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A learning curve

I'm on a steep learning curve when it comes to makeup.

Ben Nye banana

Now that the DH, some friends and I are creating short films, I'm getting more and more into my makeup. And boy, do I have a lot to learn? 

I thought I knew a little something about makeup, having worn it for nearly 40 years, but making yourself up and making up other people are completely different things. Making people up for photography and film, and making yourself up to simply walk about in the open air are also completely different things.

For instance, it's a given that every day you yourself should wear sunblock, but an SPF is the last thing you want for flash photography because it goes white under the flash. The same applies with HD powders, which supply sparkle and life to skin - they need to be blended TO DEATH under flashlight or you get serious panda eyes.

The brands for professional makeup are also completely different, with names like Mehron, Ben Nye, Graftobian and RCMA replacing the more familiar Revlon, Chanel, No7 and Estée Lauder. And I had never stopped to consider the reasons you might choose a cream over a liquid foundation, or a mineral powder to work on different types of skin - I've always just chosen what I myself prefer.

All I knew of makeup until recently was my personal preferences - ie: for light coverage and neutral colours. I don't do any contouring or colour effects, and until yesterday had never tried an eye primer either - my personal makeup is mostly confined to BB cream, neutral eye colour, mascara, blush and lippie. Days I'm going swimming, I do without mascara, and one or two days a week I don't wear makeup at all, though I admit to finding my natural face pretty pallid and sad these days.

Making up other people is utterly different, especially if you want something to last eight hours and stand up to HD lenses and harsh lights. To start with, you need so much prep material. You need cleansers for oily, dry and sensitive skin, toners for oily, dry and sensitive skin, moisturisers that are light, medium and heavy in texture, emergency pads for eyebags, eye drops, zit cream, stuff for rosacea, basic primer, oil-free primer, yellow-reduction primer, red-reduction primer, eye primer, hand sanitiser, breath mints, makeup remover...

Then you need the actual makeup, which is as long as a piece of string: face and body foundation, cream foundation (maximum coverage), liquid foundation, mineral foundation for people with sensitive skin, loose powder, pressed powder, cream blusher, powder blusher, bronzer (something I've NEVER worn), liquid eyeliner, gel eye liner, pencils, lipsticks, lipglosses, eye shields, brow stencils, brow powder, brow wax... 

Then you need the tools: capes, hairbands, hairclips, brush belts, brush pots, towels, tissues, medi-wipes, baby wipes, brush shampoo, mist n set, eyelash curlers, Q-tips, mixing palettes, spatulas, makeup sanitiser, alcohol spray, puffs, beauty blenders, sponge wedges...before you even get started on the brushes: crease brushes, blending brushes, eyeshadow brushes, concealer brushes, blusher brushers, contour brushes, yadda yadda yadda - at least two of each so you can wash one and dry one. 

Zuca Sport Artist

Above all, you need the bag, and unfortunately, the bag is the thing you need first, so that you can arrange and transport all your kit. After doing considerable research, I took a deep breath and got a Zuca - nearly $300 by the time I'd paid the shipping, but it's specifically designed for the purpose, I was nervous about the build quality of other cases and I figured it would do double duty as a travel bag. I'll do a review of it when it arrives.

Bit by bit, my kit is arriving in the post, courtesy of specialist vendors such as Camera Ready Cosmetics (the shipping from most professional sites was prohibitive), and where possible, I'm also cutting costs by buying budget brands such as ELF and drugstore brands such as Revlon: after all, it's not as if I'm a professional, I'm just aiming for the best effect I can get at a price I can afford, and I also hope to retain the items for personal use wherever possible.  

Googling for dupes has therefore become second-nature, particularly for expensive items like Smashbox, Bioderma Crealine, Touche Eclat etc, and I tell you what, it's interesting what you find. Almost everything has something similar at a much lower price point, and when it's not for the joy of handling it yourself, you get very narky about spending a lot of money just for a name.

