May 11, 1998 12:00 PM

The 20th-anniversary rerelease of Grease slid into multiplexes earlier this year, and we’re still hopelessly devoted to Olivia Newton-John. To be sure, the Aussie-bred 49-year-old has a few tiny lines around her Pacific-blue eyes, but her flawless complexion and the bright smile that made wholesome hot in the halls of Rydell High still radiate youth. “Olivia looks better now than she did then,” says Grease producer Allan Carr. “You can’t believe her chronological age in comparison to how she looks.”

But she has learned a lot in the last two decades. A high-profile spokeswoman for breast cancer awareness, Newton-John, a survivor of the disease who was diagnosed and treated in 1992, says that her experience has “affected me on every level. I think it has made me appreciate the day, no matter what the day is.” Though she tries to stick to a diet of mainly tofu, veggies and rice, she has relaxed her once-obsessive ways. “I think if you’re fanatical, you don’t enjoy life,” she says. “I’ll eat red meat on occasion if my body tells me I need it. I was vegetarian for a number of years, and I got very weak on it. It obviously wasn’t right for my body.”

Some things that are right include sunblock and eye cream. And the 5’6″ Newton-John, whose first album in four years, the country-flavored Back with a Heart, comes out this month, soaps up her fine features twice a day. “I had pimples into my 20s,” she says, “and I still get them occasionally. No matter how tired I am, or how late it is, I’ll always wash my face before going to bed.”

Divorced since 1995 from actor Matt Lattanzi, Newton-John lives with daughter Chloe, 12, on the beach in Malibu, where she runs daily through the nearby hills with her three dogs to keep her figure trim. But she credits nature for keeping her young. “I think it’s just genetics,” she says. “My mom [Irene, 84, a former corporate publicist] still looks good.” With the big five-o looming in September, she says, “The way I’m looking at it is, ‘Wow, I got to 50, and I feel good and I look reasonably good.’ ” And with Sandy-style exuberance, she adds, “I’m going to party around the world!”

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