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

A High School Reunion With My Gorgeous Bride Mindy!

Okay, okay- I’m back!  It’s been a crazy month of too much stress at work, too much good food, too little vacation, too many special occasions, not enough blogging, and a lot more working out than usual.  I barely know who I am these days!  But anyhow, what better way to bring things back than with my first wedding of the season?


I’ve known my friend Mindy since high school, and I truly can’t tell you what joy and honor it brought to my heart when she contacted me to do her wedding makeup.  I’d considered Mindy one of my favorite buddies during our senior year; I couldn’t have done AP art history or government without her!  I hadn’t seen her much since our high school glory days (which looked something like fusing together Phantom of the Opera with the North American Free Trade Alliance to create a mini-musical to perform for our classmates … super glorious).  There’s honestly no occasion I’d rather reconnect with an old friend over than her beautiful wedding.  And it was also great to be back at the fantastic Red Horse Barn!


My day with Mindy started out in the hotel room she’d been sharing with her bridesmaids at the Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach.  All the chaos of a bunch of girls getting ready together is one of my favorite things.  The twenty different curling irons out, the makeup kits spread across literally ever surface, and the music … you never know what you’ll get with a group of girls on a wedding day.  It could be Backstreet Boys, the Grease soundtrack, or Jason Derulo.  You really never know, but it’s always a good time.


For Mindy, I’d chosen what could basically be identified as a smokey eye, but I wanted to keep it within shades of bronze and brown to bring out her gorgeous blue eyes.  The Stila Eye Shadow trio in Gold Glow (pictured in the first image) worked its magic for me.  Mindy wanted to keep her look very natural, but it wasn’t hard to make her features stand out.  NARS Bronzing Powder in Laguna and a little NARS blush in Orgasm on her cheeks basically sealed the deal, along with a light dab of Dior’s Addict Lipstick in Tulle.  She really is beautiful, isn’t she?!



I so wish I could’ve been around for the bridal portraits; I admit that I love being the stalker makeup artist that lurks around insisting on touch-ups in between every shot!  It’s probably quite the nuisance for the photographers though, and Mindy clearly doesn’t need any help looking amazing.


I loved this next shot because her eyes just pop so much, and her beautiful cheekbones too.  Major props to Tyler Branch Photo!


I also had the opportunity to do makeup for one of Mindy’s awesome bridesmaids named Crystal.  She, too, had an incredible face and personality to match.  I only managed to get a close-up shot of Crystal on my own, and I’m sure glad I did because I was so pleased with how her look turned out!  I used one of my trusted Dior palettes – Earth Reflection – to create a classic look that focused on highlighting and a somewhat silvery finish.  For Crystal’s lips I used NARS’ Satin Lip Pencil in Rikugien, a vibrant rosy pink.


Like I’ve said in times before- with gorgeous faces like these, it’s hard to make ’em look bad.  The day just went so swimmingly between myself, the two girls, and the incredible team surrounding Mindy on her day.  I left Mindy as she was waiting patiently for guests to be seated so she could go out and meet her groom, and I felt a rush of energy as I left the room for the last time from all the thick anticipation in the air.  With a feeling like that, you know it’s been a good day.  xo, MR

Spring is sprung! Not really!

In case you didn’t know, we’re currently in the middle of New York Fashion Week.  That’s right fools.  Get your calendars straight according to the world of fashion and start ringing in the New Year in September with Fall Fashion Week, and celebrating the mid-year in February with Spring Fashion Week (though both really take place in summer and winter).  I’m not exactly sure how that’s all going to pan out what with Nemo (cute name for a storm, ain’t it?) going down and all, but the folks who make the fashion world go ’round don’t exactly pay attention to things like weather reports when it comes to the bi-annual insanity that is Fashion Week.  Deadly weather be damned!  I can guarantee you that things like high heels and skirts are STILL happening in the midst of all the snowfall, and there are seriously like, ten shows a day happening or something like that.  Fashion peoples be cray.

I’ve been aware of the trends we’re going to be seeing this spring for some time now, and the only one in fashion that I really paid attention to was the surge of graphic black-and-white prints thanks to the likes of Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, Alexander Wang, DKNY, Louis Vuitton (blame Marc for that one, too), and seriously a bajillion more.  Being that this is a beauty blog, however, I’m more interested in discussing the beauty trends of the season.  The two most prominent beauty trends for the spring of 2013 consist of blue-green shades of eyeshadow (not your Grandma’s shade of periwinkle, by the way, so don’t be rollin’ your eyeballz just yet) and bright orange-red lips.  Now don’t think too hard about trying to do some fancy peacock eyeshadow look when it comes to the former.  I have a fat eyeliner pencil from Sephora in a shimmery shade of aqua that I like lining my eyes with, even just the bottom lid.  And Sephora Rouge lipstick in shade #29 is a flattering, comfortable shade of tomato-ey tangerine for anyone.