I'll review each of my kit bits separately, but for now will just mention that they include: The Masterpiece box set from Shany; ELF's 144-neutral and 100-brights eye palettes; ELF brushes, puffs, sponge wedges and eye primers; Carmex; a Graftobian cream foundation palette; brush sets from TomTop; Ben Nye mascaras; CRC beauty blenders and spoolies; and the Zuca Sport Artist bag. Watch this space.   

New Year, new makeup

It's January, so it's time to sort out the makeup stash.

Nivea BB Cream

Going through your makeup stash is something I recommend doing once or twice a year. Makeup has a way of proliferating and getting snarled up, and the simpler you can make your makeup application routine, the better. 

Go through your stash and throw away anything you never use, if it is opened (if it's never been used and still has the hygiene seals, give it to charity). Dried-out mascaras, crumbling eyeshadows, foundation that didn't quite suit you - you know the drill. 

Then check the use-by dates of what's left. Here, mascara is the most crucial - if you wear out-of-date foundation, you might give yourself spots, but wear old mascara and you could be looking at eye infections, which is much more serious. As a rule of thumb, if a product has been open for more than a year, throw it out.  

Another thing I recommend is sorting out the stuff you actually wear every day from the other stuff you wear only once in a while, and keeping your evening and morning cosmetics separate.

The easiest way to do this is to sit down one weekend morning and do your 'normal' slap, whatever that is. Personally I'm in favour of a lighter touch as time goes on - too much makeup on a woman over 40 is dragging and ageing, and much of your routine becomes simply about trying to look a bit healthier.

As you use each item on your face, place it to one side on a tray, and when you've finished, assess what you're looking at - these are the items that you really need every time you put your slap on, so you should keep them all to hand in one place.

My basic makeup tray (not that I wear makeup every day) contains:

* Lip brush, Nocibé.
* Lip salve.
* 'Nude' (ie: pink) lip pencil, Yves Rocher. 
* Red lipstick, Maybelline.

* Eyebrow scissors
* Eyebrow tweezers (Tweezerman).
* Taupe eyebrow pencil with brush, Ultima. 
* Brown eye pencil, Revlon. 
* Brown kohl pencil, Revlon. 
* Pale pink kohl pencil, Eyecare. 
* 12-colour eyeshadow palette in shades of brown (some cheap Eastern European brand from a discount store).
* Eyeshadow brush, Nocibé.
* Eyeliner brush, Nocibé.
* Eyelash curler.
* Cils de Cellophane waterproof mascara by Serge Lutens (for swimming days).
* A water soluble mascara for non-swimming days, currently Maybelline Colossal Volume, hopefully to be replaced with something better. (My favourite Respectissime mascara by La Roche-Posay has been discontinued.)  

* Touche Eclat concealer, Yves St Laurent. 
* Pressed powder, Yves Rocher.  

* Pencil sharpener, cotton buds, cotton-wool pads 

Written down as a list, that seems like quite a lot, but it doesn't take up much space, and this is the kit I keep on my desk. It enables me to quickly moisturise, line and fill in my lips, pluck out stray eyebrow hairs (best, and least painfully done on a daily basis), emphasise my eyes and take the shine off my face. Done. 

On a daily basis, I have little need for any other eyeshadow colour than some shade of brown, whether it's a rosy brown, a grey brown or a chocolate brown. Colours are best left for younger girls with smooth, unlined eyes. The pale pink eye pencil brightens the inner eyelid and the inner corners of your eyes where the skin can look sad and blue, and highlights the browbone. I don't need blusher because I have a pretty high colour anyway, though I do wear it sometimes in the evening. And the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed one big omission - there's no foundation.

This is because I recently gave up foundation in favour of a BB cream. My fave is the Rivoli Active Radiance Primer (see separate review), but I'm down to my last few mils of this, so I'm now keeping it for special occasions. For a more quotidian solution I'm trying out Nivea's new BB Cream, which isn't as good but isn't half bad either, especially for the very modest price of around 10.50 euros. 

