Andrea Robinson has always been a straight-talker when it comes to style and beauty. In the 70s, when she was a fashion editor at Mademoiselle, I interviewed her for our book “Cheap Chic”; She told us how to spend pennies to dye men’s white cotton T-shirts to create incredibly chic tops for summer. Now, after a career as Vogue’s beauty editor, marketing head at Estee Lauder, president of Tom Ford Cosmetics and a consultant for several luxury brands, she’s written “Toss the Gloss: Beauty Tips, Tricks and Truths for Women 50+.”
And she’s still telling it like it is.
Besides offering a ton of great tips for older women, Robinson is loud and clear on four big points: The makeup tricks we learned in our 20s and 30s don’t work for us any more; you don’t need more than six essential makeup items; you can buy quality products on a budget; and “anti-aging” is a scam.
“Look in the mirror, and embrace the lines on your face,” Robinson says in her book. “Those lines are years of pleasure, tears, madness and happiness. You have lived it and earned them.”
Robinson believes in a simple makeup routine that makes dull, older skin look fresher and plays down the age spots and lines; her book’s practical advice can help us figure out how to create and use a new, age-friendly makeup kit on a budget. Reading it gave me the energy and enthusiasm to toss out all the old stuff and start experimenting with the newer, more neutral and definitely un-glittery cosmetics that are out there today.
“You can check out your experiments quite simply by using your cellphone camera,” Andrea says. “It’s a great device for seeing how you actually look.”
I only wish I’d read “Toss the Gloss” before I ran out to buy makeup for a mini-reunion in Manhattan. I would have saved $68 by avoiding the “self-adjusting” shade of foundation (one of her no-no’s), testing the “bb cream” on my hand to discover the too-bright glimmer of “complexion brighteners” and noting that my new powder blush is no longer flattering! Now I’m back to the drawing table. And I’m happier for it.
Andrea talked to us over lunch and then by phone from her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Andrea, what are some of the positive changes in ourselves that women in their 60s can take advantage of today?
The thing that is marvelous is how much we know about ourselves. How much we know about our style. And by now, we know enough about our lifestyle to create a very simple way of addressing our beauty routines.
Of course, there are now ingredients to keep our skin looking fresh. Both the sun protection of SPF, and hyaluronic acid (which attracts up to one thousand times its weight in moisture) – these were things our mothers didn’t have available and which I recommend. And then you have the alpha-hydroxy acids, which slough the skin, helping it look fresh. And the antioxidants, which attack on a cell turnover level.
In your book, you talk about getting rid of old makeup. Why, and how old is “old”?
Natural beauty products have a shorter shelf life because those parabens you’ve been avoiding – chemicals found in breast tumors that mimic estrogen – were developed to prohibit bacterial growth. Basically, when you open that package, the clock starts ticking. It’s every three months for mascara. Every six months for blush.
Today, I went out to a cosmetic lab in New Jersey and spent the day with their scientists. I was showing them a product that a friend of mine had brought back from Europe about a year ago. The scientist took a look at it, looked up at me and said “it’s rancid!”
What’s your response to all the expensive “anti-aging” products on the market today?
The expensive anti-aging products in the department store are usually not going to move the needle on your face. If you have access to one, a good cosmetic dermatologist can prescribe a retinoid cream at a much more effective level of strength than a luxury product. Retinoids quickly smooth fine lines, fade dark spots, even tighten pores. The overall effect is that your skin looks fresher.
Getting a simple, quick new makeup routine – and keeping your skin in great shape with exercise – will also show actual results.
Get down to the six bare necessities: tinted moisturizer or foundation, cheek color, lip liner and lipstick, mascara and eyeliner. It should all fit in a small makeup bag. I believe in “keep it simple.”
What’s your secret as a beauty industry insider to hunting down the best makeup at the lowest price?
Here’s what I do: Proctor & Gamble and L’Oreal, for instance, are two huge international cosmetics manufacturers. I go to the corporate site and see which of their brands are the luxury brands and which are the drug store brands. [To find a corporate site, simply search for brand+corporate site; for example: L’Oreal+corporate site brings you L’Oreal USA.]
Chances are, many of those products are manufactured in the same factories. But in the drug store, they will be found at a very diminished price point!
Lancome, for instance, is a luxury brand. But the same company makes Garnier, L’Oreal Paris and Maybelline for the drug stores.
[We did some checking, and found that P&G, for instance, had the luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana, and in the drug stores, CoverGirl and Olay.]
I loved your description of the glamorous Mrs. X, an older woman who knew how to make her eyes the center of attention and used some very subtle tricks to create an “up and out” look. How have you adapted the lessons she gave you, which are spelled out in your book?
The simple version of her “up and out” idea is something that I do every day. I take a black eyeliner pencil that I love (Armani, in this case) – it’s very, very soft – and line across the top eyelid near the lashes. I make the line fairly thick and then I smudge it. I do the same across the bottom lashes, smudging it into the roots of my lashes. And then I bring it out and up for a little bit of “doe eye.” With either a brush or a pointed Q-Tip, I smudge it on the outer corners to get that slight movement upward.
And what you use on your skin to even out the skin tone?
First of all, you need a very good concealer. If you have age spots, you will want a concealer with a drier consistency, so that it stays in place. But the main thing is that you have your concealer the same color as your foundation to avoid that “racoon” look – when women have lighter circles under their eyes.
You can experiment applying concealer either under your foundation or over your foundation. Or you may choose a lighter tinted moisturizer. I like the tinted moisturizer, and if I want a little more coverage for something special, I mix it with a little cream foundation.
The answer to everything is “less is more.”
Finally, what does “aging with attitude” mean to you?
Aging with attitude is being positive about your age and realizing the benefits of knowing who you are and the confidence that it gives you. We all need to see the glass as half full. We now know our style and how we want to live.
- Skincare ingredients There are two that Andrea absolutely swears by in makeup: SPF and hyaluronic acid – the former to protect from the sun and the latter as a world-class skin plumper and total moisture magnet. Plump, moist and sun-protected equals gorgeous skin, Andrea says.
- Blush You are likely to find the same bestselling cheek shades from Maybelline and L’Oreal as you might from a higher-end manufacturer like Lancome. Many of the finely milled powders are sourced from the same place!
- Eye Shadow Many drugstore brands use the same outside vendors for their eye shadows as do the luxury brands, so check to see if you can find your favorite shade, with the same ingredients, but in a much less expensive package.
- Undereye concealer A best bet that really works: Maybelline New York Cover Stick. It must be the same color as your foundation, liquid or creamy, and applied with a light hand all the way down to your cheekbones. You may then want to apply a bit more foundation on top and pat, pat, pat.
- Concealer in a pot works best for hiding brown spots. After applying, reapply a thin layer of foundation. Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage is a best bet here.
- Highlighters are best with a very low level of shimmer and in a natural tone – they’ll provide a nice healthy shine and glow where we need it now.
- Foundation shifting toward a gold-based foundation and away from the pinks helps banish paleness and neutralizes redness, and makes you look instantly healthier. Tinted moisturizer is best. Go for one with an SPF of at least 15. It helps with dry skin, is much sheerer than traditional foundation and can be used all over the face without an aging effect. One Best Bet: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer Tinted Moisturizer, SPF 20.
What’s in your makeup bag that needs tossing?