery in late March to revise an issue from the first. Don’t ask! While recovering, we were preparing for two major life changes: my husband’s retirement and a subsequent move. It was the height of bad timing.

Some major changes after 50 are voluntary; others sneak up on us and some just hit us like an oncoming train. We got ourselves through the rigors of packing up and then the  day of the move, I had a rather spectacular, banana peel type fall on the mover’s ramp, landing right on my lower back. Within days, I was squarely back where I started pre-surgery in terms of pain. And in the past few weeks, I have been too busy, too uncomfortable and too bummed to write. But I’m attempting to make a mental and physical comeback with a new cadre of medical professionals.

The day after we moved in, exhausted, surrounded by boxes, and overwhelmed by all that needed to be done, that train slammed into our world. Richard’s sister had a massive stroke in Arizona and within 12 hours, he was on a plane there. We were reminded in tragic fashion that life turns on a dime. Now we are adjusting to this new reality and how it will impact us.

With Richard suddenly gone, I was overwhelmed by being alone in a new house and new place with so much on my head. But I rallied, determined to have the house looking like a home by the time Richard returned. I threw myself into the task, having truly nothing better to do, and whipped the place into shape.

5 Moray Ln Ipswich, MA

The other aspect of the life change was retirement. Although I walked away from a 25 year career in real estate 5 years ago with a huge sigh of relief, Richard loved the practice of dentistry and mourned the loss of clinical practice and the many generations of patients he served happily and with tremendous gratification.

Doubtless, adding a physical move to the equation doubled the impact. Both events are way up there on the trauma scale. One involves redefining your life, the other creating a new life. I faced that head-on when we moved back to Connecticut from Santa Fe and can’t stress how difficult and depressing it was, leaving a job that filled all my hours and a large social circle of great, supportive friends. Now Richard was squarely in the same situation.

So preparing for the move was anxiety producing for both of us. How would he adjust to not having patients to serve? How would we, as individuals and a couple transition to this next phase of our life and relationship?   Leaving good friends behind is always difficult. Would we easily make new friends in our new community? Would we like small town New England, an essentially rural life, better than the bustling and populous area we were leaving behind? How would it feel being closer to Richard’s daughter and family yet further from my two sons? These were/are all potential issues of a retirement move. Yet we jumped into our new house with a spontaneity that can only come with a gut feeling of being in the right place at the right time. Sort of like we jumped into each other’s lives in the first place, and a little like jumping off a cliff hoping for a safe landing.

So at 67 and 73 respectively we are starting over. Having lived in MY house and HIS house, we now have OUR house and it feels good to be shaping it, and our new life together. However, I deal with physical change far more easily than my husband. While he spent his entire life in Connecticut with the exception of our four years together in Santa Fe and a stint in the army, Massachusetts is my 8th state of residence! I’m like that plant with legs that creep everywhere, a literal wandering Jew. I’ve live in a duplex, split level, lots of apartments, a Dutch colonial, tract colonial, English Cotswold, adobe hacienda, water view condo and now a Nantucket style cottage. Stylistically, I’ve covered a lot of ground. And I admit it; I get bored and welcome change. At least this kind of change. Am I done? Who knows. In 10 years, our infatuation with Santa Barbara may beckon us to a Grand Finale in the Golden State. Never say never.

Physical change has impacted us to0. I was a mere 59 when we met and he, 64. Since then, I’ve seen him through two major heart procedures and he’s nursed me through five orthopedic surgeries. So are we still the same couple that met and had a fairy tale romance in late life? Not hardly. Too much of real life has intruded: the loss of both my parents, the passing of several friends from devastating disease, financial ups and downs, and now two moves. That’s in less than 7 years of marriage.

Yes, aging is NOT for sissies.

So the ONLY constant after 50 is that life as you knew it will change. And the best you can do is roll with the punches and keep your sense of humor. Take care of yourself. Communicate; share your anxieties (and your Xanax) with your partner or trusted friends so they don’t overwhelm you. Focus on your priorities for a gratifying last act. Get to the Bucket List while you still can.

Once we are done feathering our nest, we will be focusing on our new life, opening ourselves to new people, places and experiences.

I look forward to growing, not just growing old, together. With whatever that brings.