With a BB cream, you get the effectiveness of a moisturiser with the coverage of a foundation - it's a more matt, less translucent version of the old tinted moisturiser and should effectively act as a foundation, reducing one step in your daily routine. You apply it like a moisturiser, not like makeup - squeeze out a small quantity (try less than you'd imagine, to start with), spread it between your hands and smooth it all over your face and down under your jawline. (On your neck, switch to your normal daytime moisturiser unless you want makeup all over your clothes.) You will, obviously, have to wash your hands afterwards. 

I haven't listed the BB cream in my makeup kit, because it's kept under my bathroom mirror with my skincare kit and not at my makeup station.

For evening, you might need a few more bits of makeup: blushers in peach (for summer) and rose (for winter); half a dozen shades of lipstick and gloss; loose powder and its attendant brush; Smashbox skin primer and foundation; and black kohl liner. But really, that's about it - no more green and blue shadows, lipsticks in weird colours, glitter to put all over yourself, etc. For evening, it's enough to recurl your eyelashes and apply a brighter shade of lipstick. 

By evaluating your makeup kit annually, or even twice a year, you can easily work out what's working for you and what's not, and make your life easier. Keep what works: jettison the rest.  


Chucking and splurging

I'm honing down my makeup kit to the things that give me the best value for money.

One problem with only buying your makeup every so often is the phenomenon of running out of everything at once. It's happening to me at the moment - I'm down to my last couple of squirts of Smashbox skin primer - the adult woman's spackle -; have  just finished my Christian Dior Airflash foundation and am now running out of Touche Eclat. 

What's a girl to do? Clearly one can't go out and face the public without the primer (well, I jest, as I only wear it about once a week, which is why the same bottle's lasted me about six years), so I've splurged to buy a new one. But the foundation - meh. I've decided that it's a bit chalky for my taste, so am currently working my way through some free magazine samples - one by Clinique is the lead so far.

Touch Eclat used to come in just the one pale pinky-beige shade, but now apparently comes in six varieties. This can only be good as the original is a little pink for my freckly complexion. So I'm on the hunt for shade no 2 from some reseller, as I'm obviously not going to walk into Nocibé and pay a whopping 32.50 euros for it.

There are only a few things in my kit that have really done me great duty over the years, and as you get older and have no need for glitter, colours and jazzy effects, it's pretty much down to your daily drivers.  

My decluttering phase therefore has spread to my makeup kit and the other day when I sat down to do my slap, I placed each thing I used in a nice old Victorian sewing box, as part of my 'daily' toolkit. At the finish, there isn't much in there: eyebrow, eyeshadow and lip brushes; a big fluffy powder brush; foundation sachets, oil-free wipes, cream blush, lip balm, nude lip liner, a pink lipstick (Yves Rocher) and a red lipstick (Maybelline); a beige lipstick I use as an eyeshadow; pressed powder, loose powder, Touche Eclat, Smashbox, an eyeshadow palette in four shades of brown, a pale pink kohl pencil for the eyebrow area, a dark brown Revlon Wet n Dry eyeliner, beige under-eye liner, eyelash curlers, and brown mascara.

That's pretty much my daily kit, from the days when I wear no slap at all (maybe five days a week), to the days that I do the full monty. 

The rest of my kit, I carefully edited, chucking a lot of it out (unsatisfactory pale blue eyeliner, three lip glosses that were all identical, too-dark lipsticks etc), and the rump I've placed in a tiny drawer in the bathroom for 'special occasions' when I might wear a different shade of lipstick, or black mascara, for instance. I have no need, btw, for anything to do with nails as my hands are a disaster zone...

Honing down my daily makeup kit has freed up a lot of space on my landing windowsill, which is where I sit to do my slap in the only bright north light available. When I'm done, I now put it all back in the box, push the box into the window recess, and leave everything clear - more light to come in, less mess to clean up. 

Going through your makeup kit is something you should do every six months or so, as your makeup isn't designed to be used for very long. It's constantly picking up bacteria from your skin, so make sure that you renew it on a regular basis (unless, like the Smashbox, it's in an airless dispenser).  


