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30 Makeup Choices Making You Look Older

A few tweaks to your routine will shave years off your look.

If you won't walk out the door before you've put your makeup on, you're not alone. Beauty is now a $445 billion industry, with $62 billion in cosmetics sales transactions taking place in the United States alone each year. In fact, according to a report from SkinStore, the average American woman will spend more than $200,000 over the course of her lifetime on cosmetics.

However, while research suggests that makeup can actually affect others' opinions, including boosting a person's perceived competence in the workplace, many makeup-wearers are making major mistakes when it comes to applying those cosmetics that can cost them in the long run, adding years to their face with every brushstroke. So, before you spend more of your hard-earned money on makeup products that just aren't working, discover the common makeup mistakes that make you look older.

Using shimmer on your eyes

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While a little shimmer on the eyelid may feel like a good idea, if you're concerned about adding years to your face, this is a no-go. "Shimmery eyeshadow in the crease and on the brow bone of mature eyes will accentuate wrinkles," says Stephanie Jones, licensed esthetician and owner of The Blushery in Beacon, New York.

So, what's the alternative? "Instead, try using a matte shadow in the crease, and a little shimmer on the smoothest part of the eyelid to make them pop and appear brighter," suggests Jones.

Applying your blush too high on your cheekbones

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Though you often hear that highlighting your cheekbones with a little color can accent your bone structure, putting your blush too high can actually add years to your face.

"Sweeping stripes of blush all the way up the cheekbone to the temple is a sure way to show your age. Instead, try tapping cream blush on the apples of the cheeks, and blend with a brush or fingertips out to cheekbones. This will bring some natural looking warmth, which is flattering at any age," says Jones.

Using eyeliner on your bottom lid

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The raccoon-eyed may have been a hit in the early-2000s, but lower liner isn't a good choice by today's standards, especially if you're concerned about looking older. "Skip it," says Jones. "Bottom liner pulls the eyes down and looks harsh. Instead, keep eyeliner to the upper lid to make eyes appear lifted and more open."

However, if you can't imagine only lining the top part of your eye, there's a way to get your fix without making yourself look worse. "If bottom liner is a must, apply with a gentle hand, and soften with a smudge brush or fingertip," suggests Jones.

Overdrawing your eyebrows

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There's no denying that the days of pencil-thin brows have come and gone and that full, lush eyebrows are in. That said, adding too much pencil to your brows may give you the opposite of the youthful, Brooke Shields-esque effect you may have been aiming for.

"It is certainly okay to use an eyebrow pencil, but it must be applied properly," says Jones. "Avoid drawing two lines in the shape of eyebrows, as this is a very outdated look. Instead, use a sharpened brow pencil to lightly draw hair-like strokes along the brow's natural shape to fill in sparse areas and to coat grey or white follicles." And if you're worried about overdoing it with a pencil product, there are other options out there: "Powder and a flat angled brush could also be used," says Jones. "Finish by brushing through with a clean spoolie brush."

Not moisturizing your lips

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P-fotography / Shutterstock

One surprising way you're giving away your age? Not taking proper care of your lips before applying lip products. The good news? Keeping a moisturizing lip balm on hand can help you get the flawless canvas you wanted. "When lips are dry they look dehydrated, wrinkled, and deflated. Dry lips could also crack and flake, which does not look nice at any age," says Jones.

Her recommendation? "A daily lip balm will instantly brighten, smooth, soften, and plump lips back to a pouty pucker."

Using a bold eyeliner

bold eyeliner makeup mistakes

While you might imagine that bold liners can brighten your eyes and make you look more youthful, they might actually draw unwanted attention to aging skin.

"Whether worn on top or on bottom, bold liner is not the best choice for mature eyes. As we age, our eyes will start to droop and wrinkle, causing liner to go on jagged and uneven," says Jones. The solution? "A smudge of eyeliner into the lash line will still define eyes without the boldness of a solid line."

Applying dark-colored lipstick

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The right bold lip color can polish any look, but relying on dark lipsticks can make your mouth look less pouty than you'd like.
"Dark lipstick is certainly a great way to experiment with colors, but it takes some prep to wear it well. The darker the color, the smaller the lips will appear. It will also draw attention to aging skin around the mouth area," says Jones. If you want a pop of color, she recommends using a berry palette instead.

