Skin Stories: A conversation with Denise Boomkens

Welcome to Skin Stories. In this series, we are spotlighting real-life women with real-life skin.


So many of us have insecurities around our complexion and, chances are, it doesn’t live up to the beauty industry’s unrealistic goals (shock). Isn’t it time we start talking about what real skin looks like? Today we are speaking to author, photographer, content creator and age-positive advocate Denise Boomkens. Here’s her skin story.


What does beauty mean to you?

Beauty is very versatile. I think it's boring to have this one kind of perfection and flawless beauty. It’s nice when someone has character in their face. If someone is feeling confident and secure and feeling good about themselves, you see that. And I think that is beauty.


What is your attitude towards ageing?

Things change, but they do not change for the better or worse. It's just change. I think when you accept the fact that you're growing older, and that you're living one stage of your life into the next one, I think it makes everything easier, better and more inspiring. There is no limit to what you can do. You can always change jobs, education, school, husbands – you can do whatever you want.


Since I started my project, Ageing Unapologetically, my perspective on ageing has shifted from night to day. I’ve photographed and interviewed around 150 women along the way, and each and every one of them has inspired me. It's been wonderful.

How has motherhood influenced your perspective on ageing?

I had a great career as a photographer, I travelled the world, and then suddenly I was 38 and I still wanted to have a child. During that time, I went to several hospitals, spoke to several different doctors, and I heard so many times that it was too late to have a child. My eggs were old, I was old, my body was old. Of course, if you look at the fertility of a woman then it is correct. But I really felt like I got a stamp on my forehead:  I am old. Then I got pregnant at 39 and had my son at 40, and I didn't feel like that at all. I didn't feel old or like an older mom. I felt ageless. I had the best time of my life. I felt beautiful. I still feel young at 48.


What message do you hope to pass on to your son about ageing?

My son is eight now and he tells me sometimes, ‘Mom, you have wrinkles’. I always tell him that it’s because I laugh a lot. You make me smile so much that I have wrinkles. I'm happy that I have had a great life and that I’ve collected my wrinkles – I'm proud of them. I want him to know that it is a very normal process, that it's normal to grow older and that there's nothing wrong with your changing body.


What inspired you to start your project Ageing Unapologetically?

After I had my son, I decided to go back into society and find my new place and my new self within it. There was a big hole, there were no magazines representing women my age or older. There weren’t really any Instagram accounts with cool or inspiring women my age. So, I decided to just create it myself. I started this project portraying women over 40, but also over 50, 60, 70 (I even had one lady who was 102), to show the world how beautiful ageing is. How ageless beauty is. I wanted to start a new sort of community with all these women, and also help younger generations of women age confidently and unapologetically.


How do you feel about the representation of women in the media today?

When you don’t see yourself represented in the media, in magazines or on Instagram, it's really hard to find your way. Women are often very modest and they're like, ‘okay, I should tone down because now I'm a little bit older’, and I want to show the world that you don't have to tone down. You can be yourself. I hope and I secretly believe that it's slowly changing for women, and that makes me very happy. We're not there yet, but we're getting there.


Growing up, what was your view of ageing?

When I was young, I had two very important women in my life. One was my mom and the other was my grandmother. And they both had a very different view on ageing. My mom was very relaxed about it. She went with every age, accepting where she was and still is in life. It's nice to see a woman confident and happy with herself. On the other hand, my grandmother feared it. It was sad to see her always clinging on to youth and trying to look younger. So, as a very young woman I listened to both stories and I made my choice to go for my mom's version. You cannot stay young forever.