How my beauty routine has changed in my 40s
Finding products that work for—not against—my goals hasn't been simple.
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People have always told me that I look young for my age, for whatever that means. And given the frequency with which I’ve been carded over the years for things I was plenty old enough to do/see/buy indicates that there’s probably something to those comments. It’s also why, when I was in my 20s and early 30s, my main reason for wearing makeup was to look more mature, so I’d be taken seriously as a media professional in New York City.
That’s also why it was a shock to realize somewhere around 35 that my makeup goals had done a 180. Somehow, my aim had become to retain that youthful appearance I’d grown up resenting—or at least to conceal my dark under-eye circles without enhancing any fine lines in the process. Now, in my 40s—and with a couple years editing beauty content here at Reviewed—it’s amazing to consider just how much my beauty routine has evolved. Maybe something I’ve learned from that process—or a product I use—can help you, too.
1. A greater focus on skincare
As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” But, let’s face it, very few people address an issue until it’s, well, staring them in the face. With my pale skin, I’ve always been decent about sun protection—get one or two painful summer sunburns, and you learn you don’t want another. Still, my skincare routine in my younger years mainly consisted of washing my face once a day and slathering on the Cerave Moisturizing Cream in the winter when my normal-to-dry skin felt tight.
Shortly before my 40th birthday—and probably because I'd began scrutinizing my skin more than ever before—I made my first foray into the wrinkle-reducing world of retinol, giving the Neutrogena Wrinkle Repair a go. While I saw some results, the formula began to irritate my sensitive skin. I switched up my nighttime routine to use something more soothing—the Cerave Skin-Renewing Night Cream, which doesn’t contain retinol but offers up hyaluronic acid, a hydrating ingredient known to plump skin. A male friend commented, unprompted, on how great my skin looked the very first day after I’d used it, which was enough of an affirmation to keep it up.
Because my main aging-related concerns are fine lines and under-eye circles, I fell down the rabbit hole of targeted eye creams containing ingredients such as caffeine (to reduce puffiness), hyaluronic acid, and, yes, retinol. So far, I’ve tried L’Oreal Eye Defense, Cerave Eye Repair Cream, and Cetaphil Hydrating Eye Gel-Cream, but my latest (and greatest) selection is RoC Retinol Correxion Line-Smoothing Eye Cream. I put it on at night, so its smoothing retinol can soak in while I sleep—this ingredient makes your skin more sensitive to the sun and can even be “deactivated” by UV rays, so it’s better for nighttime use only. The RoC one is gentler than others I’ve tried—no stinging or burning sensation—and the company claims lab-tested, line-reducing results.
- Get Cerave Skin-Renewing Night Cream from Amazon for $14.92
- Get RoC Retinol Correxion Line-Smoothing Eye Cream from Amazon for $16.59
2. Concealer that works with my skin
As already mentioned, dark circles have plagued my under-eyes for my entire life. (A doctor once referred to them as “allergy shiners,” which is apparently a thing for light-skinned people who sneeze a lot.) I’ve always been self-conscious about appearing like I just went a few rounds with Rocky, and now that the delicate skin in that area shows lines that don’t fade away after I stop smiling, I’ve hunted for a concealer that covers those shadows without settling and creasing.
Lucky for me, I’ve found two that fill the bill—and don’t cost a jillion dollars. For every day, I use Maybelline Instant Age Rewind, which applies directly from a sponge-tipped applicator tube with a subtle touch and blends nicely into bare skin. When I’m opting for a full makeup look, I prefer the Revlon PhotoReady Candid Concealer, which is more opaque without looking heavy and contains antioxidants for combating skin damage from pollution.
- Get Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Concealer from Amazon for $5.40
- Get Revlon PhotoReady Candid Concealer from Amazon for $5.60
3. A less-is-more attitude to face makeup
I’ve never been keen on heavy foundation, except for a brief period where I was dealing with skin allergies that left my face blotchy and red. But I have a smattering of sun spots and some uneven tone, so when I want to smooth things out, my complexion tools include a good tinted moisturizer, some mineral-based powder, and a shimmery bronzer.
My new favorite is the Wet n Wild Bare Focus Tinted Moisturizer, which I purchased even before our beauty editor, Jessica Kasparian, clicked publish on her rave review. It goes on so smoothly and leaves my face looking like the “after” of a good photo filter—and costs less than $5 a tube. Because I live in a hot climate, I sweep some Bare Minerals Original Loose Powder over top with a large makeup brush for more staying power. I finish with a dusting of bronzer for some shimmer and warmth on my forehead, ridge of nose, apples of cheeks, and tip of chin. The Laura Geller product I’ve been using is discontinued, but the brand’s Baked Bronze-n-Brighten Multipurpose Bronzer seems a worthy replacement, with its so-called self-adjusting pigments and “never orange, always sun-kissed” promise.
