Older Women & Makeup: 25 Tips for Women Over 50

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How to Apply Foundation, Hide Flaws & Much More

Mature woman applying lipstick in car mirror
Stockbyte/Getty Images

When it comes to makeup over 50, some of the rules you lived by in your 20s and 30s no longer apply. In this article, I share how to plump up your skin to minimize fine lines, how to make your eyes pop even if your lids are "crepe-y" and how to wear lipstick that's flattering.

Here are my best makeup tips for women over age 50.

Tip No. 1: Your Skin Comes First, Always

Forget makeup tips and a gorgeous hairstyle. Your biggest beauty consideration should be your skin and getting it in tip-top condition. The better your skin, the less makeup you'll need. In fact, keep your skin well-hydrated and exfoliated and you may be able to get away with little more than under-eye concealer, mascara and lip balm every day.

The secret to working with mature skin is five-fold:

  1. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Nothing plumps up the skin better than hydration. And it helps everything glide on better: your concealer, foundation, sunscreen, blush, everything. My dermatologist got me hooked on hyaluronic acid, which helps with aging skin like nothing else. I use Neocutis Hyalis, which I buy from Amazon
  2. I like to apply a retinol cream every few days as well. Nothing makes my skin glow more. I no longer use Retin-A, which I used to get from Mexico because it's too harsh for my aging skin. My dermatologist recommended RoC Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer SPF30 (buy it from Amazon). Don't listen to the marketing blurb about deep wrinkles. It's the retinol that matters, deep wrinkles or not.
  3. Flaky, dry skin is not attractive. Especially when foundation sits atop it. Combat the flakes with daily exfoliation. Exfoliate every day with either a facial scrub or a washcloth dipped in coconut oil (my favorite methods). Dr. Patricia Wexler, a dermatologist in her 60s, tells her patients to exfoliate in the shower because it's less messy. Whatever your method. Just do it. I LOVE Wexler's Skin Resurfacing Cream (buy it from Amazon) and right now I'm using (and loving) Tracie Martyn Enzyme Exfoliant buy it from Amazon.
  4. Never go to bed without taking off your makeup. I swear by cleansing oils and creamy cleansers. My current favorite is Tracie Martyn Amla Purifying Cleanser (buy it online from Amazon). I also love Dr. Patricia Wexler's Wexler Universal Anti-Aging Cleanser, buy it from Amazon.
  5. Keep your face, neck and hands out of the sun or live with the wrinkles and sunspots that will inevitably come. Wear sunscreen on your face rain or shine and hats if you are out in the middle of the day. Apply to your hands and neck if outside. Every day, rain or shine, I use La Roche Posay sunscreen that's tinted. It's hard to find, but you can get it on Amazon.

The key to great skincare is to know your skin type.  If you aren't sure, see Skin Care: How to Tell What Type of Skin You Have. Your skin -- whether it be sensitive, dry or combination -- has special needs which is why your best friend's or your daughter's favorite moisturizer may not work for you. Once you know your skin type and buy products formulated for it, you should see results.

In my article, 20 Skincare Tips Every Woman Over 50 Should Know, I share everything you need to know about good skincare. From cleansing to exfoliation to moisturizing to anti-aging tips that really work, and a few that may not.

Next: How to make your fine lines less visible (temporarily, at least)

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How to Make Your Fine Lines Less Visible (Temporarily)

older woman applying eye cream. Getty Images

No lotion or potion is going to magically make your fine lines and wrinkles disappear, but slathering on moisturizer before you apply foundation and concealer will temporarily plump up skin making those fine lines a little less visible. Moisturizing before foundation application also helps it glide on much more smoothly.

But here's the real secret to moisturizing: use a hyaluronic acid serum before your cleanser for added results. Hyaluronic acid is renowned in the anti-aging world for its ability to retain moisture. Apply this to your skin, let it dry and then apply moisturizer and your skin will have immediate benefits. 

Many brands have a hyaluronic acid product these days, but my dermatologist recommended (and I use twice a day) Neocutis Hyalis, which I buy from Amazon. She says they can't keep it in stock during the winter months. If you do buy elsewhere, read the label and make sure hyaluronic acid is in the beginning of the list of ingredients. If its at the end, there's likely not enough to be potent. 

See my list of 14 Best Facial Moisturizers for Every Skin Type.

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Choose the Right Foundation

Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Intensive Lifting Makeup with SPF 15. Estee Lauder

Many older women still use the same foundation they used 10 years ago. However, your skin changes not only yearly, but seasonally. In winter months, you may need a creamy formula. In summer months you may find your skin becomes oily and a tinted moisturizer will do.

