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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My Grateful Bride, Kristin

My last couple weeks before moving from California to Illinois were pretty hard.  There were goodbye parties, a few last weeks at a job and with coworkers I enjoyed, overwhelming amounts of packing for one little apartment, and fun but truly bittersweet time spent with family and loved ones just before departing.

However, there were also weddings.
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Being part of two weddings in the final weeks leading up to our departure was, to my heart, a sign and a reminder of promise.  Weddings are a sign that this is just the beginning, that the best is yet to come, and that despite the work and the stress and the unknown in front of you, the kingdom and the power and the glory lie ahead of us.  Weddings serve as a reminder of this for all of us who witness them, whether we are married or not, whether one ever does marry or not.  To be reminded of these things as I prepared to leave California was no small gift.

I played a part in two weddings before I left for Illinois.  In one, for my beautiful coworker Natalie that I miss dearly, I served as a witness.  For the other, I served as a makeup artist to the gorgeous Kristin.

I had worked at a school with Kristin, who teaches second grade, for the past two years.  We’d interacted with the same families, the same children, the same staff.  I watched her handle the stresses and challenges of guiding seven and eight-year-olds through a year of rigorous learning with grace, responsibility, and a meticulous, tireless work ethic.  All of this, coupled with planning a wedding and trying to find a place to live, is a job meant only for someone as conscientious as Kristin.

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I also had the opportunity to hear Kristin share her amazing story journey with me as we went through a makeup trial together, and I have to say, this wedding had been a wonderfully long time coming (and I say that in the most joyous, worth-every-second-of-the-journey kind of way).  As I worked on her makeup the morning of the wedding, Kristin began crying as she listened to one particular song; she needlessly apologized and whispered, “I … I’m just so grateful.”  I am always so moved when I work with brides that have so clearly counted the cost and sacrifice of marriage before they have even entered into it.  This was no mere culmination of a few months on Pinterest; this was no “milestone life event” to be checked off on that great Milestone Life Event Checklist that God is apparently carrying around on a clipboard, disdainfully waiting for us to “complete” (as if marriage makes one person better than their non-married counterpart).

No, Kristin seemed to know that the wedding ahead was much more than these things.  This was Kristin seeing heaven joyously ripping into Earth’s atmosphere through her vows, knowing that this was only the beginning, and that the best is yet to come.  Even in the darkness and utter shame and horror of the days this world has just recently experienced, the promise still stands- the best is yet to come, and we can push forward for truth and justice because of the victory that has already been won.  And with that victory comes healing, restoration, and new life- and how wonderfully appropriate is that considering that Kristin and her husband are now expecting their first child!

Kristin’s thankfulness encouraged me to enjoy what I was doing in the moment.  It can be very easy for a bride to make a makeup artist feel like a cog in the Big Fat Pinterest Wedding machine, with expectations of a Kiley Jenner-type transformation but without any meaning or consciousness of what is happening.  Such was not the case here- I was here to serve, and Kristin’s gratefulness for the circumstances that had brought her to this moment gave me rest, and allowed me to just enjoy what I love.

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Kristin had really clear ideas about what she wanted for her makeup, and I so appreciated that because it takes the guesswork out of the process. She knew she wanted to use pink makeup tones on her eyes, lips, and cheeks that she felt would work well with the retro feel of her tea-length bridal dress. We used an excellent foundation that Kristin favored- Estee Lauder’s DoubleWear Foundation- and I used Hourglass’s primer as a light base layer beneath it and NARS Creamy Radiance concealer beneath the eyes for concealing and some basic highlighting. For some light contouring, I used the bronzer and highlighter from Urban Decay’s Naked Flushed palette.

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To bring out some of Kristin’s features, I used my favorite technique of applying a creamy, pearly eyeshadow to the very top of the cheekbones, the area between the eyebrows, the cupid’s bow, the very center of their chin, and just above the center of the eyebrows with NARS Duo Cream shadow in Thebes.  Once the whole look was finished, I dusted Kristin’s whole face with Hourglass’s Ambient Lighting Powder in Mood Light, which creates such a flattering glow without looking too golden or bronze.

For Kristin’s eyes, I applied Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion and then Bobbi Brown’s eyeshadow in Rose Gold and MAC’s Shroom all over her lids. We used a shade or two from Urban Decay’s Naked 3 palette to add extra sparkle and dimension in the creases. Bobbi Brown’s LongWear Gel Liner in black was used as topliner, and I applied just accent lashes to the outer corners of her eyes. I used one of Kristin’s own mascaras because her eyes were sensitive to many products. We used a blush of her own that she loved; it was very similar to NARS’ blush in Orgasm. Kristin’s lip color was Bobbi Brown Lipstick in Sandwash Pink with clear gloss on top.  All very pink, and all very glowy!  She is just so beautiful to begin with; it certainly wasn’t a challenge to work with her!

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I am finding that MAC, Urban Decay, Bobbi Brown, NARS, and Hourglass are my favorite heavy-hitting brands for bridal makeup. Sometimes you have just so much going on in your kit that you can’t determine what brands you really trust the most, but after scrolling through all my photos in my phone, it seems that these names make the most frequent appearances (along with Dior thanks to their shadow palettes).  If you need any recommendations on products, don’t hesitate to ask!

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Kristin, I took such pleasure in serving you on your wedding day and I thank you for being a source of encouragement to me (even when you may not have known it).  You looked absolutely breathtaking, and I love this very photo for its tangible anticipation and excitement.  To the promise of healing, restoration, and new life!  xo, MR