My Three Very Favorite Makeup Brands

I’m not known for being loyal to one brand in beauty.  This goes for the haircare variety, skincare, makeup, perfume, whatever.  I will try anything, from any brand, whether it costs five dollars or five hundred (and no, I’ve yet to try any five-hundred-dollar products yet because cash money).  But if you look in my train case, you’ll see the Revlon mixed with the Dior and I like it that way.  I’ve used drugstore products on brides and they have worked.  I’ve also invested in a couple pricy eyeshadow quads that nearly every one of my brides has worn as well.  I’m game for nearly anything in makeup, and my brand allegiance goes about as deep as that of the sweet ladies that Chris Brown likes to sing about.  And I don’t plan on changing.

This is also one of the reasons why I never intend to become an associate for any direct sales cosmetic or skincare line- I could make all the money in the world and I know I still won’t be loyal.  I don’t want to be tied down to or obligated to rep any one name.  That is, unless I create a line of my own one day …

But every so often, I am asked to name my very favorite makeup brands.  That’s honestly a hard thing for me to nail down, but I’ve got a few.  You’ve probably got items from each of these brands in your own makeup bag because they’re so popular, but they’re popular for a reason, and you don’t make a bajillion dollars from bad product.  Each of these companies is over twenty years old, and all of them possess a single, brilliant founder that inspires me with both their creativity and entrepreneurial savvy.

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Bobbi Brown– This makeup brand is responsible for allowing me to have peace with my own aesthetic as an artist.

When I’ve done brides (or myself, anyone really), I’ve always felt a little less-than for not wanting to go all out with the theatrical, transformative kinds of makeup that is so popular these days. It’s true that I simply do not possess some of the skills for really dramatic makeup, but honestly, I don’t really like that kind of makeup and I don’t know if I’d use those skills much even if I had them! At times, this has left me feeling a little incapable and “uncool” in the world of contouring, baking, YouTubing, color correcting, strobing, spackling, and champagne-popping.

However, in 1991, Bobbi Brown apparently felt the same way. “To be honest,” she says, “I wasn’t really a great makeup artist—I wasn’t one of these makeup artists who could transform a face. I just always had shortcuts to make things work because I loved it so much.” That year she debuted a line of ten natural lipstick shades as the very first part of her mission to create “a great collection of edited, natural-looking makeup”. The rest is history that you can see at Nordstrom, Sephora, or Bloomingdale’s the next time you happen to wander in. The brand that Bobbi Brown single-handedly founded is very much what I’m about in life and in beauty- perfected basics. Nothing crazy, nothing fancy, no circus tricks- just really beautiful, classic makeup. Her eyeshadows share nowhere near the same range as say, MAC, but they are just what you need (and yes, her “Taupe” shade really is the perfect taupe!). Her lip shades are flawless, her concealers (in cream or stick form) are legendary, and her Long-Wear Gel Liner is not to be matched. And let’s face it- when Kate Middleton decides to do her entire face in Bobbi Brown for her own wedding day, you know it’s legit. Bobbi is a huge inspiration to me as a female entrepreneur, and she has made me feel like there’s room for me in the beauty world.

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NARS – And now for a favorite brand that is near polar opposite of the aforementioned.

The packaging for NARS is sleek and modern, but their color offerings are even more so.  NARS has the absolute best range of blushes I’ve ever seen, and no other brand I’ve tried seems to match the innovativeness and quality of their shades.  Their basics such as the Creamy Radiance Concealer, Bronzing Powder in Laguna, and All Day Luminous Foundation are amazing, but they’ll go for the shocking color makeup, too: a shadow duo featuring lime green paired with cobalt (“Rated R”), a matte purple-black lip pencil (“Train Bleu”), and a vermillion red blush that looks like it belongs on a clown (and that very blush, called “Exhibit A”, was the inspiration for this blog’s title).  However, it’s not as if NARS is cranking out any and every eyeshadow shade you can imagine; you can tell there’s still a thoughtful editing process behind the collection.  In the end, you sort of feel like Rihanna when wearing NARS- really, really pretty, very fashion-forward, and kinda naughty.

