A Makeup Update for Mature Faces

Lips and cheeks are where the action is, while eyes are subtle and tame.

By Linda Dyett

Makeup for mature faces: Elizabeth McGovern

The Countess of Grantham … errr … actress Elizabeth McGovern, looking up-to-date in bright red lipstick and obvious blush.
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Makeup for mature faces: Milk and Sophia LaurenUpdated Sept. 5, 2022

A few weeks ago, I witnessed a remarkable scene on the beauty floor at Macy’s Herald Square. At the always-frenetic M.A.C. enclave, twenty-somethings oohed and aahed as a drag queen known as Milk (on left) sashayed up and down the aisles—part of a lipstick promotion. Meanwhile, just yards away at the Dolce & Gabbana counter, a va-va-voom Sophia Loren—or rather larger than life photos of the movie icon, now 81 (above right)—inspired a handful of mature ladies who were making their lipstick, blush, and brow choices.

That’s the thing about makeup: The urge to paint our faces is embedded in our DNA. We may wear it less flamboyantly over time, but after 40 or 50 years we risk getting stuck in tired colors and outmoded techniques. Still doing ’80s eyelid-crease darkening or cheek contouring? Still wearing ’90s muted lipstick or bronzer? It’s time for a reboot. The look today is vibrant, with preferably red(dish) lips and non-muddy blush. Lips and cheeks are now where the emphasis is, while eye makeup is subtle and tame.

Makeup for mature faces: Brigitte Reiss-Andersen and Sandy LinterBut how much of this look works on mature women? That’s the question I asked two virtuoso makeup artists to the stars. One of them is Brigitte Reiss-Andersen (on left), long associated with Catherine Deneuve, as well as Gisele Bündchen, Salma Hayek, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sheryl Crow, Rachel Weisz and Claire Danes. A skeptic and maverick about makeup claims, she’s developed a style that stays true to the individual and allows for signature quirks.

The other champion makeup artist is Sandy Linter (above right). Her recent faces include Christie Brinkley, Sigourney Weaver, Bette Midler, Vanessa Redgrave, Suze Orman, and Candace Bergen. Holding the title of Lancome Beauty at Any Age Expert, Linter excels in a polished, glam look—and is available for lessons and applications at the Rita Hazan Salon on Fifth Avenue.

Here’s are Reiss-Andersen and Linter’s frank, unexpurgated makeup tips for winter:

Foundation: The issue isn’t covering wrinkles and sagging—which no natural-looking makeup will completely camouflage. Anyway, who wants the caked-over effect of thick foundation? (That will really age a face.) But foundation has its benefits. “You look washed out without it,” says Linter, who recommends a lightweight formula, “to brighten the skin without enhancing wrinkles.” She likes Lancôme Ultra Cushion ($47) below left, which “diffuses imperfections without looking like you’re not wearing makeup.” And when selecting a color, she suggests going slightly richer in tone than your own skin.

Makeup for mature faces: Foundation

Reiss-Andersen has a warning about foundation: “Just about every makeup company has lately been in ‘an orange craze,’” which doesn’t suit anyone’s skin.” She’s also not impressed with today’s mousse makeup, foams, or silicone formulas. Her choice to pump up your radiance? Above, second left to right: The original Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($64), “which looks like a second skin. She also likes that old standby, Clinique Superbalanced Makeup ($31).

Makeup for mature faces: Foundation

Another good one: Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Luminous Creamy Foundation (Sorry, sold out–editor). This is a rich formula; only a few drops are needed. Whichever foundation you select, she recommends applying it with a wet sponge, adding a couple of drops of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (a botanical oil blend; about $42) for extra radiance.

Concealer: “It’s a sad story about concealers,” laments Reiss-Andersen. “The colors rarely suit anyone’s undereye area.” Her advice? Use foundation to brighten a dark under-eye area. But wait—she recommends Nuance Salma Hayek Front & Center Concealer & Brightener ($14.) below left. The two-tone Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage (now in a stick, $32) is also worth a try.

Makeup for mature faces: Concealer

To apply concealer, Linter suggests looking in a mirror, finding the inner corner of your eye, “where you’re dark,” and stroking on a bit of concealer with a concealer brush. Draw a half moon over the pupil, stop there, and blend in. “You don’t need concealer where you smile—you’re usually not dark there.

