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  • Writer's pictureElise Marquam-Jahns

Sixty-one year old Janet arrived at the makeup counter wearing full makeup. As she gradually felt more comfortable talking with me, she shared that her 9th grade best friend had taught her how to use makeup. They’d arrive at school early and sneak into the bathroom to put on their makeup together. Since I knew the minute I saw her that she was using the makeup techniques she’d learned as a young woman, this revelation didn’t surprise me. But unfortunately, the makeup she was wearing did exactly the opposite of what Janet wanted: it aged her by at least 10 - 15 years.

Janet’s Story is Not Unusual

Janet’s story is one I hear often. Whether we learned how to put on our makeup from our moms, a stylish aunt or Seventeen Magazine, most of us baby boomers are still using the same makeup techniques that we learned when listening to Dion or Bobby Vee. And what worked for us in our teens, 20s and 30s just doesn’t work for as we hit our 40s and beyond. But it’s totally understandable that we don’t know what to do differently, because where do we learn the makeup techniques that will work best for us now? Only one of the major cosmetic company websites has even one online makeup tutorial featuring an older woman—and that lasts for about 10 seconds. So many of us, understandably, just keep doing what we’ve been doing.

The Four Makeup Tips

Over the coming months, I’ll share a variety of makeup tips and techniques specifically for those of us who are 60+ that can help us look our best now. Below are four of these tips which can make a big difference:

1. Eyeliner

I think we can all picture a magazine ad featuring a woman in her 20s with thick black eyeliner above and below her eyes. Yes, eyeliner can definitely define and draw attention to our eyes (all good), but the key to beautiful eyeliner in our 60s and beyond is to lighten the look and make it more natural. A dark brown or gray eyeliner pencil is far more flattering. And to create the most natural look, smudge the eyeliner with a Q-tip. Not only does smudging the eyeliner soften the look, but it also means that those of us who can’t draw a perfect line along our lashes anymore (and let’s face it, who among us can) are able to smudge that line so it looks absolutely flawless.

As for eyeliner below the eye, it’s an absolute yes, with two major caveats. Consider using a lighter color than you used for the eyeliner above your eye and—unless you have huge, to-die for eyes—only draw that line along the outer third of your bottom lashes. And to create an even softer look, use eyeshadow instead of eyeliner.

2. Blush

Do you worry about blush going terribly wrong? Both the color and the placement of blush become very important as more birthday candles appear on our cake. Our skin tone can definitely change over the years, so those of us who read Carol Jackson’s book Color Me Beautiful back in the 80’s and figured out we were an “autumn” or a “winter” may no longer find those same color swatches to be as flattering. But it’s still important to gauge whether your skin has a warm or cool undertone. If your undertone is warm, stick with coral or peach toned blush and if your undertone is cool, go with pink and berry tones. (We’ll talk about how to determine your skin undertone in a future article).

Haven’t we always been told to put blush on the apples of our cheeks? But where have those apples gone, ladies? Let’s work against Mother Nature and gravity by

placing the blush slightly below the tops of our cheekbones at least two finger widths from our nose and bringing it up toward the outer corner of our eye. If you have dry skin, opt for cream blush over powder and add a touch of moisturizer on top of the blush to create a beautiful glow.

3. The Right Lip Color

Though the “nude” lip look might be the trend, it can wash us out. So think about adding a touch more color to the lips (one to two shades darker than your natural lip color). And since very dark (and matte) lipstick can age us, consider choosing a slightly brighter color with shine or luminosity. And a touch of gloss in the middle of the lower lip can create a light-enhancing glow.

It’s amazing, but just the right lipstick color can brighten the entire face and create a truly radiant look. So it’s worth “trying out” some new lipstick shades at the makeup counter and even going outside your comfort zone to test some new shades. And research has shown that the right lip and blush color—along with two other techniques—can help us look 5-20 years younger

4. Eye Shadow Placement

A swath of color across the eyelids has been a typical “go to” look for most of us. But to make our eyes look bigger (always a plus), try patting a vanilla colored shadow on your eyelids from your eyelashes to the crease. Use a medium tone shade in the crease (and slightly above the crease if you have hooded eyes). To create the medium tone for the crease area, consider mixing two or three “cool” and “warm” tones together such as a light orange tone with a medium cool brown. It can make your eyes “pop” without looking garish--trust me on this one! Then use a touch of the vanilla colored shadow just beneath the arch of your eyebrow (to lift the eye) as well as at the inner corner of the eye. And, as always, the secret to a flawless eyeshadow look is blending, blending and then more blending with a clean brush.

You’ll find that just a few small changes—with these tips in mind—can make a world of difference.

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If you’ve read Part 1 of this Blog, you have now answered the four important questions to narrow down your choice of the hundreds of different foundations that are available in department stores, drug stores, specialty beauty stores and on-line sites. So you’re now ready to move on to the equally important question: How do I go about finding this perfect foundation?

With the number of options available to you, it may feel like you’re searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. But fear not. Now that you know what kind of foundation and finish you want, here are some suggestions about how to go about locating that gold standard product that’s just right for you:

  • Do you have a friend whose skin type is similar to yours and whose skin looks flawless? She’ll love to tell you what foundation she uses and, most likely, what she’s tried that hasn’t worked for her (which, by the way, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you, but you may want to move this choice down to your “B” list of options).

  • Go to a makeup counter at a department store and talk to an Associate who is roughly your age. This Associate will most likely have experienced your concerns and issues and can guide you to the foundation that will be right for you.

