It used to be so easy: slap on any old rainbow colours, all the shimmer you like, get away without wearing any foundation because your skin’s naturally lovely (barring the odd blemish). Result: gorgeous. Of course, it still pretty much is that easy, if you’re under about thirty. Then definitely by thirty-five, it all starts to change. The ‘canvas’ isn’t so smooth, and gravity kicks in (especially on eyelids).
Lately, at Beauty Bible, what we’ve been hearing more and more is that countless real women of ‘a certain age’ need a little extra beauty guidance. If you’re twentysomething, there are endless blogs and ‘influencers’ to turn to for info. (Oh, don’t get us started on influencers…). But we realised that with all our weight of experience – and 52 combined years of compiling Beauty Bible books (and nowadays, our own website) – we’re now unique. Literally no other beauty editors have been around consistently for so long, seen so much, tried so much (never mind the 28,000 or so women who we’ve had trialling products for our Awards, over the years). So while we used to say that our role was to help women ‘take a short-cut through the beauty jungle’, our message today is that what we’re all about is ‘Real Health and Beauty for Grown-ups’.
And one of the biggest areas women need a bit of help? Figuring out make-up that’s appropriate for a face that’s changed, with time. Now, we’re massive fans of in-store makeovers – and we honestly can’t recommend too highly that you give a few brands’ counters a spin. (If you hate the results, you can always go home and swipe it right off again.) But meanwhile, here are some basic guidelines. (For Grown-ups.)
Keep it simple. A subtle, quite streamlined approach is best – foundation, blusher, eyeshadow, but in a neutral-but-pretty palette of shades. Natural colours work best on all complexions, after about forty; don’t let anyone try and convince you that coral lipstick or shocking pink eyeshadow is ‘you’; it won’t be – and you’ll risk looking like a make-up fashion victim. (Or in the case of pink eyeshadow, a rabbit.)
Use the right tools. If you’ve never invested in a set of make-up brushes, this is the moment in life. One of the biggest complaints we hear from women is that their make-up ‘disappears’ Brushes really help press make-up into the skin, creating a soft finish that stays put – so you don’t have to keep reapplying all day long. (The Real Techniques brushes by Samantha Chapman which you’ll find on this site are top-notch.)
Definitely treat yourself to a foundation brush. Brushes with synthetic hairs (like the Real Techniques brushes) will pick up foundation and work it into the skin. Experiment with spritzing the brush with water first, then dip it in liquid or cream foundation and use it to apply to the skin with the lightest, most feathery strokes which blend it seamlessly into the skin. You can build coverage that way, but you won’t overdo it. Mostly, women only need foundation on the centre panel – just cheeks, nose, chin. Skip powder, as a rule; you want skin that looks a little bit dewy, not flat and too matte.
Try a primer. Primers are great after forty because they work a bit like Polyfilla to ‘fill in’ the little creases and crêpiness, creating an ultra-smooth base. (We’re both massive fans of This Works In Transit Camera Close-up, FYI.) If you don’t have a primer, allow your moisturiser to sink in for a full 10 minutes – have a cup of coffee, make the beds, but give it time – otherwise that’s another reason make-up disappears into thin air.
Conceal what you need to. Apply over base, again using the foundation brush to pat it into the skin with fine feathery strokes – only where needed: broken veins, dark circles. (Temple Spa Glint Shadow Concealer is fab for under-eye shadows, and winner of Beauty Bible Awards.)
Discover eye primer, too. The biggest thing we hear women of ‘a certain age’ worry about, we find, is crêpe-y eyelids. A primer can help smooth them out, and avoids that dry, powdery look. Apply eye cream to lids at the same time as moisturising the rest of the face, then add an eye primer – or a cream concealer, if you don’t have one – when that’s all sunk in perfectly. Basically, any light liquid concealer works well – and at the same time it gets rid of any shadows and redness. Allow the concealer to sink right in, then use the foundation brush to blend and pat the concealer into the lids and around the socket.
Use light and shade. What you want with eyes is to create a subtle 3-D effect, with highlighted brow-bones, shadowy sockets. Whatever you do, you want to keep shimmer away from the eye socket. Create a base with a matte, neutral shade from brow to lash, in ivory or cream. A medium shadow is then used to emphasise the socket, using a really soft, snuggly brush. Don’t go for dark colours that stand out too much or you’ll be forever blending; a good shade is a soft, freckly colour or a soft grey-brown. As well as shading the socket, shade the outer corner of the eye – spending a good few minutes blending and smoothing with the soft brush, so there are no hard edges. (Honestly, it’s worth it.) Steer clear of shimmer – with one exception: a little lustre on the lid, just back from the lash-line, can be beautiful for evening, and a dab on the brow-bone can be very flattering, too.
Re-learn lining. Kiss goodbye to liquid liners and harsh lines. (They’re tricky when your hand’s less steady, anyhow!) Use a dark powder shadow, dampened down with a little water, to line the eyes, for a velvety quality, or a blunted pencil. Then either smudge it with a cotton bud, or a brush. The line should be thinner towards the inner corner of the eye, fatter towards the outer corner – and don’t start too far in, or it’ll make your eyes look close together.
Shape your brows. Having eyebrows professionally shaped, to open up the arch (and ideally, tinted while you’re at it), works like a mini-facelift on most women, because brows tend to fade and become more sparse as we get older. They can then be defined with a taupe-coloured pencil or a mouse-y shadow applied with an angled brush. We suggest you check out the Eyebrow kits on VH from Blink Brow Bar, which also feature a Brow Styling Gel that can be very useful for taming brows that tend to make a break for it, as we age.
Sweep on mascara. You may benefit from curling lashes first; like other bits of us, lashes can start to droop as we age! Then sweep on two coats of mascara – and experiment with switching to brown, from black, which can look less harsh.
Blush creamily. Powder can make cheeks look dry and cake-y, so try, applied with a foundation brush for seamlessness. Apply blusher along the cheekbones, blending with fine feathery strokes; tawny and sun-kissed shades work better than pinks, at this stage of life, especially if you have a tendency to flush, or have broken veins.
Accent your lips. But first, the secret of smooth, longer-lasting lipstick is down to preparing the surface; primers are the key, after thirty-five, to long-lasting, flawless make-up. Blend concealer over the lips, then apply the lip colour itself – try burnished rose shades, avoiding harsh reds, aubergines, browns or too-nude tones. The best finish is slightly gleaming: not too glossy, not too matte. If you like to use lip liner, apply it over lipstick, so the edge doesn’t look too hard, and so that it all fades together. That way you’re never left with an obvious edge when your lipstick wears off.
If you really want to go crazy with colour, paint your fingernails or toenails with a bold shade. It can be enough to show your finger is indeed still on fashion’s pulse – and be very cheering, to look down at mermaid toes or gold nails. Whether you’re eighteen or eighty.