Blush: “It’s the most gratifying beauty product available; a quick application—and it’s sheer magic!” says Reiss-Andersen. Today blush is all about looking like you’ve just gotten off a VersaClimber. “What is not great,” she continues, “is an almost theatrical looking old-lady-like red or matte fuchsia pops of color.  The other no-no is the blue-ish toned muted powder blush that is a common offering. The best is a warm hue that restores a little of the youthful flush.”

Makeup for mature faces: BlushHer preference is for cream blushes. “Not only do they blend in with ease, but you can readily wipe away any potential blunders. Just apply a few dots on the apples of your cheeks, rub in, and blend well.”

Linter takes a bold approach to blush. She likes true pinks, corals, and apricots, not the dusty, toned down, muted shades many of us assume we need. “They make the skin look ashen.” Above left and clockwise, her favorite: the Kevyn Aucoin Creamy Glow Duo ($28) in pink Pravella/Janelle and coral Tansoleil/Bettina. Other smart choices: H&M Pure Velvet Cream Blusher in Sunny Peach ($4.99) and Sonia Kashuk Crème Blush ($9.79) in Petal. (Very sorry, all discontinued)

Eyeliner: “For a woman over age 50, eyeliner is more important than eyeshadow and maybe more important than eyelashes,” says Linter. “When you put eyeliner on, you get that definition, that spark.” “A line along the eyelashes will take five years off immediately,” adds Reiss-Andersen.

Makeup for mature faces: Eyeliner
Both prefer pencils over liquid or cake as the best and softest choice. They also agree that black is an ideal liner shade to use. The trick this season, and for older skin generally, says Reiss-Andersen, is to apply a thin line, staying close to the lashes. As for brown liner, that’s OK too, she allows (though a note of bleh crept into her voice when she mentioned it).

Makeup for mature faces: Eyeliner

Her hands-down favorite eyeliner is Votre Vu Le Joli Crayon/Soft Eye Liner, at top. “It’s almost a mix between a pencil and a liquid. You have 10 seconds to smudge it before it sets “and it stays beautifully all day.” Another liner she recommends is the Giorgio Armani Smooth Silk Eyeliner Pencil ($30) above, which she says has the best brown in the business—for those who prefer a softer eye. She and Linter both like Lancôme Le Crayon Khôl ($26)—Linter adds that Black Coffee and Ebony are the only shades she uses.

Makeup for mature faces: Eyeliner

To add to the eyeliner drama, Linter suggests tracing over your pencil liner with a liquid or gel liner. Two that are popular: Above, top, Covergirl Perfect Point Plus Eyeliner ($6.99) and Benefit They’re Real Push-Up Eyeliner ($24). Just don’t use a liquid or gel on its own—too strong, Linter warns.

Eyeshadow: Over time, Linter has observed, the tops of the eyelids are likely to droop, which slightly raises their temperature—meaning whichever color you apply will tend to melt. To prevent that, start with a primer. Her recommendation: Lancôme Aquatique ($27, below left).

Makeup for mature faces: Eyeshadow

The eyelids are a canvas for blues, purples, gold—colors you wouldn’t use anywhere else on your face. But you’ve got to remember that less than fresh older lids need light. Contouring with, say, ochre in the crease? Overkill.

“What you want instead,” says Reiss-Andersen, “is a discreet pop of color.” She favors “camel instead of dark brown, warm gold [ultra-fashionable this season] rather than silver, and earth tones.” Also, avoid anything matte, she urges, and look for shimmer (not to be confused with glitter), which has a softening effect. One of Reiss-Andersen’s favorites is, Nars Dual Intensity Eyeshadow ($29, not available). Also impressive: H&M Cream Eyeshadow ($6.99, above right)—very silky.

Whatever you do, keep eyeshadow close to your lashes. Aim for a hint of color, as if your black kohl line segued into a lilac or apricot border. You can get that effect with gel-like Ombre Premiere Laque Longwear Liquid Eyeshadow ($36, not shown).

Makeup for mature faces: Brows

Brow Makeup: “You always need a little framing of the eye,” says Reiss-Andersen. So if your brows have grown sparse or lost pigment, “they definitely need to be recreated.” Her preference is for powder—“much easier to use and more natural looking than pencil.” Her favorites: the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo ($23) above left, and Shiseido Eyebrow Styling Compact (Sorry, no longer available–editor).

