Or do you just want to read 4000 words about stuff I like? That’s fine, too. I’ve never really done a favorites post of any sort before, because I don’t take good pictures and I can’t do accurate swatches, and if I committed myself to learning how, the post would never end up done, so I’ve just kind of shrugged off the whole genre. But I got to try a lot of things this year, and I know when I have gift cards, I do like to check out what other people have bought and enjoyed, and also, it’s my blog and I can post whatever I want, so here we go: my favorite products of 2015.
Actually, here we don’t go yet, because let me lay out some helpful information first. My skin tone is fair, but not, like, alabaster pale. Just regular fairly fair skin. It borders on dry, with those annoying as shit flaky patches that will fuck up your foundation and ruin your whole day. I may have the occasional oily patch, but I don’t generally have to consider oiliness as a factor with skin care and makeup, so do keep that in mind if that’s your issue. I don’t know how to handle that or how any of these products would work with that kind of skin. My hair is dark, but I don’t generally consider that because I don’t have any real skill or knowledge.
That’s another point to consider: I don’t actually have any credentials that make my opinion weigh more heavily than anyone else’s. I’m not particularly good at makeup, but I enjoy it with great enthusiasm, and a line I read late in the year that’s stuck with me for some reason lately is “it doesn’t take talent to practice.” All of this is just my own opinions, and none of the links are affiliate or sponsored in any way. Most of the products are available at either Ulta or Sephora, and I’ll note the ones that are Sephora only or vice versa. I live to help you buy things I like.
Also, there are no pictures, because they would be crappy and worthless because there are many areas in which I am unskilled and I’m mostly fine with that.
I tried a lot of skin care this year and I have to say, I feel like 2015, especially the later half, was when I finally got my skin to a place I really like it. Or mostly like it, anyway, because the quality seems to depend entirely on me engaging in the full routine every single day, and that’s kind of annoying as hell. It’s been worth it, though, because it makes makeup application go easier and does a little more to mask my lack of ability in that area. I feel like it just looks better, which is all I really want, right?
Anyway, reminder: my skin is a bit dry, especially in the winter. It’s not especially sensitive and I rarely have a bad reaction to a product. I have some redness that’s increased over the years, around my cheeks and forehead. Dryness, redness, and overall skin tone and texture have been my main concerns this year. I don’t think all these products would work for everyone, but I do think they’re all very good products.
belif Creamy Cleansing Foam Moist: This is a relatively new addition to my routine. I use it to wash my face in the morning, when it feels kind of tight after a hot shower. I’d kind of gotten used to my face feeling itchy and tight after washing, then counteracting that with other products. I don’t have a lot of oil on my skin, so it seemed like it was super easy for any face wash to totally strip it. Not this one, though. It feels like it gets my skin clean in the morning without drying it out further. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it adds a ton of moisture, but it’s a good first step. It doesn’t smell bad or perfumed, and it’s very gentle. Sephora only.
May Coop Raw Sauce: I put this on next, in the mornings, before I brush my teeth. I bought the smaller bottle and use maybe 4 drops a day. Shake it in my hand and then just pat it on my face like Kevin in Home Alone with the aftershave, but it doesn’t hurt. This is super liquidy, like water, and it sinks in fast while I brush my teeth. I think this would probably work differently for everyone, but I believe it’s a huge part of why my skin texture has improved so much with consistent use. It claims to make other products work better by preparing the skin, but I don’t know about any of that science shit. I know, though, that it just makes my skin look better in an annoyingly unquantifiable kind of way. Even if I’m not wearing makeup, this goes on under my moisturizer and sunscreen. Sephora only.
belif Hungarian Water Essence: I use this like the May Coop Raw Sauce, but at night. I feel like they’re possibly interchangeable, for me, or that I could do with one or the other and see largely the same results. Sephora only.
belif Aqua Bomb: I have been a Clinique Moisture Surge person for years. I really like the kind of gel-textured moisturizers over creams and lotions. I feel like they’re more immediately effective, especially when my skin is being a total shit with the flakes and tightness. This year, I switched over to this one, and I’m really very pleased. The results seem more long lasting, improving the dryness over time rather than just for the day. This is the last thing I do before sunscreen (sometimes I do them in reverse order if I’m feeling WILD AND CRAZY), and I do it right before I do my makeup so I’m still all slicked up when I sit down at my vanity. I would say that as far as skincare goes, this was probably my top product of 2015. Sephora only.
boscia Detoxifying Black Cleanser: This has been my nighttime cleanser all year. I have a backup bottle ready to go at all times. It’s gentle, it’s effective, it doesn’t smell gross. My skin likes it and I don’t see any reason to change it.Late in the year, I started using it with a konjac sponge. I like the gentle exfoliation, but I think it works just as well with clean hands. It’s the one step of my routine I haven’t adjusted/fiddled with this year. It just works. Sephora only.
