As beauty editors, it's no secret that it's our job to know (and try) pretty much every single makeup brand on the market, whether it's a popular label someone as out-of-touch as my dad would recognize or a lesser-known brand slowly but surely climbing the ranks of fame. We don't discriminate, and we've even taken it upon ourselves to test out some of the most popular makeup brands like Charlotte Tilbury and Marc Jacobs to see if their most iconic products stand up to the hype.
That got us thinking, with so many makeup brands on the market, which popular names are actually the best? And beyond that, which popular makeup brands are so good that innocent bystanders (like our co-workers, friends, family, significant others, or even total strangers) take note by offering compliments? My beauty PIC Courtney Higgs and I put our heads together to compile the ultimate list of 20 popular makeup brands that never fail to rack in the compliments. Be it frenzied DMs asking us what products we're wearing or IRL questions at a fancy event or work meeting, we're sharing the exact brand names and formulas that help us feel our best—even without the aforementioned compliments they instigate. Keep scrolling!
Courtney: This foundation offers great coverage and a blurring effect that makes your skin look completely flawless. I love that it offers such a comprehensive shade range, so beauties of every skin tone can experience the magic.
Erin: This foundation is my secret weapon for faking the look of perfect skin. Whenever I wear it, people freak out and say how great my makeup looks. I have yet to find a more foolproof option, and it's even more magical if you apply it over Charlotte Tilbury's cult-loved Magic Cream ($100).
Erin: Honestly, I was really happy with my highlight routine before I tried this handy wand one morning. Well, it turned my world upside down. It's so pretty. I put a little bit on the back of my hand, dip a slightly damp Beautyblender in, and then dab it onto the high points of my face where I want to highlight, gradually blending and buffing it in. It melts seamlessly into foundation, and I get so many questions and DMs about what highlighter or makeup I'm wearing whenever I have it on.
"It's not often that I can dive into an eye shadow palette and emerge feeling like my makeup is on point," Courtney says. "I don't know what it is about these shadows, but they're so soft and blendable that I now have newfound eye shadow application confidence."
Erin: I'm not one for dramatic eye shadow and typically, I prefer liquid or cream formulas instead of powder. Alas, these three-in-one layered pots are so convenient, pretty, and easy to blend and experiment with. (I don't even use a brush.) I love a shimmery lid, and these offer the most striking payoff. People always ask what eye shadow I'm wearing.
Erin: I've been really into a natural, pillowy lip. I love how featherlight, blendable, and hydrating this formula is, and the colors offer a wide range of neutral tones that basically just allow you to enhance your natural lip tone. Big fan.
Koh Gen Do
Erin: There are only a few primers I love in this world, and this makeup-artist staple is one of them. The formula comes in a variety of colors all geared toward color-correcting. My favorite is the yellow, which helps counteract and diffuse dark spots and discoloration while simultaneously boosting my complexion with skincare-caliber ingredients.
Erin: This is one of the few foundations I've found which is completely buildable. No matter how much product or how many layers I add, it never fails to provide a glowy, second-skin-like finish. Makeup artists rely on this formula on set and on red carpets thanks to how long and well it wears while basically looking invisible.
Erin: Not only do I received compliments whenever I wear this slightly shimmery liquid eye shadow, but whenever I compliment someone else in the office on their eye makeup, they pretty much always have this one on. Highly recommend, especially if you typically find eye shadow intimidating.
Erin: Even though I have a serious obsession with Kosas's lipsticks and lip oils, I have to say that its creamy blush and highlight palettes are like an instant pick-me-up for my perpetually tired face. They melt into your skin really well and honestly look more flattering and natural as the day wears on. My go-to hues are Tropic Equinox and 8th Muse—compliment insurance with 100% satisfaction guaranteed.
Erin: Courtney and I were both completely stupified the first time we tried this new serum-foundation-SPF hybrid from Ilia. Historically, neither of us like tinted moisturizers or tinted serums, and we had seriously low expectations. Well, color us surprised when we both applied the formula one morning and gaped at our reflections. Basically, it sinks and blends right into your complexion with zero detectability while offering a dewy (not greasy!) finish and camouflaging any imperfections. It's witchcraft!
