In my kit
What do I use professionally? These are some of the tried-and-true products that have stood the test of time and earned their stay in my kit. What are your staples in your routine?
skin prep -
This is used in almost ALL of my work because the texture is so light but SO hydrating. Upon contact on skin it turns into water droplets, making it super fast absorbing. No heavy silicone-y textures therefore it doesn’t mess with any formulas of foundations applied after. Built in primer, makes skin look like skin.
This was recommended way back in makeup school. It was said and it truly is, a staple in every makeup artist’s kit. It is a rich moisturizer (for my dry clients, I layer this on top of the Waterbalm) and a makeup remover if need be.
Why do I like this so much? Well firstly, Sir John uses it on Queen Bey, because it’s the only thing that lasts on her on stage. If it’s good enough for Sir John, it’s good enough for my kit and my clients deserve whatever Beyonce is wearing on her majesty’s face. They also have a foundation adjuster palette with red/blue/yellow/black and white to mix any colours I need.
It also is the most pigmented foundation on the market, with a 50% pigment ratio (versus commercial liquid foundations at 18-23% pigment to liquid/theatrical foundations 30-35% pigment) to waxes and oils for high coverage, high enough to be used as concealers. This way I carry one less product type in my kit and my back says thanks.
Quite a universal formula, because of it’s simplicity. I prefer formulas with as little ingredients as possible in my kit, because the less it has, the less likely someone is sensitive to it. Contains only vegetable oils, pure waxes and FDA approved colours. No perfumes or lanolin (allergens). No petrolatum or mineral oils - which are contrary to popular consumer beauty marketing - quite safe to use due to their well researched stability/low irritation rate, but do tend to make skin produce excess surface oil.
This is my other go-to, but for the drier skins. It is an oil-free and fragrance-free cream formula that delivers satin-smooth, buildable coverage with a non-greasy feel. It has soothing ingredients such as antioxidants, vitamin E, pomegranate and aloe vera.
After taking the time to colour match the client’s foundation, the last thing I want is for the powder to skew the colour off 1/4 of a shade because it’s “translucent”, which is still tinted. (Don’t get me wrong, I still carry those to “colour correct” in case the lighting was not bright enough and I actually need to skew the foundation, but they are more for insurance since it doesn’t happen too often.) Neutral Set is a colorless powder that blends with all skin tones and also controls perspiration. I first started with cult favourite RCMA’s No Colour powder but prefer this just for the extra help it gives on hot summer days.
My other translucent powders are La Mer lose powder, which leans pink. Laura Mercier translucent, which leans golden. Ben Nye Banana Powder, for medium to tan skin. A discontinued Bobbi Brown sheer loose powder in a warm dark tone for tan to deep skin.
When I’m not using a dark foundation to contour, it’s a discontinued eyeshadow from MAC. It suits almost all skintones because it’s a dark taupe brown with almost no redness to it, therefore mimics a real shadow on the face. When my stash runs out I hope I can find a dupe because I use this both in my kit and on myself. Thankfully because it is so dark, I use so little every time and I should be safe for years to come.
Gleam Cream by Illamasqua*
This has been in my kit ever since my time with the brand, when they had a counter here in Vancouver. They are manufactured by a pro brand, most likely an exclusive formula since I can’t find this in the pro brand’s product range. It’s a GORGEOUS smooth creamy texture that melts into the skin, with a sheer champagne base and multi-coloured micro shimmers throughout, giving more dimension to the skin and looks like it truly glows from within. Once on, it doesn’t look metallic nor glittery, only dewy hydrated skin. I personally don’t understand the highly reflective highlighting trend since it doesn’t look real at all, and I don’t think that look is going to age well in makeup history. I prefer the more editorial look of good bone structure, sometimes with the help of natural looking highlighters like this.
This is my second favourite, and is the closest thing I can get locally when I run out of Gleam Cream. It has a coconut oil base, which is awesome for my dry-skinned clients. It doesn’t have much colour to the cream base, only micro shimmers that also are not glittery. This is particularly good for those clean skin beauty shots where I want the skin to look a bit wet.
When Hourglass first came out with this collection I was in love. The glow is so subtle which suits my aesthetics of less is more. Personally having combination skin, the last thing I want is to look greasy, which some of the more dramatic highlighters can give. This is best when I have oilier clients who insist on everything super matte, which can make the face a bit flat, and wouldn’t let me come close to their faces with a cream highlighter in hand. Also good for achieving longevity for dryer clients, who should still have a bit of powder to set the foundation, but would benefit from a powder that has a slight sheen.
These can be used on eyes, lips and cheeks for a monochromatic look which is uber modern. I like “Cerise” A LOT. Made with 35% powder, this applies like a cream, but sits like a powder. I like this as a matte stain.
I love all multitasking products. These lip and cheek balms are quite pigmented, they give that flushed and hydrated skin look that I aim for, and are effortless to use.
