What Turning 40 Has Meant To These Women

What Turning 40 Has Meant To These Women

Most women will agree 40 is a bit of a milestone – one that can bring with it some emotional challenges. Whether you’re nearing a big birthday or not, we asked 12 inspiring women what turning 40 meant to them, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Alexia Inge, co-founder and CEO of Cult Beauty

Alexia co-founded Cult Beauty in 2008, with no funding and during a deep global recession. Today, the company employs over 130 full-time staff and turns over £104m annually. Cult Beauty is the UK’s fastest-growing beauty retailer and is renowned for showcasing niche and independent beauty brands.

“People like to set themselves age-based life markers, which is a sure road to depression. Focusing on a black and white list of society norms diminishes the other opportunities your life has and will present in the future. I came rather late to the marriage and baby party at 40 and 42, respectively, but any earlier would have meant both suffered in the shadow of Cult Beauty’s conception (and the 12 years of toil that followed). It’s very easy to spot good timing with hindsight. The first three years of my 40s have been pretty good so far, my skin is less bouncy, my bum is way bouncier, but I feel more optimistic. The best thing I’ve learned is that advice is a form of nostalgia presented as fact. Listen to people’s recommendations in context and never let another person’s life choice or achievements make you feel bad about your own.”

Visit CultBeauty.co.uk​

Anna Bromilow, fashion stylist

Starting her career at Vogue, Anna went on to be fashion director at Tatler for three years, and for the last decade has been a freelance fashion stylist and consultant, working with everyone from NET-A-PORTER to WWD Beauty. She lives in North London with her husband and their three daughters.

“When I hit 40, I had three little girls and had just become a freelance fashion stylist. Tragically, I lost my darling mother to cancer halfway through this monumental and shape-shifting decade. Having children refines you in a way you didn’t think possible, forcing you to mature, to contemplate life’s bigger picture and to nurture a love and resilience you didn’t think was possible. Losing my mother did the same, simultaneously. I gained three incredible females in my life who needed me as much as the person I was saying goodbye to. Despite a crippling sense of loss that I live with daily, I can honestly say that decade was magnificent – love was at its core, in all its heart-bursting and heart-breaking forms. Turning 40 seemed pretty un-traumatic in comparison and I didn’t approach it with any huge sense of terror, more a mild concern and general curiosity. And I ended up feeling strangely empowered and proud of where my life was and what I had achieved. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to look like and have the energy of my 30-year-old-self, but would I do it all over again and change anything? Probably not.”

Follow Anna on Instagram @Anna_Bromilow​

Cecila Harris, PT and co-founder of Results Wellness Lifestyle

One of the pioneers of online fitness, Cecilia discovered the benefits of exercise on mental health after suffering with post-natal depression after the birth of her son 18 years ago. The co-founder of Results Wellness Lifestyle, she now helps people across the UK feel stronger, healthier and happier, and her current clients include Kelly Hoppen and Frankie Bridge.

“Turning 40 is a huge milestone for so many people, and I was definitely not the exception to the rule. However, while many people see milestone birthdays as something to dread, I used it as an opportunity to review my life, see if there was anything missing, and fill in those gaps. My 40th was far more than just a day of celebrations. The occasion prompted me to realise that I needed to stop worrying about and investing my energy into things I cannot control. Instead, I decided to refocus my energy and attention onto the most sacred values in my life – health, family and internal happiness. Turning 40 pushed me to focus on my health in particular, and I work out every day to stay on top of my health, both physically and mentally. Since turning 40, I've tried to look inward and identify what I want for myself, rather than thinking about other people's expectations for me. Ultimately, turning 40 is what you make of it.”

Visit ResultsWellnessLifestyle.com

Clare Hornby, founder and CEO of ME+EM

Frustrated by how hard it was to find well-made, on-trend clothes that didn’t cost the earth, Clare founded ME+EM in 2009 and immediately stood out in a fast-growing market. There are now seven ME+EM stores across London, as well as a concession in Selfridges/

“I was in my early 40s when I founded ME+EM, with two young children and three older stepchildren, so I was essentially growing a business and a family at the same time. The children would always take priority, but the business needed enough attention so it could grow as well. That balancing act taught me a huge amount of personal and professional life lessons. One of the key things has been to surround myself with the right people: advisors, employees, a support network; relationships that you can nurture and trust. And when you’re that busy, staying healthy is paramount, so I do lots of exercise – tennis and yoga – and I’m obsessed with drinking Amazing Grass Green Superfood every morning. It’s become something of a running joke among the team, but I swear it keeps me fighting fit year-round.”