Other stuff: No standout exfoliators this year. I’m still using Mario Badescu toners and PTR Anti-Wrinkle Peel Pads occasionally. Also, I’ve been using a snail essence kind of peel, but, you know, not everyone is into snail mucus. Same sunscreen as always, too. I tried a lot of masks this year and still have a lot to try, but none really blew me away. I do like to use sheet masks a lot these days, and the GlamGlow Thirsty Mud as an overnight sleeping mask maybe once a month or so. I have a ton of PTR masks to try out. Also, no real favorite eye cream. I’ve been using Origins Ginzing and you know, it’s fine. It does what I need it to do. I put it on right before makeup so my undereye concealer doesn’t look cakey, and it does that. I’m not seeing anything else to write home about, though.
Becca Backlight Priming Filter: I’ve never found a primer I liked that also seemed to make my makeup stay on any better. I tried a bunch this year – Too Faced, Make Up For Ever, etc – and they were all just… fine. This one, though, is different. It really does add a kind of lit from within glow to the skin. I don’t think it makes my makeup last any long and holy shit is it easy to over do it and look like the moon. But it looks good under makeup, over makeup, or even by itself, sometimes, and it at least does something for me, which is more than I can say for other primers I tried this year. Ulta and Sephora.
L’Oreal Pro Matte Foundation: I tried a bunch of foundations this year, but I mostly stuck to my usual Korean BB creams until maybe June or July? I don’t know when I picked this up, but holy shit am I glad I did. It is. So good. The coverage is at least medium with one layer. It is as matte as the name suggests, but not chalky-matte. It doesn’t cling to dry patches. It applies easily and evenly. I was able to find a great color match (though I know that won’t be the case for everyone). It sets quickly and isn’t tacky. I love it. I’ve recommended it to 8000 people. It’s less than $15 and available basically anywhere. Love it. LOVE. IT. And from what I understand, it should work fairly well for oily skin, too. Ulta and drugstores and wherever.
Coty Airspun Loose Face Powder: Another super cheap product I can no longer live without. I also tried several setting powders this year. I tried the Tarte powder and a couple of others and eh, fine. But I keep coming back to the Coty powder. It’s just effective. I use the translucent shade. I apply it over my concealer and foundation with a damp beauty blender, which I know might sound strange, but try it with your powder. It’s been holding my makeup in place all through the day, including my concealer. There are some tradeoffs with the price, though. It smells. Like, big time. Like someone’s stinky grandmother. The smell doesn’t last on the skin, but hoooomygod is it stinky when you open it. Also, it’s a loose powder, and I’m incapable of using loose powder without getting it every-fucking-where when I close the lid. Otherwise, though. Less than $10. Worth a try. Drugstores.
NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base: I’ve used the LORAC Behind the Scenes eyelid primer forever with no complaints. I always had a little sample tube because they come with the palettes and I liked it. I tried this one out this year, though, and it’s just better. I’ve never really been a big NARS person, so even though I’d heard good things, I’d kind of ignored it. I think because I’m the kind of prude that doesn’t find shade names like Orgasm and Deep Throat to be cheeky and edgy, and I basically held it against the whole brand. Whatever, though. This shit is good. It’s not sticky and it dries down quickly so it’s easy to apply eyeshadow over it without any kind of patchiness or skipping. And it just stays all day. My eyeshadow looks exactly the same at the end of the day as it did at the start, which is a good or bad thing, depending on how artless and sloppy I was that morning. Just a boring, solid product. Sephora.
Wet n Wild Eyeshadow single in Brulee: I don’t know why I’ve never talked about this before because I don’t know how many of these I’ve been through over the years. I’ve used this forever as a base shadow color, just all over the lid, over primer and before other shadows. Obviously, this depends on skin tone, but it’s a fair match for most of us at the lighter end of the spectrum. I just buy this over and over, though I don’t know if I’ve ever used UP more than one or two. I probably just lose them. But $.99! Who cares! This is the perfect base shadow. The texture is super smooth, so when you apply your other shadows, they blend much more easily. This can really be accomplished with any good shadow close to your skin tone, but like I said, this one is nice and $.99. Cannot live without it. Also, it’s great to use for blending along the edges of your shadow after you’re done, to kind of fuzz out and clean up your (my) many copious ham-handed mistakes. Drugstores, Walmart, wherever. $.99!
