A few months ago, I woke up hot, hungover and horribly aware that I didn’t have much time to get myself together before boarding a train to Bath for a wedding. I started packing, and soon realised that I couldn’t find my make up bag anywhere. Eventually, it hit me that it was miles away on a friend’s sofa. At that point, recovering the bag was not an option, so I ran to my nearest Boots and set about assembling a ‘B’ bag, with emergency versions of my favourites.
It helped that I have an embarrassing addiction to beauty boxes and advent calendars. It’s easy to pick up trial sized bits and pieces that you might not discover if you were shopping for yourself. Thanks to last year’s Liberty advent calendar, when I went through my hoard, I discovered a NARS blusher, Hourglass mascara and Trish McEvoy primer. Admittedly, I’m ashamed to admit that I had all these luxury items sitting about in my bedroom (they had been hidden behind my collection of heirloom tiaras) but we all have hobbies, and make up might be a spendy one but it’s probably slightly cheaper than golf or kitesurfing.
Currently, I subscribe to Birchbox. It’s a tenner a month, you tend to get one full sized item among the samples and you can tailor your order based on your preferences for premium products, organic cosmetics and new releases, as well as picking pieces to suit your skin tone. I’ve had products by Korres, Caudalie and Benefit. I’m seriously tempted by the Cohorted box, a spendier £35 a month, which features premium brands like Chanel and Tom Ford. Also, most premium brands regularly give away selections of trial sized items, so if you’re buying your usual foundation and mascara, it’s worth trying to time it in order to pick up the extras. Even if you’re not as forgetful as me, miniatures are very useful when you’re flying and you have to take your make up in your hand luggage.
Here’s what I usually have in my ‘A’ make up bag - with the ‘B’ list, slightly cheaper, servicable substitutions that work in an emergency (depending on how broadly you define an emergency).
A list - Clinique stay matte oil free make up with Smashbox photo finish primer
B list - Max Factor FaceFinity 3 in 1 Primer, concealer and foundation
FaceFinity isn’t quite as hard wearing as my faves, but it’s smooth, I love the coverage and there’s a bonus SPF. It’s easy to apply with your fingers or a sponge if your foundation brush is ‘on tour’.
A list - Bobbi Brown bronzing powder
B list - Bourjois delice de poudre
In these contouring times, I find lots of bronzers are a little too dramatic for a pasty scardey cat like me, but the Bourjois one has a subtle, matte glow that’s easy to build. Also, my husband once picked it up and nearly ate it because it looks a bit like chocolate.
A list - NARS Orgasm blush
B list - Max Factor Creme Puff blush
The Max Factor is a great NARS cheat, because there’s a little gold and shimmer, so it gives me the late nineties J-Lo look I love so much. Check that you don’t have a NARS blush going spare, you secret make-up millionaire, you.
A list - Benefit They’re Real mascara and primer
B list - L’Oreal false lash mascara
The L’Oreal version gives the Benefit kick and flick I’ve come to crave. Also, I’m embarrassed about the mascara primer, but it turned up in my Birchbox and despite shouting “THIS IS RIDICULOUS. NO-ONE WOULD NEED THIS, EVER!” I am now addicted and often wear it with nothing else. (Obviously with clothes, though. Seriously, what’s wrong with you?!)
A list - Clinique Chubby Stick
B list - Rimmel Colour Rush balm
We’re all adults, and I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have about 40 lipsticks in various states of use in every handbag and corner of my house. But the Chubby Stick is perfect for when you want to look ‘done’ but it feels too hot for lipstick, or you’re eating something complicated, or you’ve ordered semi legal tooth whitening strips from the internet and you want to give them half a chance. The Rimmel version is the giddy little sister to Clinque’s grown up, and I’ve fallen hard for a shade called I Want Candy, which works brilliantly with a spray tan, false lashes and a borrowed yacht.
The transition product - Maybelline Brow Drama pomade crayon
I’ve faffed about with various bits of brow business, and never not looked like Maggie Simpson’s nemesis, The Baby With One Eyebrow. But when I tried this Maybelline one, I felt so moved and emotional that I looked at my reflection in the mirror and sang I’ve Never Been To Me. Instant Hollywood brows for cack handed idiots like myself. All you have to do is not sneeze in the middle. It’s now in my A and B bags, with a separate one in the bathroom cabinet for real emergencies.