There isn’t much in life that provides us beauty editors and connoisseurs with more joy than makeup. Whether it’s putting on a fierce red lip or simply livening up our complexions with a glowing base, we think a great makeup product is a sure-fire way to brighten a dampened spirit.
And while it’s true that none of us here at Who What Wear is a makeup artist (we’re very much advocates for easy, low-fuss looks), what we lack in artistic skills we make up for in experience. We beauty editors like to refer to ourselves as expert consumers. You see, we are surrounded by beauty products every single day. Between the group of us, there is no beauty stone that goes unturned. We test every mascara, eye shadow palette, foundation and bronzer that hits the shelves.
Because of the nature of our jobs, it’s worth noting that we have exceptionally high standards. We’re used to the best of the best, after all. And while it’s easy for us to reel off lists of products we love and swear by, when it comes to brands that really get it right, things get a little tougher.
It’s no secret that most of us are very loyal to our favourite brands when we’re shopping for makeup, but very few makeup brands out there truly tick all the boxes. With that being said, out of the hundreds of brands we try every year, there are some that we know will never let us down. Whether you like colourful brights or a minimalist glow, these are the best makeup brands around, according to Team Who What Wear.
1. Charlotte Tilbury
Trying to compile this list wasn’t easy, as every single Who What Wear editor and contributor had Charlotte Tilbury at the top (or close to the top) of their list. Beauty contributor Vanese Maddix says, "I know that Charlotte Tilbury isn’t the most affordable brand out there, but the quality is really good. It’s not one of those brands that are all style no substance.” Whereas deputy editor Maxine Eggenberger has been quoted to say that she won’t let any other makeup brand near her lips.
Available in varying depths of nude to suit different skin tones, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution lipstick in Pillow Talk is one of the most-loved lipsticks out there.
This highlight stick is loved by beauty buffs far and wide thanks to how easy it is to swipe onto the high points of the face and blend out with your fingers. Expect a more glowing, radiant look in seconds.
2. By Terry
In typical Who What Wear fashion, we’re all big fans of French makeup brand By Terry. Founded by Terry de Gunzburg (who is responsible for bringing YSL’s cult Touche Éclat to the market), By Terry makeup champions a natural-looking glow that’s almost impossibly easy to achieve. Former Who What Wear editor Emma Spedding considers By Terry one of her go-to makeup brands, while beauty contributor Shannon Lawlor says, "If I could only use one makeup brand for the rest of my life, it would be By Terry. The formulas are luxe and really encompass that your-face-but-better look.”
If you’re not sure where to start, we highly recommend taking a look at the Brightening CC Serum. It’s an everyday base product, available in four shades, that can be applied on its own or under foundation to smooth skin and deliver a natural-looking radiance that’s second to none.
For those who don’t like using powder on their face, we urge you to give this one a go. Infused with hydrating hyaluronic acid, it takes down shine but still leaves skin glowing through.
Merit has made waves since launching in the UK, and it's safe to say the entire Who What Wear team are obsessed. In fact, Maxine says the bronzer is the best she has tried, while social media editor Joy Ejaria has been wearing the cream blusher religiously. Beauty editor Eleanor Vousden likes that everything from the brand streamlined to make your makeup application a breeze, and it has curated kits that allow you to create low-key looks in five minutes flat.
4. Huda Beauty
It seems like an odd thing to say given the circumstances, but when you’re shopping for makeup, it’s important not to judge a book by its cover. Yes, Huda Beauty makeup might not look as chic and sleek as other brands out there, but the formulas are truly incredible. Vanese says, "You can’t not love Huda. The quality of the eye shadows is just so good. Most beauty buffs I know have at least one Huda Beauty palette. Personally, I think they’re really good value for money considering just how great the quality is. There’s a palette for every look and every season.”
"I have other palettes like this one, but this is by far the most beautiful. It’s beautiful and buttery. I’ve been reaching for this one every day recently,” Vanese says.
Beauty contributor Keeks Reid says, "This is an absolute essential for an oily girl like me. I’m honestly never without it for quick touch-ups, and the built-in applicator makes it easy to apply on the go.”
"I think this is my perfect blush! The colour is gently buildable and gives me a super-healthy glow,” says Keeks.
5. Bobbi Brown
Another cult classic, Bobbi Brown has been a favourite of makeup artists for decades, and it’s also Maxine’s favourite. "I’d be lost without Bobbi Brown,” she says. "I have more Bobbi Brown eye shadow palettes than I care to admit, won’t go a day without slathering my skin in the Vitamin Enriched Face Base, and I swear by its Smokey Eye Mascara for creating full but natural-looking lashes. Oh, and the heavenly Pot Rouge? The very product that convinced me to try blusher again after overdoing it in my teenage years. Thank you, Bobbi Brown, for helping me makeup like a grown-up.”
A favourite backstage at fashion week, this priming moisturiser boosts glow and creates the ultimate smooth canvas for makeup.
This mascara creates blacker-than-black lashes and is the perfect addition to a smoky-eye look.
Perfect for chucking in your handbag, this creamy balm can be patted into lips and/or cheeks to give your face a freshen-up.
There was no way we were making a list of the best makeup brands out there and not including Glossier. It is easily one of our favourite beauty brands here at Who What Wear thanks to its lazy-person appeal and Insta-friendly aesthetic. Editor in Chief Hannah Almassi says, "I’m an incredibly low-maintenance and no-makeup-makeup kind of woman, and Glossier’s lightweight products really work for me. It’s that added lift that I 100% need and want but without ever feeling too much.”
