Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What is Less?

Is age slowing you down? I don't mean in an achy, creaky, bone-popping way but in a logistics way, specifically: Getting ready in the morning.

My routine has changed a great deal in the last 2-3 years, and it's not as if I went suddenly from nubile vixen to curmudgeonly crone. I suspect the change has more to do with maintaining the natural, less-is-more look I prefer, than with my biological age—but age is a factor, for certain. Looking the way I want takes more product and more time than it used to. Statement of fact. So it's no wonder I feel somewhat paralyzed in the morning when trying to get myself out the door in a timely manner.

My taste in makeup is almost identical to what it has been my entire adult life:
  • Minimal face stuff, just enough to even out the coloring around my nose, but not cover my freckles and pores. Jane Iredale mineral powder has been doing an admirable job for more than ten years.
  • Minimal blush (I am naturally rosy). When I wear it, I like a glowy finish. I do NOT want to see shimmer particles on my skin, and I don't want the finish to be so matte that it sits on top of my cheeks. My current favorite is NARS Gaiety.

  • One to two eyeshadows that mimic the natural colors already found in my face/hair/eyes. I don't have a holy grain duo, but I do have a few brands I favor.
  • Lipstick (never lip gloss) with a sheer or cream or satin finish. I have around six favorites right now, but Laura Mercier Gel Lip Colour in Sweet Cherry remains in my top three since I bought it last May.

So what is less, anyway? I don't know about you and your routine, but I miss the old days when I used to be able to shower and be out the door in under a half hour. My makeup routine was so incredibly simple, I could almost do it in the dark. But when you're 20 and your skin is the best it will ever look, a little mascara and lip balm go a long way.

I am now (20x2)+n. And even though my taste in cosmetics is mostly the same, nature and gravity are making their mark, causing me to augment and play with areas I never had to before.

In the last couple years I have added several new items to my once-simple routine:
  • Concealer. My skin thinned, hollowed, and darkened in the area between the inner eyes and the nose, and shadows deepened under my eyes. I never needed concealer until I hit my 40s. But instead of covering the shadows with opaque paste, I prefer a concealer/highlighter hybrid that lightens shadowy areas instead of covering them. It's sheer trickery, but I think it looks a little more natural, and I don't have to worry about creasing or color oxidation.

    YSL Touche Eclat is my current favorite and has been for at least two years
  • Brows. I must now fill in my brows, which have thinned. Many women who go through perimenopause experience hormone imbalances (understatement), and since thyroid is part of the endocrine system, it can get out of whack, too, causing some of us to lose a full outer third of our eyebrows. Luckily, I have avoided that side effect, but the volume has thinned enough that I must fill in the patchy areas with a good, sticky brow powder.

    I have been using Clinique Brow Shaper in Shaping Charcoaled
    since the late 80s.
  • Mascara. One coat of mascara is a must when it was previously a nice-to-have. My eyelashes, which are quite long and dark, have also thinned. I used to have a thick, sooty fringe, but now I have a smattering of Daddy Long Legs legs that could benefit from some artificial volume. I concentrate on the outer third, which helps open the eye. I rarely bother with an eyelash curler—it's too much eyelash look for me.
  • I don't like mascara, so I find one I don't hate. Tarte makes a decent one that
    doesn't make my lashes feel crispy or gummy.
  • Eyeliner. Decreasing eyelash volume has left some spots almost bare. I was using an eyelash serum, but instead of getting more volume, I got eyelashes I could braid they were so long. Yuck. Long eyelashes with no volume is as bad as growing your hair very long when it's super fine and thin. So to fill in the gaps (more artifice and trickery), I smudge a densely pigmented powder eyeshadow against the lash line.

