11 Eye Makeup Tips for Older Women

Enhance Your Beautiful Eyes With the "Less Is More" Theory

Older woman with eye makeup
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When you're over 50, the goal of applying makeup shouldn't be to make you look younger. Instead, it should gracefully enhance your best features and offer flattering, subtle highlights to your face.

Eye makeup can be especially tricky when you're facing fine lines and crows' feet. But changing up your makeup routine can give you a fresher, revitalized look. Use these tips to give yourself a boost and embrace your natural beauty.

Avoid Heavy Makeup

Less is more when it comes to makeup as you age. In the book, "How Not to Look Old," the late author Charla Krupp stated that nothing ages an older woman more than loads of eye makeup. And it's true. Unless you've had blepharoplasty (an eye-lift), too much thick, black eyeliner and heavily pigmented shadows can add years to your look. It can also magnify hooded lids and crow's feet.

Makeup artist Bobbi Brown agrees that less is more. In her book, "Beauty Evolution," she states that women who wear too much makeup can come across as trying to hide who they really are. "It's almost as if they don't want to see themselves," she writes.

So how can you create eye makeup that isn't garish? Think subtle. Sometimes all a woman needs to look fantastic by day are good brows (well-shaped and filled-in), a pop of blush for color, lipstick topped with gloss, and a couple coats of mascara.

If you are a makeup newbie, head to a department store and get a makeover. You can learn a lot from watching someone else do your makeup.

Know Your Best Features

Brown recommends older women take off all their makeup, stand back, and really look at themselves in the mirror to consider their best features.

It is always best to play up your best feature instead of trying to downplay any bad ones.

If you aren't sure what your best feature is, think back to the compliments you've received over the years. Have people mentioned your eyes? Show them off with makeup and clothes that make your eye color stand out. If you get compliments on your lips, make wearing bright colors your personal statement.

A good rule of thumb is to play up your eyes or your mouth, but not both because they will compete for attention. If you are a lipstick person, this tip is for you and you might want to downplay your eyes. Bright, bold lip colors can be stunning on older women, especially those who wear glasses because the bold lip balances out the heaviness of the frames.

Eyeshadow: Less Is More

When it comes to eyeshadow on older eyes, the beauty rule "less is more" applies. Aging eyelids can look overdone in bold colors.

Instead, sweep a neutral shade across your eyes by day. At night or for special occasions, apply a darker shade to the crease to add definition. You really don't need more than two colors on your lids. And, whatever you do, makeup artist Patti DuBroff (who makes up the faces of many celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow) says to keep the eyeshadow off your browbone.

Primer: The Secret to Long-Lasting Color

A primer can be life-changing when it comes to makeup application. Just as you prime a wall before you paint it, the secret to flawless makeup lies in makeup primer. Invest in a good one like the one made by Laura Mercier and you'll give yourself a great head start.

Apply a layer of primer on your lids to keep your eyeshadow in place. You can also use a primer on your lashes. 

Smudge the Eyeliner

It is best to avoid eyeliner that is thick and black. Soft, smudged shades in brown if you have light coloring and black for darker skin, are much better options for older eyes.

If you love the look of liquid liner, no problem. Just make sure you have a steady hand and line the upper lid with a thin line of liquid. A thinner line is more flattering on older women.

You'll also want to avoid using liquid on your lower lid because it can look unnatural. 

You can skip your lower lid entirely, but the right application can really open up your eyes. Many makeup artists suggest lining the lower lid just under the lash line with a soft pencil. Go over the line with the pad of your pinkie finger (or a cotton swab) to smudge it.

Another option is to dip a small brush into the darkest color on your eyeshadow palette, then draw a line under the eye. It creates a naturally smudged look that is fantastic.

  • If you have small eyes, try stopping your line just before you hit the inside of the eye. Stand back and see if you like the results. Sometimes, lining the entire eye from corner to inset can make eyes appear smaller.
  • Some women swear by eyeliner tattoos because they love waking up looking "done" and enjoy skipping that step in their daily routine. If you go this route, opt for subtle, as eyeliner trends can change drastically.

Know Your Colors

Remember the tricks you learned years ago based on what "season" you were? If you were an autumn, you looked good in oranges, golds, and browns and winters looked good in white. Well, just as the color of your clothing can make you look vibrant and alive or sullen and drawn, your eye makeup and lip choices matter too.

Revisit some tips on choosing the best colors for your eyes. For instance, blue eyes pop with earth tones while green eyes tend to glow with a little purple nearby. If you have brown eyes, you're in luck because almost any color works.

Likewise, you can fill your closet with colors that bring out your eyes. If you have brown eyes with green specks, greens might be your color, whereas brown eyes can be highlighted with teal.

Choose the Correct Mascara

In general, it's best for older women to choose a lengthening mascara over a volumizing one. The secret is to give your lashes as much length—not bulk—as possible. Volumizing mascara can make short, stubby lashes look even stubbier.

When it comes to color, if you have a light complexion and blonde or gray hair, a dark brown can look less harsh than a black mascara.

Use these tips to get your best lashes:

  • Do not pump the wand in and out of the mascara. This will dry out your mascara.
  • Curl your lashes, then apply a mascara primer. The primer separates the lashes and the curler gives just the right amount of curl at the root of the lashes. 
  • Always start your stroke as close to the roots as possible.
  • Wiggle the wand back and forth at the root so you get as much of the mascara at the base of your lashes as possible.
  • Pull the wand through to the tips of your lashes, wiggling back and forth along the way.
  • Go through with a couple more strokes to make sure you get as much mascara on the lashes as possible. Don't wait until your first coat dries, apply the second and third coats while the lashes are still wet with mascara.
  • There's no need to coat your bottom lashes. In fact, most makeup artists recommend you don't because the results can look unnatural.

Make Your Lashes Longer

Many women find that their lashes aren't as long as they once were. The easiest way to open up your eyes is to curl your lashes.

For best results, warm up the lash curler with a blow dryer for three seconds and then curl your lashes. Make sure to test the metal first so you don't burn your lid. Then apply a couple sweeps of mascara to your newly curled lashes.

The Scoop on False Lashes

If your lashes are not as thick and lush as they used to be, you can get lash extensions at some salons. It's pretty pricey for a job that lasts a couple weeks, but may be worth the splurge if you want to look great for a big event.

You can also play around with false lashes for a special occasion. It's best to apply individual lashes rather than a whole length of false lashes to get a more natural look.

Choosing Right Frames for Your Glasses

Many older women wear glasses, at least for reading. If you fall into this category, make sure your frames are stylish and think about updating them every now and then or adding to your collection. After all, glasses are a fashion accessory, too, and the right frames can take 10 years off your face.

$8 Eyeshadow vs. $40 Eyeshadow

Most of the time, when it comes to beauty products, you're paying for pricey packaging and the ability to try before you buy. For eyeshadow, however, you really do get what you're paying for.

Pricier eyeshadows tend to have more pigment and stay on the lids longer. You may find that it's best to skip the drugstore and buy a quality eyeshadow from somewhere like Sephora or a department store instead.