When life gets a little weird, I like to clean, sort and organise. I think it’s a means to regain a sense of control in an otherwise tumultuous situation. Since the onset of social distancing, I’ve tackled just about every aspect of my apartment: kitchen, wardrobe, desk, linen closet and of course, all my beauty products. Being a beauty editor means I try a lot of stuff – I’d go so far as to say I try hundreds of products a year. But it was only on the bathroom tiles as I sat amongst piles and piles of creams and lotions and serums and lipsticks that I started considering out of everything I’ve tried, what were the ones I truly loved? The ones I’d happily go out and re-purchase time and time again. So in the process of cleaning, I also vetted my MVPs in every category: skincare, hair, fragrance and today’s listicle, makeup.
Below is my master makeup list broken down by category. A selection of complexion, lip, brow and eye products I would use to the very last drop before hauling out to Mecca and grabbing another. It’s an extensive list, but I try products for a living so I think it’s fair (if you’re after some under $25 alternatives, see this edit here).
It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream, $63. SHOP NOW
This is it, my holy grail complexion product (along with the rest of the population). Even though it’s labelled a CC cream, this is more a medium coverage product with a slightly dewy finish. It covers uneven tone and texture but skin always looks like skin. I buy it whenever I see it in stock, in multiple countries. I apply it with a damp beauty blender, but fingers or a brush work too. Oh, and while it’s got an SPF of 50, you still need to wear sunscreen underneath!
Nars Sheer Glow Foundation, $75. SHOP NOW
I have two foundations for special occasions, and this is one of them. It makes my skin look almost perfect but not like I’m wearing tonnes of makeup. The finish is luminous, but not greasy; long-wearing, but not cakey. It doesn’t settle or crease or oxidise, and the shade range is superb. A real holy grail product.
Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk FOundation, $100. SHOP NOW
This is my second choice, and quite possibly one of the most lauded foundation products ever. It’s similar to the above but maybe one notch higher in terms of coverage (in my opinion). Still, the texture feels fresh but not too mask-like, and it gives skin glow without grease. Expensive, but I use it maybe once a fortnight (for special occasions) so it lasts forever!
Chantecaille Just Skin, $119. SHOP NOW
This is my weekend skin product – the perfect light tint that feels weightless but gives the confidence that “slightly better” skin can give. It’s low-fuss enough to apply with fingers but add a damp sponge + a little concealer and you’ve got yourself a natural but radiant base.
Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer, $48. SHOP NOW
This is, hands down, the best concealer in the world (according to me). It covers everything from dark circles to angry red pimples with ease, and stays put thanks to a matte, slightly powdery finish. I pop a little on the back of my hand, dot as needed, go ahead with my eyebrows before blending gently with my finger a few minutes later. I have it in three shades and would probably cry if it was ever discontinued.
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder, $77. SHOP NOW
My personal makeup preference is a finish that errs on the dewy side, but some days (hot, humid, high stress) a sweep of powder across the nose, chin and forehead is necessary. This one has the most wonderful soft, diffusing effect on the skin – not thick or crepey like so many other powders. It even moonlights as a highlighter and eyeshadow, making the $77 price tag a little more bearable. Also, is it just me, or do pressed powders last forever? I think I’ve had mine going on two years and I’ve hardly made a dent.
MAC Cosmetics Prep + Prime Fix+ Mist, $39. SHOP NOW
Often I feel like setting or prepping mists are nothing more than good marketing but there is just something about Mac Fix+ that I love. It gives makeup this beautiful dewy look and seems to soften any lines or large pores without feeling sticky. I find it also helps to almost set makeup – I even have a mini size for days that roll into evenings. I just spritz and use my finger to fix up around the nose, mouth and eyes.
Chanel Baume Essentiel Glow Stick in Transparent, $71. SHOP NOW
If you gave me a $100 bill and set me loose in Myer with a one-product allowance, I would hands down choose this. It is divine – a clear, dewy face gloss that delivers the perfect glow. Every time I wear it, someone comments. I use mine on cheek bones, the bridge of my nose and on my eyelids. It can held fluff up brows as well.
Westman Atelier Lit Up Highlight stick, $77. SHOP NOW
This is similar to the above, but offers a subtle iridescence that feels just a little more “done” than the Chanel. It’s glassy and slightly emollient, so I find the sheen lasts all day. It’s also a wonderful option if you want skincare benefits simultaneously, thanks to the inclusion of hyaluronic acid and grape fruit extract.
RMS Beauty Living Luminizer, $61. SHOP NOW
I know, I know… three clear highlighters is a lot, but this RMS Beauty pick is iconic and I can’t really see my makeup kit existing without it. It’s got a slightly more pearl-y finish to the others but still feels cool and natural and glossy. It’s made on a base of coconut oil, so doubles as a lip balm (if you’re in a pinch).
Nudestix Nudies Matte All Over Face Colour, $54. SHOP NOW
I am particularly fond of the shade “Sunkissed” in this line, but all colours are amazing. The creamy sticks are best applied straight from the bullet and blended with fingers or the adjoining brush. They give a natural-looking flush that feels fresh without being overly shiny. I use them on eyes and lips, too.
