Looking and feeling fabulous is the aim and there's lots here that can really help.
What's happening to your skin
The best thing about this decade is that everything starts to settle down, though you may have a bit of a bumpy start - the average age of a woman's last period is 51 and menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes may continue for a few months. By this point, oil production is really slowing down and most skins will be getting drier. The oilier-skinned among you will be at a big advantage now.
The breakdown of collagen and elastin, mainly due to declining estrogen, means that the structure of the skin becomes looser and you may start to notice dewlaps. Also, the padding of fat over your cheekbones may start slipping, altering the contours of your face: this will be significant for skinnies - a good reason to consider putting on a few pounds. Fashion designer Carolina Herrera once told me that 'a woman of "a certain age" has to choose either her face or her backside'. Personally, I'd opt for plumping the face, as this is seen by rather more people.
Skin is also likely to be thinner and more fragile, primarily due to the decrease in collagen in the dermis. This makes it more sensitive, particularly to UV radiation and pollutants - but even to skincare that has never upset your complexion before. Confusingly, although melanin production declines overall - skin literally fades with age - it's more likely to be overproduced sporadically, resulting in pigmented 'age' spots or patches. The most common trigger is sunlight, so these tend to appear on exposed areas, principally your face and backs of your hands.
TLC for your skin
My mantra here is give your skin a helping hand, with extra protection, nourishment and hydration. As sebum (oil) production declines and the skin is also more fragile, it's more important than ever to support the skin barrier by applying oils.
The products I suggest you use daily for your facial skin are a cleanser, toner, daytime moisturizer, night cream and an oil, a day and night eye cream or serum, with a gentle exfoliator and mask for weekly use. Some experts suggest a neck cream but my experience is that taking your moisturizer and night cream from bosom to hairline works well, even for dry skins.
Always use a cream-based cleanser, never soap, as it is too alkaline for drier skins. Avoid anything that foams on the face, as that usually means it contains a detergent, most likely sodium lauryl sulphate.
Exfoliation is very useful, as it helps to shift the top dead layer of skin cells, leading to visibly fresher, brighter and - crucially - smoother-looking skin. The key is to keep it gentle! Don't be tempted by dermabrasion or pot-scouring type buffing pads. You only need a soft cotton cloth to gently dislodge the dead grey skin cells. Use this with your cleanser morning and evening, and once a week give your skin a boost with a specific exfoliating treatment. Choose one with tiny round beads that gently buff the skin (natural jojoba beads or synthetic polyethylene ones), not jagged particles of ground pumice or nut kernels, as these can cause microscopic scratches and irritation.
Follow your weekly facial buff with a generous layer of a moisturizing and firming facial mask. Exfoliate first, so the active ingredients of the mask can penetrate the upper layers of the epidermis. Choose an intensive nourishing treatment that's specially formulated to remoisturize: ingredients I like include St John's wort or avocado oil, and GLA (from borage or evening primrose seed oils).
Even dry skin benefits from using a toner, removing any last residue of cleanser and brightening the skin, but avoid any product containing alcohol, which will overdry your complexion. Many formulations include remoisturizing ingredients, such as aloe vera and vitamin E. Skin toners can also help to calm flushed faces: look for products with anti-inflammatory ingredients such as cucumber, chamomile and calendula.
When choosing a day moisturizer, opt for a formula containing plant oils such as avocado, apricot or peach kernel. Make sure it also includes antioxidant vitamins or extracts: look for vitamin E. beta-carotene, green tea, grapeseed and pomegranate extracts.
If you spend time outdoors, layer a sunscreen on top of your moisturizer. Choose one made with broad-spectrum mineral sun filters (titanium dioxide or zinc oxide), rather than synthetic chemicals (such as cinnamates or benzophenones), which can trigger sensitivity.
At bedtime, give your skin a generous layer of goodness to feast on overnight. Massage in a few drops of facial oil first - choose a blend of pure plant oils such as rosehip, argan, evening primrose or borage seed - then turbo-charge with night cream. At this age, you need to switch to a richer product - the thicker the better; just make sure it has no mineral oil in the formula, as this is occlusive and won't let other ingredients sink into the epidermis.
It's also the right time to add a good eye cream or serum, specifically formulated to help fill out lines around the eyes. I'm a fan of hyaluronic acid (often called sodium hyaluronate), a naturally moisturizing skin sugar, which really helps plump out facial lines. I also Ike to see high levels of essential fatty acids, including GLA and omega-3s. Use these products along any crevices. to subtly fill them. It's a myth that eye creams clog the skin: you can use them anywhere.
Bodywise, a good moisturizer is essential. Make sure this is based on pure plant oils and doesn't contain mineral oils - they are less efficient and may clog pores. Treat yourself to a body cream, as this has a higher lipid content than lotions, and will keep skin softer for longer. Be lavish from chin to toe, after every bath or shower to help rehydrate the skin, rubbing a little extra into parched areas such as elbows, knees and heels. Look for products containing moisturizing and nourishing plant butters such as cocoa and shea butter. Dry skin brushing will improve the condition of skin immeasurably and help to prevent cellulite.
Hands and feet will welcome as much daily TLC as your face. Hands give away your age at a glance - just look at those of any Botoxed beauty over the age of 50. So make sure your hand cream contains plenty of antioxidants - vitamin E is especially useful to help fade pigmentation spots, though it will take time - and always put on sun protection: easiest to rub on a dot of your face product. In general, rub a little of whatever you're putting on your face on the back of your hands. And whenever you apply a mask to your face, treat your hands too. Slipping on a pair of gloves is a great hand-saver: use rubber gloves for indoor chores, gardening gloves outdoors.
Facial massage will help increase blood circulation to the face. Some experts say the extreme movements of facial exercise can slacken the skin over time. However, I do think a few specific moves are useful to
help keep the underlying facial muscles toned and tauter. I try to do two sets of the following mini-exercises twice daily, after brushing my teeth.
1. Push your chin out and lift your bottom lip over the top one, hold for a count of five, release, then repeat ten times.
2. Pull the corners of your mouth downwards in a fiercely exaggerated grimace, stretching and tightening the muscles that run down the neck and into the collarbones. Hold and repeat as above.
It's also said that dancers and yoga fans never need a facelift because the movements keep their jaws and neck defined and smooth, as with the rest of the body.
* In general go for softer shades. Swap black mascara for dark brown, use a softer, more natural lip shade - in sheer rather than matt - and the same with blusher.
* A favorite base for this stage is Chanel's Teint Innocence, as it is slightly richer and more covering than most, but with a sheer, natural finish on the skin. Skin brighteners perk up dull skin, helping to give it a little extra glow. (Try Prescriptives' Vibrant Vitamin Infuser for Dull, Stressed Skin or Guerlain's Midnight Star.)
* Women with good skin who like a lighter look may prefer a tinted moisturizer to even out skin tone (good ones are Crème de la Mer and Revlon), plus concealer or foundation only where it's really needed. Dust on translucent golden powder for evenings.
* Eyebrows may well become thinner and paler during this decade; opt for a light taupey shade of eyebrow pencil, rather than anything dark or with red in it.
* For thinning eyelashes, try supplementing with Eylure's individual lashes (the shortest are the most natural looking). They are excellent for filling out sparse patches. I just apply two or three 'sets' to the outer corners of my upper lashes. I have also tried the semi-permanent individual lash extensions, which are quite expensive, but worked very well (though not for as long as expected). They are a useful option for holidays, camping or traveling - or if you lose your lashes due to medication.
* Carry on with Ladies Choice, beauty oils and antioxidants.
* Calcium and magnesium supplements are crucial from now on, as bone degradation may already be occurring.