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Makeup Tricks for Older Eyes

Celebrity makeup artist Sandy Linter shows easy ways to make your peepers pop


spinner image a woman applying makeup on her eyes
Jason Homa/Getty Images

Eye makeup is DIY magic. In just a few minutes, crepey and tired eyes can look fresher, lifted and wide awake. The truth is that at 50, we could all use a master class in eye makeup. That’s because even eyes that have benefited from a surgical lift, Botox injections to smooth lines, or a diligent use of eye cream will eventually show the effects of genes, sun damage and the loss of collagen and estrogen. I asked legendary makeup artist Sandy Linter (who has worked with Diana Ross, Christie Brinkley, Naomi Campbell and Sigourney Weaver) for her current top tips … and added my own beauty-editor advice. Here are six tricks that will update your outlook fast.

spinner image MAC Pro Long Wear Paint Pot in Painterly; Burt’s Bees Color Nurture Cream Eyeshadow in Caramel Buttercream; Revlon ColorStay Creme Eyeshadow in Creme Brulee
(Left to right) MAC Pro Long Wear Paint Pot in Painterly; Burt’s Bees Color Nurture Cream Eyeshadow in Caramel Buttercream; Revlon ColorStay Creme Eyeshadow in Creme Brulee
MAC; CVS; Walgreens

1. Prep lids with primer

As eyes age, eyelid skin — which is extremely thin to start with — can go slack and look rumpled or pleated. “Everyone seems to have crepey, loose, textured lids to some degree,” Linter says. “Patting on a base coat of primer makes makeup application easier and prevents it from creasing, feathering and smearing later on.” Mature lids may be warm (so makeup disappears quickly and liners smear) or cool (so powder shadows resist blending and liners skip or drag). “I use a cream shadow/primer like the MAC Pro Long Wear Paint Pot in Painterly ($25, maccosmetics.com) for both situations to absorb extra moisture, but also to provide a silky base layer that smooths out lid texture,” Linter adds. You can, of course, use a plain eye primer, but tinted cream shadow also conceals redness and lid discolorations and can be worn as shadow on its own. Two low-cost alternatives are Revlon ColorStay Creme Eyeshadow in Creme Brulee or Praline ($11, walgreens.com) and Burt’s Bees Color Nurture Cream Eyeshadow in Caramel Buttercream, Honey Caramel or Rose Cream ($10, cvs.com).

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spinner image Fran Wilson Eye Tees Precision Makeup Applicator Cotton Tips; e.l.f. Cosmetics Bite Size Eyeshadow Palette in Truffles; Almay All-Day Intense Gel Eyeliner in Deep Chestnut; Nars Climax Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Explicit Black
(Clockwise from bottom left) Fran Wilson Eye Tees Precision Makeup Applicator Cotton Tips; E.L.F. Cosmetics Bite Size Eyeshadow Palette in Truffles; Almay All-Day Intense Gel Eyeliner in Deep Chestnut; Nars Climax Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Explicit Black
Sally Beauty; Ulta Beauty; Target; Sephora

2. Doubling up liners adds control and intensity

Eyeliner is essential for restoring definition to mature eyes. However, no-longer-firm lids can make liner application challenging. One of Linter’s signature makeup tricks is using double liner. “I always double line the eyes, starting first with a soft pencil in black or dark brown, which I blend out with a small firm eye brush,” she says. “I retrace that with a liquid liner or a soft eye shadow in the same color to intensify the effect. Liquid gives a clean, defined look, and powder a softer, smokier one. If you see any waviness in the line, take a cotton swab with a narrow tip designed for makeup use, like the Fran Wilson Eye Tees Precision Makeup Applicator Cotton Tips ($4 for 80, sallybeauty.com), and soften the wiggle to correct it. Those with very crepey lids who find liquid liner challenging but prefer its strong definition and stay-put ability can try a gel liner as the double. Nars Climax Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Explicit Black ($24, sephora.com) has a soft tip and is easier to apply on loose lids than those with a very firm tip — which are great but work better on smooth, firm lids.” Look to a budget-friendly option, like the Almay All-Day Intense Gel Eyeliner in Deep Chestnut and Rich Black ($8, target.com), as an alternative to liquid liner, and the E.L.F. Cosmetics Bite Size Eyeshadow Palette in Truffles ($3, ulta.com), which has both dark brown and black powder shadow in its palette for double lining. For a steadier line, try resting your elbows on a counter or table while looking into the mirror, and gently pull the eye taut at the outer corner to smooth the lid while you line.

