Go to Bed Makeup?

Here’s another fun part about aging: looking good takes more time and money, and I think we’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

For example: are eyebrows over or under the line?

I don’t know exactly when this happened, but sometime between age 16 and now, my dark, thick, Elizabeth Taylor eyebrows turned to wispy broken lines.


I have friends who’ve had their eyebrows tattooed, but before resorting to a permanent measure I thought I’d consult an eyebrow specialist.

All roads lead to Valerie of Beverly Hills. In her lavender and cream salon, she does eyebrows for $75 while her associates do them for $40. Valerie is against tattooing because she says styles change and with time, the skin on your face will drop and your eyebrows may end up in the wrong place.

She sits you down in a chair, visible to all, and begins by coloring the brows to hide any gray. Then she waxes all around the eyebrows to create a clear palette.

Valerie is five foot two with eyes of blue and long, wavy blonde hair like Farrah Fawcett’s in her heyday. She wears jeans, high heels and a low-cut blouse that shows cleavage. “I have good boobs,” she says.

Valerie at work

My sister, who’s joining me on the eyebrow adventure, asks, “Are they natural?”

“Course not,” she says. “Feel how soft they are.”

We do and they are.

“They’re saline,” she says.

Her tools

Valerie has built a multi-million-dollar business doing eyebrows and makeup for women and men. Her clients range from 16 to 80, but many are boomers growing older along with Valerie.

She has three stencils for eyebrows – the Marilyn, the Brooke and the Pamela. She picks the Marilyn for me, sticks it on my face and brushes powder into the opening of the stencil, going against the grain of the hair. She lifts it off and OMG, what a difference! One of my brows is scraggly, the other is a clearly defined arch of a color that matches my hair. She plucks, brushes and smoothes until she’s satisfied.

One done, one not.

As she works, Valerie tells my sister and me who the best plastic surgeons are for each part of the body and that we must use restylane below the nose and botox above it. Beverly Hills is ground zero for extreme beauty measures, from fake boobs and butts to all things injectible.

A woman in her 50s whom we’ll call Randie prances into the salon and gives Valerie a kiss. Randie is all done up with a Western motif: a cowgirl hat with black onyx jewels in front, a miniskirt, fishnet stockings and hand-painted cowboy boots. She has a skin-tight t-shirt over such enormous, pneumatically-enhanced boobs that I can’t read the words that run down her shirt. She sticks out her chest so I can read: “Sex is my favorite business.”

She tells Valerie she wants go-to-bed makeup. “Yes!” Valerie says. “I can make you look natural but rosy and soft.”

I don’t understand this. I thought you took off your makeup before going to bed?

“You don’t want to look all scrubbed and washed out,” Valerie says. “When I have sex, I like to wear my jewelry, my push-up bra and lip gloss.”

This is way over the line for me. But this is Valerie’s favorite business. She does people’s makeup herself every day and creates products which she sells online. “I’m constantly doing it, so I can make the products better and better,” she says. “Watching your clients get older… along with yourself… you can find the next beauty product.” She adds, “We’re all going down the toilet together.”

When I tell my friend Susan about the go-to-bed makeup, she says, “I’m not having sex these days but last time I did, my makeup was not an issue.”

Susan admires my new brows, though. I walk out of Valerie’s with a bag full of products and for the next few days, whenever I look at people all I see is eyebrows. Judging from the past, though, I’ll get lazy and the products will rot in the drawer.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION. How do you deal with the body changing? Is it natural to want to look as good as you can for as long as you can, as Thomas Moore suggests? Or should we accept the perfection of our imperfections?



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43 thoughts on “Go to Bed Makeup?

  1. Anonymous

    I personally use threaders… I love them…those Indian young women who use thread to clean up your eyebrows…and a session only costs 8 bucks in my neighborhood, ten with the tip.… so far my eyebrows are mostly dark with the occasional white hair, which I either pluck or when I die my hair once a month by myself, nice and easy 121a, I take a q tip and mush a little die over the one or two white ones…
    I have resisited bo tox, all the collogen's tho at my coffee group, mostly people ten years younger than me, they have done a lot of that kind of low tech work, not a lot of surgery in the group. For me, I was so fat and everything as a young person. I am at 64, fitter and have a better body than I had when young, but I am still upset about my upper thighs, which unlike my arms don't seem to change with even the 5-8 miles I walk a day.