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Dance, Ballerina, Dance

“Dance Done” pastel ©Johanna Bohoy,

“Dance Done” pastel ©Johanna Bohoy,

We all receive a lot of useless, time wasting email enticements, but occasionally something piques my interest and I go for it. A couple weeks ago, it was the draw of finding out what was the #1 song on the charts the day I were born. Ok, I’ll bite. So I plunked in my birthday (1/28/1948 in case you’re interested) and the result was “Dance, Ballerina, Dance” by Vaughn Monroe. Mildly interesting, meh,whatever. Or so I thought.

Then the other night I woke at (my usual) 3 a.m. with the lyrics on a continuous loop through my head and it hit me; the thread of dance throughout my life, beginning with Day One. According to my dear, departed mother, who dubbed me The Ballet Dancer, I continually slept from infancy with one leg extended and the other bent, toe touching the opposite knee in pirouette position. Still sleep the same way!

Sure I would be a tiny dancer, she enrolled me in ballet and tap dance lessons for which, sadly, I had no aptitude whatsoever. Although I dreamed of tutus, they were not in my future. Piano was my forte and I learned “Swan Lake” so I could accompany my more nimble cousin, Shelley so got the dance gene. Never mind, I was in love with dance. Mom shlepped me from Sioux City to Omaha to see my first live ballet and I was hooked.

From there it was on to the movies, where dance was a staple. My older sister (grudgingly) took me to the movies every Saturday afternoon where we thrilled to all the movie musicals of the day. The incomparable elegance of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the ebullient athleticism of Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain” (my all time favorite), Donald O’Connor, Frank Sinatra, Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse, and the tragic “The Red Shoes” with the gorgeous Moira Shearer; I was enthralled my them all.

Fast forward to Houston, TX., 1972, where I snagged my first substantial post- college job as Promotion Director for the Houston Ballet. Every day I got to hang with the dancers, watch them practice and occasionally take class with them. Wish I had a picture of my pint-sized self amongst all those long, languid dancers! I was there for every performance, including umpteen “Nutcrackers”. My husband and I became friends with the Finnish stars of the company; I ferried around visiting guest artists from New York like Ted Kivitt and Cynthia Gregory from ABT. It was divine!

Much later, when I moved to Santa Fe, I was invited to join the board of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and again indulged my love of dance with a great regional company. Santa Fe drew many other companies and I delighted in performances by Hubbard Street, Paul Taylor and others.

Once we moved near New York, world class dance was available 24/7. I would see it all, if finances allowed. Most recently, we were able to take in “An American in Paris” on Broadway with Robert Fairchild of NYC Ballet and Leanne Cope. I am a sucker for a sexy pas de deux and their climactic finale to the sumptuous Gershwin score was sensual to the max.

Next anxiously anticipated performance is my lovely and leggy step-granddaughter, Micaela, in June doing the Spanish dance from “Nutcracker.” Can hardly wait!

Micaela Tobin

Micaela Tobin

So, “Dance, Ballerina, Dance”. A chance occurrence or a significant link to a life-long love affair with dance? You decide.

If you want to check out what was #1 in Pop music on the day of your birth, go to  http://www.thisday in

For more artwork by Johanna Bohoy, go to


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Deja Vu All Over Again

Dear Readers,

As luck would have it, my California Idyll was interrupted by a recurrence of nerve pain which came back with a vengeance. Unable to walk, I was forced to return home early, and an MRI revealed I needed more surgery, which took place yesterday.

Unfortunately, spending hours at my computer blogging is not part of my prescribed recovery so I will be silent for a little while. But am already thinking of my return with fresh material.





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Life’s a Beach!

I’m almost two weeks into my vacation in blissful Santa Barbara which seems a planet away from the Siberian-esque winter we have been weathering in New England. Each day, as I walk along the ocean, I witness people running, walking, biking, surfing and paddleboarding as opposed to shivering, shoveling and sliding their way through the icy tundra. AH! That’s me breathing a sigh of relief.

