Makeup for women over 40: Is it essential?

by Sylvia

Posing without makeup

In the spirit of Beauty and Fashion Friend friday, Franca of Orange and Apples wants to see our naked face, which is our face in full glory and without makeup. That is an easy challenge for me as I hardly wear any make up on a daily basis, so I will join in the fun! On all pictures on this page I’m not wearing any makeup at all. I also want to discuss the question: do women over 40 need to wear makeup?

Why am I not wearing makeup?

Most women look more beautiful with makeup on, including me, so why am I so skimpy with the makeup? There are several reasons:

  • First of all, it’s pure laziness really. I usually wait too long before getting ready to go out, so it’s often a time issue. I also don’t like the ‘work’ of getting it all off in the evening.
  • I also don’t see a huge difference between me with and me without makeup. So spending all that extra time getting ready just doesn’t seem to be worth it for me.
  • I like my skin to breathe so I really don’t like the feeling of makeup at all.
  • I like to rub my face against my clothes (just kidding). However, I do mind the stains coming from makeup on your clothes.
  • I do like the look of mascara but my eyes get very irritated from it, so I only wear in on special ocasions
  • I have very deep eyes so during a recent makeup lesson it was actually concluded that eye makeup doesn’t look that good on me anyway.
  • I have tried covering my dark circles under my eyes. Even a professional tried it without success. So better just to accept the darkness.
  • Despite taking some makeup lessons, I’m actually pretty crappy applying makeup.
  • I do prefer the look of a natural face, although I concede that a well made-up natural makeup would be even more pleasing.
  • Although I need more makeup as I get older, I have also gained more confidence as I get older so I actually FEEL prettier now than when I was younger.
  • I guess having a husband who doesn’t care much for makeup helps too..

my naked face - not wearing any makeup

Why I should really be wearing more makeup

Let’s face it. Wearing good natural looking makeup makes you look just a little more fresh and put together. I have found that it actually becomes more of a necessity as I get older. My skin gets more uneven, there are more age spots, more darkness under eyes etc. Like it or not, it is even expected in society that professional women wear makeup. I once heard that Hillary Clinton really had to transform herself and pay more attention to hair and makeup when she got into politics with husband Bill. I recently read this article makeup the key to success, which describes a study that suggests that women who wear makeup are seen to be more competent, amiable and trustworthy – and likely to get ahead in the workplace. 61% of readers also agree with that statement. Infuriating as this may be, I believe it to be the reality. Just as it is a reality that we are often judged by our cover and beautiful people tend to be more successful.

So what is my plan?

Knowing all this though, I don’t think I’m going to change all that much. If people don’t accept me as I am or don’t take me seriously because I’m not wearing makeup, then so be it. But I do make an effort sometimes, when I feel like it . I have found a few options to even out my face a little bit more like using Murad Hybrids™ Skin Perfecting Primer Matte Finish – 1.0 FL. OZ., a light makeup with skincare properties, which I discussed on my article on Murad. On special occasions also Murad Hybrids™ Eye Lift Illuminator – 0.06 FL. OZ., to lighten dark circles around the eye and Murad Hybrids™ Eye Lift Perfector – 0.06 FL. OZ. I have also experimented with BB creams which are popular here in Singapore. The one I’ve tried is the Ginvera Green Tea nude cream which is a moisturizer and makeup in one. It’s very light and gives an even tone and since it’s only a 1 step process it’s easy to apply. When I want to make a special effort I apply Clinique perfectly new makeup, although I should probably replace that as I’ve already have it for years! On special occasions I will also apply some mascara, some rouge, a little bit of white highligher in my eyes and a bit of pencil underneath the eyes on on the eyebrows. One thing I always like to wear is a good moisturizer, sunscreen, loose powder and a lipstick, which is how you see me most of the time on this site.

How about you?

So up to you now. Do you wear makeup? Do you think it is important? What do you think of the statement that women who wear makeup are seen to be more competent, amiable and trustworthy – and likely to get ahead in the workplace?

