The Effects of Makeup on Skin: Does It Cause Premature Aging?

Ever wondered, “does makeup age you?” Answer:

Yes, heavy and improper makeup can clog pores and make you appear older!

After over 21 hours of research, I explore the best research on cosmetics and perceived age, revealing the makeup/age relationship and how you can get the best of both worlds!

Let’s discover if your favorite makeup products are aging you faster than time… (scroll away!)

Read more: Best Korean liquid foundation

Key Takeaways

  • The purpose of makeup is multi-faceted and can vary from person to person.
  • Makeup can cause premature aging by clogging pores and leading to breakouts, resulting in wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots.
  • Using makeup products with high-quality, skin-friendly ingredients and wearing them in moderation can help minimize the aging effects of makeup and protect the skin.

Does Makeup Make You Look Older? | The Research

#1 Makeup (The Type Used & The Application) Influences Our Ability To Guess Age

As we revealed in our post on the difference between before and after makeup, beauty products often make us look better.

For example, the foundation helps smooth skin texture, and blush mimics our cheek color when ovulating.

Research shows that makeup also impacts the ability to estimate a woman’s age accurately.

Read more: Best Korean anti-aging cream for 30s

Feng & Prabhakaran (2012) found that the makeup used and how it was applied influenced the appearance of a subject and their perceived age [1].

Heavier makeup often has a counteractive effect – the woman can look older than her age with heavy or improper makeup [1].

Makeup trends change over the years, which impacts age detection. Smokey eye makeup was trendy in the early 2010s and exuded maturity and decadence, according to Feng & Prabhakaran (2012) [1].

The ability of makeup to alter apparent age is well known.

Through interviews, Clarke and Griffin (2008) confirmed the following [2]:

Women often report using cosmetic enhancements (makeup, surgery, hair dye, cosmetic procedures) in response to ageism and the society-wide obsession with youth.

As we age, our makeup needs to change. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to natural makeup for mature ladies. Take a look!

#2 Cosmetics Make You Look Older Before 27 & Younger After That

Looking at photographs with four makeup types (makeup, no makeup, not clear, or very subtle), Clapes et al. (2018) found that makeup only makes people look younger if they are older than 27 [3].

27 is typically when the first signs of aging start to appear (e.g. wrinkles) [3].

For example, cosmetics cover signs of aging like wrinkles and age spots [4].

Makeup helps mask some signs of aging, making an individual’s apparent age younger than their actual age for those over 27 [3].

lady checking her wrinkles

Tip: Learn how to adjust your makeup look to get ahead at work here.

#3 The Anti-Aging Effect Lasts Until You’re Approximately 52 Years Old

In the same study, those with subtle makeup benefited from this anti-aging effect up to 52. Those with no makeup had a much smaller gap between perceived and actual age [3].

Makeup is often worn by those in their teens and early 20s, which causes those under the age of 24 to look older than they are.

As we explored in our heavy vs light makeup post, we typically overestimate the level of makeup use that other people find most attractive.

Lighter makeup emphasizes femininity and softness, while heavier looks exude glamour and coolness.

But how does the makeup quantity influence our ability to guess age accurately?

One 2019 study found that wearing no makeup (or extremely subtle makeup) provided the most accurate actual age estimations.

This was done while wearing a more noticeable makeup look helped improve the apparent age estimate [5].

To further append to these findings, Russell et al. (2018) observed the following [6]:

Forty and 50-year-old women appeared much younger when using makeup, those at 30 looked the same age with and without makeup, and 20-year-old women looked older with makeup.

Purpose of Makeup

beautiful lady putting on makeup

The purpose of makeup is multi-faceted and can vary from person to person.

Individuals can use it to enhance their natural features and boost confidence, while makeup artists utilize it to create stunning transformations and special effects.

Makeup products, including brushes and high-quality ingredients, play a crucial role in achieving the desired look, whether for everyday wear or special occasions.

Also, makeup can conceal blemishes, even skin tone, and create a flawless complexion.

Whether it’s for personal or professional use, makeup is a tool that offers endless creative possibilities and the opportunity to express one’s individuality.

How Makeup Can Age the Skin

#1 Clogging of Pores

When makeup clogs your pores, it can lead to the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

This happens because the buildup of oil, dirt and makeup in the pores interferes with the skin’s natural ability to regenerate and maintain its elasticity.

#2 Breakouts and Acne

Applying too much makeup or using products that are not appropriate for your skin type can trigger breakouts and acne.

lady worried about her acne break out

This can further contribute to skin aging and make the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines more prominent.

#3 Dryness

Some makeup products can strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry. This can lead to premature aging and make the skin more prone to wrinkles.

#4 Ingredient-related concerns

Certain makeup ingredients can be harsh on the skin and contribute to aging.

For example, using makeup brushes that are not cleaned regularly can harbor bacteria that can cause infections and breakouts.

