I recently received a request for a post that addressed makeup for women over 40. In some ways, I was adverse to the idea because as I have mentioned previously, I don’t think that age has much to do with how we choose to look. Instead, I am an attitude over age advocate. But when I broached this subject with Atlanta-based celebrity makeup artist Shenelle Mays-Smith, who is also an aesthetician, she brought up some important points. “I think that there are rules for what’s appropriate in a space,” she explains.

“There are no over 40 rules, but there are over 40 preferences.”

Adding that some textures, such as glitter, may not look good on skin that has lost its elasticity. It is true that as a woman of color your melanin gives you extra protection so you get lines and wrinkles a good decade later, but that doesn’t mean your skin actually stays the same.

According to Mildred Bell, an aesthetician and President of Skin Health Solutions in Downington, Pennsylvania, lifestyle is more important than genetics. “While some skin conditions can be inherited I believe that lifestyle, what we eat and how we care for our skin on a daily basis can make a difference as to whether this trait becomes something we can successfully manage or if it becomes a major or debilitating skin issue,” she explains. “Its true, women of color are blessed with more oil glands that keep skin lubricated and flexible. However, as we age we lose the collagen and moisture that gives skin that plump look of youth and that healthy glow. The skin tends to look dull, flat and dry.  Years of sun exposure can also cause pigment from past years to link together to form patches we call ‘age spots’.”

Photo: Tanja Heffner

Bottom line: there are some very real reasons why your makeup has less staying power than it used to, however, the solution lies with what you do before you even apply a stitch of makeup.

“Your skin care is the most important step when you prep your face for any type of makeup,”Mays-Smith notes.”If you don’t know your skin type or are not prepping properly it won’t last.” If you’ve ever noticed your eye makeup separating throughout the course of the day, have noticed that matte lipstick doesn’t have the right finish or your makeup disappears halfway through the day,  take heed of these tips:

  1. What You Do At Night Impacts Your Morning Makeup.  Removing your makeup at night and cleansing your face seems like a no-brainer, but Bell discovered that not everyone actually uses a cleanser. “I was surprised that many women of color only use water to cleanse their skin. Some women don’t cleanse their skin at night—even if they have makeup on,” Bell says. “Some women use warm oils to clean their skin, but over time pores get congested and a dull plaque-like layer of cells forms on the surface.” In fact,  you can see the evidence of your skin habits every morning when you look in the mirror. “The next morning, you see the essence of what you did not do and so you decide that you need to put on more makeup to remedy the situation,” says Mays-Smith who recommends applying a heavier moisturizer like a night cream, which is formulated for the skin for use while it is at rest. We like Yes to Blueberries Cleansing Facial Wipes to gently remove makeup, dermHA Gentle Face and Body Wash, formulated with hyaluronic acid to cleanse the skin, and followed by a night cream. Two we like: Orlane B21 Extraordinaire Absolute Youth Cream or Kelia the Night Cream, a botanically-based solution that includes Camilla  (Green Tea) and Pomegranate Seed Oils as well as Organic Aloe Vera.

    Photo: Kelia
  2. You Can’t Leave Oily Skin to Fend For Itself. Mays-Smith says the number 1 mistake women make is thinking that their oily skin doesn’t need moisturizer. If you remove one of your organs, your other organs have to work to keep up,” she explains. “When you skip moisturizer, you are making your skin react to your decisions and your skin will become oilier as a result.” Her suggestion is to use both a toner and a moisturizer citing that while we have designated toners as optional they actually serve an important purpose, balancing and refreshing the skin. We like S.W. Basics Toner.which contains apple cider vinegar and Murad Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15 which is paraben, sulfate, and phthalate-free.

    Photo: SWBasics
  3. Make Time For a Mask and Exfoliation. At-home exfoliation using a gentle, but effective solution is a good option to work into your skincare regimen at least once a week. Try Bottega Organic Refine Facial Scrub uses natural ingredients sea salt thyme and lemon to give you smoother skin. If you prefer a mask, try GlamGlow YouthMud TingleExfoliate Treatment, which will exfoliate and brighten the skin.

    Photo: refine
  4. Your Eyes Need TLC Sooner Rather Than Later. “The skin around the eyes is thin and delicate. Much like the neck, it doesn’t have the oil glands that the rest of the face has and they both tend to show age faster,” Bells explains. That explains why your eyes are often the part of the face that will give away your age if you’re not careful. Keep them guessing by applying an eye cream both day and night like  Sahajan Restorative Eye Cream an Ayurvedic-inspired blend which is infused with antioxidants Neem Oil and Honey to target dark circles or dermHA’s Eye and Neck Crème designed with ingredients that will plump up the skin. 
  5. Never Leave Out the Lips. Keeping the lips not only moisturized but exfoliated from time to time will ensure that you can pull off both matte and high shiny lipsticks. Stash The Body Shop’s Lipscuff in your makeup bag. It allows for exfoliation on the go, just apply the clear balm, rub your lips together and tissue off the residue. 
  6. Take it to the Pros When You Can. To keep your skin in its best shape, budget in a professional facial. Bell says, “Facials are extremely important. It’s like going to the dentist for a professional cleaning.” Ideally, you would have a facial once each season but it all depends on your skin needs and realistically, your budget.

Stay tuned for part 2 in this series, where I will give you the scoop about the makeup textures and techniques to try and those to avoid.



Corynne Corbett
I work at the intersection of beauty, technology, storytelling, and empowerment. I believe that beauty can be used as a catalyst to change the world.