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My 73-Year-Old Mom Is Proof That These Cheap Makeup Products Look Expensive


If you're a Who What Wear Beauty regular, you're likely already familiar with my 73-year-old, *very* badass mom, Elise Marquam Jahns. And if you're new to the vertical, welcome! My mom is 73, a professional makeup artist, a beauty YouTuber, and, perhaps most notably, immune to aging (at least aesthetically speaking). Okay, obviously I'm kidding, and in reality, my mom refreshingly embraces her age and the natural aging process. (She's never had an injection or even a professional facial!) That said, she has better skin than I do (unfair but true), and she regularly schools me in her whip-smart makeup techniques and product suggestions. One such example? She is a savant when it comes to bargain shopping—be it fashion or beauty—and just one look at her perfectly applied makeup yields proof that one need not spend a fortune on skincare and makeup products to look totally amazing.

To be completely honest, I used to be a total snob when it came to makeup, and for a long time when I was growing up, my mom always preferred prestige formulas as well. It hasn't been until recently that she's embraced more affordable formulas and integrated them into her YouTube content and day-to-day beauty routine. (See her full drugstore makeup tutorial here!) Even though I've been slower than my mom in adopting a regular queue of budget beauty must-haves, I can never help marveling at her makeup. So I asked if she could give me the full breakdown of her go-to drugstore-makeup look, including the specific formulas and tips she swears by. 

"I think that no matter our age, finding a great bargain is a rather unforgettable experience," she explains in the video and later reiterated to me over the phone. "In fact, I have a hunch most people can easily think of their best-ever bargain buys. I just happen to be wearing a bargain I found while holiday shopping last December. This could be a bathing-suit cover-up, but I like to wear it as a summer duster. It was on sale at H&M for $3."

Despite my mom's love for affordably priced makeup, she never wants to sacrifice an expensive-looking, upscale result, and she's shared with me that many of her older clients are wary of cheaper drugstore formulas, assuming they'll end up looking "cheap" or "tacky." 

"Those of us over 50 can look expensive wearing makeup that doesn't break the bank. I’m a professional, working makeup artist who specializes in—and is passionate about—helping those of us who are 50-plus look like the very best version of ourselves," she emphasizes. Intrigued to see which products she prioritizes at retailers like Ulta, Amazon, Target, and Walgreens? Keep scrolling! Some of the best drugstore makeup products for mature skin are just ahead. 

Before my mom starts her makeup process, she always preps her skin with the same four skincare products. After cleansing, and just in the morning, she uses Timeless's Vitamin C+E Ferulic Acid to give her skin a dose of brightness. It's potent, so make sure you avoid the eye area. 

Next, she applies this serum from the brand, which promotes collagen production and has noticeably tightened and firmed her skin over time.

"Then comes my Matrixyl Synthe'6 Serum, which helps reduce wrinkles," she tells me. "All you need is two to three drops of each of these products."

Last but not least, she uses this all-natural moisturizer from Essentiel by Adele, a three-in-one face, body, and hand elixir I originally turned her on to. "It’s a lovely antioxidant-rich botanical blend of essential oils and extracts," she says.

Before starting her eye shadow, my mom swears by this affordable eye shadow base primer from Essence to keep everything set and in place. 

"I frankly don’t know how E.l.f. does it. This eye shadow quad costs $3 and performs like a star. I love this one, which is called Carnival Candy, because I love the pop of blue mixed with the neutral tones, but I'm also eager to try its other shades called Pumpkin Pie, Cream & Sugar, and Truffles. All of them include mattes with shimmers, but since I feel matte-finish eye shadows are more flattering on mature skin, I'm hoping the brand comes out with an all-matte version at some point."

"BH Cosmetics' eye shadow formula is first-rate and honestly rivals most higher-end formulas I've tried. These shadows blend effortlessly and absolutely glide on the eyes. If you’re looking for beautiful, neutral mattes with just a few great shimmers, this palette is for you. I’m frankly amazed at the quality of its shadows for the price, and I’m definitely eyeing its Zodiac 25 Color Eyeshadow & Highlighter Palette as well."

"I've been using L’Oréal’s Age perfect Eyeliner in Brown," she says. "My best tip is to diffuse the eyeliner color both above the eye and on the outer third under my eye with a smudger and eye shadow. I’ll use two coats of mascara above the eye and one coat of mascara on the bottom lashes to finish everything off." (It's not drugstore, but my mom loves Tarte's Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara, $21.)

"I never thought I could get this excited about a brow product, but I’m absolutely hooked on this Instant Lift Brow Pencil from E.l.f. Cosmetics. What I truly love about it is how effortlessly it glides on my brows. It makes the fill-in process so much quicker and easier.  And then to top it off, it costs $2. Really? Is this even possible?"

"I often use a brow pomade when I want a truly polished, professional look for my brows. Not only does this formula apply as beautifully as far more expensive brands, but it also does not dry out (which unfortunately happens with some of the more expensive brands)."

"Keeping those brow hairs in place can be a challenge—especially when they can sometimes go a little wiry on us as we get older. This Almay product is an absolute winner. It not only keeps the brows in place and has the perfect amount of tint, but it also has the perfect application brush. I haven't found anything better—even the expensive formulas I've tried."

"When I'm doing my brows, I like to add a little bit of finishing detail by also feathering in Maybelline's Age Rewind Concealer along the top and bottom of my brows, which creates a more finished and polished look."

