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10 Makeup Tricks That Always Work

Put your best face forward with these tried-and-true tips

spinner image actress viola davis and actor julius tennon on the red carpet
Actress Viola Davis knows what we're talking about in tip No. 1: Her makeup always looks fresh and flawless, as in this picture with her husband, Julius Tennon, at the Golden Globe Awards in January.
Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

When it comes to the insta-trend world of makeup, there’s security and comfort in knowing what really works — and what’s just hype, media and marketing. As a beauty editor who has spent decades on photo shoots with top makeup artists and A-list celebs, I’ve learned the 10 best tried-and-true tips for women age 50-plus. Despite new brands, formulas, and technology, count on these insider secrets for your DIY routine. 

1. Start fresh

Successful makeup needs to be applied immediately after washing, exfoliating and moisturizing your face. The combo of warm water, facial massage and your choice of cream, oil or serum gets things going by plumping up lines, buffing away flakes and hydrating dry or postmenopausal skin. This means absolutely no gaps between cleansing, moisturizing and applying makeup. To be clear: You can’t wash your face, eat, check your messages, shop online or talk on the phone, and then pick up where you left off. 

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2. Do eye makeup before face makeup

It’s the smart mess-free order. No worries about powder shadow fallout on cheeks or under-eye liner smears that can “dirty” foundation, blush or concealer and require a redo. Prepping lids with a primer or cream shadow first will keep eye makeup fresh and guarantee a smoother, more even application.

3. Brown or black gel-pencil liner powers up eyes

More pigmented than typical kohl pencils, less messy than brush-on gels and more flattering than harsh liquids or markers, these waterproof liners recreate firmer, more defined eyes. Rest your elbow on a table for a steady hand. Look in the mirror, raise your chin and sketch along the base of the upper lid in small back-and-forth movements. Start at the very outer eye and work toward the tear duct, tapering off three-quarters of the way in. Get close to the lash roots as possible to thoroughly fill gaps. The dense pigment (not line thickness) is what produces a strong border. Reinforce eye shape by “tight-lining” the waterline under the upper lashes. Gently press the brow bone to expose the underside of the rim and line. Use a light touch when lining beneath the eyes, or for more drama (especially on deep-set or hooded eyes), line the lower-lid waterline instead. 

4. Splurge on a curler, but scrimp on black mascara 

A quality curler — such as those by Kevyn Aucoin, Shiseido or Bobbi Brown — won’t pinch, crimp or break thin, dry lashes and can last for years. It’s all in the shape, hinge and padding. Position the open curler close to the base of the lashes, slowly close and hold for 30 seconds. Use simple, low-cost drugstore mascara in black like the pros do — no need to spend more, since you toss and renew it every three months. Slowly roll the mascara wand from curled roots to tips with a zigzag wiggling motion so that the heaviest concentration of product is at the base, where it thickens lashes. 

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spinner image actress julia roberts smiling on the red carpet
Actress Julia Roberts is a fan of neutral eye-makeup shades.
Amy Graves/WireImage/Getty Images

5. Use neutral shadows to accent eyes

Natural hues — warm tones for dark eyes, cool tones for light eyes — never fail. There’s no need to do the whole contour deal. But know that a pale, shimmery shadow on lids can add sparkle to tired eyes, a medium shade in the crease and just above it can erase any fleshy overhang and make eyes appear larger, and the darkest browns and charcoals work as a smoky top coat for your gel eyeliner to soften the look or hide squiggles. 

6. Do your brows

Make the effort to fill, extend and groom them (even if you wear bangs or glasses) because brows are key to facial expression. Keep it natural. Use a brow pencil in short, feathery strokes following the direction of hair growth. Then, if necessary, fill in sparse areas with powder, which will cling to the pencil base.  Use a spiral brush or a clean old mascara wand to blend.

7. Go for glow and brightness, not coverage

Face makeup restores radiance and provides a healthy look. Go one shade warmer or more golden instead of a perfect match to counteract sallow, pasty, ashy skin and to neutralize redness or rosacea. Next, choose a foundation with the word “luminous” in the product name to ensure light-reflecting technology that gives your complexion an incandescent bloom — like swallowing a light bulb. Last, choose a dewy and sheer but highly pigmented grownup foundation and get over the not-wearing-makeup thing. Great-looking skin is your biggest beauty asset. And all those matte, powder, high-definition, total coverage or long-wear face products? Forget about them for good.

spinner image actress sharon stone smiling on the red carpet
Actress Sharon Stone knows how to protect her authentic look.
Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

8. Use makeup brushes

Mature skin is textured with expression lines, tiny eye crinkles and bits of brown, red or blue discolorations — and it’s all OK. Even celebs have them — what do you think Photoshop is for? Heavy coverage fools no one; in real life, it just looks caked and faked. Silky synthetic brushes make makeup look skin-authentic. A foundation brush will prevent makeup from settling in crevices and corners. Start at the center of your face and blend foundation outward, fading off toward the jaw and hairline for a seamless application. Use back-and-forth and circular motions and go back over nostrils, under the nose, around the lips and in nose-to-mouth creases, where excess makeup tends to settle. Use a smaller concealer brush to tap-blend camouflage under the eyes, at the inner corner next to the nose and on any specific brown spots, broken capillaries or blemishes that bug you.

9. Blend bright cream blush high on cheekbones

It adds life and energy to your face, blends right into your skin for a natural-looking flush, and pulls attention to the eyes and away from distractions that might disrupt a fabulous look. Choose a vibrant and clear shade of pink, rose, apricot or red, depending on your skin tone. What looks initially startling fades as you tap-blend to melt seamlessly into the skin. Ditch the powder blush.

10. Change up your lip liner and lipstick

Match lip liner to your natural lip tone. Sketch the borders but correct a faded, asymmetric or thinning upper-lip line by slightly rounding the bow instead of drawing two new points. Then fill in the entire mouth with liner as a base to prevent ring-around-the-mouth and lipstick migration into lines. Choose a creamy lipstick — not gloss. If you prefer nudes, skip pale shades for ones to match your lip color and liner. Dare to try a new-for-you shade such as peachy pink, rose or red to play up whitened teeth and your dazzling smile.

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