- Get the Wet n Wild Bare Focus Tinted Moisturizer from Amazon for $4.98
- Get the Bare Minerals Original Loose Powder at Macy's for $27.20
- Get the Laura Geller Baked Bronze-n-Brighten Multipurpose Bronzer from Amazon for $34
4. A more-is-more approach to eyebrows
As a teen in the ‘90s, I fell victim to the overplucked arches that were the trend. And while some ‘90s fashions are back in style, a full, feathery brow is currently all the rage—and a more youthful look than skinny, surprised strips.
After finding my first gray brow hair (eep!), I began shading in my arches for fullness and definition. My current pencil, the L’Oreal Brow Stylist Shape and Fill, does a nice job with color, but I find the waxy tip too blunt for shaping and, being mechanical, it can’t be sharpened. I recently ordered Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Color, a liquid pen, which allows me to contour my too-straight brows with more precision—the tip is so tiny, it almost doesn’t look like anything is happening until I finish one brow and the other remains untouched. The brand makes our pick for best liquid eyeliner, so it’s no surprise this product is that good. (Still, because it’s pricey, I’ll stick to the L’Oreal pencil for every day.)
Lastly, I brush in some clear mascara to set my brow hairs, which tend to droop down and make me look sleepy (or so my mother says). Currently, I have an almost-gone tube of Mary Kay brow gel that someone gave me, but it’s soon to be replaced with Maybelline Great Lash Washable Mascara in clear, because no one should spend more than $5 on such a product, if you ask me.
Get the L’Oreal Brow Stylist Shape and Fill from Amazon for $7.75
Get the Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Color from Amazon for $21
- Get Maybelline Great Lash Washable Mascara in Clear from Amazon for $4.19
5. Highlighting a favorite feature
My blue-gray-sometimes-greenish eyes are my most complimented feature, so even when I’m in a hurry, I at least put on mascara before I leave the house. My go-to is the Maybelline Full 'N Soft Waterproof Mascara because it’s buildable and doesn’t smear when I sweat. Lately, though, to draw more attention to my eyes—or perhaps away from their adjacent “imperfect” skin—I’ve upped my eye game to include daily eyeshadow and sometimes eyeliner.
For shadow, I’m digging the blendable Revlon’s So Fierce! Prismatic Eyeshadow Palette in “That’s a Dub,” a quad of glimmering gold-brown shades. The two middle hues look great for a quick sweep on their own, and I use the lightest champagne color for highlighting the brow bones and the darkest chocolate tone to add depth along the eye crease or line my lashes for subtle definition. All with no creasing at all, which is a boon for a shimmery product.
I remember reading in a teen magazine back in the day that you shouldn’t pull at your eyelids when applying eyeliner because it can lead to sagging and wrinkles. I’m doing my skin one better by switching from a waxy pencil that can poke and pull delicate skin to a brush-on gel eyeliner, which offers the same matte look without any skin mistreatment. I picked up the Maybelline Lasting Drama Eyeliner in charcoal, which comes with a pot of product and an angled-tip brush for painting on as narrow or wide a rim as I want.
- Get Maybelline Full 'N Soft Waterproof Mascara from Amazon for $7.24
- Get the Revlon So Fierce! Prismatic Eyeshadow Palette from Amazon for $7.69
- Get Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner from Amazon for $7.07
6. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen
The number one preventative measure you can take to protect your skin from the signs of aging? Loading up with the SPF. (Which, to be honest, may have been my “secret” all along.)
Despite now living in the Caribbean—or maybe because of it—I tend to avoid spending much time outdoors during peak hours, but whenever I know I’ll be in the sun, I’m stocked with sunscreen options.
For daytime errands, I use the Cerave Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 on my face. Its active ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and it has a light tint that prevents that pesky white cast that plagues many mineral-based sunscreens. For beach or pool days, I opt for the water-resistant Australian Gold Botanical Face Sunscreen with SPF 50—again, its light tan hue keeps my complexion from looking ghostly (or orangey) while I’m lounging or wading. Finally, if I’m going for a sure-to-be sweaty run or bike ride where I don’t want that tint dripping on my clothes—and I don’t care about white streaks on my skin—I reach for the Banana Boat Simply Protect Kids sunscreen in SPF 50, which I slather on all exposed skin from head to toe. It’s mineral-based, too, and a pain to rub in, but once I’m good and coated, I feel confident it’ll stay with me for the length of my workout.
- Get the Cerave Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Face Sheet Tint from Amazon for $13.99
- Get the Australian Gold Botanical Tinted Face Sunscreen SPF 50 from Amazon for $15.99
- Get the Banana Boat Simply Protect Kids Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 from Amazon for $7.97
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.