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Makeup for the over-40s

If you've never worn makeup at all, your 40s and 50s is a good time to start.

Graftobian colour palette

Recently I had to make up someone for a film role and that was an interesting experience. 

M doesn't usually wear much makeup other than mascara and I had to make her look unflatteringly older, so basically did the opposite of what you'd do normally. But that led to some discussion about how to do her makeup in everyday life - she liked mine but didn't know what to do for herself - and it made me realise that there must be many women out there who aren't au fait with makeup. 

Makeup can be a good friend to you as you get older. At 50, I'm now at the stage where I think I look a bit ill without it. Days that I don't wear it - and I don't wear it every day, on principle - if I catch sight of myself in the mirror I often feel I look a bit tired and grey. At this age, makeup isn't about looking sexy any more, it's about looking healthy.

Given that M was also astounded by some of my kit, such as the length of my makeup brushes (she was using the tiny ones supplied with products), I thought I'd write a quick guide to making up in your 40s and older, and the key equipment you might find useful.

Here are my key makeup items, though you don't by any means need all of them and I don't use all of them every day. Some of the multiples of an item are products I bought to test, or for my 'professional' kit. 

Elf Studio colour corrector palette


* BB cream: currently Diadermine Lift+ BB Mousse in Nude.
* Primer: Smashbox Photofinish original (black tube); Monistat Chafing Gel (a dupe for Smashbox); Bourjois colour-correcting cream; Boots colour correcting cream.  
* Foundation: Clinique Superfit (discontinued) in Neutral (used as a concealer); Clinique Redness Solutions in Calming Ivory; Graftobian HD cream foundation neutral colour palette 1; Beauty UK cheapie foundation from a discount store.
* Concealer/corrector: YSL Touche Eclat in 01 and 02, Maybelline Dream Lumi Highlighting Concealer in nude, Diadermine + Retouche Jeuness BB Crème Pinceau; Shamy six-colour concealer palette (part of box set).
* Blusher: Maybelline Dream Touch Blush in Apricot, Peach and Prune; Shamy six-colour powder blush palette (part of box set). 
* Powder: Yves Rocher loose translucent powder; Corn Silk loose translucent powder; ELF Studio High Definition Powder in Shimmer; Dior pressed translucent powder; Rimmel Stay Matte pressed powder; ELF Studio Tone Correcting Powder; Ben Nye Luxury Powder in Banana.
* Makeup fixative: ELF Studio Makeup Mist n Set. 

ELF 144-colour palette in neutrals

* Mascara: La Roche-Posay Respectissime Ultra Doux, black; La Roche-Posay Respectissime Densificateur, black; Ben Nye mascaras in plum and clear; L'Oréal Voluminous x 5, carbon black.
* Eyeshadow: Maybelline 4-colour Smokey Eyes palette; Terre d'Oc mineral eyeshadow; various cheapies; ELF 144-colour neutrals palette; ELF 100-colour brights palette; Shamy 112 colours in four palettes (part of box set). 
* Eyeliner: Revlon Dipped End Pencil in Underwood.
* Kohl eye pencils: Revlon Crayon Eye Liner Suede Brown; Revlon Wet n Dry in brown; several cheapies from a discount store in black. 
* Eyebrow colour: Ultima eyebrow pencil with built-in brush (discontinued) in Dark Blonde; HB pencil.

Chanel Rouge Allure 14 Passion

* Lipsalve: Klorane raspberry flavour; Carmex; Elevation 3196 Mallow Soothing Balm; Vaseline. 
* Lip liner: Yves Rocher and Terre d'Oc - half a dozen different colours; eye liners by Arcancil in pink and orange. 
* Lipstick: various, by Chanel, Maybelline, Revlon, Serge Lutens, Yves Rocher, Cien etc, mostly in shades of red and pink, decanted into a colour palette. 
* Lip gloss: 16-colour palette in Shamy box set; flavoured lip glosses.  