Founder Francois Nars continues to be one of my major inspirations in makeup.  You can definitely sense the fashion influence in his brand; Nars’ personal eye for photography and his background in fashion make his line feel sexy and provocative.  His collaborations with more controversial artists like Steven Klein and Andy Warhol give the line an unmistakable edge, and yet as an artist Francois Nars has always seemed very grounded.  I have one of his more famous quotes pinned to my inspiration board at home: “Do not be too serious.  It’s only makeup!”

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bareMinerals– Every time I think I’m going to graduate from this brand, I get sucked back in.  I can’t help it.

A couple months ago, I was speaking to an associate at Sephora about bareMinerals.  She stated that she felt the brand was sort of for beginners, for those that are just starting to get into makeup, but that it wasn’t something you stick with forever.  I was contemplating a new foundation, and I considered moving on to something else besides the SPF 15 Original Foundation of theirs that I’d used for SO long. This loose-powder mineral foundation saw a miraculous kind of overnight success when bareMinerals founder Leslie Blodgett was given a spot on QVC to pitch it back in 1997.  I was sort of sad at the thought of quitting this beloved brand’s foundation because it’s also one of the most high quality natural lines you will find (seriously, the foundation has just five mineral ingredients), but I figured it was time to be an adult and move on!

However, I randomly popped into a bareMinerals flagship store the other day and had one of the employees go crazy on me, just for fun.  It turned out that the foundation shade I’d been using was now too dark (thank you, Illinois), and she matched me with my correct shade tested it on my face.  And there it was, the reason that I’d loved bareMinerals for so long- my skin looked perfect.  The associate had cleansed my face using their new skincare line (a gorgeous oil cleanser that I’d totally consider for myself, by the way), applied primer, then applied the makeup, and my adoration for the brand was suddenly renewed.  After some decent skin prep, this line’s original foundation just makes your skin look so unbelievably fantastic that I cannot stop singing its praises even at 28.  Their blushes possess the same qualities, their primer receives remarkable ratings, their concealers are all over Instagram, and their variations on foundation are unique and great for all skin types (and I personally love their Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel for warmer weather).  Whether the brand is actually for “beginners” or not, I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

And there you have it.  Like I said earlier, I honestly have no loyalties, but if I had to choose three, these would be the three.  At first I thought it was funny that my favorite brands are a bunch that seemed to have absolutely nothing in common with one another, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they all share a significant, common thread- they all place a strong emphasis on good skincare.  Bobbi Brown, NARS, and bareMinerals all feature their own beautiful skincare lines, and each brand very much emphasizes the importance of a canvas that is well taken care of.  Bobbi’s luxurious creams and oils have been around for a long time, bareMinerals has always been about makeup that is good for the skin even though they only just debuted a full-range skincare line of their own, and Francois NARS himself said, “If the skin looks beautiful, everything else will look great.  Skin is the most important part of makeup.”

There are some really great makeup brands out there that turn out incredible color product, but the skin isn’t made to be the priority.  Kat Von D, Urban Decay, TooFaced, and Stila all are incredible makeup brands, but they’re not about the skin and they don’t feature skincare.  My personal makeup philosophy has always been about putting the skin first, and so I’m rather pleased to see that my most favorite brands come from a similar line of thinking.  I would probably include Glossier on this list as well, but they only have skincare at this point (except for BoyBrow) and have yet to debut their color makeup.  Well, I mean, they are debuting color makeup this Monday, so this list may grow a lot sooner than later.

Let me know if you concur, what your favorites are, and what you’re trying these days!  Have fun!  xo, MR

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#EmptiesChallenge Update 2

Let’s see.  When we last talked about my empties challenge, I’d forgotten that I was doing it in the first place and got a blowout that wasn’t even worth it.  Kudos to me.  Over the past two months, I’ve managed to remember my challenge but Christmas, Sephora gift cards, and an appointment with my home hairstylist happened.  Yikes.  And I was silly and decided that I wanted to try ColourPop cosmetics, too.  I felt like I could justify it because ColourPop items are six bucks each, but add in the shipping and you’re basically at eleven bucks.  Oh well.

