I’m bringing you something a little different today. This week, No7 have asked a number of bloggers of different ages to tell a story. It’s the story of beauty in our families and the lessons that have come down through the generations. We are all publishing our posts today so you may see a few different ones around. We’ll then be holding a live Twitter chat and you’re invited to join in – I’ll tell you more about that later.

My beauty story

Like most little girls, my first encounters with beauty came from observing my mum. I used to watch her sitting at her dressing table looking wistfully at her reflection in the mirror as she applied her lipstick. At the time I often wondered why she always looked a little sad. Now of course, I understand. Stripped bare, it’s your ‘morning face’ that unmasks the march of time.

My mum’s definition of beauty

My mum grew up in the wilds of rural Westmorland, leaving in wartime to go to Durham university. Neither she nor the generations before her had access to sophisticated beauty products. She told me how at Durham they would put Vaseline on their eyelashes and perpetually pinch their lips and cheeks to flush the skin.

Almena Sowerby

Her topical beauty routine was always a simple one – soap, water, face cream. In her eyes, beauty was not something that you could apply, it was something you needed to earn. I was brought up to believe that girls could be pretty but only women were truly beautiful. My mum often used to say that as a woman my face would reflect the person I had become because of the expressions that had passed most regularly across my face.

So, years before Botox, her beauty regime centred mostly around the prevention of wrinkles. I was always told off if she caught me frowning or raising my eyebrows. In fact anybody who screwed up their faces in an expressive way would be reprimanded – and this even extended to the children she taught.

The years passed and I left home and moved to London. Now that my own boys are growing up, I understand what an instinctive thing it is for a mother to scan their offspring’s face for signs of health and happiness whenever they return home. My mum of course would do an extra check and comment on any furrows she saw appearing in my brow.

Even laughter lines did not escape her wrinkle radar. In the early days of my relationship with Mr MC I remember standing in the kitchen bubbling over with excitement as she inspected me. “It’s not good,” she declared. “You have so many new lines around your eyes – this young man clearly makes you smile too much!” I sometimes wonder whether she winced on our wedding day as our vows included “I promise to put a smile on your face every day…”

What advice would I pass on?

As you know, I don’t have daughters to pass my mum’s wisdom on to but now that my sons are starting to bring home beautiful girls with unlined faces, I do find myself itching to stop them frowning. When I know them a little better I might just mention it…!

I have always weighted my beauty regime towards skincare rather than make-up. Particularly now that my skin is visibly ageing, I am aware that I need to try to repair the signs of damage that are appearing as a result of my deep 80s suntans and prevent any further harm.

I focus on hydration, early nights, retinol products, limiting alcohol, eating well and not being too thin. I truly believe that it is a case of ‘face before ass’ after 40. If you are too thin you will quickly look haggard – your face needs some padding.

It is going to be interesting to trial the No7 serums. The problem I find with a lot of skincare is that you never quite know whether you can trust the claims that are made, especially when it comes to the eye-wateringly expensive brands.

My thoughts about No7

I have never used No7 until now and of course because I am writing this post, I have been asking myself why. I think I have always adopted the wine list mentality, choosing branded products over the house wine if that makes sense. No7 is affordable and so a little voice inside me has insisted that it can’t possibly be effective.

I think everyone remembers the surprising results of the BBC Documentary 10 years ago when they confirmed that No 7 serum really did improve the appearance of wrinkles. I remember being so frustrated that it was then out of stock for so long that I gave up trying to get hold of it.

However, inspired by their initial discoveries, No7 have continued to make advances with their serums. They want No7 to cater for women’s needs across every generation. To achieve this they have developed ‘building block’ technology so that you can tailor your regime according to your skin’s needs and adjust it when you know it is changing. The serums progress as follows:



I was sent all three to try and have opted for the last one, the new Restore and Renew serum for Face and Neck which launches today (and reportedly has a waiting list of 7500 people). It was the one that felt best on my skin when I first applied it and I have only been using it for a week so it is too soon to talk honestly about results. It says I should start to see a difference after two weeks so I’m hoping for a Benjamin Button moment any time soon!

So far I have found it pleasant to use and I like the fragrance which, as you know, is very important to me. You need to use quite a lot to cover the whole area of the face and neck twice a day so I think a 30ml tube will go quite quickly. Because it is affordable, that isn’t too much of a problem although I’d definitely opt for the 50ml size.

I have a lot of time for Boots as a brand. Until I stopped working in home fragrance last year, I made regular visits to the Boots Head Office in Nottingham. I don’t know whether you have ever been there but it is the size of a small town. As well as offices, there are so many labs on site that I firmly believe they invest heavily in their R&D.

They were the best of all of the retailers that I dealt with because they worked respectfully and supportively with us as suppliers. I loved the fact that the two women buyers in charge of our account were allowed to job-share because they had young children. I know they both felt very supported by the company and it is the only time I have come across a female friendly corporate infrastructure that worked so well.


Who have No7 chosen to front their new campaign?

I wouldn’t usually talk about advertising but I think No7 have had a stroke of genius with the woman they have chosen for their new No7 campaign which focuses on being ‘ready’ for whatever life throws at you. Instead of taking the obvious route with an actress or celebrity, they have chosen stuntwoman Amanda Foster.

Not only is she 50 but, as a stuntwoman, she does the things that younger actresses are too scared to do. In my view she represents the role that so many women play, quietly keeping the wheels turning for everyone else without expecting recognition for themselves.

Being Ready

You don’t need me to explain the concept of being ‘ready’ for anything – I think as we get older we understand the importance of seizing the moment better than ever. However No7 asked me to think about a time in my life when I felt truly ready and actually, I think that moment is now.


As you know, I will be 50 next month and I feel as though I have spent my 40s getting ready for this next stage of my life. I’ll talk more about that soon but in the meantime, the more immediate deadline that I need to be ready for is the UK Blog Awards in two weeks’ time.

As the oldest finalist in the Fashion and Beauty sector I am hoping to look as good as I possibly can. I’ve left it too late for Bootcamp so let’s hope this Restore and Renew Serum does its stuff. No7 – there’s a lot resting on you…!

Join the Twitter chat

As I have already mentioned, there will be a live Twitter chat on Thursday 13th April from 8 – 9pm (GMT). All of the bloggers who have told their stories about beauty through the generations will be taking part and sharing skincare tips as well as their thoughts on beauty for women over 30.

You can find us by following #No7Ready. It will be the first time that I have taken part in a Twitter chat so it would be very reassuring to see some of you pop up and join in. Share the wisdom that has been passed through the generations of your family – or just your thoughts on beauty now.

Disclosure: this post was commissioned by No7 as part of their “Generations” campaign however my story and thoughts about the range and campaign are all my own. I’d like to say thank you to No7 for supporting the costs of running this blog.

Mid Season sales

Baukjen – up to 50% off here – new lines added

Woolovers up to 50% off here

Boden – up to 50% off here

White Company – up to 50% off here

Whistles – further reductions and new lines here

Pure Collection – up to 50% off here

Jaeger – up to 50% off here (now with an extra 20% off applied at checkout)

Jack Wills – up to 50% off here

Current discounts

J Crew – 20% off here with code THANKYOU plus free express delivery

Finery – 15% here with code CHIC15 exclusive to Midlifechic readers – ends midnight 13th April

Pure Collection – 25% off new summer collection here

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My story