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My Current Beauty and Makeup Routine

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no makeup over 40
Looking through my phone, this is the only recent photo I can find with absolutely no makeup, just sunscreen.  I think it's also helpful to see that skin can look differently in different light and with different angles.

I have been receiving a lot of comments and emails the past months at home asking about my beauty routine and what makeup I am wearing.  I wanted to share it here, as my beauty and makeup routine has changed a lot since being at home.  I've changed products, streamlined my routines, and also changed my lifestyle which has affected my appearance.  Below I share my current beauty and makeup routine. 

Also throughout this post are some recent photos of me with various amounts of makeup.  None of the photos have been retouched and I left them the original size so you can click them into a new tab and enlarge them.  My skin isn't anything radical, and I don't claim to be a makeup guru, just sharing because I myself find it comforting to see such photos of friends and bloggers unretouched.

alison gary
Brows and a hint of mascara this past weekend.

Skincare: Starting from Within

The biggest change to my beauty routine isn't a product, but my lifestyle.  My life has changed a lot since the beginning of March. 

Before everything shut down, I was going to a gym five days a week focusing on weight training.  Once at home, I have been riding my Peloton a minimum of three times a week and at least three times a week I am doing some sort of strength training, whether it is a Peloton class or my own workout on the living room floor.  I usually ride the Peloton five days a week, and some days even do two rides.  The rides make me sweat more than I can recall ever sweating in my entire life, which is such a great detox for the skin.  My face looks its best after a serious sweat session and then a shower with a cold water rinse at the end; I swear the combo takes five years off of me and I wish I could bottle it so I'd look that way all 24 hours of the day.

Another change in my life is going plant-based; I wrote about my plant-based diet in this blog post.  Before the shutdown, I was maybe 75% plant-based, but when out of the home I ate meat and dairy and eggs and all the things with abandon.  Since March, I had seafood in sushi three times, twice had feta cheese sprinkled in a salad, and once had a plant-based burger with real cheese on top.  That is the extent of the animal-based products I have consumed.  This has reduced my hormonal acne and I think has also reduced my dark circles as it has reduced my allergic reactions to the things that usually get me each spring (pollen, dust, etc.).  I eat a lot of produce, most of my diet is frozen, canned, or fresh fruits and vegetables. We have a garden which gives us more dark leafy greens than we can consume as a family, we also get produce from Imperfect Foods and Number 1 Sons, a local company partnering with nearby farms for produce deliveries.

I also take supplements and add skin-boosting oils and ingredients to my diet.  When I don't consume them, my skin feels drier and less glowy.  I add flax oil and flaxseed to salads, morning oatmeal, and more.  I also take borage oil and B12 pills daily.  I used to take collagen peptides and it really helped my skin as well as my hair and nails, but going plant-based I haven't found a good vegan alternative

Finally, I haven't had an alcoholic beverage since February.  I know this is a touchy topic for many, but not drinking has done me a world of good for my health, sleep, well-being, and I know my skin.

I don't think there's any point in spending a single dime on skincare or makeup if you don't start from within.  I have tried to ignore this fact for most of my life but the past few months have taught me that whether it's beauty or social justice, we need to start from within and do the hard work.

over 40 skin
On this day all I put on was a bit of brows and a bit of concealer and lip balm and this was several hours later.

My Skincare Routine

For years and still now, I wash my face with Colleen Rothschild Radiant Cleansing Balm.  I apply a thin layer to dry skin, gently massage it to loosen up makeup, dirt, mascara, all that jazz.  Then I use a wet washcloth to remove it.  I sometimes rub it all over my face and then wait to remove it when in the shower, using the steam and hot water to get a deeper clean.  Other times, I just wet a washcloth and rub it off.  I was using the mini-fridge I indulged in a year or so ago to have warm damp towels at the ready but I unplugged it as it was in the way and the towels would sometimes smell a bit… plastic.  I may go back to it, it's a good way to have warm towels without running the water from the tap until it heats up.

