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The Fullness of Midlife

“Number one, there are no rules.”

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

Charla Miller with Dr. Barb

Charla MillerCharla Miller is the creator of She has worked in the beauty industry in a number of capacities for over 20 years, starting in Hollywood as a makeup and hair artist. Her experience on film and television sets led her to understand that 20-hour work days were not a part of her vision for her life. She focused on what she truly loved—creating beauty—and became a licensed California esthetician. This involved understanding how skin works in all its complexity, as a foundation for helping her clients embrace their own beauty. As a self-professed “pro-ager,” Charla has learned, sometimes through personal experience, about both good and not-so-great practices of anti-aging. At this point, Charla finds herself with balance, self care, nourishing practices, and hence, a beautiful life.

Dr. Barb: Our guest today, Charla Miller, has a unique perspective on beauty. She began her career as a makeup and hair artist in Hollywood. She continues to work as an artist for film and advertising campaigns, as well as special occasions like destination weddings. Her life experience has led her to see beauty in a broader context, which is suggested by the name of her website, “Beauty Heals You.” Welcome, Charla!

Charla: Hi, Dr. Barb, how are you?

Dr. Barb: I’m well. Thank you for joining me today and taking the time to discuss this topic with listeners, which I think is fascinating—this idea of healing and beauty combined—and I’m eager to hear more of your insights about that. You can imagine from what I do as a healthcare provider, seeing patients at the ages they are, it’s a common discussion about how women feel disappointed or let down by their aging bodies. As a matter of fact, my last patient yesterday is 54, and she looks great, and she’s a runner, and she has an ideal body weight, but she spoke very specifically about, “Oh, I’m working as hard as I ever have, and I just am disappointed at what I see, the changes occurring.” So, this is a topic of interest I think to most women, and I’m wondering about how we’ve seen beauty as a path to maintaining our confidence and vitality. Could you speak to that?

Charla: I’d love to. You know, I wake up every morning, you know, some days thinking the same thing, and as a beauty artist, a makeup and hair artist, starting out in the film business in Hollywood and Los Angeles decades ago now, that’s the age-old or age-young question. And after doing what I’ve done with huge celebrities and film people and models and that sort of thing, I mean, we all wake up as females thinking some of the same things.

Let yourself be okay right here, right now.One of the key things that I think is so profound and life changing and important is that you really have to pay attention to your emotional beauty thoughts. And by that I mean, we can look in the mirror and we can go straight towards that line or we could go straight towards the fact that our skin isn’t as, you know, what we’re looking at and supple. But the most important thing as you’ve just described with this patient of yours, this client of yours. In fact, she’s doing everything, and she is running herself, literally, kind of into that mold of “Have I done enough?” And truly the response for a beautiful feeling about yourself is to let yourself be okay right here, right now. That’s the greatest advantage that I can tell any woman as a beauty artist is just to be with themselves right now and give themselves a break. From that point, and from that point of view, and from that vantage point, then they can start to make (if they want to) the changes that they want.

But we are definitely not here to look twenty or thirty or forty years younger. We are not here to be somebody else’s idea of what they think we should look like as far as beauty goes, and we really need to treat ourselves with the love and care that accentuates the beauty that we are, and have, and that we embody right this second. So, that’s my first beauty tip.

Dr. Barb: Well, I liked on your website the way you described yourself as a pro-ager; I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone use that term before, but I think it’s a nice way to put in a little synopsis about, rather than sort of grieving what we perceive as losses, we can sort of celebrate what is and what is to come.

Menopause is considered the second spring.Charla: Without any question. And, you know, in Asian culture—I’ve traveled over to Japan and China and Taipei and different places over there—they believe that menopause is considered the second spring. And, you know, being right past the equinox of spring, we can age however we want to age, as long as we don’t get hooked into the fact that we need to look a particular certain way. And that’s a fine line when, I’m a clinical esthetician as well as I consider myself a beauty artist now versus a makeup artist, though I do do that, and what I want to say about that is we really have to evolve in a beautiful, pro way. Anti-aging is a great term for the world of marketing and cosmetics and skincare, but anti anything really—doesn’t even feel smaller when you say it, Dr. Barb?

