The Makeup ‘Tax’

by L

The Makeup Tax

If you have lived in different regions of the country, what makeup differences do you notice? Do you judge women for how much makeup they wear at work? At social events? At the grocery store? Women, how often do you go without makeup? Men with female partners, do you prefer to see her with or without makeup?


189 thoughts on “The Makeup ‘Tax’

  1. I think most women, including my wife, look better without makeup. One of the things that attracted me to her is that she doesn’t wear it.

  2. I go without makeup all the time, but I don’t work for pay anymore. When I arrived in North Carolina from Berkeley, I was stunned at how much makeup the UNC girls wore. Pretty quick I added blush and mascara to my morning routine, and I was still way under-madeup by local standards. I still remember going to the laundromat at 6am and there was a student there in a pink sweatsuit, pink ribbons in her hair, pink shoelaces on her tennies, and full hair and makeup. I decided right then that I couldn’t possibly compete and wasn’t going to try.

  3. That was the 80s, of course. Now the girls there all wear skinny jeans, boots, sweaters, and infinity scarves. It’s like they’re issued a uniform.

    Oh, and full hair and makeup. It’s just that the hair isn’t “big” anymore.

  4. Having been told I need to wear more make-up at work (!), I do view it as a tax. Good make-up is expensive!
    I wear only mascara and maybe concealer on the weekends; for work I now wear much more, but not in a heavy handed way. Still prefer not to wear lipstick so only put in on for significant meetings.

    L – seems my scarves purchases were not enough and I now basically wear a suit everyday but Fridays. If you have any blouse suggestions, please send them my way. A Theory blouse at Saks is not cheap, but that is the look I’ve gone for. I could also use suggestions for wedges to wear at work. I now have plantar fasciitis and can’t wear flats anymore.

  5. Do you judge women for how much makeup they wear at work? No. I judge them, and men too on the cologne front, for how much perfume they wear at work. None is the preferred behavior.

    At social events? I think it’s hard for women to go without when it’s a social or business event/meeting.

    At the grocery store, which I’m extending to anything that can be construed as routine errands? No, I don’t care. I do believe, though, that people, both men and women, get better service if they are dressed/made up for business. A few times per year I definitely feel my wearing of a necktie had a positive impact on my customer experience.

    Men with female partners, do you prefer to see her with or without makeup? some and some. When she wears it, it’s not a lot anyway. Something about that freshly washed / showered, sans makeup look is still nice.

  6. I see a far number of women in my town, and in banking that wear the minimal makeup look. They wear concealer, and nude color makeup that makes them look less tired or blotchy.

    I see the real makeup on the weekend evenings, or girls night out. It’s still not a heavy look, but most people are wearing makeup.

    I wear no makeup when I workout, but I always try to conceal eye circles Eric when I’m out during the day. I look exhausted without eye makeup.

  7. Anecdotally, my female friends who are married to Southern-origin men report that their husbands like them better with makeup. My DH likes me better without lipstick (otherwise no smooching!) or other makeup, but he tolerates what I wear for nights out. I grew up doing show makeup and it is fun for me to do different looks when we go out. Note – this never takes me more than 5 minutes.

    For work I usually only wear lipstick (the big crayon kind, which is just like putting on chapstick anyway, so v easy and takes no time) but if I have a networking event I put on some shadow/liner and mascara and occasionally some brow powder. IMO I am more attractive than many other women attorneys in the area (ahem) so a little goes a long way. I find the biggest time suck to be foundation/concealer (plus I can never seem to avoid getting that on clothes when I take them off) so I don’t use any of that, EXCEPT when I was on TV. ;)

    Another time suck is shaving legs and blow-drying, so if I have an event where I am wearing a skirt then I have to plan showering/drying hair into getting-ready time.

    If I go north of here (NH, VT, or ME) I only wear lipstick to go out to dinner, and even then I feel over-made-up.

  8. Cat – part of a review coordinated with an executive coach and management on a no-names basis. I’d rather not go into it here, but yes I agree with you. That kind of feedback should not be OK.

  9. DW wears some, sometimes, but I don’t know what. It’s some kind of powder that sort of gets brushed all over, if that makes sense. I think she looks great with or without. Wear it or not, I don’t care.

  10. There are two women in my family who don’t wear makeup due to their sensitive skins. One doesn’t work outside the home and one works in healthcare. The other women in my family wear light make up. In my area, the times you will see women without makeup is when they exercise otherwise once they shower and get dressed hair gets done and makeup goes on. I don’t view it as being negative. It is just that if you are not going into a workplace environment, you can easily let things go and not get out of your workout like/pajama type clothes the whole day and who knows you may backslide into sitting on the couch and eating bonbons :-).

  11. DH likes me with makeup on when we go out.

    I sadly have to wear a good foundation if I am going out socially or in a meeting because of freckles and sun damage on my skin. Also I have to build in time to blowout my hair.

    Between makeup, nails and hair,it is a lot to maintain.

    L, that Gwyneth top from Boden is lovely.

  12. Wow, ATM, it sounds like you’re the victim of Corporette-type enforcement of female fashion norms. I can’t relate, but it sounds horrible. When we’ve discussed equality of the sexes, I’ve admitted that I’m glad I’m not equal because I like to take long leaves with my babies. With make-up, the question is harder, because lots of women prefer to wear it but some don’t. And of course, it’s NOT a good option for men in traditional companies.

    Update on my make-up: I bought moisturizer (works fine, may help with the bags under my eyes when I’m tired) and lip gloss (fail, turned out that even though it’s labeled lip gloss, it’s opaque and not transparent so the light color I chose looks funky.)

  13. That kind of feedback should not be OK.

    Wouldn’t you want them to be honest? Obviously, you’d like them to be less superficial. However, we know that isn’t likely to happen.

  14. WCE – try the Clinique chubby stick. They have sheer ones that are ‘buildable’ color. Or the Burt’s Bees colored chapstick – those have just a bit of color.

