|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.
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 Chanel.com 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?