I was never particularly good at art when I was at school. In fact, I’d say I was rather bad at it. I couldn’t tell my Monet from my Cézanne, I had absolutely no talent when it came to colour mixing, and my eye for light and shadows was virtually nonexistent. Fast-forward to now and I’m ashamed to admit that, even as a beauty editor who spends over eight hours a day playing with makeup, my practical creativity when it comes to art is still somewhat lacking.
Granted, I haven’t had to endure an art class in well over 10 years, but masterclasses with some of the best makeup artists in the world are part and parcel of this job, so you would have thought I’d learned something at least. And sure, I’ve picked up a few basic tips along the way, like nailing a winged liner(ish) and mastering simple contour techniques, but when it comes to complexities such as a smoky eye or a dewy but full-coverage base, I like to leave it to the experts.
Don’t get me wrong. I do love playing with makeup, and I know a great product when I see one, but when I compare my results to those of someone with a little more artistic flair, I find myself deflated and somewhat disappointed. And this is by no means news to me. I have been aware of my shoddy makeup skills since the early stages of my career. The minute I found myself surrounded by editors whose eye shadow looks could put even the greatest YouTubers to shame, I knew my place.
So in a bid to find my niche in the often-crazy world of makeup, I started focussing my attention on makeup launches that most appealed to me on a personal level. Forget bright eye shadow palettes and complex contour kits. I started educating myself in makeup that anyone can use. You know, the kind of products that you really can’t go wrong with. And after many years of rating makeup products on not only their results but also on how easy they are to use, as my own makeup bag has become more refined, I would say I’m finally in a place to share my findings.
If you too long for makeup that looks like you’ve spent hours on it, when actually it was more like minutes, keep scrolling to discover the easy-to-use products I swear by for expert results.
Quite frankly, I find making full-coverage foundation look glowy and natural rather difficult. No matter the formula, I usually struggle with blending and always find foundation clings to areas I’d rather it didn’t. So when I don’t have the time to spend hours perfecting a full-coverage base (which is 99% of the time), I reach for sheer, easy-to-blend CC creams that work to even out tone and give skin a healthy-looking glow.
Bronzing, perfecting and oh so glowy, this CC Serum might be on the more expensive side of things, but it’s also quite possibly my favourite base product of all time. I actually struggle to put into words how easily and seamlessly this stuff perks up my complexion.
I may have cheated a little bit with this one because it is definitely closer to a foundation than it is a CC cream. In fact, I would say it very much is a foundation. However, its glowing nature doesn’t require a brush or a sponge. I love this stuff most when I’ve slapped it on with my fingers and pressed in a little bit of concealer under the eyes.
For times when I do find myself wanting to reach for a fuller-coverage foundation, I always apply this product first to makes things easier for myself. Not only does its violet tint help to counteract dullness, but it also contains micro pearls to boost luminosity. And as if that isn’t enough, Centella Asiatica (or cica) nourishes and moisturises, creating the ultimate base for foundation.
This is what I reach for on no-makeup makeup days. It helps with any sort of discolouration (hello, under-eye circles) and makes skin glow beyond belief. Oh, and it also contains SPF30. It’s one of those super-easy, does-it-all products.
My brows are naturally very dark and unruly, so I have always struggled with brow products. Filling them in with pencil only accentuates their severity, but they do still need a little bit of a helping hand. Because I am, frankly, useless with a brow pencil and the idea of having to get to grips with a pomade or powder makes me want to run for the hills, most days I use tinted gels. Not only do they deliver natural-looking colour for those with fairer brow hairs, but they also keep strands in place all day long, which is great if you love a feathery finish like I do.
After discovering this stuff a little over a year ago, I can honestly say I haven’t used another brow product since. It’s quite heavily pigmented and keeps brows in place without making them crunchy. Most of all, I love that the wand is a little longer to keep things mess-free.
Before I discovered Dipbrow Gel, this was my brow weapon of choice. Very similar in its formula to the Anastasia offering, it has a much smaller wand, which is great for those that prefer a more precise application. My only gripe is that I used to get through a tube in a matter of weeks.
Not quite as deep in pigment as some others, this long-wanded gel is a great option for everyday makeup looks. Just one or two swipes and your brows are set for the day.
If you’re new to brow gels and aren’t sure if they’re for you, this is a great place to start. You get to experience the benefits of some of the best luxury, non-crunchy gels out there at a super-affordable price.
I must admit I have never been much of a blush kind of girl. If I had to choose between bronzer and blush, I’d reach from a glow-giving bronzer every time. However, more recently, I’ve discovered that actually, blush is a great way to quickly (and easily) tie your makeup together and breathe some life into a flat base. The mistake I was making? Powder formulas are just too tricky to get right. Instead, a sheer, cream formulation adds a bit of glow and a barely there pigment that is virtually impossible to get wrong.