Dr. Barb: Absolutely.

The happiest women are the prettiest women.Charla: Anti, so fine. Pro. What am I pro for? I’m pro being beautiful. I’m pro being luscious. I’m pro being my age because fighting against it or being anti anything really puts us in a smaller place, in a smaller shell. And not only do we feel that, and if you’re thinking that, as I believe thoughts do become things, then we start to think that we’re going down some sort of rabbit hole or supposed predisposed expectations of how we should age. I think as Audrey Hepburn said, that the prettiest women are the happiest women.

Dr. Barb: I just saw that quote the other day and I can’t remember where I was, I think in some retail place, and I thought, “Yes, yes!” And I saw that you have done a wedding, I think it was, for a 100-year-old woman? And you did the wedding makeup for this woman. I love the messages you drew from that occasion. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Charla: Yeah, I’d love to. You know it was—I’ve done how many? I don’t know how many—but I’ve spent time with I don’t know how many women. But when I go out on these weddings now, I am generally given by my team members, the women that are, I’m going to just say it, the most neurotic. Okay? “I don’t look great,” you know, the mothers of the bride, the mothers of the groom, the matriarchs, and that sort of thing, because I really approach beauty in this pro spirit. And yes, I’m the makeup artist, but when Lillian came to me, oh my gosh, she walked up two flights of stairs and she insisted on it, I never met a centenarian ever. My mother died at the age of 92, so close.

When Lillian came to me, of course, I was so in awe of her and I asked her, I said, “So, please tell me your beauty secrets.” And here it is: she said that, just every day, and she was really interested in what I was going to do, what I was using, what kind of products, you know, I had in my makeup kit. She was fascinated, she was engaged, she was lively, she was vigorous, and I said, “So tell me the secret. Tell me your secret.” And she said, “I just woke up every morning and put makeup on my face every single day of my adult life.” And I translated that into she was engaged. She was also accepting of herself. She was interested. She was vibrant. And she cared about herself in the way that she could and she just was always interested in beauty, so it was really much simpler to her beauty regime than I believe we’ve all come to believe that beauty is.

Dr. Barb: So let’s take that to some practical advice. So, let’s start with hair. Obviously hair changes as we grow older, and styles change, and culture’s messages to us about hair changes, and I think we’re always concerned about, as we age, are we age-appropriate and not too long, not too dated. So what can you tell us about hair, some basic tenets that we might want to hear about that.

Charla: Okay, well, number one, there are no rules.

Dr. Barb: [laughs] Good!

Number one, there are no rules.

Charla: Let’s blow those right out of the water, let’s get rid of rules. I can’t stand rules as far as aging-appropriate. Because there’s so many amazing, I mean, phenomenal women that are sexy in their 70s, 80s, 90s—Look at Lillian, 100. So 50s are just, like, you’re just rocking it. I mean, that’s like your teenage years!

So, number one, hair is like skin, so on a medical standpoint, if I’m looking at it as an esthetician, the more nourished and supple and smooth and hydrated your skin and your hair is, generally speaking, the younger you look. And gray is definitely harder to do that but I love oils. I love oils for the skin. I love oils for the hair. So, wear your hair as long or as short as you want.

So number one, styles: forget about the styles; do what you want to do. I love Jennifer Aniston’s look. I’ve always had hair very similar to hers and I’m still wearing my hair at least longer than shoulder length, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Number one: Keep your hair moisturized. By that I mean if you do color your hair, get a great colorist. Spend the money. Put the toner on it. Use great shampoos. I’m a total addict of Oribe Gold Lust. I mean, I don’t make any money off this stuff, but I mean, these are just the… I live in Idaho right now, and it’s very dry here. So I spend the money on great shampoos. I spend the money on hair masks and I spend the money on products that nourish and make my hair look young.

Dr. Barb: And so, besides our daily or every other day routine of maybe shampoo and conditioner, you mentioned a hair mask?

Charla: Yes.

Dr. Barb: And other hydrating or moisturizing products that you do on a daily basis or a weekly basis, or generally speaking, what kind of specific hydrating process would you recommend for hair?