LORAC Pro Brow Pencil: I talked about eyebrow products at great length in another post, so I won’t rehash. Still really like the micro brow pencils best, and this LORAC one has turned out to be great. The slate color is perfect for dark-ish brows. It doesn’t look grey, it’s just a great match, so give it a shot if you’re struggling with finding the right shade of dark brown, especially in cool tones. Quick and easy, the spoolie is nice, and I’d say it’s a more than adequate way to save a couple of bucks if you’re loyal to the Anastasia Brow Wiz. Ulta.
Viseart Eyeshadow palettes: Okay. Okay. So I know the price is… whoa. But you know I wouldn’t recommend something audaciously expensive to you if I didn’t very grudgingly accept that it’s kind of worth it. I feel like the kind of people that are going to overlook the price and buy a Viseart palette are maybe the more serious makeup people, but I want to make a case for giving them a try if you feel like your skills aren’t good enough to justify an $80 palette. These shadows just work. Just like good brushes are going to make your eye makeup look a little better even if you don’t actually get any better at doing it, these shadows are the same. The colors look on the skin exactly like they look in the pan. When you apply them, they just DO WHAT THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO. You don’t have to fight with them. They don’t smudge all over and they don’t skip or apply in a patchy way. They blend together with much less effort than similar shadows. If you feel like you’re not very good at eyeshadow, these will give you a boost. I have the matte neutral palette and the bridal satin, and as soon as I used them, I started looking at my other palettes wondering which I can just get rid of. Yes, they’re very expensive, but you know how irritating I find it when expensive products are actually good, so it is with full irritation that I recommend these, BIG TIME. Sephora online. Other websites sometimes have deals on them, as well. This is a good use of gift card pretend money.
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer: I’ve never found a concealer that didn’t look horrific under my eyes. Cakey, sunk into fine lines that I otherwise can’t even see, etc. I tried the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, figuring I’d throw money at the problem, and was just totally meh about it. Rather than just return to drugstore products that gave me the same shitty results for way less money, I stupidly bought this one. I didn’t care for it at first. However, lately, it’s really been doing it for me. I know it’s probably a factor of improved skin care – dry under eyes WILL fuck up your concealer. Like I mentioned above, I’ve been using that Origins eye cream, and I put it on with my moisturizer, right before I start my makeup. That, combined with this concealer, seems to be doing the trick for me. It suddenly goes on smoothly and doesn’t cake up. I apply it with the wand (which gets super goopy with way too much product), then tap it in with a damp beauty blender. I set it with that Coty powder, and what the hell. It looks good. This has a really nice texture for me. I’ve never done well with those thicker undereye concealers like Bye Bye Undereye, and the gel formulation of this one seems to be almost the exact opposite of that sort. So if you’ve had the same kind of trouble with popular thick concealers, maybe try this one out. Sephora and Ulta.
Other stuff: No favorite mascara or eyeliner this year. I’ve never found a mascara that totally blew me away. Well, sometimes, but I only seem to like them for the first few uses, and then I’m underwhelmed. Probably just my lame eyelashes.
Blush tie: Becca Mineral Blushes and Hourglass Ambient Lighting blushes. I have five or six shades of each of these. I haven’t picked up my beloved Benefit Hervana in months. Both of these blush lines have a little something extra that make them look really glowy but not shiny or sparkly. They blend super easily and don’t look streaky. The shades are interesting and varied. These are easy to wear. Becca at Sephora and Ulta, Hourglass at Sephora.
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfectors: Highlight of choice for the whole year. I’ve tried both the pressed and liquid formulations, not the poured. Opal is probably my go-to shade. I’m not going to call them subtle, because… they’re not… but they’re not disco-bally, either. They go on smoothly and are buildable, so you can be as shiny as you like. I think the poured and liquid can be more subtle, but I don’t know, I don’t wear highlight every single day and when I do, I don’t generally aim for subtle. Whatever, you do you. I know Anastasia has come out with some well-reviewed highlighters this year, but I feel like my highlighter needs are totally covered by Becca. They go on smoothly and blend well into whatever else you’re wearing, so it doesn’t look like a big streak of glow. I think all the colors are very nice, depending what you’re looking for, but claims that a certain color is “perfect for every skin tone” are greatly exaggerated. Ahem. Ulta and Sephora.
