Trying to narrow down what i consider to be my makeup “essentials” is a bit like me trying to decide which of my two cats i love more. Sort of impossible. Ask me to choose what 3 makeup items i’d want with me on a desert island, and you’d see me lugging a massive cosmetic’s train case, a la Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It just ain’t happening. However, i did manage to whittle things down to a fairly manageable list of items that i do consider to be seriously ESSENTIAL – like stuff i use every single day, or at least pretty much every single day – things i consider necessary to build a makeup collection – the bones, if you will.
Let’s start with the face, which is basically your canvas – now i actually do my cushion/BB cream/foundation (on the rare occasion i wear foundation) LAST, so i don’t have to bother with cleaning up little bits of eyeshadow fallout and lipstick mishaps. It’s how i learned to do makeup when i was an artist, and it’s how i still do it now. I just find it wastes less time. But, we’ll start with it anyway, since it’s what you build on and it’s what most people do first:
- Dr Jart Cicapair: Before i put any kind of makeup on my face – be it concealer, BB cream, cushion compact, or foundation – i first prep any red areas or blemishes with this stuff. It is, indeed, green as can be, and not only cosmetically neutralizes any redness, but helps to heal and calm the skin of irritation and blemishes with tiger grass, yarrow, and a couple other things i’ve never heard of before but apparently are calming to the skin as well. It also has an SPF of 30. All i know is that this stuff really works, and i wouldn’t be without it. It cuts blemish healing time in half, and really makes any redness go bye-bye. Plus, it feels great on itchy, sensitive, irritated, Special Snowflake skin.
- Cushion Compacts: I’m currently using AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact SPF 50, #201. I’ve mentioned numerous times that i despise foundation; the heaviness, the way it makes my skin look – not like skin. This stuff is like skincare in a compact, keeping me dewy and hydrated, while giving just a light swath of colour to my skin to blur imperfections, while looking totally natural. I’ve been testing it for about two weeks now, and despite the alcohol, it’s keeping my skin looking really great, without dryness or irritation. Go figure. I’m looking forward to trying more cushion compacts!
- Colour/glow enhancing powder compact: There are several incarnations of these on the market right now, depending on the effect you want. It is NOT a translucent powder, which can give a white cast to the skin. The point of these powders is to impart a wash of colour and a glow. Not quite a bronzer, not a highlighting powder, not a finishing powder; it’s sort of a hybrid. Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder is a good one, if you are OK with having bit more luminescence in your powder. I’ve used it in the past, and liked it well enough to repurchase three or so times – there are quite a few colour selections, and the finish is certainly lovely – it’s got a great yellow-based one that’s great for those of us trying to calm down redness. My favourite is the Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Color Powder, mainly because it doesn’t have all the sparklies. It’s not a matte finish, it’s definitely got a subtle glow to it – it just makes the skin look faintly dewy. The lightest shade, which i use, has a yellow-based tint. If you want to use it more as a bronzer, you can choose a shade darker. If not, it just somehow gives you a natural, healthy glow. It’s a gorgeous product.
- Undereye concealer/brightener: There are SO MANY of these on the market right now, from NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, to Givenchy Mr Light Instant Light Corrective Pen, to Kevyn Aucoin’s The Sensual Skin Enhancer, but i still think the original does it best – the YSL Touche Eclat Radiance Perfecting Pen. It wakes up tired under-eyes like nothing else i’ve ever used – it can be applied over concealer, or if your eyes aren’t suffering from SERIOUS dark circles, it can stand alone. I also use it as an eyeshadow base – it really makes my shadows pop. It’s creamy and doesn’t make fine lines stand out. Not pictured because i need to get more and am scraping the last off a sample card is Cle de Peau’s ubiquitous concealer; it’s arguably the best concealer on the market. Super creamy, works as a base beautifully, moisturizes, and covers even the darkest circles, at least MY darkest circles. Plus, despite the hefty price tag of seventy bloody dollars, the tube is generous enough that it will last you at least a year, if not more. And it really is the best concealer you will ever use. It even blurs out my broken blood vessels on the sides of my nose (thanks, lifetime of allergies).