My main expenses, when it comes down to it, were the hair appointment and the extra money I spent at Sephora on top of my gift card.  Because you know how getting one item for free at Sephora somehow makes purchasing two more seem okay?  Yeah, I don’t know how that works in the brain’s economy, but somehow it makes sense, kind of like the real estate bubble of 2008 and subprime mortgages.  Oh and I also stopped by Lush Cosmetics and picked up their Eau Roma Water Toner, because I had a staff lunch right next door and I wasn’t sure when I’d be there next.  I’m really exercising such a great sense of self-discipline.

Anyhow, I have run out of a couple things this past month.  I’ve finished off my Origins A Perfect World Age-Defense Treatment Lotion With White Tea, A Perfect World SPF25 Age-Defense Moisturizer With White Tea, and another CoverGirl Clump Crusher mascara.  I’m closing in on the following: NARS Creamy Radiance Concealer in Custard, Unite Eurotherapy 7 Second Condition Leave-In Detangler, Sally Hershberger Hyper Hydration Super Keratin Spray, Acure Organics Argan Chlorella Night Cream, Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing towelettes, and quite possibly my BareMinerals SPF15 Original Foundation in Light.  Still little progress on any color cosmetics, but I have been doing better at applying more frequently.  I don’t exactly blast through stuff like this blue and purple eyeshadow duo from NARS quickly.

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So if I’m going by the ratio of the challenge (and not counting any of the things I received as Christmas gifts, because it’s just too difficult), I’ve “paid” for my hair appointment by running out of the two Origins products.  I purchased some Simple Micellar Water again too, so the mascara and one of the others that I’m almost out of will pay for that.  The two other things I picked up at Sephora and the Lush toner, however, are unpaid for until I officially run out of the rest of the almost-empty products plus one additional item.  Time to keep working.  And notice I’m just not even counting the ColourPop, I’m just that over it.  Whatever.

All this to say, it’s very easy for non-necessities to accumulate.  It happens quickly, and we tend to make purchasing decisions impulsively.  I need to learn to take my time.  It’s becoming much easier to see what I really need though, which is kind of neat.  I found I couldn’t do without the micellar water as a makeup remover after a couple weeks, and I repurchased my same Origins moisturizer with my Sephora gift card after deciding not to spend it on something more frivolous.  So, I’m learning, but I’ll keep hammering away at the color cosmetics in the meantime.

I have to say that the ColourPop decision wasn’t exactly the worst, though.  I took my time figuring out what color of their UltraMatte liquid lipstick I wanted to try and I finally landed on a shade called “Chilly Chili”.  Like the Stila kind I’ve mentioned before, this stuff does not come off but the color payoff is pretty great.  I can’t wait to wear this plum-brown in the city, and I like it with my bangs.

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All right, I’ll probably be back soon with a SAG Awards post, so see you then.    xo, MR

“No Makeup” Makeup Is A Thing

Ah, yes.  The whole “no makeup” farce.  We roll our eyes at those with the #wokeuplikethis selfies, or the #nomakeup selfies, or #nofilter selfies, or whatever.  We really just roll our eyes too much in general, but for the sake of this post …

Let’s discuss “no makeup” makeup.  Yes, there is such a thing.  One of the things that has frustrated me with the makeup conversation over the years is that makeup is all too frequently assumed to look like the obvious, the dramatic, all the time.  Wearing or loving “makeup” all too often means you must wear full coverage foundation, lipstick, dramatic eyeshadow, and false lashes and all the like on a regular basis.  When I’ve mentioned to new guy friends that I have a beauty blog, I’ve gotten a few perplexed looks because I’m not wearing a Nicki Minaj or Gwen Stefani-level face when I say it, and I rarely do wear this kind of makeup (though I love it when I get to).  And if I really like makeup and enjoy writing about it, well, doesn’t that mean I should be wearing a full face all the time?

Nope.  Not necessarily.

What I frequently go for when I have some time is a “no makeup” makeup look.  I love running errands or going to a friend’s house or the movies with this kind of makeup.  Sometimes I’ll even choose it for something a little more special because no-makeup-makeup has a minimalist feel to it, and I like that. This is my favorite kind of look to create on others as well.