  15. I love make up but am pretty lazy about my routine for work. I wear a tinted moisturizer most days with a little blush and eyeliner (and mascara if I remember, but mostly not). I think it takes me about two minutes. I do enjoy doing my makeup when going out at night (and have more time). I wear concealer all of the time because I look too tired without it.

    Southern women are put together! As someone who came from small town New England, I’ve had to be a bit less lazy than is my natural inclination. DH probably prefers when I wear make up I think, but has never really commented either way.

  16. When I worked make up was no more time consuming than DH’s shaving routine. My time suck has always been my hair. Once I figured out how to do a nice French twist I was golden. I don’t usually wear any make up unless I have a function. I do like to put on some paint on the weekends and look fancy for the old man. The women who do the FULL hair and make up (long hair) EVERY DAY amaze me! Don’t even get me started on the long hair down, full make up at the gym. What is that about?

  17. I put on some makeup pretty much every day. My wrinkles aren’t quite so pronounced if I wear primer mixed with a little foundation, so I do that. I add some concealer to lessen my under-eye circles (which sadly are genetic, and not just the result of too little sleep), and mascara for additional eye brightening. My skin is vampire-pale, so if I don’t put a little color on my lips and cheeks, I look like a corpse.

    DH couldn’t care less about whether or not I wear makeup. He is from one of those northern New England states that L mentioned, where hardly anyone wears makeup, so he’s used to seeing women with nothing on their faces.

    I’m with Fred on fragrance. I don’t care whether women (or men, for that matter) are wearing makeup, but I can’t stand strong scents, especially in an office environment.

  18. Rhett – see Waterhouse v Hopkins. I am surprised a law firm would ever say something re: makeup/dress unless a dress code violation occurred.

  19. What is primer vs. concealer vs. foundation?

    L, thanks for the Burt’s Bees suggestion. I have/wear Nivea lip gloss or chap stick in pink. I pay attention to the brands you list (Sephora, Clinique) because later in my life, I’ll probably shop in cities where they are sold, as other local professional women do. At this point in my life, I guess I’d rather spend my Saturdays doing other things.

  20. Primer helps makeup adhere better
    Concealer covers up small problem areas
    Foundation covers the whole face to even it out

  21. I use Bare Minerals to minimize the redness/blotchiness, a little mascara and lip color (Tarte or Fresh Sugar). No eye shadow, concealer, etc. Something about lip color really makes my face pop. I look like a corpse without it. My kids never liked it when I wore noticeable make-up for weddings, etc. DH doesn’t care one way or another. On weekends I just use a little BB cream and lip color.

    Back in the day when I worked for a Big 4 firm, there were a few senior women who received some kind of assistance with shopping, make-up, hair, etc. I think they did the same thing for some of the men.

    I also like the Boden blouses.

  22. Speaking of fragrance, I was reading the “Parent Handbook” for my son’s middle school yesterday (parents are required to sign a statement, to be returned to school’s front office, affirming that they have read and understood said Handbook). One of the sections was entitled “Prohibited Items.” Many of the things they listed were things that you would expect would be forbidden from school (knives, matches, etc.), but one was “aerosol sprays such as AXE.” It made me wonder — was there ever some sort of epidemic of 6th to 8th grade boys spraying Axe all over themselves during the school day??

  23. I’m a full make up gal. Certainly for work, and usually whenever I’m leaving the house (except to exercise.) For me, it’s just an extension of a professional look, like wearing a well tailored suit and nice shoes. Separately, and to RMS’ comment, DH is a southerner who once told me that girls in the south don’t go get the mail without putting on lipstick.

  24. One of the many reasons I love working from home is that I don’t have to wear makeup! I hate the stuff. No matter what products I have tried, I feel grimy and icky when it is on my face. I hate the stiff itchy feeling of mascara, the wax on my mouth, and that I don’t dare sneeze less my eye makup smudges. On days I have to do to campus, I dutifully wear it, but driving home, I eagerly await that moment when I can wipe the crud off my face.

  25. I’m with Fred on the fragrances too. I’d rather smell BO than some perfumes!

    I wear makeup almost every day, starting after I had chicken pox in 7th grade and was embarrassed by the spots on my face. I don’t have the spots anymore, but I do have fairly oily skin, and I’ve found that it feels “yucky” if I go all day, especially traveling, without my BB cream, which I usually cover with a light powder. I guess the dirt accumulated during the day sticks to the makeup and washes off rather than sticking to the oil on my skin and getting stuck in my pores. Moisturizer (in BB cream) helps to control the oil and it gives my skin an even tone. I started wearing mascara just a few years ago as it seems my eyebrows are turning gray. Mascara is probably my biggest time suck since I have never learned how to apply it without getting some in a place where I don’t want it. I easily spend 5 minutes every morning just on mascara!

  26. “was there ever some sort of epidemic of 6th to 8th grade boys spraying Axe all over themselves during the school day??”

    Yes, I’ve read about it. It was the result of a phenomenally successful advertising campaign developed by Unilever. There were commercials with dorky, awkward looking boys spraying Axe on themselves and, as a result, being chased by hordes of beautiful, naked women.

    Sales among the awkward tween set exploded, but eventually, it became a victim of its own fame. Axe became a joke, first among college-age kids, as in the only guys who would use it are the nerdy kids. And then this sentiment filtered down.

  27. I notice a lot of differences too, when I travel. In the South, professional women wear a LOT more makeup in general than up here in NYC, and New Englanders wear even less. But there are exceptions – a certain subgroup of women in my town wear tons of makeup for the full Snooki effect. Interestingly, I noticed in Seattle this summer that the majority of women on the street appeared to be wearing no makeup at all, and the clothing uniform seemed to be mountain climbing pants, fitted athletic shirts, and Tevas or trail shoes. Actually, that was the male uniform too, creating a kind of unisex effect. No Snookis in Seattle!!

  28. Midwest Mom – That reminds me of the time freshman year in college, my roommate and I were going to go to Baltimore to go to a mall. We stopped by her parents house and before we went in she said “My mother is going to say something about how I look, just wait”. And the first thing out of her mother’s mouth was “You’re going to the mall looking like that?” (i.e. with no make up and jeans/t-shirt on). I was shocked.

