I've never had (and probably never will have) the privilege of calling myself an expert in the world of beauty. After all, it takes a lot of effort and research to achieve the level of knowledge and skill that editors and the savviest of makeup and skincare shoppers possess, and I don't see myself putting that work in any time soon. What I do have going for me, however, is relatability and access. Like many others, I'm that girl who wishes she knew all the things about achieving a flawless face situation but has no patience for YouTube tutorials or extensive investigating. Luckily, though, I'm surrounded by experts whom I get to shortcut to for answers. How do I look glowy? Who makes the best highlighter? What color are my undertones? What even are undertones? These are all questions I get to ask our resident beauty gurus at the click of my keyboard, and I can't say I don't take advantage of it.
Funny enough, however, today's story isn't about all the amazing products or application tricks I've picked up over the years. In fact, it's actually quite the opposite because, since about mid-March, when New York suddenly entered a period of quarantine and life as we know it changed within a matter of days, I've had to use very little of them. Turns out you don't need that many makeup products to stay home, go for walks, and socialize distantly behind a mask! Nevertheless, the few items I have found myself using have really become the heroes of my vanity.
Just using one or two of them gives me the pick-me-up I need when I'm feeling uninspired at home, and as a set, they help me achieve a simple and natural look on those rarer occasions when I do go out. Curious as to what they are yet? Below you'll find a breakdown of the only six makeup products I've really found myself applying since March, along with my pick for each section and the recommendations of Who What Wear's very own beauty editors, Erin Jahns and Courtney Higgs. Just keep scrolling to get started.
1. Natural lip color
A boost of color to my lips is always the first (and sometimes only) thing I'll use when I'm sick of feeling so plain. I opt for something easy to use and natural-looking, so it doesn't stand out too much on my bare face and needs no touching up or maintenance.
I've been using this product in the same color (Crush) probably since the year it came out—whenever that was. I love how it's easy to apply without a mirror, and it's buildable so most of the times I use it I just swipe once for a subtle addition of color but have the option to keep going for more. I especially like using it over lip balm for an even sheerer look.
"Even though this balm looks extremely pink and shimmery, it's actually quite sheer and just gives the prettiest glowy sheen to your natural lip color. There are a variety of shades. I also love the OG Orgasm, but Deep Throat really enhances my natural, dark red/pink lip color."
"This is like a cross between a lipstick and a lip stain and I love that it can be worn in either fashion without skipping a beat. It's hard to achieve that natural, flushed look when you have a darker skin tone, so I really appreciate the color payoff here. Not to mention the clean ingredient list!"
2. Eyebrow pencil
I can't help but give my eyebrows a little brush when I wake up every day, just to keep them in check, but when I want to take things one step further, I use a thin pencil just to subtly fill in some gaps here and there. It's easy but makes a big difference when the other half of your face is covered by a mask.
Anastasia's Brow Wiz is another longtime favorite of mine. I don't love an overly drawn-in look, so the slim pencil is perfect for getting the natural-but-better effect that I'm going for, and it's pretty much impossible to mess up.
"I go between both of these pencils. Pre-quarantine, Stevi always did my brows, and I'm so loyal to her brow pencil. The color is so spot-on. I don't know what it is, but I haven't found anything that can compare or looks quite so flattering with my skin tone and hair color."
"I also love the versatility of the Shiseido pencil, though. The finish is really natural and it's really easy to blend and work into your brows for whatever kind of vibe you're going for."
"I actually opt for a brow pen when I want the most natural look possible. This way, I can fill in any sparse areas with small strokes that look natural and hairlike instead of creating too much of a finished look."
3. Under-eye concealer
Now, for really special occasions, I treat myself (and those who will see me) to a quick application of under-eye concealer. It's one of those things that you don't really realize you need until you put it on and see the difference.
This was recommended to me by my sister a few years ago when I first ventured into the world of concealer (yes, it took me that long), and has served me well ever since. I find that it goes on very naturally, and I recently started using a tiny Artis brush (my new obsession) to apply it, so it's an even smoother process and result.
"This under-eye concealer is not only one of the most blendable and natural-looking concealers I've tried, but it's also clean and boosted with skincare-grade ingredients. It's like you're getting eye cream and coverage in one swipe! I also notice less creasing with this formula."
"Honestly, I can't imagine that this under-eye concealer will ever be dethroned as my all-time favorite. It's the perfect consistency to brighten up the complexion without weighing it down with a ton of product."
4. Subtle highlighter
Luckily, I still got the chance to work on my annual tan this summer, and nothing complements sunkissed skin like a bit of highlighter. I own a few different kinds, but the one I've been using lately is the one that's the sheerest and most low-maintenance.
Another product I love for its quick application and subtle look is Chanel's glow stick in the Transparent shade. I swipe it over my cheekbones for a super natural-looking glow and simply rub it in so that it doesn't look too defined. It's so easy, I could honestly do it with my eyes closed.
"This just gives your skin the prettiest, lit-from-within glow. It's lightweight, and I'm convinced it looks better and better the longer it sits on your face."
"It might not look like it could deliver a 'natural' finish, but the trick is to warm up the stick on the back of your hand first. From there you can tap a cheekbone-hugging brush into it and use long, medium pressure strokes to apply it. I swear it makes you look like you just returned from vacation!"
5. Brown eyeliner
Ever since I started using brown eyeliner a few years ago, black pencils have become somewhat of a distant memory for me, and I especially couldn't imagine using something so stark during these overwhelmingly casual times. I love a brown liner because it enhances my eyes without looking too overdone, so whenever I really want to "dress up," I dust off my pencil and go for it.
When my favorite shade of slightly shimmery, brown eyeliner from Nars was discontinued last year, I thought I'd never find something I liked even half as much. However, after spending nearly an hour at my local Sephora comparing other brands' eyeliners to my last remaining Nars pencil, I landed on this by Urban Decay and haven't looked back since.
"I love that one side is liquid and one is a gel pencil. Since I'm usually more of a liquid liner girl, I love that this pen gives me more options, and the color doesn't fade or run. It's been my go-to for a few years now."
"That said, when I want something a little darker and more smokey, I also love Charlotte Tilbury Rock 'N' Kohl Eyeliner in Barbarella Brown which is really deep, almost black."
"No matter the shade, I can always count on Nyx eyeliners to be super pigmented. Although I'm more of a liquid eyeliner girl (yes, even when going for a more natural look), I always keep this mechanical pencil on hand for those days when a smudged-out line feels like the move."
The icing on the cake? Mascara. Even the most simple and natural makeup looks wouldn't feel complete without it, and if you stick to something that's not too extreme and, of course, isn't clumpy, you almost forget it's on but it definitely makes a major difference.
I don't even remember how and when I started using it (though I do know from my email history it was at least four years ago), but I've been loyal to By Terry's Mascara Terribly ever since it first landed in my hands. I'll be honest, though. I've always had long lashes, so I'm not 100% sure about the whole growth-boosting thing, but I do know that it never clumps or smudges, and when you're about halfway through the tube is the peak time for achieving an understated look. For that reason, I usually have two of them in my rotation at once.
"The absolute best mascara of all time, IMO. It's great for length, separation, and just giving you that doe-eyed fluttering look."
"I love that this mascara looks so easy and natural on its own, but it's also easy to add some extra drama by swiping a bit of primer on first."