    Laura Mercier Deep Night does the job
  • Lip pencil. Since both the philtrum and vermillion border flatten with age, I now need to line my upper lip so my lipstick doesn't feather. I don't have vertical lines (at least nothing obvious yet), but lipstick can fade from the top lip in an unflattering way, so anchoring it down with lip pencil is a good idea. I choose a pencil color that matches my lip pigment, not the lipstick, and I connect the tops of the peaks at the cupid's bow, which makes the upper lip look fuller. I don't draw outside the lines, but I don't make the marked dip I used to do in that area. Clinique Sky Violet matches my lip pigment exactly.

  • Primer. I don't need primer as much as I want something on my skin that imparts a subtle glow. I haven't found a moisturizer that does this yet, so I look to primer to do the job, and often, the primer lets me skip moisturizer, sunscreen, foundation, and powder, so this is one new addition that actually cuts out several others.
With the exception of the primer, each of the new additions requires time and precision. So putting my face back to "normal" adds time to my routine. It's obviously a choice. I don't need to wear these extra items, but I like to—I feel better when I make the effort, even on days when I work at home.

Currently my morning face takes 15 minutes, but as I grow accustomed to using the new additions, I'll get my routine down and be able to shave some time.

As you get older, do you find yourself using more or fewer products? And as you grow older still, will you continue to make the effort

My images and Google images


  1. All these products look essential to me too. I miss the old (or rather young) days when I'd just wash my face and go and still look amazing. I'm way too spotty for that now :P

    I'm trying to use less products now, less products for a workday usually means foundation, primer, liner, and lip stuff at the very very least. I think I'm pretty slow with application too, sigh.

    1. Dovey, by spotty do you mean freckly or the dreaded Spots? I find it highly insulting that, after a lifetime of clear skin, I now battle the monthly zits. So yes, I need a little something on my face to distract from occasional
      bumps that probably only I see but which seem to me to be like a third eye!

      This morning I did my face in 15 minutes, which is an improvement but nowhere near the <5 minutes I would like. I think if I had fewer choices and easy-to-use formulas, it would go a lot faster.

    2. Sadly, not freckles. I think freckles are nice actually. I have a few spots (from the sun I'm assuming)and few discolorations from those monthly battles of which you speak! I did not break out during the typical years either; in a sense it left me unprepared for how to deal with those skin issues now, sigh!

    3. It's so unfair! I suspect you're at least 10 years younger than I, but I still maintain that going through perimenopause is like being dragged through adolescence backward. Except I didn't get zits as a teen--all I got was oily skin, which turned out to have been somewhat of a blessing because my skin is much less lined than many medieval women of my vintage. ;)

      I loved my freckles. They stood out more as freckles against the rest of my skin in my 20s, though. Now they just sort of merge into a light beige mass, which is one reason why MUAs often get my foundation matching wrong. I am much more fair than I look at first glance, lol.

  2. I have defiantly noticed that I put a lot more effort into my beauty routine now than I have before in the past.
    I am dying to try the YSL touche eclat but currently I just use much cheaper versions :P

  3. Hi bbBeauty. Touche Eclat provides a truly lovely finish, but I have heard great things about Clinique's Airbrush formula (Lisa Eldridge loves it), and I recently tried Estee Lauder's Ideal Light Brush-on Illuminator in Soft Pink, which is at least $15 cheaper than the YSL. I loved the pink finish on my skin, but I noticed in the sun gold sparkles that I do not see with the YSL, so I won't be buying that again. Which cheaper brand are you using? I am always in favor of less expensive dupes!

  4. You know, every time you write "oral commissures," I hear "Der Kommissar."

    Yes, I used to wear just mascara, lipstick and powder. I sure didn't appreciate those days.

    Now I wear some version of full face for anything short of weeding in the garden. I hope I'm applying it so that it looks natural.

    But I don't think I'm wearing it to look "the same" or even "young." I think I'm wearing it to forestall any impression that I'm no longer interested in working (since women in my work DO wear makeup) or that I'm some kind of counterculture militant-feminist who believes lip gloss is a tool of subjugation (feminist, yes; militant and counterculture, no). Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I think "no makeup" sends a cultural message that would be false for me. And yes, it requires more products and more time to keep from looking like "no makeup."

    Is this all rationalization??

