There are things we talk to our girlfriends about – our body hang-ups, our period horror stories, our contraceptive methods-of-choice. Then there are the things we tend to keep a little more to ourselves, that we're perhaps too afraid to ask, or simply don't know who to ask.
That's why NEXT deputy editor Phoebe Watt gathered together four members of the beautyheaven.co.nz team for a candid conversation about the sometimes less-than-beautiful sides of beauty. At SO/ Auckland's glamorous HI-SO rooftop bar, over a spread of beautifying breakfast treats, the women laid it all on the table and formed a few more laugh lines in the process (nothing a bit of Botox couldn't fix, of course).
Phoebe Watt, 29, is deputy editor at NEXT and hair editor at beautyheaven. When she's not interviewing famous faces, you'll find her trialling a yet-to-be-released ghd.
Lucy Slight, 33, is body and health editor at beautyheaven and features director at Fashion Quarterly and Simply You. She lives with husband Clint and cats, Ziggy and Bowie.
Lipstick-obsessed Sarah Simpson, 40, lives in Auckland. Outside of being beautyheaven's skincare editor, she's spending time with her two children, aged 12 and seven.
Erin Berryman, 25, is editor of beautyheaven.co.nz. A self-confessed makeup hoarder, she lives with her boyfriend of five years, Karl, and her miniature dachshund, Patrick.
Tracy Davis, 47, is beauty editor at NZ Woman's Weekly, and Over 40s editor at beautyheaven. She lives in Auckland with her husband Greg and three teenage daughters.
Phoebe: What's your philosophy towards ageing?
Tracy: Shall I go first because I'm the oldest? I think that nothing ages us faster than our attitude. So I try to keep a positive attitude about ageing, and my plan moving forward is just to keep my skin in as healthy condition as I can.
Sarah: I recently turned 40 and in the lead-up everyone was asking me how I felt. I was so excited. I'm excited about the next 10 years, and the years after that… It just gets better.
Tracy: Age is the rage.
Sarah: Totally, age is the rage.
Phoebe: What about the physical realities?
Tracy: I feel like I've had wrinkles forever, so I don't have a problem with them. Probably the hardest thing to get my head around is the loss of volume, and just the slackness in the skin that happens. Particularly under the chin and around the eyes.
Erin: I think I'll be doing everything I can to slow down the process. As long as it's subtle. I know from my experience with lip fillers that it's easy to get carried away. After a couple months you're used to them and then you're like, 'I want more!'
Sarah: I got overdone once and I couldn't move my head. I got Botox and lip fillers at the same time and I thought I looked amazing but recently I saw an old photo and I was like, 'Holy shit!' You live and learn. I'm really expressive so if I have Botox around my eyes, as well as losing the wrinkles around my eyes, I lose my smile. So now I get my frown done but I would never ever touch my eyes, because I don't look like me.
Phoebe: If social media didn't exist, would you put as much effort into your appearance as you do now?
Sarah: Yes, but I've always been quite vain. I just like to look good.
Phoebe: How has your approach to beauty changed as you've gotten older?
Lucy: I was 23 when I found my first grey hair. I was so paranoid about it and pulled it right out. I didn't see another one for years but over the past few months, I've started to get a few around my hairline – and I actually don't care! I haven't done anything about it, and that would blow my 23-year-old self's mind.
Tracy: You start accepting yourself more, I think, with age.
Sarah: When I was younger I hated the way I looked. But then you go through shit, and a divorce and two children later you're like, 'Actually, I'm amazing!'
Tracy: I'm trying to look in the mirror less as I get older. I think we are all guilty of putting our imperfections under a microscope.
Erin: That's the biggest difference between men and women. When I look in the mirror I scan the things I don't like immediately, whereas my dad will look in the mirror and even if he's put on weight, he'll be like, 'Looking good!' My partner Karl is the same. I'm like, 'What are you looking at? I want that mirror!'
Phoebe: How do you rate your body confidence?