If I am wearing makeup that day, I do a second cleaning of my skin with CeraVe, the one with the green label.  I gently massage and use a fresh damp washcloth to remove.  I use a lot of washcloths and reusable cotton rounds; I have one of these carts where I keep the washcloths and an old enamelware basin I once bought at a vintage shop (this looks similar) on the floor that I throw them in until I take them down to the laundry. 

Then I apply eye cream.  Right now I am using PRAI Beauty's 24K Gold eye cream, which is super creamy but absorbs nicely.  I have always liked PRAI products, my skin is very happy with them and their eye creams for years have been my favorite.  I dab a tiny bit with my ring finget and gently pat it in.  

I then do some sort of treatment. 

  • More often than not, I do Vitamin C.  I bought a big bottle of Kiehl's during a Sephora sale; I am not even halfway through.  While I am a fan of this product from Kiehl's I plan to try a Black-owned beauty brand when what I have runs out; I'm curious about Hyper and BeautyStat and would love to hear from you as to a Vitamin C you like.  For me, Vitamin C makes the biggest impact on the glow on my skin, making me look like I got an extra hour of sleep.  It also made my sun spot disappear.  Seriously, look at this photo from 2018, that spot I had since I was 29 and now it's gone and the only thing that did it was Kiehl's Vitamin C every other night.  
  • I switch up what treatment I do, though.  Vitamin C is my gamechanger for glow and even skin, but I also like to try other things.  My second go-to is Colleen Rothschild's Retinol Supreme Night Oil which I have reviewed before.  However, I have a bunch of different products with acids and such in my medicine cabinet from REN, Pixi Beauty, Paula's Choice, The Ordinary, PRAI, and more.  I don't plan to buy any more until I finish up what I currently own and then will reassess what has worked for me and will research new to me brands, preferably owned by women of color, to find new treatments.

I end with a night cream.  I am currently using this night cream from PRAI and I really like it.  It's very creamy and silky, absorbs nicely, doesn't cause breakouts, doesn't feel heavy in the summer, not too fragrant.  I started it when I finished my jar of Colleen Rothschild Extreme Recovery Cream which has been a favorite night cream and winter day cream for years.  I do not have a night cream that I find to be a Holy Grail product and this is a part of my routine I regularly switch up.

In the morning, I wipe my face with Pixi Glow Tonic with a reusable cotton round.  I swear by this stuff, I use any leftover on my round on the tops of my hands and the backs of my upper arms where bumps show up. My husband also uses it. I then apply the same PRAI eye cream I used at night and some sort of moisturizer.  I am not going outside as often as before, so I am only wearing moisturizer with SPF when I will be outside.  Sometimes that means a mid-day face wash and reapplication but that also means the SPF is fresh.  I have this cream from belief and this one from PRAI and I am switching between the two.  When I use SPF I have this one from Dermalogica, this one from Elta MD, and this one from Paula's Choice.  Come summer I usually amp up the SPF with proper sunscreen, and SPF in other products like powder and setting spray, but I haven't yet because I haven't been going out like usual and every time I do I am in a face mask, sunglasses, and a hat with a brim.  If you have suggestions, do share them as I will have to update this part of my skincare routine soon.

I have done one face mask since quarantine.  I do have this scrub from Colleen Rothschild in the shower and use it once a week (my husband also uses it, it's pretty great), but that's the extent of any special added treatments to my skin.  No sheet masks, no rollers, no gadgets.  I used to use them but I stopped and haven't seen much of a difference.  I've really been more in maintenance mode, rather than trying to fight age and nature.  Wrinkles are going to happen, the Vitamin C I feel just makes what I have look its happiest, and then cleaning and moisturizing the skin keeps it protected and healthy.

