I have a new favorite habit, and it's a bit bizarre: I sit close enough to my TV screen to check out the makeup of female news hosts and political journalists. High-definition technology reveals all: the good (filled-in brows and perfect eyeliner), the bad (contoured jawlines and creased eye shadow) and the ugly (clumped mascara, or hands and neck that don't match the face).
I've always wondered how the good ones pull it off: Subjected to hot studio lights and heated discussions, why does the makeup of Mika Brzezinski, Joy Reid, April Ryan and Katty Kay never budge, smudge or smear? To find the answers, I went to the pros — and gleaned five tips that should keep you as cool in real life as these ladies do before the lens.
Slow down. Practice may not make perfect, says celebrity makeup artist Sandy Linter, but it hones your technique and skill, enabling you to apply makeup more efficiently each time. And then there's the ticking-clock issue: "Pros who work on media stars never do a rush job," Linter says. "They take enough time to apply, layer and blend. So even if you're just adding a coat of mascara, slow down and get it right."
Clean up the eye area … again. "Of course you remove all eye makeup before you go to bed," says makeup pro Linter. "But you should also be aware there will always be some residue to clean up under the eyes in the morning." And tending to such little details makes a big difference: "Even the slightest hint of mascara, shadow or liner will muddy your concealer, foundation or new makeup," she cautions.
Have a seat. How do public figures get their game face on? They sit in a makeup chair before a big mirror, surrounded by professional lighting. Linter recommends a similar approach for do-it-yourselfers: "Do not stand in front of a bathroom mirror when applying makeup," she urges. "Instead, sit before a double-sided mirror [one side life-size, the other side magnified], preferably one with lights." This shows how you will look in a variety of settings, from daylight to office to evening. Having a counter or tabletop to lean on steadies your hand, too.
Use brushes for a crisp, polished look. The pros know that a collection of makeup brushes is as important as the makeup itself. They make it easy to get into nooks, crannies and creases, and they are the secret to applying, blending and layering makeup for a clean, air-brushed finish that lasts.
Ready to try it yourself? You'll need silky, synthetic-bristle brushes for creamy "wet" makeup, such as primer, concealer, liquid foundation, cream blush or lipstick. For dry makeup such as powder shadows and bronzer, by contrast, you'll need fluffy, mixed-fiber or natural-hair brushes. No matter which type of brush you use, its repetitive back-and-forth motion buffs and blends, filling in pores and expression lines and yielding a smoother look.
Stick to your routine. Using the same products every day is a surefire way to gain control. "Knowing exactly what to expect in texture and color makes application confident," Linter says. "It also ensures consistent results."
For more beauty and style tips for women age 50+, check out The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love after 50, as well as AARP's new Beauty & Style special edition for tablets.