Drop the sweats and grab your hot rollers. Real-life social occasions are back — along with a bunch of updated solutions for every situation and event. However, unlike Carrie Bradshaw and friends, most women 50-plus have a tough time pulling together a festive look. Here’s a refresher guide to getting there. Now slip your Vax card and mask into your clutch and have a great time.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (2); Target; Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images
1. Do something extra to your hair
It’s your number 1 accessory, but there’s no reason to risk a new hair color or style … or even splurge on a salon blowout. A set of hot rollers or a curling wand or iron will give any bob, layered cut, lob or long hair pizzazz in minutes — and disguise thin locks, dirty hair or a bad cut, too. Try hot rollers like the BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium 20 Roller Hairsetter ($75, ulta.com) for instant volume; a hot wand like the InfinitiPRO by Conair Rainbow Titanium Curling Wand, 1¼ inches ($30, ulta.com) to add soft waves; or a curling iron like the Kristin Ess Soft Wave Pivoting Wand Curling Iron, barrel size 1¼ inches ($60, target.com) for bouncy polished curls. FYI: A curling iron has a clasp and produces defined ringlets, while a curling wand has no clasp — therefore less tension on the hair — and creates looser waves.
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PHOTO BY: Nordstrom; Target; Nordstrom
2. Let a good bra, a bodysuit or Epsom salts help
Feeling bloated or "fat"? Hoping our dress will zip, the blouse will button or the jeans will fit can defy even the best body-positive. Take charge and lay off salt and alcohol the day before and of an event, since both are potent puffers. Try soaking in a warm tub lavished with a generous helping of Epsom bath salts like the Dr. Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt Balance & Calm Matcha Green Tea Foaming Bath ($8, target.com). The minerals help drain excess fluid and deflate swollen areas — breasts, tummy, ankles. Sip some green tea or nibble on celery, parsley or steamed asparagus … all natural diuretics that help flush excess water. Before getting dressed, slip on some sleek black shapewear pieces like the SKIMS Sculpting Snaps Bodysuit in Onyx ($62, nordstrom.com), which comes in regular and plus sizes to smooth the way; or the Spanx Bra-llelujah! Full Coverage Bra in Very Black ($68, nordstrom.com) for lift and shape. Opting for black rather than nude makes bras and shapewear feel sassy and sexy — despite the compression and construction.
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PHOTO BY: Rachel Luna/WireImage; Ulta Beauty (2); Target
3. Keep your skin and face makeup radiant
Put down that matte long-wear foundation and powder. They are fine for youthful oil-prone skin, but they emphasize wrinkles and dryness on us. What you want now is skin that looks hydrated and dewy, even if you’re faking it with makeup. Try a hydrating primer — such as the Milani Bright Side Illuminating Face Primer ($11, ulta.com) or L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glotion Natural Glow Enhancer ($15, ulta.com) — under your usual foundation, or a light reflecting foundation like Maybelline Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation Normal to Dry ($6, target.com). All will plump up lines, blur discolorations and give dry mature skin a fresh, healthy glow. And here’s the best part: A dewy face lets you get away with doing bolder eyes or lips without looking overdone or “painted.”
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PHOTO BY: Target; Ulta Beauty; Target
4. Erase fatigue with eye cream and concealer
No one wants to hear the words “you look tired” — especially when dressed to thrill. Here’s the never-fails plan. Keep your eye cream chilling on call in the fridge and apply it as a prep to soothe, deflate puffiness, reduce under-eye discolorations and help concealer glide on. Choose a creamy wand-type concealer that comes in skin-accurate shades — like the Revlon PhotoReady Candid Antioxidant Concealer ($6, target.com), L’Oréal Paris True Match Eye Cream in a Concealer with Hyaluronic Acid ($12, target.com) or Tarte Shape Tape Concealer ($29, ulta.com). Go warm rather than cool in undertone if choosing between two shades, since a subtle yellow/peachy/apricot tint helps cancel blue/purple discolorations, too. Start at the inner corners near your nose, where skin is thinnest and darkest. Dot on concealer in a wide shallow arc and tap to blend (don’t swipe!) using a damp makeup sponge or eye brush to melt the color seamlessly with your foundation. Dab a little extra around and under your nostrils, where skin tends to show redness, too.
