My Ten Best Reasons to Wear Makeup

Oh dear! I think that I struck a few sour notes last week when I wrote about the ten reasons that an older woman might not wear makeup. I was accused of being a ‘mean girl’ and coming over as judgemental and patronising. I want to apologise for any offence I may have caused, so this week’s blog is by way of a sincere ‘mea culpa.’

What I was trying to do last week was to understand how an older woman might arrive at the decision ‘makeup is not for me’ and what she might do about it if, like Mary, she realised that makeup might help her to look better. I am genuinely interested in this because I meet and interact with older women all the time and, of course, I am one myself. When I am doing a makeover in front of an audience, I usually meet a fair degree of resistance to the notion of spending time every morning on applying makeup coupled with a high degree of uncertainty about how to achieve a pretty, subtle and attractive effect. So, this week I have decided to explain myself more thoroughly and to come up with my ten best reasons to wear makeup so that this blog can be 100% positive!

Ten Reasons to Wear Makeup as an Older woman.

I have included the ten reasons I gave last week for why an older woman might NOT wear makeup in brackets in order to turn them around into something more upbeat and encouraging.

1. Because taking time and trouble with my appearance makes me feel better. (‘Because I can’t be bothered’)

This is all about confidence and morale. It’s also about engagement with the world of fashion and beauty which tends to discourage such engagement by older women. I really do understand why some women give up (as I said last week they ‘throw in the towel’) when it’s so hard to find reasonably priced comfortable, flattering clothes and when few fashion spreads in magazines show these clothes on an older body like yours and mine. The same goes for makeup and hairstyles. So, there is effort involved in this, however for me, and I know for many of you too, the effort pays many dividends, because I feel better and other people usually respond much more positively to me when I look my best.

2. Because I have continued to practice, experiment and teach myself what works for my face. (‘Because I lack confidence with applying makeup’)

Our videos have helped countless older women become more confident with makeup. They also tend to imply that there is a right and wrong way to apply each product. There are certainly better ways to get a better result, but I would encourage you to experiment with different looks and techniques. I still do this all the time. For instance, I’d usually apply my foundation and then my concealer to unify my skin tone. During the summer I have also been applying bronzer as I like that sun-kissed look it gives my skin. Most makeup artists would advise doing this as a final sweep of colour to complete the makeup. However I have discovered that if I apply the bronzer immediately after my foundation and before the concealer it looks much better.

3. Because I know that makeup makes me look brighter and better. (‘Because I am terrified of looking like ‘mutton dressed as lamb’).

Mary’s letter to me gave some perfect examples of what happens to a face as it ages. She found that her features were less noticeable and her face lacked shape and definition, some of which had been supplied by her glasses. Older eyes, lips, cheeks and skin become paler and paler as the melanin in the body declines. That’s what ages our looks - far more than wrinkles.  I rarely talk about trying to look younger, because I feel passionately that we need to resist that ageist pressure, but makeup is an instant fix for all that ‘fading’ of our features and it’s cheap and easy to achieve. In my view it’s also far more effective than fillers and facelifts if you would like to look younger.

4. Because this is something I do for me. (‘Because my husband/partner doesn’t like it.’)

When I was younger I once had a relationship with someone who tried hard to persuade me not to wear makeup by telling me that I looked much better without it. I succumbed to his charms for a while until I realised that I wasn’t being true to myself. I have always loved how makeup improves the way I look and is something I do because it pleases me - not because it gets approval (or the opposite) from others be they male or female, young or old. If you choose to either wear or not to wear makeup because you are being true to yourself, then don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise.

5. Because I see no contradiction in my love of lippie and my feminist credentials. (‘Because I am a lifelong feminist.’)

Believe it or not I sometimes really struggle with this! I was an early feminist (in the 70s and 80s) and this period in time was associated with a certain turning away from overt femininity. As makeup is more or less exclusively worn by women, it was once argued that a ‘proper’ feminist would not be seen dead wearing a red lippie! I see my championing of older women wherever and whenever I can as an extension of my passionately held belief in equality of opportunity between the sexes. I feel that women get a much harder ride in old age compared to men who are subject to much less pressure to ’stay young and beautiful’. There is no equivalent of the ‘silver fox’ for women!

