Last week I talked about easy ways to update your wardrobe for Spring 2023, so today it’s time for beauty because we all know how easily make-up can date you. By the end of March I’m always at my most lacklustre (probably an oxymoron but you know what I mean). This year it’s worse than ever because of the crazy way my diary has panned out since the middle of January. There’s been something exciting lined up for every single weekend – I’ll tell you all about it soon and yes, I do remember that in my first post of the year I said I was going to schedule in more downtime but when life lays itself out like a box of chocolates it’s hard to close the lid. Right now though when I look in the mirror I know I look ten years older than usual so April’s going to be a low key month and I’m planning to focus on a bit of personal restoration. So with that in mind it feels like the right time to talk about midlife make-up techniques & how to look well every day.

How to look well every day

Before we even begin to talk about make-up though, I need (almost as a note to self) to cover off the basics of how to look well every day, namely good sleep and nutrition. Neither has been good for me recently and it’s really showing. I’m not a qualified nutritionist so I won’t go into that here, sleep though is something I take seriously and it’s almost always a topic with my friends when we meet up because it can be so elusive in midlife. Since we’ve empty nested and don’t have to set an alarm as often I’ve discovered my natural sleep rhythm and I find I look and feel my best if I have eight and a half hours. It’s easily disrupted though – by temperature fluctuations, noise, a racing brain – and anything more than one glass of wine means I wake up burning hot in the middle of the night.

I really struggled with sleep throughout my 40s, at one point I thought I was going mad but now I realise it was perimenopause. The big improvement for me started with HRT, it stopped the terrible middle of the night catastrophising that I did but even so, sleep is still something I actively manage. I’ve developed what in modern parlance I suppose you’d call a ‘sleep hygiene routine’ so I’m just going to share my simple tips with you here.

  • I try not to eat after 7pm
  • I put my phone in a cupboard to charge at 7.30pm and leave it there until the next morning
  • I work on my laptop or read until 9pm, watch something on TV for an hour and then go to bed
  • I lose myself in a book until 11pm – nothing too gripping or I’ll keep going until the small hours (nothing sends you to sleep like a classic!)

The two absolute non-negotiables for me are an open window and pink noise. Besides the late nights, they’re the main reason I haven’t slept well recently – we’ve been staying in hotels a lot where the windows don’t open and it drives me slightly insane. The unreliable wi-fi has meant the pink noise often cuts out and for me then the night is over, I’ll be awake until dawn. So what is pink noise? It’s softer than white noise and it’s something we discovered during lockdown when the boys were crashing around the house at all hours. We play ocean sounds on a speaker in our bedroom or a phone if we’re away. It’s something the middle son has always done although he prefers the sound of rain on a tent (you can tell he’s born and bred near The Lakes!). I find that even if I wake up, the sounds somehow stop my head from filling with thoughts and I’m lulled back to sleep again.

If I have a lot on my plate and I know my usual routine might still not be enough, I’ll add some extra steps in before bed. A bath really does make all the difference and I’ve started adding Olverum which is a blend of essential oils. There are a lot of similar products around but this one is quite special. I’m not a big one for Spa treatments but I can imagine that this is the sort of clear headspace that they give you, where you just drift off into a fragrant place. It means you don’t have to faff about with candles if it’s an ordinary mid-week evening but you get that same sense of self-indulgence.

how to look well every day

Essential bath oils

When I dry off, my skin feels as if it’s had a treatment. If I then indulge it a little more by slowly massaging in a rich body butter, I feel fully relaxed and wrapped in fragrance. This particular ginger soufflé feels as though it adds a glow to your body – a bit like Vicks on your chest when you were little but not as intense. The fragrance has the comforting warmth of freshly baked gingerbread rather than the fresh zing of curry.

how to look well every day

Ginger soufflé body cream

Maybe it’s psychological but if I then add a pillow spray to this bedtime pathway I somehow feel the way I used to after bathtime when I was little – wrapped up and cared for so that any extra pressure I’m dealing with feels far away. It’s taken a while to find a pillow spray that Mal can tolerate – they often have patchouli or sandalwood in them and he loathes both so much that he has to leave the room if he smells them. This one contains lavender, chamomile and vetivert so it works for us both.

how to look well every day

Soothing pillow spray

New midlife make-up techniques

So that’s the fundamentals covered and we’ve established that to look well every day you really need to be well. However, there is still magic that can be done and I’m going to be the proof of it. You find me here on Monday after we did the Otley Run with our boys and friends last weekend. We’d had very little sleep, partly because places stayed open very, very late and so despite me thinking I’d be tucked up by 11.30pm, in the students’ eyes the night was just beginning. And the other reason was that it was our umpteenth weekend in a row of sleeping in a strange bed – I’m so glad that we’re now at home for the next few weeks.

