Thursday, May 30, 2019

The One- Makeup Items That Always Work

Photo of Mary Chesebro Phipps Applying Makeup by Constantine Joffe for Vogue, June 1951

For me, that is.

Which is why I'm not mentioning any beloved skin care products because you may be as allergic to my tried-and-true as I am to your coconut oil-based cleanser (I'm talking serious reaction here. I get deep cystic acne as well as full body rashes from coconut oil Including, unfortunately, eating it). So this is just a quick list of makeup items that never fail me and I know I can use without hesitation no matter what else I'm doing with my face or how distracted I am. No need for mastering a special technique or employing extra tools. Slap, smear, blend, go.

The first thing that came to mind here was Lancome Artliner. I've been using these pens for thirty years and always have at least two or three in different colors. Artliner has been changed and redesigned a few times over the years, and the current  extra long felt tip iteration surprised me at first, but an Artliner is an Artliner, reliable and easy to use. Their brown shade is not only my perfect brown but also a go-to daytime favorite. The definition it gives my lash line is strong without too harsh a contrast, so it's a good companion to a very colorful eye look.

One more Lancome recommendation is their mascaras. I'm a believer in the holy trinity of lashes: Lauder-Lancome-Clinique. But Lancome is my go-to for my no-brainer. I like all of them, from the classic Definicils that gives only the most basic and natural look to the modern Monsieur Big (kind of an Instagram look, if you ask me) and the various Grandiose mascaras with their no lash left behind technology. But the Hypnose family is where my heart and lashes are. They're a classic "before and after" mascaras and the quality is superb.

Eye Shadows
MAC Satin Taupe single.
I could end it here and stop, which says plenty considering the endless eye shadow options on the market. Palettes as far as the eye can see, singles in unique colorways from indie brands big and small. But there's only one Satin Taupe bothin terms of color and texture that allows you to pack, blend, and use it as an all-over one and done color. I know not everyone actually looks good in taupe (it feels like heresy, but the fact is that no color is truly universal), and I suspect Burberry Pale Barley would do the same thing for the taupe-resistant crowd). It's also a good reminder of how good MAC permanent line is and has always been, beyond the oft redundant and sub-par limited collections.

Palettes. My first thought was "No way. I can't. Don't make me". But there has to be a way to make sense of the endless supply (I think of it as miles and miles of color, as far as the eye can see and beyond. And that's just my own collection). I won't attempt an "if I could only keep one" because it's pointless. Even in high school I had a handful of quads, duos, and two larger palettes. But here are one perfect palette for natural looks with some versatility, and another is a chic luxurious way to create more colorful combinations:

Viseart Neutral Mattes (a 12 pan palette) requires no effort in creating a look and executing it. The textures seem to work for most, and while the colors seem to lean more warm than true neutral you soon realize that you can actually pick and choose the cooler tones and never look ashy. Their small Theory palette, as nice as they are, do not give the versatility required for "The One". They're a one or two look pony each. Here's an alternative, though: Chanel has upped their eye shadow game to new heights over the last couple of years, the crown jewel for me being the new(ish. First released last year for spring) nine shadow formats. I've shown you the first limited edition one, Afresco, but have since added the second colorful one, Quintessence (still available, $70 at and select department stores) as well as the brand new all-brown Les Indispensables. Any of the colorful palettes will give you an incredible range of options which I don't always find in larger palettes that have a few too many redundancies.

Blush. To my surprise this was the hardest category. I have many incredible go-to blushes from brands across the price rainbow. A beloved La Prairie as well as a fantastic Makeup Revolution little thing. As in many categories there's a classic Lancome Blush Subtil that I've been repurchasing for decades (Aplum), along with a couple others. But what's a blush you're almost guaranteed to use daily and successfully with no clown moments, mismatches just before an event, or the occasional uneven blotchiness? Surratt Blush Artistique. And I'm as surprised as you are. Troy Surratt's brushes are fantastic but overpriced (buy Hakuhodo or Chikuhodo instead). The eye shadows Do.Not.Work.For.Me. I gave my entire stash of them to my eldest niece, and I wasn't sure she was too impressed, either. Some people swear by them and I have no idea why. Still, the blushes are from another world. I have five and even the one I bought rather tentatively (Duchess, a beige apricot) has proven to be a staple. They all look like a wash of pretty color on one's cheek more than a "blush". In an alternate universe I'd just own all of them and forsake all others. I live firmly in this dimension of reality, so not yet.

