Drugstore Makeup, Part 2: My Tried and True Faves

This is a bad picture of some good products.

I rack up CVS ExtraBucks like you wouldn’t believe. Sure, part of that comes from the regular purchasing of toothpaste, contact solution, gum, etc., but a good chunk comes from makeup and beauty products. And you’re dying to know what those products are, aren’t you? Okayyyy….


Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder. I don’t use this on clients because it’s not as long-lasting as the MAC powders I use, but I use it on my own face for day to day use. I have combination skin that gets super shiny in the T-zone in warmer weather, so I’ll usually have to touch up once or twice a day, which doesn’t bother me. The Stay Matte Powders feel lightweight and aren’t as quick to cake up as other drugstore powders. I’ve been using Stay Matte Powders for several years as setting powder, and I think they’re great for everyday use on normal and combo skin. $3.95 at CVS.

Neutrogena Shine Control Powder. I use this powder for on-set touchups, and it works really well. It mattifies the skin without making it look dull or caking up. If you’re a shiny gal, this is a great one to keep in your purse for touchups throughout the day. $14.99 to erase shine on to the go.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick. I don’t have any Revlon lipsticks currently in my own personal makeup bag, but I do have one (Choco-Licious) in my pro kit. I’ve a 90s Girl, so I’ve been into Revlon lipsticks since the days of Coffee Bean and Blackberry (which has sadly been discontinued). Some of the shades can get pretty frosty, but there are also some great shades in the line. I’ve always found these lipsticks to be well pigmented and non-drying, two important qualities for a lipstick to have. If you’re drawn to one of the 72 shades in this line, I’d say give it a try. $8.79 a pop.

Revlon Super Length Mascara. I’ve tried higher end waterproof mascaras, but found that the waterproof version of this mascara works just as well as the waterproofs I’ve tried in the $20+ range. And for a makeup artist who goes through a tube every two – three weeks during wedding season, a lower price tag for a just-as-effective product is well worth it. I don’t suggest waterproof mascara for daily use and in fact, I forbid it. Daily waterproof mascara removal is tough on the lashes, which can lead to breakage. But special occasions, photoshoots or long work events that you want your makeup to stay put through? Go for it. I’ve also used this mascara in a punch to cover grays between color touchups. $8.99 isn’t bad to keep your mascara from running, in my humble opinion.


Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF35. I’ve been using this moisturizer on myself for years, and I’ve yet to find one that tops it. It absorbs quickly, doesn’t leave the skin feeling sticky and doesn’t have a strong scent. It also works well when mixed with my Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops. This moisturizer is one of my staples. $11.99 at CVS.

Clean & Clear PERSA-GEL 10. Got a blemish? Watch it shrink down or disappear after applying this benzoyl peroxide spot treatment. The first time I tried this, I had a monster blemish on my jawline. I applied a tiny dot of PERSA-GEL on it before bed, and woke up to a blemish that was 50% smaller. You can use it up to three times a day, but be aware that it will leave a white film after it dries. Benzoyl peroxide is a strong ingredient, so only use a little of this spot treatment at a time on active blemishes only. It’s typically around $8.00 a tube, depending on where you buy it, and especially if you only get the occasional blemish, it will last you a while.

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. If you need a good body moisturizer for dry skin, Palmer’s has got you. I’ve used this stuff for years, and I love it. It really moisturizes and has what I consider a pleasant (but not overpowering) scent. If you can’t tell, I hate when a moisturizer is slow to absorb or leaves a sticky film, but I have no such problem with this cocoa butter dream. At $6.50, I consider this a steal.


Revlon Nail Enamel in 680 Revlon Red. Back when I lived in Florida in my early 20s, some guy I was talking to at a bar told me he thought it was sexy when women painted their toenails red. I didn’t know this guy and never saw him after that drunken conversation, but he must have said it right when the “nail polish color choices” part of my brain was impressionable, because I’ve been painting these little piggies red since. I bought a bottle of Revlon Red several years ago and found that it stays on my toenails really well. It doesn’t last half as long on my fingernails, but it’s worth it for the toenail polish longevity. $5.99 is a hell of a lot cheaper than a pedicure!


L’Oreal Elnett Satin Hairspray. I’d read about this hairspray in interviews with many a celebrity hair stylist, so when I found myself in need of some hairspray while I was in Ireland last fall, I picked this up at a pharmacy. I don’t love the scent of it, but man, does it work. Unless it’s mega humid out and I haven’t gotten a Brazilian Blowout recently, it holds down my strands so they don’t frizz up. It’s a pretty strong hold so I don’t go crazy with it, which might be why I haven’t noticed any stiffness, stickiness or buildup from it. $14.99 for all of that? I’ll take it.