spinner image Lancôme Color Design Eyeshadow Palette in French Nude; Huda Beauty Nude Obsessions Eyeshadow Palette in Nude Light; Tartelette In Bloom Clay Eyeshadow Palette; Maybelline the Blushed Nudes Eyeshadow Palette
(Clockwise from top left) Lancôme Color Design Eyeshadow Palette in French Nude; Huda Beauty Nude Obsessions Eyeshadow Palette in Nude Light; Tartelette In Bloom Clay Eyeshadow Palette; Maybelline the Blushed Nudes Eyeshadow Palette
Nordstrom; Sephora; Target; Walgreens

3. Lighten up your smoky eye

“The contrast of light color on the lids, mid-tone at the crease and very dark liner is what gives eyes a sculpted look,” Linter says. It’s a classic trick that’s been around for decades — from the white shadow, dark crease, fake lashes of the ’60s to the smoldering, smoky ombré eyes of the last two decades. However, Linter adds: “Right now with everything Barbie and light latte neutrals, it’s time to switch up smoky palettes with lighter shades for a fresher look. I think a lighter lid color gives a wonderful, brightening lift. I still suggest a contoured strategy for mature eyes, but try updated neutrals like the Huda Beauty Nude Obsessions Eyeshadow Palette in Nude Light ($32, sephora.com), the Tartelette In Bloom Clay Eyeshadow Palette ($45, target.com) and the Lancôme Color Design Eyeshadow Palette in French Nude or Fraicheur Rosée ($60, nordstrom.com). These are three palettes I use often.” I’m going to throw in my two cents here with an affordable option: Maybelline the Blushed Nudes Eyeshadow Palette ($16, walgreens.com).

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spinner image Neutrogena Intense Gel Eyeliner, Smudge and Water Resistant in Dark Brown; L'Oréal Paris Couleur Riche Monos Eye Shadow in Cafe Au Lait; Maybelline Eye Studio Hyper Easy Liquid Eyeliner in Pitch Black
(Left to right) Neutrogena Intense Gel Eyeliner, Smudge and Water Resistant in Dark Brown; L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Monos Eyeshadow in Cafe Au Lait; Maybelline Eye Studio Hyper Easy Liquid Eyeliner in Pitch Black
Rite Aid; CVS; Walgreens

4. Make hooded eyes glam

Lid space often changes with age. Some women have or develop deeply recessed or hooded eyes with more brow bone space and very little lid showing. Linter has another trick for this issue, which departs from the three-color contour strategy. It’s all about emphasizing eye shape at the lash line. “I apply one solo shade of shadow — often a soft medium brown — to the lid itself and blend that up to and including the overhang,” she says. “Since liner beneath the eyes works well here. I line top and bottom at the lash line [three-quarters the way for bottom line] with pencil, connecting them at the outer corners for a Brigitte Bardot sort of look. Then I double line with liquid liner, extending it just past the lashes at the outer corner of the upper lid. Those who are adept at applying individual lashes can also add a couple at the outer corner for a lift. Works!” Try Neutrogena’s Intense Gel Eyeliner, Smudge and Water Resistant in Dark Brown or Jet Black ($10, riteaid.com), the Maybelline Eye Studio Hyper Easy Liquid Eyeliner in Pitch Black or Pitch Brown ($11, walgreens.com) and the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Monos Eyeshadow in Cafe Au Lait ($7, cvs.com).