The tools I use to apply these are:

ELF studio flat topped powder brushFACE
* Sponge wedges: Alcone and ELF
* Beauty blender: Camera Ready Cosmetics
* Foundation brush: ELF, Nocibé, Yves Rocher and cheapie TomTop from Ebay
* Stipple brush: ELF
* Fan brushes: Tomtop 
* Flat topped powder brush: ELF 
* Powder puff: ELF, Boots' own
* Concealer brush: ELF Studio line 
* Blusher brush: Nocibé  

* Eyelash curlers: Boots own-brand, ELF own brand
* Eyeshadow brushes: Nocibé, ELF Professional and Studio lines and TomTop 
* Eyeliner brushes: Nocibé and TomTop 
* Eyebrow brush: Ultima, TomTop, spoolies (disposable mascara wands) from Camera Ready Cosmetics. 

* Lip brush: retractable from Nocibé, TomTop 24-piece and 22-piece sets.

In Part Two, I'll look at how to apply a daily makeup.  


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.  


Vive la difference?

Why is it that the French and the English differ so much in style?

Ines de la Fressange

I received a new comment on an old blog the other day, and it set me thinking about the difference in style between French and British women. 

Why, my French correspondent asked me, do the English get so hung up on the mutton-dressed-as-lamb thing?

Her comment is perhaps worth quoting at greater length, as I had to do some hard thinking about it:

"I'm now in my late fifties, and to be honest, I don't feel less attractive than I did in my twenties," she says. "In fact, maybe the reverse because I have more self-assurance and a better understanding of what's right for me."

I do think that this understanding is something British women lack, and one reason for it is consumerism. British women are simply bombarded with choice in a way that is not open to French women, and most of that choice is completely unsuitable for them. The prices are lower, so it's easier to make a mistake. A consumerist culture is encouraged, meaning British women, rather than making gradual and careful investments with their clothing and thinking about every purchase, tend to buy clothes as a way to cheer themselves up, with the focus on the buying, not the wearing. That is a very good way to end up with a wardrobe full of rubbish - the British have never learned the value of the crewneck black tee, the navy v-neck sweater, the nude ballet flat and other staples of the French wardrobe. 

Amy Childs

The British also value youth in a way that the French don't - or, in other words, British culture is ageist. French men, I have noticed, never stop noticing you or complimenting you, no matter what your age. This simply doesn't happen in England, where if you're not 18 with tits up to your chin, men don't know you exist at all. British clothing is designed for girls, not women.

When I visited London briefly in 2005, a very tall, young, strong man barged me out of the way in Oxford Street, almost knocking me down, and then said: "Fucking women - think they own the fucking road."

I think that was an age thing. At the age of 40-odd, I was simply invisible to him - beneath his contempt. But French men, I would suggest, are not as fucking stupid as British men when it comes to appreciating older women - they know the value of experience and self-assurance. And that is perhaps one reason why French women continue to make the effort to look good, no matter what their age - it is a chicken-and-egg situation.

My correspondent continues: "To be honest, I have never quite understood the Anglo-Saxon obsession about ageing. I don't think we French change our basic style very much as we age. Rather, we adapt it. Perhaps it's because we learn from our mothers that in fashion, as in make-up 'less is more'. We know from an early age that a neutral colour palette and the best quality clothing we can afford will always pay dividends, and look far more elegant than a wardrobe full of high, but fast-forgotten fashion. I suppose I'm trying to say style is more important to us than following the latest trend, even if it doesn't suit us."

She is right - elegance is not a lesson that the British generally learn. In our youth it makes us more interesting dressers than the French - more innovative, more individual, more iconoclastic - but many British women dress for effect in a way the French simply don't and this kind of thing can catch you out when you get older and the strapless, skintight, rocker, biker-chick, hippie or goth look starts to do you no favours. What looks good on older women is generally a version of the 'classic' look, which many British women hate (along the lines of 'who wants to look like an air hostess?'), and they simply don't know how to personalise classic to bring out their individuality, especially if they never wore these kinds of clothes when they were younger. 

"This also means that I dress in a very similar way to my daughter," continues my correspondent. "In fact we sometimes borrow from each other. BUT we do accessorize these basics differently in order to put our personal stamp on them. My daughter is far more likely than I am to wear scarlet nail polish, or accessorize MY little black dress with incredibly high red patent Louboutins, while I will wear the sheerest black stockings and classic patent pumps, choosing a gold leather clutch for MY touch of panache. But that's almost the only difference."