So, you see me here, having done my best with my usual everyday make-up before I left, waiting for my appointment with the John Lewis Beauty Society. “What’s that?” you ask. It’s a free service run by independent beauty experts – you can either visit them in store for a session like mine (Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Southampton and Cardiff) or have an online consultation with them. Because they aren’t affiliated to any particular brand, they work to find products that are exactly right for you. There are various services you can book or if you’re trying to find something in particular such as a new serum or mascara, you can have a session to find that one particular thing.

Whenever I’ve had a makeover on here, it’s always been for a night-time look so this time I decided to ask for a very natural everyday routine that would suit most midlife women and I was absolutely intrigued to see which brands they’d recommend. My Beauty Guide, Debbie, listened carefully when I talked her through my current regime and I added that I particularly wanted to improve my eyeliner skills because however hard I try to blend, I know they look a bit amateur.

Midlife make-up techniques

I’m just going to chat through the consultation as if you were with me and where I think it’s appropriate, I’ve added a bit of video so that you can see Debbie’s techniques close-up.

A barefaced starting point

So here I am make-up free.

Midlife bare faced

Debbie began the session by working Clarins Double Serum into my skin, explaining that it’s pretty much the best all-round serum on the market, particularly for midlife skin. It has 21 natural ingredients and focuses on firming, smoothing, diminishing pores and radiance. I didn’t have an all-round serum to use after my vitamin C and it felt so good that I’ve now started using it but it’s too early to see results. She used the eye serum too to try to pad out my tired saggy eyes and then finished with the Multi-Active day cream because it gives such a good finish on midlife skin.

One thing I didn’t know was that if you can still feel your moisturiser on your face a minute after application then it’s too rich for your skin. The right moisturiser should sink in quickly without needing to dry off.

Adding depth to the eye in midlife

Now, the next thing that surprised me was that she moved straight on to my eye make-up without doing the base first – I haven’t experienced that in a makeover before. She explained that it was because powder and mascara often drops onto your face while you’re applying it and if you’ve already done your foundation, you’re likely to end up looking as though you have dark circles under your eyes.

First of all she covered the lid with a prep and prime base so that the make-up would last. She explained that our lids are oily in midlife and so without this, make-up can slide and meld into a sludgy mess. Using this palette of four colours

… she began to add depth to my eye by defining the crease with the colour on the top right. She explained that as the skin around our eyes starts to drop in midlife and our eyes appear smaller, there are various ways of adding dimension back in and this is the first step. She then used the darker colour beneath it to draw an elongated V at the outer corner of each eye.

Midlife make-up techniques

Bringing light to the eyelids

The next stage was to add light and she used the shadow on the top left for this, pressing it into the centre of my eyelid with her fingertip. She explained that if she was doing a night-time look she’d use the colour below it but lighter is better for daytime. You can see the shape of the eye contouring here.

Midlife make-up techniques

Using highlighter to de-hood the eyes

When that was done, she used highlighter to define the area beneath my eyebrows – this is to give you a visual brow lift as it contrasts with the deep colour at the crease and completes the dimensional approach.

Midlife make-up techniques

Midlife make-up techniques eyeliner – lower lash

Now I’m adding video for this because I was so impressed by Debbie’s eyeliner application technique. She explained that because we don’t see as much of the eyelid in midlife, it’s really important to define the lashline as strongly as we can. That’s why pencilling in the waterline for a night-time look gives such a dramatic effect. However you can mimic it more softly during the day by drawing right along the root of the lashes as you can see here.

Midlife make-up techniques eyeliner – upper lash

And just to make sure you get the idea, here’s how it works on the upper lashline. I’ve been practicing it since Monday and I’m finally getting the hang of it – I no longer feel as if I’m drawing a moustache above my eye. If you turn the volume up you can hear Debbie’s commentary.