  29. I wear makeup about 50% of the time. I wear it when I have a client or other meeting at work, and on weekend when I’m going out or meeting with friends. When I wear it, it’s minimal – powder and mascara, occasionally tinted lip gloss or Burt’s Bees with color. It takes me about 30 seconds to do it. I just don’t prioritize it much of the time. I’ve definitely stepped up my clothing choices, though, especially at work. I don’t work in a particularly corporate environment, even though it’s a law firm, but I feel better about myself when I know I look good.

  30. WCE – Yes, Beauty Balm, but sometimes blemish balm or blemish base. Basically, it combines moisturizer, primer, foundation, and sunscreen into one product. It took me a while to find one that I don’t even feel on my face – someone on here suggested Dr. Jart and I love it. I’m hours away from the nearest Sephora, so I just shop online.

  31. SWVA, thanks for the on-line comment. Sounds like you, too, aren’t going to just pop by the Sephora. The foundation I have looks right during some parts of the year but not during the summer when I’m tan. I figured virtually all make-up would have to be selected in person. It’s good to know that on-line is a realistic possibility for some things.

  32. Agree with comments on the South – people around here definitely get pulled together for simple errands or carpool.

    My best discovery was Bobbi Brown’s tinted moisturizer + sunscreen. It’s the perfect no-makeup makeup. I wear that every day along with mascara. I have blonde eyelashes, and if I don’t wear mascara I look like I have no eyelashes. Which is not a good look. I’m a little obsessed with other people’s naturally dark lashes.

  33. I don’t wear makeup, because (a) I hate it and view it as an evil part of the patriarchy, and (b) it makes my skin itch and redden.

    I used to wear it early in my career, when I thought I had to do it to look older. Ugh.

    Does anyone with sensitive skin have recommendations for when I have to go back to work? Over the past few years I’ve accumulated some wrinkles and sun spots that will have to be camouflaged. I’ve tried Clinique and Neutrogena thus far.

    On another note, one of my friends sells a skin care brands you can only get through network marketing, and does not believe that I have not bought so much as a mascara wand in five years. She was trying to convince me that I wanted to spend $300 on makeup. Maybe network marketing could be a whole other post :)

  34. “I usually wear makeup. Not a ton, but I definitely look better with a little help. I think most women my age do.”


    I wear makeup at work. Typically powder, eye shadow, eye liner, and lipstick. On weekends, I will wear eye liner and lipstick, but not replace the lipstick when it wears off.

    The biggest pain for me is eye shadow. I’m too lazy to use primer (I have it and rarely use it), but I want the eyes shadow to stick. Are eye shadow sticks better?

  35. Sky – have you had allergy testing for any of the ingredients? If you can get to a sephora, they can outfit you with different samples of foundation or concealer, for which you won’t pay anything (this is how I got my makeup for TV, it was plenty for 3 appearances) – then you can try them all out. I would just explain to them your sensitivities. You can also try reading the labels of the clinique and neutrogena products that make you break out/itchy, and see what they have in common.

    Some people who have had bad reactions to ‘regular’ makeup like one of the mineral makeup lines – bare minerals, jane iredale, etc. – but those can also be irritating, so I would test on an arm first.

  36. I use skin care creams that my dermatologist recommended for sensitive skin from Cerave, and Cetaphil. I think they are just as good as my more expensive cream from Kiehls. I like Neutrogena too, but I liked the quality of the Cearve a little bit more for certain products. I use BB cream from clinique over mosturizer to hide sun spots and redness. I tried a lighter version from Bobbi brown that is more of a tinted moisturizer and it didn’t hide enough redness. I had good luck with the minerals from Bare Essentials if you want a powder instead of cream to hide the sun spots.

    I am surprised that someone would have the guts to say something to ATM, but they might have been trying to be helpful. We had 360 reviews at one large american bank, and someone wrote that my manager should wear lipstick. She was furious. This feedback is all anonymous since it comes from peers, managers and staff. The truth is that her appearance held her back from very senior management positions. She didn’t wear any makeup for a very long time.

    It may not be popular, but there is an expectation that a Managing Director of one of the largest banks in the US should look like a MD. I think there is tolerance and policies to accept all kinds of people/looks etc, but you can’t look like you are just going to the gym with a suit on instead of workout clothes.

  37. It used to be trendy for men to wear makeup, especially eyeliner, back in the 80’s. I miss those days. Most guys look better with some enhancement.

  38. Lauren, I absolutely agree with your comment about female managing directors. It’s one of the ways women who want to advance in management signal that at my company. My statistician PhD friend wouldn’t have worn make-up even to advance, but not wearing make-up signifies that you want to remain technical.

  39. “It used to be trendy for men to wear makeup, especially eyeliner, back in the 80’s.”

    Certainly not among any men I knew.

  40. WCE – I buy the Dr. Jart BB (only comes in 2 shades, which somehow magically adjust to your skin color) and Bobbi Brown cream eyeshadow online:
    Everything else I use is from the drugstore, except when I get free samples or use Beauty Insider points on Sephora to try new things. I’m working through a bunch of mascara samples now. They have free shipping when you spend $50.

  41. WCE, the women and men that don’t look the part might eventually become MDs, but they may be stuck in the back office.

  42. See, I think guys look horrible with any enhancement. It creeps me out when guys get their eyebrows done especially. Facials are fine, but no makeup!

  43. I can’t use Dr. Jart now because it contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are IC contaminants. But I like knowing these things for future reference.

  44. I get creeped out by the current guy trendy look – all hair on the face rather than the top of the head, covered in tatoos, and those disgusting ear plugs. Those guys would look a lot better with less facial hair and more eyeliner…

  45. Milo, weren’t you a kid in the 80’s? I think it was more of a teen/college age and rock star look

  46. DH says he prefers me without makeup. When I was home with DS during the first few months, I would go weeks without putting on makeup.

    I hardly ever wear makeup on the weekends, unless we have a date night or I have a girls night. I will wear a BB with SPF on the weekend.

    I love trying new makeup and shopping online at places like sephora. But I’ll never be any kind of makeup expert (with the application!)

