It’s easy to fall into comfortable beauty routines and use the same cosmetics and application techniques year after year. But the face you have at 50 isn’t the same as the one you had even a few years ago, so what worked before may not be enhancing your best features.
“Most of us learned to apply makeup when we were in our early 20s, and all we wanted to do then was look older,” said Ariane Poole, a 66-year-old expert in makeup for women over 50 and the founder of Ariane Poole Cosmetics. “If you tell an 18-year-old she looks 25, she’ll be thrilled. But if you tell someone who’s 58 that she looks 65, she’ll be horrified. We don’t want to look good for our age, we want to look good whatever our age, so it’s important to adapt.”
We talked to professional makeup artists ― all over 60 themselves ― about how they help other women let go of what’s no longer working and try new approaches to stay fresh and glowing. They pointed out some of the most common mistakes they see and offered smart techniques to avoid them.
“I firmly believe you can correct anything with makeup,” Poole said. “You don’t need to pile loads of product on your face, and you don’t need filler and Botox, either.”
When it comes to the five key topics below, take note if you haven’t already made adjustments to the products you’re using and the way you apply them.
If you haven’t used primer before, now is a good time to start. The experts we spoke with hailed it as a lifesaver. “A common problem with foundation is that it disappears within a couple of hours when applied to older, thirstier skin,” said Tricia Cusden, 75, the founder of Look Fabulous Forever. “Eye shadows may crease on crepey eyelids, and lipstick may feather into the lines around the mouth. The solution to all these frustrations is to use primers to help makeup stay put.”
It’s important to reevaluate colors and shades from time to time, too. “The shade you choose should match your neck, not your face,” Poole said. “Test a swatch on your chin and compare. If you feel washed out at first, don’t resort to a darker foundation, but try some bronzer instead.”
Makeup artist Sandy Linter, 76, said that if you’ve gotten used to using powder, you may want to try a reformulation. “I tell my clients they can get a glowier look with a combination of moisturizer, primer and foundation,” she said. If you’ve had bad experiences with foundation before, Linter suggested you reconsider: “Foundations are nothing to be afraid of now, even though they had a bad reputation in the past for being too mask-like. Now there are foundations that improve your skin quality and looks.”
Hair can get thinner and sparser as we age, which can affect the look of eyebrows ― and that has a big impact on overall appearance. “Brows add balance to the whole face and definition to the eye area, so they’re important,” Cusden said. The color you’re using to enhance them makes a big difference, she added, warning against using the same old eyebrow pencil you’ve always used. “Enhancing brows to match one’s original hair color may look a bit heavy,” she said. “If your hair has gone from brown to gray or blonde, then a soft taupe color for brows can look good.”
It’s also a good idea to pay attention to what’s happening with each brow. “They don’t tend to age evenly,” Poole noted. “I recommend using brow pomade or mascara, while noticing if you need more on one brow than another. And remember that the end of your brow should be straight across, not dropping down, which can make eyes seem more hooded.”
Yes, you still can use eyeliner. No, it shouldn’t be black. “Our eyes lose definition and seem smaller as we age, so you definitely need eyeliner,” Poole said. “But it shouldn’t look harsh. Instead of black, opt for charcoal gray or deep navy. Fair skin might do well with muted brown or soft olive. Deeper skin tones look great with navy or deep plum colors.”
Still wondering how to do eyeliner like a pro? Here’s Poole’s tip: “Apply the liner along the base of the top lashes, but stop just before you reach the end of the eye. This helps open the eyes and stops the eye from looking downturned.”
If you’ve been putting concealer on first, it’s time to switch things up and “apply it on top of your foundation or tinted moisturizer,” Poole said. In the past, she explained, concealers tended to be thick and heavy, but they’re now more lightweight. Because of that, you don’t want to displace them when you apply foundation, which is why they go on after.
“And if you’re dry under the eyes, I love using a daytime eye cream, followed by concealer and then foundation,” she said.
Even if you didn’t wear blush when you were younger, you may find it helpful now as your skin tone changes. “I feel that blusher is essential on an older face to restore a lovely healthy glow which lights up the whole face,” Cusden said.
Where should it go? The experts suggested a more thoughtful approach than a quick swipe somewhere between your nose and your eyes. “If you place it too high on the cheekbones, you’ll draw attention to under your eyes and even your jowls,” Poole said. Her suggestion? “Apply it right on the cheekbone, not any higher.”
This might be a good time to toss out your old powdered blush and switch to something dewier. “I prefer a cream-to-powder blush formulation so that you can position the blusher easily as a cream, but then move it with a brush like a powder,” Cusden said.
While Poole prefers applying blush right on the cheekbone, Cusden suggested a more “shaped” approach: “I aim to create a tear-drop shape, but at an angle with the round part on the cheeks and the thinnest point at the hairline, just level with your eyes.” To accomplish this, she suggested starting from the center of the eye and moving down until you can feel the lower part of your cheekbone. “Start to apply the blush there and then, using a brush, blend and sweep the color up towards your hairline,” she advised.
Beauty Is Ageless
Finally, whatever you do, be kind to yourself. “I don’t accept the attitude that aging is some sort of failure of will,” Cusden said. “Everyone gets old, but age is no barrier to fabulousness. Nor does it mean we can’t apply some beautiful products to enhance our looks. I love my older face, because it has all the hallmarks of a good life, well lived.”