Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Starting to Wear Makeup In Your 30s & 40s- Final Thoughts

Earlier this year when I wrote the post about starting to wear makeup in your 30s or 40s I tried to give simple and practical advice: where to start, what to avoid, how to prioritize. But there's more to it than just making a shopping list and practicing assertiveness at Bloomingdale's, I know. I was very touched by the emails and personal stories readers shared, and some of them resonated with me even though my own experience is so different. There's an emotional component to changing something so personal, to starting to treat yourself differently. This is what I want to address today.

It all can be summed with the immortal words of Adele Dazeem: Let It Go.

Even if you didn't wear makeup until now, you have decades of assumptions, perceptions, and even prejudices concerning makeup, makeup application, people who wear makeup. You were probably told things in the past, even as early as your childhood. You heard general observations, perhaps was criticized by a supposedly well-meaning relative or friend. Maybe your mother or grandmother was an avid makeup user who tried to push it on you, or the opposite: a strict puritan or a staunch "makeup is superficial crap and we're above it" person. No matter where you grew up, chances are that you have baggage. You might be playing a tape in your head every time you look at the blush or lipstick you just bought. A friend told me that for years she believed that "only sluts wear red lipstick". It didn't stop her from buying Revlon "Fire and Ice", but she couldn't bring herself to actually wear it. Someone else I know has a similar idea about nail polish, no matter that her own boss wears vampy colors.

But there's more than that. Some of these negative ideas that follow us for years can also be about ourselves and our features. Mean comments (that frenemy has moved on decades ago and never really meant what she said about the shape of your eyes, but you remember it every time you look in the mirror), misguided "helpful" advice telling you that your eyes are too small for eyeliner, a parent telling you to "take off all this junk from your face"... it goes on and on and on.

Let it go.

Some of these ideas have probably shaped the way you approach makeup application. All those "you can't" and "you should" from decades ago are most likely wrong. If the last time you played with makeup was 1983 the only thing you remember is lining your lower lashes and not the top ones. It's not just a dated technique, it's also quite unflattering on anyone over a certain age (it drags the eye downward, adds darkness to an area we're actually trying to brighten, and usually looks unbalanced if the top lid is not lined as well). You will need to look at your face with fresh eyes, see what you want to highlight and play up, what parts require muted and softer colors, and then experiment.

Makeup textures and finishes changed and improved a lot over the years, even when it seems like the same product-- it's not (that includes Revlon Fire & Ice). Liquid liners are easier to apply and stay put all day, cream blushes are no longer a greasy mess, pencils are smooth and creamy, and powders are light as air. Wearing a foundation doesn't mean walking with a heavy pink mask on your face, and the new gel textures are everywhere, from eyeliners to lipsticks, and they're easy to use and wear.

Let it go, give it a try, and most important: have fun.

Photo of model Anne St. Marie by Tom Palumbo via Stirred, Straight Up, With A Twist.


  1. I was reading a recent magazine that talks about hairstyles we should break "the rules" about after 40, i.e., pixie cuts or long hair. My conclusion from all of the above and the hair is that if you like something, just try it. If it doesn't work for your face or the look you're trying to project, then try something else. Make sure if you're asking for an opinion, it's from someone with a good eye, not your frenemy! lol

  2. I've been wearing makeup since I was 10, especially mascara. I love this article, however, for the LET IT GO theme. After having lived with a verbally abusive husband for 23 years (now divorced/remarried), I've had to let so much go and rethink my entire perception of myself; looks, ideas, personality, etc. I'm stronger for the struggle though. I still wear lots of really cool makeup (most of which I heard about first from The Non-Blonde). None of us can do enough when it comes to encouraging our fellow humans. Keep up the excellent work. THANKS, Judy

  3. typo? I think you meant "Starting to wear makeup ..." You are usually impeccably proofread!

