Occasionally, we all do it. We scoff. We hear about a product or tool that seems superfluous, or dumb, and we scoff at it. When a sales assistant tries to sell us an eye serum to go under the eye cream we just bought, or a magazine tells us that we just need that “firming” decolletage cream in our lives, we roll our eyes and move on. For example, I cannot stand gimmicky ingredients (biochemistry degree being used usefully), and whenever I read the words “Icelandic glacier water” or “unbelievably rare Madagascan Orchid dust”, I cannot contain my derision.
However, this inbuilt cynicism (which we have all cultivated to be able to live in a world of advertising) can sometimes get in the way of us discovering actually useful and interesting things.
So I suppose that I should clarify – when I say non-obvious products (and tools), I mean products that people often scoff at and maintain that they Do Not Need, but which deserve a second look. And a third.
(I’d also like to clarify – I do not mean my colleagues and ex-colleagues. As we frequently say in product development, we are an unusual bunch. This usually comes up when we are trying to determine if “normal” people will buy a product that we just invented and that is GENIUS, because we would, but we must remember the iron-clad rule: “One Never Designs For Oneself”. There is nothing we won’t try, and the things that we deem necessary are frequently simply not.)
So, without any more pre-amble, please see below ten actually useful and necessary products, each of which I have heard much scoffing about:
- BROW GEL
Let’s start with the most scoff-able. “Why the f**k do I need a gel to keep my eyebrow hairs in place, Talei?” I hear you saying. “Shut up.”
But no! This product is worth the 4 seconds it takes to put it on in the morning. Keeping your brows looking neat and tidy all day means that you can still look kempt (not a word? But unkempt is a word.) ALL DAY. Continuously kempt. No matter what you are doing, or who you are meeting. Kempt. (I defy you, autocorrect.)
2. A CLAY MASK
No matter what the time of year, or what climate you live in, a clay mask applied once a week is the best thing for deep cleaning and sorting out your face. Your skin is left softer, soothed, and simply drinks up moisture afterwards. The myth that they aren’t right for dry skin is just that, a myth. Follow with a nicely rich moisturiser.
There aren’t many women who can simply *swipe* on a red or plum lipstick and be good to go. Most of us need lip brushes, a steady hand, and at least 4 minutes. An invisible lipliner makes this so much easier, and makes the lip colour stay for far longer. Charlotte Tilbury’s Lip Cheat in Pillowtalk is an insanely clever shade – looks good on everyone, and under any shade of lip colour.
4. NON-BLACK EYELINER PENCIL
Although I resembled a ring-eyed raccoon most of my teenage years, I really only wear non-black eyeliner on my waterlines these days – dark greys, browns, purples. Lining the eyes on the waterline, or tight-lining them with a non-black liner is the fastest, most surefire way to define and intensify them and still look effortless.
(Did I match the font shades to the swatches? Yes I did. Should I have been going to sleep instead? Yes I should.)
I’m not going to go into a long spiel about this one. Patting a high-quality sponge over your foundation and/or concealer is the best way to make your makeup look skin-like. End of story.
Beautyblenders are good, so is the (much cheaper) Real Techniques sponge, but my personal favourites are from Japanese brands – particularly Maquillage and Shiseido, but these are usually only sold in Asia *sorry don’t kill me*.
6. SETTING SPRAY
If you spray a setting spray onto your (aforementioned) sponge to make it damp before patting it on your makeup, it not only makes it easier to blend and look skin-like, but also makes the makeup stay for longer. Alternatively, if you lightly mist it over your face once you are finished, it will hold it there for ages and ages.
7. A Good Foundation Brush
I am often asked to do people’s makeup. Whether we’re getting ready to go out together, or staying somewhere together, I often find a little makeup bag thrust under my nose with a request to “Please do that thing you did that one time”*.
Anyway, this is a roundabout way to say that I am often going through people’s makeup stashes. They usually have some nice foundation, a good eyelash curler, and a well-used blush. However, I have a serious pet peeve. Without fail, they either do not own a foundation brush, or own one that is so old and disheveled that it is actually painful on the face.
This is unacceptable. I totally understand that some people like to apply foundation with their fingers, and I do too sometimes, but a good brush is a fundamentally excellent tool. It makes the coverage far more buildable without looking cakey, and blends it all in. Everyone needs one.
They don’t have to be super expensive, although I just realised that the three I included in this picture are all quite pricey. My favourite from Kevyn Aucoin is about the price of a mid-sized sedan, but Sephora do some great ones from their own brand, and these from Hourglass, Armani and Cover FX are all well worth the price. If you wash them regularly, they should last for a long time.
*Not that I mind. I love it. I have been known to take over if I see a pal doing her own, not in a bossy way at all, I swear.
8. HEALING BALM
For all sorts of skin issues, you must have a good, occlusive, soothing cream in your stash. Whether you have a dry patch, or chafing patches have developed where you wear your swimming goggles, or you’re going skiing, or you have a healing spot that you’d like to protect from makeup and the world, these are your answer. These three are incredibly good. The Madécassol is particularly special, as I explained all about here.
9. AN ACTUALLY EFFECTIVE CONCEALER
Going back to these makeup bags that I am allowed to rootle through, I have another pet peeve. Touche Éclat, from YSL Beauty. It’s rubbish. It is also the best marketed product that has ever existed. Everyone thinks it is great, and buys it at the airport because they think it is a concealer and will hide eye bags. Every makeup bag I rootle through has one. Let me disillusion you. It is rubbish. It has zero coverage, and doesn’t even function in the way it is supposed to, as a highlighting pen. Grrrrrrr.
Therefore, we have No.8, An Actually Effective Concealer. Something with a thin, creamy texture, which covers blemishes and dark undereyes without venturing into the tattoo-coverage arena. Urban Decay, Nars, Dior, and Maybelline all make great ones.
And throw out that Touche Éclat. (I’m sorry if you already know this and I’m preaching to the choir.)
10. SHADOW PRIMER
This is a simple one. Putting this on before your eyeshadow makes it last longer and look brighter. After you use a shadow primer just one time, you will never be without one ever again. They aren’t even a faff to use – three seconds of smearing, I swear.