    1. I wear makeup to garden! The flowers deserve it. As for my 'minimal' face I should have been more clear in that I'm not trying to look young. Makeup wont' fool anyone, ha. I don't have any issue with looking my age as long as I feel I look the best I can look at any age. Oh, and most women in my line of work do NOT wear makeup, which is probably the main reason I am not more adventuresome--a "natural" look is the one that will get me taken the most seriously.

      I loved your comment but I will think of a way to make you pay dearly for the 'Der Kommissar' ear worm.

    2. Heh. Everybody dance!

  5. First, I absolutely love your blog.

    Second, same for me on everything you've said. Your thinking and evolution on this is so lucid and well-written that it really helps me clarify my own thoughts.

    I stopped collecting eyeshadows and blushes a long time ago, I still love all the pretty colors, but my focus these days is on *defining* the brows and eyes, making my skin look good, and a lipstick to brighten.

    I, too, avoid allover foundation. A combination of products used only where needed looks much fresher.

    1. Anonymous, thanks very much for your kind words. I haven't yet stopped buying eyeshadows, but at least I have stopped collecting them by keeping a strict one-in-one-out policy. The tricky thing is the banished (out) eyeshadows go to the blog sale or purgatory drawer, where there's a risk they will be commissioned into use again. *sigh* It's a work in progress, but I AM making progress.

  6. As I get older I find that putting on colors like a parrot is not going to get me anywhere but the bathroom sink. I can't look like an old tart! I find prepping the skin more important than color itself. I find certain techniques and details can enhance a look more than a new color (although I am a sucker for trying new stuff). I also find that the best beauty regime I have is to just take time for myself and that means staying off the net and just emptying the mind and allowing it to rest. :-)

    1. Parrot, lol. You with the watermelon lips! But I do agree about emptying the mind, which can feel so wonderful. I have started driving in silence lately in order to be more mindful. But not today. I was multitasking on the way home, talking to my brother on the phone, and was so engrossed in the conversation and getting past a slow 18-wheeler, I blew right by my exit at rush hour and worked myself into a real snit. A middle-aged woman throwing a tantrum in the car is not a beautiful thing.

      I forced myself to the immediate present by naming the things I drove by. Car. Curb. House. Rock. Fence. Squirrel. When I said, "Tree" I was filled with such joy I could literally feel my chest expand. It was the strangest thing, but then I realized I drive by these beautiful towering spruces every day, which flank the road like sentinels holding back an army, and I never really saw them until today. That's the stuff of true happiness.

  7. this post comes at such an apropos time! i am wondering what is going on with my routine; is it me or do i need things i didn't need before, worry about maintenance i never had to attend to and seem to have lost not only the precision and skill i used to have for makeup application but the being wowed by the results has disappeared too. my skin has markedly changed, there is a lack of vitality, fine lines are cropping, sun damage, blah blah blah. but i feel i am losing hair in the front of my hair line and it is major paranoia (which may be founded) but still! wow! i look at pictures from a few years ago and i had a white smile, glossy hair and understated makeup and i just looked HEALTHY; makeup i purchased came to me as if by divine destiny , i didn't search for something i bought it if i saw it and liked the way it looked on me. i USED it, i didn't store it after the hunt and conquest, and i wore it , it didn't wear me. i'm trying to focus on skincare and haircare now and makeup just makes me happy here and there. because it won't bring back the carefree attitude i once had to beauty. Depressing!

    1. Re now being wowed, could it be that your standards continue to get higher the more time you spend out in the blogging and YouTube community? Until I discovered all this a few years ago, I was blissfully ignorant, completely happy with my products and my routine. Time won't stand still, but I think I have become hyper vigilant since I started watching all the makeup gurus on video and reading their blogs.

      Hair loss has been a real sobering experience for me. I don't have any obvious bald or thinned patches, but to have experienced diffuse loss (about a third) means my hair is no longer bouncy or swingy because there's almost no weight to it. I keep it in a jaw-length bob, but I can definitely see going the Jamie Lee Curtis/Judi Dench route in a decade (which isn't so terrible because I think they look smashing, especially with their wintry grey hair).

