We work so hard to prevent fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin, but we don’t often consider that our makeup might be perpetuating those issues. And while there’s nothing wrong with aging — literally everyone does it — sometimes the way you apply your makeup could have an inadvertent effect and come out looking differently than you intended. If you’ve ever applied foundation with the hopes of an even, blurred complexion, you know how frustrating it is to feel like the makeup makes your skin look worse.
Of course, classic makeup looks will always be beautiful on all ages, but there’s no reason to be wearing makeup that doesn’t make you look like yourself or feel your best. It’s all in technique and a little know-how to avoid making fine lines look deeper, your complexion sallow, and dark circles more pronounced. The right application process can help negate that feeling that your skin looks more wrinkly when you wear makeup. From the wrong foundation and blending methods to an unflattering lipstick shade, these are the errors that are making you look older, and expert-backed tips on how to correct them. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to apply your makeup, mind you — it’s called self-expression for a reason. But if your goal is to avoid accidentally looking older when you apply makeup, read up.
Makeup Mistakes That Make You Look Older
Mistake #1: You're Not Blurring Your Face
Makeup can settle into wrinkles and make them look deeper, so it’s best to begin with a flawless base that stops creasing before it starts. Unlike regular primers, blurring formulas soften and hide fine lines for a more youthful-looking finish.
“Starting with a smooth base makes everything on top lay smoother and longer,” celebrity makeup artist Jamie Dorman tells TZR. “This will differ based on your skin type. If you have dry or dehydrated skin, you will want a rich moisturizer underneath your makeup. I like Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base.” When it comes to oily skin or large pores, she says to look for something texture-filling and oil-absorbing, like LYS Beauty Secure Skin Gripping Serum Primer.
Mistake #2: You're Using The Wrong Foundation
“Foundation is also a decision to make based on skin type,” Dorman says. “Dry skins will take to water-based formulas and creams well. Oily skin pairs best with a silicone-based formula that sets matte. In-between skin types will work best with a satin finish liquid foundation.” Powder makeup can dehydrate and give skin an unnatural texture — not to mention accentuate crow's feet, frown lines, and wrinkles. Instead, use cream products that keep skin looking dewy and hydrated.
Mistake #3: You're Applying Foundation Wrong
Make sure you’re using the best tool for the product you’re applying. “Applicators are best chosen based on foundation formula,” Dorman says. “Liquids work best with sponges or foundation brushes with soft fibers used in a dappling, rather than brushing, motion.” If you’re using a cream-based foundation, Dorman says a flat synthetic brush works best. Matching the right tool and product will do wonders — the result will be an airbrushed finish with a dewy, youthful glow.
Mistake #4: You're Highlighting Your Dark Circles
The older we get, the harder it is for our dark circles to go away naturally. “Highlighting concealers are great for putting in the hollow of your under-eyes to counteract circles, but if you put them all over your under-eye, they end up highlighting the whole problem area,” Dorman tells TZR. Instead, place your concealer “just in the deep hollows under your eye.” You want to hide, not highlight.
Mistake #5: You're Not Accentuating Your Eye Shape
If your eyes don't seem as bright and wide as they once did, try a little bit of chocolate brown shadow. “Putting shadow in the crease gives your eye shape, and when applied correctly, a lift as well,” Dorman says. “Use a matte shadow at least two shades darker than your skin tone to emphasize the crease, sweeping it upward as you go towards the outer corner of the eye. Try an eyeshadow palette like Chanel Les 4 Ombres in Tisse Rivoli.” Work that crease to create the illusion of bigger eyes.
If you have hooded eyes or don’t have a defined crease, you can use eyeshadow to accentuate the eyes in a similar way: Instead of relying on the crease, use your orbital bone. This is the bone right beneath your eyebrow. Blend a darker shade from the outer corner of the eye up toward the orbital bone, keeping lighter shades more to the inside of the eye and darker shades toward the outside. This technique makes the eyes pop to look extra big and bright.
Mistake #6: Your Eyeliner Is Too Dark
Swap your stark black liner for one in a dark (but not black) shade. It won't look much different, but it will subtly make your whites pop without making your eyes look heavy and tired overall. “Dark eyeliner, especially under the eye, can drag the eye downward,” Dorman explains. “Use a shade deep enough to define your eyes in the top lid, and instead of eyeliner, use a shadow that is several shades lighter than your eyeliner under your eye and blend it out.”
Mistake #7: You're Making Your Lips Look Smaller
A deep shade of lipstick gives the illusion of thinner lips, which, in turn, can age you. Choose colors closer to your natural hue with touches of rosy pink and raspberry to help define your lips while adding a youthful flush. If you like a dark hue for an evening out, go for a glossy finish. Dorman says you can also try slightly over-lining, “Over-lining your lips can be scary because it’s very apparent when it goes wrong,” she says. “Keep it simple by lining the area around your lips where the shadow from your lip falls underneath, and the place where light hits the lip line the strongest on the top lip. A product I like that makes the lip line look natural is Wonderskin Wonder Blading Lip Color Kit.”
Mistake #8: You're Not Rehydrating Your Skin
If you’ve ever thought your makeup makes you look more wrinkled, it might be by virtue of dehydrated skin. Makeup has a way of leaching the moisture from the skin, accentuating pores, and highlighting fine lines and wrinkles. So if your skin looks worse with foundation, this could be a major culprit. “Most skin types get dehydrated regardless of the oil they produce,” says Dorman. “I recommend spritzing a hydrating mist on at least once midday, [or] more if the climate you live in is dry.” Keep a face mist in arm's reach for a refresh — the more hydrated your skin, the plumper it looks.
Mistake #9: You're Blending Your Contour Down
A big reason you might think makeup makes you look worse rather than accentuate your natural beauty is that you could be accidentally blending your contour down rather than up from the cheekbone. “Contour is supposed to lift your face, not drag your cheekbones down,” says Dorman. “After placing the product, make sure to use upward brush strokes to blend the product out.” This way, you’re creating a more youthful and awake look. No facelift needed here, just thoughtfully blended bronzer.
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