Eye Makeup Tips for Older Women

How to Make Your Eyes Pop

Older woman with eye makeup
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When you're over 50, the goal of makeup application shouldn't be to make you look younger; it should be to make you look your best and enhance your features gracefully.

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

Heavy Makeup Can Add Years to Your Look

Less is more when it comes to makeup as you age. The late author Charla Krupp in her book, How Not to Look Old, 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 and magnify those 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 to create eye makeup that isn't garish? Think subtle. Sometimes all a woman needs to look fantastic by day are good brows (this means brows that are 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.

The Importance of Knowing 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 consider your best feature and play it up instead of trying to downplay any bad features. And if you aren't sure what your best feature is, think back to the compliments you've received over the years. If people love your eyes, play them up with makeup and by wearing clothes that make your eye color stand out. If you get compliments on your lips, make wearing bright colors your personal statement.

Eyeshadow: Less Is More

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

Instead, sweep a neutral shade across the 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, keep the eyeshadow off your browbone, says makeup artist Patti DuBroff, who makes up the faces of many celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow.

Primer: The Secret to Long-lasting Color

Primer can be life-changing when it comes to makeup application.

Just as you prime a wall with primer before you paint it, the secret to flawless makeup lies in makeup primer. Apply a layer of primer on your lids to keep your eyeshadow in place.

You can also use primer on your lashes. Laura Mercier makes a great one.

The Right Kind of Eyeliner

The wrong kind of eyeliner is thick and black. A better option for older eyes are soft, smudged shades in brown if you have light coloring, and black if you are darker. 

Here are a few tips I love:

  • Liquid liner. 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, which is more flattering on older women than thick eyeliner. Avoid lining your lower lid with liquid, it can look unnatural. 
  • Your lower lid. You can skip lining your lower lid, but the right application can really open up the eyes.
  • How to line the lower lid. 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 to smudge it. You can also use a Q-tip. When I line my lower lid, I use a small eyeshadow brush, dip it in the darkest color in my eyeshadow palette (always brown because I'm a blonde) and then draw a line under my eye. It's naturally smudged this way and looks fantastic.

    Eyeliner Application Tips

    When it comes to applying eyeliner, follow these tips:

    • The universal way to line older eyes is to use a pencil or an eyeliner brush dipped in a dark shadow and draw the line as close as you can to the lashes. Add a soft, smudged line under the eyes.
    • 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 like skipping that step in their daily routine. But if you go this route, opt for subtle, as eyeliner trends can change drastically.

    It's Good to Know What Colors Look Good With Your Eyes & Hair

    Remember the old tricks you learned years ago based on what "season" you were? If you were an autumn, you looked good in oranges, golds, and browns. 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.

    Choose the Correct Mascara

    Older women should 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. As for color, if you have a light complexion and blonde or gray hair, a dark brown may 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 (Shu Uemura, of course, you can buy them from Amazon) 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 in 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, make sure the 2nd and 3rd coats follow while lashes are still wet with mascara.
    • There's no need to coat your bottom lashes. In fact, most makeup artists recommend you don't. The results can be fake.

    Make Your Lashes Longer

    Many women as they age find their lashes aren't as long as they once were. The easiest way to open up your eyes and to improve the look of your lashes 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.

    Short 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 (about $60 for a job that lasts a couple weeks), but worth the splurge if you want to look great for a big event or a special occasion

    You can also play around with false lashes for a special occasion. But apply individual lashes rather than a whole length of false lashes. It will look more natural.

    Play Up the Eyes or the Mouth, Never Both

    If you are a lipstick person, this tip is for you. Bright, bold lip colors can be stunning on older women, especially those who wear glasses. The bold lip balances out the heaviness of the frames.

    The Importance of Your Clothing Color Choices

    Learn what colors bring out your eyes and fill your closet with them. For women with brown eyes with green specks, greens might be your color. Brown eyes might be highlighted with teal.

    Choosing Right Frames for Your Glasses

    Many older women wear glasses, at least for reading. If you wear glasses, make sure your frames are stylish. The right frames can take 10 years off your face, whereas the wrong ones can add 10 years.

    Is There a Real Difference Between a $8 Eyeshadow and a $40 Eyeshadow?

    When it comes to beauty products, many times you're paying for a pricey packaging and the ability to try before you buy. When it comes to eyeshadow, you really do get what you're paying for. Pricier eyeshadows tend to have more pigment and stay on the lids longer. I recommend skipping the drugstore and buying a quality eyeshadow at Sephora or a department store.