      My stylist once recommended hair extensions, not so much to lengthen my hair but to add volume. After a consultation, it was agreed that my hair was falling out too fast to make it cost effective (e.g., the hair above the glued-in bits would come loose). I also worried that my hair would look "knobby" from the glued in bits, and it wasn't thick enough to weave those hair strands in. Maybe extensions are an option for you.

      Teeth! That's a whole other dilemma. Yes, they do yellow over time, especially if we drink coffee and red wine. I am not a good candidate for bleaching because my teeth are uber sensitive, and no way was I going to file down perfectly healthy teeth to nubs just for the purpose of adding veneers. I felt dismayed by my little corn kernels gleaming so yellowly at everyone until I saw a toothpaste mentioned in one of's best-of articles. It's called Luster NOW! Instant Whitening Toothpaste, which I buy from Reviews are mixed, but using it once a day lightened my teeth by several shades. I love it.

      Please don't feel depressed! There is so much joy to experience, and if you feel good, you WILL look good. My 40s have actually been a fantastic decade so far.

    2. I believe you're precisely right; blogging myself, and reading constant raves about the newest, latest, greatest, etc, has caused a set up for disappointment many times over and after the thrill of hunting something down and owning it wears off, is it really worth it? how petty do i feel to put so much time on finding the perfect something that will temporarily (in theory) make me feel better/complete...I'm NOT dogging the power of beauty & makeup because it is definitely transformative YET i got on just fine without it being such a big focus before. i mentioned beauty destiny before, because i happened to either stumble upon purchases or borrowed something i liked from a friend, the whole process was much more organic and much less forced. i now have as you wrote about previously in the aging post i believe, a self-imposed chaos (and ensuing OCD disorder) about keeping empty boxes, storing makeup and the worst part; using it or finishing it! i used to have one makeup bag and some spill-over. if i saw a polish i liked at nordstrom i would buy it, i would not however pour myself over every line's new collection and believe that these fickle must-have items would change my life. i am obsessed with keeping my compacts clean and guarding the plastic shields, and then have pangs of regret over trendy items that i don't even like forget about LOVE. when you add to the mix, the creeping signs of aging and/or poor health it seems utterly pointless, and alas i have to worry about maintenance and upkeep and the fun of makeup is gone. maybe as you mentioned 'feeling good' is the problem, but it's quite cyclical if you feel you don't look the same... but this is quite more than a comment!! mabye a PM is in order to discuss European lessons on feeling bien dans sa peau and appreciating what we have... :)

    3. You should come join the forum! We talk about this kind of stuff in both the public and private areas (not searchable by Google) where we can speak more freely. Having some close online friends who are going through what I am going through helps keep things real and in perspective. They help reign me in when I go bonkers over the new collections ... and sometimes they help fan the flames. ; )

      I don't know how old you are, and you don't have to say, but please know that "over 40" isn't a requirement. Age is--in large part--a state of mind, and I don't ask people their age when they join up (none of my business, frankly), but I know we have 30-somethings on the board, and I'm sure there are a lot of lurkers of all ages. I mention AGE simply because the topics we discuss are going to appeal to a certain audience, but everyone is welcome to join.

      One thing jumps out at me in your comment above, primarily because I recognize it in myself. Do you think you are taking such meticulous care of your makeup, treating it like a Faberge Egg, so you can avoid doing something else you don't want to do? Behind EVERY behavior, no matter how seemingly chaotic or destructive, is a good intention. So all the obsession is serving some purpose. If you can figure out what that is, the makeup mystique might lose a little of its allure and help you feel more grounded, even slightly detached from it.

