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After a few decades of squinting, repeated facial expressions, general daily use of our eyes and eyelids, and, of course, genetics, once we hit our 40s, 30s, or in some cases our 20s, the delicate skin around the eyes starts to visibly mature. This translates to fine lines, wrinkles, dehydration, and overall skin degradation.
Once lines start to set in and the eyelids droop, we essentially need to relearn how to apply eye makeup to accommodate these changes because, with improper application and products, makeup can actually act as a spotlight on skin maturation. So to learn how to perfectly apply our shadow, liner, and the like so that the finished product is the most flattering, we spoke with a few top makeup artists for their tips.
Carnauba wax is a plant-based wax extracted from the Brazilian palm tree. It acts as a natural moisturizer for the skin while providing a smooth surface for makeup application.
"You want to make sure that [the makeup] you use stays on and doesn't settle into lines," says Mary Irwin. Her favorite product to keep makeup in place is Heir Atelier Eye Primer. She describes it as a lightweight, oil-absorbing formula designed by a makeup artist to lock color in and soothe the skin at the same time.
Irwin says that while it's not the rule, it's typically best to stay away from glitter shadows, as the pigment can settle into fine lines. Instead, she recommends matte or satin formulas. "I'm a huge fan of the Viseart shadows," she says. "The pigment is incredible, and the Neutral Matte palette is a classic in every artist's kit."
For a more affordable option, this Maybelline palette has both matte and soft shimmer satin shades (not too glittery) to add a bit of sheen on the lids without settling. Hatcher recommends using two to three shades from your palette, using a darker shade in the visible crease, which adds definition to a hooded lid.
Irwin says waterproof liner is your friend as you age. "I love a gel liner for this. You have more control than a pencil or liquid, and you can really get into the lash line with it, which gives the effect of thicker lashes," she says. Her favorite is Bobbi Brown's Long-Wear Gel Liner, which can be applied with a thin, angled liner brush. "It's a classic for a reason," she muses.
Use eyeshadow as a liner when you want to create a softer look. If using a pencil, smudge the line to diminish harshness.
Irwin says mascara is the most important step when it comes to eye makeup on mature eyes. "The formula you need varies on your lashes, though, which is why one person's holy grail is another person's smudgy mess," she explains.
If you have short or thin lashes, Irwin says to look for a small, thin brush. "This will really coat each lash and allow you to get those tiny lashes that are invisible without mascara," she notes. "Don't be afraid to brush out any clumps and reapply a second coat to build the drama. For this kind of lash, I'm a huge fan of Surratt Beauty Relevée Mascara. The formula has a tiny brush and tubing, so it wraps around each lash and resists moisture but washes off with water."
If you have long or thick lashes already, Irwin is a big fan of the Maybelline Total Temptation waterproof formula. "It's super buildable. One coat gives a definition, but two or three gives a false-lash effect."
While mascara can only do so much, having a strong base will yield the best results (which you can manipulate even if your starting lashes are short and brittle). Hatcher suggests using a lash serum like Jane Iredale Purelash Lash Extender and Conditioner ($23) to prime the lashes while lengthening and strengthening from the inside out.
Lastly, Hatcher says black/brown or grey mascaras are best because, as with a liner, black can sometimes be "too harsh and close the eye."
What About Removing Eye Makeup?
Cucumber is rich in several antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and caffeic acid. It reduces inflammation, reverses signs of aging, and hydrates the skin.
We already know that vigorously rubbing our eyes causes wear and tear on the delicate skin surrounding them, so it's best to be gentle. But when it comes to product, which formulas are best for nourishing mature skin?
"I'm a big fan of dual-phase makeup removers," says Irwin. "Make Beauty has an amazing one that uses oil and cucumber and chamomile. Soak a cotton pad and hold gently but firmly over the eye for at least 10 seconds. This gives it time to soften the makeup and then it glides away instead of tugging at the eye." Hatcher also recommends oil—specifically cleansing oils—citing its ability to "help nourish the skin even when cleansing is finished."
De Santino is similarly fond of the cotton method: "Start with eye makeup remover on a cotton pad and gently swipe across your lids. Do not tug, pull, or wipe back and forth. Follow up with a gentle cleanser and eye cream." CeraVe Hydrating Face Cleanser ($13) and Goop by Juice Beauty Perfecting Eye Cream ($90) are great options.