I started teaching makeup application in the early 80’s. I was living in Canada at the time, working as a Training Manager for Estee Lauder. For those of you who prefer visuals to statistics, we established the first Clinique counter in Western Canada. (Yes, I’m that old.)
30+ years later, having applied makeup on hundreds women of all ages, a few truisms have become apparent. One of the most important lessons in makeup application is that age is a factor. Simply put, you cannot wear the same makeup, in the same way, for your entire life.
We all get into beauty ruts. Routines that have served us well for years, that we’re comfortable with. When you do the same thing over and over for years on end, you naturally get it down to speed-dial status. If you’re cleaning your bathroom, this is good. But makeup suitable for a college student will make even the most beautiful midlifer look 10 years older.
A perfect time for a makeup overhaul is around age 50. After that fabulous birthday bash is over, the bleary-eyed guests have all gone home, and the what-was-I-thinking hangover is blessedly behind us, it’s time to look in the mirror and accept that we are no longer able to pull off this year’s trendy blue eyeshadow or our favorite deep-red lipstick that we’ve worn since we were 30.
Department stores are a great place to test new products and colors, but women are often put off by the aggressive upselling from heavily made-up, commissioned, teenage sales girls. And it can be awkward having your makeup redone by Goth Girl in the middle of the cosmetic department during lunch hour traffic.
So, after three decades in the industry, I thought I’d share a few tips for anyone who might be confused about what works and what doesn’t after 50. We’ll start with what doesn’t. And you don’t even have to get dressed up or leave your house. Slip on your bunny slippers and your comfiest p.j.s, and grab a latte. Here you go.
1. Heavy foundation. Foundation should never be used as Spackle. It’s purpose is simply to smooth the skin tone, not fill in crevices or conceal menopausal acne. If you can’t find one that goes on like a second skin, you need a new skin care routine, not a new foundation.
2. Foundation in the wrong color. I see this one a lot. Women who want to look more tanned get a darker color that doesn’t match the rest of their body, so their face always looks dirty. Too orange, and you look like an oompa-loompa. Too much pink looks chalky. This is where you’ll want to spend a little money and get professional advice. Unfortunately, you won’t find this in stores that end in the word “Mart.”
3. Skipping the blusher. As we age (don’t we hate that expression?), the “bloom of youth” wears off, and we look washed out, less vibrant. Pale skin, lacking any visible blush of color, can make you look cadaver-ish, lacking a healthy pulse or discernible blood flow.
4. Too much concealer. Packing on the concealing stick underneath your eyes, trying to hide puffiness or dark circles, draws attention to this area by settling into expression lines around your eyes like bathtub caulking.
5. Dark lipstick. In your 20s and 30s, dark lipstick can look chic and sophisticated. After 50, it tends to look bitchy. It also picks up yellow in your teeth, so unless they’re piano-keys white, don’t even think about it.
6. Eyeliner around the entire eye. This look is hard to pull off after 30. It’s too Biker Chick (and men hate it, btw). By 50, if you have expression lines or eyelid sagging, this will make you look like Jax’s mother on Sons of Anarchy. Leave the “smoky eyes” to your daughter.
7. Too much bronzer. Simply put, your face should not look like it just spent two weeks in Hawaii without the rest of you.
8. Obvious lip liner. This is the visible panty line (VPL) of the face. Fading lip lines can make the lips look thinner, less “lush” (hence the unfortunate Hollywood stampede of the lip injections). Lip pencils are meant to gently define and fill out the lip lines, not outline them in a way that suggests people might not otherwise know where your mouth is.
9. Nude or no lip color. This is a big one. We lose pigment in our lips as we age, making us look pale or tired (read: older). Whether it’s a peachy-pink Chanel lipstick or a sheer raspberry Chapstick, some color to our lips says that our blood is pumping and we’re ready to leap tall buildings. That’s a lot from bang for a tiny little tube of colored wax.
10. Too much powder. Women who routinely “powdered their nose” during the day in their younger years often still do that when they’re in their 50s. It’s time to stop doing that. Repeated applications of powder on skin that is thinner and drier can result in a dehydrated looking, talc-layered face, with powder settled in every line and wrinkle. Remember Great-Grandma Bertha and her delicate, powdery skin? Yeah, we don’t want that.
11. Too much shimmer. A little fairy dust on young girls or glitter on the tweeners is pretty and sparkly and young. Shimmer says “Look at me!” After 50, on our faces, it says “Look at me, with sparkles in my lines! Can you see them now??” In our hair, it says “Look at me, I’m thinning!” Above our boobs, it yells out “Hey, check it out, I’m way down here now!”
So the next time you go to Macy’s or Nordstrom, find a saleswoman who’s wearing makeup you like and ask her to do yours. It can be fun. And you don’t have to buy a thing if you don’t want to.
But a new lipstick can solve a lot of life’s problems.