Ever wondered if makeup ages you? Wondering how much (if any) cosmetics you should use at your current stage in life?
After over 21 hours of research, we explore all of the best research related to cosmetics and perceived age!
We reveal the age at which makeup starts to make you look younger instead of older, the types of makeup that tackle specific signs of aging, and some of the motivations behind wearing makeup later in life.
Just keep reading to find the best makeup strategy for your age!
Does Makeup Age You? | The Research
Makeup (The Type Used & The Application) Influences Our Ability To Guess Age
As we revealed in our post on the difference before and after makeup, beauty products often make us look better. For example, foundation helps smooth our skin texture, and blush mimics our cheek color when ovulating.
Research shows that makeup also impacts the ability to accurately estimate a woman’s age. Feng & Prabhakaran (2012) found that the makeup used and how it was applied influenced the appearance of a subject and their perceived age. Heavier makeup often has a counteractive effect – the woman can look older than her real age with heavy or improper makeup.1
Makeup trends change over the years which impacts age detection. Smokey eye makeup was very popular in the early 2010s and it exudes maturity and decadence, according to Feng & Prabhakaran (2012).1
The ability of makeup to alter apparent age is well known. Through interviews, Clarke and Griffin (2008) confirmed that women often report using cosmetic enhancements (makeup, surgery, hair dye, cosmetic procedures) in response to ageism and the society-wide obsession with youth.2
Cosmetics Make You Look Older Before 27 & Younger After That
Looking at photographs with four makeup types (makeup, no makeup, not clear, or very subtle), Clapes et al. (2018) found that makeup only makes people look younger if they are older than 27. 27 is typically when the first signs of aging start to appear (for eg. wrinkles).3
For example, cosmetics cover signs of aging like wrinkles and age spots.4
Makeup helps to mask some of the signs of aging, which makes an individual’s apparent age younger than their actual age for those over 27.3
The Anti-Aging Effect Lasts Until Approximately 52 Years Old
In the same study, those with subtle makeup were found to benefit from this anti-aging effect all the way up to 52. Those with no makeup had a much smaller gap between perceived and actual age.3
Makeup is often worn by those in their teens and early 20s, which causes those under the age of 24 to look older than they really are.3
As we explored in our heavy vs light makeup post, we typically overestimate the level of makeup use that other people find most attractive. Lighter makeup emphasizes femininity and softness, while heavier looks exude glamour and coolness.
But how does the makeup quantity influence our ability to accurately guess age? One 2019 study found that wearing no makeup (or extremely subtle makeup) provided the most accurate real age estimations while wearing a more noticeable makeup look helped improve the apparent age estimate.5
Russell et al. (2018) found that 40 and 50 year old women appeared a lot younger when using makeup, those at 30 years old looked the same age with and without makeup, and 20 year old women looked older with makeup.6
Different Makeup To Target Different Signs Of Aging
Eye makeup can help reduce wrinkles, alter the eye contour, and reduce eye drooping as you age. Foundation and concealer help minimize wrinkles and skin sagging, and also cover-up aging spots. Contour powder can change the contours of the face and create illusions of depth. Lip makeup can alter the volume of the mouth, reduce lines on or around the lips.1
Tip: Tools like lip plumpers can also help restore some of the youthful plumpness in the lips!
Eye makeup like eye shadow, liner, and voluminous lashes can create a dark and bold look that helps draw attention to youthful eyes. Shimmering bronze makeup in light eye shadow tones (with 3 different layered shadows) helps the eyes look youthful and makes the lashes look really long.1
Pressure To Wear Makeup & Positive Effects Of Cosmetics
Interview research revealed that those entering the elderly stages of their lives had mixed reactions on older people wearing makeup. Those who had a positive reaction viewed the look as a more natural makeup, while those who had a negative reaction perceived the makeup as a heavier look. The seniors generally thought that younger people wore heavy makeup.7
These elderly interviewees felt that older people should wear makeup “to be polite, showing a tidy face, and hiding aging.” (Baek, 2019)7
Kim & Kim (2005) found women in their 50s and up notice a positive effect of using makeup. Makeup helps improve confidence as a woman ages and can help diminish depression.8
Aging Gracefully & Anti Aging Tips
While much of our facial aging is genetic, there are lifestyle choices that can help us look better as we get older.
One of the best kept secrets of the beauty world is the power of beta carotene. Did you know that consuming a diet rich in beta carotene (think carrots, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes) can make your skin appear more yellow and give you a healthy glow from within?
In addition to eating good diet, wearing SPF 50 every day, avoiding cigarettes and other drugs, and keeping active, there are skincare ranges and tools on the market specially designed to help delay or turn back the clock.
If you enjoy a pamper session at home, why not invest in your own anti-aging microcurrent device (great for lifting the skin) or microdermabrasion machine (ideal for targeting fine lines and wrinkles)?
1. Quantifying the Makeup Effect in Female Faces and Its Applications for Age Estimation by Feng & Prabhakaran (2012)
2. Visible and invisible ageing: Beauty work as a response to ageism by Clarke & Griffin (2008)
3. From apparent to real age: gender, age, ethnic, makeup, and expression bias
analysis in real age estimation by Clapes et al. (2018)
4. Cosmeceutical (Antiaging) Products: Advertising Rules and Claims Substantiation by Schroeder (2009)
5. On the effect of age perception biases for real age regression by Julio et al. (2019)
6. Differential effects of makeup on perceived age. British Journal of Psychology by Russell et al. (2018)
8. A study for psychological effects which make-up behavior has on women by Kim & Kim (2005)