Jillian Dempsey Cheek Tint, $54. SHOP NOW
Low fuss beauty at its best, these pots are so easy and never fail to make my skin look alive. I quite literally press my fingers in and then blend onto cheeks, buffing upwards and outwards. The resulting flush is very “I just slept nine hours and did Pilates.”
Nars Blush in Orgasm, $48. SHOP NOW
While I stan creamy products most of the time, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a diehard fan of Nars powder blush in Orgasm. It is such a beautiful, flattering shade – like a poppy pink washed with a coral-toned shimmer. It’s definitely more of a “makeup” finish, but one I’m very much a fan of. Try it on eyes at the same time for a bright mono-pink look.
Jillian Demspey Lid Tint in Dew, $45. SHOP NOW
Another Jillian Dempsey gem, this one being the perfect clear eye gloss. I’ve always used my highlighters on my lids and while it works, this one is slightly gluier so I find the staying power is better. Worn with a red lip, it’s very French.
Dior Backstage Custom Eye PAlette, $88. SHOP NOW
Palettes are a weakness of mine but I find myself reaching for this baby Dior every time I travel (a telltale sign of true beauty love). I love the versatility – you can build out a deep nighttime eye, a subtle wash of shimmer, a natural-looking daytime powder liner… the mixing medium in the bottom left corner even makes for a nice clear eye gloss or highlighter. Plus, I find the powders aren’t incredibly rich or dense, making it easy to use for novices such as myself.
Stila Glitter&Glow Liquid Eyeshadow, $38. SHOP NOW
I once referred to these Stila glitters as disco eyes for dummies and it’s a sentiment I stand by. They are so easy it’s almost criminal. Literally apply to eyelids, set and forget. They dry down and lock in, making them ace for nights out (and a Champagne or three).
Mascara And Liner
Diorshow Iconic Lash Curler Mascara, $56. SHOP NOW
This mascara has a legion of fans, myself among them. It has this great grippy brush that really pulls lashes up and out, while the formula itself dries quite hard to keep them lifted and curly. It’s super black, doesn’t flake and never clumps (even if I apply three or four coats). It’s a winner.
Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara, $39. SHOP NOW
Okay. This mascara doesn’t totally align with my makeup aesthetic (quite natural) but I cannot deny its incredible volumising and lengthening capabilities. If I want big, bold, larger-than-life lashes, this is what I will use. The brush is soft and fluffy so it deposits a lot of product, but it doesn’t seem to clump up so long as you pull it through. I’m always floored at before-and-afters when I use this.
Nars Climax Mascara, $38. SHOP NOW
Truthfully, I feel about 70 per cent of a mascaras success comes down to its brush, and this Nars option is the perfect example. The brush is made up of what I would describe as tiny boar bristles – wirey but not firm. It combs through lashes for amazing clean length and just enough thickness at the roots. I find the result is dramatic but believable, if that makes sense (unlike Better Than Sex, which has more of a false lash look).
Revlon Colorstay Skinny LIquid liner, $26. SHOP NOW
A classic and with good reason. This liquid has a tiny brush so it’s easy to get a clean line or flick, plus won’t smudge or peel off.
Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil, $54. SHOP NOW
My brows in particular are difficult dames. They’re incredibly uneven, so when it comes to filling them in, it takes quite a bit of work (sadly, I’m not a clear gel only girl). I don’t like the harsh finish of pomades but pencils don’t grip the skin, so I find a waxy crayon is best. This Hourglass option stays put all day but looks natural, even when I’m filling in a large surface area. I just sketch tiny strokes through my whole brow, concentrating on any gaps.
Benefit Cosmetics 24 Hour Brow Setter, $45. SHOP NOW
Once the shape is full, I like to fluff my hairs upwards as if I were Brooke Shields. This clear gel is the only one I’ve ever tried that keeps things in place all day without balling up or falling out.
Dior Lip Glow, $52. SHOP NOW
This is the lip product I keep in my bag all the time. It’s super hydrating, a little bit glossy and gives this really nice healthy pink tint that adjusts depending on your natural lip colour – like a balm but much better.
MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Lady Danger, $30. SHOP NOW
Ruby Woo is like the Beyonce of Mac red lipstick but I prefer Lady Danger because an orange-based red looks much poppier against my olive skin. This is super creamy and opaque and the matte finish means it stays on relatively well. I use a lip liner and will soften it with a touch of balm if I’m wearing all day long.
Kosas Weightless Lip Color in Stardust, $45. SHOP NOW
All of the Kosas lip colours are stunning, but Stardust is a really nice deep nude-pink that looks like lipstick but isn’t high maintenance. It’s fresh and cool and can be applied without a mirror. Five stars from me.
Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Liner in Pillow Talk, $35. SHOP NOW
Pillow Talk is legendary in makeup land for giving us access to a full pout without fillers. I use it to map out my cupids bow and shade the underside of my bottom lip and the difference is always noticeable. This particular shade actually comes in a range of tones too, so you can match it to the natural colour of your lips, or your personal preference. It makes a great all-over lip colour, too.
EDITOR’S NOTE: KEEP in mind these are personal choices/opinions. I suggest seeking out further reviews/samples if you’re considering making a purchase.