Yesterday,  my husband, having been invited to play golf, surprised me with a welcome suggestion: Why didn’t I spend the day at a luxury Spa just up the road from the golf course? Really?? Twist my arm! A little online research revealed a special Spa Day for locals, which I qualified for by virtue of my 2 week rental. The deal was a 50 minute massage, a glass of bubbly and full usage of the facilities for $125. Sign me up!image

So it was that he drove up a winding tree lined drive and through a massive stone archway and deposited me in the front of the hacienda style edifice that is Bacara, a stunning resort and spa surrounded by lush, tropical foliage. Pristine white stucco with a classic red tile roof, the unimposing facade led into a magnificent two story lobby dominated by a massive chandelier. I was directed down a curving staircase and out to a path that led past the flowering shrub surrounded pool and into the cool confines of the Spa.image

First, I was ushered into the elegant ladies’ locker room and issued a robe and slippers for my treatment. But since I had a couple hours to kill, I slipped into exercise clothes and went downstairs to the extensive fitness area. One large room held spin bikes and Pilates apparatus, another every form of cardio machine and a third, free weights and weight machines. After clocking a half hour on the treadmill and hoisting some light weights for my upper body, I retraced my steps to the front motor court. There I grabbed a chicken wrap and exotic iced tea at Blend, a little panini, smoothie and salad venue where I lunched at a shady bistro table. Next to Blend was a wine bar and tasting room. Made a mental note: drag husband here after golf and “exhausting” spa day for a glass of vino.

Back at the Spa, I checked out the inventory at the boutique which was well stocked with goods from Osea, Fresh and Babor with lots of testers for the irrepressibly curious like me. Then I changed to my robe and went upstairs to the Serenity room, where like-robed ladies waited in front of the fire on comfy chairs and couches for their treatments. I had requested a female masseuse but I was claimed by Matthew who was most definitely male; also cute! young! and hot! But all discomfort melted away in the candlelit room where I was kneaded into submission accompanied by the sound of waves crashing on shore.

When my time was, sadly, up I dragged myself off the table and into my robe and upon leaving the room, found Matthew waiting with a hefty glass of champagne. I think I could get used to this pampering thing!

Since there were many options open to me, I had also booked a waxing session and a young woman named Kathleen whisked some fuzz off my face. “Am I hurting you?” she asked, concerned. “Hardly,” I cracked. “Once you’ve had a Brazilian, everything else is child’s play.”

imageOnce done, I finished my champagne and had a shower and shampoo. Refreshed and blow dried, I sauntered out on the grounds and read my book with a private ocean view. “Life is tough, isn’t it?” my husband texted me. “Yeah, it is.” I wrote back. “But somebody’s gotta do it, and today it’s me!”

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Faking It

After barely surviving the endless snow, brutal cold and icerink like streets wrought by February, I was more than ready for some well earned R&R in warmer climes. We planned several snowles, sunny days in Arizona before taking residence in a beach cottage in gorgeous Santa Barbara, the “American Riviera”, a moniker that is no exaggeration.

But a mostly idle month recuperating from surgery had left my normally fair skin with a pasty pallor. Not just my face; my limbs were blindingly white too. The last thing I wanted was to sport that light deprived skin in the land of bronze and vigorous. I needed a vacation prep  strategy. What to do?

Fake it.

With the help of a few products at the ready, I gave myself a couple pre-flight days to approximate a more robust appearance.
First up, a daily post shower application from head to toe of St.Tropez self tanning oil. An indulgent dry oil, it leaves a streak free golden glow that lasts a week or longer. After a few days of diligent coverage, I had eradicated the winter pale color of my arms, legs and chest. Then I simply re-apply every few days to maintain my color. I also found that if I applied a bit to my face before makeup, it acted as a golden, illuminating primer.

Sun screen is a must, so I am using my favorite discovery of last summer, Australian Gold Sheer Coverage 45 with instant bronzer. Though hard to find (I have to find itonline), it is worth the effort, not only giving me high SPF protection, but an instant and gradually building self tanning action.

Because it takes a LOT of product to transform me from pale face to golden girl, I literally gild the lily with a daily dose of Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster. Just 3 drops of this genius product mixed with my night cream or moisturizer keeps me glowing.

I also brought along my Dermalogica Color Corrector. A little squirt of this baby in my light -as -air Maybelline Wonder Fluid-Touch Foundation, and I can match the minimal but all important coverage to my bronzier self.

