Makeup for Women Over 50: A Guide From a Beauty Industry Veteran

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In her 75 years, Sandy Linter has lived many lives as a makeup artist—and, surely, knows a thing or two about makeup for women over 50. In 1969, the Brooklyn-born, Staten Island–bred visionary began her career working for famed celebrity hairdresser Mr. Kenneth Battelle in New York City, his clients Jackie Onassis and Barbara Walters serendipitously ending up in her makeup chair. In the ’70s, she struck out on her own, landing high-profile editorial work with photographers such as Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, and Arthur Elgort while embodying the era’s work-hard-play-hard mentality and becoming a dazzling fixture at Studio 54. And by the ’80s, she was regularly painting the faces of supermodels Iman, Cindy Crawford, and Patti Hansen for major campaigns and in the pages of Vogue. Since then, Linter hasn’t slowed down. In fact, with age, her skillset has grown, as she’s continued to work with a laundry list of famous faces including Christie Brinkley, Elizabeth Hurley, Debbie Harry, and Rita Wilson.

“I can remember being ‘young Sandy the makeup artist’ and then middle-aged and then further on than middle-aged…” she laughs, in reference to her personal evolution over her decades-long career. At a time when the fashion industry is, at long last, celebrating women above a certain age, Linter believes there’s no time like the present for older women to not just embrace makeup, but have fun with it. “There are no rules!” she insists, with just one addendum: “Wear the makeup, don’t have it wear you. Instead of trying to hide flaws, enhance what you’ve got.” 

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From natural-looking coverage to subtle tricks that make the eyes pop, here is Linter’s guide to makeup for women over 50.

Create a Glowing Base

Needless to say, following a dedicated skin-care routine—cleansing, moisturizing, and exfoliating—is an essential strategy for achieving a healthy complexion, especially over time. Before applying makeup, spread on a veil of a hydrating yet weightless moisturizer on clean skin. “Heavy moisturizers are just not compatible with makeup,” says Linter. According to the pro, La Mer Moisturizing Cream strikes the right balance between nourishing the skin for a dewy finish, without compromising the layers that follow. After the moisturizer sinks in, you can target areas with fine lines or dry patches with a quick-absorbing primer, like Dermablend Insta-Grip Jelly Face Primer with its smoothing gel texture, as desired.

La Mer

Crème de la Mer Moisturizing Cream

Long regarded as the crème de la crème for deep hydration, the rich formulation uses the patented ingredient Miracle Broth to perform a few of them—firming, lifting, and rejuvenating the skin.

Dermablend

Insta-Grip Jelly Face Primer

On its own, the lightweight jelly hydrates and tightens; when layered under makeup, it forms a solid base for lasting, crease-free wear.

iS Clinical

Reparative Moisture Emulsion

Formulated with top makeup artists, this potent moisturizer uses pharmaceutical-grade botanicals, peptides, and antioxidants to prep skin the for ultra-smooth makeup application.

Avène

Hydrance Light Hydrating Emulsion

Powered by thermal spring water, this French pharmacy staple restores luminosity while delivering deep hydration.

Cover Up Conservatively

“You can’t hide wrinkles, so don’t try to, because you’re only going to draw more attention to them,” says Linter. To even out skin tone, she suggests using a moist sponge or foundation brush to apply a sheer, hydrating foundation, like Kevyn Aucion The Etherealist formula, so that it “doesn’t look plastered to the face.” Then, use a robust yet lightweight creamy concealer that blends easily—Giorgio Armani High-Precision Retouch Concealer is her go-to—on the more ruddy or hyper-pigmented areas. For the eyes, concentrate on the under eyes and inner corners to effectively counteract dark circles. “Most women get darkest on the inner corner of their eye as opposed to the outer corners where you smile and have the laugh lines,” she explains.

Kevyn Aucoin

The Etherealist Foundation

Moisturizing and lightweight, this satiny foundation has light-diffusing particles and high-definition pigments to give the skin an airbrushed appearance.

