32 beauty mistakes every woman over 40 should avoid

Want to take your routine to the next level? These are the beauty mistakes you should avoid making...

Michelle Yeoh/Sharon Stone/Sandra Oh
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just like biting our nails and teaming every morning cuppa with a chocolate biscuit, we’ve all fallen into less-than-ideal habits over the years. But how many of these are within your beauty routine?

To help set you back on the straight and narrow, we’ve rounded up the top beauty mistakes every woman over 40 should avoid. Some are as simple as making sure you’re using your best cleanser every night rather than sleeping in your makeup, while others are as trivial as swapping your best bronzer for a pop of blush instead.

Remember though that beauty is meant to be fun rather than restrictive, so if there are any rules on here that you want to continue to ‘break’, then don’t let us hold you back… 

32 beauty mistakes every woman over 40 should avoid

1. Not cleansing properly

Michelle Yeoh

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Good cleansing is the cornerstone of any good skincare routine, and you’re not going to get a complexion to rival Michelle Yeoh from a lacklustre swipe with a makeup wipe. For glowing skin, try double cleansing, where you use an oil-based cleanser first to remove makeup, SPF and surface-level grime before following with a water-based cleanser to give your pores a proper clearout.

2. Overdoing it with active ingredients

Kate Hudson

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Skincare is more exciting than ever, and there are so many active ingredients to choose from – all promising to give you fresh, glowing skin like Kate Hudson. A gentle approach is best though, as throwing the kitchen sink at your skin is likely to end in irritation. Try introducing one active at a time, whether that’s your best hyaluronic acid serum or a new retinol cream, and give it a week or so in between to check your skin is happy before piling on more.

3. Being too nervous to try retinoids

Lucy Liu

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If you want to look like Lucy Liu at 55, you’ll need a retinoid. This punchy ingredient has earned a slightly unfair reputation for making skin flake like a croissant, but that shouldn’t be the case if you choose the right one. Retinal is stronger than retinol but less likely to irritate, giving you impressive results with no side effects.

4. Skipping moisturiser

Viola Davis

(Image credit: Getty Images)

All skin types need moisturiser – even oily skin. It plays a crucial role in our skincare routine by providing skin with the water it needs to function at its best and ward off dehydration. Trust us, you’re never going to look as radiant as Viola Davis without it.  And once you've found the right face moisturiser for you, applying it will feel like a pleasure rather than a chore. 

5. Not understanding your skin type

Emma Thompson

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There are four skin types – dry, oily, combination and normal – all of which need slightly different treatments and ingredients to keep them happy and balanced. If you don’t already know, take the time to examine your skin and decipher which category you might fit into. Emma Thompson has the complexion (and smile) of a woman who knows what she’s doing with her skincare. 

6. Forgetting to change your skincare with the seasons

Naomi Watts

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During the warmer months an increase in humidity and rising temperatures mean our skin tends to have an influx of oil, while cold weather and stripping central heating mean the opposite during winter. For skin like Naomi Watts, you’ll need to make changes to your routine depending on the weather – think upgrading to a thicker moisturiser during winter, or stocking up on sebum-balancing serums during summer. 

7. Not wearing SPF every day

Andie MacDowell

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UVA rays, the kind responsible for the majority of skin ageing, are present 365 days a year – and can even penetrate through clouds. Applying daily sunscreen is the best thing you can do for your complexion, and looking at Andie MacDowell’s skin, we’re confident she never skips a day. 

8. Neglecting your neck and chest

Anne Hathaway

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Our neck and chest sit in that weird no-mans land between skincare and bodycare which means they’re often left out of both and don’t get the TLC they need. This neglect does unfortunately mean they’re among the first places to show signs of ageing, so if you’re a fan of a lower neckline like Anne Hathaway, make sure you’re taking your skincare down beyond your jawline. 

