How to Change Makeup as You Age (And: A Few Great Natural Makeup Tutorials)

how not to look oldHow do you change your makeup as you age? And which are the best makeup tutorials for professional women? Reader E wonders…

You’ve had all sorts of posts about makeup to wear when interviewing/commuting/etc. I’m wondering if you could offer some resources that step back even further. I’m in a career (and life!) transitional phase. Before now, I’ve been able to get away with not wearing makeup on a daily basis. Now I’m starting moving into management positions and my professional makeup needs are changing to something more daily. I’m also in my mid 30s and noticing odd things like “fine” lines and growing pores that my old makeup seems to accentuate rather than cover. Can you direct me to what you think are some good, basic tutorials that lay out how to do professional, daily makeup?

Great question. We’ve had an open thread about how your skincare should change as you age, but not specifically about makeup. You may want to check out Charla Krupp’s book, How Not to Look Old (pictured above)– she has a ton of great “aging gracefully” beauty advice in there. Unfortunately, the main piece I remember is that she advised against mauve/rose lipstick, which is my favorite lipstick color, so personally I’m going to ignore that one entirely. A few other suggestions on how to change your makeup as you age:

– No sparkles. Anywhere. Not only are they kind of inappropriate, they are somehow aging as well because they end up in all the wrong places — under your eyes, around your mouth, etc. I’m always amazed when I see Dior Addict recommended as a great lipstick for older women — it’s chock full of sparkles.

– Foundation. This may be just me, but personally, this is the first time in my life that I’m starting to realize that I look better with foundation than without it — it evens my skin tone, hides all the dark spots/freckles that have stuck with me since pregnancy, etc, etc. So far I’m just using my Bare Minerals (which has the added bonus of giving me a layer of sun protection), but I suppose a bigger foundation hunt is in order. (This sounds about as appealing to me as trying on jeans and bathing suits, though, so we’ll see.)

– Consider primers and liners to help corral makeup that wants to escape. Every woman is different, but you may find that your lipstick fades into fine lines around your mouth… you may also find that you need a primer to keep your eyeshadow where it is.

– Reassess your makeup once every five years (at least). I always hate to see older women apply makeup the same way they’ve been doing it for 20+ years — they often end up with a makeup look that is out of vogue, such as heavy mascara and heavy liner on their bottom lashes. You never want to date yourself with your makeup.

– Recognize when colors have to change. No kidding: I wore a lot of blue eye shadow in my early to mid 20s. It was a silvery, light blue (a liquid Almay shade, if I remember correctly) and I liked how it brightened my brown eyes. Nowadays, I’d feel like a moron if I wore blue eyeshadow — but I own a lot of silvery/gray/salt and pepper shadow, which kind of has the same effect but with a bit more sophistication.

I’m curious to hear what the readers say — how have you changed your makeup as you aged?

In terms of makeup tutorials, I’m also curious what readers say — Pretty Shiny Sparkly had a great one a few weeks ago, and this Tyra Banks one (while frenetic) is pretty good as well (I’m going to have to try the advice about “warming up” your concealer). I’m always a huge fan of The Beauty Department’s makeup tutorials, including this interesting flow chart on the sequence to use when applying your daytime makeup. Fashionista also rounded up their top ten favorite beauty tutorials about a year ago (#10 is the daily makeup one). Readers, which is your favorite daytime makeup tutorial on YouTube?


  1. Ever Since hitting 28, I have learned to take better care of my skin. I now do NOT sit out in the sun and bake, like a french fry, even if I go to the beach or the Hamton’s, b/c I learned it was NOT good for you.

    I also use a moistureizer (NIVEA) every nite, and am goieng to get a better one from Estee Lauder when I am mom’s age, and I can afford to. Men alway’s tell me how soft and pure my skin look’s, but Rosa looks ALOT better then me–I think b/c she does NOT sit under a flurescent bulb all day like me. Dad says she is an “IVORY GIRL” and I am a bit spotty, but I know that since I am the oldest one, I have to be abel to let that run off my back, like a duck. FOOEY on him for saying that b/c I am tryeing and Rosa is MARRIED so she does NOT have to work like me.

    I also wear a baseball cap when I walk on the weekend’s, but NOT backwards like Jim and some of the other idiot’s I see on 86th at the bar’s who think that they are atheletic b/c they wear a baseball cap backward’s. I use it right so that the sun does NOT hit my face and eye’s. I usueally wear avaitor glasses from RAYBAN, which Dad got when he was in the militiary. They are NOT prescription, so I can wear his. Men think I look very cute in his glasses!!!! Who knew that I would look better with glasses then without them????? YAY!!!!