Visit MeAndEm.com​

Hannah Lanel, founder of The Fore

With a background in fitness, Hannah opened The Fore in London’s Coal Drops Yard in 2019. Taking a holistic approach, The Fore focuses on wellbeing from all angles, combining personalised fitness classes with alternative therapies and social events. Since opening, The Fore has quickly become known as one the capital’s most forward-thinking wellness spaces.

“Turning 40 wasn’t the second ‘coming of age’ I’d hoped for. The truth is, life was anything but simple in the run-up to my birthday. The leap of faith I’d taken with my business in building a 6,000 sq ft studio in six weeks was not going to plan. On the side of an all-consuming project, one of my girlfriends was dying and my own mental health was deteriorating rapidly. The self-assured 40-year-old I assumed I would morph into was nowhere to be seen. All I could see were lists of failures, years of mistakes, setbacks and wrong turns. Little did I know I was about to take the biggest leap of faith and what I thought was rock bottom soon turned out to be a thriving business. In the last 18 months, I’ve learned how to minimise my regrets, quieten my inner critic and lighten up on myself and on others, too. I finally understand asking for help is not a sign of weakness and that having candid conversations and showing vulnerability are the foundations upon which we build ourselves. I may not be the 40-year-old I thought I’d be, but none of that seems to matter now.”

Visit The-Fore.co.uk​

Jeany Cronk, co-founder of Mirabeau

Jeany had been nurturing a plan to make wine for 15 years, and in 2009 moved her family to a small village in the heart of Provence to do just that. Fast-forward just over a decade and Mirabeau is now one of the world’s most-loved rosés and has collected some of the most prestigious wine industry awards, most recently for their rosé gin.

"Being able to report safely from the other side of turning 40, I can confirm there is nothing to fear, but mostly great things to anticipate. It’s a brilliant age for lots of reasons and I feel better now than ever before. It helps that, by this time, we have learnt who we are, that we care less and dare more. For me it was also a moment to re-engage with work after a break and coincided with founding our business. It was an advantage to be able to have the flexibility of being my own boss and I felt ready and able to transition to self-employment, with all the ups and downs that status brings. Far from feeling that this decade is the slippery slope, I see it as a period to further build my confidence and find new passions. I see so many women around me who have started fresh or developed their existing careers in incredible ways, or indeed decided to take some time out because they hadn’t done so in their 30s. Remember, age is just a number and we have all the tools at our disposal to make our 40s (and beyond) a time to be excited about."


Visit MirabeauWine.com


Liz Earle, author, broadcaster, and founder of Liz Earle Wellbeing

Having received an MBE in 1997 for services to business and dedicating her career to sharing wellbeing wisdom with the world, Liz is known for her passion for natural health as well as her considerable charity and campaigning work. She is the author of 36 books, an established TV presenter and podcast host. Her latest book, The Good Menopause Guide, went straight in as the number one bestseller on Amazon on publication day. 

“My most useful life-lessons have all been learnt since turning 40, thanks to a new-found wisdom and a greater knowledge of the fundamentals of how to live a healthier, happier life. Fitness-wise, I’m stronger and leaner than ever and have learned it is quality time and not length of time in the gym that counts. I used to say I hated running – now I start most mornings with a (short) run and look forward to my 5k each weekend. The great outdoors is the best way to lift my mood, increasing energy levels and providing a happy hit of endorphins. Since writing The Good Gut Guide in my 40s, I’ve also learned to pay far more attention to my microbiome, as the majority of our serotonin is produced in the gut. I now make my own plain live yoghurt and kefir – very easy and so beneficial. And on the subject of happy hormones, I’ve learned just how safe and beneficial HRT is (the inexpensive, regulated kind from my GP) and only wish I had started taking it earlier in my forty-something peri-menopause years.”

Visit LizEarleWellbeing.com. The Truth About HRT, her latest e-book, is out now.

Lucy Goff, founder of LYMA

Lucy founded LYMA, one of the world’s most exclusive and science-backed supplements, in 2014 after a six-week battle with blood poisoning left her exhausted and run down. LYMA, a cutting-edge nutraceutical, is now sold via luxury retailers across the UK, including Harvey Nichols and NET-A-PORTER.

“Growing up, 40 was always the age where I thought I’d be officially old. In fact, I’ve spent the last five years of each decade panicking about entering the next. My thirties ended in mix of relief and elation, staggering out of hospital following a six-week battle with septicaemia. Since that moment I’ve vowed to treat every day as a blessing. I was terribly attached to the past during my twenties and thirties, subconsciously lugging every single life occurrence around with me, which was stifling. There is definitely an art to letting go, and it wasn’t until I reached the other side of 40, with a family to look after and a business to run, that I just didn’t have the time to indulge in my mental and emotional baggage anymore. Situations that would keep me up at night, and would tumble around my brain, now just seem easier to set aside. And while I’ve always known this in theory, it now just seems easier, and almost natural, to just move on. I’m beyond proud of what I’ve achieved, especially knowing that I get to help thousands of others, too.” 