  47. For a typical work day I wear BB, mascara, eye shadow, and lip gloss. I only wear mascara on the top lashes, literally takes less than 5 seconds.

    I am jealous, DH and DS both have beautiful long dark eyelashes, mine are very light brown and look much better with mascara.

  48. ” For me, it’s just an extension of a professional look, like wearing a well tailored suit and nice shoes.”

    I agree, even though my office is casual in dress. I wear light makeup to work – it takes a few minutes to apply powder, mascara and eye shadow every morning. I keep a stash of lipsticks and tinted lip balms in my desk which I apply before meetings when I remember.

    On days off, I don’t usually put on anything more than maybe a tinted lip balm and some light mascara unless we are going out on a date night, when I will put on eyeliner and a fun lipstick.

    I definitely like the way I look better with a little makeup, but I don’t like the heavily made up look.

  49. in the book by Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park- they are making a movie!) it is set in the 80’s and Park tries out the eyeline look. His dad doesn’t think it is something a man should wear

  50. I abhor the heavily made up look. The best I ever looked was when I had makeup applied at a salon. I loved the “natural look” they gave me BEFORE they finished with all of the color products, blush and bronzer etc. A well done natural look (I haven’t mastered this…) looks like you aren’t even wearing makeup , just makes the skin look fresh and awake.

  51. I could never have dated someone that wanted my hair and makeup to be perfect at all times. That is not me at all

  52. ” I loved the “natural look” they gave me BEFORE they finished with all of the color products, blush and bronzer etc. A well done natural look (I haven’t mastered this…) looks like you aren’t even wearing makeup , just makes the skin look fresh and awake.”

    In the hunger games I think they called this Beauty Base Zero

  53. One more makeup regionalism before I get back to work – we visited Vancouver recently too. Vancouver is really, really Asian – I think something like 40% of the population is Asian-origin. Most of that consists of people of Chinese origin, but there are a lot of Koreans there too. And wow, those ladies wear more full armor makeup than even Southern women.

  54. I have dark facial hair and for women like me makeup which covers this up makes us look nicer otherwise all you notice is the hair on the face, even if you bleach. I was asked this by a couple of beauticians. They had light skin and light hair so they never faced this issue but didn’t know what to advise their clients with dark hair.

  55. I was a teenager in the 70s; therefore, I think all men should like like Roger Daltrey circa Tommy.

    Mooshi, “we” didn’t look like that. You and your goth friends looked like that.

  56. Rocky, goth was more of a 90’s thing. We didn’t use that term. The look was called “New Wave”

  57. “Mooshi, “we” didn’t look like that. You and your goth friends looked like that.”

    Lol. I was thinking that we maybe had different interpretations of the word “trendy.”

  58. I remember sitting by a guy that looked like Douche of the Day with nose ring, lip rings and earrings on a flight back to Portland when DS1 was one. DS1 kept reaching out to try to touch him- we had to move DS1 to another seat.

  59. MM – guy-liner is still a thing… it’s just more in the emo/metro set. And Capt. Hook on Once Upon A Time. The actor looks completely different without it. Still gorgeous, but different.

    Sky – I use aloette ( for skin care and MAC for makeup. Very sensitive skin, and both work for me. The skin care is simple – pure radiance cleanser (I need a little more oomph than their aloe pure line), a sensitive skin toner, advanced eye pro recovery for the crow’s feet, and their aloe pure moisturizer. That takes ~2 minutes (wash, pat dry, tone, moisturize, go). MAC make-up is simple too – a mineral powder foundation, and a light eyeshadow (nude color to blend eyeliner if needed) or just eye liner. If I attempt mascara, I use maybeline.

    I’m not a big make-up person, so I go all out for formal occasions. This is when I work with makeup palates to blend things. I go to the MAC counter, tell them what I need, ask for pointers and how-to’s and pray I get it all. I must be doing something right because I’ve gotten positive comments.

    DH doesn’t seem to care if I wear makeup. He likes when I get dolled up for events because it’s different, but I think his favorite version of me is jeans/shorts and button-down camp shirts. Since DS, his favorite version of me has been awake and coherent. I have to up my game a bit…

  60. Since DS, his favorite version of me has been awake and coherent. I have to up my game a bit…


  61. Cat, I like scruffy dudes too! I don’t want a man who is prettier than me – Rob Lowe being the exception.

    NoBo- some kids have sprayed a whole can of Axe in enclosed spaces like the locker room or the bus – THAT is a problem. It is an appalling scent. What ever happened to Drakkar Noir?

  62. I will never, ever, be able to understand the appeal of full-arm tattoos. Yes, I am old.

  63. I will never, ever, be able to understand the appeal of full-arm tattoos. Yes, I am old.

    Oh, NoB, you should have heard me shrieking through an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress”. This woman was absolutely gorgeous — tall, slim, beautiful swan-like neck. And the beautiful swan-like neck was covered with tattoos! So every dress she tried on just made me shriek more about how if she were my daughter, I’d march her down to the laser tattoo-removal place and lock her in til she got her lovely neck back.

  64. Fresh Sugar- I’ve mentioned my love for this stuff before, my fave shades are Petal and Honey

  65. RMS — So, I’m a total sucker for royal weddings. Earlier this summer, the son of the King of Sweden got married to a beautiful girl, and I watched the ceremony on the web. But every time the camera showed the bride from behind, all I could focus on was the big “sunburst” tattoo at the base of her neck. Totally ruined it for me!

  66. RMS and NoB, I’m with you on the tattoos. I just don’t get the attraction. Maybe it’s a generational thing but I don’t understand what makes someone decide a tattoo is a good idea.

  67. NoBo Last year, some of the smarter high school boys let a lit joint in a locker room and then tried to cover up the stench with AXE.

  68. I had a friend in school who had slightly above average looks (honest – not trying to be catty here). She wore excellently applied makeup every single day, with hair that had been set in curlers overnight. (Not coincidentally, she was from south of the Mason-Dixon Line). It always surprised me when I went out with her – men would stop their cars to invite her to a party, ask us to sit down and have drinks with them. Men may say they don’t like a made up woman, but men everywhere wanted to be with this one.

