"Nature gives you the face you have at 20," pioneering French fashion designer Coco Chanel famously once said. "It's up to you to merit the face you have at 50."
Surely she meant "make up," not "merit"?
My face and I have been through a lot: sunburns, skin cancer, Botox, lasers, facials. And almost every wrinkle cream on earth. And though "having some work done" remains a temptation, for right now it's Dr. Makeup who paints my day tighter and brighter. Here are my top tricks to help you steer clear of both scalpel and syringe.
The secret sauce is golden primer. It smoothes lines, fills enlarged pores and imparts a glow to dry or dull skin. When you use a shimmery base like this, makeup glides on and stays put, and you'll no longer hear "You look tired." Choose a gel or serum with words such as "radiance," "illuminating," "glow" or "blur" on its label.
Choose a richer, more yellow foundation. If you go up (richer) by a shade or two, brown spots and redness will blend into your "background" complexion, removing the need for extra camouflage. Skip pink and "neutral" undertones; the warmer your makeup is, the younger you look.
Use a foundation brush. Makeup shouldn't sit on top like a blouse. Instead, use a back-and-forth swiping motion of your foundation brush (like painting a wall) to really work the makeup into your skin. This is a precision tool, and it beats fingers and makeup sponges at producing a seamless look at your jaw, ears and hairline.
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No-no's of the nose. Apply foundation to your entire nose — front and sides, and around and beneath the nostrils. Then work outward from there. The area beneath the nostrils, where discoloration or redness is a given, is the one spot where makeup tends to be most neglected; don't miss it.
Power-line your eyes. First, line your upper lids with a black or brown gel pencil. Then, to achieve intense definition without a hard edge, retrace that line with a black or brown powder eye shadow. Finally — unless your lids are crepey, hooded or saggy — further reinforce these contours by lining the upper inner-eye rims (just beneath the top lash line) with black gel pencil.
"Wiggle" your mascara on … and make it black. Curl your lashes, then roll on black mascara (the only shade that dramatically defines the eyes) from lash roots to tips. A side-to-side, zigzag swipe will deposit color evenly — and leave no clumps.
Use pastel corrector as concealer. A peachy shade neutralizes purple or bluish circles; a pinker one does the same for brown under-eye shadows. Dab the inner-eye pit near the nose and tear duct, where discolorations tend to be darkest.
Move blush up to the cheekbones. Have you heard? "Apples" are out. Because cheeks droop lower with age, it's crucial to blend cream blush high along the cheekbones, then just over the ledge. The overall effect is to restore your bone structure.
Stock up on chunky lip crayons and pencils. I love the idea of whipping out a killer designer lipstick, but the no-sharpener, twist-up drugstore fatties make more sense. The pointed thick tip keeps you from overdoing your upper lip; instead of re-creating fake peaks, just round the bow. So go ahead — splurge on low-cost tinted balms; mattes; and moisturizing, sheer and full-strength formulas. As Mademoiselle Chanel herself once said, "You're either remarkable or invisible — make a choice."
For more beauty and fashion tips, take a look inside my book The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love After 50, as well as AARP's new Beauty & Style digital magazine (available on iPad).