How to look fab as you approach 50

GLAMOUROUS Sharon Stone wowed fans when she stepped on to the red carpet at 48 to promote Basic Instinct 2. Andie MacDowell graces hair adverts at the same age, and whatever their methods, Emma Pomfret gives ten top tips to looking good as you approach 50.

GLAMOUROUS Sharon Stone wowed fans when she stepped on to the red carpet at 48 to promote Basic Instinct 2. Andie MacDowell graces hair adverts at the same age, and whatever their methods, Emma Pomfret gives ten top tips to looking good as you approach 50.

Human lifespan is increasing every year, and although life may begin at the big 5-0, your appearance will need more care and attention once you hit that milestone.

While genes play their part in the ageing process, lifestyle, nutrition and attitude are also important.

Dr Miriam Stoppard, health guru and author of Defying Age, says ageing isn't inevitable.

"This isn't a time for pining about lost vigour," she said.

"We can all feel youthful, optimistic and energised - not just in our 20s and 30s, but in our 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond!"

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They might say that youth is wasted on the young - follow these tips to make the most of getting older.

1. Take up exercise. Recently it has been shown that exercise actually releases a growth hormone that causes cells to grow in the brain. "In the past, it was thought that brain cells couldn't grow and renew themselves, hence the devastation of a stroke - but exercise promotes neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells," Dr Stoppard said.

"Our bodies really hate being inactive. As well as the obvious physical benefits, exercise lifts your mood, cures depression and reduces tension and stress."

2. Increase calcium in your diet to help prevent osteoporosis.

Responsible for 200,000 fractures every year, osteoporosis is a progressive condition that makes bones more likely to break, particularly the hips, wrist and spine.

Dr Stoppard says the first way to prevent this is to increase calcium in the diet with low-fat dairy products such as semi-skimmed milk and canned fish with bones such as sardines.

If the body lacks vitamin D, it won't be able to absorb the calcium, so stock up on herring, mackerel, fortified cereals, bread and margarine and cod liver oil, too. Exercise is also important for bone health.

"All you need to do is spend an hour a day on your feet - walking, gardening, dancing, doing t'ai chi or housework,” she said.

3. Laugh more. Laughter really could be the best medicine, according to research presented to the American College of Cardiology in 2005. Laughing boosts blood flow and researchers say that 15 minutes of laughter a day as well as regular exercise could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

It's no joke - laughing has previously been found to help fight infections, relieve hayfever, ease pain, lower levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, restore a full and flowing breathing pattern and help control diabetes.

4. Drink water. Name any body part and you will find water is essential to keep it ticking over. Texan model Jerry Hall, 49, credits her amazing skin and lack of wrinkles to drinking water - which also helps prevent headaches, reduce infections, keep up your concentration, banish under-eye bags, stop cramps, and keep bowels regular and healthy. We need between four and seven pints of fluid every day, but you don't have to drink just water. Herbal teas, fruit (most are 90pc water) and fruit juices are good, too.

5. Ditch the cigarettes. Smoking increases the risk of many health problems, some of which are life-threatening. According to Action on Smoking and Health, 120,000 people in the UK die each year from smoking, and smoking causes one-third of all cancer deaths. Smoking also ages the skin, discolours teeth and nails, and causes bad breath. But smokers who stop before they're 35 years old will have a life expectancy similar to non-smokers - for tips on kicking the habit, visit www.givingupsmoking.co.uk.

6. Choose brightly-coloured vegetables. US scientists say boosting the body's levels of natural antioxidants could result in longer life, and a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables can also to help cut the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer by up to 20pc. To reap the benefits, stock up on five portions of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as peppers, broccoli, berries, apricots, peaches, tomatoes, carrots and oranges.Fresh, frozen, chilled or canned 100pc juice and smoothies count, as do dried fruit and vegetables. Green tea is a good source of antioxidants, too. Try Jacksons of Piccadilly's range of green teas, from £1.59.

7. Walk the dog. Ecotherapy is gaining ground as a serious way to health. Just walking the dog, stroking the cat or even swimming with dolphins could be help you cope with stressed-out modern life, according to researchers at the University of Leicester. Evidence in the British Medical Journal also suggests that pet ownership is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and lower use of medical services.

8. Watch your drinking. If you want to stay free from cancer, your alcoholic consumption must be no more than moderate, said Dr Stoppard. Alcohol abuse increases a woman's risk of developing illnesses, including heart disease, liver disease, ulcers, reproductive problems, osteoporosis, pancreatitis and memory loss." Men who are heavy drinkers even increase their risk of breast cancer," said Dr Stoppard, who advises keeping well below recommended limits of three to four units a day for men and two to three units for women.

9. Stiff and aching joints are a reminder that we may not be as young as we feel, but a new natural joint-care supplement, Celadrin by Solgar, claims to improve joint flexibility and comfort, with no known side effects. It is a blend of esterified fatty acids, which lubricates cell membranes and restores fluids that cushion bones and joints to promote flexibility and mobility. Celadrin costs £19.95 from pharmacies.

10: Look after your hair and skin.

"Just as we reach the prime of our lives, nature plays a cruel trick changing the texture, colour and density of our hair," said celebrity hairdresser Trevor Sorbie. "As the hair growth cycle slows down, each hair becomes finer so volume is lost.” He recommends hiding the first few grey hairs with a vegetable-based or semi-permanent colour in the same shade as your natural colour, but if half of your head is made up of grey hair, a longer-lasting colour or a mixture of low and highlights will work better. It's worth investing in specialist shampoo and conditioner to remove unwanted yellow tones from snowy hair.