    My makeup use is inversely proportionate with my confidence. When things went to crap with the bad private group, I was wearing about 7 different products per day. Most days, 0.

  69. I don’t mind her tattoo – in fact, I think it is kind of pretty. What I hate are the big, lurid, full body tattoos that became popular over the last 10 years

  70. Yeah, I think it’s a generational thing. In My Day it was edgy to consider getting a butterfly on your shoulder or some such (this was before the age of the tramp stamp). I find it hilarious to see people dressed and styled like a 40s-era siren (the women) or a frontier 19th century paterfamilias (the men), except with tattoos all over. I predict a big market for tattoo removal in 25 years or so when the designs start getting saggy and weird-looking.

  71. I’m glad DH doesn’t have any tattoos. I do like the look of a tattoo on a man’s arm, but not tons of ink.

    I’ve thought about getting a small tattoo that I would be able to cover in professional settings. Would have to really like something to do it.

    My friend got one on her foot that looked like a postmark with childs DOB and city, I liked it.

  72. Makeup here runs the gamut from fresh-faced just finished surfing to full face o’ slap. Business makeup is usually somewhere in the middle.

    My usual is powder (Bare Minerals or the Kirkland one I have stashed at work), mascara (They’re Real!), pencil liner on the outer corners (Urban Decay Mushroom, or a dark brown), and lipstick or a tinted lip balm from Burt’s Bees / Fresh Sugar / Tarte. This doesn’t take me long, less than 5 minutes, although thanks to the kids I end up having to do it at work more often than not. Weekends, just the tinted lip balm. For evenings out I will go more elaborate, maybe using BB instead of powder, adding blush, adding eye shadow in several shades. I may even use a bit of that pearly or glittery stuff you sometimes get as samples to highlight, especially if it’s a holiday party. I’m too old for it really, but so what.

    I do spend money on makeup, but since I basically enjoy playing with it (like L, I have some theatrical makeup background) I view it more as fun money than a tax. For instance, I currently have a beauty box subscription (Ipsy) that is totally unnecessary if you view makeup as just a cost of appearing professional — I already have a routine that works for that — so it’s just because it’s fun to get the samples to play with each month.

  73. Men may say they don’t like a made up woman, but men everywhere wanted to be with this one.

    Well, you know there’s a theory that it’s just signalling — the woman is signalling that she’s interested in / available to men. So they’re maybe not responding to the sheer gorgeousness of her appearance, but rather to the implied message that she’s available to be approached.

  74. I’ve thought that semi-permanent tattoo ink (tattoos that will naturally erode in ~5 years) is a likely area of profit for some biomedical/pharmaceutical company. There have to be other women like the only female engineer I knew in a sorority, who said, “That dolphin looks cute on your stomach NOW and after you have children, you can pretend it’s a whale.”

  75. BTW, L, have you seen the “Too Much, Girl” series on Jezebel? It features really outrageous makeup, special effects/theatrical type, except done with regular products and written up in the style of a straight makeup tutorial. They don’t have a specific tag for those but you can find them under the makeup tag; . (The Mall Makeover series is also fun.)

  76. Well, you know there’s a theory that it’s just signalling

    No doubt there’s something to that, and I suspect the color is eye-catching as well. I notice I get looks when I wear red lipstick and, you know, I haven’t suddenly stopped looking middle-aged; I think it just draws the eye.

  77. Houston – I forgot. Do you have oily lids? If so, the shadow sticks are likely to work *less* well than powder. For example, I really like the Laura Mercier caviar eye sticks and the NARS soft touch shadow pencils for an eyeliner/shadow hybrid, but reviewers on makeupalley/makeup blogs tend not to like them because they slide off oily lids. You could try the Urban Decay shadow pencils, with the caveat that I have heard you have to blend them FAST before they dry and are immovable.

  78. And wow, those ladies wear more full armor makeup than even Southern women.

    You can’t get much more Southern (Canadian) than Vancouver!

  79. WCE,

    I’ve thought that semi-permanent tattoo ink (tattoos that will naturally erode in ~5 years) is a likely area of profit for some biomedical/pharmaceutical company.

    It looks like they finally settled on ink that easy to remove with a laser vs. naturally eroding. I guess that makes sense as I doubt you could engineer an ink that would be bold and vivid for 5 years and then fade all at once. Otherwise, you’d have it look good for X years and then slowly fade.

  80. Tattoos, in my opinion, signal a tendency toward risk taking behavior. This is the same signal that smoking can give. The phrase common during my 20’s: if she smokes, she pokes.

  81. Rhett – I wouldn’t guess that too many of the people who get tattoos are thinking “OK, I’ll get this now, but given the option, I wish they could use an ink that will fade in five years.”

  82. LOL Milo. Our nanny has a couple of tattoos – she wishes now that they weren’t available to 18-year-olds!

  83. Milo,

    Tattoos are pretty mainstream these days. I bet a lot of people would would be interested in doing something more extreme that they ordinarily would if they had the option of easily removing them when they were no longer appropriate.

  84. L: Thanks. I have dry lids, and the eye shadow just fades away quickly, so your suggestions might work. I should go to Sephora sometime soon and try out some new products.

  85. I have several friends who have multiple tattoos, but I just don’t get it. The only time I have ever even considered it was after the VT shootings – I thought about getting a very small logo on an ankle or shoulder, but the thought passed quickly. I still don’t understand how my small town (pop. 43,000) can support 3 tattoo parlors!

  86. I’m in the minority here! I have a tattoo on my thigh (outside, the bottom is about ~3 inches above my knee). I don’t mind them at all. My mom has ~6… she started after her divorce in her early 50s. I got mine at 26 years old. The key is finding a symbol you won’t hate in a hundred years. Mine is a love knot… I saw it as a pendant when I was 18, memorized the shape and then continued to love it. It’s like the link below, only mine has color.

