Self described “Age-less Activist and Anarchist”, South Africa’s very own beauty guru and journalist, Elsa Kruger, talks to MYHRU about her mission, top beauty secrets, and what she learned from Sharon Stone.
Q: You run an established and beautiful blog Mooipraatjies met Elsa. What made you create this space?
Mooipraatjies.com is aimed at serious, credible beauty information and very specifically, it is aimed at the “forgotten demographic” – the woman over 40. The emphasis is on “Age-less/ De-Ageing” rather than “Anti-Ageing”, which is a passion with me. This market and topic is my core focus.
I have a passion for the beauty industry and the science of beauty because of its constant new breakthroughs and exciting developments.
I like describing myself as an Age-less Activist and Anarchist. I am hugely irritated by age-ism in a youth-obsessed society and the fact that women, once they pass the halfway mark between 40 and 50, seem to become invisible. They fall off the beauty radar, so to speak.
Yet, it is a well-researched fact that women in this demographic have the money, the desire, the need and the inclination to lavishly spend on and invest in their appearance and grooming, in order to maintain (or regain) their youthful looks as significantly as possible. Does “50 is the new 30” ring a bell? I am seriously challenging and disputing the outdated perception that women over 50 are not interested in grooming, new rejuvenation techniques and products.
Considering the billions invested by the beauty industry worldwide in research and development of anti-ageing products, I was confident that this blog/website will strike a chord within the industry as well as with my readers. With more than 20 years’ experience as a beauty writer (and 40 as a journalist) I have a wealth of experience and knowledge, which I wanted to share. The irony about a great deal of beauty journalism nowadays is that women learn about anti-ageing news and products from young writers who have only ever had pimples, with not a wrinkle in sight (yet).
Also, very importantly, it is the first independent beauty blog in Afrikaans. The Afrikaans market is affluent and the market for Afrikaans digital media is growing with leaps and bounds. Afrikaans women are quite passionate about their grooming and appearance. I wanted to cater for their needs and chat to them about beauty like a trusted friend, because as far as beauty goes, women trust other women and like to hear about what works for them.
Q: You’ve recently appeared in a powerful DOVE #BeautyAtEveryAge campaign. Why was it important for you to be part of it?
I identified with the Dove campaign because it resonated with my own private little rebellion about age-ism.
I have always been upfront about my age (although I am, of course, tempted not to correct people if they judge me younger than my actual age!). It is all about taking ownership of your age, and not feeling you have to lie about it. I don’t dread being asked how old I am. I DO dread the reaction, though, when I say my number: Very often you hit that wall of prejudice and perception about “old age”; of what 60+ should be like. Even if someone doesn’t say it, you can almost see them think “Wow, but you are OLD!” The 50+ group /demographic is often stereotyped in media and advertising – yet it is the biggest demographic, and growing, with more money to spend. We are worth the investment.
If this #BeautyAtEveryAge campaign could in any way help change the perception that there is a disconnect between age and beauty, that one should necessarily exclude the other, then it has served its purpose splendidly. One CAN be beautiful at any age
Q: In the campaign you say: “The power of beauty helps you to get things done.” What do you mean by that?
I’m indebted for this line to the actress Sharon Stone (58), whom I interviewed last year in Berlin. She told me: “There is power in beauty and we should not deny it. It helps us to get things done, we should recognize it and we should not be ashamed of harnessing that.”
Numerous scientific studies have shown that an appearance that is pleasing to the eye, the visual harmony and balance of facial features, tend to create a positive attitude at first glance. So yes, physical beauty may be a very superficial way of initially judging people, but it is also a gift to be used and harnessed – to unlock doors, in order to do or achieve the greater good that we aim for.
It is also personally empowering to know you look good. I consider it a sign of respect towards people I interact with to take care of my appearance and how I present myself.
Q: So what is YOUR definition and perception of “beauty”?
I don’t think there can be one simple definition of beauty. My definition of beauty is not necessarily doll-like perfection, rather an individuality in looks and demeanor which is irresistible. It is an instinctive reaction to what the eyes perceive as attractive. Beauty is intriguing, alluring; it pulls the eye back, again and again.
I agree with the famous makeup artist Bobbi Brown, who says that there is no such thing as an ugly woman. In fact, I am very partial to what the French call joli-laide – pretty-ugly. The sort of looks that one moment makes a woman appear breathtaking and the next quite ugly, someone like Barbara Streisand, Tilda Swinton or Charlotte Rampling, for example! The definition of the term is: a woman whose face is attractive despite having unattractive singular features.
