I talk a lot on this blog about anti-aging skin care ingredients, products, and routines, and I’ve even covered some good habits for healthy skin. There’s no doubt about it, the best way to prevent visible signs of aging is to take proper care of your skin. But I’ve also shown you some of my makeup looks. Makeup can be a powerful tool, enabling you to achieve a more youthful appearance–or aging you by a decade. Here are five ways makeup can make a person look older, with Korean makeup-inspired ways to look your youngest and most radiant, if that’s the look you want.
1. Heavy foundation and powder make skin look older.
I went to a boarding school for high school. One evening, an Avon (or Mary Kay–I don’t remember, because it was about a million years ago) lady visited our wing of the dorms to demonstrate her products. My roommate and I bought everything we could, including full-coverage foundation and mattifying powder, but one of the other girls turned her nose up at the whole idea, sniffing that “all that makeup is so aging.” At the time, we thought she was just being a snotty snot who wanted to look superior. I mean, that was probably true, but the older I get, the more I realize that the snotty snot did have a point.
It’s unfortunate but true: cake face too often equals older face. By slathering on the foundation, you may be covering up some blemishes (and probably some blemishes that only you would notice), but you’re also covering up the natural texture of your skin. Think about a really youthful face. One of the hallmarks of a young look is clean, smooth, glowing skin. Not a velvety layer of makeup that’s all one color. Even worse, heavy foundation often slides around during the day, sinking into pores and wrinkles and making them more visible. Finally, overly mattifying powder makes even the finest lines far more prominent.
If you’re concerned about signs of aging on your face, it’s much better to invest your money and effort into a skin care routine that will improve your actual skin, rather than piling on the makeup to hide the years. If your skin is properly hydrated, exfoliated, treated, and protected, it will have a natural glow no matter how old you are, and you won’t need much makeup to even it out and perfect your look. A moisturizing BB cream provides just enough coverage without becoming a mask. And use as little powder as you can. Blotting papers are an easy alternative for controlling shine without emphasizing wrinkles. When going for the youthful “card me, I might not be old enough to buy this booze” look, aim for a fresh, moist glow, not a chalky mask.
2. Powder eye shadows can bring out crow’s feet and make eyelids look crepey.
A couple of months ago, right when I was beginning to become more interested in makeup, I noticed something distressing: my eyelids were starting to look really thin and crepey, fine lines were appearing under my eyes, and when I smiled, I could see crow’s feet radiating out from the corners of my eyes. The weird thing was that I never noticed those lines at night, when my face was cleansed, moisturized, and makeup-free. At night, my eye area looked almost totally smooth. After the initial shock subsided, my brain started working again, and I realized that if my eye area looked significantly more aged during the day, when I was wearing makeup, than it did at night, when my face was clean, then my makeup was most likely the culprit. I was right. At the time, I was experimenting with some more elaborate looks that took a lot of powder eye shadow.
Just like face powder, powder eye shadow can result in a dry look that exacerbates fine lines, even lines so fine that they’re not visible when skin is bare. That’s not optimal when you’re shooting for a youthful appearance. Instead of powder eye shadow, try out cream eyeshadows. A soft wash of a satiny or faintly shimmery cream eye shadow in a nude, pink, peach, or copper shade will bring light to your eyes and provide subtle emphasis without making fine lines look worse than they really are. If you can’t give up your powder eye shadow palettes, at least invest in a nice rich eye cream and an eyelid primer to give the makeup a smoother and plumper canvas.
3. Blush doesn’t always result in a youthful flush
I’ve never really understood blush. I think it’s because I came of age in the nineties, right around the time that Western pop culture was pushing back against the super-saturated makeup looks of the eighties, and it seemed like none of the magazines from which I tried to learn about makeup really wanted to talk that much about blush. All I knew for the longest time was “smile and put it on the apples of your cheeks.” Unfortunately, it turns out that that doesn’t always work. As we get older, the apples are going to migrate at least a little, and if we keep putting blush on those migrating apples, eventually we’re going to end up with some very strangely placed and unflattering blush that sits in weird places when we aren’t smiling. Placing blush too low down under your cheekbones (or using heavy contour) is also aging, as it will create a gaunt appearance.
For the most fresh-faced appearance, I’ve found that there are two optimal ways to apply blush. For a more sculpted (but still fresh and pretty) look that fits the Western “bone structure for days” aesthetic, sweep blush lightly along the tops of your cheekbones. The best kinds of blush for this look are dewy-finish cream blushes, like my Holika Holika Pro:Beauty Cheek Tok, or powder blushes with a hint of shimmer, like my beloved Milani baked blushes. The way these kinds of blushes catch the light will act as a subtle highlight, defining your bone structure and bringing warmth to your face. If you want a rounder, softer, more Asian-style look, try a toned-down variant of the Japanese undereye blush that I totally failed at in my last makeup look. Starting right under your irises at the tops of your cheeks, either sweep the blush straight outwards or blend it in a small circle on either side of your nose. Any type of blush will do for this.
