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5 Makeup Kit Must-Haves: Complexion Perfecters

Find out what you need in your makeup arsenal to apply like a pro.

It seems like at least once a day, a woman asks me what my favorite makeup and beauty products are.

As a professional makeup artist and former beauty editor, I have had the good fortune of testing and trying almost every product and product line out there. The drugstore aisles and beauty supply shelves are stocked with great things to smooth, enhance and transform. 

But in this sea of options, it can be intimidating to make a game-time decision. A lot of women tell me they have a drawer full of unused products as well as buyer’s remorse. Here, starting with perfecting the skin, I’ve narrowed down my favorite must-haves for my kit that work for everyone, from celebrities to models to the girl next door.

1. Moisturizer:
Early in my career, I bought a high-priced, popular cream that all the other makeup artists used. Then, one day, a model requested a different option because the one I bought “made her skin itchy.” So I tried another prestige moisturizer. Lo and behold, a few weeks later, a different model had the same complaint about my alternate cream. Feeling like I was chasing my tail, I decided to research gentler, cheaper options that were safe for all skin types…and that led me to the baby aisle. If it’s safe to use on an infant, sensitive adult skin will tolerate it too.

My favorite: California Baby Calendula Cream, $13

This has calendula, a natural soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredient that kicks redness and irritations to the curb, stat! For best results, apply to damp skin, which absorbs the ingredient more effectively, then wait two minutes before applying anything else.

2. Multi-purpose balm:
Step two in my client regimen for prepping skin is always applying lip balm. During my years as an editor, I interviewed many dermatologists and repeatedly heard that petroleum jelly zaps skin of moisture. So I began searching for alternative ingredients. My search again led me to the baby aisle. Rich ointments can also be used on dry patches around the nose, and on the forehead and chin.

My favorite: Mum + Bub Soothing Ointment , $29 (6 oz)

This product is petroleum and paraben-free! So if you nibble your lips as much as I do you won’t have the fear of swallowing anything harmful. Its fermented “paw paw” (aka, papaya) leaves lips smooth and soothed. Lips feeling extra rough and patchy? Load them up with a big blob of this; wrap a textured paper towel or tissue around your index finger; smile wide with your teeth showing (this stretches the skin on your lips to expose the flakiest parts), and rub your finger side to side until the loose bits have disappeared.

3. Tinted Primer
Most women have some red discoloration from sun exposure or other skin conditions like rosacea. So I almost always use a green-tinted primer as a base to neutralize the flushed areas before I apply foundation.

My favorite: Make Up For Ever HD Microperfecting Primer in Green, $34

With a liquidy formula that dries quickly, this product won’t pill or roll if you apply it right after moisturizer like some primers with a lot of silicone do. Rub a pea-sized blob over areas that are red or blotchy, then use your fingers to blend out until no trace of green can be seen.

4. Foundation
Wearing foundation with SPF is about the easiest way to get a little sun protection. Look for a dewy formula that doesn’t dry too quickly, so you can manipulate and blend seamlessly with concealer and cream blush.

My favorite: Shiseido Dual Balancing Foundation SPF 17, $39

For a sheer application I like to dampen a foundation sponge, load it with this liquid foundation, then gently stipple it over problem areas first (right on top of the green primer, if you choose to use it). Then I blend the color out toward the hairline. If you have any areas that still stand out as needing to be camouflaged, use your favorite concealer over the foundation.

5. Cream Blush
Blush can be intimidating, so I suggest clients simplify their routine and choose a cream formula, which sinks into skin and looks more natural. You can apply it with fingers, a sponge or a brush—whichever you are most comfortable with.

My favorite: Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Cream Blush, $24

This is probably the most pigmented, dewy-yet-not-oily, cream blush that I have found. It works on all skin textures and the color can be muted down or layered for a brighter look. Swirl a dry, dome-topped blush brush over the surface of the blush. then smile and apply to the apples of your cheeks. Use your fingers to blend out any harsh edges you may have missed with your brush.

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