IGM Essentials | Makeup Basics
In the recent weeks I’ve received quite a few emails and fan notes from readers asking for a broad essentials list. Identifying as a certified beauty junkie first and a blogger second, on a monthly basis I put numerous products to the test not just for myself but also for compiling posts to provide you guys with in-depth thoughts, details and swatches of both new and older beauty findings. Doing this allows me to expand my own knowledge and offer information about formulas, colors, differences or similarities, brands, etc.
With the market being as saturated as it is across all product categories for any makeup lover, whether that be a newbie or a more seasoned one, it can become quite a bit overwhelming and almost a challenge to decide what is right for them. Making the correct makeup choices and finding what works for you is a highly personalized journey and can be only achieved through extensive research and the dreadful trial and error process. At one point or another all of us have experienced the aftermath of purchasing products that ended up not working as well as we initially thought or hoped it would in terms of color or formula. Journaling my own beauty adventures has taught me a lot about finding what works the best not just for my own personal preferences, but also what works the best for my skin tone and type in the same breath. And it has also taught me the most valuable lesson of all; just because it’s a cult status or highly raved about item across the beauty community does not necessarily mean it’s destined for me.
For this post it was almost next to impossible for me to pick favorites since I love a wide range of brands. I spent a few free weekends away from work swatching everything in my collection narrowing down a top list and compiled this edited guide of products that I think are suitable for both the makeup novice and buff alike. For the sake of convenience I’ve split them up into three prominent categories starting from top to bottom: Eyes, Cheeks and Lips.
Selecting eye products and narrowing them down to a top contenders list was perhaps the most difficult chapter to complete since I adore so many and own quite a few that I use frequently. After a good period of time I was able to pick the ones that I find are quite universal as well as good investments in terms of versatility and overall use.
The Urban Decay Naked Palette is definitely my most reached-for palette. It has 12 neutral toned shades that have the ability to create a wide range of looks including mattes and shimmers all of which have incredible pigment. Urban Decay’s eyeshadows are known for their smooth texture and workable propensity. This is the one palette I rely on the most whenever I feel a little lackluster in the creativity department or when I’m in a rush and am pressed to dress up my eyes. It’s a palette that I find goes with literally everything throughout the entire year. With the exception of Virgin, Sin, Creep and Gunmetal, this is a very wearable option and was one of my better palette investments. Although if I had the freedom to make any alterations or improvements, I would substitute Virgin with Foxy (from Naked 2) and Creep with Blackout (from Naked 2 as well) to me that would make this palette complete on a whole different level.
While full-range eyeshadow palettes offer a lot of choice to assemble looks with from beginning to end, for some having more than 10 colors to play with can be a bit overwhelming. In that case I highly recommend looking into customizing your own eyeshadow quad using the Anastasia Beverly Hills Eyeshadow Singles – reviewed + swatched here – and taking advantage of Ulta’s ongoing 4 for $40 + a free empty magnetized 4-pan eyeshadow compact deal. Anastasia’s single format eyeshadow line comes with an impressive 84 colors choose (including matte, shimmer, metallic, satin and glitter finishes) to choose from but you are in full control over which colors or overall theme you’d like your personalized mini palette to have. I purchased my first a while ago and am in the process of sourcing for a second and third. The colors are stunning and almost dramatically pigmented. Textures are buttery soft so they blend and layer easily for a more natural and diffused look.
When it comes to eyeliners and mascara, a rule of thumb is choosing classic black formulas as a good place to start and everything else after that will simply fall into place. Out of all of the makeup categories this one is perhaps the most subject to trial and error and over a lifetime you’ll go through many until you find that one. Unfortunately, not all black mascaras or eyeliners are created equally. Some formulas state they are black but in the meanwhile will pull gray in undertone making your lashes or eyelids look ashy. Others will fade within a matter of 2 hours or have no pigment to them, period. And then we also have the issue of smudging and running. All-in-all, you’re going to need a lot of patience when in pursuit of finding the quote-on-quote holy grail that understands your needs and wants. My all-time favorite mascara is the Maybelline Volum’ Express Colossal Mascara as it is my absolute go-to for volume and definition. The medium-sized wand grabs every lash hair and helps them hold a curl without flaking, clumping or smudging easily from morning until night.
For eyeliners I use liquids only and two primary colors; black and brown. So far the best black formula I have tried is the Stila Stay All Day® Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in Jet Black – reviewed here -. It has a thin precision applicator which makes drawing a perfectly crisp wing a little less daunting and gives the user full control. The overall formula is a nice rich black that dries almost instantly with a lush glossy finish. Jet Black is definitely one of the deepest black liners I’ve used to date and it stays put all day without turning gray as the hours tick by. For a brown formula, I recently discovered the Urban Decay Razor Sharp Water-Resistant Longwear Liquid Eyeliner in Demolition – reviewed here – , which is a deep brown with matte finish. This liner as well has a super fine tip for ultra precise application. Since I’m not the biggest fan of eyeliner in general, being able to draw on a thin line that simply accentuates the eye shape I very much appreciate the tiny tip. But not to worry if you prefer your liner a little bolder because of course you can draw and stroke the product on until you’ve reached desired thickness. Demolition is a really deep brown and hands down one of the best brown formulas I’ve tested so far.
Out of all the makeup I own, I’m not exaggerating when I say that bronzers, blushes and highlighters dominate my makeup collection more than any other category. Suffice to say that it was virtually impossible to pick an edited list of favorites because quite frankly, I love my children equally and picking one over the other imposed instant heartbreak. However, I managed to roundup face and cheek products I find are quite versatile and of amazing quality.