  2. I wear much less makeup now (I’m 47) than I did in my 20s or even my 30s. People tell me I look young for my age, but honestly, I take my cue from women in senior management in my business. The women I take seriously wear very little makeup. When I do see an “older” woman wearing a lot of makeup, it looks fake and unattractive.

    I like to wear a tinted moisturizer and a little powder just to even out my skin, blush, a little neutralish eye shadow and that’s it. Most people would also wear a little eyeliner and/or mascara but I’m challenged in that area, so I usually skip the eyeliner unless it’s a special occasion (and I can’t do mascara at all).

  3. Anonymous :

    I hear that something that ages women a lot is wearing wearing foundation on their cheeks. If your foundation matches really well, apply it only to your t-zone (unless you have spots to cover up on your cheeks). I don’t think that older women should wear a ton of eye makeup especially if they have saggy lids or a lot of wrinkles around their eyes.

  4. I was in my teens and early 20’s in the 80’s, when makeup was plastered on in rainbow colors. I go for a much more natural look now. I use primer both for face and eyelids. Softer colors – brown eyeliner and mascara instead of black. I never wear mascara or eyeliner on the lower lid, only upper. On the lower lid it just makes dark circles look worse. I use a BB cream instead of full coverage foundation. And I’m also sticking mostly to neutral colored eyeshadow – although I will wear a colored liner on the upper lid once in a while. I wear lipstick in many shades, but no pale pink lipstick from the 80’s or that reddish brown from the 90’s, no obviously lined lips (either match the lipstick or use a nude for me shade). A little shimmer is ok, but say no to sparkle or glitter.

  5. “Looking younger will help you hold onto your job and your partner–particularly when everyone around you seems half your age.” Sorry if this Amazon book description is inaccurate, but scare tactics like these are a huge turnoff to me. I acknowledge that beauty routines are best adjusted over time, but I don’t think that needs to come with an across-the-board terror about aging (which is rarely encouraged in men). Thumbs down too for this suggestion that all older women should be threatened by/competing with younger women.

    • +1000

    • Totally agree. Also, I’ve only seen this woman on the talk show circuit but I think her advice, to the extent it’s relevant for anyone, is geared to much older women. All of her tips were along the lines of “don’t dry clean your jeans because that crease down your leg will make you look old” and “don’t make your fake teeth too perfect because then they’ll look like fake teeth.” Also, not entirely relevant, but her aesthetic was very unappealing and somehow unnatural.

    • I think the sentiment is great and Kat’s comments are very good, but that book looks like something from the 1980s. Kat, you’d do better to write a book on things like this (and get with a decent graphics designer to design the cover :)

  6. I’m still pretty young (26) but I find myself starting to play around with lipstick nowadays. In college and law school I thought lipstick looked very old and so I always kept it pretty neutral with some gloss or lip balm. Now I will break out the red lips for a date or a dinner with girlfriends.

  7. longtime reader :

    I dye my eyebrows a medium brown once every couple of weeks, and I switched from lipstick to lipgloss. Other than that, my makeup hasn’t changed much. I must wear foundation and I look washed out without blush. In my early 20s I went to a Prescriptives counter and they steered me in the right direction when choosing my eye makeup so I’ve been wearing the same sort of shades since then.

  8. I’ve found that as I’ve left the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stage, less has definitely become more, and what I’ve wanted more of is a more natural look. I play with lip shades more than anything else; I just don’t care for eyeshadow the way I once did. I’ll line my eyes and go with a neutral shadow that works with the general look I’m after — if I’m going warm, dab on some bronzer and for evening a bit of gold on my lids. For a more neutral, rosy look, something on the brown side of pink (as opposed to the “just got slapped” look) and similar on my lids if I bother.

    Best advice I can give regarding lip shades? Blend, blend, blend. Get a good lip brush, get one of those palettes with pots of different colors (or just a few tubes if you know what you like), learn to play. Seldom is your right shade mass-manufactured, not even by a high-end company.

  9. Night time: dime sized amount of hydroquinone + pea sized amount of retin-A

    Day time: Dermalogica face sunscreen spf 50, Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer (their foundation is fantastic too), Laura Mercier “secret camoflauge” for scars/spots/undereye, Bare Minerals powder on top. For bronzer I use Hoola by Benefit and for blush I use Origins “pink your cheeks” line. For eyes I use Clinique blonde brow pencil and Great Lash mascara

    • Veronique :

      What hydroquinone product do you use? Do you use it all over or just as a spot treatment?

      • I use Murad, though I do think a drug store equivalent would work just fine (they’re the same %, not sure why the price is so different…)- I just use it on my cheeks (acne scars) and above my lip (melasma)

        • Veronique :

          Thanks! I’d like to add some type of lightener to my routine once I stop using benzoyl peroxide.