Besides, some makeup ingredients can cause inflammation and irritation, leading to skin aging.

To keep your skin healthy and prevent aging, choose makeup products suitable for mature skin and use them in moderation.

For a more zesty look into makeup and age, check out this excellent video:

Different Makeup To Target Different Signs Of Aging

Eye makeup can help reduce wrinkles, alter eye contour, and reduce eye drooping as you age. Foundation and concealer help minimize wrinkles and skin sagging and cover up age spots.

Contour powder, on the other hand, can change the contours of the face and create illusions of depth. Lip makeup can alter the volume of the mouth and reduce lines on or around the lips [1].

Tip: Tools like lip plumpers can also help restore youthful plumpness in the lips!

Eye makeup like eye shadow, liner, and voluminous lashes can create a dark and bold look that helps draw attention to youthful eyes.

Shimmering bronze makeup in light eye shadow tones (with 3 different layered shadows) helps the eyes look youthful and makes the lashes look long [1]. 

Pressure To Wear Makeup & Positive Effects Of Cosmetics

Interview research revealed that those entering the elderly stages had mixed reactions to older people wearing makeup.

pretty lady with glowing skin

Those who had a positive reaction viewed the look as more natural makeup, while those who had an adverse reaction perceived the makeup as a heavier look.

The seniors generally thought that younger people wore heavy makeup [7].

These elderly interviewees felt that older people should wear makeup “to be polite, showing a tidy face, and hiding aging.” (Baek, 2019)

Aging Gracefully & Anti-Aging Tips

So, does makeup age you? With the basics covered, let me delve deeper into the subject...

While much of our facial aging is genetic, there are lifestyle choices that can help us look better as we get older.

One of the best-kept secrets of the beauty world is the power of eating a good diet.

More so, wearing SPF 50 every day, avoiding cigarettes and other drugs, and keeping active are among some skincare ranges and tools on the market.

These are specially designed to help delay or turn back the clock.

Crepe Erase (targeting crepey skin) and Meaningful Beauty (co-created by 50-something-year-old supermodel Cindy Crawford) work to minimize fine lines and wrinkles.

Suppose you enjoy a pamper session at home. Why not invest in your anti-aging microcurrent device (great for lifting the skin) or microdermabrasion machine (ideal for targeting fine lines and wrinkles)?


1. Does Makeup Age Your Skin?

Not directly, but long-term use of heavy, non-breathable products can clog pores and potentially contribute to premature aging.

2. Is Wearing Makeup Everyday Bad For Your Skin?

While wearing makeup daily can provide coverage and enhance your appearance, it can also lead to buildup and clogged pores.


So, does makeup age you?

Makeup can impact skin aging, but it is not solely responsible for the process.

Excessive application or using low-quality products can lead to clogged pores, irritated skin, and the accumulation of dead skin cells.

As a result, It is crucial to remember that factors such as repeated facial expressions and sun exposure also play a role in the aging process.

To minimize the adverse effects of makeup, it’s essential to use high-quality, non-comedogenic products and to regularly cleanse and hydrate the skin to ensure that it remains healthy and youthful.

Asian lady with orangy makeup


1. Feng R, Prabhakaran B. Quantifying the Makeup Effect in Female Faces and Its Applications for Age Estimation [Internet]. IEEE Xplore. 2012 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. p. 108–15. Available from:

2. Clarke LH, Griffin M. APA PsycNet [Internet]. 2008 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from:

3. Clapés A, Anbarjafari G, Bilici O, Temirova D, Avots E, Escalera S. From Apparent to Real Age: Gender, Age, Ethnic, Makeup, and Expression Bias Analysis in Real Age Estimation [Internet]. IEEE Xplore. 2018 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. p. 2436–243609. Available from:

4. Schroeder W. Chapter 7 – Cosmeceutical (Antiaging) Products: Advertising Rules and Claims Substantiation [Internet]. Lintner K, editor. ScienceDirect. Boston: William Andrew Publishing; 2009 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. p. 121–53. Available from:

5. Jacques Junior JCS, Ozcinar C, Marjanovic M, Baró X, Anbarjafari G, Escalera S. On the effect of age perception biases for real age regression [Internet]. IEEE Xplore. 2019 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. p. 1–8. Available from:

6. Russell R, Batres C, Courrèges S, Kaminski G, Soppelsa F, Morizot F, et al. Differential effects of makeup on perceived age. British Journal of Psychology. 2018;110:87–100.

7. Baek KJ. The perception of makeup for the elderly and the makeup behavior of new seniors. Journal of Consumer Behaviour. 2019;

About LusineTG

Lusine is a fresh young writing enthusiast who loves to share tips about beauty, skincare, and so many other things. When she's not writing, you can find her snuggled up with her dog Benji binging on Netflix. She's also into cooking and yoga. Follow her on FACEBOOK and TWITTER. Learn more about her HERE.

Leave a Comment