Skin becomes thinner and more fragile, because less oestrogen is being produced. It's also less able to retain moisture and production of collagen and elastin slows down significantly.

Skin can also start to sag and droop, and skintone is likely to become more uneven, with an increasing number of sun spots. Stay out of the sun if you don't want these to worsen, and use a sunblock at all times.

"Skin gets drier when you get older, so it's important to keep skin moisturised and always use sunblock," said Barbara Daly make-up artist. "Less is more and remember, wrinkles can't be covered with make-up. Pay the most attention to your base - foundation and concealer - and spend time and money finding one that suits your natural colour the best.”

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Defying Age: How To Think, Act And Stay Young, by Dr Miriam Stoppard, is published by Dorling Kindersley, priced £12.99.

QVC's style guru Glen Campbell said: "Don't try to copy and look like a 25 or 30-year-old, because you'll look like you're trying too hard, and that's when you tend to get it wrong."

According to Glen, dressing for your body shape will keep you looking as stylish as you were in your teens.

"Don't try to force yourself to buy into obvious trends as it's easy to go wrong with them. Know what works for you, and emphasise the bits you're happy with."

Trends that work, include:

:: CROPPED JACKETS

Cropped jackets are the rage this spring, and luckily, it's a versatile trend.

"The cropped jacket is fantastic, whether you're size eight or size 18. A pretty cropped jacket acts as a very good starting point for any outfit," says Campbell.

Take a look at Gap's cream double-breasted jacket, £49.50, Abound's black and white one-button jacket, £35, and George's navy blue jacket, £16 at Asda. If you fancy splurging out, Artigiano's turquoise fringed boucle jacket, £179, could fit the bill.

:: SHORTS

They may seem like a trend for the young, but Glen said mature women can carry them off.

"Shorts are fabulous - as long as you pick the right ones. City shorts can look good teamed with heels. Make sure you don't select a pair that's too short or too revealing, and have a longer leg so they disguise hips."

Tu's black shorts, £15 at Sainsbury's, Betty Jackson's camel-coloured shorts, £40 at Debenhams, and George's grey pinstripe shorts, £12, are perfect for work or play.

:: WIDE-LEGGED TROUSERS

"Wide-legged trousers are a wardrobe essential. They're flattering, as they move the eye automatically away from heavy bits like hips and the bottom," said Glen.

Next's ecru cotton trousers, £34.99, Principles' chocolate trousers, £45, and Twiggy's black tuxedo trousers for her Great Universal range, now reduced to £11, are basic essentials for women.

JFW's navy sailor trousers, £49 at John Lewis, and Marks & Spencer's brown safari-inspired trousers, £32, are both stylish.

:: DENIM

Incorporating denim into your wardrobe is also a good move.

Glen said: "Denim's always going to be around, and it doesn't mean you can't wear it once you're 50. Stay away from the skinny jeans - they're too young and not very flattering unless you have the right shape.

"Boot-cut jeans are always flattering. Your eyes move down the body with the kick-flare at the bottom."

Try Artigiano's indigo boot-cut jeans, £69, Marks & Spencer's bootleg jeans, £25, or Lands' End's boot-cut jeans, £29.

:: ACCESSORIES

"I always think it's worth investing in great pieces that people notice like handbags or beautiful shoes. The wedge is a big story this year, but it's too young and quirky - you're far better off going for a shoe with a heel or a flat pump."

Ballet pumps such as Principles' black leather pumps, £45, and Faith's Aloha brown peep-toe cracked effect pumps, £25, are comfortable and practical.

TRENDS TO STAY AWAY FROM

There are certain things you must be careful about wearing, no matter how fashionable they may be.

:: FLORAL

"A floor-length floral dress can look too mumsy and frumpy," said Glen.

If you decide to follow the trend, a ditsy floral top or a skirt like Principles' black and red rose print twinset, £32, or Oasis' black kimono embroidered shrug with white flowers, £85, can make you feel young.

:: BRIGHT

"Try not to want to wear colours that are too bright. You want to be elegant, not flamboyant," he said.

"Monochrome is a classic, and add a splash of colour with a reddish hue that suits your colouring. Steer clear of shades that make you look brassy or draining. Natural earthy tones of khaki and brown with pink and red work well."

Mark & Spencer's beige linen Waterfall cardigan, £39.50, and their gold embroidered knee-length coat, £75, suit many colourings.

:: GYPSY

Glen emphasises older women should avoid this trend."Everyone bought into last summer's gypsy trend, from grandmothers to grandchildren, but it just doesn't look right once you get past a certain age. It just didn't work for them," he said.

STOCKISTS

Abound - 0845 300 2470/www.abound.co.uk

Artigiano - 01983 531 000/www.artigiano.co.uk

Debenhams - 08445 616 161/www.debenhams.com

Faith - 0800 289 297/www.faith.co.uk

Gap - 0800 427 789

George - 0845 300 1111

Great Universal - 0800 0922 622/www.greatuniversal.com

John Lewis - 0845 6049 049/www.johnlewis.com

Lands' End - 0800 617 161/www.landsend.co.uk

Marks & Spencer - 0845 302 1234/www.marksandspencer.com

Next - 0845 600 7000/www.next.co.uk

Oasis - 01865 881 986/www.oasis-stores.com

Principles - 0870 122 8802/www.principles.co.uk

Tu - 0800 636 262

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