    4. What I meant to say in that long-winded reply is on the forum, there's a small community of fantastic, caring women. We talk about our fears and anxieties and insecurities sometimes, but mostly it's a hugely positive, self-affirming place that gives at least one good belly laugh a day. :)

    5. i would love to join the forum!
      you have an eery way of saying something very precise-yes i treat my makeup and much else in my house like a trophy for several reasons i suppose; 1) it's one of the only things i have great control over, (i am a stay at home mother who used to be a nomad) 2) i think about taking good care of something as justifying how much money i spent on it and not being casual with my purchases 3) this reason is a bit touchy- i don't have an active life like i used to (my best friend tosses her MU in her bag and it's so messy and i always think 'oh my, how can she just treat her illusions d'ombre like that?! lol but it's because she's BUSY and shes just using the makeup and on her way...) 4) lastly, it's just residual from my days of packing everything up neat and tidy and being a gypsy keeping track of what i had and either bringing it with me or storing it at someone's house

    6. Come in in! I just approved you. :)

  8. i have to add, that i second anonymous above. Your blog and posts like these are really beneficial for making me realize and clarify this nagging feeling i've been having about wanting what you don't have and then realizing you had it really good before when it's gone! this is all just exacerbated by having just moved from France, where attention is paid to the whole package not just the masking with makeup. please keep these kinds of posts coming where you help us all balance the struggle between wanting more and needing less.

    1. I have to admit I am really surprised and thrilled by the support. After several months of product reviews, my desire to keep buying and reviewing new products really fizzled out. For a couple months I barely posted at all, wondering what on earth I could possibly write about now, in a beauty blog. I decided to be open and honest about the feelings I was having about growing older and let the chips fall where they may. :)

      It must have been refreshing and very reaffirming to live in a place where beauty is more than skin deep.

  9. Do you think that the Jane Iredale pressed powder works on aging skin? Does it tend to settle into small wrinkles? I have pretty great skin for an older woman and love the idea of JI but would worry about that.... Any thoughts?

    1. I love it. My skin is definitely aging, visibly, and JI PurePressed is pretty much the only "color" I use anymore when I want to even out my skin tone. I prime my skin first over the enlarged pores (any primer will do, but I like the ones that add a bit of glow), and then I apply very light layers of Jane Iredale PurePressed powder with a flat-topped kabuki brush to the center of my face (T zone). I've been using the Jane Iredale Handi brush since I bought my first JI compact 12 years ago, and it still looks great. I also use the Hakuhodo G527 to give the Handi a rest (such as when I am washing it).

      I don't get any settling in fine lines, but I wear the powder in the middle of my face, where I have zero wrinkling ... so far. I only have a very tiny bit of lines forming at the outer eye corner, and I don't apply powder there. I like to apply with the goal of getting away with as little product as possible. And sometimes, if I want an immediate glow (especially in winter), I'll spritz some of her finishing spray, like Pommist, onto a flocked sponge and then gently press the sponge over the areas I just powdered. It makes the minerals lie down flat and enhances the luminosity without actually making the finish look shiny. I also use a synthetic concealer brush to spot apply the powder to areas that are giving me problems (except not under the eyes--I don't power under there).

      JI is absolutely HG for me, no question.

    2. Thank you for your reply!! It is most helpful. I too apply make-up only to the T-zone but do have visible pores so am careful about how/what I use there. I do want to give this a try and your advice is so helpful. I do really enjoy your blog and the honesty you employ when discussing age. It is what it is and as I have noted before, you are so wise to understand that!
      Thank you!

    3. P.S. I have to comment that I too use the Clinique brow shaper in charcoaled. I have dark hair--your level--but have let my gray come in and the blending of the two tones requires some tweaking of makeup tones. Charcoaled is awesome and I hope they never discontinue it. My eyebrows are still black and charcoaled lets me blend the silver tone of my hair w/the remaining natural darker color. Love it!

  10. My hair is actually not dark! It's somewhere on the border of dark ash blonde/light ash brown, but my brows are darker and completely ash so Charcoaled used with light hand works better for me than any taupe I've tried. I hope they never discontinue it, either, but since it has been continually available since the 80s (!), let us hope that means it's a popular item!


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