  10. What do you all think of plastic surgery? I used to be adamantly against it, but as I’ve gotten older and seen people I know do some pretty tasteful nips and tucks, my views have softened.

    • I’d never do it, and I’m not super-young. But I would not judge someone negatively for getting stuff done.

      I’m much too risk-averse w.r.t surgery. It’s like driving. I would never want to be an Indy500 or Formula1 driver, because I’m too risk averse. But I’m totally cool with the idea that others choose to do that, and that some do it really well.

      It’d be one thing if I smashed my face in some sort of accident/trauma to the point where my features were unrecognizeable or severely deformed. But if I’m just getting really wrinkly, droopy, saggy, I’d rather stay that way than face the pain of surgery, plus risk of infection, and, sometimes, risk of death.

    • I reckon “tasteful” is the key here. A nip and a tuck can do wonders for self-esteem.

      It’s everyone’s choice what she does with her body, but I side-eye the need for porn star boobs. It’s one thing to go up to a point where you can fit in commercially-available bras. It’s quite another to suddenly be dragging head-sized bags of silicone around on your chest.

      • Definitely a “no” on the chest. But, I’ve seen a few women in their 60s who have done some pretty good face work–very subtle things that don’t scream plastic surgery. It’s really changed my views. They don’t look like they’re hiding their age, but are kind of pinning back certain areas (neck, eyelid tucks, etc.)

        • OG Lady Lawyer :

          Without question, I’m the oldest lawyer on this board. I had my upper eyes done in my late 30’s. My eyes were puffy every day, and I kept thinking it was due to lack of sleep. Nope: age. I looked so much better afterwards.

          I had a full facelift in my late 40’s. I went to S.F., to a plastic surgeon known for creating a natural look. It took about four weeks before I could return to work. Everyone commented upon how relaxed and great I looked. And grumped about the fact that they weren’t senior enough to get a month off.

          Now, I’ve reached my 60’s and have occasional botox for a frown line, and I have my lips injected about twice a year. For the lip injections, I ask the surgeon for a really minimal look. I use less than half the amount he injects in others patients, but it really helps. It’s kinda amazing how much your lips thin out as you age.

          I always thought an exception would be made for me when it came to aging. But no, the universe didn’t agree with the whole exception-deal for the OG lawyer. With luck, all of our posters will get the opportunity to grow old and mature and see life in it’s amazing and glorious fullness.

          • Thank you for this. I’m glad we have such sophisticated ladies on this board. :)

  11. Are sparkles the same as shimmer? I use a bobby brown eyeshadow palette, and most of the colors have a little shimmer to them. Not disco dance party, style, but still a little bit of something. I think some of the Naked palette are similar.

    • No – and especially when we talk eyeshadow.

      I wouldn’t take the advice about no sparkle literally. There are tons of products in the highlighter category that create a beautiful luminosity to the face (i.e. Guerlain’s Meteorite pearls) that only one week of vacation would bring to my face naturally. They are extremely subtle, natural looking and easy to use.

      I also wouldn’t rely only on the spf from a foundation in the summer months.

  12. gablesgirl :

    Loved Charla’s advice and have loaned her book out several times. I believe she passed away last year.

  13. I’ve recently added primer (both full face and eye-specific) to my routine in my mid-30s, and I’ve become a big fan. It helps keep the shadow from settling into my emerging creases/wrinkles and helps make my growing pores less obvious. Bonus – during any sort of acne breakout, it helps keep concealer and foundation in place too. Ah the mid-30s, when you have both wrinkles and acne at the same time. :) I’ve had good luck so far with both the Smashbox and Urban Decay brands.

    • How do you get it to work? I’m having a hell of a time figuring out primer. I only use a little, and use the same line of foundation, but it still ends up with the foundation being a streaky, globby mess that never seems to “set.” The couple of times I tried it, I was distracted all day by the feeling that I was wearing heavy make up (even though i was wearing very little)….

      • Try waiting a few minutes between your primer and foundation, or give a non-silicone primer a try.

  14. I’m 42 and I’ve made a few changes over the years. The biggest is now I use Dr. Hauschka for cleanser/toner/moisturizer. I have sensitive skin and always had some rosacea but it’s the only product line I’ve found that calms my skin. I also stay away from abrasives, peels, etc. though I do use a little hydroquinine cream to lighten some age spots.

    For foundation, I swear by Bare Minerals. I was going to switch to a liquid – since I’d read that older women shouldn’t use powder – but I asked a few makeup experts and they all asked if I was even wearing anything (and I was). They thought my skin looked flawless so I guess I’ll just keep with that. I use their blush too.

    I’m very diligent now about keeping my brows trimmed and plucked, and I use a shadow brush instead of the applicator to sweep on a little white highlighter eye color along the brow, and a little color along the lid. I find it really lifts my eyes especially since I wear glasses.

