The Ultimate Expert’s Guide to Makeup for Skin Over 50

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“The good thing about makeup is that there are no rules for any woman of any age,” says celebrity makeup artist and aesthetician D’Andre Michael. His advice is to embrace aging “and just focus on enhancing your features and beauty.” While there are no rules set in stone and makeup is, at its best, a vehicle for self-expression, the way your makeup goes on and appears at age 50 is different than at age 20—it’s a simple fact of life.

Celebrity makeup artist Sandy Linter says aging women have concerns about their skin, not that this is anything shocking. “They can see people looking at them and noticing all the problems—the wrinkles, the bags, the sags.” However, the makeup artist wants to remind people that 50 is not old, “as a woman over 70, I can tell you from my heart,” she says. While 50 is still a young, vivacious age, your skin is different, and the way makeup sits has shifted. To help you adjust your routine, experts share their best tips on how to approach makeup once you’re over 50.

What kind of makeup is best for women over 50?

“As we age, our skin gets drier, and we need creamier makeup with hydrating ingredients that nourish our skin, like liquids and creams,” says mature makeup expert and founder of the eponymous skin-care brand Laura Geller, who recommends her Quench-n-Tint Hydrating Foundation ($34). Mature makeup expert Amanda Hill agrees, noting that “mature skin looks best with products of more luminosity and hydration.” She suggests women in this category consider alternatives to foundation, like tinted skin serums.

Geller adds that light makeup tends to look better than heavier makeup as we age. She also recommends trying baked makeup, “which is a cream formula that is baked into a powder so it’s more hydrating and sits on top of skin. It won’t seep into fine lines and wrinkles, making them look worse.”

How should women over 50 prep their skin for makeup?

“Makeup prep starts at night,” says Hill. She emphasizes a nightly skin-care routine that provides ample nourishment and hydration. “If you’re using a quality nighttime routine, you should wake up with glowing, hydrated skin. This is always going to give you the best foundation for a mature makeup application,” she adds.

And for the morning of, Geller says it’s all about primer. She knows it can feel like an easy step to skip, but in the end, it’s worth the extra minute of your time. “I highly recommend consistently including it in your routine,” says Geller. “It creates a barrier between your skin and makeup so your makeup doesn’t seep into your skin, making it look cakey or creasy in addition to giving your makeup richer color and longer wear.”

What should women over 50 avoid when applying makeup?

While we recommend you wear whatever makes you feel your best, our experts noted some things they suggest avoiding when over 50, like brightly colored eyeshadow, “especially as our eyelids get more wrinkles or become hooded over time.” She also advises against over-applying powders to avoid cakiness and exacerbating the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

“Lastly, avoid only using bronzer,” says Geller. “I love bronzer for overall warmth and glow, but as we age, we need a pop of color on the cheeks, so don’t skip blush—it’ll help you look more youthful and avoid the sallow skin we all get as we age.”

Expert’s top makeup tips for women over 50

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Start your nightly skin-care routine earlier

Hill suggests, when possible, doing your nightly skin-care routine before winding down for the evening. “This is going to give your products extra time to absorb before hitting the pillow. The end result is going to maximize their hydrating performance, so in the morning, your skin is extra plump and glowy,” explains Hill. “Your Makeup application can only be as good as your skin prep.”

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Start with skin care

Celebrity makeup artist Ermahn Ospina says, “One of the most successful makeup tips at any age, in order to achieve that smooth, glowing radiant look, is prepping the skin before any makeup application.” Makeup artist and mature makeup expert Michelle Spieler agrees that a strong skin prep game is imperative to mature makeup application, noting that “our makeup only looks as good as the skin beneath it.”

She recommends beginning with a light cleanse, a supple essence or serum. She recommends COSRX Snail 96 MucinEssence ($25) or Paula’s Choice Multi-Peptide Booster ($58), a moisturizer based on your skin type and SPF. “Once your skin is well prepped, wait several minutes for it to absorb into skin before starting makeup.”