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Suzanne

I have been thinking about this a lot recently. One, because I read the article that you refer to about women in proper makeup being taken more seriously and earning more money, and two, because a friend won a contest and when she picked her prize up the consultant told her she is wearing the wrong shades as every woman’s coloring changes after 40 but no one ever points this out. The consultant said we all become more neutral. My friend said she had felt something was “off” but when she went to her favorite beauty counter they gave her the shades she always got based on hair and eyes. This really makes me wonder if anyone pays attention to the needs of mature women. In our 20s makeup is fun and in our 30s we are too consumed with babies to care, but in our 40s we have time and money to pamper ourselves. I think there is a huge untapped market for products that work for us.
I hate the feel of foundation on my skin. I use Clinique products. I always wear their moisterizers with built in sunscreen and I am never without mascara (bought 3 tubes today) and lip gloss. If I need to be “polished” I wear mineral makeup and highlighter and Clinigue eye shadow and liner. I can’t feel the mineral makeup on and it is suppose to be healthy for your skin. It does not rub off on my clothes either – a big concern as dry cleaning is expensive and ruins fabrics quickly. As I try to find products and a routine that keeps my skin fresh and glowing I also wonder if it isn’t time to add more coverage and color to my face? I do not know the answer.
PS – your top and necklace are gorgeous!


2 Sylvia

Yes that’s true we all become more neutral. It’s generally advised not to wear too obvious or bright makeup when over over. But a a well-applied naturally looking makeup with a bit of color on cheeks is recommended. Your best colors for clothes change as well as both your hair color changes and skin color is slightly paler. I don’t have much experience with mineral makeup yet although I did attend a workshop from Jane Iredale. May try that next time I need to buy powder.
In the end when it comes to makeup, I think you will just need to do what feels good and comfortable for you. To my eye natural makeup is best, especially for women over 40.


3 Cynthia

I wear only mineral powder makeup, over moisturizer. Powder foundation, pencil in my eyebrows, a concession to lipstick with colored lip pencil (Buxom) that never lasts the day anyway and that I could refresh with the pencil I keep in my purse but I never do.

I’m in academia professionally. No one takes me less seriously because of the lack of makeup. As long as I teach an interesting class they’ll pay attention. Lack of grant funding would be a more serious sin.


4 Sylvia

Thanks for visiting and commenting Cynthia. Interesting to read that you use mineral powder also.


5 Lisa

I also use mineral powder along with mascara and lipstick. My whole make up routine takes less than two minutes. I also used to not wear make up because it took too long, and it mostly took too long because I had too many products. I have a few extra eye shadows for dressing up, but they aren’t part of my normal routine.

Funny that you say that we are more neutral. I’ve actually switched to a fairly bright red lipstick as I’ve gotten older. Not sure if it looks better now than when I’m younger or if it always looked good, but now I’m comfortable with the shade. It seems that wearing bright red lipstick brings out my green eyes.


6 Sylvia

Great to read that bright lipstick works for you. I’ve actually experimented it with myself also and think it can look great on many women over 40. It certainly helps with adding more color to our face…


7 Heather Fonseca

I do wear makeup, and I love it. I like what Suzanne said about makeup through the decades: in you’re 20’s it’s fun (but not necessary!), in your 30’s your too consumed with babies to care, and in your 40’s you suddenly want to experiment again! That certainly describes me. I didn’t need any makeup in my 20’s except to cover pimples. In my 30’s I didn’t have time to think about makeup, but thankfully didn’t need it either, and now I find I have time to put it on and it makes me look about 200 times better. All the makeup in the world won’t make me look as cute as I did in my 20’s though.

I don’t mind the feel of foundation and I find it helps even out my skin tone and cover the sun spots. I also wear blush almost every day (Clinique makes a fabulous, natural looking, cream blush.) I also wear gloss, mascara and I pencil in my eyebrows to make them look fuller. For a really “done up” day I’ll add shadow (Physicians Formula makes a fantastic line of matte quads) and some liner (Bobbie Brown’s gel eyeliners come in a beautiful range of shades and last until you remove them.) Oh, and I know I’m not “supposed to” but I wear bright red lipstick upon occasion as well.

