When I look at pictures of myself as a young actress starting off in the British film industry, I am startled by how much my make-up style has changed through the years. Of course my face has changed too. My 17-year-old features, free of bags, sags and lines, had what now seems like a curious blankness. In my first film, Lady Godiva Rides Again, in which I was really just a bit part, I played a beauty contestant. I had a round face and stringy hair, and my measurements were 36-24-35. (How I’d like to have those now!) The make-up crew worked on my face quickly, slapping on panstick, which was a base as thick as wallpaper paste and almost as orange as Donald Trump’s face, black spindly eyebrows, no eye make-up at all and a deeply unflattering matte vermilion lipstick. This was the identical look that all the other actresses were given. It was far from the signature kohl-eyed look I would later come to be identified with.
Fast-forward to today and a totally different look is in vogue. I call it “Kardashian face”, as those three sisters look eerily similar. They have faces devoid of any lines, furrows or signs of ageing: perfectly smooth, Botoxed and lifted with large filler-treated lips, a tiny nose, the heaviest foundation and thick, black pencilled eyebrows. This look, along with extremely long, straight jet-black hair, is so popular with girls on Instagram now that one could get really confused about how many Kardashians there actually are in the world. This sort of make-up is not as new as its young wearers might think. When I studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London in the early 1950s, I was taught make-up techniques that were for the stage and just as heavy as today’s “Insta-face”. Nowadays, though, I like the lighter touch, except for lipstick of course! I think the Cuban actress Ana de Armas, Taylor Swift and our own Felicity Jones get natural glamour just right. Lipstick is the queen of cosmetics and the one thing that always makes your face look better. Even the Queen now wears bright lipstick all the time. For me “nudes” are a waste of time.
Most women want to look younger and look good. Some want to look much more than good; they want to look as perfect as possible and glamorous. So how does one achieve a modern face without looking like a Kardashian clone? As you age into your forties and fifties, cosmetic surgery doesn’t always make you look younger, but stranger. We’ve all seen uncanny-looking 50-year-olds with blown-up lips and skin stretched like parchment. One should try to look as natural as possible, and cosmetically that is entirely possible today with a few tricks.
Even the Queen now wears bright lipstick all the time. For me “nudes” are a waste of time.
I have two specific things I believe in: ice and oil. Most of us wake up with puffy or slightly swollen eyes. Usually through the day they will calm down and start looking normal again, but you may not be able to wait. I learnt a trick from Paul Newman, after we worked together on Rally Round the Flag, Boys!. He needed to look fresh-faced immediately for the early morning shoots, so he plunged his entire face into a sink packed with ice and held it there for as long as he could hold his breath, which was an inordinately long time!
I thought this would be too harsh for me, and after I tried it, I discovered it was also seriously unpleasant. However, I saw the difference in Paul’s face when he arrived at the make-up department in the morning, often slightly hungover (he loved his beer); after this ice treatment he looked as fresh as a daisy. So I formed my own “ice age” treatment for my slightly more delicate complexion. I put a few cubes of ice, some water and two cotton pads in a small bowl; I’ll lie in bed and place the wet pads on my eyes for five minutes. When I surface, voilà! Puffiness is gone, I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
The Rules of the Game
Of course I have cheat days. Who doesn’t? (And with this “plague” we’re now under, I guess I have a few more!) But putting on my make-up, perfume and brushing my hair makes me feel better, so I try to do it for myself. My make-up routine takes five minutes. Just as important, especially as one ages, is looking after yourself. I don’t drink to excess: one or two glasses of wine, or one martini maximum when I go out. I try to exercise at least three times a week (which I’m now doing with my trainer on FaceTime), and I moisturise constantly if I’m at home without make-up.
My daily routine is quite simple. After the morning cleanse, I apply a light oil with hyaluronic acid and retinol on my face and neck, then wait for 10 minutes before applying my base. My foundation is a world away from the goop that was plastered on me as a teenager. My preferred brand (my own!) is a very light and creamy foundation that spreads quickly and easily over the face and neck and has fantastic coverage. It also contains sunscreen, which is essential to protect your skin through the day. It’s like an artist or a painter with a blank canvas — from that foundation you can create whatever look you like, and there’s a kaleidoscope of looks today.
Like all of us, I took time to find my signature look, and I sought inspiration everywhere as my make-up style evolved during my twenties. The film stars of the 1930s to the 1980s mostly had iconic and unique faces of glamour. In the 1930s the dames had cupid-bow lips and skinny eyebrows; in the 1940s they were more natural with thicker eyebrows but thin spiky lashes. In the 1960s the “Twiggy” look was the rage — pale lips, pale skin and tons of eyeliner, fake lashes top and bottom, topped with a vast amount of hair. For the average woman, achieving this look consisted of endless sessions of backcombing, often combined with great swathes of plaits, falls and false hair, resulting in complicated coiffures of the kind they did in the 1940s. I still remember those wonderful 1940s and 1950s musicals where Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers cavorted in intricate choreography, in equally intricate coiffures.
Then came the 1980s, when hair was huge, lips were glossy and the smoky eye was born. That, along with the Cleopatra flick, was my go-to look in Dynasty, and it became extremely popular, as did my short but elaborately teased hairstyle. I was thrilled when Elizabeth Taylor told me she had copied my coiffure. I still love that smoky-eye black liquid eyeliner; I don’t think I shall ever give it up. If applied properly and delicately, it can make the eyes look much bigger. I read that Coco Chanel once said that a woman should find her look in her thirties and stay true to it throughout her life.
I was thrilled when Elizabeth Taylor told me she had copied my coiffure.
My mother gave me good advice when I was 14, which I have passed on to my daughters: always moisturise your face with a good night cream or moisturiser, and do it again in the morning. And another piece of advice: as we are now washing our hands multiple times a day, keep a bottle of hand cream next to the sink, so your hands don’t end up looking like a crocodile suitcase!