How to Choose Makeup and Fabrics Based on Skin Sheen


how to choose makeup sheen for your skin

How to Choose Makeup

Often there is a ‘rule’ that when you are more mature then you should steer away from any sort of makeup with sheen or shine (pearlesence) in it.  This rule will work, if you have matte skin, but even if you are more mature, you may still have a skin that reflects more light and has a natural sheen, then you will want to wear makeup that also has a subtle sheen, otherwise a matte finish will look dead and lifeless on you.

This is the same rule for fabrics, which I’ve discussed in this post on Matte, Sheen or Shine.  It’s also worth considering how the sheen of fabrics can make you look larger or smaller, and thus where you would put sheen and shine if you choose to do so because it flatters your natural shine!

Jewellery and makeup are the easiest areas to add shine to outfits if you need it naturally.

makeup that flatters, matching makeup to skin sheen

One of the things I’ve noticed about myself, and I’m a shiny person, my skin has such a high shine that when I had a passport photo taken, it was nearly rejected due to the high shine on my visage (but I argued that that’s what I look like, 5 minutes after putting on lots of powder and what I’d be looking like after travelling for more than 20 minutes).  I need shine for my shiny skin.

I have also noticed that if you have a shiny skin like me, you will tend to need a slightly brighter colour in our fabrics particularly when the fabric is a matte finish.  The more soft or smoky, greyed down colours look too dead next to a shiny skin, unless they are on a shiny fabric (and we do associate shine with youth too, so this could also be a contributing factor).

shiny or matte


Shiny skin needs sheen and shine in makeup, jewellery and fabrics.   It may also need a slightly brighter colour when the fabric is matte as it harmonises with the brightness of the shine in the skin.

Matte skin looks great with matte makeup, brushed metals or matte jewellery and fabrics.

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  • This is an interesting topic because, as you say, older women are usually told not to wear any sheen on their face. I’m 67 but I still have a bit of a glow to my skin, and I’m not keen on a very powdery look, which I think makes me look even older! Would you say that it is advisable for women of my age to limit shiny to either eye shadow or lipstick and not both?

  • I’ve never thought about this before, but it makes a lot of sense. A few months ago I (40) was lamenting to my mother (72) that I want some sort of sheer lip coverage, but I don’t care for the shiny lip gloss trend–especially now that I feel too old for them. That’s when she pulled her latest purchase, which was some fairly shiny lip gloss! It looked nice on her, and didn’t look “shiny”.

    At the time I thought she was brave to go with the trend, and that perhaps it woudn’t look so bad on me either.. After reading this article, though, it makes perfect sense. At 70, my mom still has a youthful, dewy complexion. She’s the definition of sheen. I on the other hand, have had skin problems since childhood, and my skin resembles the Sahara. The term “matte” doesn’t do it justice! I did wear lip gloss as a teen, because that’s what everyone else was doing, but it has never looked nice on me. It just makes me look too “flat” in comparison; the lip gloss wears me.

    As a general rule, I suppose matte cosmetics make sense as we age; skin does tend to dry out as we get older. But once again, the individual is more important than the general rule. Thanks again for the great advice, Imogen!

  • Oh my gosh! You are so right and, like Pamela above, I somehow knew this without knowing it. Even as I fight wrinkles and dark spots in my 50s, I stay away from what I think of as “muddy” colors…they just make me look older. I eschew lipstick, but love lip glosses and balms with shine. This doesn’t mean I go for the metallic, but I definitely can’t do all matte,For me, the amount of sheen in a mineral makeup looks fabulous. Conversely, my beautiful daughter has baby skin…no sheen, no oiliness (even at 16!) and can wear finishes I never, ever could. Thanks for sharing this!

  • What if you have combination skin – my cheeks and chin are matte, and my nose is shiny. My forehead can be either and sometimes both in the same day?

  • Imogen, I too have shiny skin. I bought a matte primer before I understood the info you imparted. I gave it away. I will also give away matte jewelry, etc. I like to wear satin and silk near my face, now I know why. I will not buy any more matte lipsticks, either. Thanks for the useful information.

  • Very helpful, Imogen. I went through my jewelry and donated matte pieces which look dull on my shiny skin. Thanks for your amazing analyses of all the little things that make a big difference in putting it all together for us.

  • Imogen you are a genius. Geniuses are kind of shiny. 😉 This explains a lot. My skin is oily and super shiny because I wear sunscreen every day, and have yet to find one that doesn’t make my skin as shiny as foil. (Mineral ones give me acne. ) It looks awful, especially as I get older, but I couldn’t figure out why.
    Then, from your blog, I figured it out! I have textured, thick, curly hair=non-shiny, quite matte in fact. My eye color is muted olive green.
    So I use mattifying primer, foundation and powder- and still break through that, but it helps. Also blotting paper. It looks do much better matte! I used a little carefully applied nude sheen to my eyes because they are deep-set, and frankly dull. Then a matte color on the crepy part. And muted glow colors on lips–no high shine or sparkle.
    So much to consider! Men sure have it easy. I think they are just naturally better looking than us and don’t need so mych help!

    • You may want to wear something with shine in every outfit – such as shiny jewellery with matte, textural fabrics – so that you harmonise with both your texture and your natural shine

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