Yes, you do need to rethink your makeup as you age

Take a peek inside your cosmetic bag. If you see products you’ve worn for 10 years — or more — it’s time to give your makeup a makeover.

Your personal history of wearing makeup is likely a long one. Most women remember the life-changing year that they were officially allowed to wear it.

This milestone does not include junior high years when you snuck lip gloss and some peachy blush in your backpack, and applied it using the mirror inside your locker. All evidence of these amateurish attempts at cosmetics had to be scrubbed off before you got home, of course.

The ’70s were a time when Bonne Bell soda-flavored lip balms and Love’s Baby Soft perfume were all the rage. With role models from Cher and Charlie’s Angels to Wonder Woman and the Pink Ladies in Grease, teenage girls had plenty of inspiration to draw from.

Disco makeup, meanwhile, featured techno-colored eye shadow and butterfly false eyelashes. The popular lipstick was (and still is) classic cherry red. Hair spray was a huge hit that launched a Broadway show, but that’s another story for another time.

As we finished school and found our own personal style, many of us eschewed cosmetics for a natural look. Years of motherhood probably meant a swipe of lipstick on the way out the front door.

In your 40s and early 50s, you likely had a stash of reliable skin care, eye shadow, lipstick and blush products. Fast forward to current days, when we have time and energy to fine-tune our signature look — and yet most of us don’t, instead relying on what we’ve done for years. 

Why do so many of us avoid switching up our cosmetics? “Women get comfortable in their routine,” says Rachel Duncan, owner of Color Me Gorgeous in Altamont. “They want something quick and easy and fall into a habit. As time passes, your skin isn’t the same, so your goals can’t be the same decade after decade.”

Alayne Curtiss, owner of Make Me Fab in Saratoga Springs, likens this to falling into a proverbial rut. “What is it about makeup and changing our look that’s scary?” she says. “We want to look like a version of ourselves from 20 years ago. It’s an identity we’ve had for so long. Listen, you don’t have to make huge changes. You can take small steps to update your look.”

The question is where to start. Local makeup experts have plenty of advice for updating and enhancing your cosmetic efforts, whether you want a subtle flush of color or something suitable for a dinner party. 

Assortment of makeup products
When in Doubt, Toss it Out

Yes, cosmetics have an expiration date! If it looks old or changes texture, get rid of it. Most foundations, concealers, liquid eyeliners and face creams need to be replaced anywhere from 3 to 12 months out. Check the Period After Opening (PAO) symbol on most cosmetic product labels for a guideline. Photo: Photo:

First, consider the lighting in the room where you’re putting on cosmetics. “You want to mimic daylight, which is a white, not yellow cast,” says Tayla Janowicz, owner of The Makeup Studio Saratoga. 

Since most of us don’t apply our makeup on our front porch, Janowicz says the best lighting is a 6400 Kelvin bulb, which you can find at most home stores. This bulb creates a pure light, with a slight bluish-white tint.

Next question: What kind of mirror are you using to apply your makeup? If you answer “magnifying,” it’s time for a change.

“Using a magnifying mirror will only show more problems than you really have,” Janowicz says. “You will have no self-control. You will over pluck your eyebrows and pick at blemishes.”

A good beauty routine starts with hydration. Sure, you want to drink plenty of water for myriad health reasons, but it also boosts the appearance of a fresh, glowing complexion.

After cleansing, dab on a complexion serum, which is a liquid enhanced with a variety of ingredients ranging from vitamins and minerals to elements based in nature, such as kelp and floral or plant extracts. “Serums are something many women aren’t using because they think they will cause breakouts,” says Duncan. “Just use a drop or two, then gently press the product into the skin. Rubbing can irritate skin.”

Save that heavy hand for moisturizers that are designed for the face, i.e., not Jergens hand lotion or whatever’s on your nightstand. “Put on a good layer of moisturizer,” says Janowicz. “Spread it evenly across the face and let it sink in.”

Once your skin is hydrated and ready to glow, reach for foundation, available in creams, sticks, powders and liquids. “Older women should stick with a water-based foundation,” says Autumn Wright, owner of Seraphina Divine Beauty in Ballston Spa. “Foundation with oil is great for 22-year-olds, but for a more mature skin, you don’t want shimmer because it accentuates wrinkles. Stick to water-based.”

