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  • Writer's pictureElise Marquam-Jahns

Updated: May 19, 2018

The Case of the Missing Brow may not be a top priority among Sherlock’s cases, but it’s near the top of the list for most of us who are 50+.

Who knew that one morning we’d wake up and discover that the tails of our eyebrows had gone the way of the VHS tape? Or that our once gloriously full and dark brows could now only be described (at best) as gray and “sparse.” And how about those white, wiry hairs that pop out over night? I’m rather glad my mother never shared some of these “benefits” of hitting retirement age. But hey, let’s look at the bright side; we rarely have to hunt for those tweezers anymore!

Since brows after 50 are made, not born, let’s take a deep breath and take back our brows. Now, you may ask, why go to all this extra effort to bring our brows back to life? The fact is that beautiful brows not only emphasize and frame our eyes, give our face a lift, and impart instant sophistication, BUT (dare we say it) they can also make us look years younger. And I mean years. So, let’s get to it.

One caution—before heading to the makeup counter, do head to your doctor to get your thyroid checked. Sparse and thinning brows can signal a thyroid issue. And supplements and diet and exercise have also been known to help. A good multivitamin that includes biotin and zinc can also make a difference.

In general, those with blonde hair will probably want to go one shade deeper than their hair color and those with darker brow hair should try to match their hair color or go slightly lighter. When in doubt, taupe can work well for many people. And at all costs, avoid a harsh, “drawn on line” look! And whether you end up using a brow powder, gel, pencil or pomade, always brush the brow with a brow “spoolie” (which is often at the other end of a brow pencil) to give your brows the most natural look.

And here are a few other general hints and thoughts:

  • You may want to go to a pro brow stylist once to get the perfect shape for your brows.

  • Some people find it helpful to “outline” the brow shape they want before filling it in. So, with short strokes to mimic the look of brow hairs, outline the top of the brow where you’d like it to be and do the same with the bottom of the brow. Then, fill it in.

  • You may want to give a second thought to eyebrow “tattooing” since when skin sags, the tattoo will perhaps go in a direction you’d prefer it not go!

  • Your brows are sisters, not twins. One will always be higher, fuller or arched differently, so don’t aim for perfect symmetry.

  • When you create a new brow with makeup, give yourself some time to adjust to the look of your face with more brow definition. And when you add other eye makeup, the tones will mesh.

  • Brow “gel” can be used to control wiry, unruly brow hairs, but most likely you will still need to fill in with a powder or pencil. And here’s an additional tip: if you have hairspray, you can put it on a disposable mascara wand or another spoolie to tame those unruly brows.

  • For a beautiful, polished look, use concealer to draw a line right above and below your brow line and blend out the concealer.

Since just about every major high end and drugstore makeup line has brow powders, gels, pencils and various brow kits, I highly recommend making an appointment or stopping in at any one of the department store makeup counters to ask if one of their associates can recommend the brow product that would work best, help you pick the right color, try it out on you and teach you how to use it. And you may want to try several different products at several different makeup counters to see which brand, product, color and technique looks the most natural and beautiful.

Yes, this will take a little time, but it’s far better to invest time upfront to “test drive” various products and techniques rather than trying them out on your own, experiencing the frustration of a product that doesn’t work well for you, returning it and then starting all over again.

And hey, why not take a friend along and go on an eyebrow adventure together? Time together checking out brow options and a little extra socializing, laughter and camaraderie can not only benefit your brows but also (and more importantly) your overall well-being!

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In a report titled “Older Women: The Forgotten Demographic,” women aged 54 -90 were interviewed to establish their views on cosmetics and toiletries: what they use, where they buy and what they think of packaging, advertising and product claims. The results were eye-opening. Not only do we feel ignored, but we feel that much of the advertising and marketing messages directed at us are demeaning and patronizing. Sheila, one of the women who was interviewed, said glamorous models didn’t do it for her: “I’m very cynical and don’t believe if I use this (product) I’ll have perfect looking skin. It has the opposite effect.” Annie, age 50, said: “I shout at the TV when I see ads with women with no wrinkles or who are too young to have them.” I can hear most of you thinking, right on, Annie

In addition, only one of the top 6 cosmetics lines is using older women most of us can relate to in their print and TV ads and on their website video tutorials.