Lastly, I use my Nars dual blush/bronzer in Orgasm and Laguna to bring color and contour to my cheekbones. A slick of peachy lip color, a touch of gloss and VOILA! It’s time to glow.

* On vacation, I am having photo upload issues. My apologies for lack of picture content.

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From my teens to my forties, my oily skin was an issue. My T-zone was constantly pumping and I never left home without sopping it up with toner and stowing blotting papers to stem the tide while away. Every product I used had to be “oil free”. And then something happened; it was called MENOPAUSE and it was a game changer.

As my hormones took off for parts unknown, two positive things happened: I no longer had to shave my legs and underarms and the oil surplus became an oil shortage. Over the years I have gone from “oily” to “combination” verging on “dry” particularly in winter. Can’t say enough about the challenges of winter 2015! Between the bitter cold and biting wind, my skin has been sapped of moisture, flaking to the point where I am now, shockingly, apply oil to my newly parched skin!

As luck would have it, the skincare industry is having its own little oil glut with oils being the “IT” ingredient of the moment. Every brand is touting the benefits, moisture and glow to be had by using its oil infused products. Kudos to Josie Maran whose argan oil- rich line beat the market trend by years and is one of the best.oils

Here are a few others that I have gotten to know and love:

Origins Clean Energy gentle cleansing oil

I started using this post-laser peel when my skin was ultra-sensitive and it has been a life safer in this frosty weather, gentling emulsifying makeup and leaving me with clean, soft skin.

L’Occitane Shower Oil with almond

Since I discovered it last winter, I will never be without it. Itchy winter body skin? G-o-n-e after using this gem with its yummy scent and gentle lather. I now buy the big refill bag which keeps costs down.

Boots Botanics 100% organic facial oil

A mixture of argan, almond, rose hip and more, Dr Jessica Wu recommends adding a couple of drops to your moisturizer for extra richness. I sometimes rub a couple drops between my fingers and press gently into the skin to soothe my savaged dermis after a wintry blast. I also discovered…

Aura Cacia Rosehip Oil with Vitamin E which is a gentler version of retinol and far more soothing on my sensitive neck than Retin-A. Walgreens and Target carry Boots and Whole Foods, Fairway or the like have rose hip oil.

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

With evening primrose, lavender and squalane, this is a soothing and hydrating night serum. I like to alternate it with Retin-A.

L’oreal Sublime Sun Suncreen Oil spf 30

I picked this up last summer and added it to my sun protection arsenal. A non-sticky, non-greasy oil, it gives moist protection with a little healthy sheen and no obnoxious scent.

Vea Olio

This a little cult product that I read about awhile ago and recently found online. It is THE oil used in photo shoots to produce gleam-y limbs. Hey, if it’s good enough for the swim suit models, it’s good enough for my bone dry arms and legs, just about to make their winter debut in California. Perfect on the collar bone and exposed shoulders too for an evening out.

Kerastase Oleo-Relax Anti Frizz

My step-grandaughter, Micaela, she of the glorious mane, turned me onto this. While she has mountains of hair, mine is thin and fine so I have to use restraint. But just a drop  rubbed between the fingers and run through the lengths and ends of my hair produce piece-y, shining strands.

Bumble and Bumble UV Protective Polish

Another light, finishing oil, this is geared to preserving and polishing color treated hair.

Coconut Oil

Although originally used for cooking, it has recently become the star of the oil world, purportedly curing all ills on all body parts including whitening teeth. You have to REALLY like the smell of coconut, but it is pretty much one stop shopping if you want one product that can cover a multitude of tasks. Cheap thrills, indeed!

Some of those listed by Pop Sugar:

Makeup remover

Breath freshener (seriously, you have to gargle with it for 20 minutes. I don’t think I could even gargle Champagne for 20 minutes!)

Body cream

Cuticle oil

Lip balm

Stretch mark remover

Shave cream

Body oil

Deep conditioner

Tame hair frizz

And my favorite, Body Exfoliant.

Mix ½ cup coconut oil with a handful of Kosher salt or sugar to rid yourself of flaky, dead skin while leaving moisture behind.

Coconut oil traditionally came solid in a jar but now with all the hoopla, you can buy it in liquid form too.