Visit Lyma.Life

Maria Hatzistefanis, founder of Rodial 

London-based beauty entrepreneur Maria Hatzistefanis founded skincare group Rodial in 1999. Two brands – Rodial and Nip + Fab – are now sold through 20,000 doors across 35 countries worldwide including Saks Fifth Avenue, Space NK and Harrods. She is also the author of two how-to books, designed to encourage female entrepreneurs.

“Going back in time, my 18-year-old self had a vision of everything I wanted to achieve in my life and what defined success. When I hit 40, I thought I’d reached all my goals. But then what? Life is a journey and there’s always another goal to chase. There’ll never be a point when you’ve achieved everything. I’ve since tried to change my perspective and be more ‘in the now’. While still goal oriented, I am a lot more spiritual and more mature in dealing with challenges, relationships and work. When I was younger, it was all about winning; now, it’s more about finding a solution that makes everyone happy, avoiding burning bridges and trying to maintain positive energy in various situations. I feel less stressed, happier and more zen.”

Visit Rodial.co.uk

Ruby Hammer MBE, make-up artist 

With a career in the beauty industry spanning nearly 30 years, Ruby is one of the most respected make-up artists in the business. As well as working with high-profile clients such as Cindy Crawford and Meghan Markle, she also co-founded cosmetics company Ruby and Millie. She recently launched a capsule beauty collection and has plans to launch a cosmetics line in early 2021.

“Turning 40 was a strange time for me as I’d just gone through a divorce – I got married at 24 and we were together for 14 years. I was dreading turning 40, not necessarily for the fear of biological ageing, but more the emotional state I was in. My mum – who sadly passed away from cancer at the age of 67 – organised a surprise party and it was such a turning point for me. It made me realise I am blessed to have so much love in my life. My mum made me realise that every day you are alive is a gift. Although I am older, I try to maintain a youthful outlook. I don’t try to be young, I’ve been young – and now I am older and wiser, and I can honestly say it only gets better. Yes, my hair is thinner, and I have a few more wrinkles, but I’m not going to go under the knife to stay looking young. Toxic relationships – think bad friendships or a stressful job – is what ages you.”


Visit RubyHammer.com

Stephanie Drax, journalist and founder of Leapfrog Remedies

A lifestyle and travel journalist, Stephanie has written for the likes of House & Garden, The FT, The Telegraph and Vanity Fair. She recently founded Leapfrog Remedies, whose debut supplement has been developed in tandem with scientists and boasts potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Dubbed the next-generation vitamin C, it’s already causing waves in wellness circles.

“I resisted the arrival of 40 with the red-faced refusal of a three-year-old. On the eve of the day itself, I took comfort in the fact it was going to be a quiet dinner for two. My husband led me to the restaurant, and into a wall of my smiling friends; some of whom I’d intentionally not told I was approaching the ripeness of 40. So, slicing through the joy was shame – the secret was out, there was nowhere to hide. Let me be clear: the ‘shame’ is not about looking old; it’s about what I’ve achieved. It’s the same reason I’ve always hated New Year’s Eve – it’s like a career stocktake. There’s always more I could have done. The good news is that middle age comes with insane multitasking ability. Simultaneously building a business and countless Lego towers with a toddler is like brain jujitsu. What the hell did I do with all that freedom in my 20s? I’ve never been so pressed for time or so productive. And, right now, I’ve still got the energy to pull it off. At 40 it hits you: life is short, but it’s all yours for the taking. You just don’t get to lie in anymore.”

Visit LeapfrogRemedies.com ​

Whitney Bromberg Hawkins, co-founder and CEO of FLOWERBX

Whitney began her career as Tom Ford’s personal assistant and went on to become senior vice president at the fashion designer’s eponymous label. In 2015, she founded flower delivery service FLOWERBX, one of the most well-known florists globally.


“The year I turned 40, I left Tom Ford after 18 years to start FLOWERBX and had my third baby, so it was a year – and decade – full of adrenaline, excitement and expectation. The key to feeling excited for milestone birthdays is to push yourself, grow and try new things. Try to pay less attention to others and what they’re doing. By focusing on yourself, you’ll ensure you’re doing your best. So many superficial things I was preoccupied with in my 20s and 30s don’t matter at all now. I’ve since learned the importance of sleep, eating well and taking care of the planet, and that these things actually improve the quality of my life. I’ve made a point of no longer investing time and energy into people or things that don’t make me happy.”

Visit FLOWERBX.com​

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