Longtime readers know that bronzers are my drug of choice and I am on a continuous path finding more to add to my repertoire. While a good blush can breathe new life into the face within an instant – in that same vein a good bronzer can add an inviting warmth to the face that we can’t extract from our foundations or from anywhere else. I were pressed to pick just one, hands down I will always gravitate towards Nars’ Laguna – reviewed here -. Laguna is a true neutral brown-based bronzer with a hint of gold that looks very natural on the skin. On the right skin tone it can definitely be used as a contouring powder but on me I like it as an overall bronzer.
Cream bronzers is something I consider a makeup essential as well. They can be used for all-over bronzing but I personally prefer to use a cream bronzer as a contour substitute instead. My absolute favorite is the Chanel Soleil Tan De Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base – reviewed here -. It’s an understatement to say that it’s extremely pricey but I promise it’s worth every penny and will last you a very long time. I’ve been using mine for over a year and a half and have now just reached the bottom of the tub. Soleil Tan De Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base is a bronzy light to medium brown with slight yellow undertones. It’s the perfect shade for contouring. I love layering this underneath Laguna, it’s the perfect combo. The weightless cream swipes on like butter using both a brush or fingers with an even consistency and blends into my skin beautifully leaving a sheer tint of color for a naturally diffused finish.
If you asked me right now which blush I would want to wear for the rest of my life I would have to pick the Marc Jacobs Beauty Air Blush Soft Glow Duo in the shade Kink & Kisses – reviewed here -. Kink & Kisses is a beautiful peachy pink and is very pigmented with buildable color. The blush compact comes with a unique striped design that alternates between the two primary colors, which naturally makes blending the shades together so much easier. Each end of the compact has a slight larger area of the reigning colors so you are in full control over the color and intensity. The left side has the lighter finish and the right side has a darker finish. The lighter stripes have a finely milled hint of shimmer to them which gives this amazing luminous glow and looks very natural on the face. Pigment is sheer to medium but can be layered enough to add visible color without overdoing it.
Highlighters is another category that I had a bit of difficulties with pinpointing exactly which ones were my all-time greats or most reached for. I concluded that when it comes down to multi-tasking properties and degree of versatility, the Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit in That Glow – reviewed here – is by far the most functional. The palette offers 4 nicely neutral-toned highlighters that can be used both on the face as well as on the eyes. The overall shimmer factor on these is quite high. The colors are extremely pigmented, yet soft and smooth enough to where they blend out quite easily. While shimmer is on the high side they remain wearable for the everyday as long as you take time to properly blend them into the skin for a more diffused look and gorgeous luminous glow. All 4 shades work amazing individually, but can also be layered for a unique color mix.
Even to this day I’m not that much into lip products despite my best efforts to coax myself into wearing some kind of color in lieu of a tinted lip balm. I’m very low maintenance when it comes to my pout. Naturally my lips are already on the pigmented side and finding a color that has proper coverage to subdue what’s underneath is a case I gave up on a long time ago. They are simply too dark and for the neutrals I prefer to wear, this is not always a convenience because they automatically distort and sabotage what I consider at first the perfect nude shade. Nonetheless, I still have some recommendations on hand because it’s not a category that I can completely phase out. The lip product industry is a vast one and what you are looking for ultimately depends on the look you want. Color, finish, texture, coverage, lipstick, liquid lipstick, gloss, and what have you are the basic factors to weigh. This category is one where venturing out is an absolute must.
For a full coverage color that still looks natural, I turn to a liquid lipstick. This year I discovered a keen liking to the overall product and have been cautiously building my petite lippie wardrobe by expanding in certain areas – this being one of them. The Too Faced Melted Matte Liquified Long Wear Matte Lipstick in Child Star – reviewed here – is a soft nude with a matte finish and is one of my go-to’s if I decide to wear something other than a lip balm. It’s a full coverage liquid lipstick that has a semi-sheen to it so the finish never looks flat like a lot of mattes tend to do. If your lips are dry or flaky, you will need to exfoliate and moisturize prior to using this because peeling prevents the product from looking even and will settle into just about everything. Also, doesn’t look cute.
I wouldn’t say that I’m not a lipstick girl but I wouldn’t say that I am. I’ve always had the hardest time finding the perfect nude shade that matches my skin tone and undertones. MAC’s Cremesheen Lipstick in Creme D’ Nude is my favorite type of lipstick because I can swipe it on and go about my day. It’s a warm-toned soft muted peach beige that adds a pretty hint of color to the lips with a nice sheen. It is a sheer formula but is completely buildable. Despite it being a sheer formula this lipstick is surprisingly lasting plus hydrating. When I wear this I can still see a tinge of my own natural lip color coming through, however, I don’t mind it as much.
Lip glosses are the easiest and most foolproof way to ease into wearing some type of color on the lips. If you’re looking for glosses that offer rich pigment and an even coverage with a high shine finish then I highly suggest looking into Buxom’s Full-On Lip Polish. This line has 100 colors to choose from so you’ll be prone to find something of your liking. I really like these because they are such an effortless sheer to medium coverage lip gloss that feels like a lip balm and wear comfortably. The shades Amber (a soft shimmering peach), Samantha (a true nude) and Sandy (a nude with soft pink/rosy undertone) give a good amount of color with a wearable high shine finish without draining my complexion. Another good lip gloss that offers medium to full coverage is the Lorac Alter Ego Lip Gloss in the shade Socialite (a true nude). Texture is slightly on the heavy side but one swipe gives me an almost full opaque finish that cuts pretty close to it being a liquid lipstick.
And that concludes my edited guide to what I perceive as essentials. Whether you are a newbie looking to delve deeper into makeup or are just curious about what my favorites and most reached for products are, I hope you find this compilation useful to inspire you to start exploring. As always, I’d love to hear what your top favorites and essentials are, leave them down for me in the notes!