Posted in facial cleansing, hair, makeup, menopause, skincare, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It is Better to Look Good than to Feel Good!

Thank you, Billy Crystal, for that immortal line! And how often I have used it. Never more than this past month, fresh from spinal surgery, but pumped full of pain killers, when I posted a photo on Facebook. “You look so good for just having surgery!” was the general reaction.

Hours after surgery and flying high

Hours after surgery and flying high

Surgery was, for me, a last resort after not months, but years of ineffective treatment and lack of a real diagnosis. Was it sciatica? Piriformis syndrome? A battered joint? Arthritis of the facet joints? By 2014 it had progressed to the point that every step triggered pain in my lower back and down my legs. One by one, I had to give up my physical activities. Ballet barre was out; too much squatting and back leg lifts. Next to go was Body Pump, deemed as too stressful for my spine and joints. Even well practiced Pilates moves were too much. I was reduced to a mat core class as the only thing that would strengthen rather than irritate my back.
Believe me, I left no stone unturned. First there were guided injections. Then a course of physical therapy, followed by acupuncture and more injections. More PT and chiropractic adjustments brought no relief. A spinal pain specialist then gave me an epidural, more guided injections and a rhizotomy to de-sensitize the nerve causing pain, none of which worked. After more MRIs and x-rays, spinal stenosis was the final diagnosis. The narrowing of the open spaces within the spine, stenosis is bony growth that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves that travel through the lumbar spine. A comparison of my MRIs showed that it was advancing, and rapidly. Finally, out of options, I agreed to a laminotomy, an orthopedic neurosurgical procedure that removes part of the vertebral arch to decompress the spinal cord and nerve root.
The day after surgery I was not so sanguine. IV gone, I was staggered by the intense pain. One day after surgery, I was home and humbled. Vicodan didn’t touch it. Neither did Percocet. By the time I gave up on Dilaudid, a serious narcotic, as ineffective, I decided to go cold turkey since it made no difference. Walking was my prescription and 4-5 hours a day encased in a corset- like back brace. The doctor dictated 10 minutes, twice a day to start, building to an hour by the time he did follow up 3 weeks hence. No driving, no sex. I assumed no sex while driving was a given.
Six excruciating days after going under the knife, it all turned around and by a week post –op (my birthday) I was well enough to go out and party with friends. Amazing! But, wait for it….. a few days later I slipped on the ice and fell causing a major relapse and wiping out all the progress I had made. So discouraging, it dumped me into a major depression. Had it all been for nothing? Was I back to square one?

The doctor prescribed a powerful steroid to calm the inflammation but after the six day course it was, if anything, worse.
The minute I got up from a sitting or supine position, any weight on my left foot triggered searing pain up my leg and across my sacrum. The day I was to start PT the technician backed away saying my pain was too acute for any manipulation. “I think you have a hot nerve root,” he decided. “Best get an MRI and see what is happening.” I was fortunate to get an immediate response from my surgeon and had an MRI that afternoon but it showed nothing. I was looking for a source and a fix but it wasn’t there. The doctor then sent me back to my spinal pain guru for a nerve root block. I was seriously at the end of my unraveling mental rope, not prepared for a world of pain. But after my directive to “Hit me with your best shot, doc!” he did nail the right spot and within 24 hours, I was pain free. Just…like…that.
To go from constant pain to complete relief is a feeling too euphoric to adequately describe. As long as it lasts, I am incredibly grateful to feel like myself again. You can double that for my husband!
The real truth here is that it is IMMEASURABLY better to feel good than to look good. As we get older, we start to realize the sagacity of the adage “When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not, nothing else matters at all.” As blithely as I glided through my 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s, when my friends started to falter from wear and tear, replacing their joints like new valves, I got it. And when they failed in their fight with a menu of cancers, COPD, Alzheimers and more, I was properly sobered to the new reality of being over 50. Life is short; sometimes much shorter than we anticipate. The way to enjoy it to the hilt is to face it strong in body and in mind. The greatest wealth, acclaim or success is meaningless in comparison to a healthy body and a lucid mind.
So take care of yourself. Seek help when you need it. Delay could be deadly. Sharpen your mind by challenging it at every opportunity. And enjoy each day that you feel vital and sharp. For as long as it lasts.

