Wonderful Older Women: Space NK’s founder, Nicky Kinnaird

In the first of a series on inspirational women in the wellbeing business, Jo Fairley learns about the lifestyle and motivation of a true insider, and gets her top tips

In 1993, Nicky Kinnaird – a former chartered surveyor – reinvented herself as the ‘Indiana Jones of beauty’. She revolutionised the way we shop for skincare and make-up by bringing together her personal selection of all the beauty finds she had discovered and coveted.

Almost overnight, Covent Garden – location of the first Space NK store – became a mecca for beauty-hounds and a showcase for the exciting brands she’d sleuthed out from around the world, as she introduced us to names such as Eve Lom, Laura Mercier and REN.

Nicky Kinnaird (now an MBE) remains the ‘NK’ in Space NK, jetting between the London and the US, where she has 14 stores, from California to Florida via New York. There are now more than 60 Space NKs in the UK.

So with a transatlantic lifestyle, a career that’s more demanding than ever – and 50 approaching fast – she is a great, glowing role model for women everywhere. I’d expect nothing less from such a savvy businesswoman. So I wanted to find out what makes her tick…

What are your golden rules for growing older?

Lifestyle shows in your face and body, so I am a great believer in working from the inside out as well as the outside in. Regular exercise, healthy nutritional habits, good hydration levels, decompression time and a sound night’s sleep go a long way towards promoting a youthful appearance.

Clear, healthy, radiant skin is something we can all work towards. My advice is to embrace serums, which allow you to target a myriad of concerns: dryness, hyper-pigmentation and brightness. I am also a great fan of Cane + Austin Retexturizing Treatment Pads (£48), which brighten and help even out skin tone as they gently exfoliate the skin using 10 per cent glycolic acid. They also help minimise the appearance of pores and boost radiance, which gives the impression of ‘youthful skin’.

My advice is to also invest in the best eye cream you can. This is where little signs of ageing creep up on us.

Sunscreen should be a separate product, applied every day religiously, rather than relying on what is in your foundation or tinted moisturiser. Don’t think that because it’s cloudy outside, you can’t damage your skin with UV exposure.

Also, there is no question you have to work harder on your nutrition as the years go by. I am a great believer in an antioxidant-rich high-protein diet and I try to stick to New York trainer and nutritional expert David Kirsch’s rule of “If it doesn’t swim, fly or grow out of the ground, don’t go there”,

What about make-up tips?

I would always much rather someone tells me “Your skin looks amazing” rather than “I love your make-up”. It’s a must to pare back the coverage in your foundation: restrain yourself from using skin mattifying powders and focus on sweeping away any tell-tale signs of fatigue. I swear by By Terry’s legendary Touche Veloutée concealing brush (£35).

I like to add a warm healthy glow to my cheeks, define my brows with Kevin Aucoin’s precision eyebrow pencil, use neutral shadows to contour my eyes and a natural warm toned lipstick (or orange-red for evening if I’m playing up my lips). Eyelash curlers make a huge difference and allow you to maximise the impact of your lashes.

How old are you now?

I am 48, and for me, age is simply a number. You are only as old as you feel, look and act. I’m looking forward to my fifties.

Did you have positive older role models when you were growing up, and what did you learn from them?

My father instilled in me a strong work ethic and a questioning mind. We were fortunate enough to travel extensively, and spent three months of each year living in the Valencia region of Spain.

My parents felt it was important to immerse us in another culture. As a result, European perfumeries and pharmacies and their service culture influenced me hugely in the creation of Space NK. We remain a very close, sporty family, constantly competing against each other but always in a healthy way.

What are the five skincare or make-up products you can’t live without?

• Eve Lom Cleanser (£40 for 50 ml)

• By Terry Baume de Rose SPF, an amazing lip-smoother and protector (£35)

• Zelens Triple Action Eye Cream (£75 for 15 ml)

• Life NK Japanese Wash Cloth (£18), a brilliant body-buffer

• Beautannia Bloomsbury Body Lotion (£35 for 350 ml)

You still travel a huge amount, opening new Space NK stores and sourcing products. How do you deal with jet-lag, and what’s in your in-flight kit?

I start from the inside out, abstaining from alcohol, tea and coffee, and I drink 1.5 litres of water during the flight. I add a sachet of David Kirsch Calming Bubbles – a vitamin and amino-acid blend designed to ease stress – to my first bottle of water; I find they make me sleepy. I always decline the in-flight meal and snack instead on celery sticks, carrots and raw almonds. Or I mix up a nutritious blend of David’s Vanilla Protein Meal Replacement Powder together with a sachet of his Super Greens, from the Ultimate Detox Kit (£78).

I always exercise on the day I arrive at my destination. I find I acclimatise faster when I get the endorphins flowing. Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax and Revive bath and shower oils are my travel companions (each £37 for 55 ml). The former acts like knock-out drops and the latter put a spring back in your step.

If my eyes appear puffy upon arrival and I have a meeting, I apply a thin layer of Eve Lom Rescue Mask (£35 for 50 ml), around the eye area for ten minutes and rinse off. More often than not I find I’m totally de-puffed!

Kevin Aucoin Volumizing Mascara (£20) is also a travel must-have. This Japanese formulated mascara is the only one I’ve ever found that doesn’t leave eyes red after flying. It shrinkwraps your lashes, never flaking or smudging, and when you want to remove it, you can do so with plain warm water.

What’s a typical business day?

I get up early, around 6am, and head out to exercise. This is ‘me time’, when everything else is put on the back burner. Then it’s a protein shake for breakfast and off to work.

No two days are the same. It could be learning about new products in development, meeting a journalist, touring stores, preparing for in-store appearances, holding a customer masterclass or writing my blog.

Since we launched Space NK in the US my time is split between London and New York. We now also have Beauty by Space NK shows on QVC in the US, which can dominate my schedule.

How do you relax?

I love playing tennis: hitting balls for an hour with a pro gets rid of any built-up tension. A deep tissue massage never goes amiss either. I am an avid reader, see a lot of art exhibitions and enjoy good theatre.

Why do you love the beauty industry?

I guess I was simply born curious. I love innovation, working with and being educated by some of the world’s leading experts in the fields of beauty, health and fitness. We can go a long way to transform the way we look and feel with expert advice and the right products to hand.

What’s the one thing that would make your life better or easier now?

A 26-hour day. One can but dream…

What would the Nicky Kinnaird of today tell her 20-year-old self?

Grooming is not a frivolity, particularly in this economic climate. Judgement is too often made on a first impression, so being mindful of your appearance shows that you care.

Nails can be a turn-off or turn-on, so ensure they are tidy and appropriately manicured. Invest in a pot of By Terry’s Baume de Rose lip treatment (see above) and apply it daily after brushing your teeth to keep dry chapped lips at bay.

Start using eye cream at the first signs of dryness, apply SPF30 sunscreen every day and wear sunglasses when the light is bright, to avoid squinting. I would also say: think about body care all year round; scrubs and lotions are not just for skin-baring warmer months. Appreciate your fast metabolism but start thinking about what you are putting into your body. And keep up your daily exercise regimen: it can be a great de-stresser when the going gets tough.

My 20-year-old self might have thought all that boring – but it’s great advice!

Even, I would add, if you’re 50-plus…

All Nicky’s product recommendations are available at Space NK and on its UK website