Beauty Tips from Expert Andrea Robinson

In her new book Toss the Gloss, Robinson guides women 50+ through beauty routines that are minimal in effort but strategic.

By Kim Johnson Gross


Andrea Q. Robinson is a beauty industry veteran. In 1989, she created and launched The Nakeds Ultima II line at Revlon. She collaborated with Kevyn Aucoin, who helped develop the ground-breaking color palette, and Irving Penn, who photographed the advertising campaign—both colleagues from her previous position as Beauty Editor at Vogue. Next stop L’Oreal, where as President of Ralph Lauren Fragrances, she grew it to become the largest fragrance house worldwide. But it was late in 2007, when she was President of Tom Ford Beauty, that she was asked to retire by a male executive at Estee Lauder, the parent company.

It was at that pivotal moment when she started to notice that her once fresh looking skin had given way to the inevitable: lines, wrinkles, under eye shadows. Professionally she was frustrated that the men running the beauty industry revered anti-aging creams as gold in the bank for women with menopausal skin, but considered the same audience “aged out” of the cosmetic market. This galvanized her to draw upon her resources and find beauty regimens that would help women 50+ restore their skin’s lost youthfulness. Thanks to a career collaborating with cosmetic scientists, makeup artists, dermatologists, cosmetologists, plastic surgeons and beauty junkies, she succeeded.

Andrea shares her simple beauty strategies for skin, make-up, hair and nails in her new book Toss the Gloss: Tips, Tricks & Truths for Women 50+. She also gives the scoop on industry deceptions that encourage us to spend unnecessary money, recommends affordable product solutions, provides how-to tips (including best results for DIY hair coloring) and walks us through the pros and cons of more intensive skin procedures.

Andrea’s ageless beauty and personal style is a modern mix of refreshing the best of the old by adding the best of the new. When I interviewed her, she was wearing a 1950’s “Lord & Taylor pastel boucle suit by Jack Clarke” with nude hosiery and classic Manolo Blahnik stilettos. She appeared to be wearing no make-up, yet she looked quite fabulous, which is the mastery she shares in Toss the Gloss—how to look like you, but better.

Tips, Tricks and Truths from Toss the Gloss:

“My make-up mentor was my mother. She loved cosmetics and wore them until the day she died at 98.

Fool-proof make-up colors are nudes. They are not beige and boring; they come in a great range of colors for cheeks, lips and eyes.

I always carry lip pencil in my purse. My two favorites are Prestige’s “Nude” ($5.25) and MAC’s “Stripdown” ($18) top left. I line my lips and then apply the pencil all over them. I top with Jemma Kidd’s “Peggy” lipstick ($19) bottom left.

To bring attention to my eyes I dye my lashes, but Maybelline’s Great Lash ($4.49) is great for instant gratification. I also use Giorgio Armani’s eye pencil in soft black ($30) and Laura Mercier’s black eye shadow ($25). It’s important to smudge them up for a sexy, but not overly made-up look.

My everyday make-up is Dr. Hauschka’s tinted day cream ($45), which is very moist, and Laura Mercier’s cream blush in “Praline” ($28). I stay away from matte powders. They emphasize lines and rough skin patches.

For evening make-up, I wear a darker version of nude colors for more intensity. I also recommend adding a few false eyelashes. They’re easy to apply once you get the hang of it. I walk you through the process in Toss the Gloss.

For the best make-up application, start with a primer. I use it less now, because I get laser treatments, but it preps your skin so make-up looks better and lasts longer.

My pet peeves in make-up application are harsh lines—liquid eyeliner, unblended blush and visible lip liner with a contrasting lip color. And stay away from gloss! It often bleeds into the vertical lines above your mouth.

Don’t waste money on moisturizers that target different areas of your skin. Moisturizer is moisturizer. I use Dr. Orentreich’s Body Lotion on my face and body (Note: you must be a patient of his to attain this product). Word of caution: Using a fragrant moisturizer near your eyes might cause irritation.

Expensive but effective is Crème de la Mer’s facial moisturizer ($170). It’s made from a special broth that remains a tightly held secret.

I use Clarisonic Mia 1 ($99) every other day. It sloughs the skin better than a facial.

I have super sensitive, highly allergic skin, so I love Bioderma Créaline H2O ($14.90). It’s an incredibly gentle, non-alcoholic, soap free, non-rinse eye and face cleanser that feels quite fabulous.

Women with great hair are (above, left to right) Michelle Obama, who I think caught her “style” stride during the president’s term; Anne Sweeney, a former top Disney executive, who always appears to have a great cut and usually wears black, which calls attention to her hair; Diane Sawyer has a great cut and highlights.

Grey hair can look fabulous if your skin has olive tones or you are always tan like IMF President Christine Lagarde. You also need to take care of your hair with proper shampoos and treatments.”

(For more about hair care, visit the NYCitywoman article Tips from a Top NYC Hair Colorist and Going Gray in Style.)

“My proudest career accomplishment was helping to make Ralph Lauren Fragrance the biggest fragrance house in the world.

My fragrance wardrobe consists of Robert Piguet’s Fracas, my all time favorite ($150), which is great in winter, as is Oud Wood by Tom Ford ($230). I wear Aerin Lauder’s Tuberose Gardenia throughout the year ($160), and I worked on Romance by Ralph Lauren ($76), which I continue to adore—it’s a summer classic.

My favorite pharmacy in New York is Carnegie Hill Pharmacy, 1331 Madison Avenue, for great, unique brands.

My greatest indulgence is vintage clothes and vintage jewelry. I go to the Manhattan Vintage shows and Antiques Garage (sorry, closed–editor). at 112 West 25th Street. But you have to be willing to buy on the spot before your item disappears.

What I wore to my book party that Ralph Lauren hosted (photo at top): A white tuxedo shirt with an open collar, black cigarette pants, long vintage earrings and a vintage choker. I knew Ralph would appreciate it.

My definition of beauty is wabi-sabi, a concept I learned during a tea ceremony at the Horai Spa that Issey Miyake recommended in Japan (left). Wabi-sabi celebrates the beauty of imperfection, especially as it relates to the changes experienced with the passage of time. In beauty, it’s the opposite of trying too hard.

Women with wabi-sabi are (below, left to right) Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton and my friend Ali MacGraw—no cosmetic surgery for her. She looks fabulous tanned with wrinkles wearing white jeans, a white shirt and two sweaters wrapped around her shoulders.

My ideal beauty is an image Ralph Lauren conveyed to me of a girl in a convertible with the top down and her hair blowing in the wind. I like to think we can all capture that carefree, natural girl in ourselves at any age, and be as the French say—bien dans sa peau—comfortable in our skin.”

The renowned experts whom Andrea worked closely with to share their wisdom are Gad Cohen for haircuts and makeup; Louis Licari, the hair color guru; dermatologist Dr. Gervaise Gerstner; and Dr. David Rosenberg, facial plastic surgeon…whom she describes as “part magician, part artist, part shrink.”

Kim Johnson Gross is the author of What to Wear for the Rest of Your Life and co-creator of the Chic Simple book series. She was Fashion Editor at Town & Country, Style Director at Avenue, Fashion Director at Esquire, and columnist for InStyle and More magazines.

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