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10 Top Beauty Blunders to Stop Making Now

Expert solutions to common makeup mistakes

Woman using makeup brush in front of mirror
Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

Want winged eyeliner? Sculpted cheeks? Microbladed brows? Women age 50-plus are turning to YouTube and TikTok makeup tutorials to update their looks. But beware: Trendy videos ignore realities like hooded, saggy eyelids, brown spots and wrinkles. Confused about what to do and what not to do? Here are tips from makeup artists Sandy Linter (who works with glamazons Christie Brinkley and Elizabeth Hurley) and Nick Lujan, director of artistry and education for Kevyn Aucoin Beauty, and, of course, beauty-editor me. Do your face a favor and stop:

1. Getting dramatic microbladed brows

Tyra Banks (left) and a woman getting microblading procedure performed on her (right).
Tyra Banks (left) and a woman getting a microblading procedure performed on her (right).
Steve Granitz/WireImage; miljko/Getty Images

It’s all about brows, right? Microblading, a semipermanent form of tattooed makeup, creates Instagram-worthy brows in two hours. However, you’re at the mercy of the technician’s skill, taste and experience. Many inked brows are too dark, too thick or severely arched, so they look cartoonish or theatrical on mature faces. “Harsh dark brows are aging so aim for a natural look and color,” says Linter. “Sometimes the operator goes too dark claiming the brows will last longer, but when new brows fade (and they will) a DIY daily touch-up with brow makeup is simple because the shape remains as a guide.” Check before-and-after photos of clients over 50 and ask for the intended brow shape and color to be penciled on for a look-see before agreeing to go to ink.

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2. Choosing the wrong foundation color

(Left to right) Sharon Stone, Sigourney Weaver and Nia Long
(Left to right) Sharon Stone, Sigourney Weaver and Nia Long
VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images; David Livingston/Getty Images; Leon Bennett/Getty Images for EBONY MEDIA GROUP

Despite extended shade ranges many older women still end up with face makeup that’s too pink or somehow “off” in color. Online shade quizzes, swatches and undertone guides only add to the confusion since mature faces are often multiple hues from age and sun damage. There are two foolproof tricks to help you get a flattering match for your skin. First, go one shade warmer or deeper than you’d normally choose. (Shade names with the actual words warm, golden, caramel or honey are a tip-off.) This will immediately counteract any natural redness in your skin (from rosacea to broken capillaries) and add a healthier look to pallid, ashy, stressed or sun-damaged skin. If your body is darker than your face (even slightly!), match that new warm foundation to your upper chest — not your jawline — for a seamless, uniform shade that works with bare necklines.

3. Using too much concealer

(Products from left to right) e.l.f. Hydrating Camo Concealer; L’Oreal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Concealer with Hydrating Serum; Kevyn Auction The Etherealist Super Natural Concealer
(Products from left to right) e.l.f. Hydrating Camo Concealer; L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Concealer with Hydrating Serum; Kevyn Aucoin The Etherealist Super Natural Concealer
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images; Target; Kevyn Aucoin; CVS

Concealer is one of those “desert island” essentials women count on. It can effectively delete under-eye shadows and a fatigued look, but the wrong color or application can also make things worse. “Using too much concealer points out what you’re trying to hide,” says Linter. “You don’t need more concealer — just the right shade, texture and placement.” Opt for one with a luminous silky texture such as the e.l.f. Hydrating Camo Concealer ($7, target.com), the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Concealer with Hydrating Serum ($15, cvs.com) or Kevyn Aucoin’s The Etherealist Super Natural Concealer ($30, kevynaucoinbeauty.com). Apply it incrementally and blend as you go starting at the inner-eye divot where discolorations are darkest (not the usual half-moon shape beneath the eye). You can always add more. “Always apply foundation first,” notes Lujan. “You’ll find you need less concealer.”

4. Contouring your face

(Left to right) Jaclyn Cosmetics Rouge Romance Cream Blush Stick; Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer; Jones Road Beauty Lip & Cheek Stick
(Left to right) Jaclyn Cosmetics Rouge Romance Cream Blush Stick; Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer; Jones Road Beauty Lip and Cheek Stick
Ulta Beauty (2); Jones Road

Shading the face to create a more chiseled look is new to the selfie/Kim Kardashian era, but it’s an old story to women 50-plus who remember the beige and brown shaping powders of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. But what looks good in photos and on social media, often looks too obvious in real life. Instead of contouring, use bronzer and blush to warm up the skin and subtly enhance your bone structure. Linter says bronzer “has real value for those who want a sun-kissed look now that women are wearing high SPF sunscreen daily.” Use a bronzer such as the Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer ($34, ulta.com) for a sunny, tanned effect on cheekbones, forehead and the bridge of the nose. Apply a blush like the Jones Road Beauty Lip and Cheek Stick ($34, jonesroadbeauty.com) or Jaclyn Cosmetics Rouge Romance Cream Blush Stick ($22, ulta.com) in a clear shade of pink, rose, coral or raspberry to energize your face and give it a fresh, healthy look. And yes, you can opt for one or the other or layer blush over bronzer. Whichever you choose, keep the color high on the cheekbone for a gentle visual lift.