- Black Liquid Eyeliner: I think i have quite literally not gone 5 days out of 7 without wearing black liquid eyeliner for the past 3 decades. I have tried many, many, many in my travels. There are quite a few good ones out there, and some are pretty awful. I have several favourites. A truly great one, which i’m wearing in this post, is the Le Metier de Beaute Precision Liquid Eyeliner; What’s exceptional about this liner is that it’s a great daytime black – not that startling Vantablack that most companies are going for these days, which i admittedly tend to go for as well – but a sort of soft black that will blend seamlessly with any shadow you throw at it while still giving that definition you want out of a black liquid liner. Plus, you can be a complete liquid eyeliner dilettante and still not mess up with this baby. It’s super-easy to use, and because the black is not that scary jet-black, it’s just somehow less intimidating. Also worth mentioning is that i’ve had mine for a year and it’s still not dried out. Next, the liner with which I have love/hate relationship due to the tip on mine fraying a bit – the Hourglass Voyeur Waterproof Liquid Liner; The black is a deep, rich, velvety black – and it’s very easy to apply due to the perfectly shaped tip and hefty pen. However, it’s not waterproof, and as mentioned, the tip frays. So, even though i find myself reaching for it when i need to do a quick cat-eye, i am annoyed by these issues and probably won’t buy it again. I’m also quite fond of the Ecriture De Chanel in Noir; It’s a nice pen, thick enough to hold comfortably, and the felt tip is the perfect size to draw with. The black is a good, solid, satiny midnight black, and the formula is silky without being runny. Also worth mentioning is the ubiquitous Kat Von-D Tattoo Liner; of course, because of all the hype, i had to try it out. It’s a perfectly serviceable liner, but honestly, it’s nothing all that special. It’s a nice, deep black, a good consistency, yes. But i found it runs easily in my outer-corners, and i’m not a big fan of the super-skinny, light plastic pen. I prefer something with more heft to it. It’s a good liner – just not my favourite. Finally, my beloved Cle de Peau Liquid Liner; I’ve reviewed this before, here. Again, i love this eyeliner. It’s dual-ended, with one side being a brush-tip, and the other a teeny, tiny felt-tip for detail work, like doing the tiny cat-eye flick. It’s quite quick-drying, so probably not the best eyeliner for the novice. It’s advertised as being “transfer resistant”, but i find it to be pretty well water-proof as well. I need an oil-based cleanser to remove it. It’s a rich, gorgeous, semi-matte black, the pen itself is luxe and beautiful and has a nice heft, and you get a good amount of product. It’s currently the liquid liner i reach for the most, next to my Le Metier de Beaute.
- Nude Eyeshadow: A good, neutral eyeshadow that is close to your skin-tone is a basic must-have, because you can build any look off of it. It’s the base for whatever you’re going to do with your eyes, and you can wear it alone as well for a basic cat-eye. I have about 60-bazillion shadows in this vein, some of them cool-toned, some of them warm, some leaning pink. I use one every single time i do my eyes, even if i’m just wearing mascara, because naked eyelids are just weird to me if you’re doing your makeup at all. Contrary to popular belief, a neutral-toned eyeshadow does not have to be boring. Take one of my favourites; Night Star by Nars:
This is beautiful with anything you wear it with – and has just the right amount of sparkly – even a glitter-hating curmudgeon like me can appreciate it. Another great one is Burberry Eye Colour Wet & Dry Glow Shadow in Gold Pearl;
This is so gorgeous on – a luminescent gold/beige that is satiny-pearlescent and so pretty. Lastly, before i go rambling on forever about eyeshadows, is the one i’m wearing in this post – the Tom Ford Eyeshadow Single in Moonlighting;
These are all great examples of a good neutral shadow for my skintone – obviously, if you’re darker skinned, something different will work better for you – as it’s meant to give a subtle wash of colour. A definite Must-Have in my kit.
- Brow Pencil: This may not be an essential for those of you lucky enough to have actual, viable eyebrows – but for those of us with spindly, 90’s brows, it’s a must, lest we look like the singer from The Wall when he shaves off his brows and gets all weird and Hitler-esque. I seem to be on a never-ending quest for the best ash-blonde eyebrow pencil, and am still searching. Some good ones i’ve found, though: Pretty much the Gold Standard is the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Definer; a good, hard, angled tip and spoolie on the other end. Many colour selections and good amount of product. I like the ashiness of this one, it’s just slightly dark. But if you’re not a maniac like me, you’ll find a shade that fits. Also a good bet is Chanel, who has two options for brows; an angled waterproof pencil, and a regular standard pencil. Both have a good colour selection, and both are excellent pencils. In fact, i probably need to revisit the standard pencil, because at one point that blonde really worked for me…finally, what i’m using now, and is fairly good, is the NARS Brow Perfector; the blonde was too gold, but the Kalamata shade is quite greenish and light, which works well, if a tad too dark depending on what light i’m viewing it in. Generally though, i like the formula and the angled tip – however, it doesn’t come with a spoolie, which is just annoying.
- Tweezerman Tweezers: I say this brand in particular, because they seriously have their tweezer-game down, and i’ve been using them for eons. Super-fine edged, sharp, and another gold-standard for getting those little stray hairs we all need to clean up from time to time.
