Is Your Makeup Aging You? 7 Ways to Turn Back Time

Cosmetic basics like mascara, liner—even lipstick–can add years to your face. Here, how to wear makeup age appropriately

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What ages you: A powdery finish

Powder foundations, especially mineral-based ones, are wildly popular because they are easily tolerated by sensitive and acne-prone skin; plus, many are made with natural ingredients. But unless your skin is flawless (in which case, why wear foundation?), powder can leave you looking like a wrinkly, powder-dusted doughnut. “Powder foundations in general tend to settle into fine lines, wrinkles and pores, drawing attention to any variation in texture,” explains Sarah Tucker, a makeup artist in New Orleans and Houston. And mineral powders in particular often contain a synthetic ingredient called bismuth oxychloride (a grayish-white powder), which can leave behind an unflattering ashy-gray finish that erases natural radiance.


What turns back time: A dewier finish

If you’re married to your powder, you can get all of its skin-safe benefits, but with a more flattering finish, by misting your face with Mary Kay Makeup Finishing Spray by Skindinävia ($18; or Urban Decay Chill Makeup Setting Spray ($29; Both reduce chalkiness and get skin glowing again. If, however, you’re willing to try something new, a sheer-to medium-coverage liquid or cream foundation “adds back luminosity,” says Tucker. Try Giorgio Armani Maestro Fusion Makeup Compact ($64; or, if your skin is on the dry side, Bobbi Brown Luminous Moisturizing Treatment Foundation ($52; 

Urban Decay

What ages you: Makeup on your lower lashes

Most of us were taught to line the top and bottom lashes, corner to corner—and to sweep mascara over every lash. This eye-rimming effect is polished at 25, but around forty-something, lower-lash-line makeup (and the inevitable smudging) stops being sultry and starts to just look haggard. Another negative: Any darkness around the eyes is aging, “as it closes off the area and makes eyes appear smaller and more recessed,” says celebrity makeup artist Katey Denno.

Nico Traut/

What turns back time: Lightening up on the lower lashes

The most effective option is skipping under-eye liner and mascara altogether. But if you’re not ready to go completely bare, try lining and applying mascara on just the outer third of the lower lash line rather than from corner to corner. That way your eye is outlined, but smudging potential is minimized. You may also want to ease up on daytime eye cream. “While it’s good to moisturize before applying makeup, the oils in eye creams can break down the ingredients in liner and mascara,” Denno explains. “So be sure to allow time for your cream to be fully absorbed—give it at least two minutes—before applying any makeup.” Finally, makeup mogul Sonia Kashuk suggests switching to waterproof mascara and a long-wearing liner. Try CoverGirl Flamed Out Water-Resistant Mascara ($7; drugstores) and Sonia Kashuk Long Wear Gel Liner ($9;

What ages you: Crooked eyeliner

As we age, the skin on our lids starts to sag and become crepey,” says Denno. This makes drawing a precise line along the upper lid tricky to achieve—and a wonky, jagged line (or a line that is only partially visible because half is covered by a skinfold) is akin to marking an X on this aging spot.


What turns back time: Minding the gaps

There are two ways to tackle uneven liner application. Denno advises trading your liquid liner or sharp-tipped crayon for a chubbier, creamy liner that you smudge to create a subtle smoked effect that accentuates your lashes and doesn’t need to be straight. Try Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Colour ($24; Another tactic, from makeup artist and QVC favorite Mally Roncal: Hold on to your fine-tipped liner (or use a narrow brush with gel liner) and bury the color within your lashes, using a back-and-forth motion between lashes as you move from inner to outer corner. This defines the top lashes but won’t create a discernible line. Try Shiseido Accentuating Cream Eyeliner ($26; or Bare Minerals Round the Clock Eyeliner ($15;


What ages you: Spider-leg lashes

The density of our lashes decreases with age, says Denno. And piling on volumizing mascara in the hope of rebuilding what’s been lost can actually accentuate the problem by causing unsightly clumps and scraggly hairs that look more Tammy Faye Bakker than Bambi. “Heavily coated lashes are also more likely to flake, and those flakes will land right in eye wrinkles, drawing all the wrong kinds of attention,” says Denno.

