It is a balmy afternoon in the South of France and Andie MacDowell is dressed in a mannish pink trouser suit that matches the rosy tone of her cheeks perfectly. We are meeting, albeit virtually, to discuss ageing, a topic she’s serendipitously become known for promoting since she debuted her grey hair a year ago on the red carpet at Cannes.
A L’Oréal Paris ambassador, the actress, 64, has returned to the celebrated film festival with the French beauty house, which is sponsoring the Lights on Women award to promote female directors.
If you want to know what MacDowell looks like up close, even through the lens of my laptop her skin is blindingly luminous against her salt and pepper curls, which she’s recently had shorn off into a shorter, shoulder-length style that the actress tells me was loosely inspired by her Four Weddings and a Funeral bob, except for the sweeping fringe.
“I love having shorter hair – long hair doesn’t move as much,” she exclaims as she shakes her curls to demonstrate how much bouncier it is. Bounce confirmed.
It would be inaccurate to say that MacDowell looks good for her age. She looks good for any age. And despite Hollywood’s penchant for tweaking away the natural signs of ageing, there appears to be no trace of a nip, tuck or filled line from where I’m sitting.
While it’s somewhat anti-feminist to ask a woman about her secrets to ageing well (men rarely get asked about their looks), MacDowell doesn’t appear to be disgruntled.
On the contrary, she is effusive about what she describes as “stepping in” to her age, which isn’t surprising when you consider the actress’s family history.
Her mother suffered with alcoholism and died from a heart attack aged 53. “I didn’t get to see her go through that process,” says MacDowell wistfully. And yet it was witnessing her father go grey that was the impetus behind her decision to cease dying her hair. “I just remember thinking how handsome he looked when he turned grey and deciding early on that I was looking forward to that time.”
How does she feel about her grey hair a year on? “I just feel so much more confident in my skin and more comfortable with my age,” says MacDowell in her beguiling oozy southern tones. “I don’t want to pretend that I’m younger than I am. That was a big thing for me. I wanted to step into my age and say ‘This is where I am and I really like being here.’”
Despite her unwavering confidence, it is a relief to hear her admit to having insecurities. “As much as I’m an advocate for feeling beautiful right where you are, ageing is not an easy process; it’s a mind game,” says the actress who is careful of the language she uses.
“I don’t like the word ‘embracing’. I think it’s more about appreciating life. As you get older, you start to understand the complexity of beauty. True beauty isn’t shallow, it’s about loving yourself as you age. That’s not to say we don’t want to dress up or feel gorgeous,” she adds.
What does loving yourself mean in MacDowell’s world? Hiking, yoga and eating well. Most of the time.
“I’m human, I drink wine when I’m at events like here at Cannes, but when I go home I take breaks from alcohol and sugar. I’m lucky, I love to eat healthy food. I eat a lot of vegetables and juice because it makes me feel good.”
Andie MacDowell’s five secrets to stand-out grey hair
From left: L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect BB Cream SPF 50, £11.99, Boots; L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Laser Retinol and Niacinamide Press Cream, £29.99, Boots; Olaplex No.4P Blonde Enhancer Toning Shampoo, £26, Cult Beauty
Get a new haircut
“When I was first growing out my grey, I had to bleach some of my dark hair to blend in with my silver roots which caused a lot of damage, so my hairdresser Stefan Lancien cut off the dead ends and gave me this great shape that looks healthy and fresh.”
Define your eyebrows
“I love the way my eyes look now – the grey does something different to their colour. But one of the adjustments I’ve made is to fill in my eyebrows, which get thinner with age. I fill in with a pencil at the ends and a little bit at the top – I even groom my brows when I go out hiking.”
Freshen up make-up
“I just feel so much more confident in my skin now that my hair is grey – I think it suits me. Grey hair can need a pop of colour so I often throw on a bright lipstick or blush to add freshness to my complexion. Since going grey and cutting my hair I’ve bought some beautiful romantic dresses for a fresh new feeling, too.”
Nourish the texture
“Silver hair can be more wiry, so it’s crucial to condition the texture regularly at home. I love the Elvive Dream Lengths range, especially the mask. Sometimes I’ll even leave it on underneath my hat when I go out to allow it to really sink in and nourish.”
“There are products to make your silver appear brighter and less brassy. A purple-toned shampoo and conditioner will take out the yellow, which is good to do once in a while.”