Just when we got the knack of a matte dark smoky eye and found a full-coverage foundation that covered every skin flaw ... makeup got a makeover. It seems like all the old rules and routines are out, and color, shimmer and sheer are in. But are they for us? I asked four top makeup artists — Jenna Anton, Gita Bass, Laura Geller and Tim Quinn — and the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Here are their favorite 2021 tips and products, plus my own beauty-editor advice and low-cost options, too. Bet you try more than one!
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PHOTO BY: Vitality Institute; Target (2)
1. Add a skin serum to improve your makeup.
If stay-at-home time and maskne taught us anything, it was to get our skin fresh and glowing again ASAP. That's because even the greatest foundation, concealer, blush and bronzer can't disguise dry, rough or fatigued skin. Your big game changer now may be simply adding a vitamin C serum to stimulate collagen and help fade dark spots. “Minimizing discoloration starts with high concentrations of vitamin C to lighten and brighten skin so less makeup is needed,” says makeup artist Gita Bass. Beauty guru Tim Quinn agrees. “Improving your skin care at 50 really frees you to choose skin-enhancing makeups that are sheer and designed to blur imperfections rather than masking them,” he says. “I like the Vi Derm Vitamin C Brightening Concentrate ($88, vipeel.com) to address dull complexions.” For a less expensive option, the bargain-shopper in me suggests you try Olay Regenerist Tone Perfection Serum Vitamin B3 + Vitamin C ($30, target.com) or No7 Radiance + 15% Vitamin C Serum ($20, target.com) under your moisturizer.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Ulta Beauty; Laura Geller
2. Make primer a must.
Don't get too hung up on the word “primer,” though, since this prep product goes by other names. Applied after your last skin-care item but before makeup, it's the layer that adds extra glow, moisture and glide. Makeup artist Laura Geller suggests “the combo of a luminizing primer and foundation with a little pearl in it to minimize the look of spots and discolorations.” Bass says “a hydrating primer also makes foundation and concealer work more efficiently so there's no product settling into fine lines and wrinkles.” My tip: Blend a small amount of primer all over, then wait a full minute before jumping in with foundation or concealer. Try Milani Illuminating Face Primer in Bright Side ($12, target.com), e.l.f. Illuminating Face Primer ($6, target.com), L'Oréal True Match Lumi Glotion Natural Glow Enhancer ($15, ulta.com), or Laura Geller Spackle Perfecting Primer: Original Champagne Glow ($32, laurageller.com).
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PHOTO BY: Nordstrom (2); Target (2); Ulta Beauty
3. Choose luminous foundation and full-coverage concealer.
For years it has been full-coverage foundation and luminous concealer — now it is the flip. That's a 2021 switch right there! “I find a glowy makeup like Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 ($48, nordstrom.com) works best with a full-coverage concealer like Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer Broad Spectrum SPF 25 ($73, nordstrom.com) that sticks well to textured areas but melts into the rest of your makeup with no obvious borders or heaviness,” says Quinn. “Choosing a perfect foundation shade online is easier with sheer textures since the idea is less of a match and more of a blend. In fact, you might have two or even three possible choices.” My beauty-editor options for some others that are wallet-friendly: L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Glow Foundation Normal/Dry Skin ($10, target.com) or Wet n Wild Photo Focus Dewy Foundation ($5, target.com), and bareMinerals BarePro 16-HR Full Coverage Concealer ($25, ulta.com).
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PHOTO BY: Sephora; Target (2)
4. Try a basic brown gel eyeliner.
If you want everyday definition, choose brown — not black — eyeliner. Makeup artist Jenna Anton advises we “leave the extreme looks to fashion magazines and make your eye shape pop with a brown pencil liner like Ilia Clean Line Gel Eyeliner in dusk ($26, sephora.com). It looks great on every eye color; is less harsh than black; and smudged into the lash line from underneath with a coat or two of mascara, it's really all you need for a basic eye. My special no-smears trick is to do eye makeup before face makeup. After applying liner and mascara, squeeze your eyes shut. Clean any smudges with a Q-tip and know your foundation, which comes next, will be flawless.” I'll add that gel pencils sketch on easily with no tugging or drag — even on loose, crepey, sensitive or dry lids. Other choices include Neutrogena Intense Gel Eyeliner in 30 dark brown ($7, target.com) and Almay All Day Intense Gel Eyeliner in deep chestnut ($7, target.com).
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (2); Urban Decay
5. Opt for shimmer shadow and liquid liner to power up deep-set eyes.
Now there's something you don't hear every day. In fact, this tip is also the opposite of what has been advised in the past. Geller recommends using “a shimmery taupe shadow on the lids from lash line to above the crease to push saggy, hooded lids back and bring the eyes forward. Shimmer shadow — not glitter — is surprisingly flattering to lined, crepey lids. Sometimes matte shadow can accentuate it. Go in next with a strong, precise liquid liner to rim the entire eye area, including under the lower lashes as well to bring out eye shape.” My suggestions: Wet n Wild ProLine Felt Tip Eyeliner in black or dark brown ($4, ulta.com), bareMinerals Glimmer Eyeshadow in Celestine ($16, ulta.com), and Urban Decay 24/7 Eyeshadow in Mushroom ($19, ulta.com).