Kit staple since the beginning of my career. This palette has 6 matte neutral eyeshadows and 6 matte blushes for fair to medium-tan skin. I have brighter and stronger blushes for deeper clients when I get them. I pack my kit according to my jobs so I don’t kill my back, but since the beginning of my career it’s been a no-brainer for me to have an inclusive kit. It upsets me when I get models/clients who tell me they have their foundations with them if I need because they have had makeup artists tell them that they don’t carry deep shades. In my opinion they shouldn’t call themselves makeup artists.
It’s hard to imagine now, that there was once a time without bronzers in the beauty world.
There are many “firsts” one can claim, when one has been in business since 1828. The bronzing powder being one of them. Terracotta (the original, though my favourite out of the franchise is the Terracotta Light) was the first bronzer, invented in 1984. It gives the right amount of colour to the face, without looking orange. They travel exceptionally well, pans being hand-preseed 30 times. I have dropped them, rolled them in my kit on pavements over long distances, never have any shattered. Not even cracks. The powders are so fine it’s undetectable and works with or without makeup.
These creamy powders are so lightweight yet really pack a punch with pigmentation. They are a bit warmer so I save them for my clients who do have tans. A lot of times people apply their sunscreens on their faces but not the body (or not enough on the body), so sometimes the bronzer needs to be a bit stronger to balance the face and body colour differences.
Browliner by Amaterasu*
I have been raving about this forEVERRR now. First discovered it at West Coast Beauty (pro store for hair stylists and makeup artists) when I was starting out, way before everyone cared about brows the way they do now. I was shook that this product existed because no one was really doing brow liners. Back then there were only light or dark, but that was enough for my clientele, now with even more colours. I never have to worry about longevity, these have the wear of my Japanese eye and brow products (if you are familiar, they are HARDCORE), which makes sense because they are made in Japan. They don't budge all day and night, they are waterproof and smudge-proof. Designed to stay on for 24 hours through all conditions, the brows stay on even after the most intense workout or hot weather. The browliners goes on sheer and is easily buildable to create a more opaque look. I typically do small hairlike strokes to mimic real brow hairs. See my Soul in Bloom shoot with owner Sara.
They make a grey that I love for black hair clients because it’s a soft grey with zero brown tones to it. Formula itself is not a very waxy pencil, goes on smoothly and very brushable.
Very standard for setting brows. If I don’t feel like a tinted brow gel but need something to hold the hairs in place then this is it. I prefer this in editorials because it’s not a heavy-looking product, and does great when I do “brushed up brows” look.
Sometimes clients need a bit more help than just brow liners or brow pencils to give dimensions. Sometimes clients have mismatched brow and hair colours, and that is the time for tinted brow gels. This one is water-resistant and non-smudging.
Same use as above but this is more accessible. Another brow gel that grooms and tints. The non-greasy formula softly sets hairs, Small Christmas tree-like brush applies the gel with total precision. Waterproof, 8-hour wear, flake-proof and smudge-proof, sweat- and humidity-resistant.
eye shadows -
Going back to my love for small brands, I LOVE how even though now they are in Sephora and more mainstream, owner Anastasia Sparrow Viseart still talks to makeup artists in forums, listening to feedback and keeping a finger on the pulse of the pro community. I own more than half of their eye palette offerings, every single one of them are top notch in quality. They are thoughtfully put together, and since pans are interchangeable in some, you can make your own ultimate palette. In my private life, my “if I can only use one brand of eyeshadow till I die” favourite brand, it would be Pat McGrath. It doesn’t make business sense to use that in my kit at my current rates, so I don’t. They are only marginally smoother than Viseart, and in a blind test I most likely won’t be able to tell the difference. I have been using Viseart before they have gone into Sephora and I’m so happy for them having a bigger platform and wider reach. Their shadows are too good to be hidden from everyday makeup wearers. Their growth has been rapid but the quality never dropped, always amazing.
Kit staple since the beginning of my career. This palette has 6 matte neutral eyeshadows and 6 matte blushes for fair to medium-tan skin. The shadow shades are universal, the texture is fine, easy to blend, not much fallouts. If I don’t have any other eyeshadow palettes these colours will still see me through the majority of the work I do. It’s probably the best palette for utilitarians because no colour will go to waste.
Love them for both personal and kit use. They have a creamier texture (I know this description has been used to death) because “they remain in the fatty stage of the binding for a bit longer than most” said Lisa Eldridge in her Some Of My All-Time Favourite Makeup video. I do find the newer ones you can get now slightly different (a bit drier maybe?) from the older formula, but still wonderfully easy to work with.
eye liners -
One of the most long wearing gel eyeliners I have ever used. Very good for oily lids, waterproof and has a smooth texture. I almost never use liners straight off the tube so the shape of it doesn’t bother me, but it does have a built in sharpener if you need. I usually use an eyeliner brush and take product off the tip of the pencil.
