Fashion & Beauty

Blush’s Quirky Little Secret

February 27, 2022



By Valerie Monroe

For nearly 16 years Valerie Monroe was the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the popular “Ask Val” column.

If you’re interested in feeling happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading what she has to say about it. For more of her philosophical and practical advice, subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face at

THE OLDER I get, the less I wear. Makeup, that is.

Why? The reason lies in the very point of wearing it—to imitate the appearance of robust health and reproductive vigor. (And you thought you were only painting your face!) A 20-, 30-, or 40-year-old woman with flushed cheeks, a mouth stained to look plump and biteable, and dark lashes emphasizing the whites of the eyes and the limbal ring around the iris—both indicators of good health and youth—is enhancing or flagging attributes she already possesses. Once those qualities fade with age, we’re less enhancing them with makeup so much as replacing them.

Can’t get enough Valerie Monroe? There’s more at

Think of the difference between real flowers and fake ones. There are fake blooms so delicate, so perfect, and so lifelike that we might think they’re real even after we touch them. But when we go in for a sniff and realize we’ve been had? Fuck me! We’re hardwired to detect genuineness in order to evaluate what’s trustworthy—which is essential for survival. When we’ve been tricked, we can feel deeply uncomfortable. Think about the last time you saw a woman whose face wasn’t quite right. Maybe she was immoderately treated with filler or she was excessively made-up, over-blushed, looking out from eyes darkly lined or heavily shadowed. What’s the feeling you got, underneath the curiosity or aversion? Was it . . . mistrust?

So, as we step and repeat our way along the red carpet to our final big event, we might want to be especially discreet about makeup. One study showed that, when applied judiciously, makeup had a significant influence on reducing age perception (subjects were thought to be around three years younger than their actual age). But when makeup was dramatic or overdone, the subjects were seen as less likable and less trustworthy. Obviously, the winner is . . .

Because you all seem to like product recommendations—and because a friend recently asked me how she could prepare her face for a special occasion (after not having to for almost two years in isolation)—I offer my most recent efforts in that arena. Fair warning: I am very lazy when it comes to making up my face. Looking for the anti-expert? Welcome home. But I did learn the little I know from the best of the best.

I use 10 products, which suddenly seems like eight too many. But anyway:

I use makeup now less to mimic the cues of a potential healthy mate (as long ago I tenderly kissed my reproducing days good-bye) than to be sure my face actually shows up in living color in a photograph.

It’s obvious you won’t find trends here; there isn’t a single new product listed above. But in my defense against trendiness, please see below, from Skin Inc:

A study to find what the top trending beauty and cosmetic searches were for 2020 and 2021 in the UK revealed that eyeliner on guys was the No. 1 search, with a 282.28% increase and black lipstick came in not far behind with a healthy 58.46% increase.

If I had a case, I’d be resting it.


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7 thoughts on “Blush’s Quirky Little Secret

  1. Alice says:

    As the hair on my head has turned snow white so has the hair on my eyebrows. They have also thinned as I age. Any thoughts on that issue?

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      hi there! from Valerie, here’s a column about the problem:

  2. Nancy G says:

    I let my hair go gray several years ago, pre-COVID. But I then also realized I needed to up my eye makeup game, or I would either look like I was invisible, or like I was 10 years old. So I’ve been putting at least eyeliner and mascara on most days, particularly if I’m leaving the house. It actually makes me feel more like myself. If we’re giving up masks now, I’ll add blush. MAC and Bobbi Brown make good cream blushes for older, drier skin.

  3. jura says:

    These are great suggestions. But $60 for a cream blush is too expensive for me. Got any more affordable cream blush ideas?

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      Here’s Valerie Monroe’s suggestion for a less-expensive cream blush: [Jura] could try this new one from Bobbi Brown or, even less expensive, this one from Pixi (Pixi makes fine, inexpensive cosmetics).

  4. Nancy McKeon says:

    From Michelle:
    This post is so helpful! I’ve stopped wearing makeup at all during the pandemic, so it’s a good time for me to rethink what I want to do going forward.

  5. Nancy McKeon says:

    From Asha Sanaker, who writes Let Your Life Speak:

    I have actually worn more makeup since the pandemic started than I ever have before because I spend so much time on Zoom, or sending video messages. Being a pale white woman with almost no visible eyebrows, video is … humbling without a little somethin’-somethin’. But having been a largely non-makeup-wearing woman for most of my life, I feel incredibly made up with a little under-eye concealer, some mascara and eyeliner, and my Boy Brow from Glossier, which I have come to LOVE. Any more than that and I just feel like a bad drag queen.

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