"I swear by Lash Slick mascara for long-lasting but subtle lash improvement all day,” says Hannah.
Hannah considers Boy Brow to be unparalleled in its brow-boosting abilities. The tiny brush allows you to get right to the root for impressive lift, and the formula doesn’t go crispy or cakey, either.
When it comes to sheer choice, MAC really can’t be beaten. Its shade range is extensive, and there really is a product for every makeup want and need. It might have lost its buzz a little in recent years, but the cult classics are constants in our collections.
"Before nude became as universal as it is now, this was pretty much the only lip liner that worked for my skin tone, and it’s still a fave,” says Keeks.
MAC has a range of so many great neutrals shades that you're guaranteed to find your perfect 'your-lips-but-better- lipstick.
"This is without a doubt my most-used eye colour. I swipe it over my lids with my finger every single morning, and it just helps to make me feel like I’ve got my stuff together,” says Shannon.
8. Westman Atelier
We’re hesitant to include such an expensive makeup brand on this list, but it really can’t be ignored. Founded by makeup artist Gucci Westman, Westman Atelier is responsible for creating some of our most-loved cream products. From stick blushers and contour sticks to creamy highlights and nourishing lip shines, every single product in the Westman Atelier line-up is pure gold.
"Not a day goes by that I don’t blot this onto my cheeks in the morning. The packaging is hefty, but I take it with me everywhere I go. Just dab and blend with your fingers. It really is that easy,” says Shannon.
"I wouldn’t usually endorse spending £35 on a tinted lip balm, but I make an exception for this one. It leaves a glossy sheen on the lips that is balmier than it is sticky. They’re my go-to birthday gifts for friends, and I have got everyone I know hooked on them,” Shannon says.
Spedding considers Hourglass her favourite makeup brand out there, and the rest of the Who What Wear team totally understands why. To start with, the packaging feels like fine art in makeup form. Then there are the formulas to consider. Creamy, blendable and the sort of makeup that melts into skin like butter, the formulas are foolproof and natural-looking in the best of ways.
This tubing mascara coats lashes in a water-resistant layer, meaning it doesn’t run or smudge. However, because of the tubing technology, it’s incredibly easy to remove and swipes off with some water and very gentle coaxing. Plus, it’s one of the most lash-lengthening mascaras around.
With a subtly pearly finish, Ambient Lighting Blushers smooth the appearance of the skin and leave your complexion looking lit from within.
10. E.l.f. Cosmetics
While we all love luxury beauty products, sometimes it’s the more affordable brands that do the hard work best, and that rings truer than ever when it comes to E.l.f. From foundation to concealer, E.l.f.’s base products put some 10 times their price to shame. If there’s only one affordable makeup brand you choose to shop from, we recommend this one.
This CC cream sits somewhere between a foundation and a tinted moisturiser. It provides some seriously impressive coverage but leaves skin looking like your own.
This primer set TikTok on fire last year thanks to its almost-unbelievable pore-perfecting qualities.
11. Milk Makeup
When it comes to natural-looking makeup, Milk Makeup really is considered the best of the best—and that’s why we love it. The brand’s your-skin-but-better approach to all of its formulas guarantees a glowing finish that still leaves you looking like you.
"I live for this concealer,” says Keeks. "It’s creamy, light, gives good coverage without being cakey… I could go on.”
"This stuff is honestly like super glue for the face. I have really oily skin at times, and this keeps me matte but not flat for hours on end,” says Keeks.
12. Laura Mercier
Few makeup brands have quite as many cult products under their belts as Laura Mercier. From the brand’s iconic Tinted Moisturiser to the makeup artist and celeb favourite Loose Setting Powder, Laura Mercier has all of your base needs covered.
"This is by far my most-used base product. I’m not a huge fan of foundation, but I will always make space in my collection for this dewy tint,” says Shannon.
"Powders aren’t for everyone, but this loose formula is so lightweight no one would ever know you had it on,” Shannon says.
You might be familiar with Swedish brand Byredo thanks to its super-chic fragrance offering, but its more recent makeup launches place Byredo firmly amongst some makeup greats. The products champion a creative but easy approach to makeup thanks to buildable pigments and stick formulas. Think a five-minute face that looks as though it took hours to achieve.
Few makeup products are as joy-inducing as a great tinted lip balm. Think comforted, hydrated and plump lips with a subtle pink tint that oozes a chic, but effortless, vibe.
"These multi-use colour sticks are amongst some of my favourite beauty products ever. They can be swiped over lids, dabbed onto cheeks and tapped into lips for a super-easy makeup look that ties together seamlessly," says Shannon.
14. Elizabeth Arden
Sometimes the classic brands are the best ones. New makeup brands come and go, but Elizabeth Arden is a trusty favourite. With skincare-infused foundations, award-winning mascaras and cult lipstick shades that have truly stood the test of time, Elizabeth Arden is easily our favourite heritage makeup brand.
This red lipstick is truly universal, suiting just about everyone who swipes it onto their lips. The shade is cool-toned, pops on the lips and makes teeth look whiter, too.
If you’re asking us, this mascara doesn’t get the praise it deserves. Sitting quietly on beauty counters in department stores far and wide, it packs one hell of a punch. Think full, fluffy, sky-high lashes that last all day.
Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.
Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.
While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.
When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.
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