These days many foundations are formulated with mature, aging skin in mind. I have done the research and found the most popular foundations on the market for women over age 55.

Check it out: The Best Foundation for Mature Skin

Also learn what to look for in a foundation in my newest article for older women, Over 50? What to Look for in Foundation Makeup.

Here's a little secret I learned from my favorite makeup artist, Lisa Eldridge, don't wear foundation with SPF in it if you are going to be taking photos, for example, for a wedding or for a family reunion. The SPF will add a pallor to your face that the camera could pick up. 

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The Secret Lip Plumper

older woman applying lipstick. Taxi for Getty

You may notice that as you get older, your lips seem thinner. To plump them up, lip gloss is your best bet. Nothing works better, in fact. Add a little color first by filling in lips with a lip liner or lipstick a shade or 2 darker than your natural lip color, then add a dab of gloss on top and voila! Instant lip plumper.

Read more in how to plump up thin lips.

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Stay Away From Dark Lipsticks

Older women and lipstick. Elly Schuurman for Getty Images

Unless you have dark skin and plump lips, I recommend staying away from super dark lipstick, which ages everyone (see these pictures of Kelly Osbourne and Jessica Biel for proof). Rosy reds and pinks are better bets than deep plums and any shade of brown.

Not sure what color works for you? Go to a department store or Sephora and try on many colors with the help of a counter person and you'll figure out quickly what shades flatter your skin tone.

This is just one lipstick tip. Get more than a dozen more in (including the most flattering shade for older women) in Lipstick Tips for Older Women.

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Try Eye Pencils Instead of Liquid Liners

Eyeliner for older women. Glow Images for Getty

Eye pencils are softer than liquid liners, which can be harsh on aging eyes. To soften the line even more, smudge it with your fingers or use an angled makeup brush like the one pictured here dipped in dark shadow as a smudge-y eyeliner (this is how I line my eyes these days). Don't line the inside of the eye if you have small eyes, it makes the eye appear smaller.

Get more liner tips in How to Apply Eyeliner.

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Make Your Eyes the Center of Attention

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Just as a fireplace can be the focal point of a living room, consider making your eyes the focal point of your face. This will detract attention from any fine lines or developing turkey wattles.

Enhance your eye color with eyeshadow shades that will make your eyes pop. For brown or hazel eyes, golds and browns are gorgeous as are blues. Blue eyes look great with blue-gray, coppers, gold and browns and dark eyes look fantastic with deep rich shades.

Get more eye makeup tips in Eye Makeup Tips for Older Women.

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Make Primer Your Best Friend

MAC, Laura Mercier, Smashbox

Just as you prime a wall with primer before you paint it, the secret to flawless makeup lies in makeup primer. Applying a layer of primer between your skin and makeup will help your eyeshadow, foundation and mascara glide on flawlessly -- and most importantly -- stay put. I recommend primers for your eyes if you use shadows and for your face if you apply foundation. Layer a primer between your moisturizer and your foundation for extra benefits.

See The Scoop on Eyeshadow, Foundation and Mascara Primers for my favorite primers. 

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The Brilliance Behind Highlighters and Illuminators

When highlighter pens and illuminating creams first hit the beauty market I thought, "Oh another beauty fad that will fade." And then I tried them. Wow. Now I swear by highlighters to "lift" my face and instantly visually shave off a few years from my appearance. My absolute favorite highlighter is Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Concealer (buy it from Amazon) but there are many brands on the market that work well, too, and at a cheaper price. I run down your best bets in The Best Highlighters & Illuminating Makeup Products.

There's a trick to using highlighters. Get the full scoop in my article, How to Use Illuminating Makeup.

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Play Up (& Downplay) Features With Contouring

Mature woman contouring lips. Glow Images for Getty

Contouring is a hot new trend that can be useful for older women. The technique uses bronzers and blush to create definition to the face. The goal here is to create shadows to highlight your best parts (hello cheekbones and jawbone!) and downplay any bad parts like a weak or double chin, a big nose or thin lips.

Get the full story in How to Contour Using Makeup.

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Natural is Best, Don't Overdo Your Makeup

Riser for Getty Images

Less is more when it comes to makeup as you age. You don't want to pile on the foundation, the eyeliner and the heavy lipstick. Instead, you want to use highlighter pens, tinted moisturizers and a lighter touch with the shadow and lipstick. Oh, and you might want to get some bangs.

Find out what happens when the most famous celebs go too far with the makeup in Are Your Hairstyle and Makeup Aging You?.

More makeup tips in How to Conceal Wrinkles on Your Face.