No matter which blush style you pick, remember a few tips: Always start very lightly, since you can easily add more color but can’t easily take excessive color away, and be sure to blend out the edges so that you don’t have obvious blush borders. I sometimes tap my foundation brush over my blush to soften the borders and integrate it with my BB cream even more, for the most natural look. Don’t bring the blush up too high under your eyes, or else the makeup may bring out undereye wrinkles. Don’t bring it too close to your nose, which will look obvious, and don’t bring it any lower than your nose, which will make your face appear heavy and unbalanced.
4. Overly arched eyebrows can turn the softest face into a scary face.
When people talk about Korean makeup trends, the Korean straight brow often comes up. It stands in sharp contrast to US makeup trends, which seem to be endlessly dominated by dark, sculpted, arched and pointed Kim Kardashian/Instagram power brows. The straight brow is often a far more flattering and wearable look than the power brow, in my opinion, and I think I know why.
Of all your features, your brows arguably have the biggest impact on the overall expression of your face, and your expression determines the impression you’ll give off, including the impression of age or youth. The straight brow gives a soft, innocent expression (it’s very hard to get Resting B*tch Face with straight brows, for example) and blurs the overall contours of the face. Power brows tend to create a more angular look and also often inadvertently create an angry expression. Overly plucked and arched brows, meanwhile, can give you that permanently surprised look that accompanies many plastic surgeries. What’s more aging than Face Lift Face? Not much.
I don’t really do the full-on straight brow. I’m a big believer in adapting trends to suit your own face and style, rather than adopting them unaltered. My method of straightening out and thickening up my naturally woefully overplucked and over-arched brows will work for making a textbook straight brow, however, and all without using razors, concealer, or most of the other complicated tools many straight brow tutorials recommend, because it works with the natural shape and placement of your brows.
All you need is a clean spoolie, some kind of potted cream or wax eyebrow color (I actually use Maybelline Color Tattoo cream eyeshadow in Tough as Taupe, and recommend it to any Asian ladies with similar coloring to mine) and a thin, angled eyebrow brush. Some eyebrow pencils, like Etude House’s Drawing Eye Brow, will work as well, but make sure that yours is not too pigmented. We’re not going for Sharpie Brow here.
Start by defining whatever natural brows you have. Take a little bit of color onto the brush and begin filling in any gaps or sparse areas, starting about half a finger’s width or so back from the natural inner ends of your brows. Don’t fill them all the way to the inner ends, as that will produce a blocky, unnaturally uniform look. Once you’ve filled in your natural brows, begin filling in your arches in short, smooth strokes. Fill them in until the bottom border of your eyebrows runs parallel to the upper border, then fill in and clean up the tails as needed. Lightly brush the brows out with the spoolie to blur any obvious edges. Voila! Straightened-out brows that sweeten your whole face. In my opinion, a sweeter face is way more powerful than an outwardly hard one, since it’s much more shocking and scary to others when your inner tiger comes out.
5. Your lipstick can age you, too.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good strong lip color once in a while, and matte finishes are great for showing off the color without looking goopy or sloppy. Unfortunately, if not applied carefully enough, strong lip colors tend to bleed into the tiny wrinkles around the mouth, making them visible where they wouldn’t be otherwise. Dark colors can also make lips look thinner and thus older, and the dry look of an overly matte finish doesn’t bode well for anyone’s efforts to look more youthful.
Think of a baby’s lips. They’re soft, plump, and smooth. The ultimate youthful lip look mimics that. Keeping your lips exfoliated (I just use my toothbrush in the mornings, no need for fancy scrubs), moisturized (the tiniest dab of Neutrogena’s original formula hand cream, with all its lanolin and glycerin goodness, makes the best lip balm and primer I’ve ever tried, and also it’s cheap and lasts forever), and faint wash of sheer or creamy color will take years off your mouth. When you do want to do a stronger color, make use of primer, lipliner, and a lip brush to make sure the color stays where it’s supposed to–right inside the lines of your mouth. And if you’re itching to wear something matte, like a nice red liquid lipstick, take special care to moisturize your lips beforehand so that they’ll stay plump and smooth underneath.
Makeup is all about options and self-expression, and I’m not trying to say that any look is “wrong” or “bad” overall. Everyone should do just what makes them happy and comfortable in their own skin. What I am trying to say is that if you’re specifically trying to achieve a more youthful appearance, and achieving that appearance would make you happier, there are some very specific things to avoid and things to play up, and doing so is super easy once you know what to look for.
Are you excited to try some of these tips? Please share your results with me in the comments!