Book Review: Toss The Gloss


Andrea Q. Robinson knows a lot about beauty – she’s a legend in the cosmetics industry. As a student in an all-women’s Catholic college, she was entered into a “best-dressed” contest and landed a job as an assistant editor at Condé Nast. Plumb editorial positions at Mademoiselle and Vogue followed, and when she left the magazine world for Revlon, she had Irving Penn shoot still-life ads for Ultima II – a shocking concept at the time, which proved very profitable. She also launched the idea of neutral makeup shades, assisted by a then not-so-well-known Kevyn Aucoin. Successful stints helping Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford create blockbuster beauty businesses followed. At fifty-plus years old, she was at the top of the industry – and she was fired. And the “suit” who fired her even suggested that it was time for her to retire.

Does the beauty business ignore women over 50? Mrs. Robinson – as she wryly refers to herself – says YES. And she says it’s not because there’s no market. Mrs. Robinson says the “depressing, oh-go-to-hell” reason for the industry’s refusal to create makeup products for women over 50 is that they’re afraid of alienating younger consumers. So even if 50+ women have more money to spend and enjoy spending it, the “suits” aren’t really sure they want that money – the women spending it might make their other products uncool.

Post-menopausal beauty is a taboo subject in general – it’s easy to love perfect makeup tutorials on twenty-somethings, and to admire the spunk of little old ladies, but the time between 45 and 65 is a scary, undefined shift in form and consciousness. And most women don’t know where to begin. Do we cling to our youth? Hand our faces (and bodies) over to whatever medical experts we can afford? Give up? It’s not an easy time to navigate, in many ways. You would think the cosmetics industry, which has offered all sorts of balms and colors so far, would have a new arsenal of products and techniques for us. But there aren’t really, and Mrs. Robinson knows why: it’s not sexism exactly, but most of the cosmetics industry is run by men in suits, who know a lot more about spreadsheets than they know about being women. So it’s going to take a woman to lay it all out – to decipher what is and isn’t available on the market, and what really works.

Toss the Gloss is a guide to choosing and wearing cosmetics for women aged 50+, and it is not skimpy on advice: there are tips about what brands to try (both high and lower priced brands are included), and what makeup products are best left for younger skins (glitters, matte foundations, and shiny lip gloss make the list). Mrs. Robinson lets her readers in on the secrets of cosmetics advertising copy: it seems to promise so much, but has enough escape clauses to avoid getting tangled in FDA regulations. And she also writes about ingredients that have proven benefits for skin, so you will know to look for those.

And the makeup tips? Tons and tons, illustrated by Chesley McLaren, so if you haven’t needed blush before, but are feeling pale at 50+ (skin does get paler and more sallow with age), there are guides to help. Product recommendations come with general color descriptions, so if you’re not finding something, the descriptions will help. There’s also a chapter on dermatological and surgical procedures – their potential benefits and risks, as well as a checklist of questions to ask about any procedure.

Toss the Gloss is an excellent guide for any woman aged 50+ looking to fully master the neutral-toned “you, only better” look, and is a valuable beauty resource for any maturing woman interested in beauty. As Mrs. Robinson’s aesthetic leans heavily towards the nude-pink-tan palette, fans of true colors may feel lonely. For myself, I have the feeling that no matter what my age, you will be prying the red lipstick from my cold, dead hands. But still, months after my purchase, I’m combing the book for tips, and have a feeling I will be looking to Mrs. Robinson’s advice for years to come. And she’s mentioned in the press that she will be creating her own line for mature women in the future. I can’t wait – it will come just in time.

If you are approaching (or past) fifty, Toss the Gloss is a fantastic beauty resource. And if you know someone else who’s navigating beauty at A Certain Age, it’s a great holiday gift:

Toss the Gloss: Beauty Tips, Tricks & Truths for Women 50+


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