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Curl Those Lashes

WestEnd61 for Getty

The best way to open up your eyes and make them pop is to curl your lashes. For added benefit, warm up the lash curler with a blow dryer for 3 seconds and then curl your lashes. Make sure to test the metal on your arm first so you don't burn your lid. Then apply a couple sweeps of mascara to your newly curled lashes.

Shu Uemura makes the most popular eyelash curler on the market. Buy from Amazon

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, but worth the splurge if you want to look great for a big event. You can also play around with false lashes. But apply individual lashes rather than a whole length of false lashes. It will look more natural.

See How to Use and Eyelash Curler and How to Apply False Eyelashes.

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Add a Pop of Blush to Your Cheeks

Tetra Images for Getty

Too many women use blush incorrectly or not at all. (See Blush: How to Apply It Correctly). A pop of blush on the apples of your cheeks can brighten a dull complexion. But the trick is to blend it well so it's not obvious you're wearing blush. I see way too many women who look as if they've painted the blush on their faces in the dark, which brings me to my next tip....

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Blend, Blend, Blend in Your Makeup

Tetra Images for Getty

Anything you put on your face needs to be blended well. The secret to great makeup application is to look as if you aren't wearing any makeup at all. Make sure your foundation doesn't have tell-tale lines at your chin. Blush should just be a pop of color as if you just came in from a brisk walk in the cold. Lip liner should not bleed into your skin. Your brows should not be obviously painted on. Remember, apply a light touch and blend, blend, blend.

I share many more makeup tricks such as these in my article, 11 Makeup Tricks That Will Take Years Off Your Face.

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Under-Eye Circles Begone!

Digital Vision for Getty

A big problem with older women (really women of all ages) tends to be the circles and darkness that can crop up under the eyes. These tend to get worse with age. The best way to cover these up is to use a rich under-eye cream at night and a lighter one during the day. You'll want to invest in a corrector in either pink or peach tones to cover the dark circles. Over this, apply a yellow-based concealer and foundation.

See I have dark under-eye circles. Is there any way to get rid of them? and What Causes Under Eye Circles?

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Use Creams Instead of Powders

Digital Vision

Older women tend to have dry skin. Oil-free foundations and powder blushes are made for women with oily or combo skin. If you have dry skin, your best bets are creamy foundations and blushes. Also consider using a synthetic blush and foundation brush to apply creamy formulas. The natural bristles are better used with powders.

Don't miss: Over 50? What to Look for in Foundation Makeup.


  • More on blush: How to Apply Blush Correctly
  • More on foundation: How to Apply Foundation
  • More on makeup brushes: Top 14 Makeup Brushes

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Pick the Right Pair of Glasses

Taxi for Getty

If you wear glasses, make sure your frames are stylish. The late, great beauty writer Charla Krupp taught us in her book "How Not to Look Old" (buy it from Amazon) the importance of great frames when it comes to appearing youthful -- or older than you are. The right frames can take 10 years off your face, whereas the wrong ones can add 10 years.

If you wear glasses, I recommend reading Best Glasses for Older Women, which is chock-full of tips and tricks for choosing glasses. 

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Prevent Wrinkles By Wearing Sunglasses & Sunscreen

Liam Norris for Getty Images

Dr. Fredric Brandt, the "Baron of Botox" (may he RIP), once said you can prevent wrinkles around the eyes with sunglasses. And you should always wear sunscreen even if you are just in the car. The before and after pictures of women who commute are interesting. The left side of the face is always more wrinkled than the right. Why? The sun will get you through the car window.

My hands-down favorite sunscreen is a Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Face Mineral Tinted Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid, buy it from Amazon. It won't leave you with that dreaded white cast. 

I list my favorite sunscreens in The Top 10 Sunscreens.

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How to Conceal Droopy Eyelids Without Surgery

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Drooping eyelids are another natural part of the aging process but there's no need to invest in eyelid surgery. You can spend 1000s on an eye-lift or you can try these beauty tips that cost nothing.

Find out how in How to Conceal Droopy Eyelids Without Surgery.

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Thinning or Bushy Eyebrows

Eyebrows for mature women. Getty Images

I'm a stickler for good brows and am known for making my friends let me tweeze theirs. Keeping your brows done nicely is like having a face-lift without surgery, according to author Charla Krupp's brow guy.

But you don't want to overpluck brows since brows are less apt to grow back if you excessively pluck. Find out what you can do to fix overplucked brows.