Makeup overhaul

New year is a good time to assess your makeup bag.

Somewhat like my sister chucking out all of her out-of-date spices, New Year is the time that I like to overhaul my makeup bag. 

I say 'bag', but it's actually a series of trays arranged on my landing windowsill - just about the only place in the house where I can sit in good light and do my makeup.

Once you're over 40, your makeup should just be about looking brighter, healthier and better, so the key tools are primer, concealer and blush, to create a healthy glow, and foundation - if you need it - to even out the complexion. An uneven complexion is a far greater sign of ageing than are wrinkles, if looking younger is something that bothers you.

Anyway, most of us don't wear half of our makeup, so get out everything you own and have a look at it. The average life of a makeup item is six months - if any of your items are older than this, it's time to think about chucking them out. The mascara tube, in particular, is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, so don't take any risks with mascaras. 

Pressed powders and pressed eyeshadows that are getting an oily or grubby surface should also be thrown away, along with any makeup items that use a built-in brush and are more than six months old - this includes things like Touche Eclat. If you have a favourite colour that you just can't bear to get rid off, try sandpapering off the surface of the powder until you get to fresh powder underneath. 

If you have glittery eyeshadows that you don't wear (most of us have bought eye makeup that has proved way-too-glittery on a softening eyeline) and they are in pale shades, crush them up and recycle them as loose body powders: you can even mix them into your body lotion. 

Clean out your makeup bag/box/drawer/shelf and disinfect it, and wipe over all your brushes with an alcohol wipe (you should be washing these out once a week anyway, to avoid infection).

Then take a look at what you have. IMHO, an over-40s babe's makeup bag should can usefully contain the following:

* Smashbox skin primer for a perfect satin finish, with or without makeup.

* Foundation of choice (mine's Dior Airflash).

* Loose powder (I use Yve Rocher).

* Pressed powder (I use Dior).

* Bronzer if you wear it.

* Blusher in the form of gel or cream (for no-makeup days), and powder (for last-minute application) - two shades, one with an apricot tint and one with a rose tint.

* A good quality eyeshadow palette containing brown, flesh colour, cream or gold and one or two in-between shades. I'm currently using Gemey-Maybelline. 

* Dark brown eyeliner pencil (black if you're dark). I use Revlon. 

* White or pale pink eyeliner pencil to open out the eye (also use the pink one below your browline). I use Eyecare. 

* Mascara in black, brown or browny-black and a waterproof version for swimming/weddings etc.  Also clear mascara if you wear it. (I favour Maybelline and La Roche Posay).

* Eyebrow pencil (mine's an Ultima).

* Lipliner in the same colour as your lips when you bite them - also use for infill (I use Yves Rocher). 

* Lip balm, red lipstick, pink lipstick, clear lipgloss (I use various makes, but favour Revlon and Chanel for their colour density).  


When it comes to tools, I couldn't get by without:

Microfoam sponges for applying powder and foundation (Boots' own).

Big fluffy powder brush for loose powder (Yves Rocher).  

Blusher brush (Yves Rocher).

Lip brush (Yves Rocher).

Clean mascara wand for recombing lashes.

Eyebrow brush (mine's on the end of an Ultima pencil).

Eyelash curlers (Boots).

Eyeshadow brush (Yves Rocher).

Eyeliner brush (Yves Rocher).  


Everything else can really be discarded. If things are still in their clingwrap, give them to charity, but if they're used, bin them, and go stock up on decent replacements. Like a capsule fashion wardrobe, a capsule makeup wardrobe needs to be slim and efficient, not stuffed to the gills with things you don't wear.  


Tools of the trade

A small arsenal of well-designed tools can prove very useful in the make-up box.

Slant tweezerIn keeping with my Desirable Dozen makeup products, I thought I'd review a dozen beauty tools that I, as a grown-up girl, find useful.