Psssst Original Dry Shampoo. God bless the person who invented dry shampoo. And Psssst Dry Shampoo is as good of a dry shampoo as I’ve ever tried. It’s not overly scented and as long as you rub it in–which you need to do with any dry shampoo–it doesn’t leave white residue, even on raven-haired beauties like myself (kidding about the “beauties” part but serious about the absence of residue). $7.29 for a bottle of this instant hair refresher.

I’m looking forward to hopefully adding some new favorites to my list after my Drugstore Haul #1 testing is complete. In the meantime, if you’ve got some drugstore favorites, comment away.

Have a beautiful day 🙂




Drugstore Makeup, Part 1: My Philosophy

Proof of my recent drugstore haul.

I recently asked for suggestions for drugstore makeup products, so here we are. I understand the request for this type of blog post, as non-drugstore makeup can get expensive. I went out and bought a few makeup products from CVS to test out, but before I start using those and before I give you a list of drugstore beauty products I’ve liked for a long time, I need to explain my philosophy on drugstore makeup and why I can only take testing products so far.

Let me first say that just because a product is pricey doesn’t mean it’s good. I’ve tried makeup, skincare products and hair products that were $$$ and were crap. However, it’s true that some of the ingredients and/or processes used to make a product last longer, absorb quickly, apply more smoothly or make it pigmented are more expensive, and that is typically reflected in the pricing of those products.

I haven’t tried every drugstore product out there, and there will be some that I don’t like that work great for other people. In general though, I have some thoughts on each type of makeup that you can find at a drugstore. I may change my mind after testing out the products from my CVS haul, but I’m writing this before I test anything out.

Foundation. I’ve always told clients that if you can only splurge on one makeup product, make it a foundation. I’ve yet to try a drugstore foundation that comes anywhere to close the quality of the foundations I like best (MAC Face and Body, Armani Luminous Silk Foundation and Make Up For Ever HD Foundation). I find that drugstore foundations often have weird undertones and/or limited shade selections, and the ones I’ve tried don’t blend or absorb as easily as the higher end foundations. The biggest difference I’ve noticed though is the length of wear. Every drugstore foundation I’ve ever tried has worn off wayyyyyy quicker than the non-drugstore foundations I use. Maybe that’s fine with people for their everyday use, but in my line of work, I require products that stay on well. I would think though that most people would want their foundation to still be on by their lunch break, and I’ve had clients tell me that a disappearing act from their foundation was their biggest gripe. So between length of wear, color matching and blendability, I haven’t historically had any love for drugstore foundations. I picked up a Revlon Colorstay Foundation in my recent drugstore makeup haul, so I’ll be testing that out.

Concealer. The drugstore concealers I’ve tried all either wore off very quickly or were thick/quick to cake up. There also seems be an issue with undertones and/or selections of shades in some lines. I think drugstore concealers are similar to drugstore foundations in these ways. Also in my recent haul is the L’Oreal Infallible Pro Glow Concealer, so we’ll see if that one is better than the ones I’ve tried in the past.

Blush. I’ve tried drugstore cream and powder blushes, and I’ve yet to be impressed by any of them. I’ve found drugstore blushes to fade much more quickly than higher end blushes. I also think they tend to have a limited shade selection, although that seems to be getting better the past few years. I picked up a pink Maybelline Fit Me blush in my haul, so I’ll review that in an upcoming post.

Primer. It’s been a long time since I’ve tried a drugstore primer. The last time I looked for one, they were all silicone based, and silicone based primers can ball up and cause foundation to roll off the skin. That happens because silicone doesn’t interact well with the ingredients of some foundations. I’ll test a primer next time I do a drugstore haul, but in the meantime, I’m sticking with my tried and true non-silicone primers.

Powder. I think drugstore powder is fine for everyday use, and I use one myself (details in an upcoming blog post). I don’t use it on clients though because I don’t think it lasts as long as a MAC or Laura Mercier powder. If you’re not super oily and/or you don’t mind touching up a few times a day, I think a drugstore powder can work fine for you.

