What I’m Using: An AM Routine

The last four years in Illinois really enabled me to think through the little things that make me, me. What do I like and don’t like? What kind of routine am I currently capable of, and what kind of routine do I wish I could have? How healthy am I, and what could make me healthier? It was all sort of laid bare before me. We’ve only been back in California for two months but we’ve jumped head-first into an extremely busy season. And my routines have shifted dramatically, partly out of obligation and partly because I think I’m just healthier. My job has me starting work at 7AM, but I see a lot of faces each day and need to look more presentable than not. I also have a kitten that practically tries to murder me once the lights turn on and she gets in the room, so once I’m up, I am up. Whereas in years past a 5:50am alarm would’ve been a real struggle, I’m managing to make something out of the half hour of consciousness I’ve got before driving to work.

If I’m lucky, I’ve gotten up early enough to quickly rinse. I’m a night shower-er but if I can throw myself under some water in the AM I feel my absolute best and most awake. It’s not necessary to me, but going to work feeling totally clean is the best. It’s the ultimate feeling of preparedness. I’ll cleanse with Glossier Milky Jelly and spritz on a Lush toner while my face is still wet. I wait for that to dry a bit and pat on some of Fresh Black Tea Kombucha Essence- very expensive but I hate to say it, I think it’s making the biggest long-term difference in my skin. I’ll wait for makeup after that and not add any more skincare layers. Otherwise my face feels too moist and I feel like I’m sweating.

Makeup is fast in the morning. I put a bit of NARS Creamy Radiant concealer on my undereyes and on the inner corners of my eyes, along the sides of the bridge of my nose where it’s always really dark. I call those the little “caves” of your eyes- they get so dark and that’s the key spot to brightening them. I also put some under my nostrils and a tiny bit around my lips where things are discolored. I blend that all out with my fingers and maybe add some BareMinerals Complexion Rescue around the rest of my face. If you like that dewy, glowy look, this is the stuff for you. Or instead I just blend out some Glossier Stretch concealer where it’s needed. I go by the KatieJane Hughes method and treat that stuff like a solid tinted moisturizer.

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Eyeshadow is typically something I skip because I get too ambitious too quickly with it, but if I have two minutes I’ll buff out a couple creamy, sparkly brown shadows with a cream shadow brush. I love Maybelline’s Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze mixed with Trish McEvoy’s cream shadow stick in Topaz. They’re really pretty blended out together all around the eye. I’ve also just tried the crystal-infused eyeshadow from Victoria Beckham’s new line in Mink and it’s crazy sparkly and flattering. Basically anything brown or bronze with sparkle works. The mascara that packs the fastest punch is Flower Beauty’s Warrior Princess one. I’ll use CoverGirl Clump Crusher to separate and define a bit, but the Flower one gives all the impact. And I never use eyeliner in the morning. That requires like, three products for it to be perfect.

Blush is either a cooler pink or a warmer shade, which then determines my lip color because we can’t have things clashing too much. NARS Exhibit A gives the most impact with the least amount of product. Anyone else weird about using only the least amount of product possible? I feel like I’m trying not to run out of things but then I end up with makeup that’s three years old and still looks unused. It’s like a weird compulsion of mine.  But anyways, I could pick literally any blush and I’ll be happy with it. My lips usually end up with Glossier Generation G lipstick in Cake or Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Hibiscus. I like Charlotte Tilbury’s Matte Revolution lipstick in Very Victoria, too. I prefer lips without much shine for everyday. Gloss is a such a look to me.

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If I have any more time left I’ll add highlight with MAC’s Mineralize powder in Soft and Gentle and maybe some contour with Kat Von D’s Shade and Light palette. I’ve had this angled brush from Sonia Kashuk forever that absolutely perfect for contouring. It’s old and there’s nothing like it.

Oh and almost forgot- eyebrows. If I leave the house without any other makeup on, it’s fine- but my brows are always fixed up. I use Maybelline’s Brow Drama crayon to fill in any sparse spots and set them with Glossier Boy Brow. I don’t pluck them, I don’t do anything to them other that.

Beyond all this I just add perfume. That and eyebrows are the essentials for me. There’s something humanizing about perfume; it makes you feel like you have a personality and perspective. Everyone says things like, “That’s a mood” or “That’s a vibe” but my mind always wants to say, “That’s a perspective.” I have several different roller balls so I just sort of choose what suits me that day, but nothing too powerful. I’m finishing off My Burberry Black right now and just bought a bottle of Hugo Boss The Scent Private Accord. It’s sweet but very warm.

If you’re interested in seeing the full look put together, my July post features a selfie. But be aware- my hair is also done, which really doesn’t happen on weekday mornings. That would require something like a 5:15am alarm, and we all know that’ll never happen. xo, MR

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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