    Otherwise, I agree – less is more. I stay out of the sun and wear a floppy SPF hat when I’m at the beach, I never go without sunblock even in the winter, and I don’t smoke. Which is why I think my skin looks as young as it does.

  15. I absolutely live the clarisonic! I also get facials regularly.

    I not only have adjusted my makeup into my 30s but I change it seasonally. For the summer I use less eyeliner and benefit high beam highlighter.

    I also use Lorax bronzer makeup for my fake tan instead of going in the sun.

    I know a woman in her 40s that uses heavy eye makeup and it just makes her look like she’s trying to hard. I save heavy eye makeup for a special night out.

  16. Try going without any eyeshadow or use a matte shadow that is just a tad lighter than your face tone. Do everything else the same. A makeup artist recommended this to me for my everyday makeup and it makes a world of difference if you want to look younger. I’m not just saying “a world of difference” – I mean it, it will make you look so much younger than when you use pigmented shadows.

  17. I’m 39 and was always a sort of natural, casual girl. My vanity regarding youth preservation now knows no bounds. Probably because people have always assumed I’m younger than I am and because I am considered cute…the idea of aging and not being young and cute freaks me out. We can talk about my betrayal of my feminist principles later.

    Anyhow, I recently started a course of IPL treatments for rosacea. While I haven’t noticed a huge change in redness I have seen my sun damage and the texture of my skin improve, which has made me more determined to stick with a course of medical beauty treatments as long as I don’t end up looking like a cat face woman or a botox junkie freeze face. I expect to start hydroquinone and retin a when I’m done with the IPL.

    I use only all natural products (except for some cosmetics – nothing with sulphates) and moisturize like crazy. I am psychotic about sunblock and wear it at all times, reapply constantly and stay out of the direct sun (except when swimming in the ocean, but I still reload on spf before and after I go in). As far as makeup goes I try to keep it at a minimum, but I, too, notice I look better now with mascara, some BB cream or tinted moisturizer than without.

    On work/important days I wear eyeliner (liquid, using the old tightlining technique on upper lashes only to get makeup/no makeup look) and eyeshadow. I went to Chanel and had their artist do regular workday eyeshadow on me and I just repeat that. In my personal life I am more casual, so I focus on makeup tricks to keep me looking fresh at work mostly. I still don’t like lipstick but find that Nivea’s cherry lip balm is the perfect shade to give me a little color and moisture without looking matronly. BB cream and light/translucent powder and that’s it.

    I keep my grays highlighted (they were showing through dye, which was a surprise), get brows/lip waxed regularly, and have a strict plucking regimen. Nothing gives away age like errant chin hairs (hello fellow Italians!). I don’t let my highlights get too light – I feel like sudden blondeness is also a telltale “help, I feel old!” flag. I also shy away from nail polish and any shimmer. I also moisturize my…chest…with cocoa butter daily to prevent stretch marks, which are inevitable even without kids, especially if you are well-endowed. I have also started sleeping in a little bra top to keep the girls from heading south more quickly.

  18. Houston Attorney :

    I had to comment. I recently looked in the mirror and realized I had not bought new make-up in 5 years. My son is 9 and he is a terrorist in the make-up section of a department store so I never get to go. All of my make-up had been purchased by my husband at a charity auction at during Christmas at his office. Although good intentioned, none of it was near my color. So, when my son went to summer camp for the first time this summer, I went to the Bobbi Brown counter at Neimans and sat down and told the girl (she was 20, she was a girl), you hit the jack pot. I got everything from eye cream to mascara. She took one look at me and realized I was pretty natural, did not want too many steps. Saw my problem as circles, not wrinkles. For 20, she got the issues of a 47 year old face pretty good. Good training there at Bobbi Brown. I walked out feeling like a million bucks (and not like a hooker!). I have received a number of compliments on my new make-up, even from the Osama Bin Laden of Neiman Marcus himself upon his return from camp who said, Mama your face looks really pretty. So my tip on make-up and getting older, don’t let your husband buy it for you at a charity auction, take an hour for yourself at least once every 5 years, and pick a brand that is not geared towards 20 year old women (even though 20 year old women work at the counter).

  19. I’m 37 but look younger. Most women in my office (near my level) wear zero to minimal makeup. Most days, I only curl my lashes and make sure my eyebrows are presentable. I drink water, herbal tea, or soda most of the day, so lipstick is a bit of a waste.

    For a big presentation or meeting, I’ll wear bareminerals foundation, mascara, a very neutral shadow, and some sort of lip color. I don’t think anyone actually notices it though – it’s more of a habit for me. This is the kind of place where making too much effort style-wise (men or women) is actually looked down on.

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