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A basic makeup routine - skin

As you get older, your makeup routine needs to focus increasingly on your skin. Keeping your skin looking peachy as you hit 40 and above takes more time, but clear, healthy, moist, natural-looking skin is one of the things that makes a woman really glow, and you can fake this at any age if you know how to do your makeup.

The best products are those with a little sheen rather than being ultra-matt or ultra-shiny, both of which look ageing. Personally, I've also largely switched from away powders towards creams, mousses and pencils, which glide on easily and don't gather in your wrinkles. As you get older, the less you drag your skin around the better because the collagen that once made it bounce back is on its way out.

Assessment

Firstly, you need to look at your face in a good light to assess what you need for the day. Some days concealer and powder will be enough - you don't need foundation every day for daytime.

I don't have good light in my bathroom, so I take a magnifying mirror out to the landing window, which faces north, and make a quick note of hot spots (of which I have many, because I have rosacea), and any papules (white-headed rosacea zits) or pimples that need fixing (I'm lucky enough to still have spots, especially during my period, what joy). I also have other areas which may need dealing with - thread veins on my nose and cheeks, and blue circles under my eyes if I have a bad night.

Preparation

Mat your skin down before applying makeup. When I can get it, I use papier mattifiant from the Body Shop, but I'm told that a sheet of medicated loo paper does the trick just as well. It simply removes any excess moisturiser. Some people like to use a skin primer or anti-oil primer, which sounds a good idea, but I haven't tried them yet.

Under the eyes

If you're looking a bit tired, under the eyes try using a yellow concealer. Yellow cancels out the blue tone of under-eye circles and works far better than a flesh-colour concealer, which simply highlights the area and can give you raccoon eyes if you overdo it. I use a lipstick-type one by Couvrance. This stick type works best if you apply it to the back of your hand first and allow your skin warmth to soften it before dotting it under the eyes and blending in - you need hardly any and at this rate, this one stick will last me about 150 years. If memory serves, Bobbi Brown also makes a yellow concealer.

General concealer

Flesh-coloured concealer is for any red bits, spots, hot spots, thread veins etc that you need to cover, and you should apply it with a brush. Despite all advice, the brush I've found most useful is the small, free one you get in a lipgloss palette. I use Maybelline's Dream Mousse concealer, which is just fantastic. You need so little of this that you really do have to use a tiny little brush - use a fingertip and you could apply it to yourself, your husband, all your friends and still have some left over. For touch-ups during the day, if needed, I use Touche Eclate by Yves St Laurent, which fits into a handbag easily and has its own brush - Dior makes a similar product. Other manufacturers make other types of concealer, including sticks and powders.

You should apply concealer only where it's needed. On an average day, I apply it to the sides of my nostrils and the thread veins on my chin and cheeks if they're flaring a bit. Wherever you use it, blending is crucial, and worth taking time over. On a bad day it feels like I've done half my face, but I still prefer this to using a foundation all over.

Green concealer

If you blush easily, or really have a bad case of all-over redness, which can happen with rosacea if you let your diet slip, use a green concealer (most manufacturers now make them, including Bourjois and Boots No7), then foundation and powder on top. Go easy with it � you're just undercoating, not painting yourself green. If you use this stuff, make sure to use blusher too or otherwise you'll look like a corpse.

Foundation

If you use foundation every day, stop for a moment and consider whether it's just habit. You may be fine with nothing more than concealer and powder.

A foundation is meant to even out your skin tone and make you look healthy, not cover blemishes - for that, you should use concealer. If you have desperately oily skin, or really need a large degree of general coverage, or have bad rosacea, acne scars or other tough blemishes to deal with, think about seeing a dermatologist - they have access to products that you won't find out about otherwise.

Personally, I hate the feeling of makeup on my face, and I also have the bad habit of touching my face all the time, so for a long time I used Dior's Airflash, which is wonderfully light and matt and you hardly know you've got it on. Now I use Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse instead, applying it with a finger and blending thoroughly. I like this product because you can really use very very little, so you don't feel like you've plastered your face.

Blusher

Lots of women don't wear blusher, but it's one of the makeup artist's chief weapons. Applied correctly, it makes you look happy and healthy, and I also couldn't help but notice that in makeup artist Kevin Aucoin's books, EVERY face without exception used blusher, even if the model wasn't wearing mascara, lipstick or eyeshadow.

Like many other makeup products, blushers now come in liquid, gel, cream, mousse and powder forms. Liquids and gels go on under your foundation, and have to be worked with quickly before they set a stain. Powders go on over your powder, and creams and mousses go on over your foundation but under your powder. I feel these are the easiest to work with if you're not a professional - personally I use Maybelline Dream Mousse Blush for its whippy texture. It might seem a bit daft to use blusher when you've already got a red face, but my rosacea has the lovely habit of affecting one cheek only, and in the wrong place, so I cover that up and then put blusher where it 'should' be.

There are trends in blusher application, in case you hadn't noticed. In 'my day' (an expression I hate, and which was the 1980s, by the way) you applied blusher right across from your cheekbones to your hairline in a sort of slash, preferably with highlighter above and contour cream below (and dark eyes AND lips to boot - check out Fran Drescher in Spinal Tap). This approach is now considered outdated and you're meant to apply blush to only the apples of your cheeks.