Beauty certainly is not a simple package, it is nuanced, it comes in countless forms, shapes, sizes, colours. Thank goodness too; can you imagine a cookie-cutter world where everyone looked like Kim Kardashian…
Beauty is what you see first, it is what meets the eye first. Only after that first image is formed, do you get to know if someone also possesses inner beauty, kindness, integrity, intellect, humor and other attractive qualities. Make no mistake – I do believe that those qualities, the sort of person that you are, do show on your face as well, and it adds to the overall impression that one forms of a person. So if you make it your business to live as caring a life as you can and embrace kindness and goodness, it will show on your face. Equally, if you are a nasty, miserable, evil person, it does show on your face, and on a subliminal level people perceive or register it straight away, and it makes them recoil.
Q: Myhrulosophy is rooted in healthy-ageing – NOT anti-ageing – and we love love, love that you’re also fighting this universal stigma of ageing beauty! Do you believe things are finally changing?
Age is really, for me, something that is in your head and in your attitude to life. The desire to look good is intrinsically part of being a woman – therefore we are vulnerable to negative perceptions about our age and our looks.
I abhor ageism and believe that beauty is not about anti-ageing; it is about how well you age. Managing and shaping graceful ageing is within every woman’s personal control. You can be as old as you want to be. I like what former super-model Christie Brinkley (62) recently said: “Aging needs a huge rebranding campaign. People still think of 60 and picture a granny with a shawl and a bun. We need to stop lying about our age. Go ahead and say your number; then you’ll reshape other people’s images of that number.”
I work in the beauty industry and I am therefore very aware of appearances and being judged on looks and/or your age. I am sometimes aware of age-ism, especially when you have to confront the knowledge that the time is gone for you to apply of wish for a certain job or position, because of your age. It is limiting and it is hard to make peace with it.
For me, it is not as much feeling judged personally, but as a member of an age group, being over 60, with all the clichéd perceptions that go with it. It is as if you have to live up to / or down to the expectations of what this age is or should be. I refuse to buy into that template/norm of “what this age means”.
Yet, it is encouraging that there is a positive zeitgeist or trend towards recognition of the allure or beauty of older women. We are increasingly hearing terms like Mature Couture; 50 Is The New 30; 60 Is The New 40; Grey Is The New Blonde.
Women’s social standing and status have changed. Role models now are more than superficial beauty or youthful looks.
Beauty houses are at the forefront of this trend. They feature and celebrate older women as ambassadors for their brands. For example: NARS uses Charlotte Rampling (70); Jessica Lange (67) is the face of Marc Jacobs Beauty; Jane Fonda (78) is a model for L’Oreal, so is Helen Mirren (71).
The same can be observed in the fashion industry, where Carmen Dell’Orefice (83) is still sought after as a catwalk model. Joan Didion (81) was the face of Celine recently; Joni Mitchell (73) showed off YSL’s creations; Iris Apfel (95) is the face of NY jeweler Alexis Bittar. Women like these have developed individual style, they know themselves, what works and looks good on them. They represent striking uniqueness and have become role models for a whole generation of women.
Perceptions about age are changing. We have the Baby Boomers to thank for this: They are healthier, wealthier, more active, fitter, cleverer and more educated than any generation before them. They are not prepared to give it up all just because the years have added up. Some of us look and feel younger than we did 10 years ago, thanks to a healthy, sensible lifestyle, eating wisely and exercising. We have longer life expectancy – we are not prepared to put out to pasture at 50. And in terms of our appearance: WE WANT TO LOOK AS YOUNG AS WE FEEL.
Q: Being and feeling beautiful as we get older shouldn’t mean a free pass to stop looking after ourselves, which is why at MYHRU we strongly promote whole-listic wellness. What do you think modern women (and men!) can do to harness and preserve their beauty?
Beauty is more than skin deep, indeed. Oh alright, when last did you meet a drop-dead gorgeous pancreas? Nevertheless: Beauty and anti-aging is a holistic package, embracing a balanced, healthy lifestyle, sound nutrition and a healthy self-esteem, self-respect, curiosity about life, a spirit of adventure and openness to new things.
