Make-up is an art and a bit of subtle creativity can work wonders

Older women who wear make-up look younger and are considered to be more competent and more trustworthy, but it must be applied properly, says Margaret Jennings.

Make-up is an art and a bit of subtle creativity can work wonders

DO you think you look younger with make-up? Research in 2013 by a professor of psychology at Gettysburg College, in Pennsylvania, found that the contrast, as we age, between our facial features — our eyes, lips, eyebrows and nose — and our skin tone was a tell-tale sign of how old we are perceived to be.

“Unlike with wrinkles, none of us are consciously aware that we are using this cue, even though it stares us in the face every day,” said Professor Richard Russell.

This may be one reason why for thousands of years women have been adorning their faces — reddening their lips, brightening their cheeks and highlighting features. Analyses of Egyptian cosmetic powders, dating from 1200 to 200BC, indicate that they were as sophisticated as the versions used today.

Russell collaborated with the research-and-technology division of the cosmetic giant, Chanel. The researchers examined the faces of 289 caucasian women who ranged in age from 20 to 70, and found that while the skin became darker the eyebrows, eyes and lips became paler.

In another study, when photos of women were manipulated by computer to create more contrast, observers who had viewed the first versions perceived the faces in the altered pictures to be younger.

Could make-up also make older women look more empowered and competent — especially in a society that is so youth-dominated? A small study carried out three years ago, by researchers at Boston University, seems to suggest so.

People who studied pictures of women with and without cosmetics concluded that those who were bare-faced were less competent, less attractive, less likeable and less trustworthy. Again, the research was carried out in conjunction with Procter & Gamble, which sells big-name cosmetic brands.

In an article in the New York Times, make-up mogul, Bobbi Brown, responded to the study by saying that focusing on others’ perceptions missed the point of make-up. “We are able to transform ourselves, ” she said. “Not only in how we are perceived, but how we feel.

Dublin make-up artist, Paula Murphy, who advises older women on their cosmetics, agrees. She has seen how older women’s confidence has soared after she has advised them on how to enhance their appearance.

“As I specialise in clients who are aged over 50, my goal is to transform their looks and confidence levels. I get great satisfaction when I see a woman glow from within, when all I have done is enhance her own natural beauty,” she says.

Well-known older Irish women who she admires for their ageing style are former model and ambassador for Third Age, Grace O’Shaughnessy; author Edna O’Brien; activist and businesswoman, Ali Hewson; former Miss Ireland Olivia Tracey, and Labour party politician, Jan O’Sullivan.

Murphy, who has 20 years’ experience, says that make-up is an art and” a bit of subtle creativity can work wonders”.

Her six basic steps for clients:

1. Base: Start with a primer which evens out skin tone, so no further application is required throughout the day and it addresses colour correction, minimises pores and adds luminousity. For foundation, choose a formula that feels light, but which provides airbrush effect and is preferable with an SPF (sun protection factor). Less is more.

2. Frame the face: Brows keep the face groomed and youthful. They add character. Fill in gaps in your brow line by using light, feathering strokes, with a blend of wax and powder.

3. Blush and contour: An older complexion lacks colour, so blush it up and contour by using a creamy formulation. It’s easier to glide over the apples of the cheeks via feather-like strokes with your ring finger or an angled sponge. Then, with a contouring brush, you can apply a powder colour after cream application.

4. Eyes: Mature eyelids can lead to hooding, deeper lines and recession into the socket. Again, the rule of thumb is less is more. Go for natural, matte colours on mature lids to keep it simple and blend well on every brushstroke. The va va voom is to the define the finished look with a good liner pen or pencil in soft grey or slate.

5. Lashes: They are definitely thinner than they used to be, so the right mascara is a must. Go for mascaras that separate and lengthen and which give full effect.

6. Lips: Begin by applying a lip balm. As lips age, they lose their fullness and lines appear. Use a good lip-liner pencil. Shape the lips by applying from the centre (cupid’s bow) with soft circular movements out to the corner of the mouth on both sides. Feather across the lower lip line, then colour in the lips.

This acts as a good base for your chosen lipstick, which should be a good, creamy base for staying power and pigment.

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