Oh, don't pretend like you don't have one!
You guys. Today is my birthday. I am now officially 29, and so far it is an awesome age to be! You xoVainers helped make 28 my best year ever, and I bet that 29 is going to be even more amazing.
Plus, as if this wasn’t enough reason to celebrate, it’s also Mari’s birthday! We are totally birthday twins, which is going to make our inevitable beauty girl-gang even more formidable. It’s pretty crappy, sharing a birthday with a national tragedy, but I am glad that I also share it with someone as sweet, funny and talented as Mari is.
Originally, I was thinking that I’d write about My Special Birthday Makeup for you guys, but then I realised A) it’s a Wednesday, and I’m not doing anything except going to dinner with my Mum, and B) my Special Makeup is pretty much identical to my Usual Makeup: cat eye, pink cheeks, bright lips.
Not much to write about there.
Instead, I decided to write about the 10 greatest beauty products of my life so far. I have been many places, and put many things on my face and body in my 29 years... but what are my favourites?
To be included on this list, a product cannot merely distinguish itself; it has to be as good as I can imagine the product possibly being. It can’t just be great; it has to be AMAZING. It has to be something that I’ll buy over and over again (with my own money; none of this was sent to me for free), never even looking at an alternative.
In short, it has to exceed my very high standards. And everything on this list has done so .You’ve probably read about all the stuff here more than once, because I genuinely love all of it.
You guys know that I take really good care of my nails. I’m really into shaping them, keeping them painted and strong and unbroken, and finding really awesome colours to paint them with. And for me, the difference between an OK manicure and a REALLY GREAT one often comes down to the topcoat.
“The Red Bottle,” as I call this, is the greatest topcoat in history. It’s even better than Seche Vite. Even though it isn’t EXACTLY instant-drying (it takes, like, two minutes), it gives you amazing shine and protection.
It bonds all the layers of your nail polish together--something that’s especially important if you’re doing something like tea bag wraps to fix a cracked or broken nail. It doesn’t smear different colours of polish if you do nail art. It doesn’t shrink your polish as it dries, and it doesn’t wear away quickly at the tips.
And it’s under $6.
This is one of those change-your-life products. Even if you’re a ride-or-die Seche Vite fan, try this. You will be converted immediately.
This pops up in every article that I’ve ever written about hair, and with good reason: It’s the best hairspray on Earth.
I use hairspray daily on my bangs. Hairspray needs to give my hair hold without feeling sticky, shouldn’t dry it out, and shouldn’t have a lingering smell. This checks all those boxes and then some.
The hold on this is OUTRAGEOUS. I’ve been caught in galeforce winter winds downtown, and my bangs remain perfect. We’re talking Margaret Thatcher levels of immaculate immovability.
There is no beehive that this hairspray cannot support, no curl it cannot freeze in place, no flyaway baby frizz it cannot lacquer down.
The best part is, it isn’t all super-hard helmet hair. It also brushes out BEAUTIFULLY. I love to wear my hair in loose curls and waves (you guys know this), and although this always feels very hard when I first spray it, a few passes with a brush and my hair is soft and perfect. I know it’s there because my waves stay Disney Princess-amazing for days, but I don’t feel it. It’s that versatile.
Also, you guys know I’m really fussy about smells. This is the only hairspray that doesn’t make me sneeze my fool head off after I spray it, AND it doesn’t have a weird lingering odour.
A sharp black cat eye is part of my makeup uniform, and has been since I was a teenager. When Prestige discontinued the liquid liner I’d known and loved since forever, I went on a search for the perfect replacement.
It took two years, and then I found this. Oh, LORAC liner, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!
- You come in a pen applicator with a long, fine marker tip, which makes thick and thin lines incredibly easy to draw.
- You are waterproof so that I do not sweat you off on hot days, yet you do not stain my skin or require a scouring brush to remove.
- You dry matte, not shiny.
- You do not smudge, crack or flake off during the day.
- Your black is truly, honestly, totally BLACK.
- Your pen is silver, so I can quickly find you in my makeup case.
If you’re a liquid liner lover, you will ADORE this. If you’re someone who maybe hasn’t had much luck with a cat eye before, or you think you don’t have the skills to do it, you should try it anyway. I firmly believe that this applicator is so good, anyone can use it.