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PHOTO BY: Sephora; CVS; Target
6. Use color and a cat-eye to wake up your eyes.
Swoopy liner and colorful eye makeup are all over the internet and social media. Those extremes are not for most of us, but if you're trendy enough to try something new then Quinn suggests an easy way to adapt these looks at 50-plus with a few eye pencils. “Apply a colored pencil liner — blue, green or violet — at the top lash line and add a brown or black pencil liner close to the lash root, like Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N’ Kohl Eyeliner Pencil in Barbarella brown or bedroom black ($27, sephora.com),” he says. “Keep the neutral dark line strong, the color line blurry and blended out. This is a minimalist look — so the lid itself is bare. For extra lift and a trendier look, try winging the outer line slightly up for a lift in a modified cat-eye.” Try this with NYX Professional Makeup Epic Wear Liner Stick in aqua, green, teal or turquoise storm ($9, target.com) or Revlon ColorStay Eye Liner in sapphire, jade, black or brown ($9, cvs.com).
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (2); Rodan & Fields
7. Use a tinted gel to fill and groom brows.
One thing's for sure. We can't create big, thick brows from thin, sparse or misshapen ones — no matter what anyone says. However, our pros do say we can give the brows we have a more lush, filled and healthy look with a mascara-like tinted brow gel. It fills spaces and coats white or gray brows in a couple of sweeps. “A tinted conditioning brow product like Rodan+Fields Brow Defining Boost ($112, rodanandfields.com) nourishes brows and gives them a fluffier look while adding color to white or gray hairs for a more blended effect,” says Bass. “I go a shade lighter for brown hair, a shade darker for blond hair. Be sure to brush brows up and snip wiry brow hairs that extend beyond the top brow-line, and use a mascaralike gel wand to tame them in place.” That's a faster solution than layering on powder and pencil for sure. Try affordable options — such as Benefit Gimme Brow + Tinted Volumizing Eyebrow Gel ($24, ulta.com) and Anastasia Beverly Hills DipBrow Gel ($20, ulta.com) — for similar brow tinting, conditioning and lift.
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PHOTO BY: Target; Nordstrom (2)
8. Brush on bronzer to warm and illuminate your skin.
In the spirit of all new things bright and glowy, bronzer, blush and highlighter have joined forces in lighter multitasking formulas from powders to creams that just give skin a lit-from-within warmth. “The trick here is to use a bronzer compatible with your skin texture and skin tone,” explains Quinn. “Women with truly dry skin do well with creams and liquids; those with normal to oily skin prefer powders, though the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow Contour Duo ($68, nordstrom.com) works on almost everyone. The most important thing is to blur the edges. A world-class actress I work with takes the palms of her hands and presses them over the center of her face when we're done ‘bronzing.’ The heat helps melt any residue seamlessly.” Also worth a try for drier skin is a primer/illuminator like Revlon Skin Lights Face Glow Illuminator and Liquid Bronzer ($12, target.com) or a blush/bronzer like the Stila Putty Blush & Bronzer Duo ($34, nordstrom.com). Quinn advises we also “apply blush after bronzer high up on the cheekbone — not on the ‘apples.'”
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PHOTO BY: Nordstrom; CVS (2)
9. Go hydrating — not matte — for brighter lips.
Funny ... but when looking at all the rosy, red lipsticks around, our first impulse is to reach for a matte lipstick and a lip liner. Who wants messy lipstick? However, a bright lipstick is always a fast fix for Zoom or FaceTime, and who'd turn that down? “There are two low-maintenance ways to go bright — a tinted lip oil like Ilia Balmy Gloss Tinted Lip Oil in Saint ($26, nordstrom.com) or a soft stain,” says Anton. “In fact, you can DIY the latter by applying any high-pigment red lipstick you already own to the center of your lips and brushing the color outward to fade softly at the edges. No liner needed! Both offer a bright pop of color with a softer, more modern look.” I'll add two more comfy choices here: Revlon Kiss Cushion Lip Tint in Crimson Feels or Berry Lit ($10, cvs.com) and L'Oréal Paris Brilliant Signature Shiny Lip Stain Lipstick in Be Powerful or Be Fiery ($12, cvs.com). Good reasons to smile.
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PHOTO BY: Sephora (4)
10. Keep makeup colors in harmony.
One of the biggest mistakes women make when trying new makeup color is combining warm and cool tones without any real strategy. “If you use cool tones on eyes, choose a cool lip color; if you opt for warm tones on eyes, choose a warm lip color,” says Quinn. “Same goes for blush. The one warm item that works for both cool and warm is bronzer. Sounds like a small thing, but it makes a big difference in pulling a look together.” Cool eye makeup colors like blues, greens, purples and chilly grays look best with cool lip colors like blue-reds, rosy pinks, berries and plums. Warm eye makeup colors like golden browns, copper, bronze and terra cotta look great with warm lip colors like orangey reds, peachy-pinks and corals. That's the general idea, although any cool eye shadow color can be warmed up. Layering a sheer gold or soft brown over a violet shadow warms it up, and a cool gray or silvery shadow over a brown cools it down. Try cool colors like Urban Decay Naked Ultraviolet Eyeshadow Palette ($49, sephora.com) and Gucci Rouge a Levres Voile Sheer Lipstick in 403 Love Before Breakfast ($42, sephora.com), or warm shades like Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette ($54, sephora.com) and Gucci Rouge a Levres Voile Sheer Lipstick in 302 Agatha Orange ($42, sephora.com).
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