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How to choose make up when you're older

Tricia Cusden / 02 July 2018 ( 11 March 2019 )

Make up artist Tricia Cusden shares her tips for what to look for when you are choosing makeup to flatter and enhance your older skin.

An older woman applies lipstick in the mirror

I started Look Fabulous Forever, my online brand of makeup for older women, because I was a very frustrated customer of very many other brands! I’ve always loved makeup but I was increasingly dissatisfied with the performance of makeup on my 65-year-old skin because it hadn’t been formulated with my needs in mind.

You're faced with a huge range of choice whenever you visit a makeup counter or beauty hall. These are mostly staffed by young sales assistants who have no training or idea of what to advise for an older face. They will assume that their makeup will look the same on you as it does on a twenty-year-old’s skin, which is patently absurd.

So here are my tips for what to look for when you are choosing makeup to flatter and enhance your older skin.

How to choose face makeup

Let’s start with how to achieve what most of us want: a flawless finish.

Start with a cleansed and well moisturised face as this is the canvas onto which you will put the paint! If you haven’t exfoliated your skin recently then do so to give yourself the best chance for your makeup to to look smooth and flawless.

First you need a good primer. Look for one which makes skin feel silky smooth (try it on the back of your hand first) so that it creates a great surface onto which to apply your foundation. A face primer also ensures that your makeup will stay perfect until bedtime.

Primers for the prime of your life

The texture of your foundation needs to feel light and comfortable when applied, but achieve a completely even skin tone. I’d suggest a cream based formula as these are easier to apply smoothly and are less likely to sit in any lines you may have. Many foundations are so ‘sheer’ that they disappear without trace. If you have liver spots on the back of your hand, try the foundation here to see if it has enough covering power to lightly cover them.

Apply your creamy foundation evenly and lightly to your face, starting in the centre and smoothing towards the outer edges, the jawline and hairline. Look for a colour that matches the neck when smoothed over the jaw. Your neck may be slightly darker than your face because it is less protected from the sun - so match the foundation to that colour, otherwise your face will look as though it's floating above your neck.

Now apply concealer to any blemishes, age spots or darker areas under the eyes. Again I’d look for a creamy texture rather than a powder as this will be easier to apply and look more natural. Apply by stippling with a small brush and then use the warmth of your fingers to ‘press’ the concealer into the skin. Then take a small clean brush and set the concealer with a light dusting of very fine translucent powder.

Use a flesh-coloured highlighter rather than a white-toned one and apply to certain areas catch the light. This needs to create a really soft and subtle effect or you’ll look odd. The young ones use this to create very defined light reflecting contours in selfies - I’d suggest you use highlighter so that your skin looks dewey and softly glowing.

An older face needs a good pink-toned blusher to bring it to life. So look for a cream to powder formulation. If you use a cream blusher it will sink without a trace within an hour or so. If you use a powder one it will accentuate any wrinkles you have on your cheeks. A cream to powder is really easy to apply (onto your cheekbones as opposed to the apples of the cheeks) as you can build the colour using your fingers and then take a blusher brush and blend it really well.

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How to choose eye makeup

Bright neon colours, lots of shine and shimmer and big false eyelashes look amazing on a young face. Less so when you are in your fifties, sixties or beyond. So choose carefully what you buy!

Use an eye primer; it's a brilliant way to smooth the eyelids and help your eye makeup to stay put. Look for a flesh-coloured one which will also neutralise any discolouration on the eyelids too. You only need a small amount to create the perfect surface.

Use a highlighter on the brow bones to create a nice shaping. Follow the same guidelines for the face and use the same product here too. Above all make sure it is not white but flesh-toned.

Define your eyebrows using something that looks as realistic and like real eyebrows as possible. I personally dislike powders (too heavy) and pencils (too light) for the eyebrows as they look very unnatural. I have created something called Brow Shape which, when used with a spoolie brush, is the answer to a maiden’s prayer when it comes to beautiful brows.

Looking after ageing eyebrows and lashes

Look for matte eye shadows in colours that work with your skin tone (warm or cool). If you apply eyeshadows with shimmer in them they will ‘grab’ onto the lines on your lids and accentuate them.

Use eyeshadows to create shape, add subtle colour and give definition to your eyes. Apply with small brushes and really blend well. The best way to create the illusion of larger eyes is to put the lightest colour (say cream) on the lids, a mid toned colour (say taupe) on the socket line and a very dark colour (say charcoal or chocolate) onto the lash line

Look for a mascara which thickens and defines the lashes without making them look long, spiky and spidery. Often older lashes a quite sparse (I know mine are now!) so I want my mascara to help them to look thicker, rather than clumped together!

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How to choose lip makeup

Older lips are often quite thin and poorly defined, by which I mean that the pale lips aren’t well differentiated from the surrounding skin. For many the solution is a lip liner in a darker whilst filling in the lips with a lighter colour. I personally think this looks both hard and also very ‘80’s!

Use a lip primer instead of a lip liner. This will seal the very edges of the lips and prevent your lip colour feathering and bleeding into the lines around your mouth. It will effectively disappear into the skin but will work all day to keep your lipstick looking sharp and clean.

Top tips for luscious lips

Look for creamy textured lipsticks which will feel nicer on the lips than matte long lasting formulations. Again these can look amazing on a young full mouth but don’t work so well on an older face.

Top with a very small touch of lip gloss for a bit of glamour. But, again, I think just using a tinted gloss is best left to the teenagers.

And there you have it! You may well need some trial and error for this process of choosing the right products or you can choose brands like Look fabulous Forever who know what their customers want and really understand their needs.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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