40 Now! Why It’s Hotter Than Ever

Sheryl Crow, Patricia Heaton, Kim Cattrall and Heather Locklear prove 40 can look luscious. “We don’t have to buy into the old idea that once you’re past 35, you’re over the hill,” says Susan Winter, author of Older Women, Younger Men (Villard). “We can still be sexy and vibrant at 40, 50 and beyond.”

Kim Cattrall: Sexually Satisfied

At 46, Golden Globe Award-winner Kim is a poster girl for the salacious life: She’s got her role as the raunchy Samantha on Sex and the City and her book, Satisfaction The Art of the Female Orgasm, written with husband Mark Levinson, 55. But off-screen, it turns out Kim wasn’t always a sexual dynamo. “Before I met Mark, my real-life experience was very frustrating,” she says. “I realized that most women do not have very happy sex lives, and one of the main reasons is that men don’t know what to do and women don’t know how to tell them.”

How She Does It: Kim’s story is fairly typical. “Many younger women don’t feel comfortable saying what they want sexually,” says Winter. “That takes courage. But as we get older, we don’t have time to edit what we say or play games, so we can bluntly ask for what we want in bed—and get it.” She also believes that Kim’s role may have given her a push. “Parts of a character you’re performing tend to merge with your personality,” she says. “Discovering the Samantha part of herself could’ve been a catalyst for Kim.”

Heather Locklear: Naturally Sexy

Heather’s heat comes from good genes and a great personality. Even though she’s now 41 and the mother of one, her shape is enviable. She apparently doesn’t work out much and admits to a junk-food habit. Her few concessions to aging: She uses sunblock, and takes off her makeup every night. “Everybody makes a big deal of it,” she has said of being sexy at 40. “You know what? I’m alive. I’m still around.”

How She Does It: “If I looked like Heather Locklear, I wouldn’t worry about turning 40 either!” Winter says. “She’ll still be hot at 61, and by that time, the cover story will be: ‘Is 60 sexier than 40?’ It sounds like she’s aware of her body and does what she needs to to keep in shape, but she’s just been blessed.”

Patricia Heaton: She’s Got a Brand New Body

Patricia, now 44, got her sexual mojo back through plastic surgery. “I had four 10-pound boys in rapid succession, and they were all individual C-sections,” she says. “That tends to do something to a gal’s body that’s basically irreversible.” So she had a tummy tuck and a breast lift, and she’s not afraid to talk about it. “I feel very young, I have four young sons, and I want my body to keep up with that.”

How She Does It: “One of the last areas of coming out of the closet, especially in Hollywood, has to do with cosmetic surgery,” says Winter, who commends the Everybody Loves Raymond start for ‘fessing up. Looking good takes some effort— whether it’s gym time or going under the knife. “For most of us, beauty is painful, no matter how you cut it.”

Sheryl Crow: Better with Age

“The older you get the sexier you are,” Sheryl has said. “Wisdom and life make a much more mystical, interesting person.” Having weathered bouts with depression, overworking and breakups, she’s letting down her hair and showing off her toned midriff. “I spend as little time in front of the mirror as possible, and I don’t obsess over age. This has been the best year yet.”

How She Does It: “Dating younger men (like Owen Wilson a few years ago) gets you in touch with your playful, spontaneous self,” says Winter.

40 is sexier than 20 because…

Sex is richer. A woman’s sex drive peaks around 40, and she becomes less inhibited. This is partly because with age, testosterone levels decline less slowly than estrogen levels—and a greater proportion of testosterone to estrogen can boost libido. At 40, your idea of romance is also more realistic. “It’s based on the little day-to-day kindnesses your partner exhibits, rather than grand gestures,” says Winters.

Confidence is real. Younger women feign confidence, but by 40, the self-approval is real.

You live smart. You’ve tried everything and eliminated what doesn’t work. You’ve learned not to deprive yourself, but to eat in a balanced and appropriate way. Or as Pamela Peeke, author of Fight Fat After Forty (Penguin) says, “Women who stay in shape after 40 have learned to trade gulping and overconsuming with tasting and savoring.”