Charla: Well, I would start with your internal being. I would start with your body. I would make sure that you do get a lot of hydrations so you’re getting a lot of water. I drink lemon water every morning and a lot of times I’ll drink it at night as well. I think it’s very soothing, it’s very alkalizing for the body. That’s a really important factor when we’re looking at the outside part of our being, which is our hair and our skin. Okay, so the fact that the body is more alkaline than acidic, that’s a big deal when it comes to how you age with your hair and your skin. And that is a direct correlation as well as the hydration that you’re getting. Exercise and happiness, your serotonin levels—big time—in your skin and your hair. There’s no getting, you can no longer separate the two—the outside from the inside and how you’re treating yourself.

I love hair masks. I use a hair mask probably once a week, and I probably use—and I know we’re going to get to this—facial masks two or three, maybe sometimes four times a week, depending on the season and when the seasonal change is. So, hair mask definitely—and I use on the ends of my hair—I use the Oribe Gold Lust at the moment, but there’s so many products out there. I try and keep it as green as possible, less fragrances, if no fragrances. Coconut oil, organic coconut oil is another one. You kind of have to self-test it on your skin and your hair to see what’s absorbing and what’s actually just sitting on the surface. I’m more of a green beauty artist than I do like the chemical bases, and as I do get older and age, I’ve become more sensitive to things like that.

Dr. Barb: And I’m just going to note that we do consider the skin to be the largest organ of our bodies, and so it is interesting that we don’t necessarily care for it or think about it in that context. But I appreciate your input and encouragement for women to think about general self-care, in turn, in improving the outcome of skin and hair.

So now let’s take it to makeup. I think we tend to retract in our place or position or centrality in life as we get older, because we have lost confidence in our appearance. At least that’s the message I hear women sharing. I’m wondering if you could speak into how women can remain confident in their external beauty, the beauty that we present to those we encounter day to day.

Charla: I think some of the things that women can do is, make sure that they do what they want to do. That’s so key. I mean, I know we’ll get into my book and my story about my son, but I think what happens—and it’s just cultural, and it’s global—is that women, at least I remember and these were my examples and they weren’t wrong, they just were—that we did for our husbands, we did for our families, we did for our children. And I think that it is still a new concept that we still do for others far more than we put ourselves on our to-do list and at the top of the list. So, when it comes to moving into that invisible nature, number one is: Forget what people are saying about your age, it’s your vibrancy, not your number. Number two: Is there something that you want to do today? Is there something that you have been wanting to do? Is there a class you want to take? Are there meet-ups you’d like to do?

The other day, I’ll give you an exact example. I just came back from New Orleans, and I just became an Infinite Possibilities Trainer with my Dooley—Andy Dooley—and it was just a blast. I saw a bar with the mechanical bull. And it doesn’t happen often, because I don’t really do mechanical bulls or anything like that, but we went and had an incredible dinner, it was a great raucous group of all of us, and I told this group, there were four women, we’re all around the same ages, all well into our fifties and one into her sixties I guess, and one man. And I said, “Do you know what we’re going to do after?” And they said, “What?” and I said, “We’re going to go down to that cowboy bar, and I’m going to ride that mechanical bull. I just want to do that.”

After I did it, and Ally, a friend from the UK did it. And it was just hysterical. I felt like a little kid. I felt like a teenager again. And the next day, we had long hours, it was a conference, and I woke up and went, “Oh my gosh, that’s the best skin care you’ve ever put on your face.” And it was just by doing something I wanted to do.

Dr. Barb: That is a perfect example of, I think, limiting ourselves more often than not. That would be the experience I hear women saying, that we just don’t step out to the edges very often, and sometimes we don’t, I think, see opportunities to kind of move beyond the rut we’re in.

I know your website talks about the part of beauty that heals you includes nourishing practices, which I see as not specific practices of, as you mentioned, hair masks or a skin mask, but really what you just mentioned now as a nourishing practice. Your stepping out and riding the mechanical bull was nourishing to you. And I think as you speak about this, when you look at others, there is some perception of understanding where they are with self-care, and I mean self-care being spiritual care, emotional care, in how they appear. And I don’t know how you can understand or state that, but I think we underestimate that.

Charla: As far as being spiritual beings?