Sarah: When I was married, I was this frail, stupid young woman and my biggest fear was my ex-husband leaving me – which he did. And it was awful but I know now how sexy confidence is in a woman, and how confidence comes from not needing a man to affirm that you're beautiful. All women are! I will never again let a man affect whether I feel good enough. Well, probably also because I'm a lesbian.
Erin: I'm pretty confident until I'm on the beach in a bikini. I'll always spot the two people on the beach who look like supermodels and Karl's like, 'Look around, there are women here who are triple your size.' But I don't spot any of the women who are bigger than me. I just spot the two who aren't.
Lucy: But you're not judging those women who are bigger than you. You don't look at them and go 'Ew, I can't believe she's going swimming…'
Sarah: My ex-boyfriend once said something quite perceptive, which was, 'It's not all about you.' And it was a really good point. Here I am thinking the whole entire universe is watching, when actually they're just worried about themselves. They don't care about Sarah walking down to the beach with a couple of wobbles.
Tracy: And meanwhile your kids are like 'Cool, Mum's coming for a swim with us!'
Phoebe: Are you ever worried about the message you send your kids?
Sarah: My seven-year-old daughter Maisey doesn't look a lot like me, so she's always saying 'I just want blonde hair like you Mummy', and 'I don't want dark skin, I want to be light-skinned like you.' I tell her she's got beautiful dark hair and I'd give anything to have her skin, but then kids at school can be so mean. She has dark facial hair on her upper lip and really hairy legs, both of which she gets teased about, to the point that she's already asked me if she can start shaving – at seven! It's a real moral dilemma for me because I don't want her being teased, but I also don't want to teach her that she has to change herself.
Lucy: If she came to you and said, 'Mum, I really want to shave my legs...'?
Sarah: The one thing I probably will let her do is waxing. I'm not going to have my daughter teased, and you can't control other kids.
Lucy: As far as hair removal, or actually any beauty treatment whatsoever, laser is hands down the best thing I've ever spent money on. I paid about $1500 for 10 sessions and it changed my life. That was years ago and now I might shave my underarms once every week and a half, but because there's no shadow it's like two strokes and you're done.
Sarah: When I got my nether regions done, my mum asked, 'What if it goes out of fashion, having no hair down there?' But for me it's not about fashion, it's comfort and ease.
Phoebe: I'm about halfway through my laser treatment plan, and I've been letting the hair down there do its thing in between sessions because I've found it quite fascinating to see how it changes. I'm really surprised at how fine the growth is already, like just kind of cute and fluffy. I think it's quite feminine and I'm tempted to leave a bit like that.
Sarah: Yeah, I almost regret getting rid of it all; my girlfriend's got a little bit and I think it's really pretty.
Phoebe: I was laughing after my last session because there's this information sheet on the wall that talks about laser being virtually painless. And I would've believed that for the first few sessions but then all of a sudden they just crank it right up, don't they? Honestly, I've got a pretty high pain threshold, but I was just about crying.
Tracy: It definitely depends where you're at on your cycle. Right before your period, that's when it hurts the most.
Erin: The first time I did it, I was mortified. But the therapists are so blasé. Mine was like, 'Once you've had a baby you just don't care about anything.'
Phoebe: For Sarah and Tracy, how did pregnancy change your relationship with your body?
Tracy: I've had two pregnancies, one single baby and one twin pregnancy. I just tried to keep really fit and healthy, and I was lucky enough that it was basically all just stomach so it wasn't too bad. I didn't have a problem with body image during my pregnancies, then afterwards it was just about dealing with the physical aftermath. I've always had really small breasts and, of course, with feeding two babies, they were enormous. That felt really foreign to me and made me appreciate having small breasts again.
Sarah: I put on 18kg when I was pregnant with my firstborn, Theo. I struggled to lose the weight and felt like my husband didn't look at me the same way, and we never really got back on track. Then, when I was nine weeks pregnant with Maisey, he left. I hated my body for a really long time because I saw it as the reason for losing my husband. But carrying Maisey also made me appreciate its capabilities. My husband left me and I still grew a baby all on my own? I just think women are amazing – probably why I'm with one now!