So yeah, I’m crazy for the stuff. I know at some point I’ll need to stop, because I’ve noticed that my mom, who is in her 60’s, no longer wears much makeup at all. A little mascara, some gloss. But she used to wear a normal amount almost daily.


8 Sylvia

Wonderful to read about your routine. but 200 times better? Really? I need to do what you’re doing then! Bright lipstick can look great on the right occasions. In the end I think you really should do what suits you and ignore most of the rules. Anything that you wear with confidence will look good.


9 Nanne

I wear makeup on a daily basis because I think it makes me look more awake and adds a little polish, but on weekends I often go without makeup. I prefer a natural looking makeup, so I only use a little foundation – I actually prefer liquid foundation to mineral foundaton – and have found a really great one at Yves Rocher. I also apply a little blush or bronzer, cream eyeshadow in a light taupe, mascara and neutral lipgloss, I’m not a lipstick girl:) For special occasions I’ll wear a stronger eyeshadow and a colored gloss, and that’s about it. And it’s no doubt that our coloring gets more neutral as we get older, I used to have strong contrasts between my hair, skin and eyes, but it’s already noticeably softer.


10 Sylvia

Thanks for your input Nanne. Interesting how we are all different. Lipstick is the one thing that I have almost always on. But a very natural color!


11 Courtney

I love your post. I agree–sometimes I am just too lazy to wipe it off in the night time so I just don’t put it on if I know I am having one of those days! Of course, I would wear it the majority if I wasn’t running around after a two year old. But sometimes, I am content in just my own skin and that’s it.
I’ve been told to wear it at work before because I looked like a mess and that was at a fast food place! I’ve come to just accept it. At the time I was a little disheartened about it–but that’s just how the world works. I think it’s more about looking like you’ve spent time on yourself and it shows people you care about your appearance. Do I agree? Not at all. Will I go along? Sure.
The only thing I have a problem with is teaching my daughter that her bare face isn’t good enough for the work place. When she gets older, I never want her to feel like she absolutely needs to put it on, that she needs to look different. I want her to feel beautiful and shameless. To this day, I still don’t put on make up in front of her, and while at home, hardly wear any at all.


12 Sylvia

Wow. I would have been disheartened if someone told me that. Luckily that has never happened to me, but then again I’ve been self-employed for the last 10 years. I find it hard to accept that the ‘rules’ are different for women than for men. Why SHOULD women need to wear makeup. If we take Hillary as an example. Why is it necessary for her to have facial treatments (facelifts?), lots of makeup etc etc. while the men can just be their own selves. I think that makeup should always be voluntary and no other person should expect it of us. As you write in your own post, it should be applied to be creative or to add color or because we want to enhance, not to cover us up and hide our faces. Each woman can make their own choices as to how little or how much makeup.
As for your daughter, it will be a long time before you have to tell your daughter anything about his, if at all. I believe that your role is quite important in making her feel beautiful. From your blogpost I see that you are already doing all the right things. In the end, if you accept yourself as you are, then that will be the best role model and learning for her.


13 Anne @ The Frump Factor

I would hesitate to say that anything is “necessary” for anybody. I love it when an over-40 woman looks great with no makeup, as you do, because it opens our minds about what is “normal.”

But for myself, I have grown to LOVE makeup in my 40s. I very rarely leave the house without it — I even wear it at home, sometimes — because I love putting it on and I love how I feel once it’s applied. Maybe it’s because I very rarely wore it in my 20’s and 30’s. I find that it makes a HUGE difference in how I look– I look more polished, awake, happy. The most essential products, for me, seem to be eyeliner, blush, and yes, foundation. I never thought I’d wear full-on foundation, but I love it. You’re right that nothing really covers undereye circles, but when everything else is perked up, they seem less dominant.


