Know how a perfect gray bob looks sultry and sophisticated at 40, but silly at 20? Or how a miniskirt on a 20-something looks super-sexy but kind of pathetic by 40? It goes to show that there are different dos and don’ts for every age. Check out how to get great-looking makeup from 20 to 40 (and every day in between) with this decade-by-decade guide.
In your 20s… Your best makeup now: Whatever your heart desires, honey! The joy of having the best skin of your life, and the youthful vigor to pull it off, is the freedom to experiment with trends and see what looks best on you. This is the time to play around with bold splashes of color, be it teal eyeliner, hot pink blush, or a matte orange lipstick (just don’t try more than one at a time, please—you’re in your 20s, not your tweens).
What to skip: Heavy moisturizers. Your supple skin doesn’t need it, and ultra-hydrating ingredients better suited for older skin, such as shea butter, may make you too oily, clogging pores and causing breakouts.
Good products to try: Start the day with a light moisturizer that contains SPF and antioxidants, such as Murad Energizing Pomegranate Moisturizer SPF 15; you’ve got to protect your skin from sun damage every day so you’ll still be wrinkle- and spot-free in your 40s and beyond. As for color, you’ll want to try it all, so no point investing in something you may only wear once; try Rimmel Special Eyes Precision Eye Liner Pencil for a range of shades and get onboard with the season’s trend of juicy, saturated stains with Maybelline Color Sensational Lipstain.
In your 30s… Your best makeup now: Your skin is just starting to show the first signs of aging, and foundation can exaggerate those new fine lines so switch to a lighter tinted moisturizer instead. Get a youthful glow by playing up cheeks, be it using a pearly shimmer to highlight the tops of cheekbones or a bold peachy or coral cream blush on the apples of your cheeks.
What to skip: Bright eye colors—your peacock days of bright purple, sea foam green, and turquoise are behind you, my dear. Instead of garish colors or trying to coordinate your eye makeup with your outfit (far too immature for a woman of your sophistication), achieve drama with a winged-out, cat’s eye-style single black line, or smokey eyes with gray, navy, chocolate, or deep eggplant.
Good products to try:Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 makes skin look young, never creased or cakey. To make your skin look as luminous as a 20-something’s, dab pearly-pink Benefit Cosmetics High Beam Highlighter on the top of cheekbones. For a pop of color, swipe on a moisturizing blush outward from the apples of your cheeks, like Nars Cream Blush in Cactus Flower.
In your 40s… Your best makeup now: It’s all about subtlety—playing up your best features without looking made up. That means filling in your eyebrows, since as we age they tend to grow sparse, and fighting wrinkles with a tinted moisturizer that’s packed with anti-aging ingredients. You’ll likely spot creases above your top lip and at the corners of your eyes, so it’s important to use a filling primer, which helps prevent makeup from getting into—and highlighting—the creases.
What to skip: Dark eyeshadows and lipsticks. What was a great smoky eye on you a few years ago can now make your eyes look sunken and the sockets hollow. Deep lipstick shades, especially matte versions, can also look too severe, so skip the rust or brick colors and instead go with a more natural, mauve lip shade with a bit of shine to it (not shimmer or super glossy—people shouldn’t see their reflection in your pout!).
Good products to try: Of course you’re fighting wrinkles with night cream, but your tinted moisturizer can continue the battle during the day as well; try L’Oreal Paris Age Perfect Radiance Perfector Sheer Tint Mousturizer. Fill in your brows by making tiny, light strokes with a pencil such as Bobbi Brown Brow Pencil. Lessen the look of creases around your eyes and lips with MAC Prep + Prime Line Filler, then line lips with a neutral (no darker than your lips!) pencil (like NYX Slim Lip Pencil) before you apply your natural-colored lipstick.
In the comments below tell us your age (be proud, ladies!), and the makeup routine that works for you.