The Skincare Products I Use:

alison gary of wardrobe oxygen
What my makeup looks like after about four hours

My Makeup Routine

  • Cover FX Concealer in N Light 2: I do a C-shaped swipe around the inner circle of my eye from bridge of nose and down around under the eye, then do a little dot on the outer corner of the eye that's a bit dark, and a little bit under each nostril and the edges of the mouth.  Then I use my ring finger to not rub it in but pat it in place.  I use a very little bit of concealer now that I pat with a finger instead of using a brush; it goes a longer way.
  • NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer: I mix a drop of Finland/Light 1 with a smaller drop of St. Moritz/Medium 1 together on the back of my hand. Then I take my Sigma Max Kabuki brush and use it to dot this mixture on my face and blend it in along with the concealer. I buff lightly, the brush isn't about spreading it like a moisturizer, it's lightly buffing it so it stays on the top of the skin.
  • Fenty Beauty Invisimatte Blotting Powder: I use a Morphe brush (can't find the same one online, this one looks similar in size and shape) that my sister gave me to apply this powder above my brows and down my nose, over my lids and around the inner corners and then under my eyes, around my nose, around my mouth, and then my chin.  When I go under my eyes, I pull down my cheeks a bit to get in the creases under my eyes so concealer doesn't settle in them.
  • Nudestix All Over Face Color in In The Nude: I apply this on the apples of my cheeks and right below the bend in my nose.  I blend it with my fingers.  The product has a brush, I didn't realize that until I had it for a month.  I still like it better when my fingers blend it in.
  • IT Cosmetics Brow Powder in Universal Taupe: I use this to fill in my brows, and then brush the brows up and then out.
  • Kevyn Aucoin Lash Curler: I always curl my lashes, even if I don't wear mascara.
  • Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions: My favorite mascara.  I like it better after it has been used a week.  The first few times you may wish to wipe the brush with a tissue as it can be gloppy and wet, but it ends up thickening up with use.  Great for allergy sufferers and those who find no matter what their mascara smudges below their eyes.
  • Stila All Day Liquid Liner in Intense Smoky Quartz: If I am going to be on camera, I use this on my top lash line to make my lashes look thicker and my eyes more defined.  This isn't shiny, the brush tip makes it easy to wiggle in right on the lash line, it's easy to rub off a mistake and keep going, and even though it's waterproof it comes off easily at night when I wash my face.
  • NARS Lipstick in Pigalle: This has been a go-to for years, but alone it can look a bit gray and… mature.  So I've been updating it with:
  • Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb: My sister got me a set of mini glosses for Christmas and Cheeky, a red-orange from the now-discontinued box set is my favorite over Pigalle.  However, I also use Fu$$y and Fenty Glow, which are available individually.  They all achieve what I desire – my lips but better, nothing sparkly or goopy or shimmery, but nothing too matte and severe.  This combo stays on well even through drinking and snacking and feels good on the lips.  I usually can get away just with reapplying the gloss to recharge the look after a meal or a few hours.  If you want a more subtle lip look, the Fenty Glow is great on its own on a variety of skintones.

No eyeshadow, no highlighter, no contour, no brow gel, no lip liner, no powder blush, no statement lip.  I still own these products and likely will wear them again, but right now I am really liking the effect of my freckles showing, my face just being healthy looking instead of very much “done.”  Also this look wears well through the day; as I sweat and rub my eyes and such, the look just fades instead of looking as though I am melting.

The biggest makeup tip I can give you is to wash your brushes.  Seriously, before you spend a dime at Ulta or Sephora, take your brushes and use a face wash or sulfate-free shampoo and wash those babies.  Try to not get the water under the metal part, lie them on their side with the brushes hanging over the edge of a counter so they get good airflow to dry overnight.  Everything will go on better, pigments will be more intense, blending will be easy, and your skin will be happier too!  Some of my brushes are two decades old; if you care for your brushes they can last a long while.  

skin closeup
Creepy closeup, but I wanted to show up close what the makeup looks like on my skin, this is about an hour after applying it and it includes the liquid liner I use for when I am on camera.

