Want to know the makeup mistakes every woman over 40 should avoid? We’ve rounded up the ones made most frequently to help you approach your routine with confidence.
Before we dive in, we’d like to make it very clear that in our opinion, makeup is a personal thing – what one person loves, another might hate and visa versa. Therefore, there are no mistakes per se, but there are tweaks you can make to the products you use and how you use them that you may find enhance your current regime. These little changes, like swapping matte foundation for one of the best tinted moisturisers, or trading powder blush for a creamy one, might make it easier to apply your makeup or reward you with a more flattering finish.
There are also no age-specific rules when it comes to makeup, and turning 40 doesn’t mean you need to suddenly reject and rethink everything you learned up until this point. However, our skin does change with age, and the natural depletion of things like collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, combined with the cumulative effects of years of sun damage arriving at the surface of our complexions, can lead to things like dryness, dullness and fine lines which you may not have experienced before.
So, consider this a hand-holding exercise rather than a telling-off, and without further ado, these are the makeup mistakes every woman over 40 should avoid making.
32 makeup mistakes every woman over 40 should avoid
1. Applying foundation before concealer
The question of whether you should apply foundation vs concealer first has long been a contentious issue. But, in our opinion, concealers should always be at the front of the queue. Why? Because by covering any niggles like dark circles, spots and pigmentation before you move onto foundation, you will have already done the heavy lifting, and won’t feel the need to apply as much base for a finish as fresh as Isla Fisher’s.
2. Skipping primer
Want your skin to look as flawless as Naomi Campbell? The best primers can really enhance your routine. It might be that yours neutralises redness, dials down shine or simply helps to extend the wear of your foundation by gripping onto it like Velcro. Whatever your poison, this step between skincare and base will make all the difference to your finished look.
3. Not wearing blush
Think that blush is outdated? Think again. It’s the easiest way to make even the most pallid of complexions look fresh and full of life. The key is finding a shade and a finish that mimics the way you naturally flush, just like Emily Blunt has here. Go too bright and too pigmented and you can quickly stray into clown-like territory.
4. Using contour as bronzer
Contour and bronzer are often put in the same bracket, but are two completely different products that serve different roles in your routine. Contour is designed to create and amplify shadows, working to sculpt your features and bring them forward, while bronzer is all about warming up your complexion. If you use contour in place of bronzer, the finish will be flatter, and muddier, than you hoped, and you won’t get that coveted “have-you-been-away?” glow to rival Sophia Vergara.
5. Thinking you’re too old for highlighter
Highlighter making you think of teens with cheekbones sparkly enough to rival a unicorn? Don’t write it off entirely, because there are more sophisticated options out there too. Opt for a cream-based formula that’s glossy rather than glittery and apply to the high points of your face (the tops of your cheekbones, brow bones, tip of the nose and Cupid’s bow) for skin as luminous as Helen Mirren.
6. Not committing to a good skincare routine
You can spend all the money in the world on fancy foundation but it’s not going to wear as evenly or sit as nicely on your complexion as Julianne Moore’s if you’re not laying the groundwork with skincare. Make sure you’re double cleansing at night (once to remove makeup and daily grime, and a second time to give your pores a clear out), using an exfoliant regularly to whisk away old skin cells and applying the best moisturiser for your skin type to keep it soft and plump.
7. Choosing matte foundation over a dewy one
Matte foundations are great for longevity and avoiding a shiny t-zone, but unless your skin is very, very oily, they can leave your complexion looking unnatural and mask-like. For skin as glowy as Halle Berry, trade for a lighter base, like a tinted moisturiser, with a dewy finish.
8. Applying foundation with your fingers
We’re not denying that it’s easy to apply your base with your fingers (plus you don’t need to worry about learning how to wash makeup brushes) but it’s not going to reward you with the kind of seamless finish that Reese Witherspoon has here. Brushes allow you to really buff and blend your best foundation into your skin for an even result with no cakey areas or tell-tale lines around your jaw.