    For Wine – my tattoo is invisible for 80% of my life. All my work clothes cover it, and most of my play clothes do, too. The only time you see it is when I’m wearing a swim suit or shorter shorts. It’s also in a place that’s unlikely to change with time. Outer thighs are not likely to wrinkle, or sag, or show signs of childbearing… Plus, keeping my legs looking awesome for the tattoo is a great excuse to keep going to the gym and dance.

  87. SWVA – you live in a college town. That’s a prime age to get them and there’s a steady supply of potential new customers moving in every year.

  88. A Parent – you are funny!

    Not a tattoo fan either. I really like the idea but I can’t think of a single thing that I would love enough to want it on me always! I do think they ruin a nice wedding dress or formal gown. Probably officially old. I know lots of people who got them in their youth and now wish they were gone..

  89. I guess that’s a benefit of not being on Facebook. I saw RMS’ post and thought, “who’s Kim Davis?”

  90. I have started swiping on the BB creme stuff most days just because it achieves that “no makeup” look very easily. When motivated I swipe on neutral eyeshadow and magically look more put together with very little effort between that and mascara. The fresh lip tints are great. I liked the Dr. Jart BB creme when I ordered it off the recommendations here, but I have switched to hydroxatone’s version after receiving a sample I loved (and finding it well priced at Costco was a bonus!) I generally only see full makeup for nighttime, but most natural faces I see are actually minimal makeup, not makeup free.

  91. “It may not be popular, but there is an expectation that a Managing Director of one of the largest banks in the US should look like a MD.”

    My first thought was of of Lauren’s manager walking around with a stethoscope around her neck.

  92. “It’s one of the ways women who want to advance in management signal that at my company. My statistician PhD friend wouldn’t have worn make-up even to advance, but not wearing make-up signifies that you want to remain technical.”

    IME, guys also send signals about wanting to advance to management, or in management, by how they dress and groom themselves. I’ve managed to avoid that fate, perhaps in part due to my propensity to dress in jeans, golf shirts, and athletic shoes.

  93. Milo- ha! Not across the back. The idea is to be able to wear all formalwear without ruining it. I doubt I’ll find an occasion for a formal mini skirt.

    I may add a trident somewhere. Maybe in the form of a Maserati.

  94. I don’t like to wear much makeup, but now that I am getting older I feel washed out without some blush and lip color. I am very pale, so look quite ghostlike without some color on my face!

    I also like the Dr Jart BB cream, but I only use it on the middle of my face. I wear sunscreen everywhere on my face and Clinique powder (that is over the BB cream!).

    On a polished look getting you better service: Christina Binkley (sp?) the lady who writes about fashion in the WSJ wrote a piece some years back about a St John’s suit that she purchased, and how she was treated differently whenever she wore it – got upgraded to first class, was able to get taxis much more easily, given better tables at restaurants, etc.

  95. Females who prefer not to wear makeup might consider engineering. We’ve discussed here before how females who previously did not get a lot of attention from guys became goddesses as engineering students.

  96. We’ve discussed here before how females who previously did not get a lot of attention from guys became goddesses as engineering students.

    DD would love to be considered a goddess! But then she reminds me of a dark haired Reese Whiterspoon like character in Legally Blonde.

  97. I used to go makeup-free about 80% of the time. As I transitioned back to being in the office, it began to dawn on me that I should start wearing it again. When I first started with just some eyeliner and mascara, I got a lot of comments re: looking nice, eyes looking pretty, etc, so people do notice. Now I also use either a BB cream or Bare Minerals. I also find that earrings make a big difference, so I try to remember to throw some on every day.

    So I had a major milestone birthday last month, and am noticing more gray in eyebrows. That makes me look washed out. When I color my hair, I have her do my eyebrows as well, but it doesn’t last. Anyone have any good suggestions on a eyebrow pencil that doesn’t look make your eyebrows look comically drawn on?

  98. At my age the women who wear noticeable makeup have worn it always, and those who don’t (everyone does some skin care, and a mineral powder is pretty common) never got in the habit when they were young. I find that if you are not interested in “looking younger”, but just in looking good, the following go a long way for the face.

    1. Laser eye surgery. Glasses may be chic on Diane Keaton, but not on most of us.
    2. Brow shaping. Going to the same person regularly with a clear plan for reshaping the brows. Maybe having some dye, or tattoo fill-in, or Latisse or just judicious use of eyebrow pencil.
    3. Treatment of age spots or redness.
    4. Invisalign if your teeth have slipped, and a whitening toothpaste.
    5. A good haircut at sufficient frequency. Dyeing hair is not necessary for the retired, but some mixed graying hair just looks awful without a few highlights or other occasional process.
    6. Hair thickening products or even Rogaine if indicated.
    7. Jewelry – big enough to be noticed, but not too big.

    As for the rest of the package, no matter what your weight or body type, wearing slightly fitted clothing. I have discarded most of my shapeless stuff or put it to the back of the drawer. Good foundation garments. Regular foot care unless you always wear closed shoes. Leggings or tights with shorter dresses.

  99. MBT, the brush that comes with Clairol Root Touch Up works pretty well for dying special areas (likely including eye brows) if you have access to the same color dye your stylist uses. If you get a little dye on your skin, it comes off within a shower or two. (I dye on Friday nights.)

  100. I am hoping tattoos are passe by the time my kids are old enough to get one. Which in DD’s case is not that far away.

    Actually, my father found the perfect technique to keep all us kids clean cut. He has a mohawk, many tattoos, lots of piercings. It would be impossible to outdo him so none of us even tried. If DD ever wants a tattoo, I figure I can dissuade her by acting excited about getting a matching tattoo. Hopefully she won’t call my bluff.

  101. And Mooshi’s earlier comments about Seattle were pretty much right on. REI would be our leading courtier. I do now wear beauty balm, mascara, and lipstick (kind of lipstick – the Clinique chubby sticks). After reading comments about neutral eye shadow, I’m tempted to give it a try. Does it have much of an effect? Any brands/shades people would recommend?