The Makeup Products I Use:

My Tips for Great Skin over 40

I have tried BotoxI have tried devices like NuFaceI've used really expensive products like SkinMedica, have done DIYs, used harsh chemicals and natural ingredients and I've found my skin looks best when I stop focusing on my face and care for my whole self.  Our face is an extension of our body.  Exhaustion, dehydration, poor nutrition, lack of sun protection, not cleansing nightly, not sweating on the regular… these show in your skin.  Your insides determine the appearance of your outside.

I support women doing whatever makes them feel as though their reflection represents who they are inside.  For each of us, that is different.  It can be the procedure we have done at the dermatologist's office, or the choices we make on the kinds of brands we choose to buy and use.  As the world opens up and we return to work and social lives… be thoughtful about what you do for your face and why you do it.  Do what makes you happy, but do it for you and you alone.  The most stylish and beautiful thing you can wear is confidence. 

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Thank you for sharing all those great tips, as usual! Also– where did you get that Feminist AF sweatshirt? I think I need one.

    1. Thanks! The sweatshirt is from Etsy and I cut out the next myself, but I just checked and the store no longer exists. However this one is similar and it’s from an Etsy store I shopped from years ago for a t-shirt and is still rocking: https://bit.ly/2BhyMSf

  2. Love these beauty product posts! Would love to see more, especially the ones that feature other women and their beauty and skincare routines!

  3. You look amazing, Alison!

    Was just talking about my love for the Pixie Glow Tonic today – and that I learned about it from your blog. Just an FYI – the 500 ml bottle with pump is available today and tomorrow only (as you know, they don’t always offer it).

  4. I do not know a soul who doesn’t drink alcohol and is careful about exercise and diet whose skin is not amazing and yours is no exception! You look healthy and beautiful and happy!

  5. You look great! I am just about to turn 40 and I still think I look pretty good, but I want to make sure it stays that way.

    Question: does the Kiehl’s Vitamin C stuff make your hands smell weird? I think it is a very effective treatment, but I haven’t been able to keep using it because it makes my hands smell weird (hard to describe the smell, but definitely not pleasant) after application. Maybe my face also smells weird and I can’t tell, but whatever. Anyway – I haven’t seen anyone else complain about this, but I have a mostly-full bottle of the Kiehl’s stuff, unfortunately.

    1. It does, it’s a bit like… self tanner. Sort of a cooked orange/meat kind of smell. I wash my hands after applying and then put on my Aveda hand cream. It doesn’t seem to last, though some mornings I wake up and my hands still have that smell. I also experience it with all vitamin C, not just Kiehl’s.

  6. I’ve been investigating brands owned by Black women, too. You might want to look at Ayele (vitamin C serums), Klur (vitamin C, retinol), and Chloe and Chad (an ACV & Witch Hazel toner, maybe similar to PixiGlow.). I’ve been using Klur’s Immersion serum, but only for three days. The ingredients are amazing. AbsoluteJoi also has a retinol with vitamin C serum that looks interesting. BLKGRN is a good site for brand discovery.

    1. Yes, thank you! I’m especially interested in that ACV & Witch Hazel toner. Off to check it out!!

  7. I’ve been using Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum for a while. It’s reasonably priced and makes my skin have a happy glow. I found the No. 7 Cleansing balm works very well to bring off my makeup (when I wear it). Florida requires a bit more powerful sunscreen. I use La Roche Posay but I’m still looking for a holy grail as it doesn’t always play nice with my moisturizer.

    I’ve had a few instances to dress up and find myself gravitating to fun eye makeup. Since my eyes are all you can see with my mask. Plus it brings the emphasis to something I like rather than my “racing stripe” hair. Another inch and I’ll be getting a pixie cut!

    The improvements in your skin and allergies since going plant based makes me wonder if I can do it. I’ve been sporting these “allergy shiners” since I was a teenager.

