Wonderful Older Women: Noella Gabriel of Elemis
November 12, 2012 | By:

Noella is at the forefront of developing innovative beauty treatments and products. Jo Fairley meets her, in the third of her series on the industry's inspirational figures

Noella-Gabriel-ElemisThree cheers for Noella Gabriel. This world-renowned beauty expert and former spa manager has helped lull thousands – nay, millions – of women into a deep sense of relaxation, having created Elemis’s spa and treatment menu. Today, as director of product and treatment development for Elemis, she continues to travel the world seeking out ingredients for the Elemis range, working on every new treatment and product innovation.

Every so often, she also steps back into therapist mode (she studied shiatsu, reflexology and aromatherapy in Ireland and New York) to give beauty editors a hands-on treatment, something which has us clamouring to clear our normally busy diaries for some of the Noella Gabriel magic.

Noella is radiant, healthy and has an ever-ready sense of humour. She takes beauty seriously – but not too seriously. So here’s her take on the industry she loves, with lessons for every wannabe-gorgeous high50 reader. (My tip? Do as Noella says. And as she does…)

What are your golden rules for ageing?

It is important to me to look elegant and graceful with glowing skin. I swim five times a week, in the morning. I’m an early bird! In addition I do two hours of exercise or stretching each week. It is important to me to feel fit; it’s something you really must work at as you age.

I also have a simple daily skincare routine. I oil my body before showering – a lovely tip to maintain suppleness and tone – with Elemis Frangipani Monoi Body Oil. I moisturise daily to avoid the body becoming very dry due to my swimming, and always use oil first then cream.

What’s your skincare routine?

Daily cleansing and toning. I use Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsules with rose and lavender oil to prevent my skin from drying out. I then ‘seal’ with a moisturiser. I use a leave-on cream mask once a week, which is easy and fuss-free. I believe a woman’s best friend as she gets older is oil; I call it ‘my nectar for the skin’.

How old are you now and how do you feel about that?

I am 56 and I do not strive to look younger. I am happy with looking my age. Elegance is important and I am comfortable with how I look.

Who are the women you admire in the beauty industry?

Coco Chanel for her passion and grace and Anita Roddick for her belief and commitment.

Do you believe women have an innate advantage in this industry because we know just what women want?

We live it every day: the hormonal challenges, the stress of perhaps being a working mum, wife and career woman. That makes women the drivers of this industry.

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


• YSL Touche Éclat, £25

• Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick, £32

• Chanel Nail Polish in 18 (Rouge Noir)

• Chanel Chance, £50 for 50ml Eau de toilette

• Bobbi Brown Brightening Lip Gloss, £17


Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, £79 for 50ml

• Elemis Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsules, £62

• Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Mask, from £16.60 for 15 ml

• Elemis Frangipani Monoi Body Oil, £31.50 for 100ml

• Elemis Lime & Ginger Salt Glow, £36.50 for 410g

How do you take care of your overall health?

I eat well and sleep well, but I also have fun. I think laughter is very important!

How do you cope physically with jet lag and what’s in your in-flight kit?

You must prepare for travel, and by this I mean: no alcohol the night before, dress comfortably and loosely and eat lightly. This may sound very boring but I have learned over the years, having done it the wrong way so many times, that it does pay to prepare. And I always try to swim after a long flight.

I think aromatics are very important. Always carry your favourite aromatic to feel fresh and clean. Avoid heavy perfumes and scents. Lip balm is essential, and eye gel, your facial moisturiser or spritzer, and clean hands.

What wisdom have you gained over the years?

I am one of those people who always asks questions and is always looking for answers, within myself or elsewhere. I believe in psychotherapy and have it as a support in my life. ‘Time for me’ to help me stay real, be a good mum and a listening boss. Music gives me my escape. I sing and play guitar; it has always been a passion and source of comfort. I practice yoga and my meditation is a long walk in the countryside with my daughter Kate.

How do you relax?

Music, spending time with friends and family and going to the movies.

Do you have a favourite spa/spa treatment in the world?

I think the thing we remember most after having a spa treatment is not necessarily the treatment or the name but how it was delivered. Any product is only as good as the hands it’s in. I still believe that it’s great therapists who ‘listen to their hands’; that’s what we all remember.

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

Yes, an older sister and a great mum. These two women inspired me to follow my dream and taught me that anything is possible. Beauty products were always in my life; my mum never left the house without her lipstick.

What would the Noella Gabriel of today tell her 20-year-old self?

Never lose sight of the dream! Relax and enjoy; you are ‘enough’.

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

I feel my life is very rich. I have great friends, wonderful work colleagues and a job that I love. I am very happy with what I’ve got.