Also super long wearing. The Aqua line of Make Up For Ever is used by synchronized swimmers at the Olympics. If it can withstand dancing underwater for hours then it’s waterproof enough for my kit.
Lash King by Majolica Majorca first bought from Japan, but later found it online
Anyone who has used Japanese eyeliners and mascaras can tell you they DO NOT COME OFF (until you use a remover). Even when their advertisements don’t scream LONG WEAR! WATERPROOF! SMUDGE PROOF! It’s basically implied, and that’s why I stock up whenever I visit. Most of the time in jobs I either don’t apply mascara at all or it’s a coat or two to hold up the natural lashes to blend in with the falsies, so the actual look of the mascara doesn’t matter to me as much as the longevity and waterproof-ness. This is a good formula for volume and length though.
Preference and usage listed above so I won’t repeat. This is a great tubing mascara (smudge proof ) great for oilier lids. Typically I only use the black side, but if I have to build then I do the primer as well. Additionally, sometimes in editorials I like a white lash look and the primer side is PERFECT for that.
A classic and a staple in MANY respected makeup artists. I also like this for personal use sometimes.
lash curler -
To be completely honest lash curlers are quite personal because it all depends on your curvature. This is marginally better than the Shu Uemura one, everyone’s holy grail, with a similar curvature. A “flatter” version would be Shiseido. Why I think this is better is because it has two loops instead of one loop where the fingers go, so you can apply less pressure when you squeeze, but still get the curl. I have weak lashes so anytime I can apply less pressure I’m all for it. When I work on others I also prefer a curler that can do the job for me without me squeezing too hard because I’m still scared to hurt my clients’ eyelids.
Lipsticks by Rimmel London*
I only like the Kate ones from Rimmel because the regular range has a strong scent I didn’t like. The Kate ones have a lovely creamy texture, mild pleasant scent, great wearable flattering shades, accessible retail points basically at every drugstore and on Amazon, and economical prices. I particularly like the nudes since that’s mostly what I wear.
No explanations needed for this one. Wide shade range, big selection of finishes, smooth textures always, I don’t think there’s ever any botched colours ever. If I ever need anything, I KNOW I can find one here that will perform. I mix MAC lipsticks in my work with others but mainly it’s for texture, and that I don’t carry 5 different lipsticks with each varying only 1/4 of a shade, but they exist in MAC’s selection if you ever need. These are the easiest things for me to collect for Back to MAC!
I have always had a soft spot for fashion houses since they were my first love in my youth when I first liked to look at pretty things. I have always suffered from chronically dry lips and would always need some kind of balm on. YSL lipsticks are so moisturizing and comfortable to wear, even the mattes. In bridal work it’s so important to keep lips hydrated because brides go through such a long day, these are perfect in my kit.
tools and organization -
brushes - I prefer ones that can multitask, so I can keep my kit tight. I prefer a mix of natural and synthetic hairs, because they each do certain jobs better than the other. Synthetics are basically not recyclable and not biodegradable, so if I don’t have to, I try not to buy them. Here are some of my must-mentions.
Setting Brush by Real Techniques* for all over foundation, highlight, and setting powder in small areas.
Tapered Blush Brush by Real Techniques* for those makeup shots in bridal.
Omnia range by Royal & Langnickel I love the powder brush. These synthetic hairs are next level, nothing on the mass market works the way they do. I like them more than Sephora Pro, Make Up For Ever and Laura Mercier brushes, which are all synthetics now.
blending eye brushes by Hakuhodo
There is no going back after I used these artisan handmade brushes. The hairs are so soft and smooth on skin but most importantly, they have a lot of shapes more thoughtful than the run of the mill type shapes most brands carry. They make smaller sizes of “standard” blending brushes like the legendary MAC 217, and with MUCH softer hairs. I love all Hakuhodo brushes for their quality of hairs and their craftsmanship. J series is a good place to start, mostly goat hair, prices similar to mainstream brands. I love G series, with goat and blue squirrel. They keep enough form with the goat in the blend but the blue squirrel makes them extra soft.
brush cleaner -
Parian Spirit cut with 70% alcohol, super effective and fast drying.
disposables - other than the standard cotton swabs, mascara wands and doe foot applicators, these are additional ones I like.
mini cotton swabs by Muji for tiny cleanups. They don’t leave lint and can get any detail work done so well.
disposable toothpick brushes* for bottom lash mascara, or hard to reach lashes.
product containers -
One compact case about the size of a passport holds 24 full size (3.5g) lipsticks. I use this for my foundations, lipsticks, cream blushes and highlights. It’s clear on all sides, stackable, and MICROWAVABLE. I personally don’t like to microwave my cream products. Some people like the neat look of a configured lipstick palette and melt their lipsticks but I don’t. Some formulas I use have micro shimmers in them and I don’t want to risk them floating to the top if the lipstick is melted, but it’s an option. Absolutely a god-send. Vueset cases come in different sizes and configurations too.