Hourglass Ambient Bronzer: If you’re not a bronzer person, I probably can’t make you into one, but if I could, I’d likely suggest one of these. Like the other Ambient Lighting products, they go on smoothly and blend really well, so you won’t look like you have dirt smudges on your face. This one has that powder mixed in with the bronzer, so you’ll also get a nice glow with using it. It’s not easy to over do, but of course, I find a way. This was really, really awesome in the summer, when I don’t wear much makeup at all and just want to add a little color back once I put on whatever foundation I’m wearing. I haven’t reached for it as much as it’s gotten more wintery, preferring a matte bronzer like Benefit Hoola, but I would still say this was probably one of my favorite products of 2015. I do like to wear a lot of makeup, but also really appreciate products that cut down on the routine for days I want to wear less (which does happen!), and this was one of them for me. A few swipes around the outside of my face and a bit on my cheeks plus sunglasses and done. Sephora.
Shiro’s Do Your Research Contour powder: Soft, easy to blend, a great choice for fair-skinned, cool toned people. It’s a loose powder, so it can be a little messy if you’re not careful, but I have faith in you. Also, look at the picture on the front and tell me you don’t want it in your makeup bag.
NARS Audacious Lipsticks: Great formula. Almost justifies the price. They’re long-lasting and have an outstanding color range, one that supports my need to own any lip product that could even be widely categorized as a “dusty rose” shade. (Anna) Good color range + good formula (doesn’t bleed, lasts, isn’t uncomfortable to wear). Probably have to put this one near the top. Sephora.
LORAC Alter Ego Lipsticks: I’m going to say that the formula on these is not my favorite. If you don’t like a dry formula in your lipsticks, you probably won’t like these. However, the colors Duchess and CEO both featured heavily in my rotation this year and I don’t think I could do 2015 favorites without them. I’m pretty sure it was Duchess that kicked off my dusty rose obsession, can’t stop won’t stop. Ulta.
LORAC Pro Matte Lip Color: Two more that I wore all the time – Pink Taupe and Mauve. I don’t think you need to ask what color family those fall into. These are the currently popular, easy to apply lip crayon format, but they have a smaller tip than some others. These STAY PUT and last really well through eating and drinking. They are MATTE-matte, though, so if you’re not on board with the matte lip trend, maybe skip. Ulta.
MAC Creamstick Liner in Buerre: Every time I wear this, I get asked what I’m wearing. Enough said.
YSL lip products in general: I admit I first bought some of these because I wanted to feel like a fancy lady. I now own a couple of the Rouge Volupte Shine, a couple of the Volupte Sheer Candy, I think two of the Volupte Tint-In-Oil, and one of the Vernis A Levres Glossy Stains. No regrets. The price is high, but sometimes you just want something fancy, you know? Of course you know. The packaging feels heavy and special. I like holding them. I like seeing them out on my vanity. To be perfectly, shallowly honest, that would have been enough for me. But they’re actually all quite good. First, every single one of them is among the most comfortable to wear lip products I own. They go on smoothly and easily, and don’t feel tacky or drying at all. Every one of them, across all lines. With that, you’d normally expect to sacrifice some wear time, but I don’t find that to be the case. The ones I own certainly don’t last as long as the matte products or liquid lipsticks I own, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised, over and over, to find lasting, even color four or more hours after application. They’re just good. All around. Also another great use of pretend gift card money. Sephora.
This paint brush. I like to wear black eyeshadow as liner. I have never gotten the hang of liquid or gel liner and I just like the softer look of the powder better. I have used this brush to apply black powder as liner for years and years, and when I was looking through my stuff to decide on my favorites, I couldn’t believe I haven’t brought this one up before. It’s cheap, it’s easily available, it’s soft and perfectly angled. I use it every single day I wear eye makeup and I think you’d like it, too.
Okay! So! That’s it! Not all the products I’ve used and loved this year, but all the products I think stand out as favorites. Did I miss anything? I don’t think so, and how would you know, anyway? If you feel like it, let me know what your 2015 favorites were or what you’re going to get with any holiday gift cards. If you don’t feel like it, that’s fine, too. I already own all the best stuff ANYWAY.
Hope your holidays were fabulous.
This is something I’ve talked about before, which makes it a simple post to write, because everything I want to say will come easily to me, and I’ll be really impressed with how freely all of my ideas are coming out just the way I want them to, conveniently completely ignoring that fact that I have expressed these exact thoughts in this exact way several times now. If originality was required on the Internet, most of us would have to pack it up and go home, and I have no intention of doing that, so reruns it is.
From the title I think it’s pretty clear what this is going to be about. You’ve definitely heard someone say they’re “bad at being a girl” before. I get that it’s supposed to sound self-deprecating, and I suppose some people really do think they’re being self-deprecating, but it doesn’t always come across that way and maybe you – if you’re one of the people who says it regularly – should stop it right now. It rarely comes from someone who feels genuinely bad about their own femininity or lack thereof, you know?