  4. I can really relate to this post!! Although I have worn makeup regularly for years, much of the above baggage stopped me wearing anything up until adulthood. My mother was the puritan who denounced makeup for its lack of necessity (but to view makeup as a matter of necessity is to miss the point entirely, if you ask me:-P). And then there was that frenemy of mine who used to preach about how she never wore more than mascara lest a boy saw her sans maquillage and found her less attractive (let us hope she no longer values herself based on how men see her). Thankfully, I now paint my face as I please regardless of the valued judgements of others:-D

    I really enjoyed reading this post and think you make many very interesting points about how others shape our relationship with makeup and our appearance. Haven't really read anything of the sort on other beauty blogs I read. Thanks for posting:-):-)

  5. I just need to applause every word :)

  6. Nice post! Refreshing and honest as usual for this blog :)
    I have come to the same conclusion over the years...everyone lives to give their opinion and often get their opinions confused with fact. The best judge of what looks good on me, clothes, make-up, etc., is ME! It was very liberating when I realized this small truth and I haven't been the same since :)

  7. Perfectly expressed! And something I really, really needed to read today. Thank you.

  8. This a wonderful post! Thank you...

  9. There's a manager at the local Sephora who is a little dumpling of a woman in her late sixties. She has snow white hair that she wears in a tousled pixie and she rocks a smoky eye that has younger women weeping with envy. And the great thing of it is that, because of her confidence and joie de vivre, she carries it off effortlessly. We were chatting once about adapting trends to suit us ladies of a certain age. She said, "You know, I never feel like I look ridiculous. Maybe some people think so, but I'm having too much fun to worry about what their tiny brains think." My response? "You go, girl!" :-)

  10. Ah, yes, I come from the Puritan background. I remember my mother telling me to "be myself" (i.e., be as unadorned as possible) but her idea of "myself" was the opposite of who I really am!

    I started wearing makeup regularly in my 20s, but I was afraid to experiment so my look remained very minimal and nondescript for many years. Thanks to YouTube tutorials and wonderful blogs like yours, I started to learn about products and I am now able to use makeup to its full advantage and really have fun with it (without looking overdone). I'm still learning about eyeshadows, and I'm just getting into red lipstick. One thing I've learned, is that I have to be willing to allow for failures, and not get upset if I spend money on a product that doesn't work for me. The money spent is an investment in the learning process.

    As far as feeling shy about trying new looks, I tell myself, "I'm 50, why do I need anyone else's permission to wear what I like?" It gets me out of that mindset of feeling like I need approval from "frenemies". :)

  11. when i hear girls in their 20's say they're 'scared' of red lipstick, what i want to shout out to them is "how do you expect to survive the world as it is much scarier than red lipsticks!"

  12. I really enjoyed the first post on this subject but this one truly resonated with me. I'm a late makeup bloomer at 33; I never wore much of it except on special occasions. Part of it was because I had no clue how to apply it but mostly it was because as a sometimes painfully socially awkward person, I feared people judging me negatively for wearing it. Somewhere along the line, I developed this idea that women who wore makeup were unintelligent, vapid bimbos and so the thought of anyone seeing me that way horrified me.

    It still does, to be honest, but now I realize how wrong I was in my thinking and am unwilling to let the fear of others' judgment stop me from embracing something that I enjoy and which makes me feel even more beautiful. I have spent far too much time letting those concerns force me into a mold I no longer care to inhabit. Thanks so much writing this! I've visited your blog only sporadically since I discovered it but I will be reading more regularly from now on. :-)

  13. Wow this and the first post it really made me feel better. I specifically googled am I too old to start wearing makeup. To think I'm 37 and had to ask. My mother was also a puritan even banning makeup until I was 16. When I was allowed I was afraid. I have chinky eyes, Big lips, a big nose, yellow skin and I'm African American. I believed the stores had nothing for me and there was no technique for those features. It made me sad and I quit before I started only ever wearing gloss. A friend tried to convince me for years that red lips would be perfect and even purchased some for me but I just said my lips are to big it would be to much. But now thanks to all the ladies on you tube and with the blogs I have learned so much. The first being how to embrace my features. I recently got married and hired a MUA and the first thing I said was I want cat eyes and a bold red lip. To think all these years I refused and that has become my signature go to look. I used to think makeup was about hiding yourself or catching men. Now I realize it's about (at least for me) expressing yourself and feeling polished. I was having second thoughts hence the google. But thank you for your encouragement. I will definitely be checking out more of you in the future.


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