  2. Tarron

    as for all the possibilities for looking like i looked at 45 while i am now 54, i have to admit i'm interested in learning about these things and seeing the results on those i know and love first. i had back surgery recently. My incision and scar is on my belly. off center of mid line and i admit i don't like it a bit. one of my current considerations along the lines of changing how i look is to have a tattoo which would change this ugly off-midline scar into a heart which would encompass the other side of the midline up to and above my belly button. so i asked my friend who has a wardrobe of body tattoos what she thinks about this. in a nut shell, she said, “Pain killers of multiple varieties. let me know when you are ready and i'll hook you up”! wow, sounds worse than back surgery is all i can say.

  3. Dr, Barbra

    I'm for accepting the perfection of our imperfections. As we grow older and wiser, we discern what is really important. It is NOT how we look. even if we live in LA.

    I like the title”The Art of Growing Older” because it doesn't avoid the subject.

  4. Anonymous

    It all depends on what day it is. Some days I will do all I can to look better and some days, I say what the heck, they can take me as I am.

  5. Sylvia

    I enjoyed reading your blog entry today, and this is what I have to say on the subject of eyebrows. I am 55 years of age and have been using an eyebrow brush and a dark brown shade for years, ever since a gal at a Shiseido makeup counter asked me if she could do one little thing with my eyebrows. She put the smallest bit of shadow on my brows to fill in the thinner spots and presto-chango my face had more presence. I don’t “do” my eyebrows every day, just when I feel like I want to be more put together, and for me, it makes a difference. I feel more presentable, more visible and more lady-like, even more mature. The one thing to watch out for is, don’t put too much shadow on or you start looking like a gorilla. Just a little dab’ll do ya.

    As for your question about aging and the body, I believe in the acceptance of the inevitable but what is the inevitable when it comes to aging bodies? Does our muscle tone have to decline into loose, flabby arms or can we exercise a bit more to keep them firm, if not buff? Does our posture have to sag or can we strengthen our upper backs with some band exercises twice a week? At 50, I started to ride horses to strengthen my legs and wow, did that ever make a difference. Can we who have been non-athletes most of our lives, change after 50 to become more physically fit, if not athletic? I believe we can and we can also use our wisdom to keep the exercising within a viable range, so we don’t hurt ourselves by overzealousness. While we are at it, we can eat more fruits and vegetables and stay hydrated to help our skin’s moisture content. I know a healthy diet won’t end wrinkles—those are inevitable, but I believe that as we age, our dietary needs change. Can we also change some of our youthful habits of getting high on stress? Stress hurts the body and when you are younger it feels good, but as we age, is it inevitable that we will remain in high stress mode or will we change into a softer more caring attitude toward our bodies?

    Anyway, enough from me. Of the two titles, I prefer the first.

    Keep writing.

  6. Babatjie

    Still Crazy may not be the best you can do, but I question the lightness of heart and/or cultural literacy of those who think it is demeaning, or refers to a movie. A few years back, my birthday cake read STILL CRAZY AFTER 50 YEARS. For me, it captured what I took away from Paul Simon's song in 1975 (when he was all of 34) … that sense of being still susceptible to the wacky spontaneity and romance that wells up when drinking with an old lover… but having picked up some perspective along the way. And the reference served to place me in the g-g-generation that embraced that album during the 40 weeks it stayed on the Billboard charts. So, even if you improve upon it, didn't want you to feel that the suggestion spoke to no one.

  7. Miriam

    I devour eye-brow info. What I would like to know in addition to what you say here, is how long do your brushed on eye-brows last. I find that mine start fading, wearing off, whatever. pretty soon no matter how they are applied. I would appreciate knowing more. Thanks

  8. anneh

    i'm hoping for a world where in the immortal words of dr. king people will be judged by the “content of their character” and not by superficialities of race or gender stereotypes…sigh, wouldn't that be wonderful? And, then women wouldn't have to waste our time and money on eyebrow threads and botox and all the other myriad of ways we try to “fix” what we perceive as problems when they are the blessings of growing older and hopefully wiser…

  9. Peter Lake, LAKE Real Estate

    I would venture to say that any time given to eyebrow enhancement would be better spent by most women on ass reduction exercises.

    And this is CERTAINLY not directed at you, Sara, but just a general remark from my own observations of late.

    OF all the women I've taken a second look at in the gym, not once have I noted the eyebrows. Nor on the third or fourth or any other look.

    On the other hand…..

  10. Anonymous

    After living life for 58 years, still attracting much younger men, looking much younger than I am and doing my best to keep the mind, body and spirit in some sort of balance, I find the biggest challenge to be, “now what?” As much as I wish that I could let my creativity and passion go wild with new ideas and goals, losing my son has changed my perspective. Enough time has passed that I've picked myself up off the pavement but the thrill is gone and I'm not sure how to get it back. Aging and recreating your life every day is an art. I like that title. But as age ultimately brings more loss, health issues and financial issues, not to mention, a less than societal reverence, again I ask, “Now what? Where do we go from here?”