Think layers, not gobs of foundation. Then blend, blend, blend. Makeup sponges and brushes are available in all sizes, but there’s nothing wrong with using your fingertips. (Always wash hands first). 

On to mascara, which comes in many shades, from black to brown to blue (skip the latter). Choose the brand you like, but make sure it isn’t labeled “waterproof.”

“Waterproof mascara will make lashes dry and brittle,” Janowicz says. “If this happens, try a lash serum to rehydrate.”

If your current eyeliner strategy is reminiscent of the singer Joan Jett, who used a thick stroke of black, it’s time to switch it up. “That’s a 1980s trend to trace eyes with dark pencil liner,” says Lari Manz, owner of Lari Manz Hair and Makeup in Chatham. “Instead, use a soft eye shadow like a soft gray or smudged brown that won’t create harsh lines.”

When it comes to eyebrows, it’s time to toss the tweezers. “As we get older, our brow lashes thin out,” says Duncan. “Avoid plucking them, even if they’re gray, because that damages the root, and they won’t grow back in.”

Instead, reach for a brow pencil, powder or tinted gel, and gently fill in sparse brows with a color one or two shades lighter than your hair. “Pencils with wax in them will be easier to apply,” says Janowicz. “Eyebrows sculpt the face. Pay attention to them.”

Let’s move from your face to your nails. Whether you wear yours long or short, acrylic or natural, there are a couple of ways to make sure you, um, nail your look as a mature woman. “The main rule with nails and a youthful appearance is to go lighter,” says Janowicz. “Stay away from anything loud, like fluorescent pink or even black or dark shades.”

Nail polishes these days come in a dizzying array of colors, even when you choose a neutral. “Pick something close to your skin color with some warmth to it,” Janowicz says. “It will make you look well-groomed and healthier.”

Ultimately, the motto “less is more” is the best approach when applying cosmetics. “As we mature, stay away from bright and shiny and go for a more natural look,” says Manz.

The potential exception is lipstick. “The only bright color you should have on your face is lipstick,” says Manz. “Stay away from harsh dark berries. I love the classic red.”

Last of all, cast your worries to the wind! “Be willing to try new things,” says Duncan. “Makeup is something to play with, to reconnect with that youthful side of ourselves.”

Mature man examines hairline in mirror

And for the Men…

Who says women are the only ones who should update their appearance as they mature? Switching up the out-of-style hair cut and considering a rethink on the facial hair can help men step into the 2000s. 

“Mustaches used to be a way for men to try and look younger, but now it’s more about facial hair and beards,” says Dominic Figliomeni, owner of Dominic’s Classico Barber Shop, with locations in Loudonville and Clifton Park.

You don’t have to be George Clooney to rock a scruffy salt-and-pepper look. “The five o’clock shadow is a great look for all men,” Figliomeni says. 

If you are follicly challenged, please resist the urge to fall back on the comb over! That’s a dated style where men grow hair longer on one side and comb it over their bald spots. “No comb over, no way,” Figliomeni says. “It will take men from 60 to 90.”

The good news is that men are paying more attention to their hair, and it shows. “Older men over the last 10 years look so much better,” says Figliomeni. “You get smarter with age.”

Men can also take advantage of new styling tricks to thicken and hold hair in place, no matter how windy it gets this autumn. Figliomeni just released his own brand of pomade, fiber and clay products designed to leave hair with a dry appearance rather than a shiny gel. 

“You want to be able to run your fingers through your hair,” he says. “Trying too hard is not the best idea. Listen to your stylist.”

Women aren’t the only ones that can treat themselves to spa services that make them feel like a million bucks. The Medbury Spa in Ballston Spa, for instance, offers a “Gentlemen’s Facial” that includes cleansing, exfoliation and hydration. 

Many men have already jumped on this self-improvement trend. “It used to be that women had to drag their partners in for spa treatments,” says Carolyn Barter, spa manager. “Now men come in on their own and look much better groomed when they leave. It can be an ongoing part of looking their best.”

Barter advises men to skip shaving a day or two before their facial, because freshly shaven skin can be irritated by the exfoliating product. Other services for men include mineral bath soaks, acne treatments, and chest or back waxing.

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