Everyday midlife beauty – mascara skills

Finally, after blending over all of the colours on the lid with a brush, she added mascara. She made two important points, the first is to start with the very root of the lash underneath for maximum volume and impact, then to coat the lashes from the top as well as the bottom. She said that the mistake that most people make is to apply the second coat too soon after the first – then the lashes start to clump so she moved onto the base and didn’t come back to the second coat for about ten minutes.

Midlife make-up techniques

The point of primer & finding the right one

Moving onto the face was a bit of a revelation. I always look for glowy foundations but haven’t ever been able to find one as good as Dior Star which was discontinued a few years ago. However, Debbie explained that foundation isn’t really the right place to look for glow. The reason is that it sits on top of your face and after a little while midlife women will start to find that their T Zone just looks oily. Instead she said it’s far better to use a glowy primer with a demi-matte foundation on top and then use highlighter to add a real boost where you need it.

So, she started by using her favourite primer which is the one that she feels gives you that healthy, lit from within look. She applied it all over my face and gave it a couple of minutes to set.

Midlife make-up techniques

Midlife make-up techniques – concealer

Next came concealer which she said she doesn’t often use because it tends to settle in the creases so I guess it was a sign of how tired and puffy my eyes were!

Midlife make-up techniques

Midlife make-up techniques – foundation

And then we moved onto the demi-matte foundation. Debbie used her absolute favourite on me but said another option would be Luminous Silk (currently on offer) which is one of my favourites so I’ve been using her preferred finish sometimes without knowing it. She used her fingers to apply it and then smoothed it out with a brush.

Midlife make-up techniques

Midlife make-up techniques – powder

And then (now this is key) she went over my T-Zone with a translucent setting powder to ensure shine wouldn’t be able to break though later in the day.

Midlife make-up techniques – highlighter

When it came to cheeks, again I was surprised to find her starting with highlighter which she brushed into the top of the cheekbone and above the eyebrows with a little on the cupid’s bow.

Midlife make-up techniques – bronzer

Next came a bronzing cream which she placed where I’ve always used blusher. She explained that in midlife if you contour under the cheekbones it simply adds shadow and pulls your face down. However if you add it along the top of the cheekbone, underneath the highlighter it gives visual lift and definition as well as healthy warmth.

We had a conversation about Chanel’s bronzing cream (which as you know I love) versus her favourite. Her view was that the one she’s using is better and far less expensive plus it’s more portable because it doesn’t come in a huge pot.

Midlife make-up techniques – blusher

And we finished with blusher but far less than I’d usually use and just on the apples of the cheeks as you can see here. I tend to brush it along the length of my cheekbone but I now realise that’s where the bronzer goes.

Midlife make-up techniques – lips

Last of all was lips and we chose a warm nude so that the eyes could rule. Debbie’s advice was not to use liner if possible because it can make lips look harsh so we simply applied the lipstick, blotted and added another coat.

Midlife make-up techniques – the end result

With a quick mist of her favourite setting spray which not only sets the make-up but also leaves a lovely dewy finish, I was done.

Midlife make-up techniques

The whole experience was both fun and educational – it was so much more useful having an interactive session than simply having my make-up done. It was also interesting to see that there were a few standout make-up brands for midlife skin so I know which direction I’ll head in when I’m looking for something new. And that’s the joy of working with an independent beauty specialist – it’s a long time since I’ve had my make-up done for a shoot but that’s always eye-opening too. It cuts through the ocean of beauty products, PR and advertising and helps you to know what will really work.

So, each morning I’m putting my full attention into applying my make-up rather than allowing myself to go on autopilot. I’m never going to be as good as Debbie but at least I’ve picked up a few new tricks. I hope I’ve helped you with some new midlife make-up techniques – as spring starts to appear it’s time for us all to start blooming again. I feel a bit like the homo sapiens evolution diagram at the moment but I’m at the point where he’s still walking on all fours. I have a swift moving schedule but I’ll be back next Friday and soon we’ll have a catch-up – I have so much to tell you now that I’m finally going to have time to catch my breath.

Disclosure: ‘Midlife make-up techniques & how to look well every day’ was commissioned by John Lewis & Partners but as always I had full control over what I chose to write about

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