9. Wearing occlusive lip balms

Sandra Oh

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Lip balms like Vaseline work by creating a film over the skin that prevents moisture from escaping. Sounds sensible, right? But the only drawback is that this also means that water can’t get into the lips, making them drier in the long run. A nourishing, hydrating lip balm is the best choice for a plump pout like Sandra Oh.

10. Washing your face in the shower

Thandiwe Newton

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We all lead busy lives, and washing your face in the shower can feel like a real timesaver on a frantic morning. Your skin won’t be too thrilled though, as hot water can dehydrate it, stripping away much-needed moisture. If you’d prefer your skin to be vibrant like Thandiwe Newton’s rather than dull and lacklustre, we suggest cleansing at the sink with the taps set to tepid. 

11. Not drinking enough water

Tess Daly

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Drinking plenty of water is a guaranteed route to skin like Tess Daly. Caffeine can dehydrate the skin, so if you’re wedded to your morning flat white then make sure you’re sipping on a glass of water at the same time to temper its effects. 

12. Sleeping on your front – or too flat

Helen Mirren

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When we sleep face down or flat on our backs, water starts to pool around our peepers, which is why we wake up with puffy, bleary eyes rather than a defined eye area like Helen Mirren. Try and sleep on your back but with your head slightly elevated so that any fluids have a chance to drain overnight.

13. Choosing matte finishes over dewy ones

Jada Pinkett Smith

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The best matte foundations might have the upper hand when it comes to longevity and blurring shiny T-zones, but they’re not the most flattering. For radiant skin like Jada Pinkett Smith try a lightweight foundation or tinted moisturiser. It’ll enhance your natural beauty instead of masking it. 

14. Wearing black eyeliner

Sharon Stone

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There’s a time and a place for black eyeliner, and that’s not every day. The darker shade has the effect of making your eyes look heavier, especially since they naturally become more hooded with age. Make like Sharon Stone with a softer brown kohl instead. 

15. Feeling pressured by trends

Jamie Lee Curtis

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By the time you’ve got to your 40s, you’ll have a good idea of what suits you and what doesn’t so you'll know that not every new makeup trend is right for you. Remember this, and that you know best – especially when it comes to new trends. Jamie Lee Curtis’ instantly recognisable pixie crop is the perfect example of a signature look that never seems to date. 

16. Choosing colours that don’t suit your skin tone

Sienna Miller

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If you want to add a pop of colour to your look with a bright eye shadow or lipstick think first about the shades that will work for your skin tone. You want something that livens and lifts your complexion like Sienna Miller’s pink-toned red lip does, rather than a hue that leaves it looking pallid or dull. 

17. Staying in your comfort zone

Olivia Coleman

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You’re never too old to experiment with makeup and try something new. In fact, we guarantee that stepping outside of your comfort zone will get the compliments flying. We love how Olivia Coleman is really mixing it up here, trading her usual brunette hair for platinum blonde and teaming this with a glittery smoky eye. 

18. Applying bronzer all over your face

Charlize Theron

(Image credit: Getty Images)

To fake a convincing glow you should limit your bronzer application to the places the sun naturally hits – so that’s your forehead, nose, the tops of your cheekbones and your chin – rather than smooshing all over. That’s why Charlize Theron looks like she’s just back from holiday, rather than like she’s been tangoed. 

19. Not removing fake tan properly

Jessica Chastain

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re fair like Jessica Chastain then you might apply your best fake tan all year round to create the illusion of a warmer skin tone. Just make sure you’re removing the excess before reapplying though. Otherwise, the residue will leave you looking grubby, with this most obvious around the neck and on your hands. 

20. Neglecting your body care during the winter

Priyanka Chopra

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You might not be wearing an off-the-shoulder gown like Priyanka Chopra regularly, but it still pays to keep up your body care during the colder months. Applying your best body cream every night will help keep dryness and itching at bay, as well as keep your skin soft and glowing for when you do eventually emerge from your cocoon of tights and knitwear.