  • Ask the Associate to do a “color match” for you and be sure to check out the options in a magnifying mirror. Foundations have a warm, cool or neutral base and it’s crucial to find the base that doesn’t make your skin look too pink or too ashy. The right color should make your skin look radiant rather than dull or lifeless.

  • Ask for samples of several different foundations or different colors so you can try them out at your leisure at home. This way you’ll be able to check them out in daylight with a magnifying mirror to make sure the color match is spot on and the texture is right for you.

  • Go to You Tube and enter “best foundations for older women” in the search bar. There are also some YouTube videos about this topic that you may find helpful.

  • Google “Rank and Style.” This site has a multitude of “top 10 lists” for just about every makeup and beauty product known to woman. You may want to search for “top 10 drugstore foundations” or “top 10 department store foundations.” Rank and Style’s “Top 10” lists are compiled from data from magazines, blogs, department stores and social media to rank the 10 best based on popularity, quality and buzz. Be aware, though, that popularity and buzz is often generated through advertising, so take the rankings with a grain of salt. However, these lists will give you a “starting point” for checking out various products. And it’s been my experience that many of the products included on these lists deserve to be there.

  • Check out reviews of products on the brand’s website and on sites like Sephora and Ulta. Since the age of the reviewer is often available, you may want to look at what women close to your age say about the product.

The right foundation for you will not cake into lines or leave you with a mask-like complexion. What it will do is seamlessly blend into your skin, even out your skin tone and disguise fine lines. Since foundation can do the most to help us look out best, the search for just the right foundation may well be worth the investment of time it takes to find that personal gold standard of a flawless foundation.

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While walking down the cosmetic counter aisles at Macy’s recently, I decided to check out the foundation options available at some of the high end cosmetics counters. One brand offered six different foundations, another boasted twelve and a third had a mind boggling choice of 20 different foundations! Thinking there might not be such an overwhelming number of choices with drugstore brands, I checked out several brands on-line and was amazed to find 23 different foundation options with one brand and 15 with another. Who knew? And more importantly, how can we possibly make the right choice?

Well, though the choices may feel overwhelming, it’s actually beneficial for those of us with seemingly ever changing skin landscapes, to have options. And we can also breathe a sigh of relief that the days of the heavy, only-one-choice thick, pancake makeup have gone the way of carbon paper and exaggerated shoulder pads.

The Four Questions to Ask

So, here are the four questions to ask yourself that will help you narrow your field of options:

1. What is your skin type: dry, combination (dry, but some shine in the “T” zone) or oily? Yes, there are different foundations in most makeup lines for different types of skin. You can definitely cross off your list the foundation that works for oily skin if your skin leans toward dry . . . and vice versa.

2. How much coverage do you want? Opt for “sheer” or “light” coverage if you have no major discoloration or issues such as age spots. “Moderate” coverage is for those of us whose skin has experienced a few more changes over the years. And “heavy” can provide the optimum amount of coverage. And though the term “heavy” coverage may make us feel a bit queasy about how the foundation will actually feel on our skin, “heavy coverage” does not necessarily equal “heavy feel.”

And here’s a quick way to test how much coverage a foundation really has: dab a small amount on one of the veins on the underside of your wrist. You’ll see a definite difference in how well the sheer, medium and heavy coverage foundations camouflage your vein.

3. What kind of “finish” do you want the makeup to provide on your skin? Matte? Semi-matte? Or dewy? A matte finish is evenly smooth with no shine. Semi-matte has a slight sheen and dewy foundation has the most sheen or radiant glow or can even be quite high shine. Needless to say, if your skin is oily, a dewy finish might look too “greasy.” However, even people with oily skin can sometimes wear a dewy finish foundation provided they use a mattifying primer first. (If the concept of primers is new to you or you’d like to learn more, we’ll discuss both eye and face primers in an upcoming blog). For those of us with dry skin, a dewy finish can bring a welcomed look of moisture and radiance to our face. And what about those of us with combination skin? Well, some of us have been known to put a matte finish foundation in our T-Zone area and then mix in a small amount of a dewy finish foundation with the matte foundation to add a bit of radiance to the rest of our face. (I won’t mention any names here, however :).

4. Do you want a foundation that has an SPF in it or do your moisturizer and/or sunscreen provide enough sun protection for you?

Some Additional Helpful Hints

And here are a few other helpful hints to get the best results from your foundation:

  • Exfoliate your skin twice a week to get rid of dead skin cells which can make our skin look dull. Just about every makeup line has an exfoliating product and you can even make your own exfoliating scrub out of ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry. (More on this in an upcoming blog).

  • For most of us as we get older, our skin has a harder time retaining moisture. Thus, it’s absolutely essential to cleanse and moisturize our face before putting on foundation. However, if you have an oily nose and T-zone area, you may want to forego moisturizer in those areas.

  • Some foundations also provide skin care benefits with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, green tea or peptides.

  • If you do have dry skin, you’ll want to stick with liquid and cream foundations rather than powder. Powder foundation can look flaky and accentuate fine lines on dry skin.

  • For areas that are harder to cover due to oiliness (such as your nose) or discoloration, you may want to skip the foundation and just use concealer.

  • And if you have a great deal of redness, there are foundations that specifically address this issue.

Now that you know the answers to the four most important questions to ask when searching for a foundation and have some other helpful hints, we’ll cover the all important topic of how to find the right foundation in Part 2 of this blog.

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