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5. Playing up eyes and lips

(Left to right) Shohreh Aghdashloo, Sandra Bullock and Sarah Jessica Parker
(Left to right) Shohreh Aghdashloo, Sandra Bullock and Sarah Jessica Parker
Laurent Viteur/Getty Images; Dave J Hogan/Getty Images; Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Resist doing the full face of makeup with smoky eye and colorful lip that many tutorials suggest. It looks overdone and “painted” on women 50 and older. Makeup is an opportunity for a little self-love and beauty positivity, so choose eyes or lips ... not both. “Whichever you are emphasizing with makeup — eye or lips — it should be your best feature,” says Linter. If red lips are your focal point, opt for a low-key neutral eye makeup; if eyes are the “star,” dramatize them with liner and shadow and keep your lips soft and neutral.

6. Not blending enough

(Left to right) Julia Roberts, Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren
(Left to right) Julia Roberts, Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images; Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images; Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Almost every woman 50-plus who wears makeup has (or should have) a magnifying mirror. At times the mirror is crucial, like when you need to apply eye liner, cover a blaring brown spot or pimple, or pluck a random chin hair. The one mistake women make is not checking their look from a profile view in a full-face handheld mirror too. Even the most spectacular makeup falls flat when you’ve neglected to blend the edges of foundation at the borders of the face, jawline and ears. You never want to see where blush, bronzer, eyeshadow or brow makeup end either. Blend, check, blend again and do a final check in daylight in front of a window.

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7. Going too matte, dewy or shimmery

(Left to right) Garcelle Beauvais, Christie Brinkley and Jennifer Lopez
(Left to right) Garcelle Beauvais, Christie Brinkley and Jennifer Lopez
JC Olivera/WireImage; Pierre Suu/GC Images; Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival

Balance is key, say the pros. “Matte makeup can be tricky on mature faces,” says Linter, “but so can very creamy ones that end up looking like Crisco.” Lujan agrees: “Powder finishes and matte textures can be your best friend and worst enemy at 50. They can reduce the appearance of lines and a bumpy texture, but only if combined with hydrated, nourished skin.” There’s a simple recipe that many of our peer celebs follow to give you an idea of what to do. Pair matte liners and shadows — which do a great job of defining eyes and camouflaging crepey lids — with more radiant, dewy, creamy face makeup and lipstick.

8. Opting for dramatic winged eye liner

(Left to right) Regina King; Allison Janney; LoveSeen Featherlift FERN False Eyelashes in Brown/Black
(Left to right) Regina King; Allison Janney; LoveSeen Featherlift FERN False Eyelashes in Brown/Black
JC Olivera/FilmMagic; Steve Granitz/FilmMagic; Target

Trendy? Stagey? Sure, but the look is not the best bet for mature eyes with droopy or hooded lids. A cat-eye look requires smooth lids with no overhang for liner to get that upward wing at the outer edge. Instead, power up your eyes with a black pencil liner (not brown or gray) to emphasize eye shape, some soft shadow above and below, and add a better kind of swoop with a strip of flared false lashes such as the LoveSeen Featherlift FERN False Eyelashes in Brown/Black ($16, target.com). It’ll deliver that extra lift you’re after. For additional definition, line the waterline (the inner rim above the bottom lashes) too.

9. Skipping skin prep before makeup

(Left to right) Milani Face Primer with SPF 30 - BFF 120; Smashbox Photo Finish Primerizer + Hydrating Primer; Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer - Illuminating
(Left to right) Milani Face Primer with SPF 30-BFF 120; Smashbox Photo Finish Primerizer+ Hydrating Primer; Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer-Illuminating
Target; Sephora (2)

Many women apply foundation on skin that’s free of moisturizer. “That’s a recipe for disaster and a lined, patchy, cakey result,” says Linter. “Applying moisturizer to fresh skin just before makeup makes color glide on and provides a baseline glow so the makeup never looks overdone.” Take note: Moisturizer and primer are not the same, and you can benefit from using both. Moisturizer that hydrates and plumps up lines goes first. Primer goes next to create a smooth, even surface (like priming a wall before painting!) and prevent makeup from settling in lines and creases. Skin at 50-plus is often a bit dry and textured, and it benefits from a hydrating primer such as the Smashbox Photo Finish Primerizer+ Hydrating Primer ($42, sephora.com), an illuminating primer like Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer-Illuminating ($42, sephora.com), or one with an extra dose of SPF like the Milani Face Primer with SPF 30-BFF 120 ($11, target.com). Don’t worry, they’ll also take care of enlarged pores in the T-zone without resorting to an oil-absorbing formula designed for younger complexions.

10. Exaggerating lip shape and size

(Left to right) Kris Jenner, Angela Bassett and Meg Ryan
(Left to right) Kris Jenner, Angela Bassett and Meg Ryan
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images; Steve Granitz/FilmMagic (2)

Like microbladed brows and contouring, the trend for injectable lip filler has inspired lip-enhancing makeup tutorials. Women 50-plus are no strangers to this concept. Remember the stinging cinnamon plumpers, gloppy glosses and brown liners that left a messy residue on coffee cups and phones? Instead of faking a bigger kisser, highlight the size and shape of the mouth you have — whether plump or thin, small or generous — rather than trying to change it. Lujan suggests you “use a shade of lip pencil close to your own natural lip color and follow your natural shape but gently spill the color slightly over the edge of the natural lip perimeter.” Some lips are mauve, others rosy or brownish. Find the right shade, line the border and fill in the entire lip to crisp up the structure and provide a base for lip color. Top the liner with a near-match neutral “nude” lipstick.

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