Here are some tips for perfect brows:

  • Fill in your brows with a brow pencil to make them appear fuller. You can also "brush" them out with a mascara spoolie (unused of course and clean of any mascara) that's been spritzed with hairspray.
  • Drawn-in brows are a no-no. You know the pencil-thin line you see some of your friends or women in your town wear? Well, they only age you and they're somewhat tacky. Learn how to properly fill in sparse brows.
  • Avoid over-tweezing by getting your brows professionally done. Nothing opens eyes up like curled lashes and neat brows. If you can't afford waxing or threading every few weeks, use the professional's job as a map for your own tweezing. Simply pluck the stray hairs that grow in between professional tweezing or waxing. See How to pluck your own brows for guidance.
  • Don't tweeze gray brow hairs. Instead, conceal them with a brow powder or pencil.

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Adopt a Great Skincare Routine

Hero Images for Getty

The key to looking younger than you is to get your skin in tip-top shape.

A good skincare routine will create the illusion of youthfulness. You shouldn't just cleanse and moisturize your skin, you should also exfoliate daily (or at least weekly) and consider antioxidants or Vitamin A products. Super hydrating masks can do wonders to mature skin (see my list of the Best Face Masks).

If you really want to get rid of those wrinkles, you might consider a partial facelift, lasers, Botox or fillers. Read more about these procedures in my in-depth article, How to Fix Deep Wrinkles: 5 Wrinkle Fixes You Can Get at Your Doctor's Office.

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How to Make Up Your Face For Evening

Blend Images for Getty

Evening makeup gives you the chance to add drama. This may come in the form of a couple false eyelashes or contouring your makeup. Perhaps it means curling your lashes which you never bother to do for daytime. In any case, this is your chance to have fun.

When you're older, less makeup can actually make you appear younger. Your makeup should not be noticeable, however your hair and jewelry and a fabulous outfit should be. Wear a statement necklace, get a professional blowout and invest in a great dress in a color that makes your eyes or your hair color pop.

For tips on evening makeup, see my article How to Make Up Eyes & Face for Evening. Just keep in mind that my tip to use a shimmery eyeshadow might not work on your if your lids are  wrinkly. Shimmers will only highlight that. Instead, sweep a neutral eyeshadow base on your lids.

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Take Care of Your Teeth

Raquel Welch hair. Getty Images: Gabriel Olsen, Gregg DeGuire

Your teeth, just like the crow's feet around your eyes or the wrinkles on your hand, can show off your age.

If your teeth are in good shape, but are yellowed from years of drinking coffee, tea or red wine, get them professionally whitened. I had this done years ago and loved the results. You can whiten teeth quickly with over-the-counter products such as Crest Whitestrips.

If your teeth are in poor shape, either chipped, worn down, yellowed or with spaces between them, I recommend seeing a cosmetic dentist to find out how you can improve your smile. I just perused a book in my dentist's office and was amazed at how gorgeous and natural bonding, crowns and veneers are these days. And I had a friend who had a full set of veneers put on her upper teeth and they look amazing. She shaved years off her look.

And look at Raquel Welch, who was born in 1940. Those are not her real teeth. No way. It's very common for celebrities to get their teeth completely redone. Even Ben Affleck has had his teeth redone, according to friends I have who knew him in college.

These options are pricey, however, but worth it. You might spend $30,000 on a new car, why not spend $10,000 on your mouth?

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No More Slouching. Time to Stand Up Straight

Sharon Stone. Gustavo Caballero for Getty

This is also not a makeup trick, but is one of the simplest beauty tricks I know: stop slouching.

Think about all the sexy women you know. They stand up straight and confidently. Not only will this make you look ten pounds thinner in seconds, it will make you look five years younger as well.

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Your Inner Self Reflects on Your Outer Beauty

Coco Chanel said it best in her famous quote, "Nature gives you the face you have at 20, it's up to you to merit the face you have at 50." If I can leave you with one beauty tip, it's this: how you feel on the inside reflects on your outside. Think of the times you've met a bitter person or an unhappy one and remember how it made her or him appear to you.

While we all will endure hardships by our 50s, those hardships are what help mold us into who we are. It's why we have more wisdom at 60 then we ever did at 20. How we handle those hardships is key. Do we internalize the bad things that happen to us or learn from them? Do we accept ourselves or beat ourselves up?

If you are an unhappy person, no amount of makeup or Botox or filler is going to make you beautiful on the outside. Work on your inner life first and that will reflect on your face better than any makeup can.

"Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers and are famous preservers of youthful looks." -- Charles Dickens

Loved this? There's More

Don't miss my other beauty tips for older women including:

  • 11 Things Older Women Should Know About Hair
  • 20 Skincare Tips Every Woman Over 50 Should Know
  • Best Hairstyles for Women Over 50
  • Eye Makeup Tips for Older Women