  102. “. Laser eye surgery. Glasses may be chic on Diane Keaton, but not on most of us.”
    I totally disagree. I think older women,and men too, look so much better in strong, fashionable glasses (not boring framelss, or those ugly square things with rhinestones), that I almost think they should consider wearing them even if not needed. One of the central problems when you get older is looking kind of soft and washed out. Really good frames counter act that.

  103. Women (and men, for that matter) who don’t want to wear makeup are candidates for process engineering jobs, or other jobs in an integrated circuit fab, where makeup is typically not allowed.

    I remember some female fab workers who would put on makeup as soon as they got out of the fab, even for a half hour lunch, in which case they’d have to remove all the makeup before returning to work.

  104. The Urban Decay Naked palettes get huge raves

    but I’m too frugal too spend that kind of $ for eyeshadow so I use the knockoff L’oreal La Palette Nude set.

    I’m also currently using a mandelic acid serum to see if that improves my hyperpigmentation. I’m also thinking of adding vitamin c and retinol serums to the mix as the wrinkles are becoming more noticeable.

  105. I have the Urban Decay Naked palette – the big one. It is too big to cart around so I only use it at home. Some of the shades can double as eyeliner or brow pencil, but I don’t like to use powder eyeliner bc it gets in my eyes.

    MBT – I have the Anastasia brow powder in “medium” (your color may vary, my hair is med brown so it works well). It is GREAT and very easy to use – I have the sephora brand eyebrow brush, which comes in a little case so it can travel and doesn’t get squished. There is actually a big difference between using an eyeshadow brush (too soft) and a brow brush (stiffer).

  106. Also, SSM, with the oil caveat above, I like the shadow sticks because they are EASY – two swipes, then blend with finger, done.

  107. “For Wine – my tattoo is invisible for 80% of my life. All my work clothes cover it, and most of my play clothes do, too. The only time you see it is when I’m wearing a swim suit or shorter shorts. It’s also in a place that’s unlikely to change with time. Outer thighs are not likely to wrinkle, or sag, or show signs of childbearing… Plus, keeping my legs looking awesome for the tattoo is a great excuse to keep going to the gym and dance.”

    Yeah, I would do something like that, IF I can find one I like, I change my mind frequently, love an anchor one right now, but by next year, who knows?

  108. I agree with L, a good brow brush and powder work better than pencil for me. You will have to try several shades of powder, because it’s not intuitive. I wound up with a much lighter powder than I expected; with the darker powder I looked like Cruella DeVille.

  109. Treatment of age spots or redness.

    My derm makes a cream that combines some bleaching agent with Retin-A. Works pretty well. I might have to get some laser treatment for severe sun damage, though. So much for being a lifeguard as a teenager.

  110. For drugstore cheapies, I love physician formula palettes. I love the colors. They are a bit shimmery, but I like shimmer.

  111. Mooshi – I understand your point, but as someone for whom my lifelong coke bottle glasses were an essential assistive device, and for whom the aging process prior to surgery required three pairs of glasses for near far and computer, I have always had a skeptical attitude toward glasses as a fashion accessory. And it was 100% true in my case as an aging woman (you have not experienced the humiliating invisibility and disdain heaped on post menopausal women in the wider world, and perhaps never will), that I was treated far better during a brief attempt to wear contacts in my early 50s in the professional and personal workplace, an effect equivalent to the reported use of lipstick and eyeliner under discussion today. Not to speak of the fact that I am no longer a person who needs an assistive device, just a pair of light prescription glasses for night driving.

  112. If you want to see how rich and famous people your age dress and wear their hair, you can go to and enter this line: , except change 1960 to your birth year. Then look for the images of actresses your age. I find that actresses my age wear dark-wash jeans. simple tee-shirts or button-front shirts, leather jackets, and boots. None are wearing the latest teeny-bopper stuff.

  113. What do you guys think of Noxzema? This blog write-up makes me want to try it again? Is Josh full of hyperbole here?

    It is an incredible moisturizer – approach nearly anyone over the age of 70 who has perfect skin and ask them about it, odds are good they’ll lean in closely and whisper, “I’ve used Noxzema every day for thirty years”. (I don’t mean that as a joke, I mean it quite literally – if you see an older person who has skin quality that appears 10 or 20 years younger than his or her age should indicate is possible, it was probably due to near-religious Noxzema usage.

  114. ” I find that actresses my age wear dark-wash jeans. simple tee-shirts or button-front shirts, leather jackets, and boots.”

    sounds like what I would wear

  115. “you have not experienced the humiliating invisibility”

    What do you mean by invisibility? I know that women mention this kind of thing as an effect of moving past 40 or 45 or 50 or whatever, but I feel like, to some degree, as an average looking male of average height, invisibility is pretty much my lifetime norm.

  116. what about when buying a car with your wife? do the salespeople talk more to you?

    my friend was buying a car for her, brought her boyfriend and the salesman kept addressing him instead of her

  117. “what about when buying a car with your wife? do the salespeople talk more to you?”

    I don’t think so. We’ve only bought one car jointly and, perhaps because it was a minivan, both the Toyota and Honda salesmen were at least equally focused on her.

  118. Invisibility — no one pays attention to what you say in meetings. You don’t occur to people when they’re listing possible candidates for…anything. There’s a certain level of contempt towards you for having the bad taste to get old.

  119. Wine – that happened to me when I bought my car. I kept answering all the questions and DH remained silent. When I asked questions, they directed the answers to DH. I stood up for myself and demanded attention. The salesman basically told DH “I’m not used to a woman who knows about cars.” We left that dealership.

  120. I don’t understand salesdouches like that. One thing I liked about our TIAA-CREF financial planner guy was that he instantly twigged to the fact that I’m the money manager at our house, and directed most of the conversation to me. It’s simple sales strategy, people.

  121. When I was a sophomore in high school, but just before I was old enough to even get my learner’s permit, I went with my Dad one Saturday afternoon to a dealership to see a gently used, sporty’ish Honda that nobody ever took that seriously. (My Mom always referred to it as the “secretary’s car.”)

