As someone who hates change, I am freakishly loyal to my favorite beauty products. I will hoard, buy in duplicate, anything to keep the supply status quo. But the day invariably comes when a beloved standby disappears and the search for a replacement starts anew. Sometimes the transition is seamless—I stumble upon something online or a publicist sends me a batch of samples to try—other times more effort is required. Here are five key essentials, then and now—for now, anyway.
Black Eye Pencil
Buxom Insider Eyeliner
For years, any old wood pencil would do, until Buxom Insider Eyeliner came along ’round about 2009. It was the “insider” part that sold me on this slim mechanical pencil, which suggested that this was a precision tool. Smoky, smoldering eyes would be mine! Not only was the line perfectly and intensely black in a single swipe, the mechanical nature of the pencil did away with the need for a separate (and easy to lose) sharpener.
Sephora Collection Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner
Finding a mechanical pencil at a similar price point (under $20) was a challenge. My chief requirements were intense color and a soft, glide-on texture in a twist-up package. I plowed through a few drugstore brands and found some decent substitutes but there was always some element lacking. I gazed longingly at department store brands, but couldn’t spring for the likes of Nars, Smashbox and Marc Jacobs (which offer great but costly options). I finally hit the mid-price jackpot with Sephora Collection Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner, which ticks all the boxes: a precision mechanical pencil with intense, lasting color and good glide-ability. Purchase on Sephora.com for $12.
Fresh Supernova mascara
When a makeup artist raves about a particular product, pay attention. I didn’t regularly wear or even give much thought to mascara until my pal Dora Salgado turned me on to the power of Fresh Supernova, and I gave it a whirl. The fluffy brush curled and thickened my lashes to startling, non-spidery effect, leaving them thick, soft and glossy, with no end-of-day flaking or crunchiness. That’s when I saw how the right mascara really makes a difference. If memory serves, Supernova was $28, but IMHO worth the splurge.
Le Volume de Chanel
It’s not that I didn’t look for a lower-price mascara, but every time I found a good one (hello, Rimmel), when I went to buy more the product was no longer extant. Luckily, the nice people at Chanel’s press office sent me a sample of Le Volume a couple years ago, and I’ve been a happy user ever since. This mascara’s specialized, spiky “Snowflakes” brush eases the critical task of concentrating color at the base of the lashes, the better to define the shape of the eye. Past experiments taught me to reach for a “thickening” vs. “defining” formula—Le Volume delivers on that score, sans clumping, flakes or crunch. And Chanel can always be counted on for a subtle twist on basic black mascara. This season, I’ll be stockpiling Character—a deep, dark burgundy. Ooh la la! Purchase on Nordstrom.com for $32.
Neutral Lip Gloss
Shu Uemura lip gloss in Nougat
Makeup artist Lea Siegel introduced me to this nude-with-a-hint-of-caramel when she did my makeup for a photo shoot. A subtle step away from my usual sheer tints, the formula itself was on the opaque end of the gloss spectrum, and decidedly tawnier than my usual rosy-mauves. Who knew such a color could be so shockingly flattering? I was an instant convert, and immediately added Nougat to my palette of neutral lip colors, where it played a major role for several years.
NYX Professional Makeup Intense Butter Gloss in Peanut Brittle
While nude and neutral lip glosses abound, the disappointments far outweigh the winners. Sadly, shopping for a new Nougat left me with a pile of rejects. One gloss was too sheer, another too sticky. There was the color that was close to perfect, but smelled like disinfectant. Walking home one day, I spotted a newly opened NYX makeup boutique and stepped inside. Their vast lip-color range is organized by formula (stick, gloss, lip oil), coverage (full, medium, sheer), and finish (satin, glossy, shimmer, glitter, etc.), with samples of each, which made it easy to zero in on the ideal choice: NYX Intense Butter Gloss in Peanut Brittle, a shade NYX describes as a “warm caramel nude.” Success! Purchase on Target.com for $6.49.
Natural Fragrance Roll-On
Aveda Pure-Fume Chakra III Equipoise
A winter trip to Joshua Tree inspired me to pick up a travel-size vial of Equipoise, my introduction to the alterna-fragrance category where the “juice” is composed of just a few naturally derived ingredients. This earthy bergamot will forever conjure up a pleasingly carefree California desert vibe. Equipoise was my first roll-on scent, as well—it was ridiculous the pleasure I felt knowing I could dab it on at will.
Rich Hippie Bohemian Wedding and Rich Hippie Nirvana Organic roll-on eau de parfum A blend of bergamot, ylang-ylang and patchouli, Bohemian Wedding exceeded my expectations when it came time to find a successor to my desert favorite. The bergamot connects it to the original, but if you are not a patchouli fan, there’s Rich Hippie Nirvana, where the bergamot is anchored by sandalwood instead. I love them both, and often combine the two. Purchase on Rich-Hippie.com for $75.
Subtle Nail Polish
Chanel Nail Le Vernis Nail Colour in Beige Doré
I have short, stubby, pitiful nails, so wearing colored polish only calls attention to their sorry state. Beige Doré, a sheer ivory shot through with gold shimmer, provided just enough color to camouflage my grotty nails, making my fingertips instantly look more presentable, and, yes, très chic.
Butter London Sheer Wisdom Nail Tinted Moisturizer
I still peruse the polish aisles, but I’ve given up hope of ever finding Chanel’s magical color again. In the meantime, as our nation’s nail obsession continues to surge, companies have come out with products that go beyond simple cover-up, adding the promise of healthier, prettier fingernails. A perfect example is Butter London Sheer Wisdom, a translucent treatment gloss in six skin-friendly shades. Sheer Wisdom in Light (“sheer vanilla with golden tones”) is a close-enough match to my long-lost Chanel, minus the shimmer. Thankfully there’s no need for base- or topcoat, an added benefit for DIY manicure klutzes like me. Purchase on Amazon.com for $18.
What are some of your beauty faves that have been discontinued?