Cream and liquid blushes aren't as popular, I suspect, but I have to mention one because it's better than all the others I consider great (NARS, Glossier, etc.). Daniel Sandler Watercolour Liquid Blush. It's not a new product but since it's a UK makeup artist brand it tends to fly under the radar around these parts. They ship internationally (free shipping to the US on orders over £30) and best of all: you can buy little sample bottles. I tend to buy one full size every time and a bunch of sample colors, which are also amazing for travel. The combination of meld-with-the-skin texture, natural finish, and thoughtful pigments make Daniel Sanler blushes (Chelsea, Spicy, and Angel are my go-tos) the one.

I almost skipped highlighters because there are too many of them around, they're often overused, and like many makeup-crazed people I could probably live with 10% of what I own and not notice. Except for one. Which makes it suitable for this "The One" edition of carefully chosen recommendations. Essence Pure Nude Highlighter. It's a baked formula in a medium beige/sand/ champagne tone that leaves no particles or streaks on the skin and simply imparts a natural glow. Remember when highlighters were about that?  So, yes, this simple compact (currently on sale at Ulta for the princely sum of $2.69) is The One with one caveat: I'm not sure how the color looks on women of color whose skin tone is very dark and/or has a pronounced red undertone. If you know please comment.

NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Rikugien.
A jumbo pencil lipstick in a dusty rose pink and a satin finish. If you're very pale it's somewhat dramatic. If you're dark this is probably your nude. for me it's the everyday color I carry everywhere and probably the only NARS lip product that I keep finishing and repurchasing before it goes rancid. I gave one to my mom, what else can I say?

I didn't intend to include a base product here because just like skincare there are too many variables involved. But there's one products that multitasks and outperforms most expectations, though it's sometimes hard to define what exactly it's supposed to do. Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter is a glossy pigmented liquid that has a surprising amount of coverage. You're supposed to use it as is, mixed with other face products, layered under or over your base, or invent a new method that's all your own. The result depends on the variables I've mentioned, so I can' say do this and not that. Try all and see for yourself. The reason I will need a new bottle sooner rather than later is that I use over naked skin on the points of the face. The shade I have is 4 Medium - neutral golden yellow for medium skin tones, which would have been a hair too dark for me were this a tinted moisturizer. But the Hollywood Filter is sheer and glossy, thus more forgiving, so the combination of light coverage and clear shine is exactly how I love my base to look (I conceal where needed but prefer the minimal amount of coverage I can get away with most days). It's not exactly a "glass skin" product, since it has quite a bit of pigment (the gaps between the shades and dearth of very dark, very pale and true olive undertones are not very 2019). It's just a brilliant concoction that will work in many different ways for most, because you can mix it with much darker products.

What's your sure thing? Do you have products that have been your companions longer than your spouse?


  1. My Rouge Bunny Rouge eyeshadows and blushes and Illamasqua blushes have been my go-to colour cosmetics for the past...decade (or whenever they launched). Superior quality and pigmentation to anything else, but I suspect there's not much life left in illamasqua after they sold to lookfantastic. Similar to the death of Stila and many others. Sad.

  2. Hi Gaia, This is the list I'd love to make:)

    Consealer: Nars in Custard, it's my exact skin tone, light yet creamy and covering.

    Eyeshadows: Chanel new palette in neutral colors that came out this spring. If I'd allowed to stay with only one-this would be it. These are not your usual neutrals: every shade has a unique depth to it. If you didn't purchase this already - run! don't talk...

    Mascara: Dimentions de Chanel Mascara in Black. This mascara does miracles even with my mediocre straight lashes.

    Eyeliners: Chanel Stylo Pencils in 88, 100, 90. These pencils are perfect to be put on the lid and smudged, to br put in waterline or under the shadows.