4. NARS Blush
Even though I’m all about being a sparkly unicorn, I want my blush to be matte. That way I can make it shimmery if I want to, or leave it alone if I don’t. I also demand serious colour payoff with my blush, because I like my chubby cheeks and high cheekbones, and I want to call attention to them.
Most of the time, those two things seem to be mutually exclusive: bright blushes are packed full of shimmer, matte blushes are too powdery and go on like a pastel. But NARS knocks blushes right out of the park.
NARS Desire is everything I’ve ever wanted in a blush. It looks incredibly intense in the pan, and then it goes on as the most amazing pink flush. It’s TRULY matte--not a single hint of shimmer. It lasts all day. It’s flattering on a wide range of skin tones. It’s perfect.
The thing I love about bright blushes is that if you have a good brush and apply them with a light hand, they last FOREVER. I’ve had this pan for three years and it’s not even close to being empty. Since I wear it every day that I wear makeup, that’s a lot of use.
If you like shimmery blushes, NARS has you covered there too. Whatever colour and formula you want, they make it better than anyone else.
You guys ask me all the time about the shimmer that’s always on my cheeks. This is it. Silver Dusk is the best highlighter that has ever highlighted, and if you like to shine, I am totally cool telling you to GET THIS RIGHT NOW.
I want a highlighter that doesn’t add any colour to my face--no golds or bronzes or pinks or any of that nonsense. Silver Dust looks slightly pink-beige in its loose form, but there’s no weird-coloured cast when you apply it to your skin. It’s totally colourness without being ghost-white.
It’s also shimmery without being glittery, because it’s so finely milled. I love glitter, but I don’t want to wear it all over my face, you know? I got that out of my system when I was 14.
I also like this loose powder form better than comparable highlighting creams or gels, because it gives me more control; a little bit on my brush is subtle, and a lot is glimmering angel. Plus, I can wear it over blush (or other makeup) without wiping everything else off when I apply it.
6. Sephora's traincase
Makeup storage is a challenge for me because I have a lot of it and not a lot of space. I’m also really obsessed with organising things. What’s a girl to do?
Enter this train case. It’s incredibly well-made--heavy, with good-quality closures that won’t snap off if, say, you have a couple glasses of wine and get clumsy (not that that’s ever happened to me). There’s loads of space inside. The handle makes it easy to carry from room to room. And best of all, there are little inserts that mean you can customise the size of your individual sections.
I can have my gold and green eyeshadows in a little space, and my everyday makeup in a longer space. It’s all up to me! I love it!
Because it’s so tough, you know your stuff is going to be safe. Why buy nice makeup if it’s going to roll around in a plastic container under the sink and get broken, you know? I also have pretty limited closed storage space in my bathroom, but this looks nice enough to sit out on the floor, rather than being hidden away out of embarrassment.
It seems like a hundred bucks is a big investment for something that just holds your stuff. But when you consider that a similarly-sized “cheap” brand one costs $80 and isn’t anywhere NEAR as good quality, it’s a steal. I’ve had this one for nine years; it’s been through a million moves, and travelled to and from Australia three times. It still looks brand new, and none of my makeup has ever broken inside it.
7. CeraVe moisturisers
I am super-basic when it comes to my skincare. I wash it twice a day with a very bland cleansing lotion, exfoliate gently with a washcloth, and murder zits with a zinc-based treatment. I always wear sunscreen. And I moisturise A LOT.
I’ve tried a lot of moisturisers, from the super-basic stuff all the way up to La Mer. Nothing tops CeraVe for quality. Also, La Mer? Nice, but not worth the terrifying pricetag. For that amount of money, I basically want the cream to turn into someone else’s face that I can wear on top of mine, like Professor Farnsworth in that one episode of Futurama.
These two are my holy grail moisturisers. AM keeps my skin from feeling dry and peely all day, and even though it has a sunscreen in it, it doesn’t give you that white cast when you wear it. It also doesn’t make your makeup feel like it’s going to slide off your face, like a lot of lotions with sunscreen in will.
PM is really calming and soothing, even under my eyes. It’s really lightweight and sinks in super quickly, but it’s hardcore enough to use even during the Chicago winters.