Layering your foundation

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While you might turn to foundation and other heavy makeup to conceal some of those fine lines and wrinkles, doing so can actually have the opposite effect, highlighting them as you cake on your products. "When skin begins to show signs of aging, our first instinct is to cover it up. However, less is more when it comes to a youthful complexion," says Jones.

"Avoid piling on layers of coverage, as it will eventually settle into lines and begin to crease and look caked. Instead, apply a small amount of a full coverage foundation where needed and blend. This will make skin look fresh faced and natural."

Avoiding lip liner

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Though many people have negative associations with over-lined lips, choosing a lip liner in a hue that matches your lips can help define your mouth and keep your makeup in place.

"Mature lips tend to have faded edges, causing lipstick to go on unevenly. This could look off-balance and even a little sloppy, as it will quickly travel outside the shape of the mouth," says Jones. "For a clean application, first, use a lip pencil in the shade of your natural lip tone—not the lipstick color—and even out the shape of the lip border. Use the pencil to fill in the entire mouth and then apply lipstick on top."

Sticking to a single concealer

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Think that single concealer will work for every part of your face? Think again. Different areas on your skin have different undertones, meaning a single concealer just won't cut it. "It is important to have a concealer that matches the skin tone to cover sun spots and blemishes. However, heavily vascular areas and dark circles may need a little more TLC with color correcting concealers. Green tones will cancel out redness caused by vascular lesions and rosacea, and orange tones will cancel out dark under eye circles," says Jones.

Above all, be careful about where you're putting those products, and don't try to use your concealer in place of foundation. "Use sparingly, and only where needed. Blend well!"

Using a heavy hand

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While your instinct may be to use more products to accentuate your features as you age, you're doing yourself a disservice when you do so. "Heavy makeup can make younger faces look more mature," says cosmetologist Shreeda Tailor, owner of J. Tailor Salon in Houston. And if that's not enough to convince you to tread lightly when it comes to your makeup, consider this: according to research published in PLoS One, faces with light makeup were considered more attractive than those with heavy makeup.

Applying shimmer on textured skin

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It's not just shimmery eyeshadow you should steer clear of when you're trying to avoid making yourself look older. If you're using a shimmery foundation, you're only making the creases in your skin more apparent. "Shimmer on textured skin can pronounce wrinkles and fine lines," says Tailor.

Not curling your eyelashes

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While eyelash curlers may look like modern-day torture devices, when it comes to maintaining a youthful look, they're essential. Curling your eyelashes can help make your eyes look wider while diminishing the appearance of hooding that can occur later in life. Just make sure you curl your lashes before you apply mascara, or you'll cause them to clump together.

Avoiding red lipstick

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While many people believe that red lipstick is only for younger faces, if you're avoiding it in favor of nude tones, you could be making yourself look older. If you want to look younger, choose a true red and line your lips before applying it. Red lipstick can increase facial contrast, which research published in PLoS One suggests as a means of reducing the appearance of age.

Skipping the moisturizer

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Though many people worry that moisturizing before applying makeup will cause their products to slip, the opposite is often true. Moisturized skin often holds onto makeup better than dry skin, and failing to moisturize before applying foundation can lead to product settling in your fine lines, making them more apparent.

Using highlighter under your brow bone

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The rise of the ultra-contoured face has made many people eager to add highlighter to their makeup routine, but if you're adding it under your brows, you could be making your face look older. Highlighting the brow bone from underneath can actually make your brow and lid look closer to one another, while making your upper lid look heavy. Instead, if you want to define the area, lightly trace the underside of your brow with concealer instead.

Trying too many trends at once

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Can it be fun to play with makeup trends at any age? Of course! However, it's important to be discerning when it comes to which ones you use—and whether or not you use multiple trends in a single look. Though they may look great on their own, trends like a contoured face, smoky eye, and over-lined nude lips, when combined, can not only overwhelm your face, they can also draw attention to aging skin.

Sticking to the same look for years

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Whether you've kept the same hairstyle for decades or you just can't part with your favorite perfume, everyone gets stuck in style ruts from time to time. If this is the case with your makeup, though, you could be making yourself look way older than your chronological age.

