Since this column launched earlier this year, my inbox has been inundated with a huge range of problems – but some issues pop up again and again. Here I’ve addressed the top five questions you’ve asked me…
1. ‘Help, I’ve got thinning hair!’
Pregnancy, hormonal treatment and menopause have affected my hair over the years. Now I swear by Superior Hair capsules (£26.50 for 90, victoriahealth.com), with saw palmetto berry extract to protect scalp follicles. I also take Solgar Biotin (£6.99 for 50 capsules, solgaronline.co.uk), a B-vitamin known as ‘food for the follicles’. My hair is much thicker!
2. What can I do about the crepey skin on my upper arms?
Women often complain to me about this and there are three ways to tackle it: cover up, improve the appearance of the skin and tone up.
If, like me, your body temperature tends to fluctuate, capes are invaluable as an alternative to jackets. Zara’s version ensures you keep cool while covering up. Also consider layering a top or shirt below a sleeveless dress, but cut the top’s neckline so that when you wear the two pieces together only the sleeves are visible under the dress. A pair of lace or opaque Cami Confidential ‘sleeves’, in a shade that matches your sleeveless dress, is another option.
Massage sagging skin on your arms with the Hayo’u Beauty Restorer (£35, hayoumethod.com), a jade tool that boosts circulation. Also use a microneedle roller to prick the skin and encourage it to produce more collagen. Next apply a product containing PHA (polyhydroxy acid), such as Garden of Wisdom PHA Plus Serum, to exfoliate. Finally, try triceps dips at home. I squat with my back and bottom against the side of the bath with my hands on the rim, my elbows behind me, and use my arms to push myself up. I do two sets of 20.
3. I’m petite so I struggle to find clothes that fit me
I hear this from readers all the time. As I always say, it’s simply that you need to make sure the proportions are right for you (no swamping broad shoulders and droopy long sleeves). You also may need to have items altered, so get to know your local seamstress.
When buying trousers, remember that a cropped-leg style will look normal length on you and calf-crop denim flares, such as these Zara ones, will fall to the ankle on a petite woman. Choose smaller prints and thinner stripes. With shirts, adopt the trendy ‘half tuck’, leaving the back hanging out, to elongate your legs and accentuate your waist. Wedges or platform brogues will add effortless height. Many dress styles, such as babydoll or skater, are perfect for smaller frames.
For a chic party look, I love the Fold’s Camelot white tweed dress – the skirt is high cut so the waist is in perfect proportion. Team with a shimmering shoe and H&M’s cute cropped rosebud jacket.
4. Why can’t I find the right bra?
Every store sizes differently, plus our bodies change as we age, so you will need to be measured every time you go bra shopping. No wonder so many of us are wearing the wrong bras! You might think you’ve reached an age when you don’t want your boobs to be too on display, but wearing a bigger, ‘comfy’ bra will just let your chest droop on to your stomach, making you look bigger around the middle. The correct bra will lift your chest away from your middle, making your tummy seem flatter.
Bodas is best for small boobs; I love its smooth Tactel bralet. For larger breasts that need to be lifted up and separated, try the Escape lace balcony bra by Freya – a great brand for bigger sizes, with bras up to 36HH.
If your breasts sit further apart and you’d like them pushed together, try Attollo Lingerie, a new brand that’s become the Rigby & Peller of the internet. The Emelie longline bra is one of its bestsellers.
5. How do I stop my teenage daughter dressing so sexily?
I hear this from mothers all the time and it’s an issue that needs to handled with the utmost diplomacy – and calm. Teenage girls tend to want to be ‘cool’ and fit in with their peers while also standing out and, of course, parents are the least cool people on the planet. I have spirited conversations with my daughter Lyla, 14, but we get there in the end – usually when I remember that she needs to have a say in her clothes.
Teenage egos can be crushed by a wrong word from a well-meaning parent, so don’t tell her you don’t like an outfit. Try saying, ‘I think you could change…’ and suggest a tweak to her look. Talk to your daughter about her wardrobe: does she have an allowance or a clothes budget? Get to know the shops and brands that teens love, for instance Beyond Retro, Urban Outfitters and Free People, that sell on-trend clothing but aren’t ‘sexy’ brands.
If you don’t feel confident talking fashion with your daughter, find a friend who she admires and get the pal to seed certain thoughts; for instance, how good crop tops look with a long skirt rather than denim hotpants! Ultimately you will need to let your daughter make her own mistakes. As Lyla tells me: ‘What’s in style for you is not necessarily in style for me.’