Giorgio Armani

A pointed tip allows for targeted application, while the flat side brings soft matte coverage to other areas of the face.

Westman Atelier

Vital Skincare Complexion Drops

Breathable, radiant coverage is delivered in drops that mimic an effortlessly dewy, bare-skin appearance. Since it’s debut, it’s been an instant hit for women over 50.

Yves Saint Laurent

Touche Éclat All-Over Brightening Concealer Pen

The sheer and brightening formulation—adored by celebrities and Vogue editors alike—is the secret behind famous glows like J.Lo’s.

Warm Up the Skin

When choosing a foundation or concealer shade, one might be inclined to seek out an exact match, but Linter suggests going a shade or two warmer to ensure you don’t look washed out. “If it’s too matchy-matchy, it can age you,” she says. And in that case, it’s especially important to extend coverage beyond the visage. “After the face, take a foundation brush and blend very slightly around the neck so it doesn’t look obvious,” instructs Linter. Then comes bronzer—and not just for the cheeks. “I use it on everyone over 50 because it warms up the skin in a natural way,” she explains, adding that she’ll sweep under the cheekbone, down the sides of the nose, across the forehead, and under the jawline for a chiseled glow.

Bobbi Brown

With a silky feel, the buildable formula delivers a just-back-from-the-beach flush. Just use your favorite makeup brush, dust on the powder, et voilà.

Westman Atelier

Beauty Butter Powder Bronzer

With a plant-based butter base, the shimmer-free powder glides on weightlessly for a lit-from-within effect—brand founder Gucci Westman recommends swiping it on horizontally, under the eyes, for a hyper-natural effect.

Charlotte Tilbury

Packed moisturizing hyaluronic acid, the matte bronzer delivers Tilbury’s signature magic touch—a blurred, soft-focus skin appearance. It’s no wonder it has a long list of fans.

Physicians Formula

Butter Bronzer Murumuru Butter Bronzer

Formulated with three Amazonian butters, this satiny bronzer imparts a tropical sun-kissed glow that pulls double duty as a contour. 

Sculpt and Lift Subtly

Smiling while you apply blush has long been cited as a universal, tried-and-true technique, but it’s one that’s not as effective as you age, says Linter. “Instead of on the apples of the cheeks, I like to apply blush at the top of the cheekbone and then blend inward,” she explains of the best sculpting makeup for women over 50. “You want to point the attention up to enhance.” As for shades, she prefers muted rosy shades like MAC Powder Blush in Prism. “I’ve been using it since the ’90s!” she says. For extra impact, Linter will layer—first with a cream formula, like Stila Convertible Color, and then finish it off with a powder. “Sometimes just the cream is enough,” she says. As for setting powder, it’s a step Linter usually skips, but looks to Dermablend Banana Powder if necessary.

MAC Cosmetics

A ’90s legend, this enduring favorite comes in five finishes, ranging from matte to sheer-tone shimmer.

Jones Road

Creamy and buildable, this moisturizing skin enhancer can be tapped onto the cheeks or pressed into lips for a radiant wash of color.

Dermablend

Illuminating Banana Powder

Apply the brightening powder over makeup for two minutes, then buff off for a blurred, skin-perfecting finish.

IT Cosmetics

Bye Bye Pores Translucent Loose Setting Powder

The loose, translucent powder forms a smooth veil over visible pores. For light coverage, gently tap it in with a brush.