Obviously I talk a lot about makeup, because it’s a thing I like to do. I like to buy it and own it. I like to use it. I like to arrange and rearrange the collection I have. I like to know about new releases and limited edition products. I read articles about makeup. I watch videos about makeup. It’s a hobby. I do all the same things with makeup that anyone else does with their own hobby. I spend time on it, I enjoy it, and what I lack in skill, I make up for in enthusiasm. Like anyone at all does with something they really like doing.
There’s this thing, though, about talking about something so distinctly feminine publicly. Like on Twitter or something – it’s always Twitter – when you get 450 responses deep into a discussion about various holiday season makeup set releases. IT’S THE BUSIEST SEASON. You will end up with someone who joins the conversation to let you know that she doesn’t understand anything you’re talking about, and the specific reason she doesn’t understand is because she’s “bad at being a girl.”
No, the reason you don’t know anything about makeup isn’t because you’re bad at being a girl. You don’t know anything about makeup for the same reason I don’t know how to knit. I don’t care to. I tried a couple of times and wasn’t good at it. I didn’t enjoy it enough to keep working at it to get good at it. I’m not good at knitting because I’m not interested in knitting. It has nothing at all to do with my vagina or my gender.
There are a lot of stereotypically feminine things that I’m not good at, not interested in, or both. I don’t wear jewelry because I don’t actually know how and have never cared enough about my inability to wear jewelry to do something about it. My house isn’t decorated because I don’t really have a knack for it and have never felt any particular need to figure out what I liked and how to make it work in my home. I don’t dress very well – I know it’s possible, but I know it requires effort I prefer to focus elsewhere. I’m not a very good cook. I was a terrible cook, but I kept at it til I got to a point that I wasn’t throwing multiple dinners a week into the trash, and that feels like a good spot for me.
You’d think this would be kind of like a pep talk – hey, you, sad lady! Even if you don’t like makeup, you’re still plenty girly! And maybe it would be, if girly (and stereotypically feminine interests) didn’t still carry such a negative connotation. Especially something like makeup, that’s not only usually a female habit but also a frivolous one. It seems like very few people who say they’re “bad at being a girl” are truly lamenting their inability to properly function as a female person, but are instead separating themselves from a “girly” stereotype.
It usually sounds like this: “Wow, you spent how much? I think I only own mascara and it cost $3! I guess I’m bad at being a girl.” Or like this: “I’ve never taken more than 5 minutes to get ready, because I’m bad at being a girl.” Or something like this: “I wish I had time to sit around and play with makeup, but I’m too busy. Just bad a being a girl!”
It’s not everyone, it’s not all the time, and it’s subtle, but it’s there. It’s a devaluing of the way someone else spends her time and money specifically because the way she spends her time and money is feminine and frivolous. I feel like this doesn’t happen with other hobbies as much. I mean, I don’t understand at all why someone would spend $40 on a functionless shelf decor doodad. It makes zero sense to me. I would never do it, because decorating with doodads is neither something I enjoy nor a priority in my life. I have a set amount of time and money and it’s hard for me to imagine dedicating any part of either of those to something that has no meaning to me. I imagine many other people are the same way about decorating, but you rarely see someone conflate their lack of interest or skill with home decor to being bad at being a girl.
When you think about it, how many ways do adult women spend their time that you’d classify as “girly” pursuits? Not feminine, but specifically girly. That word. Is knitting girly? Is cooking girly? Is decorating your home girly? Maybe, but would you ever really use that specific word to describe it? No. Because there’s being a girl, like with a vagina or otherwise female gender identifying, and then there’s being girly. One is just a thing, and one is a negative thing. You know as well as I do that when a woman takes the time to point out that she is not that girly, it’s not as self-deprecating as it’s meant to sound, because most of us still pretty much don’t see girly as a positive trait.
There are probably people who really do wish they were better at doing makeup, but spending the time and money required isn’t a priority. There probably is some place that time and money does go, though, and if the situation was reversed, it would probably seem strange to have someone into a different hobby say, “You know, I wish I could ride a bike, but I’m just terrible at it. Guess I’m bad at being a girl.” Because, what? No. That has nothing to do with being a girl. But it’s just as ridiculous as saying the same thing about makeup. Or hair. Or clothing.
“I guess I’m bad a being a girl. Not like you. You’re clearly very good at being girly, what with the way you spend your time and money on this girly thing.” This is what it comes down to for me. This is what it sounds like. I’m sure there are a few people who still, as adult women, fall back on that little conversational crutch of “oh, just bad at being a girl,” and I know that it really is intended as self-deprecating. And I know there’s an even greater number who know full well they are not being self-deprecating when they say such a thing, and will defend saying it til they’re blue in the face, and I don’t know who they’re trying to fool, me or themselves, because you all know and I know why people say that line and it’s not. cool.
