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Game-Changing Makeup Tips

New products and techniques that will make you apply like a pro


spinner image a collection of makeup and skin care items
Ivan Bajic/Getty Images

I’m not a makeup artist, but I am a beauty editor who has worked side by side behind the scenes at photo shoots with famous names like Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier and Charlotte Tilbury way before “celebrity makeup artist” was a coined phrase. I’ve done thousands of makeup makeovers on everyday women over 50 and watched pros transform bare-faced celebs and supermodels to glamazons. It’s been a four decades-long master class that keeps evolving as new products and makeup change along with our approach to cosmetics. Here are the tips you need to know now:

spinner image RoselynBoutique Jade Face Roller Gua Sha Facial Tools; Burt’s Bees Hydrating Single Use Face Mask with Watermelon; Wander Beauty Baggage Claim Gold Eye Masks; Dr. Jart+ Cryo Rubber Face Mask with Moisturizing Hyaluronic Acid
(Left to right) RoselynBoutique Jade Face Roller Gua Sha Facial Tools; Burt’s Bees Hydrating Single Use Face Mask with Watermelon; Wander Beauty Baggage Claim Gold Eye Masks; Dr. Jart+ Cryo Rubber Face Mask with Moisturizing Hyaluronic Acid
Amazon; CVS; Dermstore; Sephora

1. Always prep your skin

There’s a reason why makeup artists take time to pamper complexions before jumping into makeup. That’s because even the best cosmetics perfectly applied can’t disguise a parched, lined, sleepless face or hide the puffiness from a few cocktails or a bag of chips the night before without a little help. One of the most effective preps is to amp up your application of serum and moisturizer with a relaxing but circulation-boosting facial massage using your fingertips, a jade roller or gua sha stone like the RoselynBoutique Jade Face Roller Gua Sha Facial Tools ($9, amazon.com). A well-lubricated surface is key to ensuring both glide across the skin. Work from the base of the neck upwards in gentle strokes, then from the center of the face outwards across the cheeks and along the jawline. Use your fingertips to massage your forehead in small circular movements from the center outwards. Use light pressure. Try chilling the roller or stone in the freezer for a few minutes or keep one on call in the fridge since cooling will help deflate puffiness and under-eye bags. Another option: Apply a line-plumping facial mask like the Burt’s Bees Hydrating Single Use Face Mask with Watermelon ($3, cvs.com) or Dr. Jart+ Cryo Rubber Face Mask with Moisturizing Hyaluronic Acid ($15, sephora.com) — hilarious packaging but it’s effective so don’t say no — and/or an eye mask like the Wander Beauty Baggage Claim Gold Eye Masks ($26 for 6 pairs, dermstore.com) that is infused with peeper-freshening aloe and peptides that you can wear while you have your morning coffee or green tea. The benefits of all include a rosy glow, relaxing mood and a smoother base so makeup doesn’t settle into fine lines and wrinkles.

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spinner image L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Blurring Face Primer in Rosy/Rose; Too Faced Plump & Prime Luxury Face Plumping Primer Serum; Neutrogena Healthy Skin Radiant Primer + Serum
(Left to right) L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Blurring Face Primer in Rosy/Rose; Too Faced Plump & Prime Luxury Face Plumping Primer Serum; Neutrogena Healthy Skin Radiant Primer + Serum
CVS; Ulta Beauty; Target

2. Use a primer

Do you apply skin care, makeup and then cross your fingers and hope that a hot flash, humid weather or steamy indoor heating won’t cause a meltdown? Do you wear a true foundation, blush and bronzer for dinner out but worry your makeup will cake or look fake before the evening is over? Adding a makeup primer to your routine solves all. Skip matte or oil-free primers designed for younger, oil-prone skin and jump on those that emphasize hydration and radiance like the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Blurring Face Primer in Rosy/Rose ($16, cvs.com). You can even save steps with hybrids that bridge the skin care/makeup gap like Neutrogena Healthy Skin Radiant Primer + Serum ($22, target.com) — this only looks beige-y but goes on sheer and slightly shimmery — and Too Faced Plump & Prime Luxury Face Plumping Primer Serum ($45, ulta.com) packed with hyaluronic acid and glycerin to tackle crepe-y skin and serious dryness.

spinner image Milani Glow Hydrating Skin Tint; Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 30; It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream Nude Glow SPF 40; The Creme Shop CC Cream SPF 30
(Left to right) Milani Glow Hydrating Skin Tint; Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 30; It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream Nude Glow SPF 40; The Creme Shop CC Cream SPF 30
CVS; Sephora; Target; CVS

3. Opt for multitasking tinted moisturizers

Who has time to play around with a lot of products each morning or even wants to anymore? A real soup-to-nuts makeup for a party, work meetings or evenings out is another story, but not when we’re slipping on jeans, working from home or running errands. Some women ignore makeup for casual days, but that’s a mistake. A one-stop tinted moisturizer like the Milani Glow Hydrating Skin Tint ($12, cvs.com) multitasks as face cream/makeup and provides just enough color, moisture, glow and discoloration-blurring to boost your confidence. Some like the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($53, sephora.com) even provide sunscreen benefits. For a little more coverage of blemishes, dark spots or under-eye circles (but still not a heavy-duty foundation), try a CC cream like It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream Nude Glow SPF 40 ($47, target.com) or The Creme Shop CC Cream SPF 30 ($18, cvs.com), sister products to tinted moisturizers.