  11. amba

    All I have to say about eyebrows is that nobody told me when I was young and bushy (in various places) what a big difference just plucking the arch makes. It still acts on my spirit like a mini-facelift. (I've never had or wanted a bikini wax, however. I'm still a hippie “down there.”)

    In my 60s, unable to afford “work,” I hate my face but am proud of my body. I've been practicing karate since I was 27 and my arms are better than Michelle Obama's. I take care not to gain much weight because I know how much easier it is to keep off than to get off. I'm gluttonous as well as vain, so I eat huge salads and lots of fruit.

    I'm divided over whether I would get a facelift if I could afford it (and whether I will, if I someday can). On the one hand, I hate looking like a hag. On the other hand, I like the weathered older faces of women who spend a lot of time outdoors. All in all I'm more inclined to spend more time outdoors than to have a facelift.

    One reason is that faux youth always looks faux. It might look pretty good, but it doesn't fool anybody. And it scares me the way repeat offenders sacrifice individuality. Hollywood stars, such as Faye Dunaway and Sharon Stone, don't even look anything like themselves anymore. I do not know whether Dame Judi Dench has had subtle little bits of work done, but I love the way she looks. British actresses inhabit their older faces with an unselfconscious comfort that comforts me. They look good because they don't cringe away inwardly from their signs of age. They fill every fold with earned character.

  12. Anonymous

    I am so happy to see that there are others with the same fixation I have with eyebrows….I know how I want mine to look but everytime I had them done professionally they didn't look anything like I wanted them to. I have a small face and small features, I just wanted my eyebrows to show off my eyes.I now do them myself with eyebrow powder or I will use a pencil. I was always afraid to do them dark but at my age I do them the way I want!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Erin

    I feel sorry for those women past a certain age whose self-esteem is so low that they need to go to extreme measures such as surgery and injections to feel good about their lives. My wrinkles show I've smiled a lot, and the twinkle is still in the eyes. No one is going to love me more if I look younger than I am at 71.

  14. Anonymous

    No problema what I need is to get more pepper in me salt and pepper hair any recommendations? (LOL)

  15. Anonymous

    I use a product by Smashbox and it is a powder that you can put on your brows. It fills in the thin parts of my brows. Works really well and I love it. It also comes with a wax that you can use over the brow power to make it stay on longer. Also you don't put a lot on, just brush lightly.

  16. Barbara

    Great piece. I loved the response about smoke signals – I do all I can to keep up – including new make up, new looks, ways of communicating. I do Facebook, not twitter. I know Valerie and think she’s terrific.

  17. Anonymous

    So much enjoyed this, as I have all your communiques! Am grateful to
    be on your list.
    I was hoping to run into you again at the LA Times book fair this
    year, but, sadly for me, you didn't seem to have come.

  18. Debbie

    I once interviewed, for a magazine article, a former beauty queen who not only went to bed with full makeup but never went to bed without her sexiest spike heels.
    While I won't resort to such measures, I'm all for using any weapon available in the arsenal to fight aging. Women especially get hammered in their 50s–almost literally, with faces that are veritable collages of concavities and lines. Fillers, Botox, surgeries, and other procedures are de rigeur, if you can afford them.
    –Debbie S.

  19. Mona

    I had thick elizabeth taylor eyebrows
    also. They were always plucked into a nice arch and I had to work to keep from being mono brow….now it is thinner and sort of busy.
    I was have a pedicure and the lady said she would like to “do” my eyebrows. I thought why not? She cleaned them up and the shape was great. $10 wax job. Wish I had done it sooner.
    I would like have an eyelift as my lids are drooping more but no face lift.
    Other wise I clean up and moisturize what I do have. I don't need to try to look 30 something when I am 50.
    I like myself pretty much the way I am.
    The first title is great.

  20. Anonymous

    I have had mine waxed a couple of times. But now I have a HUGE stye! Yuck!

    Living in LA, I was the one who NEVER wore stiletto heels or stretch tight jeans. Glamourous dresses once in a while, when the occasion called for it. Up here in Northern California, the women are more natural and embrace their wisdom, or at least appear to. Who ever knows what's really going on inside another person?

    A lot less shaving and waxing up here, that's for sure.

