Is This What (Almost) 50 Looks Like?

Written by: Jean Godfrey-June


Published on: September 1, 2022


After giving 40 a bit of a rebrand (“I believe that when women turn 40, we get a software upgrade”), Gwyneth says that turning 50 (on September 27) feels more welcome and like less of a challenge than 40 did. “I actually feel great turning 50,” she says. “I feel really lucky that I have my health (touch wood) and strength in my body. I feel like many of the decisions I made in my late 20s, my 30s, and my 40s are paying dividends now.”

We asked her to look back on some of those decisions, and we picked up advice and wisdom she’s collected along the way. “Aging is a journey to knowing your actual self,” she says. “It’s learning to fully embrace who you really are.”

GP posing

I don’t think there are rules around when you stop wearing certain kinds of clothes at a particular age. I wore the shortest skirt I’d worn in 10 years just the other day: It was this old Chanel dress I found in the basement, and it worked. People should wear what they feel good in.

Now I’m at the age where I’m like, Okay, the effort you put in now doesn’t necessarily yield the results it did 10 years ago, in terms of working out.

I’m grateful for the foundation I’ve built—my body knows what it’s doing and has some muscle memory, some strength, and some flexibility. But it’s important to have some grace around the aging of your body, to be forgiving. Okay, well, maybe my skin or my muscle won’t bounce back here the way it used to, and that’s okay. You have to recalibrate.

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Jennifer Lopez

On some level culturally, we’ve totally redefined what 50 is for people, both internally and externally. I think of J.Lo—she kind of looks the best she ever has, you know? For so many women I know, this is the best time so far, the peak time of their lives. So I’m happy at this big birthday.

I love when you see women who have not touched their face at all, who are embracing every inch of their aging. And then there are those women you look at and wonder, How can they be 78? How are they pulling that off? It has to be some kind of face-lift or other work, and I love that, too. People looking the way they’d like to look, feeling their best—that inspires me.

GP with mom

I got this trick from my mom—using night cream during the day; we both have dry skin. So I wanted a cream that was that nourishing, one that I could use night and day and my skin would just keep reaping the benefits. This one leaves my skin so soft that I just keep touching it all day.

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GP with Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz, who’s a close friend, is turning 50 a month before me, and I admire the way she embraces whatever age she is. She always goes right before me and gives me this great preview.

My parents didn’t focus too much on aging. I remember for my dad, 50 was a hard birthday—he was anxious. I wonder if he had some kind of sixth sense, that he would die in his 50s; it seemed like he felt the finiteness of his life in that moment. For my mom, turning 50 turned out to be one of the best nights of her life: My dad had asked everyone to write a poem for her birthday, so it was this night of joy—laughter, tears, everything.

The foundation-building that I did when I was younger was worth doing—for my skin and for my health. I quit smoking at 24 (I started again during The Royal Tenenbaums because my character smoked so much, got addicted again, and then stopped again).

younger GP

I was always active and played sports in school—I was on the swim team, the volleyball team, and track—and maybe I went to the gym a few times in the ’90s, but starting an Ashtanga yoga practice when I was 25 made a huge impact. I met Eddie Stern, who’s a great friend to this day, and I was committed to it, went six days a week, and it transformed my body and my mind. I started to understand that routines are important for me. It was the first time I started to really think about my health, eat more organically—all that stuff.

I didn’t think at all about aging in my 20s. Really, I was in my late 30s before I paid that much attention to it, and slowly it was like, Are those wrinkles? Is that sun damage? The ultimate is to prevent sun damage as much as you can (hello, hats and sunscreen), but now that I’m at an age where it starts showing up more, just in time, we have the best treatment. It’s called Sleep Milk, and it’s this strong overnight serum—10% AHAs—but it’s time-released, so it’s easy on your skin and moisturizing at the same time.

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I’ve always felt it was good to get a little bit of sun every day, but I’m very careful about sunscreen now. I’m into the one from MARA—it’s this seaweed serum with SPF 30 that’s so good. If I’m on the beach or hiking and doing stuff outside, I love Supergoop Play—it’s water- and sweat-resistant.

I went to an all-girls school, and we had a uniform and I loved it. To this day, I’m a uniform person. In school, the uniform was sort of this preppy, classic base; then you used all kinds of accessories like bracelets or scarves to express yourself. I still love that idea of starting with a kind of classic framework and then going from there, expanding on that. And I’ve stayed pretty consistent—when I look back at anything that I wore back in the day, I usually think, I’d still wear that.

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I felt a lot of pressure turning 30. And I think it’s very young—I don’t know why in our culture we think we’re already supposed to be married and at the top of our career by age 30. I remember being 30 and not being married and thinking, I’m going to be such a disappointment to my parents. But 30 is when you’re still finding out what’s right for you, and who’s right for you, and all that stuff.

I notice that the older I get, the more drawn I am toward monitoring my health, doing blood work, and collecting data about inflammation levels, blood sugar levels, sleep, vitamins, etc. Your body rebounds a little less quickly from overindulging—staying healthy takes a little more intentionality. I’ve worked a lot with Dr. Will Cole, and he’s really moved the needle for me on my health.