14 Sylvia

Really interesting Anne. I DO like it when some women really make the effort and look polished and enjoy the process. As I mentioned I’m just lazy. I actually gave it a good go. I’m just very crappy at putting on make up so I asked a makeup artist to give me a makeup lesson. I actually filmed the whole process, so should put that up on the site sometime. But I simply am not able to apply any kind of eyeliner. My eyes are too wrinkly, the skin too soft, my hands too shaky, and as mentioned my eyes always get irritated. I guess I just don’t enjoy putting on makeup…


15 Anne @ The Frump Factor

Yeah, eyeliner can be tough. And it might not work for you. But I have easily irritated (and crepey) eyes, as well, and found that GEL eyeliner, on upper lid only, does wonders. It’s easier to apply and stays put. I never would have tried it except that I did what you did — saw a professional. That’s probably the best way to discover if there is a key item out there that makes you feel great. If there is, you’ll use it. If not, why bother? Good luck with your experimentation! Even if you remain makeup-free, you look great that way!


16 Sylvia

Thanks for the tip Anne. I’ll keep an eye out for it. Also, thanks for the lovely compliment… I read about your troubles on your blog. Hopefully you are living in your own home again?


17 Kathy

Hello Anne ~ SO fun to find your website! Am 62 going on 30. 🙂 My girls have kidded me for years that I wouldn’t even go out to get the mail without eye make-up. Have toned it down now, just using a little light base on the lids, a little darker neutral powder in the outer corners, and good mascara. Have recently been trying to find Have been looking for a good quality eyeliner for just the tops lid….Need an alternative to pencil. What brand of gel eyeliner would you suggest? Thanks!


18 Sylvia

Hi Kathy, Hopefully Anne will see the reply to her comment here and will give you a good answer. Unfortunately, I have not a clue about eyeliners as I never use one. Good luck with your efforts to find the perfect one.


19 Anne @ The Frump Factor

Hi Kathy: I’ve been using a gel eyeliner by Pixi (available at Target), but they just discontinued my color so I’ll have to switch! I’ve read good reviews of gel eyeliners by Mac and Estee Lauder, too. Good luck!


20 Kathy

Oh great, Anne! Thanks so much for the quick response!!! I will follow through! (Thank you, too, Sylvia!!!)


21 Nora

Learn to love yourself coz thats the way God made you not someone else! Nice to grow up GRACEFULLY! xx


22 Sylvia

yes that is always a good message.


23 sheila

Make-up essential for women if skin is not perfect and it very seldom is after the age of twenty. Men can get away with naked faces, partly because the skin is darker and hides a lot of flaws and partly because they are not expected to be “beautiful”, although even they can sometimes do with improvement. Older women must wear make-up, but the subtler the better. No plaster. Foundation and powder and maybe a little colouring. Eye make-up awful on old women and lipstick leaks into age lines.


24 Ana

I do wear makeup, and I feel far more polished and put-together wearing it. My cosmetics colour palette hasn’t changed much since my mid-20s, though, because I went pretty much all-netural back then. I’ve always had pretty good skin, but I do have a tendency to look pale and washed-out, and judicious application of makeup helps quite a lot with that. The only real change, other than in brands and such, that I’ve made as I’ve gotten older, is to switch from matte foundation to tinted moisturiser. The days of wearing matte foundation are behind me, because the slightly dewy finish of the tinted moisturiser is far more flattering to my somewhat dryer 40s complexion.

I don’t think makeup should be obligatory for anybody of any age, of course!


25 Sylvia

Thanks for your contribution Ana. Intereseting to read your routine.


26 Krystal (PowerFemme)

First of all, your skin looks positively radiant in these photos. I know women who slave in front of the mirror with loads of exspenive products to try and achieve the same glow you’ve got going on here. And you are right- sadly, we do live in a world that values women more if they are fully made-up. I worked as a server one summer and I quickly discovered that I made waaaay more money in tips if I dolled myself up to fit this model of ideal femininity.


27 Sylvia

Hi Krystal. Thanks. It’s all about the right lighting though. I’m sure that if I photographed myself in harsh light, it wouldn’t look that good… Wow, interesting that it made that much of a difference!


