Ever since Bobbi Brown started her own eponymous brand back in 1991, women have been mesmerized by her authenticity and commonsense approach to makeup. The first to do natural-looking “nude” lipsticks, wearable palettes of brown shadows, portable stick foundation and gel eyeliner, Bobbi has changed the way we look — and the way we think about makeup — forever. Although she left the company (now owned by Estee Lauder) in 2016 to pursue other ventures, including a wellness brand called Evolution_18 by Bobbi Brown, she still has makeup on her mind (as evident in her new MasterClass online video course). Here are Bobbi's top tips for women 50-plus in a special AARP Q&A:
What's the best makeup prep for mature skin that's looking dry, lined, tired or just plain blah?
Bobbi: Age really changes your skin texture, often making it much drier, which affects how your makeup looks. Apply a lightweight moisturizer first, and then apply a richer, denser one, or a face oil on cheeks and any other very dry areas. I use the Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, which is $265, or the Apricot Kernel Oil from Whole Foods for $7 as my follow-up layer. Experiment to find your own twosome.
Darker circles are bad enough, but at 50-plus we also have thin, loose, dry crepe-textured skin under the eyes, which makes applying concealer tough. How best to deal with this?
Bobbi: I've always said you need corrector and concealer, and that still is true for aging eyes. Start with a hydrating eye cream on the under-eye area to smooth, moisturize and make up easier. Then apply a pastel corrector — a pink shade for light to medium skin tones or a peach shade for medium to dark skin tones. Be sure to get the inner eye, where discolorations are usually darkest. Then apply a concealer on top that's one shade lighter than your face makeup or skin tone.
Brow makeup is still tricky when your brows are sparse or multicolored (like grey and brown) and you're not a pro.
Bobbi: One product is not enough. A combo of pencil and powder in the same color works best to shape and strengthen brows for a denser look. Start with brow pencil the color of your natural hair, and choose a texture that's dry, not silky, here so it won't smudge. Do feathery hair-like strokes on and between hairs, working from the inside corner out. Next, apply shadow — eye shadow is OK, you don't need a special brow powder — over it with a slanted eye brush to fill and intensify the shape.
Our faces have a lot going on between sun damage, redness, broken capillaries and brown spots, so how much foundation coverage do we choose?
Bobbi: I suggest a tinted moisturizer to give skin a fresh hydrated look, followed by a stick foundation on spots where you need extra coverage. Too often liquid foundations look heavy and masklike on us. The tinted moisturizer gives skin an authentic texture, while the more opaque stick foundation applied only where needed takes care of any redness or brown spots. Be sure to choose a stick shade that's the color of your skin — this is not a concealer — and test in-store to find your shade. A test on your skin is very different from an online color swatch.
What's the most important thing you can do at 50 to define and strengthen eyes that are saggy, hooded or deep-set?
Bobbi: Make sure you wear eyeliner and define the entire upper lid from inner corner to very outside corner. Lining halfway is a mistake lots of women make, and it really makes the eyes look smaller. If your eyes are hooded or saggy, gently pull the lid smooth and start lining from mid-lid to outer corner. Then go back and do inner corner to mid-lid before reapplying the liner the entire length. Go thick enough to see the liner when your deep-set eyes are open. I wear brown during the day for a softer, more natural look, but always black at night. Then add two or three coats of black thickening mascara to finish.
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Should we stick to neutral matte powder shadows or can we play around with cream shadow and trendy colors?
Bobbi: I recommend powder shadow over longer creams since they keep mature lids from looking crepey and lined. My best tip is to use a light shade of shadow all over the lid as a brightening base color. White or bone for fair skin, banana or peachy for darker complexions work well. Then for a basic eye look, blend a medium shadow one step darker than your skin tone, from the lash line to crease. Beige or a soft brown for fair skin, camel or rich brown for darker skin tones are flattering. Avoid shadows with a red or pink tone — they make mature eyes look irritated and washed out.
Does your famous apple technique for applying blush still work at 50 when our faces and cheeks have sagged a bit?
Bobbi: Blush adds a healthy look to your skin, so don't skip it. A cream formula is always better for dry skin since it doesn't settle in lines, but pass on anything with sparkles. Since our “apples” fall lower on the face with age, try my trick. Smile and apply a natural blush from the round apples of your cheeks upward, towards your hairline. The color should be close to the color of your cheeks when you're naturally flushed. Then apply a brighter blush just on the apples for a real pop!
Everyone is talking about “radiance” as the key to a healthy look at 50. What's an easy way to get it?
Bobbi: I like Apricot Kernel Oil, which is $7 at Walmart or Whole Foods, for glow. Just add a few drops to your palm, rub your hands together and pat your face. You can also apply a luminizer product high on the cheekbones over blush, for even more glow.
Are neutrals or bright lipsticks a better choice for women over 50?
Bobbi: It's a personal choice, but the right lipstick — whether neutral or red — will immediately brighten your face. Roses, pinky browns and plums are all good ways to wear a neutral lip with a little more color now, but to find your best neutral, remove all makeup before you shop or test. You want a color that's close to your natural lip color but enhanced — that looks good even on a naked face. If you're lucky enough to look good in a bold red, pink or orange lip, pick your favorite. Just make sure the texture is not too shiny, slippery or greasy — those migrate into lines. I'm a fan of tinted lip balms, too, for those who prefer a more natural, minimal makeup. They're sheer but have intense color.