Even though I've been a beauty editor for just over three years now (which, honestly, still makes me fairly green), I'm still surprised when people actually care and ask about what I've applied to my face, what I've slathered all over my body, or how I've styled my hair. I'm not going to pretend I have an influencer-level following (I definitely don't), and up until fairly recently, I was still uncomfortable posting selfies on social media or even online for the stories I'd write. I love so many things about my job, but the pressure to plaster my face all over the internet, and the vulnerability that comes with that, is one on-duty aspect I'm still getting used to.
I've always been camera shy, but when it comes to reporting on and shouting about my favorite beauty products from the rooftops, I'm definitely not shy. And, for the record, I'm typically wearing at least a few of said products whenever I take a picture or post to Instagram. Yes, I may try hundreds of new beauty products each month, but I can honestly say my lineup of go-to items over the years has remained practically unchanged. You know that old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? Nothing could better embody my withstanding beauty wardrobe.
Occasionally, a new product will be so good that I decide to let it infiltrate my regular rotation of fail-safe formulas. But most of the time, I stick to what I know I love and what I know (or at least feel like) looks good on me. Oh, and as uncomfortable as I might feel posting selfies and photos, I still receive lots and lots of DMs and/or in-person asks about what I'm wearing. In particular, people often respond to my IG stories or comment on photos asking about what specific gloss or lipstick I'm wearing or what I do to my lashes. (Mascara? Extensions? Falsies?) Back when we were all going out on the town, I was also frequently peppered with questions about my perfume. ("You smell so good!" is probably one of my favorite compliments to receive.)
So in honor of the most frequently asked questions regarding my makeup and scent (random, but true), I've created a list featuring all of my most-worn must-haves. Keep scrolling! I can personally vouch for their compliment-inducing power.
First things first, it would be completely pointless for me to start talking about my favorite mascaras without pointing out that I literally never go a day in my life without curling my lashes, and I most certainly never apply mascara without curling my lashes for about a minute total per eye. If you're looking for lift and curl, it's a crucial step. Not all curlers are created equally despite what you'd assume, and this classic rose gold model from Tweezerman is the one I always come back to.
I've been pretty candid about the fact that I'm not a huge drugstore-makeup lover. That said, mascara is a huge exception, and I've been impressed by just as many formulas under $10 as I have formulas over $20. This OG orange tube from Covergirl, however, is my favorite. I've used it since high school, and it has pretty much set the bar for every other mascara I try. It delivers the perfect ratio of clump-free volume, length, and curl, and it's one of the few mascara formulas I can apply to my bottom lashes with zero transfer or EOD mascara migration.
I am so discerning when it comes to the new mascaras I allow into my regular rotation, but I've been obsessed with Lash Slick since the day it launched. It has a specialized tubing technology that extends and lengthens your natural lashes so you get that fluttery, doe-eyed effect with practically zero effort. For anyone who prioritizes separation, length, and a natural-looking result, this mascara will change your life (or, at least, your makeup game).
I don't know if I've ever met a Charlotte Tilbury product I haven't immediately fallen head over heels for, and this mascara has to be in my all-time top five. The brand has two other mascaras, but this is the one I wear regularly and recommend to anyone who wants amazing, practically fake-looking lashes (in the best way possible!). I've never encountered another mascara that makes my lashes look so plump and voluminous while still making them look fluttery, separated, and lifted.
True story: I've been using this mascara from Dior since high school (in tandem with my Covergirl fave!), and I actually think it does a better job in the curl department than the brand's (also popular) Diorshow Iconic Overcurl Mascara ($30). At $30, it's most definitely an investment piece within your beauty wardrobe, but I never apply makeup without it. I use it on its own plenty, but I also love using it as a "setting" mascara of sorts if I'm using another mascara first. I always add at least one layer of this tube to my lashes to make sure they stay curled and perky—no smudging or flakes to be seen.
It doesn't get any chicer than whipping out a product from Chanel, and this is one of the top mascaras I rely on for beefing up my long but ultra-thin lashes. It builds and layers exceptionally well, and I love to comb through my lashes with this styling brush in between coats to enhance separation and length. Oh, and I'm not the only one who adores this mascara. It's a unanimous favorite among celebrity makeup artists as well.
I'm very passionate about lip-plumping products, and while it's hard to choose a favorite, I never escape questions and compliments when I wear this gloss from renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Lara Devgan. Not only does it intensify your natural lip color, but it also mega-plump your lips and leaves the prettiest glossy finish. It's infused with lip-saving SPF and tons of other strategic ingredients like ceramides and vitamin B3. Yes, it's expensive, but it's also like getting five different lip products in one sleek tube.
At this point, it almost seems cliché to talk about Charlotte Tilbury's Matte Revolution Lipsticks. They're already so beloved and well known. However, I do have one curveball up my sleeve! Even though I too wear and love cult shade Pillow Talk, Walk of No Shame—a plush berry-rose tone—is the hue that people pepper me with questions about. It's my go-to, and I always, always, always use it in conjunction with the brand's iconic Lip Cheat Lip Liner ($22) and a dab of gloss. (In very exciting news, the brand actually just added a Walk of No Shame–colored gloss to its collection of best-selling Collagen Lip Bath Glosses!)
I adore both of Kosas's lip offerings. The Weightless Lip Color lipsticks are sublime, and people always ask what's on my lips when I wear shades Rosewater and Stardust. Whenever anyone asks for my best clean-lipstick rec, Kosas is where I point them without a moment's hesitation. (I'm also obsessed with the nude hue, Vegas, which you can only buy via the brand's website.) The brand's Wet Lip Oil Glosses ($27) are also stunning on their own or layered, and my favorite shades are Malibu and Jaws.
