More Beauty Search winners Rhonda M. Smith, Shelley Goodstein and Colleen Scholer. Photo: Courtesy of More Magazine

Over 40 can not only be fabulous, but it can by far be the best part of your life.

That's what three women highlighted in this month's More magazine say their stories illustrate -- that like fine wine, life matures into a richer and more satisfying blend. The women -- Shelley Goodstein of Arizona, Rhonda Smith of Florida and Colleen Scholer of Iowa -- are all winners of More's 2010 Beauty Search.

Shelley Goodstein. Photo courtesy of MORE magazine

But unlike your typical bikini-baring and tiara-crowning beauty contest full of tears, More's version searched the nation for readers who look and feel their finest in their later years. Beauty director Genevieve Monsma was one of several More staffers who pored over the more than 2,000 entries in order to pick the final three. According to Monsma, essays ranged the gamut from hilarious to harrowing, with tales of obstacles overcome and dreams born and lived. Yet in spite of the very different stories, one over-arching theme was clear; more than ever, women feel their peak years of enjoyment are reaching far into their golden years.

"Women well into their 60s wrote in and said that life just keeps getting better. They know what works, can afford better clothes and beauty treatments and eat healthier and higher quality food," Monsma told StyleList on set at the winner photo shoot. "There are so many who start a chapter two to their lives after their kids grow up, when they focus on themselves and do all the things they've always wanted to do."

StyleList exclusively joined the three winners for their October cover shoot, where we were amazed by stories of cancer conquered and success through the stress of single motherhood -- all survived and marked by reinventions that left the ladies looking and feeling better than before.

Just five years ago, grand prize winner Shelley Goodstein was in the middle of a messy divorce and jobless with three young children while managing diabetes without health insurance. With the steadfast support of friends, Goodstein landed a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep, which put her on the path to meeting her future husband -- a doctor who is nine years her junior.

The couple fell in love, married, and Goodstein set out to accomplish a dream she has always had: to become an author. That's when the More beauty contest became a serendipitous discovery.



"I was doing online research for a beauty book I'm writing for women when I bumped into the More contest and signed up," said Goodstein. "I can't believe this has happened. Now I want to use my prize money to get this book published!"

Among her best beauty advice for women over 40, the self-described sunscreen addict says to look for products that are specifically formulated for your new needs and concerns. Just because it has worked for you the past 20 years doesn't mean it's the best product for what you're using now.

Rhonda M. Smith. Photo courtesy of MORE magazine

Monsma agrees -- and says that adding what your skin may now be lacking should be the primary goal of both your skin and makeup routines. "Look for products that moisturize at every stage. You want dewy, creamy makeup products. Stay away from thick powders and matte finishes," advises Monsma.

"When applying blush, don't go for the apple of the cheek because it lowers with age. Instead, apply blush on the top of the cheekbone for a lift," advises Monsma. (See more great blush ideas from The Daily Makeover here.)

Yet it wasn't the beauty tricks that lured Goodstein's younger husband in, according to the doctor -- whose tall, dark and handsome looks may sound like a cliché -- but we swear it's the only accurate way to describe him.

"I've never thought of her as an older woman," the 37 year-old told us when asked what he finds most attractive about older women. "But what's fun -- and definitely the sexiest -- is that she knows what she wants."

First place winner Rhonda Smith was enjoying a manicure and the makeup works when she told us about her previous life as an MBA who jammed in 12 to 14 hour days traveling the country to provide consulting services when a stage one breast cancer diagnosis hit. After two surgeries and rounds of radiation and chemo, a cancer-free Smith realized her priorities and quality of life would forever be changed.

"Cancer was one of the best things happened to me. It made me look at my life differently and focus on putting myself first and creating a healthy lifestyle," Smith told StyleList.



Now the creator of breastcancerpartner.com -- a site dedicated to helping women transition back to everyday life after cancer -- Smith says her active lifestyle has her getting more compliments than ever before. "I don't really wear makeup, maybe a little foundation and eyeliner. I find that what really makes the difference is eating organic food, doing a cleansing detox, and taking the time to recover, restore and re-energize -- which is what I teach cancer survivors to do," said Smith.

Meanwhile, an effusively vibrant and smiling Colleen Scholer sat nearby setting in a head full of pin curls -- and we assumed the leggy and svelte blonde surely must be a professional model. But the mom of three says she was an awkward duckling before turning swan-like after the age of 40.

"People would call me the 'tall giraffe girl.' All those things I hated when I was younger -- my oily skin, my long, lanky limbs -- have turned out to be advantages in older age," said Scholer. "My skin has a sheen to it when so many others are dry, and let's just say long legs age well!"



The one beauty challenge the midwesterner did overcome was the all too-common menopausal symptom of drying, brittle hair. Scholer swears by Neil George's Indian Gooseberry Oil, which she works through wet hair and then rubs the extra drops onto the back of hands for healing hydration.

And while the sometime-publicist says she can't live without Bobbi Brown's lip balm, she says the greatest beauty secret of all is your state of mind.

Colleen Scholer. Photo courtesy of MORE magazine

"Stay passionate and interesting to the family and friends around you -- you can always be relevant whether you have wrinkles or not," says Scholer. "This is a time period where women can celebrate their energy, accomplishments and greater comfort in being who you are. It's extremely beautiful."

That's the sense we got from spending an afternoon with the enlivened trio, who were all glowing from the thrill of being pampered and photographed on a professional shoot that was one of the most glamorous moments in their lives -- proms and weddings included.

And when Scholer waved her cell phone in front of our face to excitedly show us the text message her kids had sent that morning from Iowa, we couldn't agree more.

"You rock it, mom!"