Dr. Barb: Well, as far as having those nourishing practices translate to become part of the beauty that can heal us.

Charla: Yes, I understand what you are saying now. Until I was forced, really—and it’s that part of our journey, and we all get there, through something or sometimes many things in our life—until we understand that we’re here to take care of ourselves first—and that’s really our only obligation and it should be our greatest joy; through traumas that we go through, through major changes, through all kinds of things that is called this journey of life—until we get there, we’re still taking care of the outside of ourselves. We’re still taking care of our life. We’re not taking care of us. And when you start to see the difference that taking care of us is taking care of our spirit—it’s an integral part; you can’t separate it—until we start to put that part of ourselves first, which is our spirit, which is our soul, and you see the difference, you really aren’t taking care of yourself. And generally what goes along with that change is that you stop really caring about what other people think of you, what other people think that you should be or not be doing, and you start accepting yourself. That’s really when the beauty of self-care begins to take hold.

Dr. Barb: And I would have to say again, doing what I do in healthcare and seeing women at this stage, as I do in healthcare, I do see that women recognize this as a unique opportunity to start to invest in self. Where up until that point, oftentimes it never even occurred to them that it was going to be an important aspect of their general health. But I think it’s kind of fifty-ish, I would say, it often becomes a pivot point for women to begin to look forward and recognize the importance of including their own interest and pursuing that.

Charla: Yes, that’s very true. Isabel Allende, the great author, had a quote about women in their fifties. She said, “By the time you get into your fifties, the bullshit is almost over.”

Dr. Barb: [laughs] I just finished a book by her and I like her writing. Now I know why! I have not heard her say that, but I like it.

Charla: That’s a quote and you know, there’s so many of them, particularly right now with all of our platforms that we have and all of our, all the ways that we can speak out and have a voice. Oprah Winfrey, after her speech at the Academy Awards, said something very, very similar. Now that she’s in her sixies she said something to paraphrase, that there is no way that she would ever put up with any more BS in her life. And I think that when you start moving into the spring, as I’m going to call this—because this is my second spring; there’s no question in my mind--that you then not just show up in your Easter dress or whatever it is you show up in, you show up as yourself. And me riding that mechanical bull as well as my new friend Ally riding that mechanical bull and my sister and all kinds of people hanging out and looking at myself the next day, I thought what did you do differently? And I said, “You did what you wanted to do.”

Dr. Barb: Yeah, great. I think that’s a great message. So can you share with us a little bit more about your website? Remind us where women can find your website and what it is they might be able to find there to help in this journey.

Charla: I’d love to share that with you. Thank you for asking. It’s, and you can even enter; it will get you to the same place. Right now we’re putting together a retreat in October in southern Idaho. That’s about bringing wonder and beauty together. It is literally beauty makeovers and yoga, horses, non-mounted activities, things like that.

What I’ve been given in my journey is this gift of being around the equine world, not as in riding, though I do do that, but it’s about being around an animal that has this heart and spirit that wants to connect with you. And I found it to be the most profound and changing. I am a beauty artist so I do travel for weddings and personal things and I’ve become an author and speaker as well, so I’m doing that, so that’s my website, you can contact me on that. You can also get on my mailing list. And I do have a newsletter that I put out quarterly, if not a little bit more often than that depending on my schedule. And so you can contact me through that or you can just get me on any of my Facebook pages.

Dr. Barb: Great, thank you. And to summarize, where do you find fullness in this stage of life? 

Charla: I find fullness in the now. In whatever is in the now, even if it’s not my favorite. I look at the fact that I’m here on planet Earth in this version in this identity of Charla Miller is being full enough. And I think that’s a mantra, it’s a practice, it’s an acceptance and it’s a surrender. But right this second to be exact and not so metaphoric or not so esoteric, I should say, my son is here and his friend is here and it’s the first time I’ve been with my son with this type of longevity for ten years. And I know we’ll get to that in another interview, but I find the fullness of just looking outside the window speaking with you right this moment and that is more than enough for me right now, so thank you.

Dr. Barb: Thanks for sharing with us today, Charla. I appreciate the message that you’ve shared for our listeners.

Charla: Thank you Dr. Barbara, it was wonderful. 


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