It really all comes down to the bigger problem of why feminine or girly pursuits are considered “less than,” even to the point that women themselves feel the need to vocally separate themselves from being considered girly. That’s getting into deeper thoughts than I’m really capable of. Maybe some of you are. For now, though, I can say, no matter your intentions when you say, “I guess I’m bad at being a girl,” it’s not a cool thing to say. At best, it perpetuates the “girly as lesser” trope. At worst, you’re deliberately being kind of a dick.
Ok, as the title says, I’m going to talk about eyebrows and eyebrow products today. Actually, eyebrow products is likely more accurate, because I am not going to tell you what to do with your personal eyebrows. I want to note a few things before we start: I know some people don’t do anything at all with their eyebrows, and that is fine. When I express concern about my own eyebrows, my concern is limited strictly to the eyebrow area on my own face. I don’t judge anyone for what they do or don’t do with their eyebrows. I will not look at you and think, “What is she thinking with those eyebrows?” Just because I do mine does not mean I think anything negative about what you do or don’t do with yours. I know that can sometimes be a sensitive point because the fact that I put so much thought into mine may naturally lead to the thought that I care a ton about eyebrows in general, and may think poorly of yours. I don’t, and I promise.
That said, if you don’t normally put a lot of time into makeup – which is also so fine – but do occasionally do the lipgloss-blush-mascara routine, daily or once in a while, I would definitely suggest considering adding an eyebrow routine into there, too. It can be quick and easy, and it really does a lot to pull a look together. It’s not necessary, but it’s a minimal-effort step that gives maximum-effort style results. I’m just suggesting you consider it. I don’t know how to more carefully tiptoe around this whole thing. I don’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings. I am not looking directly at anyone’s eyebrows right now. I am carefully averting my gaze away from all eyebrows.
So, if you’re interesting in knowing the different ways you can groom them up a little bit, I’m going to break down all the different types of brow products here, and maybe you’ll see one that works for you. Let’s do this.
1. The brow pencil.
I think the brow pencil is the most common option. Tons of brands have them, from high-end to drug store. They come in a decent range of shades and can be sharpened to keep a fine tip. They’re similar in style to eyeliner pencils, but they’re usually a bit waxier. Some are very soft, making it easy to put a kind of diffuse color through sparser patches, while others are very hard, which makes it easy to draw hairlike strokes in certain places, like if you’d like to fill out your arch a bit more. Which type you like depends on personal preference.
One brow pencil I’ve used is the Benefit Instant Brow Pencil (link $22). It’s available wherever you can buy Benefit products, like Sephora, Ulta, or some Macy’s. And other places, probably. I don’t know. Internet, I bet.
It’s got an all right range of shades, and it comes with a spoolie on one end. That’s fairly common/standard with the mid-range to high-end pencils in this style, but drug store brands may not have one, or may have one of those brush-style ones on the cap. Either way, you can find these in just about every makeup range, though you’re probably going to be more limited in colors on the lower end.
2. Automatic brow pencils.
Automatic brow pencils are probably my go-to eyebrow product, though not the only one I use. These automatic pencils don’t need to be sharpened. Instead, they twist up. The point is really fine. These are really great for drawing in those hair-like strokes that look natural, and the formula is usually quite hard, which makes it easy to avoid overdoing it. For a long time, my go-to was Anastasia Brow Wiz (link, $21), and I still think you can’t go wrong with that option.
3. Brow powder.
Okay, these are easy to find and probably really easy for most people to use. You don’t even have to buy a specialized eyebrow powder. If you have an eye shadow that works for your eyebrows, go ahead and slap the shit in there. There’s no law. So what I’m going to talk about instead is the different kind of brow powder kits you can get, aside from just single powders. One style is the kit that has both a powder and a colored or plain wax in it. You use the powder to fill in your brows and the wax to set it in place. Benefit has this kind of kit and it’s called Brow Zings (link, $32). However, elf has one, linked here, that’s nearly identical, and costs much less (link, $3).
In addition to these kits and the single powders, I also want to mention Anastasia Brow Powder Duos (link, $23).
These are just powder, no wax, but what I like about them is that they’ve got the two colors in one compact. For a lot of people, it makes sense to use a lighter shade near the inner corners of the brows, and a darker shade near the tail. These duos pair perfectly together and it’s easier than trying not to hamfist the front of your eyebrow. Not that I know anything about that. A lot. Every day. Anyway, a benefit of powders – whether single, in the kit, or these duos – is that they look pretty soft and natural and it’s easy to fix/hide mistakes, as well as difficult to overdo it.