9. Getting stuck in a rut
When was the last time you tried a new lipstick colour? Applied your eye makeup in a different way? Changed the texture of your blush? Most of us tend to find a makeup routine and stick to it, regardless of the fact that what worked for us at 30 is no longer serving us now. See Lucy Liu’s bold pink lip as your nudge to try something a little out of your comfort zone.
10. Not colour-matching your foundation properly
See how Natalie Portman’s foundation is such a good match that it’s impossible to decipher where her base ends and her skin begins? It’s all down to good colour-matching, taking her skin tone into consideration and testing in natural light – rather than trying foundation on the back of your hand, which is, by the way, normally a completely different colour to the skin on your face. If you need a hand, brands like Il Makiage and Trinny London offer digital shade-matching services.
11. ...Or your undertone
It’s not just your skin tone you need to think about when choosing a foundation, but your undertone too, which will be cool (like Andie MacDowell), warm or neutral. The easiest way to tell which bracket you slot into is to hold a piece of silver jewellery next to your skin, followed by gold. If silver makes your skin look brightest, you’re cool, and if it’s gold, you’re warm. Can’t decide between the two? You’re neutral. Most premium brands will categorise their foundations and concealers by undertones, making it easy to find a spot-on match.
12. Lining lips from the outside in
When you’re wearing something like Viola Davis’ bold glossy wine lippy, lining your lips first is a smart move to help avoid colour bleed and that annoying feathering around the edges. For a pro finish, start by defining your cupid’s bow and the centre of your bottom lip, before moving out toward the outer corners. Lining from the edges inwards will mean you’re more likely to end up with a wobbly finish.
13. Using powder products over cream ones
Powder blushers, bronzers and highlighters might deliver on longevity, but they don’t look very natural on the skin and can settle into fine lines, amplifying creases. Follow Anne Hathaway’s lead with cream-based products, which are much softer.
14. Not understanding hooded eyes
Hooded eyes, where the lid isn’t visible beneath the fold of skin on your brow bone, can become more prominent as we age. There’s nothing wrong with this, and they’re very attractive (as proven by Renee Zellweger) but you will need to adjust your eye makeup application. Instead of focusing your attention on the lids themselves, apply shadow to your lower lashline and above the crease to ensure your efforts are visible.
15. Applying makeup in bad light
We’ve all done it – applied our makeup on a dark morning only to be taken aback by the finished look when we pop to the office loos later in the day. Makeup as flawless as Gemma Chan’s can’t be replicated if you can’t see properly, so always apply yours as close to a window as possible. If winter means light is in shorter supply, invest in a daylight lamp.
16. Not checking sell-by dates
All makeup has an expiry date, indicated by a number inside a symbol of a pot on the back of your products. That number will show you how many months the product will be at its best after opening. Post this, you’re running the risk of it not working as well as it should, as well as exposure to bacteria – neither of which is something Charlize Theron would approve of.
17. Missing brush-wash day
Do you know how often to wash your makeup brushes to keep bacteria at bay? The experts recommend at least once a week, if not more regularly. Pushing this task to the bottom of your to-do list will not only increase the risk of blemishes and dullness but will also clog the bristles of your brushes, so they no longer reward you with the kind of smooth finish Emma Thompson has here.
18. Not prepping the skin properly
We’ve already established that good makeup starts with good skin, and the secret to a supermodel-worthy complexion like Kate Moss is a hyaluronic acid serum for hydration, followed by a moisturiser to seal all that goodness in. With its thirst quenched, skin will instantly look bouncier and feel softer, meaning the makeup that comes after doesn’t have to work quite so hard.
19. Going in too heavy-handed
It’s true what they say, when it comes to makeup, less is more. Make like Michelle Yeoh and keep your look simple, so no two elements, like a smoky eye and statement lip, are battling against each other to be seen. Dewy skin, a simple defined eye and a slick of pink lipstick are a winning combination.