Eyeshadow. I think you can sometimes get a decent drugstore cream eyeshadow, but I’ve never been impressed by drugstore powder eyeshadows. The color payoff tends to be weak, meaning it takes several applications of shadow to achieve the same intensity you would get from one or two applications of, for example, a MAC eyeshadow. That’s the pigment in drugstore powder shadows being weaker than its higher end counterparts, because the pigments and/or processes used to intensify the pigments are more expensive. So whether it’s the actual type of ingredient used for the pigment or the ratio of non-pigmented ingredients to pigmented ingredients, you’re ending up with a weaker product. Think of a drugstore eyeshadow like a watered down gin and tonic–it’s got more tonic than gin. If you only wear eyeshadow once in a great while and you don’t mind having to apply several layers to achieve the intensity you want, go for it. But if you’re a regular eyeshadow wearer and you think you’re saving money by going the drugstore route, you’re probably not. You’ll likely have to use at least twice as much (probably more) eyeshadow as you would if you bought a higher end powder eyeshadow, so you could end up spending the same as you would have had you bought the higher end eyeshadow first. I picked up a cream eyeshadow and will buy a powder one for my next haul, but I have a feeling the drugstore powder eyeshadows are still weakly pigmented.

Eyeliner. I didn’t pick up any eyeliners in my recent drugstore haul, but I’ve tried enough in the past to have some perspective. I’ve found drugstore pencil eyeliners to either be dry and uncomfortable to use, or extremely smudgy. The crayon and gel liners I’ve tried have all been weakly pigmented or quick to wear off. I do think it’s possible to get a good liquid liner at a drugstore. I don’t personally use liquid liners and it doesn’t make sense to use them on clients because I can’t use the applicator directly on them, but for your own personal use, I think you can find a good liquid liner at the drugstore level.

Mascara. I like waterproof drugstore mascaras and have found one that works better than the high end waterproofs I’ve tried (keep your eyes peeled for the next post in this series). For non-waterproof though, I’ve yet to find one that’s as good as my beloved Diorshow. I’ll be testing a L’Oreal mascara from my haul, so we’ll see how that goes…

Brow Powder and Gels. I’ve found the drugstore versions of these products to be weakly pigmented and quick to wear off. Two things you want opposite of in a brow product! I’ll test out some new ones in my next haul.

Lipstick. I think you can get a good lipstick from a drugstore. I especially like Revlon lipsticks, both for their shade selections and their textures. I’ve tried some drugstore lipsticks that were weakly pigmented or quick to wear off, which again, I think comes down to the cost of certain pigments, processes or long-wear ingredients. But out of all of the drugstore makeup products, I’m most likely to buy a lipstick. I picked up a pretty red CoverGirl lipstick in my recent haul, so I’ll review that soon.

Lip Liner. There are good lip liners at the drugstore level. They don’t tend to have the color selection that a company like MAC does, but with the exception of a few high end lines, I don’t find drugstore lip liners to be that drastically different than many of their higher end counterparts.

We’ll see if I change my tune after I test out the products from my recent haul, but for now, I’m not sold on the quality of drugstore products. Pigment, length of wear and blendability are three very important factors for professional makeup artists, and I think those are the three areas that drugstore products tend to fall short in.

I’ll do another drugstore makeup haul at some point, but I can’t make it a habit. I’m primarily a makeup artist, not a beauty blogger, so I can’t have a kit full of drugstore makeup to use on clients. But because I want to give the people/readers what they asked for, I’ll keep it in mind that people are interested in reviews of drugstore makeup products.

Have a beautiful day 🙂





Undetectable Makeup: How To Avoid Cake Face

Nothing cakey about this makeup! Photo: East Passage Photography Makeup: Allison Barbera

There have been a lot of makeup trends over the years, but there’s one we’ve never seen and probably never will: cakey makeup. I’m talking visible foundation and/or powder that looks like it’s an inch off the skin, with product settling into lines, pores and other textured parts of the skin.

There are different choices that lead to caked up makeup, and I’m here to help you avoid those mistakes.

Shed The Dead (Skin). It all starts with skincare. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells that haven’t shed themselves from the surface of the skin. If you’ve got too many dermis corpses hanging out on your skin, foundation will cling to those, which will cause your makeup to look caked on. A regular exfoliation routine (unless you’re using something that’s contraindicated with exfoliation) will help eradicate this issue.

Moisture Matters. Foundation applies much more smoothly on a moisturized skin, so make sure you’re not forgetting this important step. Just let it fully absorb before applying any face makeup.

Hydration Nation. Dehydrated skin causes fine lines to show more prominently, and when makeup settles into those fine lines, instant caking. To help keep skin hydrated–which is different than moisturized–I recommend regularly using hylaluronic acid after you shower or wash your face (it needs to be applied to damp skin).