Erin: My 73-year-old mom and I both adore this beautiful liquid highlighter from Ilia. It's nontoxic, not too shimmery, super-blendable, and provides the most stunning dose of radiance. It's a must-own.
Courtney: If you're still questioning the validity of all the accolades this foundation gets, stop it! It's that good. Just try it already.
Courtney: This beautiful highlighter is soft and luminous without being too glittery. It provides a subtle yet buildable glow.
Courtney: This liquid highlighter gel is everything. Glowy, glassy skin is just a pump away. The matching Glass Glow Lip Gloss ($26) is another one of my favorites. Together, they're a winning combo, and the compliments roll in hard and fast whenever I apply.
Erin: I first discovered this product when a makeup artist applied it on me during a press trip. It's super thick and creamy but buffs and blends out like a dream. You can use it as a foundation or a concealer, and I love that the tiniest bit goes a super-long way. That, and it completely hides any pigmentation, spots, or shadows. It's always in my makeup bag. When people say how good my skin looks, I wish I didn't have to blame it on this winning formula! Such a great discovery.
Courtney: This gel foundation is super bouncy and offers amazing coverage. I love it for those times when I want a little more dewy coverage without feeling like I'm wearing 10 pounds of makeup.
Courtney: This lipstick is so lightweight you practically forget it's there after applying. I love how one layer gives a beautiful, natural-looking flush.
Anastasia Beverly Hills
Courtney: I was ready to hate on this foundation, but it's so good. It has a super-thin consistency, but the color payoff is truly incredible. (Erin's a fan too!)
Courtney: This pigmented setting powder isn't super pigmented but offers just enough coverage to smooth out the complexion. I like to dust it on while my moisturizer is still damp so it melts a little bit and creates a skin-like veil.
Erin: It's no secret that Nars makes the most iconic blush formula in history. And the hype is real! Of course, I love Orgasm, but some of my other must-have shades are Sex Appeal, Deep Throat, Outlaw, Desire, and Seduction.
Courtney: This tinted moisturizer applies and wears like a lightweight foundation and has SPF protection to boot.
Courtney: This concealer is life-changing. Applying it alone to brighten my under-eye gives me enough luminosity that I often won't wear any other makeup on my face.
Courtney: Erin and I both agree this light finishing powder is light and glowy. It sets foundation without leaving you looking cakey or overdone. It's an oldie but a goodie.
Courtney: MAC eye shadows are so much fun. This particular shade may look out-there, but I like to use it on my eyes and, get this, as a blush. On brown skin, it's everything. Trust me.
Erin: Sisley-Paris is well-known for its dreamy French skincare, but it also makes amazing makeup. It is expensive, but if your budget has the bandwidth, these hydrating lip twists deliver the prettiest punch of juicy color.
Erin: I'm also a huge fan of its new eye shadows. They have a unique formula that's half powder, half cream and delivers lots of pigment with the perfect ratio of eye-catching glimmer. No matter what shade I'm wearing, people always have to ask!
Erin: Okay, I love my collection of blushes from Nars, but I have to say I might love Hourglass's radiant blushes more. When I'm in a rush, they're the perfect antidote to give my complexion a boost of color and glow, which I really appreciate. It's also practically impossible to apply too much because of how diffused and pretty they are. Diffused Heat and Radiant Magenta have remained in my arsenal for years.
Erin: Similar to the blushes from this collection, these bronzers are so stunning and give you the right amount of bronze and glow—never OTT or unnatural, which I truly appreciate. This bronzer is one of my best-kept secrets for being as photogenic as possible. (It almost provides a blurring, filter-like effect.)
Erin: When I have zero time and want my face to look as flawless as possible, I reach for this famous CC cream from It Cosmetics. It's so famous that when people ask what products I'm wearing, they nod as if they knew the answer was already coming. It can get a little shiny, so I recommend opting for the matte version if you have an oilier skin temperament.
Erin: I'm also a huge fan of this full-coverage moisturizer. It instantly blurs away anything you're looking to hide, blends like a dream, houses so many skincare-grade ingredients, and boosts your complexion with essential moisture. It's very similar to the CC Cream, to be honest, but has a little lighter coverage and even lighter consistency. (So yes, your face basically feels naked in the best way possible.)
