The fashion designer Norma Kamali stays young in looks and spirit, but not for lack of effort. Ms. Kamali, who is best known for the archetypal sleeping-bag coat that debuted in the mid-1970s, is serious about her skin care — her wellness line, Normalife, was introduced last year — and, perhaps more important, about her diet and fitness regimen. She details her philosophy of “aging with power” in her new wellness book, “I Am Invincible,” out this month, and shares some of her secrets below.
Skin Care Simplicity
I’m 75 now. My routine is pretty simple. I have three steps I do every day and night. It’s clean, exfoliate and put on some of my Normalife Glow, which is a moisturizer and tanner in one. As you get older, you realize less is more. They have to be really great products, of course, but you don’t need so much.
I actually don’t use eye cream. I use my moisturizer for everything. After all these years of using 59 million products, I realized that from a sustainability point of view, having just a few products do all of these things is pretty wonderful. I think of my mother. My mother used Pond’s Cold Cream, and she had the most gorgeous skin. She never washed her face with soap, ever. She used Pond’s to take off her makeup and to moisturize her skin.
As far as SPF goes, I have issues with some of the ingredients. I use only mineral-based SPFs, and I think the ones from Europe are quite good. I also like the Pipette Mineral Sunscreen. But I’m not using SPF every day.
I’m aware that I’m going against the current with that conversation. If I’m on a boat, then, sure, I’ll put it on. But I wouldn’t do it every day. I don’t feel good about putting that kind of stuff on my skin when I’m taking such good care of it in every other way.
It’s shocking I even have eyebrows because I shaved them for many years. I was really out there with makeup. I used to wear red nails and red lips. I did eye shadow all the way up to there.
Now it’s very low maintenance. I tweeze and let the natural shape go and brush them up with NYX Tinted Brow Mascara in Brunette. I use a little mascara — currently I’m using Cover Girl Exhibitionist Mascara in Black Brown. Sometimes I wear a little liner but mostly not.
Then I use Hurraw! It’s a plant-based balm, and it comes in different flavors. This one is Cherry, and I do it on my lips. It’s a translucent stain. Then I put it on my face, my cheeks. It’s just the right shade of pink. I also use Glow if I’m going out. It develops more as the night goes on. I put it everywhere except under the eyes. I’m Lebanese and Spanish so we have circles there. Sometimes I use Glossier Stretch Concealer in G10, especially in the winter, to counteract that.
I still dye my hair. My whole conversation is about aging with power, and people say to me, “Why don’t you wear your hair gray?” I just don’t feel gray. I feel this. Gray hair is a whole other commitment, and I would immediately put color on the ends, and I’d just look like a fool. I have this amazing woman, Afaf Benjelloun, who approaches color from a safety perspective. Ammonia really gets to me. She uses dyes that are ammonia free.
With shampooing, the secret is less is more. But the truth is, because I work out a lot and sweat like crazy, I have to do something. I rinse my hair, but I might only put on conditioner. I like the Moérie Mineral Hair Growth and Repair Mask for that.
If I’m washing, I do the Moérie Mineral Hair Repair Shampoo. I’ve stopped blow-drying my hair — I used to blow-dry and iron everything — but now I have to figure out what my hair wants to do. It wants to frizz up even though my hair is straight.
So I have an oil — May11 Hair Oil — and I put on the teeniest amount. Actually I put it on before I go into the shower. I just rub it in and put on a shower cap, and that limits my frizzies. If it’s really humid out, you can put it on again. Sometimes I take a little oil and put it on my ends, wrap my hair and sleep with it on.
I cut my bangs myself, and I haven’t cut my hair since before last March. I’m going to wait until Covid is over and then celebrate by cutting my dead ends off.
I love having a scent that’s calming, like you’re floating on a cloud, on my pillow. I don’t use candles. I use oils that I experiment with. Patchouli is always a favorite, and I love rose and lavender and gardenia.
Diet, Fitness and Sleep
Working out and having a good diet — it’s the biggest self-esteem booster you can have. More than any beauty routine, to be honest. As you go through the decades, there are demands on the body and mind. You can’t cheat that often.
My thing is if I see bread, I need olive oil, and I eat the whole loaf. And I have been known to do that. But I do it only one day. I’m not a drinker. I made a choice to part ways with alcohol in my 40s. Drinking alcohol is like drinking sugar. Sugar is not only not healthy but extremely aging. If I’m going to drink and have sugar, I’m going to age really quickly.
Working out is also critical to good skin. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise. It’s blood flow. If you exercise every day, you’re doing yourself a favor. The thing I love the most is freestyle dancing. I just love it. If there is good music, hours could go by. To me that’s a great way to work out. But I feel like I’m not really working out unless I do something else with it.
The Physique 57 method is so effective. You can design the body you want. There are some intense classes, and I watch on demand. I’ve also tried Alo Yoga classes on demand. I love working out, it’s important for my head. All these Zoom meetings where I’m sitting on my butt are not making me happy at all.
And then sleep is incredibly important. Probably out of the pie of sleep, diet and exercise, sleep is 50 percent of the pie. Your sleep is restoring everything that happened to your body, every cell in your system. The healthier you are, the healthier you look. And if the authentic you can look really good without makeup, that is incredibly empowering.
I have veins that you can see on my face, and I get them zapped at the dermatologist. I also do acupuncture face-lifts. I swear by them. My friend gave me the name of a doctor, Dr. Jingduan Yang, who’s based in Philly. We ended up writing a book together. It’s not about pulling your face way back. It’s about looking fresh, like you just went on vacation. I haven’t been able to do it with Covid, which is driving me crazy.
As long as it’s not permanent, I’ll try anything. I’ve tried Botox, I’ve tried the micro-needling and the blood facial called PRP. I’m OK with lines and crevices in my lips. I haven’t done filler for those. I once posted an Instagram photo of myself, and this girl messaged me: “I know how to get rid of the lines on those lips.”
I’m not against any of that. If there was something amazing that didn’t make me look like I was in the witness protection program, I’d try it. But also if I didn’t have lines on my face, I’d look like a fraud. How does a 75-year-old have no lines?