    Lipsticks: Summer: Chanel rouge coco shine in 112 Temeraire, for me this color is nude, it intensifies my dark brown eyes and goes perfectly with new Chanel Eye palette in Nude colors that I've mentioned above. I pare it with my Holy grail nude lip pencil by Shiseido 02 Sepia on Ice, which was discontinued years ago and I'm really horrified that mine is also about to finish. Recently I discovered that Temeraire Lipstick is beautiful as a blush too.
    Each time I wear all mentioned products, people just like me more, I get lots of smiles even from strangers.

    Winter lipstick: in Winter I love wearing bold reds that brighten my day, I have lots of different shades and lipsticks but my winner is Chanel Le Rouge Crayon De Couleur Mat Jumbo in Excess 261. When I wear it, I get crazy compliments from women, they just say "the color is perfect on you!".

    I didn't find yet a holy grail foundation yet...

    1. We are mascara and liner twins. Chanel Dimension mascara hard to find, easy to love. Stylo Yeux one of my favorite liners. Love that I don't need a separate sharpener either.

    2. So it seems :). I usually find Dimentions de Chanel Mascara ob Selfridges, they ship world wide...

  3. I have to agree with you about NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Rikugien and MAC Satin Taupe. I love Chanel Les Indispensables. Affresco and Quintessence look the same to me. Never found any Charlotte Tilbury to love and I absolutely hate Lancome mascara. Only goes to show you how personal taste in mascara can be.

    1. I am not a friend of Lancome mascara and Charlotte Tilbury either ...

  4. I have found that my makeup style has changed recently -- multiple deep shadow colors and fuller coverage foundation all make me look old and tired. I love the Daniel Sandler blushes, and I just got a Surratt one. I do like the Surratt eyeshadows when tapped over the Lid Lacquer. I love the whole Jillian Dempsey line; fresh looking and quick. Bad Gal Bang has been a winning mascara, and I can't seem to quit that giant coconut Marc Jacobs bronzer. The Charlotte Tilbury foundation in the squeezy tube works great when mixed with Elta MD sunscreen.

  5. Do you have products that have been your companions longer than your spouse?

    Yes, there are some. I have two Christian Dior eyeshadow quads (they had them before the launched the current quintets): one is called Jeux d'ombres/Shadow Play (very pale pinky nude, matte black, and two metallic shades: one silver, one green/bronze), the other Colère/Passion (all shades are pearl/nacre: flaming orange red, intense purple, taupe/greige, and silvery/greyish green) both are over thirty years old.

    Then there's a Bourjois "little round pot" eyeshadow that can be used both dry and wet, the shade is called Cardinal, and it's a deep eggplant with bronze gleam, which comes out especially when used wet. It really brings out the green in my eyes! I bought it in 1983.

    There's newer stuff, too: I'm about to start my third MAC All Fired Up matte lipstick. Got my first one five years ago and it has become trusty workhorse.

    My fave NARS Satin lip pencil is Golshan, it's my MLBB shade, but with added depth. Love it!

  6. So pleased to find my favourite eyeshadow (Satin Taupe) and mascara (Definicils) mentioned! I am totally wedded to both.

  7. Foundation: in the winter, nothing beats Ellis Faas Skin Veil, in a mix of S103 (fair-medium neutral) and a little bit of S103.5 (light olive), goes on like buttah, light to medium coverage. Quite expensive, but if you email Ellis, she will send a sample of 3-4 foundations in your colour spectrum, and you can then purchase with confidence. I like her blush in S304, nice glow to it, not flashy at all. Tatcha lip oil or Chantecaille lip gloss (Fig or its vampier cousin, Glamour) both give 4 hour hydration, perfect in the winter. I don't wear eyeliner but I wear a discreet mascara, Cover Girl waterproof absolutely does not budge (I have allergies, and when the anti-allergy medication wears off, the taps turn on unpredictably in my eyes, flow like a geyser, so I need absolutely waterproof mascara). I still love Au The Vert by Bvlgari, after all these years, discreet enough to wear at work; if I am feeling like partying Au The Bleu by Bvlgari. Take all the makeup off at night with Tatcha Camellia oil cleanser, can use it remove mascara without destroying eyelashes, removes foundation thoroughly without stripping the skin. Can follow with a Korean double cleanse using Aveeno Cleanser for sensitive skin, and my skin remains quietly peaceful during the winter.

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