    This was to be my Dad’s newer commuter car, and I would take over the older one, but the salesman kept focusing a lot of his attention on me. I was flattered. When we got out to the parking lot to take a test drive, he actually handed me the keys. My Dad said “wait a second, he doesn’t even have his permit yet. This one’s for me.”

    It was sort of a case of favorable bias–I think he perceived my Dad as a bit too professionally distinguished looking for a 4 cylinder semi-convertible that was intended for college co-eds and, later, Fast and Furious tuners.

    We did buy it that afternoon, though.

  122. I second Anastasia eyebrow powder. I also use it as an eyeliner.

    At my age, eyebrows, cheek blush, light powder, and lipstick are my staples and I think make a difference in my appearance. (This morning I applied my makeup in a dark hotel room since I’m such an early riser. I guess after years of practice that’s a skill I can claim!)

    My latest find is Revlon Colorstay Ultimate Suede Lipstick (Iconic color is a nice basic color for me). It lasts all day and is relatively moist. I reapply Trader Joe lip balm throughout the day, which I would have to do anyway.

    I do think the right eyeglasses can be a fashion accessory.

  123. Hahaha Milo! That was my first car after college (in white). I took my dad to the dealership but only after I had done all the research myself (mostly by phone back then when the internet was new). I was negotiating with a very new salesman and got a great deal that my parents still talk about – I knew more about what I was getting than the salesman did. I LOVED my del Sol but had to get something bigger and with 4WD when I moved to the mountains and adopted a big dog.

  124. SWVA – Yes, it was a fun car. My Dad never cared if I wanted to drive it on the weekends, and I’d take it to school when he was traveling for work. My school was sufficiently poor for it to be considered cool enough.

  125. We have been car shopping for DH. At every dealership, the salesman has been entirely inclusive of me – it’s been a completely pleasant experience at 6 different dealerships now. I think some folks are catching up.

  126. DS is waiting to get his first car. He would be happy with a small SUV or a sporty car, but either DH would give him, his big SUV or we would buy him a small SUV. He is in dread that he would have to drive my minivan as his first car :-).

  127. Louise – My nephew is the same age as your DS, I believe. I was telling him that I am thinking about getting a boat for next summer. He asked how much they cost, so I started to explain that, if you simply want one like we’ve been renting at the lake (he was there), with a small engine just for cruising around, then they start around $20k. He says “Oh, that’s all? That’s NOTHING.”

    He’s recently become obsessed with getting rich and what hedge fund managers are paid. He’s entirely convinced that he’s going to be earning $2.5M per year (that was the figure he quoted) not too long after college, and he will have a Lamborghini.

  128. “He is in dread that he would have to drive my minivan as his first car :-).”

    Yeah, that’s my kid, too. Although as it got to be packing for college time he actually acknowledged how much (more) stuff he could take if he had a minivan vs his smallish SUV. Milo has mentioned that virtue vis a vis his parents’ or in-laws’ decisions for vehicles.

  129. dad used to say the teenage/20ish boys who drove vans that they were “hotels on wheels”

  130. “hotels on wheels”

    There’s a difference between minivans and, say, Chevy vans.

  131. “Milo has mentioned that virtue vis a vis his parents’ or in-laws’ decisions for vehicles.”

    Yeah, that’s my in-laws. They never owned a minivan when they had kids in the house, but they bought it after my eldest was born. It’s amusing how they pack for vacation–tons and tons of clothes, all on their hangers laid out in garment bags. The third row seat is always folded flat. In addition to the clothes, there will be a cooler, the anti-snoring machine, enough booze to stock a respectable wet bar, MIL’s multiple suitcases dedicated entirely to cosmetics…

    My brother’s in-laws have an Odyssey and a 7-Series, and prefer the Odyssey for long trips. To a lot of older people, I think they fill the niche for which the previous generation bought huge Buicks and Cadillacs, and hung that clothes rack across the back seat for the trip to FL? What is it with keeping clothes hanging?

  132. He’s recently become obsessed with getting rich.
    not too long after college, and he will have a Lamborghini.

    This is exactly DS. A Lamborghini is the cure to all pre teen angst.

  133. “What is it with keeping clothes hanging?”

    I think this stems from changes in how clothes are manufactured and laundered. Probably this older generation got used to clothes (silk/cotton) that wrinkled easy and harsh washing techniques that encouraged wrinkles. Now we have anti-wrinkle tech in the fabric threads – jersey knit, spandex, come to mind. And machines that are gentle on clothes, plus dryers with steam to “iron” clothes while they dry. We almost don’t need irons now. Yet my grandmother and great-grandmother used to iron every day. Granted, they got a little nuts – cleaning rags do not need to be ironed – but the normal clothes did.

  134. I remember those cars on the road with the row of clothes hung up on the back seat! We always wondered who those people were.

  135. Instead of hedge fund managers, DS is obsessed with You Tube guys who according to him make a lot of money putting out those gaming videos.

  136. Milo – Thanks for the reminder about Noxzema. After reading that article I kept meaning to buy some and forgot.

  137. Yet my grandmother and great-grandmother used to iron every day.

    There are a couple of elderly ladies at my church who used to take in ironing when they were young mothers (Mennonites tend to be poor). Not really a viable job anymore.

  138. “We always wondered who those people were.”

    Well, the gray Mercury Grand Marquis with the clothes rack in the back on its winter migration to Jupiter, FL was my great-uncle and aunt. Retired blue collar tradesman/small business owner. They’re still around, but not in great health, so the FL condo was sold and they’re back home closer to their kids.

  139. And it looks like for now my friend has no intention of leaving her husband, even though he hit her (again)

  140. That’s horrible, wine.

    At least she knows, or should know, that she and the baby have you to turn to. Are her parents in the picture at all?

  141. thanks for the eye shadow recommendations – I will definitely check those out. Any recommendations for concealer? I definitely have under the eye shadows.

  142. SSM – if there is a Sephora nearby I would go to them and get your skin color typed and then you can get a bunch of samples. I like a creamy concealer but it is a PITA to put on – I always get too much out of the little pump and then it takes a lot of blending. I think mine is the Sephora brand with the clicky-brush at the end so you click it and product comes out on the brush like ink.

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