Makeup always has been a mystery to me — like some sort of basic language every other female had learned while I was in Starbucks one day. If you’ve ever caught me staring intently at your face, it was because I’m trying to figure out what you did to look so good. I mean, how do you keep your eye shadow from flaking off? How do you know where to put blush? And what, exactly, am I supposed to highlight? Scary stuff. I approach buying makeup the same way I approach buying flowers for our yard: Embarrassed about my lack of knowledge, I go to the most generic store possible, avoid all helpful sales people who might ask me questions I can’t answer and hurriedly toss things in my cart based on whatever the tags say. (Part shade? Full sun? Fair skin with pink undertones?) However, while you can get away with that when it comes to our yard (Are the flowers blooming? Okay then.), when it comes to my 50-something-year-old face … not so much. I’d been vaguely dissatisfied for a few weeks when I happened to spot TV makeup artist Carmindy’s “Get Positively Beautiful” in my own bookshelves. I remembered getting it when I was in a mega bookstore a couple of years ago with the urge to BUY SOMETHING USEFUL RIGHT NOW but I couldn’t remember ever even opening it up. So I sat on the floor, paged through it and suddenly had the revelation: “I actually can do makeup. I can crack the code.” I’m not sure if it was the confident and straight-forward advice in the book (as opposed to Bobbi Brown‘s “Beauty,” which I’d bought a few years ago because everybody said she was THE makeup person for women-my-age but the book was a 400-level-class and I hadn’t even registered for Makeup 101) or if I was finally ready to learn, but suddenly it all made sense and I couldn’t wait to get started. First, I faced my pathetic makeup drawer. I ditched almost all of it: Broken blue eye shadows (That’s what you wear if you’ve got blue eyes, correct?), years-old foundations, concealers in all sorts of “colors,” dried tubes of mascara (Who can remember to close them?) and dark matte lipsticks guaranteed to last all week … or something. Then I went shopping, sticking to my generic-retailer approach for budgetary purposes. (Recognizing I was in a vulnerable state, I somehow subconsciously understood that a trip to the department-store cosmetic counter would result in a sizable dent, financial-wise.) Spending almost 30 thoughtfully intense minutes in the makeup aisle instead of my usual rushed drive-by shopping, I followed Carmindy’s advice and chose contrasting eye colors, light glossy lip colors and transparently pink cheeks. She also recommended lightweight glide-on primers and highlighters, which I’d never used. The result? I feel much more polished, feminine, prettier and put-together. The truth may be that makeup is sort of like exercise for me: Nobody may be able to tell the difference on my outside, but on my inside I sure feel better about myself. And, really, that should be all that matters. On the other hand, I had to get husband JP to help me open the L’Oreal True Match Naturale mineral blush I bought. I could not figure it out — Where does the powder come out? How do you attach the brush? He helpfully pointed out that a piece of plastic still covered the sifting holes even though I’d already removed one piece. Then he left me on my own. Carmindy … ???
Dear Olay, I like your products. I really do. They work pretty much like you say they will and they sure beat the fancy stuff, price-wise. It’s just … well, I always feel as if you’re trying to lull me into thinking I’m getting two or three times more than I actually am. And there’s no need for that. It makes you look sort of duplicitous and sneaky (see Survivor’s Boston Rob for an example of this type of behavior.) I’d be happy with packaging that actually was the size of the product I’m buying — happier, truthfully, than paying for and disposing of three or four times as much paper and plastic than is required. And why place the jar behind the clear plastic so that you can’t really see the top of the bottom of it? Do you think I’m going to believe the jar is bigger than it is? I mean, I can read. I know how much is in the jar. When you try to pull a bait-and-switch, it makes me mad because 1) you think I’m that gullible and 2) I fell for it a little. So, please, just make a box that’s the size of the jar and we’ll all be much happier. Thank you very much.
I don’t know if it’s a change of season or a cleaner bathroom mirror, but all of a sudden I’m tired of my usual makeup and have gone on an obsessive hunt for something different. I’ve used bareMinerals foundation for years and I originally loved the light non-makeup feel of it. But now, despite Leslie Blodgett’s assurances that it doesn’t, the powder is settling into and accentuating every wrinkle and line on my face. That may be because I’ve got more wrinkles and lines than I did a few years ago, but still. And since I haven’t looked at what’s new beyond the occasional mascara and lipstick lately, I’m delighted to find foundations aimed at the over-50 me that claim to do exactly what I’m looking for: Cover lines and wrinkles, brighten skin tone and add a little love along the way. And speaking of “cover,” we’ve got Ellen! Listen, if Ellen DeGeneres is recommending anti-aging makeup, I’ve gotta try it. And I’m glad I did, because I’m officially in love with Cover Girl Simply Ageless foundation. It’s light but creamy and really does cover wrinkles and smooth out lines but truly feels as if you’re not wearing makeup. I actually get compliments now — well, my older daughter said my makeup looked good when I asked her, but I’ll take it. And I adore the compact-style packaging — why give you an applicator without a way to carry the applicator around? Which brings me to L’Oreal Age Perfect Makeup, my runner-up. This is more mousse-like and creamier but does cover well, if a little too thick for me. It leaves more of a matte finish where Simple Ageless has a natural look to it. If I were redoing my makeup to go out at night, I’d go with the Age Perfect, although the cute little applicator brush of course immediately 1) gets lost, 2) gets dirty or 3) becomes a new cat toy. Or is that just what happens at my house? My third pick is L’Oreal Visible Lift Line-Minimizing Makeup. Some people love this and it does good things for your skin, but even though it looks OK on, it’s too heavy and old-school foundation for me. I can feel it in every pore when I put it on — makes me want to wash my face. Yuck.
For a mascara roundup, read the Smaurai Shopper in The New York Time’s spring women’s-fashion magazine at http://www.nytimes.com/indexes/2009/02/22/style/t/index.html#pageName=22samurai. This is the first time I’ve seen someone agree with me in print that the makeup artists’ supposed darling Maybelline Great Lash is overrated and underwhelming. It flakes and glops and leaves me with short stubby lashes. Double yuck. And besides, I can do short stubby lashes on my own without any mascara help, thank you very much.