Makeup Rules at 20, 30, 40 and Beyond


Are you still wearing your 20s face, when you’re, you know, not?

I almost made the same mistake myself a few weeks ago when I discovered a long-hidden box filled with my go-to makeup products from my late 20s. Not only did I have a fabulous job as as editorial director/beauty editor at a Boston magazine, but this also happened to be the time when I met my husband, Kevin. I sifted through my former standbys: Clinique Dubonnet lipstick and Workout Makeup. Benefit High Beam and Benetint. Fresh Eye Gloss and Angel eau de parfum. Even some favorites from now defunct lines like Calvin Klein Makeup, Sebastian Trucco and TIGI (Fat Free Foundation was amazing!). And then, just for old time’s sake, I put my 29-year-old makeup on my no-longer-29-year-old face. Predictably, the makeup was a little gross (and maybe toxic – but hey, I love you guys enough to try old makeup!) and the formulas and colors were dated (hello white eyeshadow and dark dark matte lips!). What I didn’t predict, however, was how odd my current face would look in my old makeup. The textures, colors and heavy-handed application were all wrong, and they made me look older than I am. Who needs that?

Did I toss it all, you ask. (Insert peals of maniacal laughter.) Of course not. It’s makeup. And it’s sentimental. Sentimental makeup you keep forever. Everybody knows that. #makeuphoarder

So, to sum it up, yesterday’s favorites won’t necessarily flatter tomorrow, and that’s okay. The key is learning how to flatter your face, at any age, and to tailor the latest trends to where you are in life. So here, the 3 top makeup trends for spring 2016, and makeup rules at 20, 30, 40 and beyond. But first, 3 makeup mistakes that are instantly aging:

1. Dark Lips: Very dark lips make lips look thinner, drier and older, particularly when the shade is matte. This means that, sadly, the Chanel Vamp and Revlon Colorstay in Burgundy that were so flattering in my 20s no longer work in my 40s.

2. Powder: Face powder, even some mineral powder formulas, can look heavy and cakey, and the product settles into fine lines. I use a clean powder brush to remove the tackiness from my foundation without depositing any product. If you feel you must use powder, a very light dusting of a translucent, colorless formula will work. As you age, skip powdery blushes and eyeshadows in favor of creamier formulas, unless your skin is very oily.

3. Too Much Makeup: Past 30, wearing bold colors on lips, cheeks and eyes, and using a heavy-handed application, will instantly age you. Fresher, more natural makeup tends to look more subtle. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with makeup, or go for a little drama. Just pick a feature or two to play up, and keep the rest of the look a little more subtle.

And now for the fun stuff!

(Note: All product photos are linked for easy shopping. Amazon links are affiliate links).

Top Makeup Trends of Spring 2016

1. The Bold Lip

This trend calls for a bold, saturated lip in a matte to semi matte finish. Whether you pick pink, orange, red or wine, this is a key trend and an easy way to add polish, fast. But, when worn improperly, it can also look too done and, therefore, too old. The key to pulling this off? Keep the rest of the face as bare as possible. The lightest hint of foundation (or concealer) just where you need it, mascara, well groomed brows and a hint of gel blush keep the face fresh and not flat. Let the lips take center stage here. Red is the most classic of the bold shades, and a true, medium red (not a deep wine or burgundy) transcends all ages. If you have struggled to find the right red for you, read my post on how to Find the Best Red Lipstick for You.

How to Wear this Trend, Decade by Decade:

20s: Anything goes! Groomed brows, perfect skin, and a light coat of mascara are all you need in addition to the lipstick. If your skin requires some coverage, use tinted moisturizer or concealer just where you need it. As for the lip shade, go as bright as you dare or as deep as you wish.

30s: Follow the rules for your 20s: a fresh face, groomed brows, and a bold lip. You may want to add a little blush for balance if you feel you need it. Pick a shade that’s bold but a little more classic – skip the neon shades and go for a vibrant red, orange or pink.

40s-50s: Use a very thin coat of foundation or concealer, but keep the finish dewy and not powdery. Add a gel-based cheek color, and pick a lip shade that is bold but not too dark. Dark, matte lips (like the trendy oxblood color) are very aging.

60s and Beyond: A classic shade like red, fuschia (not hot pink) and red-orange look best at this age, but avoid dark, matte shades and go for a moisturizing formula. Keep the rest of the face clean but done: foundation or tinted moisturizer, a gel or cream blush, mascara, eyebrow color and possibly a very natural eyeliner. Skip powdery formulas and keep the look fresh and dewy.

Lip Picks:

Bite Beauty Luminous Creme Lipstick

This all natural paraben free formula tastes amazing, and the company claims it’s good enough to eat. It’s moisturizing, pigmented and lasts a long time!

Bite Beauty Luminous Creme Lipstick in Mimosa, $24, Sephora

Bite Beauty Luminous Creme Lipstick in Mimosa, $24, Sephora, works for all ages.

Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick

Love this amazing, lightweight, lasting formula and the gorgeous shades!

Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick in Punch Drunk, $20, Amazon

Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick in Punch Drunk, $20, Amazon, is a bold but not too bright shade that works for different ages.

Revlon Color Burst Matte Lip Balm

Revlon Color Burst Lipstick in Standout, about $6.79, drugstores

Revlon Color Burst Lipstick in Standout, about $6.79, drugstores, is a darker, matte shade that’s best for your 20s and 30s.

Maybelline New York Color Sensational Lipstick

This has been my go to for the past few months. It’s moisturizing, a little glossy, lasts moderately well, and is just easy to apply. Plus, I love the pretty red-coral shade.