20. Using waterproof mascara when it’s not needed
Reaching for your best waterproof mascara is a good idea when you’re on holiday or battling through hayfever season, but other than that, all you’re doing is making more work for yourself at the end of the day. Waterproof mascaras are notoriously difficult to remove, even with the best cleansing oils, which can lead to lash-damaging levels of rubbing. To maintain lashes as full and fluffy as Priyanka Chopra’s, stick to regular mascara as much as possible.
21. Going too dark with your foundation
Wish your skin was more tanned? We get it, but the best way to achieve this is not by choosing a foundation that’s a shade or two deeper than your complexion. Follow Sigourney Weaver’s lead instead by using bronzer to build a more natural-looking tan, applying to the areas that naturally catch the sun, like your forehead, the tops of your cheeks and the bridge of your nose.
22. Not matching your lip liner to your lipstick
If, like Chloë Sevigny, your signature look is a red lip, then you’ll know that starting with lip liner is the best way to ensure a polished finish. Just make sure the shade match is exact, as using a liner that’s darker than your lip colour can look dated.
23. Skipping setting spray
Your evenings out might not be quite as glamorous as Liz Hurley’s, but if you’ve spent time and effort on your makeup, then you want it to last long beyond your second drink. A makeup setting spray is your secret weapon here, helping to extend the wear of your finished look by locking it in place.
24. Using too much setting powder
A light-handed dusting of powder is a pro-approved way of keeping your base in place (especially for Tess Daly under those Strictly studio lights) but applying too much can leave behind a heavy finish. Choose one that’s been finely milled and apply sparingly with a fluffy brush to avoid concentrating too much product in any one area.
25. Sleeping in your makeup
We agree that it’s absolutely the last thing you want to do after a long day, but not removing your makeup properly (or at all) can quickly rob your skin of radiance. We’re sure Jennifer Anniston’s glowing complexion is down to her LA lifestyle and more than a few green juices, but we’re also convinced she’s not ending her day with a quick swipe of a makeup wipe before bed. Micellar water is great for a speedy fix, but not a suitable long-term substitute for proper cleansing.
26. Applying too much mascara
Lashes as long as Kerry Washington’s are the aim of the game here, but applying too much mascara will lead to a clumpy, rather than lengthened, finish. Leaving a minute or two between coats and binning your mascara when it’s got to that slightly dry, congealed state will help you achieve a more convincing (rather than spidery) finish.
27. Not filling in your brows
If the eyes are the window to your soul then our brows are the frame that surrounds them. Defining the shape and filling in any sparse areas for brows as groomed as Penelope Cruz can make a huge difference to your whole face, making your features appear more lifted.
28. Concentrating too much colour at the start of your brows
Using a brow pencil or pomade is a brilliant way to give your eyebrows definition, but be careful of focusing too much on the inner corners. Concentrating the majority of the colour here can make you look cross, which isn’t the look most of us are aiming for. Take Gillian Anderson’s lead instead, focusing your attention on the arch and tail of the brow.
29. Moving from skincare to makeup too quickly
Not all of us have the luxury of time in the mornings, but not waiting a moment to let your moisturiser sink in and your SPF settle before applying foundation can result in a slippery and soup-like finish rather than an even one like Sharon Stone. If you can, create a gap of at least a few minutes between the two, using this time to brush your teeth or make a quick cuppa.
30. Going too heavy under the eyes
We all have dark circles we want to disguise, but using a concealer that’s too thick, or applying too much, will only add volume to any bags and make them more obvious. Make like Salma Hayek instead with a lightweight, moisture-packed formula that reflects the light and melts into the skin.
31. Masking your skin’s natural texture
The aim of the game with foundation should always be to create a finish that looks like your skin, but better, rather than hiding your complexion under a thick layer of product. You can see from Judi Dench here how much more flattering it is to enhance and embrace the natural details of your skin than hide them.
32. Wearing jet-black mascara and eyeliner
It’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime, but swapping black mascara and eyeliner for brown shades is an easy way to give your eye makeup a softer and less severe feel. Use Michelle Williams as your inspiration.