Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Mary replies

Here are Mary's responses to your questions. Check back in a month and we'll do another.

1. How the hell do I apply eye make up now that I need [strong] reading glasses? I've tried all sorts of things, from glasses with one lens that flips from side to side, to a magnifying mirror, but they are all bloody impossible. You either have to keep one eye shut (try it), or the glasses get in the way, or only a tiny portion of you is in focus, and distorted at that. I’m reduced to just wearing lipstick. Which is OK, but just sometimes I'd like to go all out!

Mary: The only way you can see anything is to get a really good magnifying mirror that is well-lit. It should be of the highest quality , and if you can afford it, get one with different light settings. [Note: I bought a light up magnifying mirror made by Revlon with three different light settings, it made a huge difference. LG]

2. I've reached an age when my paling complexion looks grayish, but I am allergic to almost all fluid foundations. That has left me using mineral foundation and it's not good enough. I used to use AgnesB tinted moisturizer, which I could tolerate and then it just disappeared so that I couldn't even order it from the
US. My skin is very well cared for inside and out, it just is not colored enough and I look tired. What are some ideas for counteracting it?

Mary: Try compact foundations which are a very different formula to liquid. They sit on your skin more than liquid. Chanel does a very good one. If you want to look young and healthy you'll need bronzer and brusher, or even self-tanner. Mineral powders are not good enough but they're a very quick, out-the-door process.

3. There are conflicting reports about make-up suitable for an 'ageing' skin. What exactly should a woman of 56 put on her face and what should she leave off to stop her looking like a fright?

Mary: No-on should think of having ageing skin until after 60. It's application rather than what is applied, it's not about what, it's about how. If you feel you're looking a fright you probably are but what does fright mean to you? What point are you in your make-up regime? There is a time at any age when you can do too much, too much blush will make anyone look like Baby Jane. Don't use completely matte eyeshadows because they kill a lot of the natural glow of the lid and keep most of the colour on top, always think up, rather than down, smoky lids will make you look tired. Don't put your blush too far down.

4.Does there a come a point in a woman's life when she should stop wearing black mascara? I'm in my early forties with fair skin and highlighted hair, is it time to switch to dark brown mascara?

Mary: No. There are no age rules. If you don't like black mascara, don't use it. Or try brown and see if it looks better.

5. I am 47 and always troubled by how foundation (I use Stila or Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer)always highlights my dry flaky spots and recovering blemishes. Scrubs still leave those "edges" behind.

Mary: It sounds like you haven't found the right skin-care regime for your skin. It might mean a visit to a skin doctor.

6. Due to a very mild case of Rosacea in the past, the pores on my nose are quite large and I have slight ruddiness of the nose and chin area which I feel the need to cover with foundation. I have tried Dermablend, etc. but end up with a nose that looks like an orange peel with the foundation settling into the large pores. La Roche Posay liquid foundation applied with a wet sponge goes on fine and I cover with powder to set but the coverage is a bit thin. I have tried so many foundations in the past, there must be a trick to it that I am missing?

Mary: Compact foundation is much easier when you have big pores and using powder creates the illusion of closed pores. Also try a pore minimiser. Estee Lauder does a good one.

7. My question is this: Are bronzers really worth it? Even with pale, large-pored skin?

Mary: The size of your pures has nothing to do with bronzers. Yes, wear it if you like to look slightly more tanned and healthy. If you like looking pale, don't. You can rub it in like a self-tanner. It's simply to give you a little more freshness. It shouldn't show. It should show even less than your blush. Blush, bronzers and foundation should never show, they're there to create an illusion.

8. Is there an under-eye concealer you'd recommend that doesn't look cake-y once dry? I'm getting that crepey skin around my eyes and don't want to emphasize it.

Mary: Very tricky. What I use on everyone’s skin, including my own, is either Dior Skin Flash or Issima Precious Light by Guerlain. These are the alternatives to Touche Eclat, they lift the area under the eye. The way to apply is to put much too much on your eye, then you need to let it sit for 30 seconds and pat it in, not rub it in because that will be rubbing it off. Never put foundation under the eyes.