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Beauty Promotion (Finally) Comes of Age

For years I’ve scoffed at the idiocy of using 20-something models to promote anti-aging products. The whole thing smacks of oxymoron-ism, if there is such a word. But lately something has happened to the glossy magazine ads and TV commercials. The cosmetics moguls are, at last, choosing age appropriate women to hawk their products, I mean, represent their companies. “Brand Ambassador” is the preferred term and these contracts are lucrative and lust- worthy. Let those youngsters wait their turn!

The advertising industry appears to be belatedly waking up to the fact that the over 50’s are a demographic jackpot more than 100 million strong and a force to be reckoned with. The revenue of the U.S. cosmetics industry alone is on track to generate over $60 billion this year and an estimated $250 billion worldwide. That’s a LOT of lipstick!

The 50+ demographic is growing daily and by 2017, roughly half the US population will be part of this not so exclusive club while controlling 70% of the disposable income. So when it comes to advertising strategy, it’s ignorant, no suicidal, not to market to those with the money. The baby boomers and those right behind them are redefining what it means to be, not old, but older. And we want women we can relate to representing those skincare and beauty products that will allow us to continue to look beautiful at every age. We’re wise enough to know that no cosmetic or cream is going to make us look like we’re pushing 25 so why not use someone realistic as role model?

The long running Andie MacDowell

The long running Andie MacDowell

L’oreal reigns as the most savvy of companies when it comes to featuring grown women. Andie MacDowell has been representing the brand in some format for over 25 years! That’s a lifetime for a brand representative as they are generally swapped out with the speed of a revolving door. Now 56, we have seen her age, and beautifully, in their ads. Clearly, they have found that SHE is “worth it.” Last year L’oreal also adopted a campaign for nude lipstick, and to illustrate the variations in what nude can be, assembled a gorgeous assortment of  multi cultural actresses including 54 year old Julianne Moore (THIS CLOSE to an Oscar) and the apparently ageless Jane Fonda, 77, who continues to score a string of TV and movie roles.

Dame Helen Mirren

Dame Helen Mirren

The newest star to hit the cosmetic contract mother lode is Helen Mirren who turns 70 this year. L’oreal hired her after their extensive research showed her to be appealing and admired by most consumers. As a role model, she exemplifies aging with grace, intelligence, class and sass.

Nars is next in line, jumping on board the trend by featuring Charlotte Rampling, still hauntingly lovely at 68 with the mercurial Tilda Swinton , 53, following in her wake later this year. Tilda is widely admired beyond her acting for being fearless in her fashion choices and has also been featured in ads for Pomelatto jewelry where she is stunningly styled.

Tilda, the architectural wonder

Tilda, the architectural wonder

A few years ago Revlon stuck a toe in the water by featuring now 68 year old Susan Sarandon and Julianne Moore but now sticks to a stable of much younger women. Shame on you Revlon! If you want to appeal to the anti-aging obsessed group, Emma Stone is not going to do it for you.

In the fashion realm, Marc Jacobs has put his money behind 65 year old Jessica Lange, who has  made a splash in his arty magazine ad as well as on TV in American Horror Story to award winning affect. It is inspiring to see women over 50 still in demand on the small tube and the big screen (Meryl Streep, 65, anyone?)and killing it on the red carpet. Meryl is still beautiful as well as insanely talented but needs a stylist, and badly!

As unlikely as it seems, Iris Apfel and Joan Didion have been featured  in ads by MAC and Celine, respectively. What is the message here? I think it is that talent, intellect and style are ageless. Even such grey eminences as the late Maya Angelou, Willie Nelson and Dos Equis’ most interesting man in the world have been called into service to appeal to older buyers of beer, shoes and haberdashery. Rather than being written off after 50, the Mick Jaggers, Billy Joels and Tony Bennets  of the world are still in demand and relevant.

The author, Joan Didion

The author, Joan Didion

With 50 increasingly viewed as the midpoint of life, we are just hitting our stride. We now have, for the most part, the time and the money to stay in the game of life, traveling, dining, seeking entertainment and adventure so long as we are physically able.

Oh yeah, and putting on our mascara first.


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