Erin: This foundation isn't for the faint of heart. A little goes a long way, and it's very full-coverage. That said, it makes your skin look like an Instagram filter IRL. It's my favorite for when I don't have time to tinker with concealer and lots of buffing, camouflaging, and blending.
Erin: Same goes for this game-changing concealer! It's one of the least-creasy formulas I've tried, has great full coverage, but is super creamy and easy to spread and blend, unlike other full-coverage concealers I've tried, which can get sticky or gross. It's the best antidote for super-dark circles or hard-to-cover pimples or scarring.
Erin: I have a rotation of about five or so foundations I really truly love and recommend to my friends, family, and the DMs I receive! I love, love, love this foundation form Laura Mercier. The coverage is fantastic and super buildable, the shades are on point, and it has the perfect matte, but not TOO matte, finish. It also doesn't budge. They're not kidding with the "ultra-longwear" in the name. (Although, it doesn't look cakey or heavy.) The coordinating concealer is another top recommendation I shout about to anyone who will listen.
Erin: Words can't describe how stunning this highlighter is. Seriously, I could be wearing nothing else, and I'm pretty sure it would make me look glamorous. It's long-wearing, easy to layer, and can go all over without looking like too much. (Although, I love it best on my Cupid's bow, cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, and my eyelids like an eye shadow.)
Pat McGrath Labs
Erin: I don't remember what life was like BPML (before Pat McGrath Labs). Leave it to one of the most iconic makeup artists in history to create the primer (and foundation—see below) that creates the illusion of poreless, velvety smooth skin. (It's her signature aesthetic, after all.) This has hyaluronic acid and cosmetic filler powder, which work in tandem to smooth, plump, and create the ultimate lit-from-within canvas for your foundation.
Erin: Once I was wearing this foundation at a really fancy event, and a complete stranger (a very well-known fashion influencer, in fact) practically yelled across the table at me to ask what I was wearing on my face to make my skin look so dang perfect. McGrath's formula is unlike any other foundation I've tried. It gets better and looks prettier the longer you wear it (it's as if it adjusts to your skin), and it's also infused with luxurious ingredients like the brand's Vita-Serum Complex to moisturize while combating wrinkles and Diamond Core Powder Technology to enhance your skin’s texture, smooth, blur, and diffuse the look of other potential skin concerns like fine lines, enlarged pores, or even blemishes.
Courtney: Liquid eyeliner enthusiasts know what's up. This OG eyeliner is the absolute truth. That said, if you're into thinner, sharper lines, then this one (which has a finer tip) is the liner for you.
Erin: I'll keep it simple: This is one of my favorite makeup products of all time. The mix of pigment and shimmer is such a pick-me-up. Plus, despite the shimmer, the natural flush it gives is really so believable and has that coveted post-gym-glow vibe (sans gym). Incandescence is my favorite universally flattering shade.
Erin: I'm a glitter fiend, and this is my all-time favorite formula. Makeup artists also love it, and I appreciate that it has zero fallout, is super easy and mess-free to apply (thanks to that doe foot), and can also be layered depending on how subtle or dramatic you want your look to be. I used Diamond Dust and Wanderlust the most.
Erin: A really satisfying bronzer is hard to come by, which is why this one from Too Faced has remained in my top three since college. I come back to it again and again. It blends superbly, and it never looks muddy, orange, or shimmery. It's the perfect matte bronzer.
Erin: Another favorite I've loved since college. I appreciate the full-coverage yet super-weightless feel. It's one of those iconic formulas I stray from and then when I inevitably return, I wonder why I was ever unfaithful. Plus, the shade range is one of the best.
Erin: I'm going to be 100% honest here. I used to be a die-hard Stila-liner devotee, but this double-sided liner from Tarte converted me. I use the black and brown religiously and love that I can effortlessly add some depth and oomph to the base of my lashes with the pencil liner and then add the perfect flick or liquid liner moment with the other side of the same tool. It doesn't budge, and it lasts a surprisingly longer than other liners I've tried.
Erin: Okay, so I might have saved the best for last. This lesser-known hydrating primer from Tarte is the common denominator whenever I receive a compliment on my makeup or skin. It keeps me hydrated but never shiny or oily, and it also makes whatever makeup I apply on top of it look pretty much flawless. Who knew something as simple as primer could have such a marketable influence?