"Take a few minutes to really look at yourself to see if your eye shape has changed, your skin has become drier, or maybe your natural lip line may have softened. Different products may be needed now to help maintain a pretty, polished makeup and skincare. You may need lip liner now, but never before. You might start softening your eyeliner now, when a strong black liquid liner seemed okay when you were younger. You may need a lash primer now, but, in the past, mascara alone was fine," says makeup artist Mindy Green, founder of mobile beauty salon MG Beauty.

Using blue-toned shadows

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Step away from the blue eye shadow and nobody gets hurt. Unfortunately, those cobalt and violet hues you may favor could be doing you a serious disservice in the long run. "Purple- and blue-toned eyeshadow can bring out under eye circles and make you look older," says Tailor.

Using overly-yellow concealer

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While those invested in color-correcting may tell you that yellow concealer can help cover purple undertones in your skin, going too yellow with your products could be doing more harm than good. Skin tends to get sallower with age, and yellow-toned products can draw extra attention to that change in aging skin, making you look older and making your skin look off-color, too.

Going too heavy on your contour

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The Kardashians may have turned contouring into a billion-dollar business, but if you're trying to look your age (or younger), it might not be your best bet. As your face ages, you lose some of the fat deposits that kept your skin looking full and youthful. And since the purpose of contouring is to make the hollow areas of the face look more recessed, it can age you along the way.

Applying thick eyeliner

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Eager to make your eyes look larger and less wrinkled? Skip the thick swipes of eyeliner. 
"Heavy eyeliner can bring out tired eyes," says Tailor. Worse yet, if you're not smudging it adequately, the liner can get trapped in the wrinkles in your under-eye skin, making them more prominent and making you look more like Alice Cooper than a presentable professional.

Forgetting the SPF

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If you're not using sunscreen on a daily basis (and in your products), you're asking for more wrinkles and sun spots to crop up. "It's not good at any age to skip sun protection, but as you get older, you're more susceptible to age spots and discoloration," says Green. "Wearing sunscreen will help protect you from the aging and burning rays of the sun, and from your skin developing hyperpigmentation."

Not blending your foundation

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The point of foundation is to make your skin look beautiful and natural. Unfortunately, if you're skipping the blending step, all it makes your skin look is old. For the best results, start your foundation in the center of your face and blend outward with a foundation brush or blending sponge. This will keep the product thick enough to cover blemishes, but thin enough to avoid settling into fine lines.

Applying too much setting powder

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While powder may have once been your go-to when it came to setting your makeup, applying it with such a heavy hand when you're over a certain age can make you look older. Powder can not only look caked when applied over liquid foundation, it can also increase the likelihood your other products will settle into your wrinkles, drawing attention to them.

Using clumpy mascara

makeup mistakes

Long, defined eyelashes are always in style. What's not? Clumpy, spidery eyes. Stuck-together lashes can draw attention to the wrinkles around your eyes in an instant. The solution? If you find your lashes clumping together, use a lash comb to separate them out.

Using a full-coverage foundation

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While you might be eager to opt for full-coverage products as you age, a sheerer foundation formula will actually serve you better.

"As your skin becomes more mature, layering heavy makeup on your face will emphasize lines. Use sheer formulas like tinted moisturizers, liquid foundation, and even BB/CC Creams. These provide some color, and, in some cases, you can build the coverage where needed. They also provide more moisture and sometimes even contain anti-aging ingredients. As an alternative, you can dab concealer or a stick foundation just where you feel you need more coverage," says Green.

Not using a facial primer

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Those primers at Sephora may seem like little more than snake oil promising major results, but in reality, they're a must-have—especially for aging skin. "Primers today can handle skin concerns like dryness, oiliness and large pores. A primer will give you a smoother surface to apply your foundation, and help keep it from settling into fine lines," says Green. "Some primers even have technology to help diffuse the appearance of lines."

Over-applying bronzer

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There's a world of difference between a sun-kissed glow and a face that looks like it's been dipped in the mud. If you're using too much bronzer, all you're doing is drawing attention to the wrinkles in your skin. Using bronzer to contour can also make your face look hollower, exacerbating the signs of aging.

Relying on powder blush and shadow

Pink Blush, wardrobe

While powder formulas may have been stalwarts in your earlier years, sticking to powder blush and shadow as you age could be making you look older than you actually are. "If your skin is getting drier, you could benefit from the added moisture in a cream blush. A cream shadow may appear softer and more natural on your lids as you age," says Green. "More brands are introducing these products and some brands of cream shadow have good staying power and double as a shadow primer."

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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