I maintain a very clean diet. Last year, I cut down on alcohol and focused on lowering inflammation. What’s turned out to be best for me is paleo, so I’m grain-free, sugar-free, eating lots of vegetables and clean protein. Lots of fish, lots of olive oil. It’s fun that I get to do it with my husband—it works for him, too.

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We’re always getting some exercise in, even if it’s just a nice long walk, trying to follow the patterns people do in the Blue Zones: spend time with people we love and keep nurturing our own relationship.

GP with Tracy Anderson

In high school, I thought everything was wrong with the way my body looked, and it wasn’t until I started doing Ashtanga yoga that I started to feel more confident. Then I had another big change in both my body and my mind when I started Tracy Anderson—I’m still doing her workouts today, and they make me look and feel so strong. They’re a huge confidence boost.

Forty is a turning-point birthday, or at least it was for me. You’re getting to the other side of reproductive viability. It’s a big transition to move out of childbearing, and we don’t talk about that enough. There can be grief in that loss, probably mostly unconscious. I think it helps to work on getting ahead of that psychologically, cultivating wisdom and self-worth. There’s a relief in being a full woman who’s heading into this amazing chapter. For me it was a harder transition; 50 feels like a breeze in comparison.

Some things that made my 40s easier: We created the Madame Ovary regimen for women around the perimenopausal, menopausal, and postmenopausal ages (perimenopause can begin anywhere from the mid- to late 30s to the mid-40s), to provide some support for thyroid health as well as things like mild hot flashes, mood shifts, and stress-related fatigue. It helped me and continues to. I also brought in more weight lifting to build bone density.*

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Your hair does change texture with age, especially if it’s color-treated and gets a lot of wear and tear like mine. And just as I’d rather use great skin care than a ton of makeup, I want my hair to look and feel healthier without all the styling. I get it soft and shiny and back to the texture I love when I use these two together—the serum before I shampoo and then the salt-scrub shampoo.

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This might be an overstatement, but I feel like all my problems—at least until I was 45 years old—came from my not wanting to feel my feelings. And then I finally was like, Who gives a f*ck? Okay, I’ll cry, I’ll scream, and then I’ll still wake up, hopefully, the next morning.

I’ve always been pretty into skin care and exfoliating. In my 20s, I went to this spot called The Face Place to get facials, and I would use some of their stuff. Before I had kids, I got facials a lot, and then afterward, I didn’t have the time, so I got more into doing skin care myself and started doing lots of exfoliating. In my 30s, that looked more like physical scrubs, and then in my 40s, we came up with Microderm for goop—it’s this great combination of physical and chemical exfoliants, and it’s still my all-time favorite goop product. I love it so much that we just made a version for the body.

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Even though I wasn’t getting many facials after I had kids, I did still go to the dermatologist, and that’s where I discovered chemical peels. I know ‘chemical’ sounds like it wouldn’t be clean, but it is. It just means acids or enzymes that dissolve the dead skin cells, as opposed to physical grains that scrub them away. We developed our 15% peel pads as an at-home answer to dermatology-office chemical peels. They’re so strong that you only need to do them once a week. A bunch of us at goop have a little tradition: Every Sunday night we all do the peel before bed.

What I’ve learned from my mom is that a life full of meaning and art and music and people you love is the way to age beautifully—keeping your sense of adventure, seeing art, and making art. Last night, she went to the chamber orchestra. I try to focus on that. I’m a museum person, especially when I’m traveling; I love going to museums and galleries. I haven’t been to a play in a long time—since COVID, I think—and I’ve got to soon.

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I started learning about (and making the switch to) clean beauty in my late 30s and early 40s, after making some other changes to reduce my toxic load, like moving toward organic food, changing out the cleaning products I used at home, that sort of thing. I was shocked when I learned about some of the ingredients that are used in regular beauty products. Where’s the luxury in worrying about ingredients that might harm your health? So I went clean and eventually started making the clean beauty products I wanted but couldn’t find. I think body products are important to go clean with—they come into contact with such a large portion of your body.

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    Your skin is just so soft afterward, and truly, it glows. And I feel energized and ready for the day.

GP with no makeup

I was never much of a makeup person. Maybe when I was in middle school, when you’re in that phase of trying to look older, I had some eyeliner and some iridescent lip gloss from the pharmacy on 90th and Madison. And maybe when I was a senior, that ’90s matte look was coming in, so I had the MAC Spice lip pencil and Toast —everybody had to have those.

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But I’ve been fairly minimal makeup-wise since then. Being in movies and on the red carpet, you’re in a lot of makeup—it’s enough. Most days, I put on some sunscreen and some lip balm and I’m good. That’s why we worked so hard on our lip balms—it was two years of trials, trying to get them right. I just wanted the perfect lip balm, and now that I have it, it makes me so happy.

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    For every day, I love the ILIA tint with SPF—it’s real no-makeup makeup and just kind of smooths everything out.

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GP using dry brush

One of my favorite wellness rituals before I sweat, work out, or even take a shower is to dry brush. I brush toward the heart to encourage blood flow. It’s tingling and invigorating—and it’s an amazing exfoliator. It wakes me up.

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On days I’m not feeling as confident, I try to change the language a little. I remember that I’m loved regardless of what I look like, and I try to be accepting of change. I’m heading into a new chapter, and that requires a certain amount of letting go.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.