  21. BuffyO

    Maybe I'm just an old hippie, but “different strokes for different folks” suits me. I think there is an Art to Aging and everyone does it in their own fashion. We can't turn back time no matter how much surgery or cosmetic alterations we have, those things are only fooling ourselves. However, if that's what makes life easier as we age, then go for it. One size does not fit all. I would recommend Betty Friedan's “Fountain of Age” for anyone wrestling with the March of Time. It's very inspiring and lays out an interesting premise for why we as a species live longer than others after our reproductive needs have been met. For me, the bottom line is bring on the age!! My kids are grown, my marriage is solid and NOW my life can be whatever I want it to be.
    I heartily agree with Dr. Barbara (above)and vote for “”The Art of Growing Older”. Growing older CAN be done wrong (young people are not characterized as curmudgeons!), so there must be a 'way' to do it….gracefully, artfully, beautifully, quietly, exhuberantly…whatever adjective you prefer, but it's a personal journey with or without eyebrows!

  22. Anonymous

    What about Forever Young or Rock On!for your blog. Loved your dispatches from the LA eyebrow salon.

  23. injaynesworld

    First of all, 60 is the new 40. Second, all that aging gracefully stuff is crap. Unless you're Betty White. I'm not, so I intend to go kicking and screaming. Enhancements?! Bring 'em on! My eyebrows have always been very pale and I just use a little Clinique brush on brow in brown on them.

    I've been blessed with good skin, good health, and a slim body type. Plus I always say, “I may be getting older, but I'll always be immature.”

    And I plan on kicking aging's butt to the curb for a good long time.

    Fun post.

  24. Mary

    I like both…the perfection of my imperfections and I want to look as good as I can as long as I can ( this does not preclude going natural)….it is more about defining what “good” is…being flexible…playing with some of what is out on the market ( sometimes…and not being dependent on this)…and not getting attached to it…
    i once read something that went like this…'As we age , the more we as women can love ourselves and not look in the mirror…the more our beauty emanates from a deep and authentic place…” O love this and it doesn't mean I don't play around with enhancers sometimes…
    My vote on the title is The Art of Conscious Aging or the Art of Growing Older…

  25. Ellen

    As I age, there are choices: hide behind a face that's botoxed and trimmed into a mask that doesn't reveal the years of my life: or don't.
    For my daughter's wedding, I was to meet my ex's new bride, who was a generation younger than me. I let a beautician talk me into plucking my brows, and those sleek, stylized brows clashed with my face. After aging weighs in, you can't look cute, but you can look interesting. I opt for that.

  26. MsTick1

    One of my favorite subjects, eyebrows. Apparently, eyebrow hairs continue to grow with age…along with one’s feet, ears, nose, nose hairs and other features that we don’t necessarily want more of. My brows have acquired a mind of their own, thick hairs, protruding hither, thither and yon, ‘til I look like some mad scientist. I’ve taken to trimming them.

  27. Anonymous

    Forget graying, thinning eyebrows. Let's talk about graying, thinning pubic hair. It still shocks me. I just try to avert my gaze now. Too distressing.

    It's funny how at 63 certain aspects of aging are acceptable to me and others are distressing. I don't really mind the lines on my face but that paper-thin skin on the back of my hands and the crepe-y skin on the underside of my arms makes me nuts. I lift weights 4 times a week and am doing my best stay in shape but you can have nice defined biceps and triceps and still have rhinoceros skin covering them. I don't like it. But….

  28. Terry

    If you want a lover who loves the real you, have confidence, be what you are. There's a lot more to a loving relationship than sex and there's a lot more to most women than sex appeal. Awhile back I read the book Younger Next Year which claims you can maintain the body of a 50 year old to age 80 if you exercise fairly hard for an hour 4-5 days a week. My vote: be natural, stay active, have fun! You'll sparkle. Terry (66, male, in love)

  29. michelemoon888

    in order to keep inner & outer balance, i grow a garden. from the flowers & vegetables i've learned that some plants thrive, others pass away quickly & some hold on despite logic. so feeling inspired about the outer allows the inner turmoil to be a bit quieter, lovelier, stronger. when things do go wrong, i bring in a gardenia flower–perfume for the soul. it makes sense at age 65.

  30. JoAnn

    OK….eyebrows…I just use l'oreal eyebrow color brush, daily..works great! Less time, the better for me. I'm a vegetarian, run 2x a week, do weights 2x a week, am 62yr, minimum makeup, hair not grey yet (yeah!) but eyebrows are getting there! Like the “art of being older”, it is an art we have to embrace and not try to hide! What the heck, we are all going to die eventually, why waste money on being vain, beauty is from within.. We need to focus on the real needs of society and prioritize!