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spinner image Laura Geller Serum Blush Cheek Tint; Jones Road Beauty The Lip Pencil; DIOR Diorshow Pump ’N’ Volume Mascara in 090 Black
Left to right: Laura Geller Serum Blush Cheek Tint ($28, laurageller.com); Jones Road Beauty The Lip Pencil ($22, jonesroadbeauty.com); DIOR Diorshow Pump ’N’ Volume Mascara in 090 Black ($32, bloomingdales.com)
Laura Geller; Jones Road Beauty; Bloomingdale's

4. Change your technique

Sometimes all you need to make the same makeup work better is a different application strategy. Many women have gotten in the habit of smiling to apply their blush to the “apples” of their cheeks. While this worked at 30 and 40, it may not at 50+ when changes in face volume due to shifting fat and saggy skin cause cheeks to drop. Instead, apply blush to the tops of your cheekbones (which aren’t going anywhere) to add a subtle lift and brightness. Another switch: Try gently rounding the bow of your mouth with a lip-toned pencil to enhance a faded or thinned upper lip instead of drawing two sharp and obviously faked points. You’ll get a softer but still defined shape. And here’s another biggie. Do your eyes first before applying face makeup. Then gently blink and squeeze eyes shut after applying liner, shadow and mascara. Clean up any fresh mascara smudges with a Q-tip and micellar water, and know your tinted moisturizer, concealer and blush will not suffer from smears or shadow fallout.

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spinner image RMS Beauty Buriti Bronzer; Kjaer Weis Cream Bronzer; Nars Laguna Bronzing Cream
(Clockwise from top left) RMS Beauty Buriti Bronzer; Kjaer Weis Cream Bronzer; Nars Laguna Bronzing Cream
Dermstore; Kjaer Weis; Nordstrom

5. Update your bronzer 

A swoosh of powder bronzer has been every grownup woman’s go-to for decades. It gave our makeup a jet-set sunniness even in January in Minnesota. We learned to apply it in big C shapes from temples to cheeks and kept trying to find the perfect shade. However, powder — even powder bronzer — is the last thing dry, uneven, pigmented mature skin needs since it amplifies every textural change and discoloration. The great news is you can still get that beach-y mood going with cream bronzers like the Kjaer Weis Cream Bronzer ($42, kjaerweis.com), RMS Beauty Buriti Bronzer ($26, dermstore.com) and Nars Laguna Bronzing Cream ($38, nordstrom.com) designed with more authentic-looking shades and textures. Keep the application right where the sun hits — cheekbones, bridge of nose, forehead — only this time use a makeup sponge or fingers in a circular motion. The new silky textures (some are more like a mousse or balm) blend seamlessly over your skin care and sunscreen, as well as over tinted moisturizer, CC cream or even foundation. Add a touch to sides of neck and collarbones when wearing lower necklines and even to shoulders when wearing off-shoulder sweaters for parties this winter.

spinner image BeautyBlender Pro Makeup Sponge; Real Techniques Everyday Eye Essentials Makeup Brush Kit; Sonia Kashuk Essential Flat-Top Foundation Brush No. 168
(Left to right) BeautyBlender Pro Makeup Sponge; Real Techniques Everyday Eye Essentials Makeup Brush Kit; Sonia Kashuk Essential Flat-Top Foundation Brush No. 168
Sephora; Walmart; Target

6. Buy a cosmetic sponge and brushes

If you still rely on the tiny applicators and thin flimsy puffs that come with makeup, know that pros always use full-size makeup brushes and sponges for precise application and blending. The most useful ones to own now are a teardrop sponge like the BeautyBlender Pro Makeup Sponge ($20, sephora.com), ergonomically shaped to adapt to facial contours, a flat-topped foundation brush (if you wear foundation) like the Sonia Kashuk Essential Flat-Top Foundation Brush No. 168 ($10, target.com) and eye makeup brushes like the Real Techniques Everyday Eye Essentials Makeup Brush Kit ($16, walmart.com) for detailed brow, liner, shadow and even under-eye concealer blending. Use a tap-blend technique rather than a swipe to work with the sponge or foundation brush so makeup is deposited and blended with precision and not wiped off. Be sure to wet the sponge and squeeze out the excess before using it to blend face makeup or when adding makeup to the tip for application.

Final makeup words: Enhance and celebrate what’s there. At some point after 50, face positivity (like body positivity) kicks in for most women. We no longer wrestle with age-related wrinkles (having healthy, soft, fresh skin is good enough) or apply makeup to alter our features by contouring or over-lining our lips. This doesn’t mean skipping makeup. It means wearing it to make the most of what you’ve got.

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