This is the product that I have to thank for igniting my obsession with cream blush. Unlike other cream blush formulas (Glossier Cloud Paint is the one that first springs to mind), this stuff isn’t paint-like. It’s silky and sheer and blends seamlessly onto cheeks. If you ask me, it’s the best blush out there at the moment.
These lip-and-cheek tints might look a bit poppy and scary in the pot, but believe me when I say they have the most beautiful satin finish. Simply warm up between the fingers and dab onto the apples of the cheeks.
I have always known that Nars Orgasm is a cult blush for a reason thanks to its natural-looking pigment. However, I have also found powder blushes to age my face slightly. When I discovered that Orgasm also comes as a liquid, I couldn’t believe my luck. One pump is enough to do both cheeks and for days when I want a little more colour, it’s perfectly buildable.
Slightly more pigmented than the Iconic London Sheer Blush but only by a little, a drop of this watercolour-like pink on each cheek gives skin an instant lift. Again, it’s glowing and sheer but just packs that little bit more of a punch.
Cream Eye Shadow
Everyone that has ever taken a look into my makeup drawers knows that I have a thing for eye shadow palettes. I absolutely love to collect them. Using them, however, is another thing altogether. When it comes to blending and shimmery powder accents, I’m totally useless. Instead, when it comes to eye makeup, I like to opt for cream products that I can quite literally scribble on and blend out with my finger. The key is to ensure they’re matte enough so that they don't settle in creases, but still creamy enough that they’re easily blendable. Luckily, I’ve tried them all.
The first eye shadow pencil that I was ever introduced to, By Terry Ombre Blackstar really did set the bar for cream shadow forevermore. It goes on like silk and is so creamy that a quick scribble and dab is all you need for a high-impact eye look. This new shade was created to match the aforementioned CC serum in Sunny Flash and is the perfect beach-ready, shimmery bronze.
Not too dissimilar from Ombre Blackstar, the Laura Mercier Eye Caviar Sticks are also wind-up crayons but have a bit more of a powdery, matte finish. If you’re looking to try an eye crayon, these buildable sticks are a great place to start.
For those who like to have a bit more fun with their eye shadow, these double-ended cream shadows offer up both a chalky matte cream and a matching high-impact metallic shade. For an evening look, I usually dab on the matte shade all over and blend with my finger. Then, for a bit more impact, I apply the metallic shade to the crease and outer corners and use a blending brush.
Without a doubt my most-worn eye product, MAC’s Paint Pot in Groundwork is the best everyday cool-toned nude shadow around. Again, it’s a solid cream product that I think is best applied with the fingers. I’d say I wear this product basically every day. I have gone through countless pots.
For a single eye shadow, I totally understand that this is a little bit of an extravagant purchase. However, as with the majority of Tom Ford beauty products, it’s one of those products I will continue to purchase time and again. Not only does it last forever, but all I have to do is dip my finger in and swipe it across my eyelid for the most beautiful shimmery eye look. In fact, it’s probably my favourite shadow for a night out, and it really is that easy.
Ever so slightly more foil-like than the Tom Ford cream, this shadow from Charlotte Tilbury has been a permanent in my makeup bag for a really long time. The shade Mona Lisa is my must-have for a two-minute smoky eye.
If you hadn’t already guessed, I love a glowing, glossy finish to almost every aspect of my makeup routine, and my lids are no different. More recently, I’ve been leaning toward less pigmented formulas that offer a sheer, natural-looking result. These subtle and sheer cream shadows from Jillian Dempsey have quickly become my favourite daytime shadows.
I really love looking bronzed and, although the application process of bronzer is easy enough to get to grips with (high points of the face for a sun-kissed look, around the hairline and under the cheekbones to contour), I find that the majority of formulas require a bit more skill if you want them to apply well. Mostly, I’ve discovered that the more matte the finish, the more natural-looking they are and the less obviously they sit on the skin. And while some do contain a little bit of shimmer, I’ve found the following three products barely require a mirror for application.
Whenever I wear this bronzer (which is most days, I should add), people always ask me if I have been away. I just take a big powder brush and sweep, basically thoughtlessly, onto the high points of my face, and it delivers the most beautifully subtle bronze.
Chanel Soleil Tan is regarded as one of the most-loved bronzers in existence, and I agree with the masses. Unlike the others on the list, it’s actually a cream, and I find it applies best with a buffing or stippling brush. I just swirl my brush around the (very luxe) pot and apply to the hollows of my face for foolproof glowy definition.
I have always loved Guerlain’s Terracotta bronzing powder, not only for its summer-like scent but also for the beautiful shimmery glow it adds to the high points of the face. However, quite often, because of my clumsy application skills, I would find myself with bits of shimmer in places I didn’t want them. This matte version, on the other hand, strikes the perfect balance between ease and natural-looking results.