- Classic Red Lipstick: Every girl should have in her kit a Classic Red Lipstick. It’s like the Little Black Dress of makeup. There are blue-based reds, and yellow-based reds, as well as neutral-toned reds. You’re sure to find one that works for you. And searching is half the fun! Personally, i’ll never have enough red lipsticks. I can never resist buying them – i find them irresistible. Pictured above is one of my favourites – Obsessed! by Pat McGrath; it’s a yellow-based red, quite bright and cheery, and puts me in mind of the 1950’s reds. Super-bright and unapologetic. In fact, all of Mother McGrath’s reds are gorgeous, i’ve tried every last one of them and can attest to this, so if you’re in the market for a great red, she’s a good place to start. And of course, if we’re talking red lipstick, we have to talk Chanel. If you just go to Chanel’s Lipstick Page on their website, every single lippie you first see is red. They make more reds than anyone, but of course i have my favourites. One of them is Pirate: It’s like the perfect red – balanced and strong, not too bright and not too dark. I think it’s their best red at the moment.
Another gorgeous red is made by Givenchy – Le Rouge Lipstick in Carmin Escarpin. This red is traffic-stopping – it’s a warm-toned red with a satin finish that is like a piece of ripe fruit just burst on your lips. Super comfortable to wear, as well.
- Nude Lipstick: And if one must have the perfect red, then one must also have the perfect nude! Whether that leans towards pink, or salmon, or peach, or beigey-pink is up to your skin tone and personal preference. I find my skin tone works best with something in a peachy-pink tone. For years, i searched high and low for a lipstick that matched the one Audrey Hepburn put on in the cab when she was leaving George Peppard (or thought she was):
And, i believe i found it! If you look carefully at my post picture, you’ll see i’m wearing something that looks very close indeed to that iconic lipstick – and it is, of course, by Chanel. And for me, it is my Ultimate Nude Lip. Rouge Allure Luminous Lip Color in Seduisante;
Of course, there are a million nude lipstick shades out there, and there is one out there for you, too! Hourglass has a whole line devoted to the nude lip – the Femme Nude Lip Stylo. These are quite nice, although very much an opaque nude – all a bit on the light side, so a strong eye and blush definitely required if you don’t want to look washed out. Mac, of course, has a plethora of shades, their best, in my opinion, being in the peach range. Just remember, nude lips does NOT mean zombie, concealer lips! You need colour in there, Kumquats. Don’t do the washed out dead-girl thing. Or the beige thing. Just NO.
- Hakuhodo Makeup Brushes: I cannot stress enough how important it is to get a set of good, quality makeup brushes. Even if you have to buy them one by one, over a period of time, do it. You will thank me for this. Once you have felt the difference, and SEEN the difference in what they can do, and seven years down the road when everyone else’s cheap brushes have been replaced several times over and yours are still going strong, you will thank me. Hakuhodo Brushes are my brushes of choice; after literally decades of trying other brushes and working in the industry, i can say they are the best brushes i have ever used. They are incredibly soft, dense, and well-made. They will last for years, provided you care for them properly. They’re an investment, but one that is without question worth it!
Ok, well THAT was a bit long-winded – i did warn you! Those are the makeup items i really feel are absolute must-haves – items i definitely require when the Morlocks rise up and take over. I’ll be prepared. Will you?
And we’re not done yet! We still have my FACE to talk about. You may have noticed i’m actually wearing something different from my usual cat-eye today – so i figured it would be worth a bit of discussion; read on to see what i’m wearing!
So today, i decided to play around with my ridiculous eyeshadow collection, which i like to pretend isn’t as big as it is. I have this palette in particular that is a couple years old, but still so fresh and well preserved that is like new – most of the colours i never wear, but there are a few golds and blues that i really like in it, one of which i’m wearing here. I also picked up a new Tom Ford eye pencil – which i had to play around with, of course. So far, it’s been staying in my waterline stunningly well – as a contact wearer whose eyes hate everything, i’m surprisingly comfortable and un-watery with this stuff on. So, score on the TF eyeliner! And of course, i’ve got on a few other things;
What i’m wearing:
- AmorePacific Color Control Broad Spectrum Cushion Compact SPF 50, #201
- Cle de Peau Concealer in Ivory
- Dr Jart Cicapair
- Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Color SPF 30, #10 (not pictured)
- Trish McEvoy Blush in Peony Pink
- Givenchy Lip Pencil in Beige Mousseline #10
- Chanel Rouge Allure Luminous Intense Lip Colour in Seduisante
- Tom Ford Private Eyeshadow in Moonlighting (over entire lid up to crease)
- Urban Decay Eyeshadow in Haight (in outer corners up to crease, blended towards center and under outer lash-line)
- Tom Ford High Definition Eyeliner in Azure (under eyes and in water-line)
- Le Metier de Beaute Precision Liquid Eyeliner (on lids)
- NARS Eyebrow Perfector in Kalamata
- Chanel Le Volume de Chanel Mascara in Noir
Ok, that was probably the longest post OF LIKE, EVER.
I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as i did writing! Please feel free to comment with any of your makeup must-haves below – i’d love to hear, and i promise i won’t bite! Hard…