By Valerie Monroe
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 valeriemonroe.substack.com.
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.
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:
- Instead of foundation, which can look cakey and emphasize lines and wrinkles (and the soft hair on mature skin), I mix one part Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer with two parts of my regular moisturizer in my palm. Apply as you would any moisturizer.
- A couple of well-blended dots of cream blush on the apples of your cheeks.
- A very light dusting of translucent powder all over, including on eyelids so the eyeliner doesn’t migrate; then Laura Mercier powder black eyeliner on upper lids applied very close to the lashes with an eyeliner brush. Suggestion from the doyenne of makeup artists, Bobbi Brown, about applying liner: Start at the middle of the lid and line to the outer end, then go back to middle and line toward the nose, which is easier than trying to draw a straight line across the entire eyelid.
- Curl top lashes with Tweezerman eyelash curler, then two coats of black mascara.
- Eyebrows penciled in lightly with Benefit Precisely My Brow pencil.
- I still use those Chubby Sticks lip color balm from the Ice Age, which I’ve read have been discontinued and I see are hard to find, so you might try another ancient one I like, for a pretty stain.
- As a final step, if I’m going to a celebration, I set everything with a splash of vermouth.
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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