For brows that have grown sparse, Linter recommends Lancôme’s Brow Shaping Powdery Pencil ($26.50)—“a pencil-powder mix with enough depth to go over bare skin.” For grey hair, she suggests the shade called Taupe.

Makeup for mature faces: MascaraMascara: Reiss-Andersen is 100 percent in favor. “If you curl your lashes and keep the mascara close to the roots, the effect will look natural.” That said, she adds that even with the multitudinous choices out there today, “all that’s really new is the size and shape of the brush.” So stick with basic black, good old reliable Maybelline Great Lash Mascara ($4.79), she advises—and if you wear glasses or you have hooded eyelids, get the waterproof version.

Or if you want to try one of the newfangled brushes, consider Givenchy Phenomen’Eyes Mascara ($32), whose brush is a sphere of spiky bristles (like a minuscule dishwashing brush) that’s terrific at fanning out and covering even the shortest lashes.

Both Linter and Reiss-Andersen recommend daily lash curling. Linter is keen on the Kevyn Aucoin Eyelash Curler ($21). “It opens very, very wide, so it won’t pinch.”

Lip Color: The hot shade this season is red. But don’t go too dark—that’s aging, urges Linter, adding that softer reds generally look better on mature lips. Reiss Andersen takes a more laissez faire, rule-free lipstick approach, but she warns against nudes, “which can wash you out.”

Both Linter and Reiss-Andersen suggest avoiding shiny lip gloss. “It doesn’t feel current,” says Linter. But satin lipstick textures are good, and so is matte—for dramatic effect. Plus, “matte won’t bleed,” she adds.

Makeup for mature faces: Lipstick

Above left to right: A couple of great reds: Rouge Dior ($37) in easy-to-wear pink-red Rouge Blossom, and M.A.C. Huggable Lipcolour ($21, unavailable) in raspberry Red Necessity. Despite its gel-like texture, it’s longlasting and semi-opaque, leaving a pinkish-red stain in its wake.

Want something gentler than red? Try Dolce & Gabbana’s Sophia Loren No. 1 (I can’t believe this is out of production now–ed), a warm cherry pink, that’s the actress’s signature lipstick. Macy’s and Saks are sold out, but you can join the waiting list.

What about lip liner? Yes, for restoring plumpness, says Reiss-Andersen. She recommends a liner color that matches your lipstick. IT Cosmetics IT Girl Lips Perfect Red Lip Set, $29.50, featuring a velvety, richly pigmented liner and co-ordinating lipstick, is a perfect pre-packaged example in stunning cherry red: This combo (trust me) lingers for a good 6 hours, above right.

Below: Two other liners worth trying: E.L.F. Long-Wear Lipliner Pencil ($8), and Make Up For Ever Aqua Lip Waterproof Lip Liner Pencil ($20).

Makeup for mature faces: Lipliner

Face Powder: “You don’t really need face powder unless you’ve got a shiny T-zone or you’re being photographed,” says Reiss-Andersen. Linter concurs, adding, “it certainly isn’t needed on the cheeks, where it only drabs down the skin.” Below, left to right: For T-zone control, Reiss-Andersen recommends Armani Luminous Silk Compact ($62), while Linter likes Kevyn Aucoin’s “The Ethereal” Pressed Powder (not available). Another good choice: Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder ($39).

Makeup for mature faces: Powder

Makeup for mature faces: Women

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Bright lips and cheeks, tame but inviting eyes.

Top row: French actresses Emmanuelle Seigner and Juliette Binoche, British actress Kristin Scott Thomas. Second row: Elizabeth McGovern, Judi Dench, Jessica Lange. Third row: Norma Kamali, Amy Tan, Rita Moreno. Fourth row: Christine Baranski, French actresses Emmanuelle Devos and Francoise Fabienne.

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Linda Dyett’s articles on fashion, beauty, health, home design, and architecture have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Monocle, Afar, New York magazine, Allure, Travel & Leisure, and many other publications.

You may enjoy other NYCitywoman articles by Linda Dyett:

Turning Antique Lace into Silver and Gold

Tips from a Top NYC Hair Colorist

Custom-Made Womenswear

A Look at Five Visionary Studio Jewelers

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