28 Kimberlee

Great post! It’s good to get an older, wiser woman’s perspective about makeup. My mom doesn’t wear much either and once I glammed her up for a date night and my dad was like ‘OMG what happened to your face?’ So he clearly is not a fan of makeup lol!


29 Sylvia

Thanks Kimberlee. Funny story. My husband could probably say that if I really piled on the makeup….


30 Shoshana

Oh, how I envy women who don’t need make-up! No make-up ladies are always beautiful when they are happy and take care of themselves. Unfortunately, I have never felt that I look so good without make-up. In my teens and twenties I would dare leave the house without make-up. Mind you, I didn’t wear foundation and my eye color is a simple thin line of black or brown eye liner close to my lashes. Brown mascara. I don’t wear a blush because I live in a sunny region and don’t need it. I put on lipstick or gloss in the morning and usually don’t reapply it throughout the day. In my early thirties I opened a book store and my employees, men who don’t like make-up, began telling me that they preferred me at the end of the day when the “paint wore off”. I also began travelling a lot to Europe on business for my other companies. My European male colleagues prefer women to have a natural look and made comments that I don’t really need make-up. I tried an experiment and showed up to work one day without make-up. No one noticed except to say that I looked more radiant than usual. I didn’t believe them, really, because I didn’t feel radiant. Then one day two years ago, when I was 39, I noticed that my skin color had changed and my lip color and liner made me look older so I decided to try not wearing any make-up on a daily basis (as opposed to going out and experimenting with new colors or foundation). No one noticed anything different about me accept to tell me that I looked much younger and what was I doing to make the difference. Since then I have grown to like my own coloring. I do believe I am prettier today than I was thirty or twenty years ago. Maybe that’s physically true or maybe I have just come to accept and love me as I am. I am considering experimenting so I can “dress up” my face when I go to a wedding or other nice event, but on a daily basis I enjoy not having the fuss of it.


31 Sylvia

What a wonderful story Shoshana! I love how you have to come to accept your face and that you feel better without makeup. I’m sure it’s your confidence shining through and giving you the radiance!


32 ChayaGallery

Hi, You look wonderful 🙂
I love that you’ve addressed this subject .
I don’t wear much make-up and I’ve recently stopped dying my hair.
Almost everyone I know has an opinion about my hair – even if I don’t ask for one 🙂


33 Sylvia

It’s all about being yourself! Whatever makes you feel good. Funny that everyone feels that they need to give their opinion about the hair!


34 Kelly

I’ve always worn makeup but in a natural way. I think most women can definitely enhance their public image with it – when it’s applied properly and the right product for them. I like makeup to be as natural (non chemical) as possible. Most people might assume I don’t wear makeup but I do pretty much every day. I like tinted moisturizers, some concealer, mascara in deep brown and the lightest pale blush. I like sheer lip colors by the most natural companies I can find. Burt’s Bees, Alba and other similar companies have served me well. I recently bought a book called Makeup Wakeup (no affiliation) and though I wouldn’t go to the extremes of a makeup artist, I did learn some great tips like how to apply blush – NOT to the apples of the cheeks since it pulls the face downward.


35 Sylvia

Thanks for your feedback Kelly. Some great tips. It sounds like you really know what you are doing with your makeup. I really should use a bit more of it and am keen to try out natural makeup as well.


36 Kelly

Sylvia, Thank you for providing such a great forum for over 40 women. There are so few!


37 Sylvia

Your are very welcome Kelly. My aim is to make it bigger and better 🙂


38 Kimm

I totally agree with Kelly and I JUST found you today. I”ll be sharing your site with my friends. THANK YOU 🙂


39 Sylvia

Thanks Kimm. Glad you found me! Welcome to 40+Style. I look forward to connecting more with you on the site.


40 Kim,USA

I wear make up now than when I was younger. It makes me feel more pretty and confident. But it is not the kind of make up that is heavy, just appropriate for my taste. ^_^


41 Sylvia

Great! Good that you found a way to make makeup work for you!