Maybelline Color Sensational Rebel Bloom Lipstick, about $7.49, drugstores or Amazon

Maybelline Color Sensational Rebel Bloom Lipstick in Rose Rush, about $7.49, drugstores or Amazon, is great for all ages.

2. The Full Brow

Some of us remember when Brooke Shields was known for her Calvins and her brows, and those full, natural looking brows are back, and have been for a couple of seasons. That doesn’t mean you can toss the tweezers completely. They still need to be groomed, but nothing is more aging than thin, overplucked brows. Full brows, like full lips, are a sign of youth. They also detract from undereye circles. At any age, if you want to sport the full brow look, start with a visit to an eyebrow artist, and then you maintain them on your own. For this strong look to work, it needs to be shaped to suit your face and to frame your eyes. And, of course, there are products and tools that will help you keep your full brows beautiful, or amplify the ones you’ve got. (For more brow pointers, check out this post from Fashionising and or my own post on how to Master Eyebrow Shaping.

How to Wear this Trend, Decade by Decade:

20s: In your 20s, go as bold as you dare with your brows, as long as they are groomed and work with your face shape. For truly full, bold brows, skip plucking entirely except for a stray hair or two. Go with a clean eye and let the brows do the talking, or add a bold shadow and really play up the look.

30s: Brows can be as strong as you wish, but you may want to add a bold lip (see above) for balance.

40s-50s: Full brows are still fabulous at this age, but make sure they are groomed and not too, too bushy. Add a bold lip shade and mascara to finish the look.

60s and Beyond: If you’re still sporting strong brows, lucky you! (If yours are sparse, read on for products that will help amplify them). Add a neutral shadow, mascara and very natural liner for definition and enjoy the fact that you look a good ten years younger.

Brow Beautifiers

Brow Extensions

If your seriously sparse brows bother you, there’s a solution. Umbreen Sheikh, CEO and Founder of Wink Brow Bar, recommends trying eyebrow extensions. “..You can expect full, lush and shaped brows, but most importantly, natural results that are customized to your facial and brown shape,” Sheikh says.

Wink Brow Bar brow extensions, $$$$,

Wink Brow Bar brow extensions, $350 for the 90 minute process,

Brow Thickening Gel

This budge-proof gel doesn’t just add color and control; it also fills in brows with small fibers that adhere to hair and skin. Bonus? It’s super fast!


Westmore Lasting Effects Brow Gel, about $25, QVC

Westmore Lasting Effects Brow Gel, about $25, QVC

Billion Dollar Brow Universal Brow Pencil

This pencil is a universal color (who knew there was such a thing?) that is flattering on everyone and really stays put!

Billion Dollar Brow Universal Brow Pencil, $18, Amazon

Billion Dollar Brow Universal Brow Pencil, $18, Amazon

Brow Powder

I generally find brow powders easier to apply than pencils, and they look more natural too. This is a popular, affordable choice, and it comes with two shades plus eyebrow wax to keep hairs in place.

NYX Eyebrow Cake Powder, $5.69, Amazon

NYX Eyebrow Cake Powder, $5.69, Amazon

Brow Serum

I swear by this brow-building serum, and the one for lashes too. It takes time, but it’s amazing! Talika Eyebrow Lipocils, $44, Amazon

3. Metallic Makeup

If, like my 9 year old, sparkle is your favorite color, then spring 2016 is your season. Metallics are showing up everywhere, from lips to eyes to nails, and they add a pretty gleam to an evening makeup look. While glitter is a trend that definitely skews younger, shimmer and shine doesn’t need to be reserved for 25 year olds. With a little know-how, anyone can pull of the pretty, posh metallics that are so stylish right now.

How to Wear this Trend, Decade by Decade:

20s: Go for the gold, if you want to, with a hot runway trend, like a bold metallic lid. Add shimmer to the lips and glitter to your fingertips, if you want. This is the age to pull it off!

30s: Limit your metallic or sparkle to one area of your face, and keep the rest fairly understated. If your skin is still youthful, you can still pull off formulas with a fine glitter. Otherwise, skip the sparkle and stick to a milder metallic shimmer. Try dabbing a shimmery powder in the middle of your bottom lip, on top of your regular lip color, for a pretty touch.

40s-50s: Reserve glitter for your fingertips, and then only in a sophisticated, classic color like red. Shimmer, however, is your friend. A subtle metallic highlighter on the cheekbones gives skin a dewy quality, or choose a shimmery gloss or a bronzey shadow. Another easy way to wear this trend? A thin line of metallic eyeliner (liquids and gels work best here) worn over your regular liner for subtle sparkle.

60s and Beyond: A warm, bronzey highlighter or a neutral shimmery shadow is flattering at this age, particularly when the shadow is layered with a non-shimmery version of the same shade. Lips tend to get thinner as we age, so a soft, shimmery gloss can also be pretty, Skip the glittery nails, and stick to a metallic or shimmery finish instead.

Shimmery Shadow

Maybelline New York Expert Wear Eyeshadow Trios, Modern Metallics 60T Bronze Haze, 0.13 Ounce (Pack of 2)

Maybelline New York Expert Wear Eyeshadow Trios, Modern Metallics 60T Bronze Haze, $6.99 (2 pack)

Posh Pout


OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE COSMETICS Metallic Lip Tar in “Pris,” $25.25, Amazon

Metallic Highlighter

Luminess Air Highlighter, $9.99 (was $32),

Shiny Nails

SALLY HANSEN Color Foil Metallic Chrome Nail Polish - Rose Copper

SALLY HANSEN Color Foil Metallic Chrome Nail Polish in “Rose Copper”, $5.95, Amazon



  1. Lise graaten says

    Thank You so much for explaining how to wear the new trend makeup at different ages. Since I’m more than 60, it’s hard to find proper and honest advices. This was very useful!

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