Not every woman needs an arsenal of beauty products, but - just as in the kitchen or sewing room - having a few decent tools makes a job SO much easier and can often be a better use of funds than buying new products.

An important part of your arsenal is brushes, which can be either synthetic or natural hair. With natural hair, the colour 'sinks' into the hair itself, while with synthetic, it tends to sit on top. Which you prefer is largely a matter of choice - I like synthetic eye brushes but natural lip brushes, for instance.

What I don't like, any longer, is foam-tip applicators. I find brushes allow you to blend your makeup far better, which becomes increasingly crucial as you get older and have more facial hair and fine lines to work around. 

Take good care of your tools and they will go on for a long time - I've been using the same lip brush for nearly 30 years.  Wash your brushes weekly with shampoo or liquid soap (trying not to get too much water into the metal bit that holds the bristles). Dry on a towel, then leave hanging over the edge of a shelf or radiator, so nothing distorts the bristles.

Here are my top dozen tools:

1 Tweezerman Slant eyebrow tweezers (above). Don't wase money on other makes - Tweezerman makes tweezers that grab and pull cleanly at the tiniest hairs. If you do one thing, shape your eyebrows - even without makeup, this will give a frame to your face.

eyelash curlers2 Eyelash curlers (right). Nothing makes you look more awake and alert. Mine are just from Boots, but they look a lot like these posh Shu Uemura ones. Run them under a warm tap for 20 seconds or so before use and you'll get a better curl.  

Eyelash/eyebrow duo3 Eyebrow brush. It should look like a little toothbrush. I use the one on the end of an old Ultima eye pencil. For the best results, brush your eyebrows straight up, then go along the top and gently comb any stray hairs back into place. This Yves Rocher one does double duty with...

...4 Eyelash comb. Great for separating lashes and stopping your mascara from looking clumpy. Again, mine is just an old one from a dead mascara. 

5 Mediwipes. For wiping over your makeup brushes after every use.  You should also wash your brushes once a week to avoid contamination. 

Eyeshadow brush6 Eyeshadow brush. This should be quite big and fluffy, but flat. It's for blending, something that must become your mantra as you get older. All the brushes shown here are from Yves Rocher, which makes good brushes for a reasonable price.

blusher brush7 Blusher brush (right). Again, this should be wide but flat and angled at the tip, for stroking on colour. The angled tip spreads out in just the right way on your cheekbone. 

powder brush8 Powder brush. This should be huge and fluffy, with a rounded end. Dip it into the powder, knock the excess off and use just the smallest amount to set your foundation, dabbing your skin as if you were stippling paint. Then use the brush to lightly stroke your facial hairs in the right direction. 

Eyeliner brush9 Eyeliner brush (right). You use this sideways - it should be very thin, flat and cut at an angle at the end, with quite stiff bristles. Applying your liner 'sideways' like this makes life a lot easier, as you will know if you've ever tried to apply liquid liner in a straight line. 

lip brush10 Lip brush. Shoves your lip colour right into the creases of your lips and gives your makeup real staying power. It should be narrow, with a sharply pointed end. Best in natural hair. After washing your brush each week, wet the brush in your mouth and pull it out through your pursed lips and leave it to dry - your saliva sets the end into a perfect poin (a technique still used on squirrelhair paint brushes).

11 Latex sponge. Soft as a baby's breath, this can be used wet or dry for applying foundation. Alternatively, use a foundation brush, which looks like an eyeshadow brush, only bigger.

12 Cotton buds. Have these ready to hand and dipped in oil-free eye make up remover for correcting any spills or slips as you go. 

13 Pencil sharpener with two slots - one for normal-size pencils and one for big pencils. 

14 Concealer brush, if you don't use Touche Eclate, which has its own brush built-in. This allows you to position your concealer accurately - especially important for dark circles under your eyes. It lookks like an eyeshadow brush, only smaller.



The desirable dozen

Twelve foolproof makeup products for women over 40

MaybellineOnce you hit 40, you need makeup products that go on fast, give reliable results and stay put. Here are 12 of the best