Well, with the exception of Mrs Middleton and her daughter, I think you'd be quite hard pushed to find many women over 40 in the UK who can fit into their daughter's clothes because British middle-aged women are so fat. Only if they have fat daughters (which, actually, is quite likely, come to think of it) will they be sharing clothes. The fatness of Brits is something that every Continental dweller notices as soon as you step off the ferry, in the way that we once used to gawp at the gigantic American tourists waddling round our historic sites. 

But Brits are fatter not just because they're lazier than the French (though they are) but because British culture follows the American model in being utterly in cahoots with the corporates, who push sugar and fat-laden fast food at a weak-willed populace who cannot resist it. Food appreciation is not taught in British schools and a snack culture is encouraged, all of which makes more money for the food producers. The inevitable result over 30 or so years of this is that the Brits are now 3 stone heavier than they were in the 50s, according to Jacques Peretti, and the condition of our internal organs is frightening - there is a REASON that Brits have the worst cancer rates in Europe. 

It is not only, though, a question of weight. British women, because they are taught to dress only in an 'alluring' manner when they are young, sticking all of their assets on display as if it were a male smorgasbord, simply don't know what to do when they get older and a bit of restraint is called for. What DO you do when the only shoes considered attractive are those with high heels but you just can't walk in them any more? How DO you hide your bingo wings when the only measure of attractiveness is to display as much flesh as possible? (I actually read a women's magazine interview recently where one young man said he would never date a woman who wore long sleeves because "women who wear long sleeves are no good in bed"!)

A French woman, in contrast, although she limits her food portions and walks about more, also tends to stick to flats whatever her age, and knows the value of a decently-cut jacket whether she's 20 or 60. In France, these things are not markers of age but of style and a woman isn't required to totally change her look and 'give everything up' as she gets older. 

My correspondent finishes up: "We share the same golden rules that my mother taught me, and I've passed on to Marie. NEVER, EVER, even at 6.00am, go out in sweatpants and trainers (it takes no longer to pull on a pair of jeans, and a breton top, with a black blazer if necessary, and a pair of ballet flats) or without a touch of make-up. This can be a beautiful Chanel-red lipstick and a touch of mascara, or smokey eye make-up (but NEVER both!!) and never forget a soupcon of perfume."

I must admit that this is pretty much how I dress these days (except I wear loafers rather than ballet pumps, which make my feet look weird), but it took me a long time to learn how easy and effortless it is to dress this way rather than go schlepping around the place. But on the other hand, it IS rather a uniform and part of me yearns slightly for my golden days of not giving a toss. One thing I enjoyed seeing last time I was in London was women in maxi dresses in the street. This is something you'd never see in Paris (beautiful but not stylish) and although, on the other hand, the vast majority of British women I saw were badly dressed, there was also more individuality of expression than you see in France. 

"It's a matter of self-respect, and also respect for those whom we meet in the street. So our take on clothes might be a bit different, our way of personalizing them, but basically we are the same: at 28 and 59 respectively. Why do British women get so hung up on this 'never look like mutton dressed as lamb' thing??" 

Mmn. Do British women lack self respect, and respect for those they meet in the street? Or is it that the French have a tradition of making fine things and are a much more visually literate nation than we are? I do think that the latter has something to do with it. My (female, well over 60, skinny as a whippet) wine negotiant turns up in tight jeans, red shoes and a full face of makeup, even though she drives a van all day. I can't imagine a British woman doing the same. But on the other hand, British women do create beauty in other ways, in their herbaceous borders for instance, and their homes, and fashion and style are only two of the many, many things they are interested in. They are, after all, just clothes to walk about in, not the roof over your head.

In the end, although I have lived in France for many years now, I am still not sure which attitude is best - the French never-give-up or the British never-give-a-shit and I confess to being somewhat schizophrenic in this matter because, after all, I am British, not French, and I am at heart a bit of a slob. Last week, for instance, I dressed up to go and see friends for lunch, and I got plenty of compliments and admiring glances, but I would far rather have been bumming around in my scruffs.

Well, ladies, this has been a marathon blog. What do you think? Is the French attitude better, or the British? Or should we just accept our differences and say vive la difference?


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).  


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