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PHOTO BY: Target; Ulta Beauty (2)
5. Layer your perfume to linger and last
Fragrance is a major mood maker when you’re going out. It boosts your spirits, makes you appealing or memorable to others and can calm you down or rev you up for a good time. Here are three tricks to a longer-lasting scent. Always layer it over a moist base of body cream, since moisturized skin helps fragrance cling. Nothing fancy is necessary — even a basic moisturizer works fine. Amplify your perfume, body spray or eau de toilette by spritzing pulse points and sweaty spots like your wrists, neck, back of knees, inner elbow and cleavage, as well as your hair, bra and skirt hem. Let it settle and resist the urge to rub it in. Your body temperature, natural skin oils and current chemistry (including foods you’ve eaten recently, stress, hormones and medications) all affect how you smell, so steer clear of garlic and the like. Try these three popular crowd-pleasers: Jasmine Rose by Good Chemistry Women’s Eau de Parfum ($25, target.com), Michael Kors Sexy Amber Eau de Parfum Purse Spray ($30, ulta.com) and Miss Dior Eau de Parfum, 1 ounce ($82, ulta.com).
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PHOTO BY: Gareth Cattermole/BFC/Getty Images; Target (3)
6. Try a more colorful lipstick
’Tis the season to try a brighter lip along with that mask-free smile. For those who like a vampy red lipstick, try a moisturizing but transfer-resistant liquid — like Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick by Ulta Beauty in Beso or Fiery ($22, target.com) or Revlon ColorStay Satin Ink Liquid Lipstick in 015 Fire & Ice ($11, target.com) — instead of a traditional bullet style. The refined tip makes impeccable, accurate application (which you do need with bolder shades) easy, and no lip liner required! For those who are lipstick shy or have thin, small lips, try a roll-up pencil crayon with a refined tip like the Maybelline SuperStay Ink Crayon Lipstick in Run the World or Chase Dreams ($10, target.com) to shape, correct and color fearlessly. Softer shades of rose or berry rather than a go-for-it red offer a color boost for those who don’t do red. All of the above give a long-lasting lip that can handle cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and face mask interludes without mess or stress. No more lip pencils, blotting or retouching necessary.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty; Anthropologie; Nordstrom; Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
7. Add sparkling polish and earrings to elevate anything
Nothing reads “festive” like a touch of glitz. Even a come-as-you-are invite deserves a little effort. The most useful extras are simple swaps that pair well with everyday clothes. Trade your usual polish for a sophisticated metallic like the Essie Metallics Nail Polish in Below Zero, For the Twill of It or You’re a Gem ($9 each, ulta.com) — all smokey shades of gray, olive or brown that work with every skin tone and look way more elegant than glitter. Or simply add a pair of dangly statement earrings like the BaubleBar Tassel Drop Earrings in Black ($48, nordstrom.com) or Crystal Fringe Drop Earrings in Gold ($48, anthropologie.com).
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PHOTO BY: Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage; Target (3)
8. Power up your cheeks
Never skip blush. It’s your ally in making mature skin bloom and look warmer and healthier — day or night. Texture, color and placement are very important. Choose a cream (not powder) formula in a radiant pink, coral, rose or raspberry (depending on skin tone), such as the e.l.f. Putty Blush in Turks and Caicos or Bora Bora ($6, target.com), Physicians Formula Dewy Blush Elixir in Apricot Glow or Crushed Berries ($starting at 11, target.com) or MAC Glow Play Blush in 2 Grand or 6 Cheer Up ($30, target.com). Skip the old smile-and-apply-blush-on-the-apples trick; instead, apply it high on the cheekbones. Tap with your fingers to find them.
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PHOTO BY: Sephora; Target (3)
9. Brighten your eyes
Whether caused by computer screens, stress, lack of sleep, an allergy or one too many cocktails, red eyes are something to deal with. They not only wreck the best eye makeup, but they sabotage all your selfies, too. (And these days you can be sure any party, event or dinner out will be documented for social media.) Stay bright-eyed and camera ready with a beige corrector pencil like Essence Extreme Lasting Eye Pencil in Silky Nude ($3, target.com), Tarte Fake Awake Eyeliner by Ulta Beauty ($20, target.com) or Charlotte Tilbury Rock ’N’ Kohl Eyeliner Pencil in Eye Cheat in Nude ($27, sephora.com). Apply it in the lower lash waterline (this is the inner rim just above your lower lashes), and it will cancel out redness and restore a well-rested, wide-eyed look. Be sure to add a few drops of soothing clarifying drops like the Lumify Eye Drops ($21, target.com), as well as your usual eyeliner and mascara for definition and shape.
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PHOTO BY: Bruce Glikas/Getty Images; Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; Karwai Tang/WireImage; Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
10. Dress for a little attention … your way
By 50-plus we all have a personal dress-up style. Some of us prefer leggings and an elegant white tunic top, others an eye-catching dress, a simple white shirt and fancy skirt, a pulled-together pants-and-blazer look or a metallic coat to top off a basic black outfit. Anything goes in our new, fluid dress codes. The big point is to wear something that makes you feel confident, creates a style statement and helps you stand out in the crowd. No need to wear pantyhose or heels ever again. Still, know that wearing white, ivory, gold, pink or red as an accent or outfit lights up your looks like nothing else. Make your entrance and strike a pose.
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.