4. Brow fiber-gel-tube-things.
Okay, I don’t know what to call these, but there’s probably a name. The first product I personally saw and used in this category would be Benefit’s Gimme Brow (link, $24), and I raved about it up and down to anyone who would listen. I guess they call it a volumizing fiber gel. This particular one, the Benefit one, comes in two shades: light and dark. I’ve used both without issue, so if you fall in the middle of normal people with just… brown eyebrows… you won’t have a problem with either. This has a tiny, tiny spoolie at the end of the wand, and you kind of sweep it through your brows to plump them up and fill in sparse spots.
I believe both Maybelline and L’Oreal have similar products now, and it shouldn’t be hard to pick one up at the drug store if you want to give this type of thing a try. The main selling point about these, for me, is that they take about two seconds to use. No drawing in little hairs, no creating an arch with a pencil or powder. It builds on what’s already there, and you’re really done in about two seconds. A drawback, though, is if you don’t really have much there at all to start with, these fiber gel type products don’t work so well. With no hairs to grab onto, the concept falls kind of flat, so while this one is awesome and I will never be without Gimme Brow (or something similar) (though right now I am without and need to get a new one), I don’t think it will work for everyone out there. Still, with drug store versions available, it might be worth giving it a shot.
5. Brow gels.
So, brow gels come in two different styles – tinted and clear. A brow gel is what you use to set your brows in place if you tend to have a nice shape, a nice fullness, but maybe a little wildness or hairs that wander around throughout the day. A tinted brow gel is just what it says – a gel that sets your brows but also tints them a little darker or redder or whatever you’re looking for. I’ve got to say up front, I don’t use brow gel, so I’m not a big expert here. I kind of think it’s not a big deal, especially if you’re using clear brow gel to set your brows – clear brow gel is clear brow gel is clear brow gel. In fact, I have a double ended item from elf (link, $2) that’s supposedly clear brow gel on one end and clear mascara on the other end, and they’re just both the exact same thing, I swear.
However, I have heard from people who do set their eyebrows that there is a hierarchy of clear brow gels, and that Anastasia clear brow gel (link, $22) is at the top. Whatever, I think that’s kind of baloney, but like I said, I don’t use brow gel, so I suppose I should defer to those who do.
6. Brow pomade.
Okay, so, brow pomade. So hot right now. These are a sort of cream – or, okay, pomade – that you apply with a brush. Most are waterproof, which is a big selling point. I’d say that Anastasia Dipbrow (link, $18) is probably the most well-known at the moment, though other brands are getting into this arena now, too.
This is the type of product most people are using for that “Instagram eyebrow” thing that’s all over… uh, Instagram. Tarte has one that’s a sort of brow mousse (link, $29), and NYX has one now, too, called Tame and Frame (link, $7).
So, these brow pomades. They can produce some really nice, polished, sharp results. If that super sculpted, flat, sharp-cornered eyebrow look is what you’re going for, these are probably going to be your best choice to achieve that. There are tons of tutorials all over websites and YouTube, so you can find the method you like and perfect it. I will say that I have owned a couple, and the results are nice, but gottdangit, Bobby, are they fussy as shit. I just. They’re good products and absolutely have a place in my collection of everything ever, but for me, personally, not an everyday thing. Not an every week thing, even. I know a lot of people have a routine nailed down that takes two minutes and looks natural and fabulous, but coming from someone who lives to sit around and fuss with makeup, I rarely want to fuss with this stuff.
So here’s some stuff that doesn’t fit in up there.
Stuff 1: You’ll notice I mentioned Anastasia Beverly Hills a lot. That’s because when it comes to brow products, Anastasia is just the best and always in the lead. I don’t know if that’s going to last forever, and she has branched out into other makeup products lately, but I am pretty comfortable in saying that for me, at least, Anastasia just about always nails it first. She has more products, more options, and the color range cannot be beat. If you’re a hard to match color, go right to Anastasia products. You can tell her I sent you, but she has no idea who I am and also probably won’t be there.
Stuff 2: Speaking of color matching. Matching your eyebrow color can be a bitch, because it has a lot to do with undertones. If you’re warm-toned, it will probably be easier for you. Even if you’re neutral-toned, you’ll be able to find something fairly easily. However, if you have cool undertones, you might have to spend a bit more time finding a good color. A lot of brown shades have warm undertones, and it may look like a good match in the package, but as soon as you put it in your brows, even the slightest hint of red shows up like a fire engine on your FACE. The cooler toned you are, the more this is true. This is why I end up with so many Anastasia products despite the higher price – she actually has some real, true, cool-toned colors in her range, and it doesn’t seem as common to have true ashy shades in the less expensive lines. It’s not impossible to find, though, I’m sure.