For a serum, Ospina recommends Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Serum ($140), which “hydrates and strengthens the skin encouraging a more youthful appearance.” He follows that with the Shiseido serum with the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream ($100)—which was recommended by both Ospina and Michael for its anti-aging, collagen-boosting, wrinkle-diminishing and plumping abilities.

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Try tinted moisturizer or BB cream

Spieler says her favorite makeup on mature skin is tinted moisturizer or BB cream. She notes that it evens out skin while letting it still look like skin. “Gone are the days of a full mask of heavy foundation—it ages us. I believe in looking good closeup,” says Spieler.

Celebrity makeup artist and founder of Neen, Jeanine Lobell, also recommends opting for a tinted moisturizer for mature skin. She recommends NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer  ($46) since the finish isn’t super shiny. 

If you want a bit more coverage, “you can take your concealer and apply it in areas you need more coverage or use a liquid foundation in the T-zone only, feathering it outward to seamlessly blend into skin,” says Spieler.

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The three E’s

“Our eyes tend to disappear into our face as we age, so defining them is important,” says Geller, which is where the three E’s come into play—eyebrow, eyeliner and eyelash. “Don’t skip eyebrow pencil to give your eyebrows some color and shape. Eyeliner helps define the eye area, and mascara will help make your lashes look longer and your eyes pop.”

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Be detailed when it comes to your eyebrows

“As you age, your eyebrows have a tendency to become unruly and thin, you start to lose the tail, and you get gray hairs,” explains Michael. “So the goal is to maintain the natural shape of your brows as a well-defined brow, which will lift and open your eye and frame your face, giving you a younger look.”

To achieve this, Michael suggests doing “light feathered strokes” and filling in the entire brow, then using a clear brow gel to set them. He recommends the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz ($23) or NYX Makeup Professional Micro Brow Pencil ($11).

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Opt for a creamy blush

Lobell recommends using creamy textures on the cheeks, like Neen Going Rouge Blush ($29), “as the creamy texture and high pigment will give you an excellent flush to the cheek that won’t settle into fine lines.” She likes to apply it high on the cheekbones to contrast any under-eye darkness.

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Be mindful with powder products

Spieler says it’s okay to use powder on the face if you have oily or combination skin. However, if you have normal to dry skin, she recommends strategically placing “translucent powder only in the T-zone using a smaller brush.” If you really want to wear powder, Lobell recommends using a “fluffy brush for precision application, avoiding areas with too many fine lines.”

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Find the right shimmer for you

“All these outdated rules about shimmer shadow for older women need to go,” says Lobell. “A champagne nude shimmer applied on the lid and lightly under the brow bone is amazing in your 50s. It lights you up, and brings a lot of light and life into the face and hopefully makes you happy too.” She created the shade Beam ($29) for the perfect bright-eyed look.

Michael recommends mattes and soft shimmer eye shadows for those over 50, noting that high gloss, shimmer and frosted eye shadow options may accentuate wrinkles more. However, if done properly, and with the right formula, a bit of shine certainly won’t hurt anyone.

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Choose the right eyeshadow shade based on your complexion

Eyeshadow colors are not one size fits all. Michael says the best eyeshadow shade for you depends on your complexion. He advises that those with a warm skin tone stick to green, brown, pink and gold; cool skin tones should opt for blue, gray, silver, pink and peach; dark skin tones should select brown, black and deeper colors.

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Try a smokey eye

“A lot of women don’t know how to use eyeshadows or do creative things with them, and after 50, you don’t want to go too crazy on the shadow,” says Michael. When in doubt, he advises turning to a smokey eye. Doing this offers a bold yet youthful look. The key is to blend and use complimenting colors. You can use browns, deep browns, blacks and even colored shadows such as blues, greens, ambers, etc.”

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Update your look

Linter suggests continually updating your hair and makeup look as you age to suit your current appearance. The lipstick that looked perfect on you in your 40s may not be the best option for you now, so test out some new products and treat yourself.

