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10 Makeup Tips for Older Women Skip to content

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Basic Makeup Tips for Older Women

10 secrets from a beauty pro

Mary J Blige and Julianne Moore

Getty Images (2): Aaron J. Thornton/FilmMagic; Stefania D'Alessandro; Steve Granitz/WireImage 

Mary J. Blige keeps her smoky eyes muted and cheats the crease by using a soft gray on lids and just above the eye socket fold. Julianne Moore has matte apricot lips. 

En español | There are thousands of beauty tricks that make a difference in your looks — especially if you’re a woman age 50-plus. But who has time for all that? Let me show you a shortcut to the best of the best. As a beauty editor, I’ve watched top pros use these tips on magazine shoots with grownup celebs and everyday women for decades. They’re timeless and do work. Here are 10 from my greatest hits list. 

1. Test makeup in the right places 

Swipe lipstick on your thumb and foundation, concealer and shadow in the web between thumb and forefinger. No more wiping clean the store tester and applying to your face or the back of your hand, please. Not only is it unhygienic, it’s not realistic. Test on skin similar to the area where the product will be used. The soft, fleshy blue-red pad of your thumb is more like actual lip skin and gives a truer idea of lipstick shade and texture. The web of skin near your thumb is thinner, looser and crinkled — it will show how face makeup or eye shadow will look when applied, blended and worn.

2. Apply skin care upward and outward

It really does help counteract gravity, and it sidekicks saggy skin and deep expression lines. Blend on creams, serums and oils in gentle sweeping movements, working from the center of your face outward. In the short term, it gets the circulation going, helps products melt into skin and feels soothing — in the long term, it minimizes the downward pull. Makeup artists, day spa aestheticians, facialists and the teeny print instructions sheet that comes with luxury face creams wouldn’t have it any other way! Start at the base of your neck and work upwards to the jawline. Then sweep outward along the jawline, from chin to ears, beneath nose to cheekbones to temples, in a big C. Blend eye cream from inner eye near the nose, in a hammock following the under eye. You’re subtly lifting the face as you massage up and out.

3. Apply brow makeup before eye makeup, not after 

Unless you have tattooed or microbladed your eyebrows, or have genetically gifted strong full brows — your own are not what they used to be. Filling and extending your brow shape before jumping to liner, shadow and mascara gives your eye area a brand-new bigger frame. This “window” will affect how much eye makeup you need or want — and maybe it's not as much as you thought. Dark hair? Go one or two shades lighter in brow makeup. Light hair? Go one or two shades darker in brow filler.

4. Start and stop brow makeup where it should

Improving or inventing mature brows is a biggie, but we often pay too much attention to fullness and shape, not length. This is why even “corrected” brows fall short. Line up any pencil vertically from the outside corner of your nose to align with your inner eye corner. This is where your brow should begin. Fill in your brow with small, hairlike, upward pencil strokes, then angle the pencil from the nose to the outer corner of your eye. This is where your brow should end. Warning: Do not follow the downward curve of brow hairs that droop. Instead, cheat the line outward for a straighter look, and pluck hairs that drag your eye down. Comb brow hairs up, and fill from the bottom to top with pencil and/or powder.

Inara Verzemnieks and Judy Greer

Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Author Inara Verzemnieks lets her asymmetrical brows and lips be; check out Judy Greer’s asymmetrical brows.

5. Our faces become more asymmetrical with age. Don’t fight it

By age 50, unmatched features are the norm. One brow may be higher or differently shaped than the other; your top lip may have thinned to a nearly invisible line, while the bottom lip is still pouty. On your face, you may see that one side is more lined and crinkled than the other (usually the side you don’t sleep on is higher, firmer, less lined). It’s all OK. These quirky little “off” things give your face personality and individuality. Don’t strive to mask differences with makeup.

6. A makeup sponge is for adding moisture, not makeup 

Here’s a major secret: Unlike fingers, makeup sponges suck up a lot of face makeup. You end up using more makeup for each application and running out of that bottle or tube very quickly. The more expensive teardrop sponge is trendy, but those triangular ones have been around forever and do the job just as well. Use them to freshen a makeup overdose or retouch makeup during the day or evening. Simply run a makeup sponge under warm water, squeeze out the excess and dab (press, don’t swipe!) your face right over your makeup. It removes any excess color (too much foundation, blush or bronzer, for example) or makeup that has settled in crevices and lines. Carry one in a Ziploc bag in your handbag, and clean it often.

7. Create a new eyelid crease 

Aging eyes are beautiful, but when deep, hooded or saggy, they rob your lids of space. This puts the emphasis on the droopy overhang and diminishes eye size and shape. When applying makeup forget the old rules about using a light shadow on the lid and a deeper color to contour. Instead, go darker on the lids with a medium shade (anything from gray to light brown), and blend it from the lash line straight up and over your real crease to extend above it. Keep the edge of the arc soft. This new fake crease is an illusion that expands lash to crease space, pushes back the overhang and makes eyes look bigger and stronger in shape — even before you get to liner!


8. Work your eye liner strategically

Stop applying liner on autopilot. Vary placement and line thickness according to a specific goal — and this may differ daily. You can, for example: rim upper and lower lids to really emphasize eye shape and draw attention away from underage bags or lines; line the upper lid at the lash roots and beneath them in the waterline to bring deepest eyes out; widen the top lid liner slightly at the outer end to lift the eyes; use a gray or brown liner instead of dark, inky black or chocolate for a softer look; line the lower waterline with a beige eye pencil to cancel out redness. The options are endless.

9. The center of your face is where you need the most makeup coverage

Stop obsessing about those cheeky brown spots — no one else is even noticing them. Start at your nose (bridge to beneath nostrils) and its surrounding area, since this is where redness, dark circles, broken capillaries, enlarged pores require coverage. Apply foundation or your beauty balm/color-correcting (BB/CC) cream in the center, and blend outward from there toward hairline, jaw and ears, sheering the texture as you go. Then for round two, go over the area again, using a foundation brush in a back-and-forth motion every which way, like painting a wall. This forces the makeup and skin to melt together seamlessly instead of lying on top. Aim for subtle coverage with skin visible beneath.

10. Manipulate your same old lipstick’s  texture and shade

You already know lining and filling in lips with a lip-toned pencil will prevent ring around the mouth and hold the color, but you don’t know this: You can turn any lipstick into a more matte or muted one by blotting with a tissue and satin or matte powder — select from pressed to loose, even blush, a peachy, rosy, tawny eyeshadow or bronzer — any kind works. This tip softens the look of too bold bright or deep berry shades, too. Want more shimmer or shine that won’t get sloppy and slimy? Apply your usual lipstick and dab it with a glittery, shimmery powder as above.

For more beauty and style tips for women age 50-plus, check out The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love After 50 by Lois Joy Johnson.

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