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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 Here, mascara is the most crucial - if you wear out-of-date foundation, you might give yourself spots, but wear old mascara and you could be looking at eye infections, which is much more serious.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.  


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.  


The desirable dozen

Twelve foolproof makeup products for women over 40

MaybellineIn the interests of not wasting money on crap, here are my Top 12 picks for makeup products.

I favour simple, quick make-up appication, preferably with my fingertips, using reliable products and these are the items I find I use the most in my makeup armoury. Cheap or expensive, they are all worth their money, do the job and stay put. 

1 Smashbox Photofinish skin primer. The most impressive makeup product I've found in years, this colourless silicone-based primer glides on over your skin and provides a fabulous, smooth base for applying makeup. Used alone, it makes your skin look 'finished', but as a make-up base, it's simply wonderful - no more dragging, pulling or tidemarks.

2 Diorskin Airflash foundation. This  spray is extremely light, resulting in a perfect matt but not chalky finish. You're meant to apply half a dozen squirts at a distance of about 15cm, but I find two squirts mixed with one squirt of skin primer mixed on the back of my hand is a better bet, then apply it quickly with the fingertips.

3 Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse makeup. For days when your skin's a bit blotchy, this heavier foundation works very well. It's a little too heavy and matt for my tastes to use every day, but this means it also works as a concealer - to use it this way, I apply it with one of those tiny makeup brushes you get in an eyeshadow palette. 

4 Yves St Laurent Touche Eclate. An all-in-one highlighter and concealer that is like photoshopping your face. Gets rid of thread veins, dark circles, the little draggy bits round your mouth. Fabulous product - never go anywhere without it. 

5 Maybelline Dream Mousse blusher. Incredibly light texture and a natural appearance, with just a tiny hint of sparkle to give you a glow. Also works well as an eyeshadow or under-eye concealer.

6 Dior pressed or loose powder. Loose for use at home, pressed for on the go. Foundation and powder are two areas where quality really shows, and Dior powders are very light and mattefying without ever looking chalky.  Refills are available and the compact closes with an expensive click that is very pleasurable.

7 Couleurs Nature Metalgrow Cream Eyeshadow in gold from Yves Rocher. A fabulous gold liquid eyeshadow that looks great every day. I would also have recommended Avon's creme stick eyeshadows for their nice texture, no drag, and good colours - and, importantly, a low price - but sadly they seem to have discontinued them and nothing in the new range looks remotely as good.

8 Revlon Wet/Dry Eyeliner in Chocolate Bar. Buy it if you find it - it's also been discontinued, due to some idiocy at Revlon's end. This eyeliner was THE choice for professional makeup artists for over a decade and I've been using my one stick (carefully sterilised) for at least 12 years now.

9 Boots No7 Extreme Length mascara. A friend gave me a free sample of this and I can't believe how good it is for the money. I usually spend about 28 euros on a high-end French mascara, but this budget brand gives a bright, clear eye with no clumping or flaking. 

10 Couleurs Nature lip pencil in Rose Poudre, from Yves Rocher. A useful lipliner in a shade just slightly darker than natural, and with a brush at the opposite end. On 'natural' days, I use it as a lipstick also, but as a liner, it goes with any lip colour.

11 Chanel Rouge Hydrabase cream lipsticks. Great colour and staying power, and I just love the click they make when you put the stick back in its case. 

12 Vaseline petroleum jelly. Let's not forget the humble Vaseline, which is a chapstick, lip gloss, eyebrow tamer and moisturiser all in one. I also use it as a night cream and on vicious winter days I wear it as a moisturiser outside. For dry, cracked hands, just rub it in like handcream and go to bed wearing plastic gloves, and if your heels are dry or sore, rub in Vaseline, slip on a pair of plastic bags and then socks and your feet will be transformed by morning. Magic.

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