This article touches on the paradoxical desire and simultaneous fear of being seen, how that changes as we get older, and tucked inside (towards the end) you’ll find makeup tips for women over 60 based on what I did for these portraits (that will also work for other age ranges!). So stick with me, because I think both parts are very relevant and impactful.
It’s a very vulnerable spot to be in. The vast majority of my clients, whether they’re professionals in front of a camera or not, talk to me in strikingly similar ways in my makeup chair, from a place of insecurity.
Intimately face to face with a stranger who’s job it is to see every detail on their face, while they’re stripped down, without filters or an ounce of concealer to conceal the things they habitually hide.
I have a lot of compassion for women because of what I’ve seen in my decades of work as a makeup artist, the stories they’ve shared, and the moments of true vulnerability.
I never ask them to do this. They just start talking, and I have learned to hold a safe, loving space and build trust very quickly by honoring what they are allowing me to see.
This leads me to ask you, how often do you hold a safe space for yourself ?
Do you lead with compassion or criticism?
The desire to be seen as you are
When my mom asked me to arrange a portrait for her a couple of years ago right before she turned 60, it required me to show up as an professional, not as her child.
Because when a woman knows she is going to be “seen”, a lot comes up.
My mom, Jane, has a keen, dry sense of humor and realism to boot. Her whole body changed around the age of 36 when she became pregnant with my little sister (oops!) and was living for several years with a completely out of control, undiagnosed thyroid disease, and then spent many more years trying to get well and “back to normal.”
Her story isn’t mine to tell, but let’s just say she’s been through a lot, and the old “normal” hasn’t “come back.”
It seems that we all realize at some point that nothing is permanent. Things aren’t going to go back to the way they were, and you can only work with what you’ve got now.
The initial email she sent to describe what she wanted was so amazingly all over the place, and contradictory, that it made complete sense.
She wanted to look beautiful, but didn’t want every wrinkle and grey hair airbrushed away. She wanted some of the glamor, but none of the cheese. I think she even referenced a Kardashian (gasp!).
Her email made me laugh (the queen of run on sentences), and breath deeply (because she is indeed fierce) — and I’m pasting the follow up one she sent here because I think that you might see parts of yourself in her words too.
I “ain’t no” stunning Charlotte Rampling and I’m rather overweight…. I spend all my days, thoughts and energy focused on getting whatever needs doing done, helping everyone who is in my prevue for being helped by what I “do” or “know”, the go-to person when there’s trouble…and usually the woman with the unfinished hair and plain face because I’m doing all the work while the other wives are sure to be on top of their hair and makeup and do nothing else but show up to look terrific.
It really is OK…for some of them it seems more about their egos and self promotion and I never did and don’t need damn attention to do what I believe in.
I’m proud of my work and don’t regret the price I’ve paid…I just don’t want to have to keep on paying….and paying….and paying.
More and more it’s now MY time.
This is all to say, I’d be ever so grateful for even just one photo that might express who I really feel I am…not the smiling friendly older middle age woman everyone knows but rather an older woman who was once glamorous and beautiful and is still, but now only feels it on the inside….grows tougher all the time, a bit radical, often sad and easily righteously pissed for those she defends and helps…..and of course, just getting better (and sadly, lately, a bit heavier) with age.
Now, that’s not a tall order….IS IT???!
I’m sure you and your friends can create the situation and opportunity to create something like this better than most anyone in your business.
Dang….suddenly, this just a bit scary since I always have my “game face” on no matter how brutal the fight or how much something hurts….but I am so, SO wanting and needing this chance to share what’s on the inside.
P.S. My dearest amazing make up artist daughter, please, no dark or bright lips unless we’re doing a 50’s sort of look…gosh darn they’re getting thin and deep color makes them seem so old! Did I just give you a makeup suggestion??!! ((OMG, run, Jane, run!!!! LOL)). Love you!!
Over 60 Makeup Tips and Advice
#1 Prepare the skin
The day of the shoot I started foundation on my mom, but it was a mess! Her skin was looking really crusty. I had her wash it all off, do a quick face scrub with some kitchen ingredients and then started all over again.
It set us back on time, but there’s no makeup in the world that will look good on top of dry, flaky skin.
You can find great info on how to care for skin here, and check out my online course which dives into the most fundamental strategies to refresh your look, including the 3 Pillars of Skin Care, a list of my favorite products and a heck of a lot more!
#2 Keep it light
You’ll notice in these photos my mom’s eyebrows aren’t nearly as dark as her hair color. That’s completely on purpose. It’s a makeup artist trick we use to soften the face.
No matter what you’ve seen from other “beauty gurus” on Instagram or YouTube, a dark and super angled brow is not a natural or flattering look on most women, particularly over the age of 35. It adds a lot of harsh contrast, which is great if you’re trying to look older.
And my mom was absolutely right, a dark or bright red lip in this case would have been inappropriate. So we kept it neutral, but not washed out.
#3 Add depth in the right places
The lashline is really a great place to add depth and drama. I did a tapered wedge of black liner to lift her eyes up (sans surgery), and added some strategically placed individual eyelash clusters to thicken her thin lashes.