If you're someone (like me) who can't stand the sight or feel of pruney, dehydrated lips, you need a few of these lipsticks from Tarte in your life. True to their name, they're enriched with buttery, lip-nourishing ingredients like jojoba oil, shea butter, and murumuru butter. The kicker is that they don't just hydrate for the first half hour of wear (like so many lipstick). They actually keep your pout moisturized the whole dang day or night. Tangerine Target and Rosy View are my two most asked about shades.
Again, I just don't do matte lipstick (unless, of course, it's Charlotte Tilbury's super-hydrating matte formula), and Marc Jacobs is another brand that does the buttery-smooth lipstick thing right. I'm also a huge fan of its (P)outliner Longwear Lip Pencil ($26). The shade Sugar High in both lipstick and liner is my signature.
No matter how good the formula is, wearing lipstick is always a commitment, which is why I've found myself especially partial to balm-gloss-oil-stain hybrids over the last year. Versed came out with three new shades of its best-selling lip oil, and the nontoxic ingredients win it bonus points. Ruby and Fig are the two I wear the most, but they're all so good that I just recommend snagging the entire trio.
If you're looking for a long-standing lip stain with less shine, I can't recommend Victoria Beckham Beauty's Bitten Lip Tint enough. It boasts skincare-grade ingredients like squalane, plumping mustard sprout extract, and hyaluronic acid and feels like a serum when you first apply it, but it quickly dries down for mess- and move-proof wear. I'm still obsessed with the OG hue, Bisou, but the brand recently launched another stunning shade, Chérie, which is lighter than Bisou—think sheer rose.
When I'm in a hurry and just can't be bothered to find or wear anything remotely high maintenance, tinted balms are my fail-safe lip plan. Tata Harper's multitasking balm is organic (which I love), and the red raspberry hue of the shade Be Adored is so flattering. I hate to make that overused popsicle analogy, but this tinted balm really does make it look like you just got done licking a berry popsicle. It's so pretty, and people are always shocked when I say I'm wearing a balm and not a lipstick—the punchy color payoff is just that impressive.
Okay, folks. Hopefully, you're still with me because I saved my favorite lip product of all time for last. I'm obsessed. Inspired by the brand's best-selling shades like Orgasm and Deep Throat, they're the perfect antidote for anyone who wants hydration, a touch of color, a subtle plumping effect, and a light-catching hint of shimmer. The aforementioned shades are my favorite. I love wearing them on their own or over my other favorite lipsticks. (Deep Throat is randomly so good on top of Kosas's Vegas Lipstick, a few slides above.) Also, I recently discovered these lip tints called Pretty Filter from K-beauty brand Touch In Sol, and they're a dead (albeit less expensive) ringer for the Nars tubes.
As someone who doesn't wash my hair every day, I take the scent of my hair extremely seriously, and honestly, most dry shampoos just don't do it for me. Of course, Byredo solved that problem when it collaborated with Ouai on this epic dry shampoo meets Mojave Ghost limited-edition spray. But I'm also hugely infatuated with its range of hair perfumes (which are less spendy than its collection of eau de parfums if you've been itching to dabble but fear for the well-being of your bank account). Not many people are familiar with Byredo's 1996 fragrance, but it is divine. (Think black pepper, juniper berries, leather accord, orris, violet, black amber, patchouli, and vanilla.) It's limited edition, so I've been stockpiling.
If I could only wear one fragrance note for the rest of my days, it would be rose. I used to think all rose fragrances were outdated, overly powdery, and reminiscent of potpourri, but brands (like Dior) have really been stepping up their game with yummy, fresh takes. This eau de toilette is my all-time favorite rose concoction thanks to the mixture of Grasse rose absolue, Italian mandarin, and white musk accord.
Considering how long I've been wearing perfume (Curious by Britney Spears was my first elementary school foray into the product category), it's telling that this is one of my most complimented fragrances and happens to be my favorite fragrance of all time. I used to spritz this on at the office pre-quarantine, and I kid you not, every single person who walked past my desk would stop to ask what I was wearing. It's a head turner and is the perfect creamy balance of juicy fruit notes like pear nectar and rich, cozy undertones from ambrette seeds and liquid musk. Plus, it's clean!
If you've tried Sol de Janeiro's iconic, best-selling Brazilian Bum Bum Cream ($45), you already know the gist of this perfume. The scent of the cream has created so much positive hysteria over the years that the brand appeased high demand and finally created a perfume version. I'm normally not into sweet scents, but there's something about the warm and spicy mix of salted caramel, pistachio, and vanilla that makes this the exception. (And surprisingly, it doesn't make me feel like I'm back in middle school.)
Of course, I love the smell of this perfume, and that's why I wear it. But it's also worth pointing out that this scent casts a spell on anyone who I wear it around. My dates always swoon, and it's even gotten the attention of my mom (who hates anything cotton candy–level sweet) and my dad (who now insists on stealing my Bum Bum Cream to use it on his hands in the winter—yes, he loves the smell that much and definitely would not appreciate me disclosing this fact to the internet).
Meet my newest perfume addiction to complete my current lineup of compliment inducers. Of course, I'm not around that many people in quarantine, but the people I have been with—friends and family—have all commented on how amazing Hermès's latest launch is. It's magic once it hits your skin, and I find the melding of black tea, incense, and tonka bean incredibly unique (which is hard to accomplish in the fragrance industry).
Up next, We Redesigned Our Hair, Makeup, and Skin Routines Using Drugstore Products Only
Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.
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