Play Up the Eyes

“You want to open up the eyes and make them look as big as possible because it’s more youthful,” explains Linter. The first step? Curl the lashes with an eyelash curler, starting right at the root. Next, you have to pick the right mascara, which requires a fair mount of trial and error. “There are very thickening formulas that don’t work on older women whose lashes have become thinner and more brittle,” she explains. “When they don’t work, the lashes start to clump and there’s nothing more aging than clumpy lashes on a woman over 50.” Currently, Chanel’s long-wearing Inimitable Mascara, which boasts a flexible pronged brush and provitamin B5-laced jet-black formula that nourishes the hairs while providing natural definition, is her favorite when working with relatively older clients. As for liner, Linter makes a point of debunking a long-held myth. “In the old days, they used to say only use brown, but it’s a falsehood that women over 50 can’t use black,” she insists. “You need to create a contrast between the eye color and liner. Brown can make you look tired if it’s not the right brown.” Shade-wise, no woman can go wrong with Lancôme’s Le Crayon Khôl in Black Coffee. “Absolutely anyone can use it!” she insists. While mascara and eyeliner are basic steps, eyeshadow is more of an accessory that plays up your personal style if you want it to. But proceed thoughtfully “Don’t take a shadow and just plop it on the center of the lid,” she instructs. “Using a small eye brush, start from the outer corner of the eyes and work inwards, so that the color gets gradually lighter. It’ll give you a bigger, wide-eyed look.”

Chanel

Packed with provitamin B5, the lengthening formulation also hydrates the lashes while a bespoke blend of waxes adds volume and shine.

Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara

Made with lash-softening floral oil, the drugstore-aisle hero lengthens and separates in a single stroke.

Estée Lauder

Double Wear Infinite Waterproof Eyeliner

With a built-in sharpener, the long-lasting liner has a smudgy brush tip that makes for easy blending or an ultra-precise line.

Lancôme

Le Crayon Khôl in Black Coffee

Universally flattering, the smudgy pencil delivers smoky definition for the eyes. For daytime wear, opt for the brand’s chocolate-y brown hue.

Take It Easy on the Brows

First, focus on keeping the brows full naturally. “You want to save every eyebrow hair you have, so instead of tweezing, trim them,” says Linter, adding that Revitabrow and Revitalash are incredible growth formulas she uses on herself. To fill in arches, Linter is partial to featherlight hair-like strokes of Troy Suratt Expressioniste Brow Pencil. “It’s thin enough for drawing on a hair here and there without looking too artificial,” she says. “[The shades] are so natural-looking.”

Revitalash

Revitabrow Advanced Eyebrow Conditioner

When applied daily, the physician-developed conditioner can lead to healthier-looking, thicker brows.

Surratt Beauty

Expressioniste Brow Pencil

The precise pencil tip draws on meticulous hair-like strokes, while the attached spoolie brushes them into place.

Makeup By Mario

Use the slanted blade tip to outline, define, and shade—the emollient-rich formula glides on like a dream.

Anastasia Beverly Hills

Available in eight shades including taupe and auburn, the pencil brings long-lasting, natural-looking definition to the brows.

Balance Out the Lips

“As you get older, the lips can become asymmetrical and it can be aging,” says Linter. You can balance out the mouth by using a lip pencil in a your-lips-but-better shade, but the formula must have the right amount of slip. “You want it to be so soft that the minute it touches the skin, it glides on,” she explains, adding that NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils are the best in this regard. To create symmetry, Linter recommends drawing on four separate strokes, always starting from each of the four outer corners and drawing towards the Cupid’s bow or to the center of the bottom lips. “That way your lip is going to be more balanced,” she says. Apply lipstick in the same fashion, then use a lip brush to slightly diffuse the edges for a softer look. After painting on a matte lip, Linter will sometimes add a gloss on top to add shine and definition, but never one that’s too heavy or sticky. This part of the process is up to the wearer, Linter emphasizes; “the finish is purely taste.”

NARS

True to its name, the pencil’s lipstick-like application offers velvety color in richly pigmented shades.

Maybelline

SuperStay Ink Crayon Lipstick

With a built-in sharpener, the drugstore gem lines or fills the lips with matte pigment that stays put for hours.

Hermès

The moisturizing matte hues glide on easily, settling onto the lips with a weightless finish that lasts and lasts.

Dior

Formulated for 16 hours of weightless wear, the French import harnesses floral extracts to hydrate and soften the lips.