They key is keeping everything moving upward. Just 1 millimeter of placement in the wrong direction and it will make the whole eye drag down.[Need some help with that? You can book a virtual or in-person lesson with me here.]
The Finale: Laughter and Tears
At the time of this request, I was living in NYC and reached out to the one photographer in Oregon who I thought could really pull this off, Eric Rose. I flew in for the week, and this is the shoot we did together in less than one afternoon.
He had a very simple set up all within steps of my mom’s front door, and it turned out exactly as we all were hoping for.
Eric got her talking to help her feel comfortable as he snapped away, and the floodgates opened.
She was being seen, and heard.
If you look closely, even in some of the smiling photos, you’ll see evidence of her reddish eyes filled with tears as she talked through things which weighed heavy on her heart.
Isn’t that often the juxtaposition that we all experience?
In one moment we can be whisked into deep emotion provoked by memories of loss or hardship, and then instantaneously shift into joyful expression.
We are truly complex, malleable, precious beings. Let’s not forget that.
So how do you feel about being seen? Do you resonate with this in some way? Let me know in the comments section below.
Photos by Eric Rose. Makeup and hair by Kristen Arnett.
Join the discussion 13 Comments
Such a wonderful post Kristen. What a special tribute to your Mom. I can relate to this as I too am everyone’s problem solver and purposely put others needs way before my own. I learned that from my Mom who is now gone 16 years. I try to remind myself to heed self care as I feel so tired and run down these days.
Your Mom is beautiful on the outside and I am sure on the inside as well, as you are. This 61 year old loves your tips as they are spot on. Your adoring fan, Meryl
Oh Meryl, you are simply wonderful. Always so heartfelt and engaged. With all you have created and done in your life, and the beauty that you create – I too am a big fan of you! Please do care for you. xoxo
I just watched a video you did on YouTube for women over 50. It’s amazing how quickly the next decade sneaks up, and I was happy to see over 60! My biggest frustration is I’m 66 and I have very deep set eyes that are NOT hooded. Everything shows adding color to contour the back area of the eye, which makes mine just look worse.
Also, I was hoping you’d have makeup brand recommendations. I don’t know what to buy anymore.
Hi Anne! So glad the Over 50 brought you here to find me! Yes, Over 60 is a different ballgame. You’d probably really like the Evening Makeup Class I just released as the model had more deep set eyes and I had to really make sure the techniques I used didn’t make her eyes look like dark pockets. Here’s the link to check it out…oh and with the course comes a full shopping guide of what I used.
Also I do offer private lessons (in-person and virtually) if you’re ever up for that. And I’ll keep in mind that more over 60 content would be good for the future too.
Kristen, I have to say this brought tears to my eyes. You and your mother are beautiful women. It is so true for many of us women, we take care of others and sometime forget about taking care of ourselves. I personally have been making an effort to take care of myself more often. I appreciate your articles and everything you do for us!
Your expose about your mother resonated with me- my mother died 10 years ago. She was the queen of facial cream, makeup and glamour in a way that was natural and all her own. Her face reflected poise, strength and resolve. But hidden behind her makeup and shimmering eyes were memories; some harsh, some painful, many unknown to me- your mom has evolved as a woman of strength yet not afraid to reveal the woman behind – or infront of the lense- The photgrapher captured her soul.
Just the other day, one of my clients shared with me, how she felt lost in herself. She was looking for guidance in her beauty routine, as she’s approaching her mid 60’s. Right away, I told her to look for you on line and watch your video. I can’t wait to share this article with her. It is refreshing to have your wisdom to share with clients, giving age appropriate makeup tips. The photo of you sharing a hug is so heart warming. You both are natural beauties.
Best post, really. It was heart felt & informative.. instead of informative & nothing else. Isn’t it a pity that sooo many of US
50 ++ don’t have ONE amazing photo to enjoy before we take ourselves into the horizon
What a beautiful article and beautiful pictures of your Mom. I totally agree where she is coming from and find myself in place of uncertainty .
Everything has been changing appearance wise and it is hard to really take a good look at your self an accept the changes.
We as women need to love ourselves and try to self talk with positive affirmations daily .
For the last two years I had to stop coloring my hair due to allergies and let my silver come thru. That has been the hardest thing for me because I associate dyed hair with youth. I am still the same person but people have reacted to me differently. This may sound shallow and this is a struggle with my silver hair but I need to learn to embrace this new look and really not “worry” about what people are thinking. I wish the fashion world would showcase more women that do not color their hair and embrace what we have as a result.
Best to all!
I loved this article! I also think your new website is great. So good.
What a special day for you and your mom! She is beautiful and has a lovely smile. Wishing you and your mom many more special moments.
What a beautiful and heartfelt article. I get what your Mom was wanting. After years of doing, giving and being for everyone else, I have decided that 2018 is the year of me. And I don’t feel guilty in the least. It is so empowering to embrace me. I am turning 63 on Friday and I look the best I ever have. It’s a lot of fun learning to be your own best friend. Thanks Kristen.