"I actually mix two different primersto create two different effects for a more customized look when I'm doing my makeup. I use Pixie’s Flawless Beauty Primer, which is a brightening primer, but just on my cheekbone area. Then, even though it's not a drugstore find, I use Eve Pearl’s Priming Moisturizer Treatment ($32) on the rest of my face since I, unfortunately, haven't found a super-moisturizing drugstore primer that I love."

"I like to mix two different foundations to make sure I get the perfect, customized color match in a finish that flatters my mature skin—anything that's too matte never tends to look great on my skin."    

"To get the perfect ratio of glow, I mix L’Oréal’s Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation With SPF 50 with No. 7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Serum Foundation."

"I use Pixie by Petra’s Brightening Peach under my eyes to help hide dark circles."

"Then, on top, I’ll lightly press in just a tiny bit of my L’Oréal Age Perfect Concealer." 

Next, my mom says she likes to layer—she starts with her light and dark contour, blush, and highlighter—first using a cream formula, then a slight bit of powder over it, followed by powder bronzer, powder blush, and powder highlighter. "This will keep the blush and highlighter in place longer and also create a more customized look. I’ll put the darker colors on first and then the lighter colors on top," she says. "I use E.l.f. Cosmetics' Hydrating Camo Concealer as my light contour. This is a powerful little workhorse of a concealer. It’s a great consistency, and it’s perfect for most mature skin since it definitely is hydrating. Plus, I love the fact that several shades come in color-correcting peach undertones."

"When my favorite high-end cream contour palette was discontinued, I was terribly disappointed, but this palette has come to the rescue. Frankly, I was surprised by how beautifully creamy the formula was, which made it a cinch to apply. The three dark contour colors provide a wonderful range of color options. I only wish there were one more light contour shade with more of a pink undertone for those of us with a cool undertone to our skin."

"I was new to Physicians Formula before diving in and purchasing the Ultimate Murmuru Butter Collection, which contains the whole range of butter-formula products, but I’m definitely a convert! Talk about gliding onto the skin. You almost can’t go wrong with any of the butter-formula products, but I’m especially a fan of this bronzer, which I apply right after contour. I usually prefer cream bronzers or contours over powder, but I won’t hesitate to use this bronzer in the future."

"I love to layer my blush formulas. First, I apply a creamy formula. Then, I'll add a light coat of translucent setting powder, and then I'll add a touch of powder blush. For the cream, I like to mix two different shades from Maybelline's Master Glaze line—Pink Fever and Just Pinched Pink." 

"Next, I apply a very small amount of powder followed by a very small amount of Physicians Formula powder blush."

"This cream highlighter stick from Wet n Wild definitely provides wonderful bang for the buck. I love this cream version, but I also love its liquid version. With a light touch, this product provides a lovely soft glow. Apply a little more, and you have an all-out amazing glow. There are several different shades in both the stick and liquid formulas to cover all skin tones."

"To keep things from getting too glowy or greasy-looking, I’ll follow that with a tiny bit of powder and then two different powder highlighters from Physicians Formula. I know that seems pretty extra, but the end result is so dimensional and pretty!"

"To finish, I like to add a little blush and highlighter above my brows, a little cream highlighter above the Cupid’s bow of my mouth, a little powder highlighter on the inner corner of my eyes, and a little powder bronzer below my lower lip, which gives the illusion of a fuller pout."

"Last but not least, I’ll apply lipstick. First I’ll apply my Maybelline Age Rewind Concealer around my lips to help prevent any bleeding or feathering. Then, I use L’Oréal’s Age Perfect Anti-Feathering Lip Liner. I love the shade Bold Orchid, especially. A great tip is to add a layer of this lip liner in the areas where you have the deepest vertical lines around the lips to provide an extra layer of protection. This prevents your lipstick from migrating into those fine lines!  "As someone who deals with the issue of lipstick migrating or feathering into fine lines, I’m cautious about the lip liners I choose. Up until purchasing this amazing product from L’Oréal, I had a three-step process I used to ensure that my lipstick didn’t feather into the fine lines around my mouth. I ended up having to use a concealer and both a lip liner and a special waxy type crayon to help prevent feathering. But this liner provides both the barrier of the waxy crayon I’d been using as well as the color of the lip liner. So voilà! In one fell swoop, I went from needing three products to just two. And these liners come in some beautiful bold colors as well as subtler shades. I only wish these were automatic pencils instead of pencils that have to be sharpened. I would gladly pay more for an automatic-pencil version of this lip liner."

"I’ll mix two lipstick colors from L’Oréal’s Age Perfect makeup line on top: Vibrant Fuchsia and Pinot Noir. The Age Perfect products were specifically created for women over 50. All I can say is thank goodness L’Oréal is paying attention to the needs of older women. It developed two different formulas of these lipsticks, which are both excellent. One is a creamy satin lipstick with precious oils, and the other is a luminous hydrating lipstick. They are both wonderfully hydrating and glide on beautifully. My only regret is that there aren’t more shades that work well on women who have a warm undertone to their skin. Hopefully, the brand will expand this line in the future."

"Then, as my very last step, I’ll add a touch of this lipgloss from Covergirl."  Up next: My Mom Is 73 and Loves Expensive Skincare—Here's Her Review of The Ordinary