A few weeks ago, I left my make-up bag on the Tube and was consumed in a cloud of guilt.
The only thing worse than splurging on cosmetics is losing them all and having to start all over again. A few hours and one painful conversation with TFL lost property later (yes, Trevor, that is how much a foundation costs), I forced myself to look on the bright side.
I had probably been clinging onto one or two products that were past their sell-by date; the black eyeliner I bought in the heady 1990s, back when Justine Frischmann from Elastica was my muse, for example. Perhaps this was a good opportunity to start afresh, and this time I would be sensible: I would not buy things that suit my (very blonde) friend Clara and look ridiculous on (quite dark) me, I wouldn’t cling onto fake eyelashes that require surgical precision to apply, or lug around a palette of blue eyeshadow bought in order to look like Cher at a fancy-dress party (note to self, a tube of fake blood isn’t an everyday make-up essential). I would stick to the few products I really need and keep the prices down, so if they, too, end up seeing out their days on the Central line, it wouldn’t trigger self-flagellation, but a quick trip to the high street.
The best thing about this experiment has been realising how little price has to do with quality. Alongside the luxury brands, I’ve tried the more affordable high-street ones, and found that most are really quite good. Every product I’ve fallen for is less expensive than the one it replaced, and the mid-range in particular is full of treasures. It is probably worth splashing out on a good foundation and maybe one other staple, but if you don’t want to go to the beauty department at Harvey Nichols, you don’t need to — there are some bargains to be had at your nearest Boots.
Having searched high and low for the perfect concealer, I believed that Laura Mercier Skin Camouflage (£27.50) was “the one”, but it does have tough competition. I didn’t like Bourjois Radiance Reveal (£6), which is meant to be hydrating, but sat stubbornly on the surface of my skin. Maybelline Superstay 24hr (£6, pictured), on the other hand, does a terrific job at covering redness and is a bargain. Rodial Airbrush Concealer (£32, pictured far right) is pricier and gives lighter coverage, but is lovely and soft and blends in beautifully.
I tried a load of foundations, including Maybelline Dream Velvet (£8), Estée Lauder Double Wear Makeup to Go (£33) and L’Oréal Paris True Match (£10). My firm favourite (I wish I’d known about it years ago) is Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer (£29, pictured). It smooths over bad blemishes without being too thick. It’s particularly good if, like me, you are prone to reptilian dry patches. Best of all, it leaves skin with a pleasing glow. Happy days.
Not being blessed with great hand-to-eye co-ordination, I approached Ciaté London Chisel Eye Liner (£16) and Bobbi Brown Ink Liner (£21, pictured) with trepidation. The Ciaté was, frankly, a disaster. It has a thick tip that makes it almost impossible to pull off flicky Brigitte Bardot eyes. The Bobbi Brown pen, however, has a tapered nib that makes it easy to do thin or thick upper-lid flicks — perfect for beginners.
The only time I notice blushers on other people is when they have overapplied and look like circus clowns, but I now stand corrected. I tried three shades of the classic Bourjois Little Round Pot (£8), and they were all good, though a bit sparkly. Guerlain has a lovely compact palette, Rose aux Joues (£34.50), with a delicate watermelon smell, but my favourite was Bare Minerals Pop of Passion Blush Balm (£20, pictured). It’s a gel balm that looks alarming in the pot, but subtle and warm once rubbed into the cheeks — apply a hint or go for full Coco the clown.
Bronzer disasters are, I think, more down to overenthusiastic application than the product itself. That said, Collection Bronze Glow Mosaic (£2) gave me a suspiciously citrus hue, despite my naturally olive skin. Bourjois Délice de Poudre (£8) is a perfectly good option, and the compact has a magnetic strip to stop the powder crumbling all over your handbag. My personal favourite was Delilah Sunset Matte Bronzer (£34, pictured), which comes in a nice mirrored compact and gives skin a warm glow, rather than the full Tom Jones. (NB: all of these require a separate bronzer brush.)
I’ve had a kohl eyeliner dependency since my indie teenage years. The Style Beauty team yanked me into the 21st century with two twist-up pencils: Illamasqua Eye Slick Stick (£18.50, pictured) and Kiko Milano Glitter Eyepencil in black (£6). The latter has glitter in it, which is a bit too ickle-girlish for me; it also has a gummy texture that turned me into an accidental emo. The Illamasqua pencil, however, is a dream. It’s more pressure sensitive than a normal kohl pencil, so you can do a light line on the lower lid and a more dramatic one on the upper. It also stays put.