My grandmother used to excuse herself to “go put on her face,” a process that involved a blue eyeshadow as old as my mother, a coral-shaded Revlon lipstick, and eyebrow tools that looked like they came out of the Inquisition. In my 27 years, her routine (and makeup of choice) has never once changed.
She’s an extreme case to be sure (in just about all aspects) of being stuck in your ways with your makeup. However, having a makeup routine and go-to products that become your signature look and default purchase, not only enable you to define your own style, but takes out the uncertainty (and splurges) at the beauty store. There’s something to be said for knowing exactly how one brand is going to respond to your skin type, and when you find it, I suggest you cling desperately to it (until they inevitably take it off the market).
At Literally, Darling we all have our own go-to makeup products that let us go from the crypt-keeper to glam in 15 minutes because we know and love them like the back of our hand. Today, I offer a glimpse of my own personal favorites.
I’m pale. I’m so pale that in middle school my friends called my skin tone “the other, other white meat.” So finding a product that makes shades for practically translucent people, but who have that lovely (sarcasm) English/Irish/Scottish rosacea pink tinge, is difficult. Wings, who is similarly pigmently-challenged, and I constantly debate the best product, and I have unilaterally sided with Smashbox. I have nothing against her go-to MAC, but unless it’s high summer and I have the slightest hint of color in my face, the orange-tint to it makes me look like an Oompa Loompa.
I cannot recommend their entire face line enough (and not just to the pale girls). I start with the Photo Finish Foundation Primer (this is a must, none of the other products will have the right consistency if you don’t use it), dab on the High Definition Concealer in the rough spots, and then depending on if I’m going for flawless or “good enough” I either put on the magic that is their Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder and go, or add in Definition Healthy FX Foundation and set it with the powder. It never fails, and despite how crappy my skin looks on any given day, it gives it a “Covergirl” look (but without the Covergirl products burning my skin off). Now it’s not cheap, but I’d highly recommend starting with Complexion Perfection Kit, which has travel sizes of all these products for $49 at Sephora. It’s a great way to see if it’s a good fit without committing to the prices of the full size items.
I am a dyed in the wool Urban Decay girl for eyeshadow and eyeliners. They have unbeatable (in my opinion) saturation and staying power. When a new eye shadow palette comes out I have a Pavlovian response and start drooling before it’s even in stores. And take it from me, the palettes are the best buying option. You can get anywhere from six to fifteen fabulous colors ranging from $30 to $60, or you can buy an individual pot for $18 – you do the math. They have colors for everyone. Like a subtler nude shade? Try one of their three Naked Palettes (Naked Basics, Naked, or Naked 2). Want to go a little more rock star or grunge? There’s the Smoked and Dangerous palettes. My personal favorites are their special editions that they sell for short periods of time, though I won’t delve too much into them since they’re no longer available. I’ll just say KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED for them, as these have the broadest selections of colors offered. One thing to note with Urban Decay shadows- you must use the primer. It’s not just a marketing ploy to make you buy crap you don’t need- the shadow is at about half potency without it. Besides, when you do use it, your eyeshadow won’t even budge for twelve hours (no seriously, I smush my DSLR camera against my face and the eyeshadow stays put).
Their eye liners are as fantastic as the shadows, and generally come in the same bright colors, are fairly smudge-proof, and long lasting. However, for the black eyeliner lovers among us, good luck finding a purer or better (non-liquid) black liner than Perversion ($19). Again check out their kits (as pictured below) you can buy a pack of them (prices depending on how many are included) and have every color of the rainbow at your fingertips for a lot less than buying them individually.
Now if you’re a liquid-liner lover (I’m slowly converting) I move away from Urban Decay. I have very sensitive skin and my eyes water like Niagra Falls, so generally if I use a liquid liner, it leaks into my eye, burning my retina, and turns the entire eyeball black, making me look like an extra on the Exorcist. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found that the “permanent” pens work the best for me, and in particularly, the Buxom Pen & Ink Long-Last Eyeliner ($20 at Sephora). It’s rather idiot proof, and it has a tip that can be both fine edge and flat, making it easy to do a variety of looks. A cheaper option ($16) that fell into my lap via Birchbox, is Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner. It has a fine tip but still goes on easier than the traditional liquid liners that make me look demonic.
For mascara I again turn to Buxom. The truth is I’m absurdly picky about my mascara wand- I need them with combs, not bristles. I have long curly eyelashes, and the traditional wands make them smear all over my face. Buxom Lash, God bless them, has a curved wand that grips your lashes and their formula elongates and thickens to make them nearly fake-worthy. What’s even better is you can choose between a regular and waterproof version. I’ve been using this same mascara for the last few years and it’s never let me down, even if it is a bit steep at $19. If you want a cheaper alternative, Rimmel London’s Sexy Curves is available at your drugstore, has a similar wand, and while not as good, at around $7 who really cares?
Full disclosure, I have not yet found my magic lip. In high school I was addicted to the red lip, (which if you need advice on, see Wing’s wonderfully thorough advice here), but as an ardent tea drinker, I’ve grown weary of cleaning lipstick off teacups, so I often forgo putting on my lips. This breaks my heart a bit, as I’m a full believer that all a girl needs to fake fabulousness even while feeling less than wonderful, is a bold lip, statement sunglasses, and a pair of pearls (real or fake). That said, I do keep a few lip gloss/stick hybrids in my purse by Tarte. They have a minty feeling, can give you either a gloss, matte, or sparkle look (they call them LipSurgence tints, luster, and creme) depending on which you buy, and are rather effortless to put on and don’t tend to leave themselves everywhere your lips touch. The shades aren’t too broad, but for a quick pop of a color, you can’t go wrong (even if the $24 price tag is painful [they last a long time though])
And that about wraps up the inventory of my makeup case (or let’s be real, my bathroom sink). I enjoy sampling other brands, and Birchbox is the best and cheapest way to do so, but I always find myself coming back to these. None of these are cheap, though they’re also not top shelf either; they’re just solidly good products. I used to buy drugstore brands through college and before I had a grown-up job that allowed me to splurge a bit, and they’re fine, some are even better than others. Once I switched though, seeing the difference in the quality of product, how long it lasts, and how much better it treated my skin was astounding.
However if these products aren’t your cup of tea, stay tuned as more of our Literally, Darling writers will be weighing in on their own go-to makeup.