'The beauty tricks I employed in my twenties were no longer serving me in my forties'

Adapting your beauty routine for a new life phase is the most low-maintenance, high-impact beauty move you can make, says ROSALEEN McMEEL.

I remember wanting to look older. It was back when my sister’s fake ID was my favourite accessory, and I’d spend hours debating the merits of eyeshadow shades in The Body Shop. Humblebrag alert, but I can also remember being pretty good at applying my make-up. Pre-YouTube tutorials, I learned everything I knew from my sister – the same one who was so generous with her ID. I would sit on her bed as she expertly applied eyeshadow, sculpting and blending like a pro. I mimicked her techniques and mastered the art of make-up application ahead of most of my friends. Even looking back on old photos, I’m proud to say I don’t have that many make-up disasters on record. Then again, we didn’t take quite as many photos back then, but let’s not dwell on details.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped wanting to look older. I stopped using a fake ID. I also stopped being quite so accomplished with a make-up brush. As work and life got busier, getting out the door with my teeth brushed felt like an accomplishment. Working as a beauty editor for many years meant that I felt an obligation to make an effort, but it became more of a chore than a pleasure. As time passed, I realised the same beauty tricks I employed so effectively in my twenties and thirties were no longer serving me as well in my forties. Who has time to blend four different eyeshadow shades while simultaneously juggling a busy career or family or both? The thick liquid eyeliner I spent years perfecting now looked a little too “shouty” and the dark berry lipsticks that defined my look in the 1990s would offer my face nothing but a clownish finish today. The issue isn’t just about changing trends – berry lips are very hot right now – it’s about adjusting to an evolving face and changing complexion. I know I’m not alone, as I’m constantly asked for advice from women who are struggling to evolve their beauty look as middle age hits. Some stick rigidly to tried-and-tested formulas, while others abandon the game almost altogether. And who can blame us? Anyone over 30 is largely overlooked by the industry unless there’s an anti-ageing product to flog.

SIT WITH A BEAUTY STYLIST

But this is no longer about looking younger or older, but looking our age, or the best version of that we possibly can. Too much to ask? I don’t think so and, thankfully, neither do the beauty pros. “Highlighters, contour (both for face and eyes) and false lashes
(specifically singles) can fill older women with fear,” says Dublin-based celebrity make-up artist Christine Lucignano. “But these are the very things that, with little effort, can make a radical difference to changing features. I think the biggest disservice a woman can do to herself as she gets older is not to avail of a one-on-one with a trusted make-up artist for bespoke advice. Not only does the skin change and the features shift, but technology is constantly changing, so asking for some professional direction is a smart investment.” Lucignano recommends treating yourself to a yearly update at your favourite make-up counter or store. “The tricky bit is sitting with someone who is educated and passionate about all ranges, not just the one they are commissioned to sell.” She goes on to recommend booking an appointment with a beauty stylist like Elena Costello in Brown Thomas, who is trained to advise on all the ranges available. We give our wardrobes regular updates, so why not pay the same attention to our faces? After all, it is on show every single day.

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ALL ABOUT EYES

“I’d also recommend microblading for a woman who has lost brow density due to age. If you get the right technician doing the work, it can be a massive lift for the face. I’m not a massive fan of lash extensions for long-term use, as they can damage what lashes you have, but I am a fan of tinting lashes as well as lash perms for a great lift. Single false lashes can also make a massive difference and are quite easy and quick to master,” says Lucignano.

LESS IS MORE

There is a saying: ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ and this really rings true for me as I age,” says Elizabeth Whelan, wellbeing expert, holistic therapist and director of Zestivo.com. “Keeping to a simple but effective skincare and make-up regime is the key to enhancing features.” But if we are serious about enhancing our skin as we age, Whelan believes we need to look beyond just the physical skin and factor in lifestyle choices as well. “The Chinese say that our skin is our second lung, so take time during your day and consciously breathe: Breathe in slowly and gently for the count of five, expanding the lungs, ribs and chest. Hold the breath for a count of five. Then breathe out for the count of five. Repeat this three times, four or five times a day. The breath oxygenates every cell in your body and brings life to every cell. This exercise also de-stresses the body, and given that stress is a major challenge in society today, it is a win-win because one of the most ageing factors for our skin is stress.” The “less is more” mantra is also embraced by international make-up legend Mary Greenwell, who recently helped launch Chanel’s new Les Beiges Eau de Teint, which includes microfluidic technology to offer a minimalist approach to foundation. “We’ve all gone through enough of the perfect make-up look. I’ve started paring back my own make-up, and I’m going to keep it like this. I want to look more contemporary (for lack of a better word). All the runway shows are so young looking. Flawless finishes can actually make you look old, and in the 1980s, when I was doing the supermodels’ make-up, we used to leave the flaws of the skin, so you had only a tiny bit of foundation. There was no question of putting on concealers to mask the face. None of that going on. A little bit of foundation, if any, and that was it, just to even out the skin tone.” Greenwell also recommends opting for a little blush on the apples of the cheeks, rather than dark contouring, to add warmth. “Another thing that is very on point, if you dare, is to go without mascara.” How do you know if you can get away with it? “Well, if you look in the mirror and still like yourself!”

HAIR APPARENT

Greying hair is not always the biggest age giveaway. Getting caught in a style rut for decades can be. A loyal relationship with a stylist over decades can sometimes be the root of the problem (pun intended). “There are two reasons a stylist will be slow to change your style,” says Jacqui Fay, Kazumi hairstylist and Redken artist. “You are not being clear about the change you’re looking for, or familiarity can lead to comfort zones on both sides.” What’s the solution? “Do some research on the looks you are trying to achieve and arm yourself with images to show your stylist/colourist, and hopefully you can come to a conclusion. Remember, your stylist often knows your hair better than you do, and if you’re a loyal client, they’ll also have a good idea of your lifestyle too, so together you’ll have to consider how much maintenance is involved. You’ll need to decide how much time and money you’re willing to invest, whether that’s in the styling or colour maintenance end of things; after that, it’s a case of face shape and skin tone. With the right advice and guidance from your stylist/colourist, you can’t go too far wrong. If all this fails, it might be healthy to move on and get someone with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.” Greying hair can also impact beauty direction. “As you get older, your complexion changes and grey hairs start appearing. This is when you should consider softening your hair colour, whether that be lightening the hair or adding tonality, something that complements the changing skin tone.”

READ MORE: Hairstyle Jacqui Fay on going grey in her thirties 

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WARM IT UP

Skin grows more pallid with age, so if you’re wearing a matchy-matchy foundation, it can leave you looking pasty. Lucignano suggests putting life back into the face with slightly warmer tones. “There are definitely colours that work better against the face, but it is very individual. A rule of thumb is the more silver the hair, the warmer the colour family needed for lips/cheeks, but again this depends on complexion. Don’t forget the brows, though, because a really dark brow when hair is lightening or going silver can be a bit jarring, and the brows might enter the room before you have a chance to.” The easiest way to refresh your look is via lip colour. If you’ve been wearing neutrals since the ’90s, try red. If you’ve been loyal to red, try a pink. Play with the colour, but go easy on texture. Anything that’s severe – a lipstick or hairdo – will instantly age you. So wear a red, but opt for a sheer one. Above all, remember to have fun with it.

Featured image by @welovecoco.

This article originally appeared in the May issue of IMAGE Magazine, on sale nationwide now.

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