The blush of youth is one thing. But can makeup with retinol, antioxidants, soy, and other anti-agers turn back the clock? "It's a good way to round out what you're already doing with your skin-care routine," says Chicago dermatologist Amy Derick, M.D. In other words, pair an anti-aging cosmetic with your favorite serum or cream, and you'll be delivering a one-two punch to your wrinkles, age spots, and more. Dr. Derick is quick to note the best age fighter around is sunscreen, common in many of the latest cosmetics. And while it takes consistent, prolonged use of almost any treatment product (at least four weeks, derms agree) to produce results, most multitasking makeup delivers an instant youth-restorer as well: reflective particles that bounce and scatter light so fine lines and imperfections look less obvious (call it the candlelight effect). Of course, how you apply it matters as much as what you're applying. Here are the best tips for your personal complexion concerns.
Your Concern: Dryness
What the derms say: Nothing accentuates fine lines like parched skin, but dryness is easy to remedy. Look for a foundation that contains humectants, or moisturizers known for their ability to absorb and hold on to moisture from the air, says New York City dermatologist David Colbert, M.D. He's a fan of glycerin as well as hyaluronic acid, a substance that's naturally in our skin and that he calls a "super humectant," given that the molecule can retain up to a thousand times its weight in water. "The idea is to retain as much moisture as possible, especially since foundation can otherwise make skin look masklike," he says. And if you're really dry, avoid any base that contains salicylic acid, because the exfoliator sweeps away skin's natural oils, says Dr. Derick.
What the makeup artist says: Before you scan a package for any of the above ingredients, see whether the word "matte" appears anywhere on it. If so, move on to the next candidate, says makeup artist Kimara Ahnert, owner of studios in Greenwich, CT, and New York City. "A matte finish highlights dryness," she explains. Instead, try MAC Cosmetics Pro Longwear SPF10 Foundation ($29.50, department stores) or, for sheerer coverage, Stila Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 ($32, Sephora); both hydrate with hyaluronic acid. Skip powder foundations, concealers, blushes, and bronzers, too; unless it's specially formulated, powder can easily sink into and emphasize lines.
An exception: Physicians Formula Cashmere Wear Ultra Smoothing Bronzer ($14, drugstores; 2), which relies on - no surprise - hyaluronic acid for a smooth finish. For a safe bet, use a liquid or cream formulation, like Kimara Ahnert Creme Wear Blush ($25, kimara.com). To help your makeup blend easily, apply it with a damp sponge. And if you have particularly dry patches, consider applying a base coat of ... eye gel. "It just gives you a little added moisture and slip, which helps the makeup set without looking dry," Ahnert says. Try Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Eye Gel ($15, drugstores). For lips, she recommends good old-fashioned ChapStick (or any other waxy balm) in lieu of fancier lip primers: "You'll really seal in hydration, which is key, but you'll also create a smooth surface that keeps your (ideally creamy) lipstick from caking." Have extra-dry lips? Choose a clear lipliner: "Colored liner clings to dry skin in an obvious, not so blendable way," Ahnert notes. And last, if your eyelids are dry, use a cream or liquid eye shadow primer to help to conceal and moisturize any flakiness. Try Sephora Collection Perfecting Eye Primer ($14, Sephora).
Your Concern: Lines
What the derms say: Retinol is among the most popular of the line correctors finding their way into foundations and concealers. And though derms generally agree that adding this form of vitamin A to makeup may increase cell turnover and collagen production (the basics of de-wrinkling), there's no research on how effective it is. "Making retinol stable and effective once it's exposed to sunlight is tricky," says Dr. Derick. "So you don't want to bank on a foundation alone." In other words, don't quit your night treatment. Whether it's applied in the morning or in the evening, retinol can be sun-sensitizing, so daily SPF is a must. In the A.M., first apply a moisturizer with SPF 15 or higher. Or opt for a foundation with retinol and built-in sun protection, like L'Oréal Paris Visible Lift Serum Absolute SPF 17 ($15, drugstores).
Keep in mind that retinol may be irritating, particularly if you're using other retinoids, such as Retin A or Renova, at night. "You don't want to overtreat problem areas. If you start to see flakiness or redness, switch back to a nontreatment foundation," says Dr. Colbert.
Other wrinkle fighters are making their way into makeup, too. Among the most promising, say some dermatologists, are peptides. "These small proteins are key actors in collagen synthesis, and they enhance the performance of antioxidants," says Dr. Colbert. Speaking of antioxidants, he notes that these can also boost the performance of your makeup: "They act like molecular garbage collectors, absorbing the toxic byproducts of skin's ordinary functions that otherwise accumulate and damage cells." Try Mary Kay Timewise Luminous-Wear Liquid Foundation ($20, marykay.com) and Almay Smart Shade Anti-Aging Concealer ($9, drugstores), both with a blend of peptides and antioxidants.
What the makeup artist says: Most anti-aging makeup contains light-reflecting particles that create an instant optical illusion. "Luminosity definitely softens the appearance of lines," says Ahnert. But not alone: "Look for sheer and creamy formulations. Powder, in addition to emphasizing dryness, can crease and cake up, calling attention to wrinkles," she says. For the area that tends to bother women most - the outer eye - highlighter is a particularly good crow's feet camo. Try Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Conceal and Brighten, with a peptide-packed concealer on one end and highlighter on the other ($35, Sephora). Dot it along the tops of your cheekbones and pat it in to blend. This should be a final flourish; applying makeup over it would wipe away your handiwork.
Your Concern: Uneven or Dull Complexion
What the derms say: Whichever you're dealing with (maybe both?), SPF can be as valuable an addition to your makeup as complexion-evening and -brightening ingredients, says Dr. Derick. Hyperpigmentation in particular, whether in the form of age spots or larger dark patches, can become pronounced with the slightest exposure to sun, adds Dr. Colbert. Try Neutrogena Healthy Skin Compact Foundation SPF 55 ($14, drugstores), the brand's first makeup to incorporate its broad-spectrum sunscreen ingredient, Helioplex. Both derms like soy for fading and brightening purposes, and certain antioxidants, such as goji berries, for boosting the skin's radiance and natural UV defenses - with the caveat that in a makeup, the exact level of penetration and efficacy of these ingredients hasn't been determined. Try Aveeno Positively Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30 with soy and light-reflecting mica and silica ($15, drugstores) or Maybelline New York Age Rewind The Eraser foundation with SPF 18 and goji berries ($13, drugstores).
What the makeup artist says: For all-over dullness and/or unevenness, start with a sheer, luminous foundation (tiny reflective particles are the instant antidote to dullness). Then, using a brush and a creamy concealer that matches your prevalent skin tone, "paint" over pronounced splotches and pat the concealer in with your finger. "You may need to repeat this process a few times to blend away the spots," says Ahnert. "But it's better than using a lighter concealer - a common mistake that makes you look like you have light spots on your face." And though you probably know that adding a dot of light shimmer shadow to the inner corner of your eyes can open them up, "this trick can actually make your whole face look brighter," she notes. The same goes for shimmer shadow swept subtly across the browbone. Try Revlon Age Defying Spa Face Illuminator SPF 18 ($14, drugstores). Finish by adding a touch of creamy rose color to the apples of your cheeks, like Clinique Blushwear Cream Stick ($18.50, department stores); blend lightly with your fingers, and voilà: the blush of youth, restored.
Originally published on February 24, 2011