To find your apple, smile broadly. It's the fat part of your cheek, directly in line with the centre of your eye, so apply your blusher here and blend outwards just a little. Go easy, and keep stepping backwards to assess your progress, as if you were pruning a shrub. What you're aiming for is a healthy glow, not Sally the old rag doll.

Powder

The last step is loose translucent powder. Why loose? Because loose powder gives a much finer finish than pressed powder, and contains fewer waxes and fillers, so it won't make you flare if you have allergies. Currently I use Luminelle from Yves Rocher, which on its own is a bit matt for my taste, so I've added a bit of gold body powder to lighten it a little (an all-over powdered look is very flat and ageing). For daytime touch-ups, pressed powder is easier to carry around - I use Dior for its fine finish.

To apply loose powder you'll need a big fluffy brush, with a head 2-3in across. On days when you need greater coverage, apply your powder with a latex sponge, then blend in well with the fluffy brush. On days when you only want a slight coverage, shake the compact (with the lid on!) to bring up some powder, dip the fluffy brush into it head-on, knock off the excess and apply by mashing the brush head-on into your skin and working the powder well in. Now apply powder blusher, if you prefer this to cream.

The last step with your skin routine is to firmly brush your facial hairs downwards (ie: in the direction of growth), using something like a blusher brush that you keep only for this purpose. This makes any hairs which have perked up lie flat back down again.

That's it, skin done. If you've done it right, it should just look like you're in good condition, not like you've slathered your face in a ton of product.

A basic makeup routine - lips

When it comes the mouth, the French have a rule - if the lipstick's red, the clothes are black.

This isn't a bad rule, actually. For daytime and less formal looks, a more natural pink or brownish mouth looks better than red, but dark clothing needs a brighter lip for balance. Whether you prefer a paler or a stronger mouth is up to you, but it helps to practise with several 'standard lips' that you can choose from without thinking, according to the season and what you're wearing. Try this procedure with regard to application:

Highlighter

If you want your mouth to look a bit poutier, outline your whole mouth with concealer/highlighter and blend it in. Something like Touche Eclat works very well. You can only pull this trick off, however, if you have little or no facial hair, as otherwise you give yourself a moustache. Do it properly, though, and your mouth will look a tad bigger, and it's a sure-fire way to prevent lipstick bleed.

Lipliner

Now outline your lips with lip pencil, following the contours of your actual lipline, NOT the colour line of the lips (which recedes as you get older). You can check your natural lipline by looking at yourself in three-quarter view in a mirror (again, this is a tip from Morgan Shick's Your Makeover). Then fill in your lips with the lipliner, like colouring in a drawing.

Lipliners come in different hardnesses and which you choose is a matter of preference, but don't have the point of the pencil too sharp - blunt it off for a soft, natural outline. I favour Yves Rocher, Maybelline and La Roche-Posay.

Using lipliner rather than lipstick gives a dense colour which won't budge or bleed into the cracks round your lips, but it's rather flat by itself, so it needs a top layer. So blot with a single layer of tissue, powder lightly if you wish (this is belt and braces to prevent lipstick bleed), then apply lipstick, if using, and/or gloss.

Lipstick

If you've used lipliner to fill in your lips, you may prefer not to use lipstick at all but move straight on to the final layer, gloss.

Lipsticks vary in colour and texture, but the over-40s are best-served by creamy lipsticks in gentle shades, avoiding mica, frosted looks and really zinging bright oranges and scarlets. Brownish reds often work better than scarlet.

Apply lipstick with a lip brush and work well into the creases in your lips, and take the colour right up to your lipline. For more staying power, blot and apply a second coat, but if you favour lipstick that lasts all day, try out one of the two-stage lippies such as Lipfinity by Max Factor. Personally I felt too made-up wearing this, and I hated the varnished feeling it gave my lips. My favourite lipsticks are by Revlon, but I can't get them here in France, so I wear Chanel or Gemey (French Maybelline).

Lip gloss

Every woman looks good in lip gloss. Not the red vinyl porn-star type, of course, but the types which are not too shiny and which have quite a lot of pigment. These highly pigmented glosses tend to come in palettes rather than tubes, and often have a handy little brush with them - sometimes it's worth buying a complete makeup palette with eyeshadow, blusher and the rest, simply for the lip glosses. Apply this kind of gloss like a lipstick, taking them up to the lipline if you wish. If you have three main colours - red, pink and caramel - it's also a good opportunity to tweak your lip colours a little. I often apply pink over bronze, or caramel over pink for a subtlety of tone.

High-pigment glosses aren't always available, so if you can't find one and have to use the really sticky kind in a tube, you need a different method of application. Use just a tiny dot, press your lips together, then spread it outwards with a brush, stopping well short of the lipline, as otherwise it runs and gets messy. If it still appear too shiny, pat it with a finger until it tones down (some of it will come off in the process, along with your lippy).

With lips done, you're ready to leave the house without scaring the neighbourhood.