For the Older Woman, a Brushup on Makeup


Makeup artist Margaret Avery dips into a big tote bag and pulls out her most precious tools: brushes of all sizes.

“They’re the first thing a woman should own. Of course, not everyone needs 31,” she notes after a quick count of her collection.

Avery gets her brushes in art supply stores (the average woman buys hers at a cosmetics counter), and they have been skillfully flicked over the skin and bones of Hollywood screen stars, top fashion models and even First Lady Barbara Bush.

It was Avery who emphasized Mrs. Bush’s cheekbones, played up her lips and played down her foundation for a flattering Time magazine cover portrait in 1989 that ran with the headline, “The Silver Fox.”


The New-York-based specialist believes in the less-is-more school of makeup, and she says she did for Barbara Bush what she would do for any “older women” (that means over 40). She kept the foundation very pale so it wouldn’t look heavy. She applied a dark-brown cream blusher, rather than red, for a more natural look. And she accentuated the First Lady’s cheekbones with a peach-colored blusher, applied in a stroke that went from nose to hairline.

To play up Mrs. Bush’s “beautifully shaped mouth,” she used a honey-brown foundation to soften a raspberry-colored lipstick worn over it.

Avery’s own mouth is splashed with a vivid red lip color. It is a matte shade, which she prefers to anything frosted for herself (she is 38) and more mature women. She explains that “frosted colors on older women tend to make the skin look puffy and more wrinkled.”

For a makeover on Helen Wasylciw, an attractive gray-haired woman who prefers no makeup, Avery applied a light layer of foundation and worked mostly around the eyes, explaining, “Her eyes droop a bit at the outer corners. Anyone with that problem should never use dark eye shadow or extend the eye shadow beyond the edge of the eye.”


Avery finds the two biggest makeup mistakes made by older women are: “wearing too much and not learning how to blend it so it looks as if they have barely any on.” She strongly recommends women of any age wear a moisturizer and a sun block under makeup.

A fan of drugstore cosmetics, Avery used several for her makeovers, including Complex 15 moisturizer (for which she recently toured the United States, stopping briefly in Los Angeles) and Cover Girl mascara. But when she wants an instant pick-me-up, she treats herself to an expensive lipstick or eye shadow (Prescriptives is a favorite brand). Or a new compact. To have that ritzy little object in her handbag, she says, “is like wearing a gorgeous lacy bra.”