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spinner image Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat All-Over Brightening Concealer Pen; L’Oréal Paris True Match Eye Cream In A Concealer; Wet n Wild Breakup Proof Retractable Eyeliner; Make Up For Ever Smooth & Blue HD Skin Concealer; Hourglass 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Eyeliner; Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner; Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder Ultra-Blur
(Clockwise from far left) Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat All-Over Brightening Concealer Pen; L’Oréal Paris True Match Eye Cream in a Concealer; Wet n Wild Breakup Proof Retractable Eyeliner; Make Up For Ever Smooth & Blue HD Skin Concealer; Hourglass 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Eyeliner; Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner; Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder Ultra-Blur
Macy's; Ulta Beauty; Wet n Wild; Make Up For Ever; Hourglass; Nordstrom; Laura Mercier

5. Keep the lower eye fresh

Some women find makeup for the lower lashes and under-eye area a problem. They say that concealer looks heavy or cakey, and eyeliner used on the inner rim or under the lashes smudges and smears. The texture of the concealer and placement matter, so does the precision of the liner and treatment of the area right beneath the lower lashes. “The one problem I see on almost everyone over 50 is darkness at the inner corner of the eye,” Linter says. “A pen highlighter like the Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat All-Over Brightening Concealer Pen ($40, macys.com) brightens this area without a buildup of excess cover-up. Sometimes I even apply it all the way up to the brow. However, for more substantial coverage, a fluid wand type concealer, like Make Up For Ever Smooth & Blue HD Skin Concealer ($29, makeupforever.com), stands up to the warmth of under-eye skin without accentuating puffy bags and shadows. It’s never a good idea to line the inner rims on eyes that are extremely watery. For everyone else, waterproof pencils like the Hourglass 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Eyeliner in Obsidian Black ($21, hourglasscosmetics.com) and Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner in 10 Ebene or 20 Espresso ($34, nordstrom.com) are gentle but precise and great for lining the waterline. The trick is to keep the pencil closer to where lashes grow on the outer edge of the rim instead of trying to get the line next to the eyeball. Brushing a thin coat of translucent powder, like the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder Ultra-Blur ($48, lauramercier.com), beneath the eyes keeps all neat.” Want some other options? Try the L’Oréal Paris True Match Eye Cream in a Concealer ($16, ulta.com), which offers undetectable coverage that melts into skin, and the Wet n Wild Breakup Proof Retractable Eyeliner in Black or Black Brown ($4, wetnwildbeauty.com), which helps prevent smudges when blinking and in hot humid weather.

spinner image Tom Ford Brow Sculptor in Taupe; rms Back2Brow Powder in Light; rms Back2Brow Brush; Maybelline Express Brow 2-in-1 Pencil and Powder Eyebrow Makeup in Light Blonde
(Left to right) Tom Ford Brow Sculptor in Taupe; RMS Back2Brow Powder in Light; RMS Back2Brow Brush; Maybelline Express Brow 2-in-1 Pencil and Powder Eyebrow Makeup in Light Blonde
Nordstrom; RMS (2); Walgreens

6. Trim long brows, color up gray ones

Brow makeup can seem complicated in how-to videos on social media, especially when your brows are thin, misshapen, wiry and graying. Clarify your brow situation with a snip. “First, brush brows up and trim long, unruly hair with a tiny manicure scissors,” Linter says. “This helps establish the real shape without interference from excess hair. The goal is to fill gaps and sparse areas and to elongate the brow tails while keeping the shape as horizontal as possible — not curving down around the eye. I like a mechanical pencil with a refined or slanted tip, like the Tom Ford Brow Sculptor in Taupe, Blonde, Chestnut ($56, nordstrom.com), which creates believable hairlike strokes. For recreating a realistic brow from scratch, a brow powder, like the RMS Back2Brow Powder in Light, Medium or Dark ($27, rmsbeauty.com) and the RMS Back2Brow Brush ($24, rmsbeauty.com), fills bald spots and missing tails effectively without a lot of effort. Avoid going too dark. Taupe and blonde shades work for blondes and highlighted brunettes. True dark brunettes should soften up brows with brown (not black), and those with gray hair should make up their brows in their original shade — never gray!” Another brand to try: Maybelline Express Brow 2-in-1 Pencil and Powder Eyebrow Makeup in Light Blonde, Blonde, Soft Brown or Medium Brown ($12, walgreens.com).

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