42 Benjina

You look great without makeup since you’ve got such a radiant and healthy skin, that’s sadly to learn that many people value women’s beauty depend on that…sometimes go natural is better…i’m the one who have been thinking about it as well…i love your blog, thank you for sharing! 🙂


43 Sylvia

Thanks for visiting and giving your feedback Benjina!


44 Edie

I’ve just found your website and am really enjoying it. I was floundering with my over-40 self image and feel like I’m starting to get comfortable with myself. My career in the Army has led to a balancing act in terms of make-up and professional image. I find that I get better cooperation out of my male-peers when I look polished, but I never want to appear “made-up” because I need to be “one of the guys” and “ready for anything” – no worrying about how I look. I’ve always put a lot of effort into my eye make-up, but now I feel less and less like taking the time each day. I want to pair down to your routine of moisturizer, powder, and lipstick. In fact, I’ll try it tomorrow.


45 Sylvia

Thanks for your comment Edie and glad to hear that you are enjoying the site! I can imagine it’s tough to find the balance in your beauty routine when you’re working in the army. I have recently discovered BB creams which has replaced my moisturizer on many days. It’s a moisturizer, tint and sun protection in one and gives me a slightly more polished look while still looking very natural. You can read my

Bobbi Brown BB Cream review Then it’s the loose power and lipstick as usual. Yes, give it a go (either just moisturizer or BB cream) and see how you feel!


46 Kathy

You ask the question is makeup essential? And my opinion has always been YES! Don’t get mad – but honestly – here is what goes thru my mind when I see a woman in public who is not dressed properly and without makeup. “Well, she apparently doesn’t think very much of herself to leave the house looking like that and she obviously thinks very little of me because I have to look at her.” I think going around without makeup is a form of disrespect to one’s self as well as everyone that she comes into contact with. It tells me that her opinion of herself is either too low to care or too high that she thinks she’s just so wonderful that it’s OK to disrespect everyone else by not appearing properly. Personally, I always say and truly mean, “The ONLY time I would EVER leave my house without makeup on is if it were on fire!!!” 🙂


47 Sylvia

Wow Kathy, you have a very strong opinion about this and I appreciate you took the time to repsond. I think that it’s important to respect everyone’s decision. My decision not to wear makeup very often is not at all meant to disrespect anyone. It also does not mean that I don’t respect myself. It just means that I feel relaxed and want to be completely myself. But I do concede that I do look a bit nicer with some make up on. On the other hand, I have found that mascara always irritates my eyes. In that case I have sacrificed a more beautiful face for just being comfortable. In the end I think we should respect everyone’s decisions when it comes to makeup.


48 Nomi

Haha, I’m the opposite of Kathy. I hate makeup, have never worn it except onstage, and probably will never wear it in private life. It does not seem to have affected my career at all — I make good money and am in fields where intellect and talent are much more important than appearance. Frankly, I think makeup transforms a woman from a relatively friendly, normal human look to a harsh, threatening, haggard or robotic look. Plus I loathe the feeling of it — it’s like putting dirt on your skin and in your eyes and on (inevitably in) your mouth. Foul. Blech. Jamais. ^_^


49 Sylvia

It’s always fun to read how different we all are. Great to read that you feel good about yourself just the way you are!


50 Sonia

Really interesting reads above. I’ve recently stopped or tried to stop wearing make up. I feel that I’m selling myself when I do or trying to hard. Here’s the problem though — when I don’t wear make up a lot of the times I feel like a million bucks and not enslaved. However when I do I look put together but I feel awful inside. So I’ve compromised and am wearing concealer to hide my dark under eyes and a tiny bit of eye liner. My husband tells me other women envy you for being real. Not hiding behind a mask. Sometimes I think I’m going to go insane trying to figure myself out. I’m 46. If I haven’t figured it out yet then I’m not sure there is any hope!


51 Sylvia

We are all evolving Sonia which is natural. We change and our preferences change with it. Just do what feels natural to you or what you feel like on any particular day. If you want to do some further finetuning you may like to download my free guide on how to find your style. It will help you to get to know yourself even better


52 Sonia

Thank u so much for responding! All great advice.


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