The beauty standards that I set for myself are meticulous skincare and grooming, which show in the state of my skin, my hair and my nails; keeping my weight under control, but accepting that I will never again be a be skinny 30-something weighing 48 kg. I am a fan of Catherine Deneuve who famously said at a certain age a woman has to choose between her face and her derrière: A little bit of weight also plumps out the wrinkles! I keep up to date with the latest skincare research and products and make good use of excellent anti-ageing products and procedures.
Self -acceptance, self-esteem, self-worth, self-empowered self-confidence – that is the gift of middle age and after.
It is up to you to guard and protect your holistic wellness by keeping fit, energetic and curious about life and the world around you. An inquisitive mind never ages, and it shows on the face.
Q: We all live and learn as we grow. If you could give your younger self some advice, what would you tell Her?
I certainly would not have wasted so much time worrying about what other people might think of me. I would have been less judgmental of myself and others. I’d tell my younger self: “People will judge you. Do not make it your problem – it is theirs.” Also: “Don’t try so hard”. When we’re young, we try way too hard. We don’t realize it is OK to be young, not to know everything. But I would also strongly advise my younger self be a sponge – to pay attention, to gain wisdom, to look, listen, absorb and learn from as many and as smart, outstanding role models as she can find.
I also would tell a young sun-worshipping Elsa to listen to her mother about staying out of the sun. AND I would have worn sleeveless and strappy tops more often! Firm upper arms do not last for ever…
Q: At MYHRU, we believe that skincare routine needn’t be so complicated, which is why we’ve created the multi-tasking HIGH! Serum, to cater to multiple beauty needs in just one product. What is your skincare routine like?
I am a great fan of serums, and I use them in layers, sometimes up to three different ones at once, depending on my skin’s needs. I have a very strict skincare regime, which I follow religiously, twice a day, come rain or shine, late nights, high days or holidays.
Mornings: Precleansing oil; foaming cleanser with a Clarisonic brush; toner; skin oil; Vit C serum; Hyaluronic Acid serum; moisturiser; eye gel; sunscreen SPF20 or higher. I also use BB or CC creams which have built-in sunscreen if I don’t want to wear full makeup.
Evenings: Cleansing Balm or Micellar Water cleanser; toning spray or thermal water spray; retinol serum; resveratrol serum; eye cream; night cream or overnight moisturising mask.
Three times a week: Exfoliator, either enzyme exfoliator or a fine facial scrub.
Twice a week: Facial mask, depending on what my skin needs. For a deep cleanse I like a charcoal mask.
Every six/eight weeks: A thorough facial with the doyenne of skin therapists, Colleen Serebro from Beauty Professionals in Victory Park, Johannesburg.
I really am very high maintenance, and I make no apologies for it – my skin shows the dividends of regular skincare and good products.
Q: Beautiful Ms. Kruger, could you share YOUR beauty secrets with us?
Haha, thanks for the kind compliment! Here are my TOP BEAUTY TIPS:
Powder makes you look old. Period. Mop up excessive shine with blotting pads and give the powder puff a miss. A radiant glow is youthful.
Dump glossy and glittery makeup after 40. Leave it to the disco dollies. It shows up every crevasse, crack and crater on your visage, emphasizing enlarged pores, crepey eyelids and lines. A sheer shimmer, and only close to the top lashes, is good, if used sparingly.
Use your skincare products routinely, religiously, every day, twice a day. It is not about the brand you use or how much it costs; it is about using your products in a regular regime. And never go to sleep with makeup on, no matter what.
Adjust the colours and textures of your makeup as you get older. Opt for creamy foundations, illuminating primers, cream eyeshadow and super-hydrating lipsticks. Less is more. Garish colours and hard, obvious lip and eyeliners make you look old and dated.
Bobbi Brown is 100% correct: Concealer is the secret of the universe. True. Learn to wield that magic wand.
Get your beauty sleep. It is real – your skin cells are regenerating during the night. Too little sleep also makes you fat – scientifically proven!
Dry skin equals wrinkles. Hydration is key to hanging on to youthful looks. Hyaluronic Acid is a miracle worker.
The sun ages you. Dramatically. Use sunscreen, every day, every week, every month of the year.
If your highlights or a tint is overdue, a messy parting in a zig-zag pattern can temporarily obscure dark roots.
Finally: There are NO rules. Trust your gut, your common sense and your mirror. Have a beauty buddy who will be brutally honest with you when you over- or underdo anything concerning your looks. And do the same for her.