My 5 Makeup Basics for a Makeup Bag

Easy makeup kit

I get asked a lot about my favorite makeup products, often from friends that are much lower maintenance than I am. I am high maintenance. I know this about myself, and I fully admit it. My husband jokes that I am not a 15 Minute Beauty girl, more like a 2 Hour Beauty girl. The problem has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, likely as I try to feel better about my (slightly) older self. But, I digress.
essential makeup bag products

So, these lower maintenance friends ask me about my favorite products. They want to know what my must have makeup products are. And really, for someone like me it can be hard to pare it down to the “basics” sometimes. But, if I had to pick, here are my 5 favorite, must have products for makeup (and note, 2 of them require “companions” to really get the most out of them). I’ll explain why I love this kind of product, and I’ll share a few of my favorites at different price points!

easy to use foundation

1. Great Face Coverage

How you chose to even out your skin tone is a personal choice, and it will likely vary day to day depending on what your plans are, how much sleep you got, etc. But, I think having a product that is a great match for your skin tone, looks natural when blended, and makes you feel more confident is something that you should have available if you want it. I have a few BB Creams that I use, and depending on what I need that day I’ll change up what one I grab. I do sometimes use foundation over it, or I’ll use foundation alone. Really, I do something different almost every day…

My Picks:
1. Light Coverage BB Cream: Yves Saint Laurent Top Secrets BB Cream Skintone Perfector (at Nordstrom or Sephora)
This is the BB Cream I grab about 75% of the time, it’s a light coverage but perfect for days at home, running errands, etc. It doesn’t cover up everything, so I do sometimes add a light foundation over the top or just spot correct with concealer. I wear shade clear, which isn’t clear, but just light.

2. Medium to Full Coverage BB Cream: IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Illumination Cream with SPF 50+ (from Sephora or ULTA)
I’m a big fan of pretty much everything IT Cosmetics makes, and this is one of my favorites! The coverage is definitely more than the YSL, and I use this alone, very rarely do I add any concealer over top. Note that this is “illuminating”, but I don’t notice any shimmer, it just isn’t a full matte look. I usually mix the light and fair shades together.

3. Light to Medium Coverage Cushion Compact: Maybelline Dream Cushion (at ULTA, review here) or Lancôme Miracle Cushion Liquid Cushion Compact (at Nordstrom, review here)
I recently reviewed this foundation from Maybelline, and it’s very similar to one of my favorites from Lancôme. Check out my reviews linked above, but I usually use one of these cushion foundations over the YSL BB Cream, just to even things out a bit. In the Maybelline I use 10 or 15, I’m 110 in Lancôme.

4. Medium Coverage Foundation: Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation (at Nordstrom or Sephora, review here)
I use this foundation a lot for work or going out with my husband. I recently repurchased it, and it is so worth the money! I wear 3.75.

5. Medium to Full Coverage Stick Foundation: Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick (at Nordstrom, Bobbi Brown, or Sephora)
This is definitely the fullest coverage of any of the options here. I love that it is solid, I just draw it on to areas that need some additional coverage. I’ve been using it on weekends a lot, just on select areas, over my YSL BB Cream. I buff it out with a brush, and then use a my BeautyBlender over the top to blend it more.

You can also check out my favorite Drugstore BB Creams and Foundations if you’d like an option at a lower price point!

best multi-purpose concealers

2. Versatile Concealer

I love to have a pigmented concealer that works for everything. I buy it in the same color as my skin, since I’ll be using it for a lot of things. Look for a super pigmented liquid, which you can use for blemishes, under your eyes, etc. I like to use it straight up, mixed into a little eye cream for under my eyes, or mixed into a lightweight lotion to create my own custom tinted moisturizer.

My Picks:
1. Best for Mixing: Clarins Instant Concealer (from Nordstrom): Note, this is the one I reach for the most when mixing into lotion, it seems to be the best for this with natural results that don’t crease or settle into fine lines. I wear shade 1.

2. Added Light Reflection: IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Illumination Full Coverage Anti-Aging Waterproof Concealer (at Sephora)

Check out more concealer picks in my favorite concealers post!

Go-To Neutral Eye Shadows

3. Neutral Shadows

I love eye shadow. I have 2 drawers full of singles, duos, quads, full palettes. So much eye shadow! But, despite my millions of choices, I reach for something neutral pretty much every day. Something that is there and pretty, but doesn’t really distract from seeing me instead of my eye shadow.

I think a quick and easy go-to eye look should be in every woman’s makeup bag. A color that just always works, and you can apply it in just a few minutes. For my most basic looks, I use a single color over my entire lid, up and over the crease. And then I use a second color (about 95% of the time this is MAC Brown Script, from MAC or Nordstrom) just in the crease. I then apply black or brown liner right into lash line, smudge a bit with a brush, and apply a ton of mascara. Done!

