12 Makeup Rules You Should Know by the Time You’re 40

Makeup trends come and go—blue eye shadow, anyone?—but these classic beauty techniques help you radiate health and vitality at any age.

As you get older, your skin tends to thin and develop fine lines, and your makeup routine needs to change to accommodate those nuances. The first order of business is to toss out powder, which reliably makes you look older.

“Powder adds way too much texture, looks cakey, and takes the life out of your skin. Skin is alive and should look dewy and touchable,” says Cindy Joseph.

“If you feel you must use foundation, don’t put powder over it. Wait for it to dry; then dab moisturizer over it,” says Joseph.

A great, lightweight option for smooth coverage is Tinted Moisturizer. After applying it evenly all over your face, press a makeup sponge onto any wrinkled areas, where makeup may have settled in. And make sure to choose the right foundation—the color should match yours even before it’s blended. (Wearing shades too light or too dark are some of the makeup mistakes that age you.)

Know which lip colors work best with your skin tone

As you age, you naturally lose definition in your lips, so you want to avoid dark colors like deep reds, purples, and browns, which make your pout look even smaller, less highlighted, and less plump.

“Choose a color that blends into your skin tone color palette,” Joseph suggests. “You can find the best hue for yourself if you look at the color tone of your lips, tongue, and gums.” Pink? Mauve? Salmon? Let your natural palate guide you to the right colors.

Apply blush in places it occurs naturally

Many women apply dark blush or bronzer beneath their cheekbones in the hopes of slimming their face. However, this attempt at contouring often ends up looking dull, muddy, and unnatural. Instead, your blush should match your natural flush, and you should apply it in places where it would naturally appear—not in a line down your cheekbone or highly concentrated onto the apples of your cheeks.

“Women blush when they’re happy, so place your blush where you naturally get color when you’re having a good time,” Joseph says.

“That would be where the capillaries are close to the surface, meaning your lips, cheeks, outer eye crease, upper forehead, and neck.” To choose the right shade of blush, pinch your cheeks and pay attention to the color that emerges—that’s what you’re trying to match.

Stop applying eyeliner to your lower lashes

Lining your bottom lids can make your eyes appear smaller, dragged down, and overall older. The eyes already start drooping with age, so you don’t want to accentuate this process with lines beneath your eyes. Joseph recommends lining only your upper lid (and not too thickly), to open up and brighten your eyes. If you must apply eyeliner to your lower lashes, stick to the outer corners and make sure the top and bottom lines connect

Never let your lipstick migrate

Your natural lip line will begin to fade as you age, which makes lipstick more apt to bleed and feather. (Yet another reason to avoid dark-colored lipsticks.)

To avoid this unfortunate makeup migration, be sure to trace your lips with a clear lip liner, or one the same color as your natural lips. This will create a barrier between your lips and the surrounding fine lines, helping the color stay put.

Don’t go overboard with undereye concealer

Let’s face it, as you get older, the skin under your eyes naturally gets thinner and darker. But that isn’t an invitation to start piling on heavy concealer.

A thick layer of undereye concealer is extremely likely to crack and cake, which only draws more attention to the area. To avoid applying too much, use a lightweight formula, and apply it with a brush, which will help distribute the color evenly.

And only put concealer onto the darkest areas that truly need coverage, not the entire under-eye area, or you risk resembling a raccoon.

Avoid sparkles

Sparkles that settle into wrinkles are not a glamorous look. Sparkles are especially aging on the eyelids because they magnify and bring attention to every fine line. If you’re feeling festive and really want to glam it up, limit sparkly shadow to the inner corners of your eyes and the center of your lids.

Always fill in sparse brows

Eyebrows become thinner due to natural hair loss as you age, so filling in sparse sections is an absolute must. Brows should always be kept defined, well-shaped, and fairly full, as this looks youthful and healthy, according to Joseph.

Plus, eyebrows frame your face, so without a nice, full shape, your face is likely to look heavier, rounder, and wider.

Find the right brow pencil color

When filling in brows, don’t just grab a random brown that seems neutral enough—or you risk looking like a granny cartoon with black, Sharpie-marker brows. The fact is that your eyebrow color gradually fades to grey, white, or so fair that the brows are practically invisible, so it’s imperative that you choose a pencil color that matches. Joseph recommends going with a brow pencil or gel with brown undertones.

Use a pearly, not frosty highlighter

Stay far, far away from frosty or iridescent highlighter shades, as these light-reflecting effects actually accentuate fine lines and creases. They also appear highly unnatural and painted on, just sitting atop the skin instead of blending into it. “For highlight and radiance, avoid frosts and use creamy pearlescents instead,” Joseph says

Never skimp on primer

By the time you’ve celebrated 40 birthdays or more, you’re likely to have collected some souvenirs—like acne scars and other random unneven spots, and you may also have dry, flaking skin.

Primers are like the spackle you’d use when repainting a wall—they create a smooth base that ensures all makeup stays put and doesn’t crack. Primers also help diminish the appearance of pronounced wrinkles and fine lines, leaving you with a silky smooth finish.

“We have all seen the woman who wears too much makeup. If you look in the mirror and see make-up rather than YOU, it may be too much,” says Joseph. “Instead of trying to conceal what you believe are flaws, accent what you really love about your face instead—your eyelashes, eyebrows, your color, your lips.

Others rarely see your brown spots, dark circles, or uneven skin,” she adds. “People see what’s attractive, so play up the features you love instead of trying to hide something you don’t like.” Check your motivation for wearing makeup: Is it fear or fun?

Go for fun, Joseph advises, and the joie de vivre will show in your face. “Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic,” Joseph says.

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