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Remember less is more

According to Ospina, when it comes to makeup on over-50 skin, less is more. He adds that this is especially true during the summer months, so consider dialing down your makeup application. “With women over 50, the more you try to hide your flaws, the more you bring attention to them,” notes Michael.

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Try a setting spray

If you have a full day with no time for makeup touch-ups, Spieler recommends using a setting spray. “I really believe in setting spray,” says Spieler. “My choice and the number-one in my pro kit is Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Setting Spray ($38). I’m always impressed with how long makeup stays with it.”

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Take advantage of advances in cosmetics

With the advances made in cosmetics, there are plenty of makeup products specifically formulated for mature skin. Linter advises people to pay attention and take advantage of these advances.

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Maintain healthy skin

Makeup looks so much better on a canvas of healthy, clean skin, so for better makeup application, ensure you’re caring for your skin. “Women over 50, please take full advantage of a great dermatologist,” advises Linter. “Ask questions. Don’t depend on the internet for the answers. Make an appointment with a dermatologist and ask the questions.”

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“The absolute best makeup product for women over 50, especially when it comes to the under-eye area, is Demi Corrector ($20),” according to Hill. “This product is helping women achieve a very refreshed approach to under eyes that will deflect from the signs of aging by not creasing.” She also recommends Blue Marble SeLr Spray ($17). “This is a professional makeup artist hero product that does great things for setting mature skin and not causing the cakey texture,” she says of the spray that forms a water-based skin barrier to seal makeup.

Geller, who creates makeup with mature skin in mind, and has celebrity fans like Fran Drescher and Bethenny Frankel, recommends her Laura Geller Spackle Primer ($36), which comes in many varieties depending on your makeup needs or skin concerns, from hydrating to brightening. As Geller noted earlier, baked makeup is great for mature skin, and her brand offers a whole line of blushes, bronzers, highlighters, foundations and eyeshadow. Plus, Jelly Balm Hydrating Lip Color ($21) has vitamin E and the perfect wash of color.

Outside of her own brand, Geller says Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream ($140) is a favorite. She adds that the Dermaflash Luxe Razor ($199), a previous NewBeauty Award winner, is good for exfoliating and getting rid of peach fuzz. For an extra dose of skin care weekly, she uses Joanna Vargas Forever Glow Anti-Aging Sheet Mask ($75).

Makeup we love for skin over 50

Above, experts noted that shifting from a heavy foundation to lightweight tinted skin serums is advisable and Westman Atelier Vital Skincare Complexion Drops ($68) are the best option. Since Gucci Westman is familiar with painting gorgeous over 50 faces like Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman, she knows just what the skin needs, and she’s put all that knowledge into this skin-care meets makeup concoction. Another great option is Victoria Beckham x Augustinus Bader Cell Rejuvenating Priming Moisturizer ($65). If you know, you know Cle de Peau Beaute Concealer SPF 27 ($75) is the best around. Beloved by celebrities and beauty editors alike, this formula also includes SPF, so your dark spots don’t get any darker while in the sun.

As a woman over 50 herself, Bobbi Brown creates her formulations with all ages in mind. Jones Road Miracle Balm ($48) provides a wash of soft-focus moisture and color. It’s ideal for no-makeup makeup or adding a light layer on top of foundation to make a look more dynamic. For a cheaper option, we like GEN SEE Clean Sheen Cheek + Lip Color ($22). The OGEE Contour Collection ($138), especially the Golden trio, has everything you need in your contouring toolkit. It’s also super buildable, so you can do as much or as little as you want. 

We love the Merit Beauty Signature Lip Lipstick ($26). The lightweight lip option is comfortable, comes in both matte and satin finishes and offers a bevy of colors that are gorgeous at any age. Jillian Dempsey’s Lid Tint ($28) is a great creamy option for eyeshadow and comes in a lot of pretty neutral options. CHANEL Inimitable Mascara ($40) does it all—adds volume and length and separates lashes.

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