My Picks:
1. Pink but Neutral: MAC Jest (from MAC or Nordstrom)

2. Light Taupe: Too Faced Birthday Suit, in the Boudoir Eyes Palette (at Sephora or Too Faced)

Check out my favorite neutral shadow palettes here

3.5. Shadow Primer

Another item, but I’m not really counting it. If you’re going to wear the eye shadow, you need to put a primer under it. Really. A few seconds spent on primer will make your eye shadow look much better, it will apply more smoothly, won’t crease, lasts all day, etc. I like to use a primer that has a little bit of coverage, since my eye lid is a see through, and I have visible blood vessels. I cover them up with the primer, then apply the shadow. The extra few seconds makes a big difference in how the shadow looks!

My Picks:
NYX Eyeshadow Base (from ULTA, or Macy’s): I use a very small amount, just dip a fingertip into the jar, then pat on to your skin. Just enough to cover the skin. A jar lasts me at least 2 years. I’ve never finished one, even with daily use. I just replace them every few years because I think “surely it must be time to replace this, it’s probably gross now.”

Kat Von D Lock-It Color Correcting Eyeshadow Primer (at Sephora) comes in 5 different skin tone shades if the NYX doesn’t work for you. I have not tried this product, but I’ve been so happy with her other Lock-It products that I feel comfortable mentioning it.

best mascara

4. Great Mascara

There are way too many great mascaras out there to mention all of them. I’ve found that in the drugstore, you can not go wrong with a mascara from L’Oreal, Maybelline or CoverGirl. I recently posted about my favorite splurge mascaras, though I use Smokey Eye Mascara most days.

My Picks:
1. My Go-To, Bobbi Brown Smokey Eye Mascara (at Bobbi Brown, Sephora or Nordstrom)

2. To Add Drama, Bobbi Brown Eye Opening Mascara (at Bobbi Brown, Sephora or Nordstrom)

My favorite splurge mascaras

4.5. Lash Curler

If you’re going to wear mascara, you’ll get much better results if you apply after curling your lashes. Lash curlers are one of those things that you do want to invest a bit in, a cheap curler will feel a bit “loosey-goosey” and can yank out lashes. Yes. That’s no bueno. So, I buy a slightly more expensive curler, and replace the pads at least every 6 months.

I will say that I also have a different opinion about the best lash curler depending upon whether you use a lash serum or not. Without lash serum, just buy a decent lash curler. My favorite then was the Tweezerman (over the Shu everyone always loves). Once I started using lash serum, I noticed that my lashes were much harder to curl, and then the curl didn’t last as long. I’ve now noticed that the curler I use makes a huge, huge, huge difference. I refuse to use anything but the Surratt curler. This is very important. I’ve convinced many friends that I’m right, they all bought it and agree.

My Picks:
Tweezerman ProCurl Eyelash Curler (at Sephora, or Nordstrom): If you don’t use lash serum.

Surratt Beauty Relevée Lash Curler (at Sephora, or Barneys, here’s my Relevée Lash Curler review): If you do use lash serum.

easy lip color

5. Easy, Basic Lippie

I like to have something that I can apply to my lips while on the go. Literally, I just leave it in a pocket, apply randomly without a mirror, and I expect it to look great. This is usually something is along the lines of a tinted balm, but I also like products that change color after application, and glosses.

My Picks:
1. Works for Everyone, Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer in Fig (at Amazon, or Target): Yes, it really does work for every single skin tone. I’ve recommended this to a lot of friends who want to start wearing lip color, and they all love it. It has some color, but not a lot. It just makes everyone’s lips look great!

2. Perfect Pink, Dior Addict Lip Glow (at Nordstrom, or Sephora): I love that this changes color! It’s a bit more of an intense pink than the Bobbi Brown. I have the Berry shade in my Sephora cart now.

3. More Subtle, Bobbi Brown Extra Lip Tint (at Bobbi Brown, Sephora, or Nordstrom): This is new, and the idea is very similar to the Dior, in that it changes color after application. It’s a bit more subtle than the Dior, though I have found that if I apply too much of the Dior the color looks a little strange? This product isn’t prone to that.

What do you think? What else would you include in a makeup kit as a category? I think I’d likely include brows next, but those are are individualized that I didn’t include them here.

Product Sent for Review, I Bought It, Affiliate Links
In the past, the Burt’s Bees lippie, the IT Cosmetics products and the Maybelline foundation were sent for review from PR. I’ve purchased the others all on my own.

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