Helen Mirren On Pre-Teen Skincare Routines, Pro Ageing And Beauty Ideals

helen mirren cannes film festival
Helen Mirren On Pre-Teen Skincare RoutinesGisela Schober - Getty Images

In her career spanning five decades, which has seen the Academy Award winner take on roles in The Queen, narrate the storyline of Barbie and star in over 60 films, Dame Helen Mirren has never been afraid to tell it like it is. 'We are all going to age, there's no way out of that fact,' she tells ELLE UK. 'When you're 20, you can't even imagine that you'll ever be in your seventies - but it's only if you're lucky, very lucky, that you'll get to experience it.'

It's this refreshing attitude that makes her relatable both on and off screen. So as the outspoken, unabashedly real leading lady prepares to take on the role of ex-spy and pensioner Elizabeth Best in the film adaptation of the best-selling The Thursday Murder Club, Mirren sits down with ELLE UK during Cannes Film Festival to talk about unwavering beauty standards – and why it's time to flip the switch on the pernicious narrative around 'anti-ageing'.


On the energy at Cannes Film Festival...

'It's always wonderfully eccentric at Cannes, and I love being in the car going to the Palais, which always takes nearly an hour because you're in a line of cars, so you can watch the people walking by; it's always a fabulous mixture of old guys walking their dogs, kids running around, and people coming off the beach, with all of these people dressed to the nines, or perhaps some of them hardly dressed at all. Nowadays, it's the what I call the "knickers and net" look, which is basically where you wear underwear and put a bit of net on top.'

a woman in a purple dress
Provided by L'Oréal Paris

On her outfit for the night...

'My dress was spectacular and incredibly tight – and very, very difficult to walk in. But it was it was a magnificent piece of work. As we're in the hands of L'Oréal Paris here, we also have the top make-up artists, too. When I'm sitting in front of the mirror, or having my hair done, there's literally six people all working on my face. They know exactly what to do and it's fantastic to watch them in action. Hopefully we look great, but it's all down to a lot of fantastically expert people.'

On her off-duty beauty routine...

'Throughout COVID I put my make-up on every day, even though nobody was going to see me except me and my husband and my husband couldn't give a t*ss whether I have make-up on or not. He didn't even notice, really. But I would love the process of playing around and experimenting with make-up. For my so-called beauty regime, I really wish we could find another word for it because it doesn't necessarily make you look beautiful, but it makes you feel good. My feel-good routine, then, is that I always I love applying a serum - you can suddenly feel your skin just freshen up. I don't have any particular process; I grab whatever's in front of me but I do always put on a moisturiser to wake up my skin.

helen mirren
Provided by L'Oréal Paris

On the narrative around 'anti-ageing'

'I think the first thing is to lose the word "anti-ageing", of course, so that it doesn't exist anymore. Because we are going to age, there's no way out of that fact. When you're 20, you can't even imagine that you'll ever be in your seventies - but it's only if you're lucky, very lucky, that you'll get to experience it. And you realise, "I'm so lucky to reach this age and still be able to engage with and enjoy the world." So it should be 'pro ageing'. Let's change it to 'pro ageing'.

'Yes, you are going to get older, but you can get older in a healthy way, in a positive way, and you can enjoy the products, the skincare and make-up. If you feel good, you look good. I always say if you do something, even if it's just applying your moisturiser, if it makes you feel good, it gives you swagger. Swagger is a good thing. You go out into the world feeling great.'

On the rise of teenagers adopting anti-ageing routines...

'We all do really silly things when we're young - and it's a silly thing. I hope there's nothing in those skincare products that's actually going to harm them, but we've all done something similar when we were young. When I was 14, believe it or not, it was fashionable to wear white lipstick, so I saved up my pocket money for months to buy this disgusting white lipstick. The point is, they will grow up; they will grow older, if they're lucky. And then they will discover a whole new world.'

On beauty standards and the impact of social media...

'We've always been held to beauty standards. For my mother's generation, it was Greta Garbo and her impossibly beautiful bone structure. I don't think anything's changed today, aside from the accessibility through social media and constant comparison culture it fuels. My mother wanted to look like Greta Garbo; I wanted to look like Twiggy, and a 16-year-old girl today wants to look like Kim Kardashian. Nothing's changed.'

On her new role in The Thursday Murder Club...

'I read the first book without knowing that it was going to be made into a film but, I have to secretly confess, that I did really think I'd love to play Elizabeth. I's directed by a wonderful, cool, funny and lovely director called Chris Columbus, who did the first two Harry Potter films. He's very familiar with British film, the vibe and the way we are. I'm very nervous about it, but also very excited.'

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