Once upon a time, I was under the impression that your skin remained the same throughout your life, right up until you got old and got wrinkles. And then I turned 40. And every single cosmetic I used stopped working. My skin didn’t look much different, but something was certainly changing.
Overnight, it seemed, my face became the place where makeup went to die. The mineral foundation I’d used for years? No trace of it by about 11 a.m. Eyeshadow? Mush. Mascara? Smudged. Eyeliner? EVERYWHERE. For nearly a year I ran through product after product – smudge-proof this, waterproof that, a fistful of different primers – before I realized that the problem was not just the products. My techniques also needed to change along with my skin, but hadn’t.
These are the products and techniques that really worked for me – and that I arrived at after trying a lot of things that didn’t. It would make me SO HAPPY if I could save you some of the money I wasted. My price point is ‘not spending any more than I have to,’ and I live in a rural area where there’s no Ulta or Sephora, so I like to be able to order my products from Amazon or buy them at the drugstore or the grocery. My year of experimentation taught me where I could go with drugstore products, and where I had to spend a little more.
- Use eye primer. My eye primer of choice is Laura Geller Eye Spackle. It brightens my eyes and keeps my eyeshadow in place, creaseless and defined, instead of a muddy, mushy mess. Other primers I tried brightened the lid but didn’t do anything for staying power, because my eyelids are hot and oily. If you have cool dry lids you might be able to spend far less. I have friends who swear by this inexpensive eye primer from Elf.
- Switch to matte eyeshadow. Unfortunately, one of the casualties of aging is sparkly eyeshadow. Now that the skin above my eyes is less smooth and elastic than it was, eyeshadow with any sparkle or shimmer just makes the skin look crepey, and matte shadows look much better. They’re not always easy to find. Physicians Formula matte shadows are my favorite, because they’re long-wearing and you can make the colors more intense if you apply them with a damp brush. I’ve also had good luck with these Cover girl neutrals, which can be found just about anywhere.
- Use REALLY good mascara. The only mascara I have found that doesn’t give me raccoon eyes is Estee Lauder’s Double Wear zero-smudge mascara. Even fixers or ‘raincoats’ over other mascaras don’t give me the results of the Estee Lauder. It’s a little more spendy, but worth it.
- Use brushes. If you haven’t started putting on your eye color with brushes instead of those rotten little sponge applicators that come with the products, definitely do that. Not only will you get better results and more control, there is something about dragging that tiny piece of foam over delicate skin that can make you hate life.
- Eyeliner: know when less is more. From the fabulous book Makeup Wakeup, I learned that for the bright, well-defined look I was looking for, that didn’t age me or look harsh, I should be “tight-lining” my eyes – putting eyeliner pencil only on the waterline and deep in my lashes, and for me, only on the top. (I have small eyes, and lining both top and bottom tends to make them look even smaller.) As a bonus, this also cut down on my eyeliner transfer.
- Eyeliner part 2: go smudge-proof. The hands-down best smudge-proof eyeliner I’ve found is Essence waterproof gel eye pencil. I understand a lot of theater performers use it for its ability to stay in place – and as a bonus, it’s SO affordable.
- Know your eye structure. Probably the most helpful insight was when I realized my eyes are ‘hooded.’ (This came after I had already burned through a bunch of money and products, naturally.) Hooded eyes are when not much of your eyelid and crease is visible. Many women are born with this structure, and many acquire it as they get older. Depending on your particular structure, your mascara or eyeliner may transfer onto your browbone. That was what was happening to me. While I’ve always had hooded eyes, something about my changing skin was now causing my eye makeup to transfer all over the place, where it hadn’t before. Enter this wonderful technique for applying makeup to the mature hooded eye.
- Use liquid or cream foundation. The mineral-powder foundation that gave me the fresh, minimally made-up look I loved ten years ago was now aging me, while at the same time not providing the coverage I needed. I was really hesitant to go back to liquid foundation. I associated it with a too-made-up look. But makeup has made a lot of progress in ten years. I tried a few, and settled on Revlon Colorstay for now. I like the way it looks, but I feel like it’s not great for my oily, easily-congested skin, so I’m still looking for my foundation soulmate.
Had similar experiences? Hit me up in the comments with your favorite products, techniques and lessons learned.