I think it’s the hyaluronic acid that makes this so magical. It’s intensely moisturising while also being gentle.
No matter how sensitive your skin is, these are gold. They don’t make a lot of wacky promises: they just WORK. A friend who has eczema told me that CeraVe is the only non-prescription skincare line she can use. And can you really argue with the price? No way.
8. MAC Plush Lash & Splashproof Lash
People kind of raise their eyebrows at me when I tell them that I use two mascaras, but hear me out: I need mascara to do different things depending on if they’re on my top or bottom lashes. So instead of wailing about not being able to find one product that magically does opposite things, I just use two. And these two are the best out of the many, many that I have tried.
I use Plush Lash on my top lashes after curling them, because I have long eyelashes and I want them to look dark and dramatic. The formula is really great--thick, dark, volumising without being clumpy--but the brush is FANTASTIC. It’s so chubby but not absurdly long, and the bristles are so fine, you’re guaranteed to get an even coating of product on each eyelash. Even the ones on the outer corners that grow across instead of out, FOR SOME REASON.
I use Splashproof Lash, or “Splashlash” as I always end up calling it, on my bottom lashes. This formula is a little thinner and wetter, and it doesn’t make your eyelashes look especially thick, but my god, does it stay. I’ve worn this swimming in the ocean and it hasn’t come off. I’ve worn it at the gym and it looked perfect. Heat of summer? No problem. I need the mascara on my bottom lashes not to rub off and migrate south, and this always does it’s job.
I’m not saying you HAVE to use two mascaras, but if you’re looking for something that works really well AND doesn’t cost $40, one of these is definitely going to work for you.
My favourite lipstick of all time. You’ve heard me wax poetic about how amazing these are before, but in case you missed it:
- Incredibly long lasting.
- Beautiful, rich colours.
- Matte but never drying.
- Goes on smoothly, even if my lips are bitten.
- Chubby pencil makes it easy to apply.
- Never gets on your teeth or does that weird thing where you smile and your bottom lip rubs lipstick onto the top of your chin (WHAT IS THAT EVEN ABOUT?).
Dragon Girl is the perfect red. Super-bright and gorgeous, and cool enough to make teeth look whiter but warm enough to bring out the glow in your skin.
Speaking of, it works on pretty much all skin tones. Every one of my friends has this lipstick, and it looks amazing on all of us. And we represent a very wide range of skin colours.
The one thing that makes this pencil even better than it already is is buying the NARS sharpener. I was forever ruining my pencils with a cheap makeup sharpener, until one day I was like “Screw it, I’m gonna try this.” I didn’t think it would really make a difference, because how good can a sharpener really be, you know?
OH MY GOD SO MUCH BETTER. The blades are so sharp! My eye and lip liners look so nice now! If you want to take care of your cosmetic investments--like Dragon Girl--you should absolutely buy one.
10. Allure Eau de Parfum, Chanel.
My friend bought me Exclamation perfume for my 11th birthday. It was the first perfume I ever had, and I wore it CONSTANTLY (even though I was kind of “meh” about the actual fragrance itself).
Unfortunately, like most 11-year-olds, I also wore too much of it. My Mum got really sick of me smelling like an absolute nightmare all the time, and bought me a bottle of Allure when I turned 13.
It’s a very mature fragrance, and I only wear it in the cold months because it’s quite heavy. But I love it, and I’ve always loved it. It’s the closest thing I have to a signature scent, to the point where people smell it in a bottle or on someone else and think of me. Even though I only wear it a few months out of the year.
I’m not very good at describing smells, other than “I like it” or “kill it with fire,” so I looked around online to see how other people describe it. It seems like a lot of perfume-lovers describe it as floral and citrusy, but I’m not sure that’s right. I know it starts off lightweight, maybe with a little hint of mandarin, but then BAM! Rich vanilla right at the heart, without being sugary-sweet, and maybe something thick and woody that goes along with it?
It’s very sensual and quite Chanel-y, which I really like. It doesn’t give me a headache, and is always “there” without being overpowering.
I’ll always own a bottle of this perfume. It smells like cool weather to me. Sometimes I like to smell it during long, gross summer days and imagine it’s time for tights and coats.
OK, guys, what's on your All-Time Favourite Products List? Anyone want to hang out and eat birthday cake with me today?