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The Edited Makeup Bag: 9 Essentials


 J. Crew bag* | Nars blush | MAC lipstick | MAC eye shadow | CG concealer | L’Oreal foundation | Rimmel brow pencil | CG mascara | Almay eye liner | Bobbi Brown bronzing powder   | West Elm tray

For years I bought beauty products by one simple rule: whatever magazines told me to buy. While some things I actually liked and used, much of it I ultimately gave — or threw — away.

Since the process of editing my life means streamlining routines and reducing clutter everywhere, I decided it was time to tackle my overflowing makeup stash, keeping only what I use on a regular basis.

A couple caveats:

I’m not a brand snob. I’ve found, through friend suggestions and online reviews, some really great products at drug stores. I’ve also learned that occasionally you really do get what you pay for. I can be a sucker for a well-designed package but truth is, my pricier finds end up lasting so long they really cost only pennies per use.

9 is a guideline, not a rule. To some, nine items may seem like a lot; to others, not nearly enough — it’s just what I happened to end up with. Sometimes I’d love to chuck the whole mess and go au naturel, but that’s not realistic for me. My goal in doing this was to develop a basic beauty ‘uniform’ and routine so I could stock up and then stop thinking about it.

My edited makeup bag:

  1. Foundation — $9. L’Oreal True Match Super-Blendable Makeup in Natural Beige – W4. When the price of my favorite foundation jumped to nearly $50 an ounce a few years back, I did some research and found this great alternative. It blends well, evens my complexion without feeling heavy, and it’s one of the few lines I’ve found that offer shades to complement my skin’s yellow undertones. Must-have bonus: SPF 17 sunscreen.
  2. Concealer — $7. Cover Girl Smoothers 730 Neutralizer Concealer. Does just what it says: a tiny dab neutralizes redness and under-eye circles.
  3. Mascara — $9. Cover Girl LashBlast in Black. I was at lunch with a model-gorgeous friend and commented on her longer-than-usual lashes. She said her secret was LashBlast. When a woman who would think nothing of dropping $100 on a tube of mascara sings the praises of a $9 brand, I listen. It’s been my go-to ever since. (Costco sells them three to a pack for even less — about $6 a tube.)
  4. Brow Pencil $3. Rimmel London Professional Eyebrow Pencil in Hazel. I discovered this while traveling — I needed a quick replacement since I’d left my makeup bag at home. Lucky accident: it’s highly reviewed, works great, and costs 1/7 the price of my previous brand. Soft enough to blend really well, doesn’t break in the sharpener, and comes with a serviceable built-in brush.
  5. Eyeliner — $7.50. Almay Intense i-Color Liquid Eyeliner in Brown Topaz. I am a total klutz with eyeliner, so I love the goof-proof felt applicator. It’s not waterproof but stays put.
  6. Eye shadow — $15. M.A.C. eye shadows are highly pigmented, layer well and last a long, long time. Colors: Club, Brown Down, Woodwinked.
  7. Lipstick – $14.50. M.A.C. I’ve tried a zillion other brands, but my hands-down favorite is M.A.C. for quality, consistency, color range and vanilla-y scent/taste. Colors: High Tea (a sheer, beige-y pink nude) and Tanarama (pale tan-gold frost that’s great for toning down other colors).
  8. Bronzer – $36. A friend gifted me her Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder in “Natural” several years ago and I’m still using it — as bronzer, blush, contouring powder and eye shadow. I’m very picky about bronzers; I like them completely matte, so when I find one without any shimmer I tend to stick to it. Before BB I used Benefit bronzer in Hoola ($28 – more brown) and Urban Decay bronzer in “Baked” ($26 – more orange).
  9. Blush: On the rare occasions when I wear blush, I use Nars in Orgasm. It really is a perfect shade for so many skin tones and it lasts forever (five years and counting … is that too long?).

Also in my toolkit:

  • Good brushes. Here I agree with all the beauty editors: good makeup brushes really do make a difference and are worth the investment. I use (and love!) M.A.C. brushes for blush, powder, eyeliner and eyeshadow.
  • Shu Uemura eyelash curler
  • Tweezerman slant tweezers

More benefits of paring down:

  • My entire beauty routine takes less than 10 minutes; five in a pinch.
  • On a recent trip I left my toiletry bag at home and was able to replace all the essentials in a single Target run.
  • Knowing what works for me means I can buy in bulk, saving time and money. Sites like ( and Sephora for higher end brands) offer good prices, frequent sales, free shipping with a minimum order, and coupon codes.

*A note on my newly upgraded makeup bag: I, the girl who never wins anything, won this adorable polka-dot leather J. Crew receipt pouch from the Gigi’sGoneShopping blog. It’s just the right size for for stashing a few essentials in my purse. Thanks, Gigi — perfect timing!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/25 11:31 PM

    I like Rimmel. I didn’t know Costco sold mascara. I’ll have to check it out. I just tried Origins Ginzing mascara today. The brush is fabulous. Thanks for the link love :)

    • 08/28 3:58 PM

      I was surprised to discover how many beauty products are available at Costco. Pretty good deals if you already know what you like and want large quantities…

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