Stuff 3: As far as actual eyebrow grooming, I always always always recommend visiting a Benefit Brow Bar if you have one nearby, even just one time. They are really good at sorting out a great shape for your face, and if you like, you can maintain it at home from there, just plucking and trimming in line with the shape the Brow Lady gave you. If you don’t have access to a Brow Bar, that’s no big. I get mine done at a nail salon these days. It’s cheap and quick. You want to make sure you see someone who does take some effort with the shape, though. Waxing and then sending you out isn’t good enough. They should also pluck and trim as needed. There’s also threading, which some people will tell you hurts less than waxing, but that is a LIE put out there by BIG THREAD. That shit hurts like a bitch. However, a lot of those ladies are the best at creating a nice shape for you, so 6 of one, half dozen of a face of pain.
I think that’s about it. That’s a lot to say about eyebrows, but, you know. Eyebrows.
Ok, let’s not bother with any explanations right now and just jump right back in to business as usual.
I get asked a lot of makeup questions on Twitter and other places and while I really enjoy going on about different products at length, there are a couple of questions I get asked fairly often and I thought I’d try to tackle some of them here so the response is less disjointed than the 140 character limit allows. One question I get a lot is about LORAC palettes vs Urban Decay’s Naked palettes. I don’t own all of either line, but I think I own enough of each to break it down a bit for those on the fence.
You should first know that my first suggestion is to buy both. Let’s just establish now that my prime advice is always to buy everything. Realizing that some people consider that impractical, let’s move on to advice part two.
Another thing to note is that I’m not going to go into which LORAC Pro palette or which Urban Decay Naked palette you may way. Just the differences between the two brands.
Let’s start with LORAC. I own the LORAC Pro 1, the LORAC Pro 2, and the LORAC Mega Pro 2.
Each Pro palette has 16 shades: 8 matte and 8 shimmer. Both Pro 1 and Pro 2 are permanent to LORAC’s collection. The Mega Pro 2 has 32 shades: 16 matte and 16 shimmer. The Mega Pro 2 is limited edition and is available now at Ulta. There’s also a Mega Pro 1, but it was limited edition as well and sold out very quickly.
I didn’t clean these up before I took the pictures because this is real life. Also, if I go down the road of keeping my palettes clean, no one will ever see or hear from me again.
As you can see, all the palettes – the Mega Pro 2 especially, of course – have a really wide array of colors. They all have the same shadow formula, as well. The LORAC formula is very soft and will kick up a lot of dust, even if you just tap your brush into the pan. With cheaper eye shadows, that’s usually a sign of poor quality and a difficult to work with shade, but that’s not the case here. The color payoff is very good on most shades, though there are a few that just don’t look as vibrant on the eye as they do in the pan.
Pros of the LORAC Pro palettes
Cons of the LORAC Pro palettes
Now, Urban Decay’s Naked palettes. Again, I don’t have all of these. I have Naked 1, Naked 2, and I did own Naked 3, but the shades didn’t work for me so I sold it.
Again, if these palettes look beat, it’s because they are. I’ve had Naked 1 longer than Naked 2, but both are in pretty consistent rotation.
Urban decay does have several other palette “lines,” like the Vice palettes and other special edition palettes, but I’m just going to talk about the Naked palettes here. All of them – 1, 2, 3 and the two Naked Basics palettes – are part of the permanent collection. Unlike the LORAC palettes, which have a variety of shades in each, each Naked palette has it’s own “feel” and the shades all go together.
Pros of the Urban Decay Naked Palettes
Cons of the Urban Decay Naked Palettes
Anyway, that’s just a quick rundown of both brands. As for what I personally think, I will tell you that I end up pushing the LORAC a lot when people ask me which to choose. For those less experienced with makeup, the soft formula makes it easy to do pretty washes of color, the wide variety of shades gives a lot to play around with, and the price isn’t a small factor.
However, I actually use my Naked palettes all. the. time. Yes, they’re more shimmery. Yes, not all of it is appropriate for every day. But it’s really easy to pull together a quick look without thought. The shadows are consistent and blend together well. Naked 1, and more and more lately, Naked 2, are my go to “I don’t have time to mess around, gotta get out of the house” shadow palettes. They’re easy to use if you’re not so great at coming up with a “look,” and on top of that, the Naked palettes are so popular that there are tons of tutorials out there for all of them. They may look more limiting than the wide shadow variety in the LORAC palettes, but you can do a ton with them.
In the end, of course, it comes down to your personal preferences about how you like shadows to perform and what kinds of shades you like. My personal preference is to buy them all. Just saying.