Editor’s Note: We firmly believe that every individual woman is beautiful with or without makeup at midlife—but a lot of us have also been playing with the stuff since we were pre-teens, so why should we stop now? Do you have any makeup tips for women over 50? Let us know in the comments!
One morning, not long ago, I was taking a crack-of-dawn vacation flight: I got up at 4 a.m., washed and dried my hair, and dressed in a decent travel outfit. Thinking I’d bypass the usual makeup until landing time—foundation, concealer, powder, liner, mascara, gloss—I left for the airport bare-faced. Whereupon I promptly ran into the father of one of my kids’ friends, whose first words to me were, “Wow, you look exhausted.”
Nice to see you, too.
I tell you this to explain why, for me, getting older means wearing more makeup than I did as a carefree college girl, even though it runs counter to the standard beauty-article advice that you should ease up on the paint as you mature. The thinking: Heavy foundation and powder settles into wrinkles and pores, drawing attention to your age; lipstick bleeds into those little pursed lip lines; and shimmer and shine shed light—literally—on loose skin.
“I think the whole cliché of saying `less is more when you’re older’ is a crock,” says celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose.
But I beg to differ. And so does my favorite celebrity makeup artist, Nick Barose. “I think the whole cliché of saying `less is more when you’re older’ is a crock. Some people look better with less; some people look better with more. It completely depends on your personality,” says the guy who transforms Hollywood’s hottest of every age. “Instead of buying into the idea and risk looking boring, it’s important to embrace your own features and eccentricities.”
The concept of fearlessly embracing your age is the entire mission behind one of YouTube’s most popular beauty vloggers, a 62-year-old Tennessee sensation who goes by Melissa55 (and prefers to keep her last name private). This gorgeous, glam grandmother—who knows so much about makeup that she could teach Bobbi Brown a thing or two—speaks candidly about her refreshing philosophy on beauty.
Melissa not only proudly and stunningly wears a full face of makeup but delights in showing her fans which products and colors she loves, how she applies them, and how she looks when she doesn’t. “It was really important to me to show that [women my age] still love makeup,” she says. “We still love fashion, we still like to look as beautiful as we can.”
Frankly, I agree. So here’s what I propose: From this point on, let’s change the word rules to ideas. And let’s be perfectly okay ignoring those ideas if they don’t make us feel completely damn hot. The kind of hot that has nothing to do with flashes.
Makeup Tips for Women Over 50: Busting the Myths
Wear heavy foundation…don’t wear heavy foundation…sparkle is great…sparkle is bad. With so much “advice” floating around out there, it’s hard to parse out the good from the bad. Here, from Nick Barose, a few ideas to try…or not, as it suits you. (He’s more than okay with that.) The main point, the essential truth: Go with what works for you.
Old Think: Avoid the urge to bury your lines and wrinkles—they’ll only look more obvious.
New Think: Bury if you wish—but with anti-aging ingredients.
It’s perfectly cool to put a few features in hiding, but choose your product carefully. “Something thick and matte draws attention to those lines,” says Barose, who recommends opting for a hydrating, luminous foundation with anti-aging ingredients. He’s a huge fan of L’Oreal’s Visible Lift Serum Absolute Advanced Age-Reversing Makeup. It comes in a handy pump bottle, has SPF, and costs only $14.95, which pretty much squashes the conventional wisdom that you have to buy expensive products when you’re older because the cheap ones don’t do the job.
Old Think: The older you get, the heavier your foundation should be.
New Think: Choose your favorite weight formula; but always spackle strategically.
There’s an urban makeup myth that says that the super-sheer “BB” (Beauty Balm) Creams are for young pups, and us mature folk need to reach for the full-coverage stuff. But Barose says a. that’s BS, and b. if you do use a heavier foundation, apply it with a damp sponge and only to the places where you need extra coverage. “Blend the rest of the face really sheer, and then follow up with a light reflective powder.” (IT Cosmetics Hello Light Anti-Aging Powder Luminizer is a good one.)
Old Think: Thoroughly cover dark circles and redness.
New Think: Try an optical illusion instead.
Sure, a little (read: little) concealer that reflects light—like Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer—will help disguise discoloration, but so will the trick of moving focus away from the imperfections by amping up features you love. Like giving your cheeks a sheer, bright pop of color, or doing really beautiful lips.
Old Think: Skip bottom eyeliner.
New Think: Yeah, that’s still a good idea.
One of the few myths that’s not. It tends to pull the focus downward toward those dark circles.
Old Think: Line lips with a don’t-budge product to prevent “bleeding.”
New Think: It’s fine to line, but keep things creamy.
When everyone’s telling you that your lip line is fading and you must replace it immediately, take the advice with a grain of salt. That said, if you really like liner, then choose a softly colored gel-based formula (like Lancome’s Le Lipstique Lip Coloring Stick); the exceptional creaminess means it won’t gather in those little lines around the mouth.
A version of this article was originally published in August 2017.