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What this involves is some liquid or powder foundation, primer beneath that if I feel like it, some blush, some eyebrows, some concealer in any necessary areas, and probably lip balm and a touch of “my lips but better” lip color.  The eyes are left completely bare (except for maybe some underage concealer).  I know Jennifer Connelly’s look pictured above definitely features some eye makeup, but see how barely visible it is?  It’s just a bit of sparkle and a little mascara, or maybe a couple individual false lashes.  I love how modern it looks contrasted with that sheet of shiny, raven hair on her head.  I personally never add to the eyes with no-makeup makeup, but perhaps I add a touch of highlighting if the foundation doesn’t give off enough of a glow on its own.  My easiest formula for the look is this: even skin, flushed cheeks, good brows, and “your lips but better” lips.

No-makeup makeup also allows me to focus more on my skin.  I can take my time with serums, oils, and moisturizers with less makeup to worry about, and this kind of care makes a beautiful canvas for foundation.  I need to pay more attention to my skin these days anyhow because it’s starting to become very, very dry.

The weather here in Chicagoland has surprised me in that I did not expect it to be so drying to my skin.  I was bracing for the freezing temperatures, didn’t bat an eye when the first snow arrived, and totally expected the thick, damp humidity during our first month here, but the dryness of winter?  Wow.  And it doesn’t just come from the weather.  The dry, cold winds, coupled with the dry indoor heaters and the hot baths and showers I’ve made a habit of taking have left me dry as a bone.  Therefore, I’ve had to consider an overhaul on my skincare and spend a lot more time focusing on moisture and masks before I even think about makeup.

Anyhow, here’s my own take on no-makeup makeup:

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There’s no filter on this, so it is what it is.  I know I took some time with my skin before taking this, using my favorite serum- Caudalie Vinosource S.O.S. Thirst Quenching Serum, along with a sample of May Coop Raw Sauce.  Can you believe that name?  Raw Sauce.  It’s a Korean essence that contains a lot of maple tree sap; it’s meant to prep skin to receive and more effectively absorb other skincare products.  It sounds really gimmicky but I truly felt a significant difference when I used it.  When applied, it feels so cooling and almost tingly.  I would wear my serum on top of it and my skin would feel cool and smooth to the touch all day.  But the Raw Sauce is a little expensive- $43 – though the bottle is pretty huge and a little goes a long way.  And I like the Caudalie serum better than Shiseido Ultimune, which I tried last year.  I’m almost out of the Caudalie, and if I repurchase it will be my third bottle.  I love it.

For the makeup, I think I actually used my BareMinerals Original SPF15 over some Hourglass Veil Mineral primer.  I’m really trying to blast through that BareMinerals, though sometimes I forget how nice it can look with the right prep beforehand.  The concealer I favor is Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat in 2.5 Vanilla for the undereye area, but I may have used NARS Creamy Radiance concealer in Custard here, too.  The NARS is a little more powerful in my opinion for highlighting, but it’s also thicker which makes it not as great for the undereye area.  You want the thinnest, creamiest formula for your undereye area; nothing thick or cakey which will age you and make you look tired.

For blush, I think I used Stila Convertible Color in Lillium.  It’s a nice, basic pink cream blush that you can also use on your lips.  I just tap (not rub!) it into the apples of my cheeks.  I used my trusty CK One Color Brow Pencil + Gel Duo in Crafty Raven for my brows.  If I go for bare makeup I really like to have my brows stand out, otherwise the look is kind of like an unframed picture.  And I’m just wearing Burt’s Bees here, maybe with a touch of their Lip Crayon in Sedona Sands on top of the beeswax.  I will not use any other lip balm than Burt’s Bees Beeswax.  The peppermint oil in it is so relieving, and there’s no mineral oil in it so it actually works and I only need to apply it about twice a day.  No “chapstick addiction” problem here.

It’s sort of surprising how much makeup is involved in no-makeup makeup, huh?  The fact of the matter is, I did not wake up like this.  I mean, I know I’m not wearing that much or anything terribly obvious, but I am wearing makeup and this did take a few minutes!  So two things not to be fooled by- “makeup” doesn’t always mean a full face, but “no makeup” sometimes involves much more than you’d think.  The trick is to stay honest, and just enjoy it either way!  xo, MR

Image credit of Jennifer Connelly to Getty Images.