Makeup-Bag Must-Haves in Your 50s

“In your fifties, most women are in some stage of peri- [or plain old] menopause. And because fewer are using hormone replacement therapy, the side effects can be pretty dramatic,” says Amy Wechsler, MD, a consulting dermatologist for Chanel Skincare. “Two things that may affect your makeup: Your skin tends to be chronically dry, and it can heat up rapidly when you’re having a hot flash.” Your goal is to use products that won’t melt and smudge when your temperature spikes but that are still emollient enough to look and feel good on your parched complexion.

By Genevieve Monsma
Photograph: Todd Huffman

1. Primer(s)
To head off a meltdown, you can use primers on your skin, eyelids and even lips to help makeup stay put. Additionally, “choose formulas, including a primer, that moisturize,” says Matin Maulawizada, makeup artist and brand ambassador for Laura Mercier. A few options: Dior Skinflash Primer in Sheer Glow in No. 001 ($42; sephora .com), Benefit Stay Don’t Stray Primer ($26; or Laura Geller Lip Spackle ($24;

2. Moisturizing Foundation
Unless you’re genetically blessed—or you’ve sprung for laser treatments to even out your skin tone—you, like most women in their fifties, need some foundation to look your best. Heed Maulawizada’s advice and opt for formulas that boost hydration. One that is literally spiked with moisturizer: CoverGirl & Olay Simply Ageless Foundation; $14; drugstores).

3. Concealer 
It may seem counterintuitive, but a sheerer concealer is more flattering as your skin ages, says makeup artist Kimara Ahnert. Heavier cover-ups may be opaque, but they’re also apt to sink into lines around the eyes. A better bet: a concealer-highlighter hybrid. The luminescence softens flaws without the -layers of -caking-prone cover-up. The gold standard is YSL Touche Eclat Radiant Touch; $40; This month YSL is expanding its eight-shade range with four new hues that are variants of existing colors (2.5, 3.5, 4.5, 5.5).

4. Eyelash Curler
Lashes don’t just thin as you age, says makeup magnate Sonia Kashuk; they also straighten out. So if you haven’t been using an eyelash curler to date, now’s the time to start. Pump only once at the roots and again halfway down the lashes. Applying waterproof mascara (as recommended under Waterproof Eye Makeup, below) will also hold the curl better than traditional formulas, says Mally Roncal. Try Sephora 18K Gold Eyelash Curler ($16;

5. Waterproof Eye Makeup
“Women start to complain in their fifties that their eye makeup just doesn’t last,” says Wende Zomnir, founder of Urban Decay Cosmetics. Hot flashes (and the cosmetic slip-’n’-slide that results) are one reason. Upping the ante on eye cream (a necessary evil, since the skin is so dry) is another; the oils in the cream can literally absorb your eye makeup, as well as remove mascara when you blink. Using an eyeshadow primer will help. But so will applying waterproof mascara and eyeliner, Zomnir points out. A pair she personally uses and swears by: Urban Decay Cannonball Ultra Waterproof Mascara ($20) and 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil ($18; Another option: gel eyeliners (which come in a pot and are applied with a narrow brush); they aren’t strictly waterproof, but they’re pretty darn close—and they glide easily across aging eyelids. Try Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner ($22; Finally, don’t neglect your brows; use something there that’s water resistant, too. We like: Per-fékt Brow Perfection Gel ($22;, which comes in clear and three hair-matching hues.

6. Matte Eyeshadow
Most makeup pros we spoke with agreed that shadows with a matte finish are most flattering on fifty-something eyes. (If you just cannot let go of your shimmer, Zomnir suggests you tap it in the inner corners of your eyes to subtly brighten.) Ahnert suggests applying one matte light color (ivory, sand, camel, soft pink) over the whole lid, then swiping on a slightly deeper shade in just the crease. Even if your eyelid is in a daily struggle against gravity, this will add some lift. One palette that offers an abundance of neutral shade options, all utterly wearable: Sonia Kashuk Eye on Neutral Palette in 02 ($20;

7. Bright Cream Blush
Following your mantra to moisturize, choose a cream blush. It’s less likely to streak on dry skin, and the formulas are typically pretty sheer, so you needn’t worry about looking overdone. The pros say keep your shades peppy: pink or peach. And tap the color on the tops of the apples of your cheeks, about a half inch below your eye. Try Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush ($8; drugstores).

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