Sarah: I have to say the best thing about being with a woman is not having to be on the Pill.
Erin: I've had such a tumultuous journey with the Pill. I started taking it at 15, and then last year at 25, I came off it because I either had continuous periods or I was so moody and depressed, I couldn't leave the house. Unfortunately my skin then turned to custard so I went back on it a little while ago, and I've just come off day 55 of my period.
Lucy: Fifty-five days in a row?
Erin: Yup. I can't find a pill where I don't bleed constantly.
Phoebe: So that kind of puts you out of commission for 55 days…
Erin: Yeah it's a catch-22 because I've stopped breaking out with these painful cysts, but there's this lack of intimacy in my relationship and we're just constantly snapping at each other.
Sarah: I loved my IUD when I had one.
Tracy: Was it painful getting it put in?
Sarah: Yes, I found it painful because they have to open your cervix. And having it taken out isn't very nice either. But because I'd had Theo, I knew that pain.
Phoebe: The thing that slightly puts me off the IUD is how they say that, if someone is inside you, they can feel the string. Is that true?
Erin: Karl reckoned he could.
Sarah: No! It's really fine nylon, it's not like a fishing line or anything. You have to do a self-check sometimes to make sure it's in place and you just feel two tiny, really fine nylon cords.
Sarah: The downside of being with a woman is we've got two cycles to deal with, and we're not quite in sync yet.
Tracy: See, I don't get PMT.
Phoebe: I got my period when I was about 14 and for the first 15 years I didn't notice anything and now, every single month, the 24 hours beforehand I'm a mess. Sensitive and emotional and aggro, then the next day it comes and I'm like, 'Oh, there it is.'
Lucy: My menstrual cup has changed that time of the month for me. I'll never buy another box of tampons in my life.
Phoebe: Were you a sceptic?
Lucy: No, just nervous, which I think everyone is. I'm quite a practical person so I read up about it and figured out how you fold it, and then from the first go, I was converted. It's just so much easier.
Erin: I think you have visions of it being like this crime scene when you take it out, but that's not the case at all.
Lucy: Leakage-wise, for the first few times you might not realise what it feels like to not have put it in properly, so minor accidents can happen. But once you get the hang of it, there's no chance.
Tracy: My thing is taking it out – you'd want to be in your own home so you can wash it, right?
Sarah: It does kind of makes a noise when it comes out…
Lucy: I wouldn't want to do it in the bathroom at work, no. But you actually only need to change it in the morning and at night. It can hold something insane like three tampons worth of blood, so even on your heaviest day you're unlikely to fill it in the space of 12 hours.
Sarah: I have a heavy period and I didn't. Going to bed with it was so liberating because I'm used to having to wear a pad on day one, and there was none of that.
Lucy: It takes all the admin out of it. I remove mine in the shower when I get home at 6pm, wash it out, put it back in and take it out again at 6am the next morning.
Tracy: Do you get worried about the hygiene aspect of it?
Lucy: I use the Lunette and they've got a special cup wash, which I guess is like a low-irritant detergent. So you just take the cup out, rinse it, wash it in the soapy stuff, then put it back in and when you're at the end of your period, you put it in boiling water for three minutes to sterilise it.
Phoebe: Has anyone been thinking much about menopause, and preparing their body in any way for what's to come? Or is it something you feel like you'll just deal with when you get to it?
Sarah: At the moment I'm living with my mum, who's been going through menopause for the past five years. Observing her and seeing how miserable she is has made me think I will go on HRT [hormone replacement therapy].
Tracy: I think my first port of call would be to go down the herbal route. I'm not worrying about it, though. When it happens, it's out of my control. I just hope it's over quickly. I've got a few friends who are going through it or coming out the other side and the biggest issues for them are the hot flushes, and the weight gain. They're doing all the same things that they always have, they're exercising the same, they're eating the same, but gaining all this weight.
Erin: I moved house when my mum started menopause. She was so moody and her fuse was so short.
Phoebe: How old were you?
Erin: I was 21.
Phoebe: It couldn't have just been you? My mum probably had a short fuse when I was 21 too.
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