But beyond the specific trends for this spring, I’ll be trying a couple things more often with the hope of integrating the techniques into my everyday look.  First is the tough one- contouring.   You know how sometimes you look at runway models and they almost look as if they’re making a fish-face, sucking in their cheeks and they have cheekbones that look like they could cut glass?  Welp, they’re probably not and they probably don’t.  I mean, chances are that if one is a model then they probably do have very high cheekbones, but I’m telling you- Every model on the runway has undergone some makeup contouring.  This typically involves using a darker shade of foundation or powder foundation, a deeper-but-neutral shade of blush, or a bronzer in the hollows of the cheeks to create the illusion that you have higher cheekbones.  Well-done contouring can even work wonders on the shape of your nose, as well as the forehead and jawline.  Celebrity news blogs and websites will always make a huge fuss over speculation on Kim Kardashian and how it appears like she’s had some kind of surgery on her nose, cheekbones or whatever, but it’s actually all the result of her crazy skills with makeup and contouring.  Believe it or not, Kim is actually very talented with makeup (but she just wears so dang much all the time that I just can’t seem to like it).

I’ve been using NARS Bronzing Powder in Laguna most faithfully for contouring on my own, but I’ve also taken to using a cheaper, darker shade of creamy foundation sometimes too.  Coco Rocha mentioned the tip in an interview I read recently, and it’s worked out well.  I picked up a CoverGirl+Olay Simply Ageless Foundation in Classic Tan, and I just use my fingers to blend it upward into the hollows of my cheeks.  I like to use a powder just under my jawline and a little swipe going from my temples back down into the hollows of my cheekbones.  Think of making a “C” shape with your brush.  For lighter contouring, I also like MAC powder blush in Buff.

As for eyebrows, I’ve taken to the almighty Cara Delevingne as my inspiration lately.  Seriously, this girl is THEE model of the 2010’s if you ask me.  She is EVERYWHERE.  Her bone structure is out of control (though note the contouring on her cheeks!), but it’s her eyebrows that have gotten everyone’s attention.  Dramatic eyebrows have made a serious comeback in the past three years or so thanks to various models like Cara and runway beauty trends, which is good news for me considering I’ve never plucked mine.  Ever.  I’ve never waxed, never had any kind of eyebrow appointment, nothing.  My mama always said I had good eyebrows, and I didn’t really care much until I met Jennifer Connelly’s eyebrows.  Oh dang!  But what I have been doing lately is filling in any uneven patches with an eyebrow pencil and just brushing them out using an eyebrow comb.  And sometimes, when I think of Cara, I just pencil them in a leeeetle bit more … and a little more … and a little more.  I’ve been using two different shades of Make Up For Ever’s eyebrow pencils for a while now, sometimes using both and sometimes choosing one depending on how dark my hair is at the time.

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So below, we’ve got the results of my contouring/eyebrow-loving adventures.  I put a pretty heavy filter on the shot so you could really see where I placed the product (and in this case, it was the CoverGirl).  If you try contouring, don’t be afraid to use a lot.  Results with contouring tend to be a lot more fun as opposed to when you’re too shy.  Now, what will really be fun is when I put a little blonde back in my hair and I still stick with the dark, heavy brows.  I always was disappointed by the assumption that light hair calls for dainty eyebrows.  NO HAIR CALLS FOR DAINTY EYEBROWS.  Shoot, I told my husband last night that I wish mine would grow out and get even bigger!  I wish my eyebrows would just declare mutiny and take over my whole face!  Oh, and whatever you do, DO NOT pluck your blonde (or even dark!) eyebrows into oblivion and then proceed to draw chola brows in their place.  What are chola brows?  THESE.


So there you have it.  These are my makeup plans for this coming spring- contoured cheeks, strong brows, blood-orange lips, and blue-green eye makeup (though probably not all at once).  Oh, and for those that insist they don’t follow trends, and that “trends are for followers” or “people who can’t think for themselves” or whatever such derp as that- I’m sorry, trends are for people who like to have fun.  Trends are for people who like to play around and try something different.  And don’t you be foolin’ yourself into thinking that you have nothing to do with trends and that you’re some kind of original.  Just refer back to Meryl Streep’s death-kill monologue in The Devil Wears Prada wear she, *ahem*, educates Anne Hathaway’s character and lets her know that everything she’s wearing, and everything she ever chooses to wear, was chosen for her months in advance.  There are those who follows trends, and then those who set them.  And if you’re not in some studio designing and working on your collection right now for your September show, it’s very likely that you’re not a maker of trends.  If you purchase a clothing item, a neat new beauty product, any such thing from a store, congratulations- you follow trends.   And that’s ok!  What on God’s green Earth is WRONG with being a follower, I ask you?!  The world would be a better place if we all chose someone commendable and committed to following them as best as we could instead of trying so desperately to make our own way.  So get out there and copy someone!  Just not this person.  xo, MR