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10 Secrets of a Beauty With Brains

Tastemaker Sonia Kashuk shares her makeup tips

Sonia Kashuk

Courtesy of Sonia Kashuk

Sonia Kashuk, 57, is a world-renowned makeup artist with her own product line, Sonia Kashuk for Target.

Sonia Kashuk was a novice makeup artist with no job offers — just loads of talent and self-confidence — when she set out from Minneapolis for Manhattan in 1983. But word of her skills got around fast. So as beauty and fashion director of Ladies' Home Journal at the time, I booked the brilliant new kid for some photo shoots.

Three decades on, Sonia is 57 — and a world-renowned makeup artist with her own product line, Sonia Kashuk for Target. The name represents a recent sale of the beauty brand to the mass retailer, but for now Kashuk has no plans to slow (or settle) down. "I'm rewiring," Kashuk says about her transition, "not retiring."

A few well-known fans of her work (think Debra Winger, Toni Collette and Christy Turlington) have Kashuk on speed dial, so we listened up when the Makeup Maven agreed to share her top beauty tips:

1. Nix the 'tox. Wrinkles? Pishposh. "I just pull my bun tighter," Kashuk says, laughing. The curly-haired pro believes "there's too much dependency on dermatological treatments. And there's way too much filler and Botox going on. A daily hydrating regimen with lots of moisturizer is the secret to fresh, healthy skin."

2. Minimize makeup. So much for the "more is more" approach: "Piling on makeup in a bid to look younger," Kashuk says, "actually has the reverse effect." So keep foundation to a minimum, she recommends, and "be sure to choose the right texture — flexible enough to blend easily with other products, but sheer enough to achieve a radiant glow."

3. Learn to use bronzer and blush. "This combo keeps you 'selfie ready,'" Kashuk says. "It also boosts every mature skin tone, from light to dark." She recommends picking a bronzer shade that works with your real skin tone — "you're not tanning" — then adding blush to keep the look authentic. "It should all melt together in a warm, sunny flush."

4. Ditch the dark. Could now be the time to modify your "smoky eye" routine? "Black liner, precise contouring and dark eye shadows can look muddy and harsh," Kashuk notes. "That's because the eyes become more recessed after 50, developing their own dark shadows. But you can keep the twinkle with a soft, medium shade, such as a shimmery mauve-brown, blended across the lids."

Because she finds that women's lashes "go straighter and droopier with age," Kashuk says that you might consider switching to brown or gray liner. And for a lifting effect, curl your lashes before applying mascara.

5. Just brows-ing! Even if you've never worn eyebrow makeup before, Kashuk points out, it may be "one of those things you need now." Use a brow pencil or powder, she suggests, to "cheat" a slightly thicker brow. This gives the face a groomed, finished appearance. "A taupe-y shade works for all, from blond to brunette to brows going gray. It fills spaces without looking fake." (Just remember to go easy on the stuff, she cautions.) To achieve a soft, natural effect, Kashuk endorses using "a spiral spoolie makeup brush to blend and brush out the color."

6. Test-drive some falsies. False eyelashes, that is. "Our lashes thin with age," Kashuk notes, "and while mascara is great, a natural strip of false lashes is even better." The effect is twofold: Your eyes will look bigger and brighter, while your face will feel "dressed," even with minimal other makeup. "And learning to do them is easier than you think," Kashuk reassures us. "It just takes practice."

7. Keep nails classy. Think about what's going to look sexy on your hands. As Kashuk sees things, that would be deep colors in winter, but "bright, feminine colors" (such as orange or red) in summer. Oh, and in her opinion: "Stay away from crazy colors — like blue!"

8. Pucker up. "Nude lip shades always look amazingly youthful," Kashuk says. "But as lips begin to thin or flatten, a little more color can be very flattering." She waves us off middle-of-the-road shades, however. Instead, "head for a rich pure coral, rose or orange. To add a tiny bit of fullness, cheat the top line with a lip-toned pencil, then soften the line by tapping it with your finger."

9. Shop in stores but refill online. Scouting out new makeup online or in drugstores is difficult, Kashuk acknowledges, because neither allow you to test a product before purchase. "But low-cost cosmetics have really upped their game," she says, "with clean, modern packaging that gives you a clear sense of color and texture." To simplify the selection process, Kashuk suggests examining a product in its store setting. "You can try something once, then — if you like it — reorder it online."

10. Slightly tint your indoor glasses. "I just converted my clear eyeglass lenses to a very light, warm, taupe-y color," Kashuk reports. "It flipped a switch, giving me a modern, updated look." Other shades — pale pink, blue, lavender — are good options, too. "Your eyes stay visible, a subtle cosmetic effect that's super cool."

For more beauty and style tips for women 50+, check out The Woman's Wakeup and AARP's new Beauty & Style digital magazine, which is available for tablet.

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