So, what does work to help us look our best? Fortunately, research has concluded that there are three things we can do to look out absolute best. In fact, the research indicated that these three makeup techniques can help us look 5 – 20 years younger:

  • Fill in our eyebrows. All kinds of interesting things start happening to our eyebrows as we get older: sparseness, wiry hairs, gray and white hairs and many of us notice a “disappearing act” of those tails. So filling the eyebrows in with pencil, powder, pomade or gel can make a startling difference.

  • Create an even skin tone with the right tinted moisturizer, foundation and/or concealer. Who among us does not have some redness, discoloration, sunspots or all of the above? The research study found that an even skin tone can make the most dramatic improvement—literally erasing 5-20 years from our appearance.

  • Add some color with blush and lipstick. As we mature, we lose blood vessels in our cheeks which gives skin a more sallow appearance. So bringing back some color revives our skin tone. But, it’s also important to put the color in the right place. We’ve always heard that blush should be applied to the apples of our cheeks, but where have those apples gone, ladies? So apply blush along the upper part of your cheekbone and bring it up toward your hairline. Going up is an important technique since we’re trying to outsmart Mother Nature by giving more “lift” to our face.

And though the nude lip look may be the trend, it’s not our friend since it tends to wash us out. Go for a luminous lip color (rather than matte) one shade darker than your natural lip color. And if you have a golden skin undertone (greenish colored veins on your wrists as opposed to blue), stick with melon, peach, coral and orange-red lipsticks. For a cool skin undertone (blue veins), check out pink tones, berry shades and blue-red lipsticks. And adding a touch of gloss adds even more light and radiance.

As a makeup artist who specializes in helping women 50+ look their best, I have the pleasure of teaching women these techniques on a regular basis. Is it any wonder that I love what I do?

We’ll be talking about each of these makeup techniques in more detail in future blogs, so stay tuned.

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The “Aha” Moment

Little did I know that when Marsha sat down with me at the department store makeup counter to have her makeup done, she’d put all the pieces of the puzzle together for me. At 48, Marsha was soon to be a first time bride and—like all of us-- wanted to look her beautiful best for her upcoming wedding. She certainly didn’t want to look “too made up” and didn’t think her soon-to-be husband would appreciate that look either. And then she said it . . . the nugget of information that proved to be the true “aha” moment for me: her college roommate had taught her how to put on makeup and she’d been putting it on the same way ever since.

I’m a professional makeup artist and since Marsha shared that comment with me, I’ve worked with hundreds of women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and well beyond. And I’ve asked almost all of them these same three questions: when did you first start wearing makeup, who taught you how to put it on and are you still using the same techniques. The “when” and “who” responses certainly varied from person to person—from “At 16 I had to sneak out of the house with makeup in my purse to meet my best friend Tracy in the school restroom to put on our makeup”—to those who learned to put on makeup anywhere between the ages of 13 to 21 with help from a sister, aunt, or articles in Seventeen Magazine. But the “Are you still using the same techniques?” question almost always elicited the same response: YES.

The “Why”

And that “YES” response is why I’m writing this blog.

When I retired five years ago after 35 years with Twin Cities Public Television, I launched my “next career” as a makeup artist. During this time I have worked part time as a professional makeup artist for a major cosmetics line. And though I love my work with the cosmetics company, my passion-- and mission-- is helping women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond look and feel their best and have fun doing it. I teach a class I developed offering makeup tips and techniques specifically for midlife and older women which helps women build their confidence and get their "glow" back. In addition, I do individual makeovers and work with small groups of women who bring their own makeup for makeup parties.

As I've talked and worked with women over the past few years, several things have become clear. Most of us as we mature continue to use the makeup techniques that we learned in our teens or 20s, but these techniques may no longer be the most flattering for us. Or, we may look in the mirror and see those signs of aging that seem to happen overnight and just decide that there's not much we can do. Or, we may look at the myriad of makeup and skincare products available, don't know where to start or how to determine what will work best for us, and feel overwhelmed.

The “Goal” and The “How”

My goal for this blog is to offer you makeup, skincare and beauty advice, techniques, tips, product information and practical “how-tos” specifically for those of us in our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. I am here to help you so I hope you will please share your questions and concerns with me. I encourage—and will greatly appreciate—all your feedback, comments and questions.

What’s Ahead

Stay tuned in the weeks and months ahead for a wide variety of makeup, skincare, beauty topics and practical “how-to” information ranging from “The Three Makeup Techniques that Research Proves Can Erase 5-20 Years,” to “How to Pick the Perfect Foundation,” to “Must Have Makeup Secrets for Beautiful Eyes.”

Thanks so much for joining me on this journey!

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