21. Not protecting your skin with antioxidants

Jennifer Lopez

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Our skin is constantly under siege from a type of molecule called free radicals, generated by things like UV rays, pollution and blue light. When they come into contact with skin they oxidise our healthy cells, causing damage that leads to premature ageing and hyperpigmentation. To retain JLO levels of youth, shield your skin with a daily antioxidant in the form of a vitamin C serum

22. Over-plucking your eyebrows

Salma Hayek

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It can be tempting to get carried away with the tweezers, but over-plucking your brows is never a good idea. The older we get, the less likely they are to grow back, so if you do take too much from one area, or go too thin overall, then you might be stuck with them. Make like Salma Hayek and leave it to the pros, booking in for an in-salon brow wax or threading instead. 

23. Washing your hair too much

Halle Berry

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Unless you’re running a marathon and ending up drenched in sweat every morning, there’s no need to wash your hair every day. In fact, washing too regularly can cause your scalp to make even more grease as it tries to replenish the natural oils lost through shampooing. If you have curly hair like Halle Berry, you’ll notice that it barely gets greasy, so once-a-week shampoos are fine. 

24. Using too much conditioner

Nicole Kidman

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Less is more is the approach to take when applying conditioner. Slather on too much, or go too close to the roots, and you run the risk of ending up with a lank, greasy finish that’s quite the opposite of Nicole Kidman’s bouncy waves. 

25. Not using regular hair masks

Rose Bryne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Conditioner is great for most hair washes but upgrading to a nourishing hair mask once a week will help to infuse your strands with moisture and enhance their health. You’ll really see the difference in shine, especially if you’ve got bleached hair like Rose Bryne. 

26. Being your own hairdresser

Gemma Chan

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A little root touch-up or smoothing treatment is a great way to maintain your hair at home and save you money between hairdresser appointments, but they’re not a long-term substitute for the real deal. Let the memories of your at-home dye jobs and trims during the pandemic, plus the image of Gemma Chan’s salon-fresh locks, be a reminder to you. 

27. Not doing your research

Kate Moss

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you’re looking into getting a treatment like a lash lift or a tweakment like Botox, it pays to shop around. Be wary of limited-time offers or anything that sounds too good to be true. You might not be as well connected as Kate Moss, but asking trusted friends for recommendations is always the best place to start. 

28. Forgetting to wash your makeup brushes

Penelope Cruz

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you don’t know how to wash makeup brushes then your skin will suffer. Using dirty tools transfers an unpleasant cocktail of old makeup, sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria onto your skin – something that an A-lister like Penelope Cruz would never approve of. Make washing your brushes part of your Sunday routine so that you can start the week with a fresh set. 

29. Sleeping in your makeup

Tracee Ellis Ross

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ask anyone with gorgeous skin their secret, and we’re willing to bet at least half will say they never sleep in their makeup. Nodding off with a full face is a one-way ticket to clogged pores and dullness rather than fresh, clear skin like Tracee Ellis Ross. If you find it a struggle to cleanse before bedtime, do this as soon as you get in from work, or keep a bottle of micellar water by your bed as a backup for late nights.  

30. Forgetting to floss

Eva Longoria

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Never underestimate the importance of good dental hygiene, both for your health and your smile. Eva Longoria’s teeth are so pearly and perfect that she looks like she’s stepped straight from the hygienist to the red carpet. 

31. Skipping blusher

Julianne Moore

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Blusher often gets ignored in favour of bronzer, but it’s a brilliant way to add instant life and vibrancy to your complexion. The key is choosing a shade that mimics the way your skin naturally flushes, which will be darker or lighter depending on whether you have a deep skin tone or a light one like Julianne Moore. 

32. Choosing a very blunt cut

Jane Fonda

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Blunt bobs might be having a moment, but often a chop this severe can be too harsh on your features. Instead ask your hairdresser for a softer, more layered cut like Jane Fonda’s. 

Jess Beech

Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is a former Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.