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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On how I was once told that I look like Severus Snape. And how someone fixed that.

I’ve never done a “before and after” makeover.  Ever.  I just haven’t had the opportunity, and I mean, I usually like to think that the “before” isn’t that bad.  However, this past week I made contact with an old childhood friend who needed a model for some before-and-after makeover shots.  Lauren had been working at the Laura Mercier counter at the Nordstrom in South Coast Plaza, and she’d been given an opportunity to pursue a counter manager position for Trish McEvoy at a different Nordstrom location.  One requirement for the position- produce some before-and-after shots of a model for direct approval by Trish McEvoy herself.  So Lauren threw up a little Facebook “Help me!” one night in search of a model, and I figured hey, I’ve never done it before, I had the time, and I’d love to catch up with a childhood friend, so why not?

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Welp, I know my initial thoughts regarding this whole thing were “Why not?”, but upon seeing the results of Lauren’s work, I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of, “Oh … that’s why”.

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Now, I do not mean to go on any kind of self-deprecating rant here.  I’ve always found an abundance of self-deprecation to be disingenuous for the most part, smacking of a sad search for affirmation.  When well-placed and given in moderation, self-deprecation can actually be my favorite kind of humor (read: Liz Lemon), but I try not to make it my go-to.  So know this: I’m being honest.

But let me tell you that upon showing these shots to my dad, he said that I looked like Severus Snape in the one to the left.  Yes, Dad was paying me the highly-coveted compliment of saying that I look like this man.  How fortunate am I among women!  But you know, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that, well, I couldn’t detect just a little bit of resemblance.  I mean, one of my regular coffee shop customers has told me within this past month that A) I look like Orlando Bloom and B) I look like a page boy.  And no, we’re not talking Orlando Bloom in full Nordic-blonde extensions Legolas-tic glory here.  While most women these days would love to be told that they look like Miranda Kerr, I was bestowed the honor of being told that I look like the dude that married and made a baby with Miranda Kerr.  But I mean, in regards to my “before” picture, I admit that I myself exclaimed that I looked like a gender-ambiguous prison inmate upon seeing it.  And it probably doesn’t help that the expression on my face seems to be bordering on Charlie Sheen mugshot territory.  But hey, it happens.  We’ve all got our Severus Snape/Charlie Sheen/Orlando Bloom days, and it’s for reasons like this that we can all appreciate miracle-workers like Lauren.

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I absolutely loved Lauren’s work.  She stuck to a palette of matte, brownish neutrals for my eyes, really played up my brows (which I loved), and we ended up doing more of a warm, coral lip.  I also loved her application of my face makeup because while she used a good number of products, she applied them in thin, sheer layers and blended them seamlessly to the point where I didn’t look like I was truly wearing makeup- it rather looked like I had perfect skin with subtle contouring.  Lauren was also honest in naming products that she was more excited about than others, and in steering me away from a couple that she wasn’t the biggest fan of.  And trust me- you are hard pressed to find a salesperson in the beauty industry that will be honest in their opinion of products that they have every opportunity to make commission on.  It’s almost always about the up-sale, but with Lauren I walked away with a gorgeous makeup job and a true education.  If you ever find yourself in need of a most excellent makeup artist while perusing the ever-intimidating grounds of the Nordstrom beauty department, know that Lauren is your girl.  I’ll be going back for that Laura Mercier Mineral Illuminating Powder in Starlight, Lauren!  You rock!  Lauren’s been working on a blog of her own recently that you can follow her at: http://www.loveyourlipgloss.com

And I have to add, simply because of all the grand compliments I’ve been receiving lately, that Lauren sent in the pictures for review (with a predictably positive outcome, thanks to Lauren’s talent) and Trish McEvoy herself called me beautiful … *squeal*.  Take that, Snape.  xo, MR