Fashion & Beauty

Makeup Refresh: Six Easy Pieces

November 26, 2023



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. She now splits her time between Manhattan and Tokyo.

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

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

I RARELY WRITE about makeup—one of the cleverest and oldest ways we’ve used to trick others into thinking we’re finer mating material than perhaps we really are—because I’ve always been a makeup minimalist; it hasn’t seemed worth the attention.

But a reader ready for a fresh look to suit her freshly aging face inspired me to put together what I hope is a helpful guide to adornment.

While it’s true some research has shown that a smile increases attractiveness, smiling is one of the ways we (women) have often been encouraged to convey our complacency—to rearrange our features to be more pleasing to “the other.” So I encourage you to think of your most fruitful adornment as something heartier: your presence, which means showing up for yourself so we can all see and appreciate (right through the manipulation and the adornment) the gorgeous creature you are.

Ready for beauty questions?

Q: I recently realized that the makeup I’ve been doing for the past 40 years isn’t quite suited to my now 57-year-old face. Um, help!

A: Your question provoked some anxiety in me because my personal proficiency (as previously mentioned) in makeup and its application is especially deficient. So I turned to Laura Geller, the makeup artist and entrepreneur whose products I’ve tried and liked and who, being a mature squab herself, has figured out one of the most successful ways to adorn the aging face. I asked Laura for an easy update to your routine, which she offered.

“Makeup formulations have changed, and the way to apply makeup has changed a lot in the last 40 years,” Geller said. “Less is more as we get older, but that doesn’t mean just a little mascara and out the door.” [Val here: Okay, but that would be me with the mascara.] Geller loves that makeup now includes good-for-the-skin ingredients like moisturizing hyaluronic acid and aloe, especially because skin may become drier as we age.

She offers more steps than I’d take myself, but skip whatever you like and you’ll still finish with a more polished look.


“Don’t skip primer!” Geller admonishes. “I’ve shifted to a hydrating formula since my skin is so much drier than it used to be and I need the extra moisture. Primer also helps your makeup look better, because it diminishes any creasing or caking into fine lines and wrinkles. In other words, it creates a better canvas for your makeup,” she said. When you want to skip foundation [Val here: Again, me.], the Spackle Skin Perfecting Primers—which come in bronze, champagne glow, and ethereal rose glow—deliver a hint of tint.

Next up, if you’re going for a very polished look, is foundation. “I tend to go lighter with the coverage than I did when I was younger, but I need something to even-out my skin tone,” Geller said. Naturally, she recommends her Baked Balance-n-Brighten foundation and points out that her powders start out as creams before they’re baked, so they’re velvety and non-drying and, Geller believes, a better alternative to pressed powders on mature skin. A few swipes over your face with a brush for light coverage is enough, she said. You can read more about primers and foundations in general here.

“Now that I’m in my 60s, I don’t want to be without blush; it brightens my face and gives me a little lift when I apply it on the tops of my cheekbones and into my temples,” said Geller. She also likes to use blush on her eyelids as shadow, because it creates a kind of unified look and is faster than applying a different shade of eyeshadow.

“I know highlighter can be scary,” said Geller [Val here: I can think of far scarier things, but never mind], though she likes one with what she calls “low glow”—no glitter or shimmer. She uses French Vanilla highlighter under her brow bones and on the top of her cheekbones for luminescence.

Lastly, when choosing lipstick, Geller likes a neutral with a touch of pink (like her Modern Classic lipstick). And I can’t help but recommend my go-to here: The Clinique Chubby stick, which I’ve been using for 20 years and still love, because it magically continues to make me look like the human equivalent of a fawn eating fresh raspberries out of a pail.

Geller’s advice includes a fair number of products, so I asked how she might make it a bit easier for you HNTFUYF-ers to play around with makeup without emptying your wallet. Well, right now, there’s a 40% discount on her Cult Classics Full Face Kit (which contains all the Laura Geller products mentioned above). So, that means a $110 collection for $66.

The invaluable person who often acts as the superego here at HNTFUYF suggests I remind you that the point of makeup is to have fun, that you might think of it as play, something you can do for yourself that will give you pleasure. If it doesn’t? The hell with it. But if a new lipstick or a blush lifts your spirits? Zhuzh away!

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