I Got You Covered. Foundations can generally be categorized as Sheer/Light Coverage, Medium Coverage and Full Coverage. For liquid foundations, the more coverage they have, the thicker they tend to be. Powder foundation coverage is partially due to the pigments and ingredients in the products, and partially due to how you apply it (which I’ll get to). The important thing to know is that the fuller coverage you use, the higher the chances that your makeup will get cakey wit it. And if I may give my two cents on full coverage foundation, I don’t think it’s necessary unless your entire face is covered in acne (and even then, I have some other ideas). If you have generally clear skin with only a few blemishes or some minor discoloration that you’d like to minimize, you’re better off using a sheer foundation all over and concealer and/or color corrector where needed.

Everything in Moderation. A good pro makeup artist will tell you they use the minimal amount of foundation needed for each. They don’t use eight pumps worth of foundation on one face, like I’ve seen many a YouTube beauty guru do. Listen here, my friend–the skin will NEVER absorb that much foundation. And if it can’t be absorbed, it’s going to sit on the skin and be noticeable (and probably distracting) to anyone you have a conversation with. Cake City, USA, baby!

I didn’t even use a quarter-sized amount of foundation, which is why my skin looked like skin.

A Layered Story. Much like foundations, concealers come in different coverage types. The best way to avoid caking is to start with less concealer than you think you need. Apply it in thin layers to build up your coverage, as there’s no coming back from thick layers without removing them. If you start with a too thick concealer or use too much at once, your skin won’t absorb and it will sit on the skin, lookin’ all obvious and shit.

Minimize Your Risk. When makeup settles into lines and pores, it looks cakey. If you fill in those lines and pores before you apply your foundation, though…well, we’ve solved that problem, haven’t we? Pore minimizer to the rescue! Just make sure to give the pore minimizer a minute to absorb before applying your beautifully thin layers of foundation and concealer.

A No Bake Makeup. Powder is often a culprit in the ol’ cake face dilemma, so beware. It’s not that you can’t use powder, but do so with a light hand. Don’t bake your powder (putting a bunch on the skin then letting it sit there for a while before brushing it off.) Baking leads to caking, darling. Start with less powder than you think you need, then add more if you still see shine. A thin layer is all you really need to set your foundation, so there’s no reason to go overboard.


The Right Tools. When I use foundation on clients, I apply it with a flat foundation brush then I blend it in with a buffing brush, using circular motions. In this case, the flat foundation brush is the vehicle but the buffing brush does the driving. When I apply it on my own face, I use my hands then blend it in with a circular motion using a buffing brush. I think these two techniques allow for the most natural finish. Using a Beautyblender type sponge to stipple on foundation can give you fuller coverage, and that can lead to caking if you haven’t prepped your skin well or are using a heavy foundation.  Using a buffing brush to blend, blend, blend tends to give the most natural finish.

Set It Off. Occasionally, even though I’ve done everything right with the makeup, I’ll notice some low level caking on a client’s face due to lack of exfoliation or hydration. But once I apply setting spray, the minor caking goes away. I’m not suggesting you ignore skincare, layer on full coverage products, bake your powder and think you can you fix that all with some setting spray, but if you have a tiny bit of caking–I’m talking a 1 out of 10–a spritz or two of setting spray may take care of your problem.

Cake face doesn’t have to happen to you. With the right choices and precautions, your foundation, concealer and powder will absorb nicely and look seamless. And don’t we both want that for you?

Have a beautiful day 🙂

The First Month Recap

Some pretty houses in Charleston. I lived in the one on the left a few winters ago.

I started doing monthly recaps in June, then November came along and apparently I forgot. Samesies with December. My bad! Let’s pick it back up for January, okay?

The first month of this new decade was a good one for AB Beauty. We had two weddings, a bunch of corporate shoots and a ton of trials. We also welcomed hair stylist, Lauren Adamo, to the team. And girl, the amount of wedding inquiries we got was CRAZY! We booked several 2020 weddings, and the inquiries are still coming in strong. Thank you to everyone who booked with us or referred a bride! We really appreciate it.

I got to Charleston, SC on 12/30 for my fourth (working) snowbird winter. It’s been awesome, as always. I don’t really do makeup for any clients while I’m snowbirding, so my time is spent handling bookings, creating wedding schedules, coordinating trials, trying to keep up with the latest social media trends, working on growing the business, etc. Due to some health issues I’ve had for the last year and 13 months (but who’s counting?), I’ve been trying to get in a lot of rest and relaxation. That’s not easy for me, as I’ve got Guilt on one shoulder and Ambition on the other, but I’m trying to give my body and mind a break. Once I get back to Newport, things will get pretty intense, so I should probably take advantage of these shorter work weeks while I can.

I can do things like stroll through alleys in Charleston now that I have shorter workweeks!

January was a good month for me and for AB Beauty, and I hope it was for you, too.

Have a beautiful day 🙂