Piotr Marcinski/

What turns back time: Natural-looking fringe

Watch any makeup artist, and you’ll see that she begins mascara application by wiggling the wand right at the base of the lash line to deposit color there and create an instant illusion of thick-ness (it’s the gaps between lashes that really highlight sparseness). Using a lash comb after applying mascara will also help. “A lash comb is the one thing every woman needs,” says Kashuk, who designed her epony-mous brand’s Lashify mascara ($7; with a metal comb on one end specifically to tackle this issue. “Separating lashes helps fan out the skimpy ones and more evenly distribute the mascara.” A few other tricks: Use a mascara primer like the one from It Cosmetics, a reader favorite in this year’s Big Beauty Try-On, to help separate lashes before you apply color and to ensure that the mascara goes on evenly. Second, try a mascara formula that contains thickening fibers, such as L’Oréal Paris Voluminous False Fiber Lashes Mascara ($9; drugstores), to temporarily plump up straggly lashes. Finally, ask your doctor for a prescription for Latisse (, a treatment that has been proved to make lashes grow longer and thicker.

Levi Brown

What ages you: Cakey concealer

Dry skin soaks up makeup like a sponge, filling and exposing lines and deep pores. And nowhere is skin drier than around the eyes. However, it’s hard to avoid concealer as we age. “Most women need it to cover darkness around the eye,” Roncal notes. Rock, meet hard place.

Rommel Canlas/

What turns back time: Diligent hydration

You can triumph over the combined forces of dry skin and cakey concealer—but you must be armed with the right eye cream and concealer, plus a primer. First things first: Keep the skin under your eyes well hydrated so it is less likely to drink in your makeup. Try Algenist Complete Eye Renewal Balm ($65; Next, pick up some primer. “Primer should be your new best friend,” Roncal says. Applying it under the eyes will smooth everything out and provide a shield-like layer that concealer will have a tough time penetrating. Try Mally Beauty Perfect Prep Eye Primer ($35; mally Finally, while it’s tempting to go for the ultimate in concealer coverage, a lighter formula (usually available in a wand or pen) is least likely to sink into the skin. Try La Prairie Light Fantastic Cellular Concealing Brightening Eye Treatment ($70; or Neutrogena Healthy Skin Brightening Eye Perfector ($14; drugstores). And if your concealer still cakes despite these precautions, dab your eye cream over the concealer to rehydrate and plump, pushing concealer out of any lines and smoothing the area again.


What ages you: Bleeding lipstick

Even if you’ve never smoked, you’ve probably pursed, puckered or sipped with your lips—in which case you’ve created little lines around your mouth. “Everyone gets them,” says Kashuk. And while lipstick and gloss are generally helpful as we age—they brighten and plump the mouth instantly—you need to be aware that certain formulas will bleed into those lines, creating tiny “spokes” around the mouth.


What turns back time: Border patrol

Try this technique, says Ashunta Sheriff, brand ambassador for Mary Kay and Alicia Keys’s longtime makeup artist: Line just outside your natural lip line to prevent bleeds and make your mouth look fuller. To avoid a ring-around-the-lips effect, most artists suggest using a lip liner that’s as close as possible to your lip color or trying a colorless, waxy lip liner, which has the added benefit of actually filling in those spokes so the lipstick can’t. Try Mally Beauty Lip Fence ($13; When it comes to lipstick selection, “don’t go too matte or too shiny,” says Roncal. Your best bet: a comfortable mid-point, often called a semimatte or satin. Try Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge ($30; or Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick ($8; drugstores). What about gloss? Pros say skip allover application and just dab it in the center of your lips to feign fullness and minimize migration.

What ages you: Sticking to neutrals

One hard truth about aging is that our skin’s natural radiance diminishes. Makeup can help but not if it’s a neutral color, such as brown or taupe, which may magnify the dullness. “Although neutral shades are the equivalent of the little black dress in the makeup world, as we age, our faces should never be all the same tone,” Tucker says. “You need at least one pop of vivid color to break up a monochromatic palette, or you’ll look washed out and tired.”


What turns back time: A bit of bright

Think of it as accessorizing an LBD: Adding a touch of punchy color to neutral makeup gives you a look that’s more interesting. Hues like coral or rosy pink are universally flattering on lips and cheeks, says Sheriff. “Women who never wear blush or who say ‘I’d never wear pink’ just haven’t found the right shade,” says Tucker. “Many times I have applied a rosy blush to a color-averse woman, then asked her to look in the mirror. She may not realize what I did, but she always loves it.” Try Laura Mercier Crème Cheek Colour in Rosebud ($24; or Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush in Candy Coral ($8; drugstores). However, if bright cheeks or lips are just not your thing, accentuating your eyes can also help, says Tucker, who suggests a playful (but wearable) liner or mascara in a shade such as plum or cobalt. Try Le Volume de Chanel Mascara in Prune or Bleu ($30; or CoverGirl Perfect Blend Pencil in Cobalt Blue ($5; drugstores).

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Laura Mercier

First published in the October 2013 issue

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