    Whatever you’re doing, you look healthy. And that’s the best look!

    1. I bought turquoise eyeliner thinking I’d rock it with an otherwise bare face and look all modern and cool and match a face mask to it. I looked like I just got home from a rave after a very rough night LOL! But I have worn my Urban Decay glitter eyeliner on occasions because I do agree a fun eye is the perfect compliment to face masks!

      1. I’m loving this blog post – I rarely wear makeup (I can’t be bothered to take the time to put it on) but I’m all about skincare and sunscreen. You look amazing and it’s enough to make me try giving up alcohol, increasing my water intake, increasing my veggie intake, and possibly buying a peloton…that’s an endorsement- keep doing what you’re doing. I loved the tips on a laid back makeup look and I’m going to try them because (1) it seems doable and (2) it looks polished without looking “done” — thanks a million 🙂

  8. This was great, and you are always glowing. I’ve got a follow-up question for the slightly-over-40 crowd. If you’re starting at baseline zero on skin care, what’s a good single starter product? I’m pretty sure I don’t have the patience for a multi-step process, and products are not cheap! I had near perfect skin from my teens into my 30s and never needed a specific skin routine, but looking at my mother, I knew it was likely I would have more challenges and maybe even acne, in my 40s. Here I am, and I’ve got chronic breakouts behind my ears and recurrent ones on my forehead and chin. And I still don’t have a good skincare routine other than basic Neutrogena face wash in the shower. I’ve never worn much make-up, just concealer, powder and eyeliner on a normal pre-pandemic day. I think I’ve had makeup on maybe twice since mid-February.

    1. I have really been liking a light chemical exfoliant on a round pad. The ones I get are Peter Thomas Roth, 60 pads are $46 at Sephora and I use it 5 times per week. I find my skin isn’t turning over as quickly as it used to, and I think that contributes to breakouts. This helps speed up the turnover process.

      1. I have these too. I cut them in 1/2 or even in quarters sometimes and it’s still plenty of product for my whole face.

    2. I think makeup is not necessary, especially if you have enjoyed a bare face up to now. I’d look into moisture first. When I worked as a trainer for The Body Shop back in the day, Anita Roddick was big on Cleanse, Polish, Protect. The rest is just icing on the cake. A gentle cleanser that doesn’t make your skin feel tight, which can be that Neutrogena cleanser. Polish, means from head to toe, you need to do something to exfoliate, whether it’s chemical (acids), or physcial (scrubs). The older you get the less your skin does this on its own and it will help your skin look its best. I think Pixi Glow Tonic is a cheap and effective acid (glycolic) you can get at Target and Ulta. My daughter uses it when she has breakouts because it seems to clear them up without drying her skin out. After cleaning, start just every other day at first in the evening, wipe your face with it. Let it dry, and then add moisturizer. Your face, even if it’s oily, need moisturizer and it doesn’t have to be pricey. Olay, Neutrogena, No7, Burt’s Bees… there are lots of drugstore brands that make great moisturizers. A lighter one for day with SPF, and your evening one can be richer and even have things in it to work while you sleep.

      As for makeup, my recommendation is brows before anything else. Our brows fade and thin out as we get older; filling them in, even just using a colored brow gel (NYX, Rimmel, CoverGirl all have them) to brush up and then out can make a major impact on your face without a lot of time, effort, or skill.

    3. Breakouts behind your ears makes me wonder if you could be sensitive to a hair care product you’re using. Like your shampoo or if you use a dry shampoo, maybe that.

    4. While changing up your makeup/skin care routine your hormones are changing and either you are premenopausal or in menopause. You may need more than just skincare. My menopause started around 45 and lasted for about 10 years! I always had beautiful skin until then and had adult acne until it ran its cycle (and I used good products on my skin.)

  9. I love that all beauty routines start from within… what are you putting INTO your body, not necessarily ON your body! A good reminder for me especially now during the quarantine-15 phase (weight gain) I am currently in…

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