  31. Anonymous

    I'd love to know more about this hour facelift thing thats being advertised. I think its called “About Faces”. Yes I really care about my looks but I know longer obsess, gravity has taken over, I look at my 40 year old daughter and wish and look at my teenage granddaughters and think oh my gosh how beautiful. Then my friends say how great we look for our ages. Really…..I'm just glad I don't live in Southern California anymore, I was having lunch with a group of my sisters friends on the beach and everyone of them had major plastic surgery, most of them took 2nd mortages to do the work! Just do the best we can do with what we've got. dp az

  32. Gaea

    Hey I am gladder than usual that I live in southern Oregon and not southern California. Looking good or just more anxiety about passing for young? Hmmm….

  33. kathy peck leeds

    Absolutely under the line. I think anything to do with grooming as we age is a necessity. Plastic surgery isn't grooming – so very optional, and not optimal (in my opinion).

  34. Anonymous

    I moved to No. California because I loved how women were aging gracefully here vs the orange haired women in LA. So I'm working on aging gracefully. The main thing I do is take care of my skin. Every other week I use a masque. Everyday I use various products by “Yoanna.” My main concern is eyelid droop because it can impair vision. I use BWC eye gel. Voila! I also eat more or less right, exercise and maintain my weight. Hey, I'm 66 1/2, healthy and happy.

  35. MarkB

    Anything that makes you feel wonderful is fine in my book. And since my eyebrows are starting to look like Brezhnev's circa 1972, I think there are some guys who need to pay attention to this too.

    Keep rockin!

  36. Anonymous

    One good thing above average looks is that as you get older you worry less and less about this kind of stuff, but I have to agree with Amba when she says “All I have to say about eyebrows is that nobody told me when I was young and bushy (in various places) what a big difference just plucking the arch makes. It still acts on my spirit like a mini-facelift.” My eyebrows are almost completely white as are my lashes. It is distrubing to look at myself that way! Ugly or old is not the issue … I look dead! So after discovering how much difference having brows makes and several trial and error methods, i.e. such as color – nasty. When done too heavy you skin gets color and you look some some 50 psycho from the movies – this is what I do now Revlon Brow Fantasy. Has a brush like mascara. Colors nicely, matches my hair, doesn't smear, lasts all day, not expensive. It also has a Crayon side if you're so include to do fill-in work. I LOVE it. And I don't feel guilty that I'm wasting too much money so I don't have vanity guilt. ;o)

  37. BEV

    I will summarise what I wrote in the “wrong link”. I had my breasts reduced years ago; I had had to be careful not to turn around suddenly, for I could knock over a lamp. Since that time, I attract a better class of jerk. My boobs are nice and soft, and completely natural.

    I use concealer and a drugstore mineral powder which is also an effective sunscreen. The concealer sticks are kind of like spackle for the 'laugh lines.' I brush a dark powder on my eyebrows to fill in where age has taken away.

    I could go on like Betty White about various body parts and letting it all hang out – — – and I am 15 years younger than she is. My GYN doctor boldly goes where nobody wants to go any more . . .. .
    I have decided against injections and cosmetic surgery on the grounds that I have worked hard for this face. I have earned it, and it shows. Still, when I go out, I want to look my best without looking like mutton gotten up as lamb.

    when I was backpacking Southeast Asia and Australia, European travelers used to ask me for advice on having a good life. They had never encountered anyone in their parents' generation wandering the Earth for years on end.

    I like to think that my own natural face invited these conversations.

    The younger generations in my family have followed my lead and left our co-dependent family and opted for lives with warm and fuzzy Latin families . We have followed the classic 'recovery” script. It is just nice to build lives without chaos, even in California. I fled to Hawaii a generation ago, and am pleased to have set an example. Those we left behind have been cruel in retaliation, but as years go by, it doesn't matter any more.
    Love and Aloha,

  38. Linda

    With the baring of Helen Mirren in this week's New York Magazine, http://nymag.com/guides/summer/2010/66750/, I would hope we could open a “body” discussion. Or more specifically, arms and chest – and even knees. But first: THANK YOU HELEN MIRREN!

    This summer of my 68th year, I'm looking at the clothes in my closet and finding at least 1/4 of them obsolete if I am to keep covered my upper arms and chest that bear the lines and crinkles that were not there last summer. Is this how I am going to live out the rest of my hot weather days and nights, wrapped in sleeves, bolero sweaters, shawls and more?

    Thinking about saying “screw it” and pulling on a sun dress for tomorrow’s Summerstage jazz concert… maybe. (And maybe not.)

  39. Sara Davidson

    Hey Lynne,
    Feminist is NOT a bad word in my book. I'm proud to fly that flag, which, as Gertrude Stein said, “by any other name would be the same.” Have you seen the movie “Iron Jawed Angels?” I'll be blogging about it shortly. Thanks for the poem.

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