6. Because my daily communing with my mirror is a good way to come to terms with my older face. ('Because I think that caring about surface appearance means that you are vain.’)

Vanity is associated with narcissism and self-love, and I have sometimes questioned whether my preoccupation with appearance may fall into that category. But then again one of the saddest emails I ever received was from someone who said she had banished mirrors from her house because she could no longer bear to look at her face. I don’t always like what I see reflected back to me, especially when my acne rosacea flares up, but most days I can commune with my mirror without flinching. Women are taught from an early age to despair at the sign of every wrinkle whilst maybe we should celebrate every single one as a sign of a life lived to the full.

7. Because it’s a very long time since ‘slap’ was associated with being a ’slapper’. (‘Because I was taught to think that makeup is ‘common’.)

We forget that 100 years ago makeup was worn mainly by actresses and women of ill repute. It was not widely available or mass produced until the 40s and 50s. Neither of my grandmothers ever wore makeup, although my mum, who married at the tender age of 18, just after the second world war broke out, always wore some makeup and loved her red lipstick. I particularly dislike young beauty editors warning me that ‘less is more’ as you age. It’s almost as if they are setting themselves up as a critical parent to tell us oldies to ‘take that muck off your face - it looks ridiculous at your age!’ Maybe we do need to choose and apply products more carefully, but I intend to enjoy and keep on wearing my ‘slap’ until I take my last breath.

8. Because I refuse to be invisible. (‘Because I think that makeup is inappropriate now that you are older.’)

Last November I spoke at a ‘third act’ conference in Dublin about starting a business at the age of 65. I followed a (male) speaker who had written about longevity from an evolutionary perspective. In his book he had written (something along the lines of) ‘the fact that women survive beyond the menopause defies evolutionary logic because their ovaries are dead.’ With views like that in our society, is it any wonder that post-menopausal women struggle for purpose and identity? I started my talk in Dublin by quoting what the previous speaker had written and said ‘I am here to prove that an older women can still play a valuable and productive role, despite having very dead ovaries!’ And you know what? Even if my business was not all about makeup, I’d still be wearing it every day as a statement of my refusal to be invisible and irrelevant.

9. Because this is who I am. (‘Because I want to blend in with my social group.’)

Earlier this year I went on a ’retreat’ in southern Spain with a group of around 10 women of a certain age. My dilemma every morning was whether to ‘put my face on’ before breakfast and thereby appear at the table as the only one wearing makeup so early in the day. I wanted to blend in, but at the same time I knew that in any other circumstance I’d apply my makeup first thing. So that’s what I decided to do - I wrestled with it for fear of appearing ridiculous to a group of my peers - but I knew that I’d be more comfortable with, rather than without my makeup at the breakfast table. As I said above ‘be true to yourself.’

10. Because I believe I am worth the time I spend putting my face on. (’Because I don’t have time.’)

I know that many older women feel that time spent on themselves is a form of self-indulgence. We are all busy people. My friends are  regularly called upon to look after their grandchildren, care for their own aged parents, run their own houses and some still do paid work. When I suggest spending 10-15 minutes a day applying some makeup, many of the women I speak to are genuinely horrified. I also lead a busy life but I have a morning routine which takes a certain length of time so I factor that into my schedule. The ritual of applying my makeup is a creative and calming one which sets me up to face my day. Apart from my lipstick, I will barely touch my makeup until I cleanse it off before bed. I give myself the gift of that ten minutes every day - because I am worth every second!

Once again, my apologies for the strident and somewhat hectoring tone of last week’s blog.

If you have decided to eschew makeup or if you wear it only for high days and holidays then clearly that is very much up to you. However, I also hope that I have encouraged some of you to stand up to the very real pressures that exist to ‘act your age’ by ‘toning it down’ and thereby becoming invisible.

Do leave your comments as I know that everyone (including me) loves to read them!

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