9. What is the best way to deal with downy white hair on the face? You know, the noticeable kind.

Mary: I think it can look rather sweet, like a peach, and we should get over it. But if you really don’t like it, see a dermatologist.

10. Can you recommend a hypo-allergenic sunscreen for the face? I use Clinique, but would like to find something to alternate with it. (Even the Clinique starts irritating and I have to leave off sunscreen for a few days. I do wear a big hat!)

Le Roche Posay or Sisley.

11. What's the best way to keep my lipstick from bleeding?

Mary: Don't use lipgloss. Use a lipstick with a thicker consistency. Old fashioned lip-liners do help, use a lip-liner then fill in the dewiness with lipstick, keeping the outside line quite dry. Some brands are better than others, such as Chanel or Dior. Spending money on lipstick becomes more and more important as we get older. You really can't get away with cheap lipstick.

12. What foundation would you recommend for dark south Asian skin?

Mary: Nars, who made colours for Naomi Campbell, and Bobbi Brown. Both have modern textures.

13. Are all the chemicals we put on our skin everyday doing us more harm than good - aren't we eating a pound of lipstick a year or something? Joking aside, are the so called natural or organic cosmetics such as Dr Haushka and Lavera any better?

Mary: I doubt it. Organic make-up isn't half as good as the main lines.

14. Hello from Australia. I am now in my late 40s and having grown up in the subtropics hatless with endless sun I now have sun damage. On my neck it is evident as broken capillaries, large patches on each side. I currently leave it be. Is there a foundation or product I can use to help disguise the area without looking obvious.

Mary: Blend the foundation down your neck

15. A question for Mary: what does she think of mineral foundations and what kind of coverage do they give?

Mary: They are quick and easy to use once you've learned how to use them. The colours are true, but you will never have the same coverage liquid or compact foundations.

16. I keep seeing recommendations to exfoliate daily, but I'm not sure what sort of products to use. What do you recommend for a fifty+ fair skinned, freckly redhead with super sensitive skin?

Mary: Over 50, only twice a week. You need to remove the layer of old skin for a natural glow. Use a gentle scrub and don't rub.

17. I always had small eyes, and now that I have reached a certain age, my eyelids have totally disappeared. Should I just abandon eye shadow?

Mary: It depends if your eyes are very dark, you might have some intensity in your eye colour but if but if your eyes are pale blue you need something to give your eyes some colour.

18. One more - does Mary agree with Charla Krupp that we women over 40 should stick with sheer, pink lip stick or gloss?

Mary: 40 isn't old, for godsake. I hate sheer lipsticks, absolutely not. I can't think of anything more ageing. There is a time, between 45 and 55 when your body is going through a lot of emotional and physical changes and you can't wear red lipstick because it reminds you of what's happening to your body, but at 64 you stop caring and you can go back to red lipstick. As for pink, I like more sultry colours. Pink lipstick is very unsexy.

Nothing to wear

There seems to be a problem with British women finding anything they can wear when they enter the highest echelons of management. One executive had to start designing the clothes herself:

“I hate that asexual look – that middle of the road at Morgan Stanley style. I like a double-platform shoe,” she says, looking down at her Louboutins. “You can run to meetings in them, they’re comfy . . .” At 29, Paterson Smith, a state-school-educated girl who can pitch in three different languages, runs sales and marketing in the UK for hedge-fund products at Rothschild. The more successful she has become, the more flamboyantly she dresses. “I enjoy my clothes now, instead of wearing them as armour,” she says. But it was only when she got together with Starkey that she found the right grey pinstripe to wear with baby blue. “I’d been looking for eight years.”

A Lintner or Starkey design never leaves room for the sort of wardrobe malfunction Paterson Smith suffered on her first day in a new job. She stalked into the office wearing a cream Alexander McQueen suit, with a zip up the back, which undid itself to reveal an embarrassing expanse of executive thigh and caused a riot of internal e-mail banter for days afterwards.

Even though there is room for McQueen – and Pucci, Issa, Dolce & Gabbana and Temperley – in Paterson Smith’s work wardrobe, she says that most seasons, when she browses, her heart sinks. “Smocks? All I thought then was, ‘What the hell am I going to wear?’ That season it was Michael Kors, Celine and Kate,” she says, looking fondly at her saviour