Beauty Nordstrom

The Beauty Look Book’s Guide to Building a Makeup Wardrobe

December 16, 2014

This year I’ve received quite a few e-mails from new readers who just started getting into higher-end cosmetic brands. Being a beauty junkie and beauty blogger, I put dozens of products to the test each mont. This allows me to offer comparisons in order to help others determine differences or similarities across brands, formulas and product families.

For the makeup newbie it can be a bit overwhelming to sort through all the options. Finding good makeup that works for you often has to be done through trial and error. I think we’ve all been at that place where we bought something that ended up not working so well for our skin tone or skin type. Finding a store with a wide range of brands to choose from with a good return/exchange policy is one of the main reasons I really love to shop at Nordstrom. Today I’ve teamed up with them to create a personal beauty guide on how to start building a makeup wardrobe.

Most of my makeup preferences are for natural colors that will enhance features. New readers frequently e-mail me requesting a customized shopping list of my top beauty picks for them to take to the counter. Picking favorites is almost impossible for me since I really do love a lot of brands, but I’ve compiled an edited list that I think will be good for the makeup newbie. I’ve split my guide into three categories: Lips, Eyes and Cheeks.

For lips, if you’re just starting to get into makeup, my recommendations would depend on what kind of look you want. Even if you want a natural color, texture and finish plays a major part in picking out the right lip product. Do you prefer sheer, glossy, velvety, full-coverage? Are you a lipstick or lipgloss kind of person? Do you like shimmer or prefer creams?
Chanel Rouge Allure Glosses offer rich pigment with high shine and flawless coverage. My favorite soft pink is Sensible 15. If you want a no-fuss medium to full coverage lip gloss that stays put, these will give a really pretty shine while adding a good amount of color. There are naturals and brights in this formula to suit a wide range of skin tones. Another really good full coverage lip gloss is the Dior Addict Fluid Stick. These are a hybrid lipstick + lipgloss and it packs in a ton of color with high shine. Whisper Beige 219 is a good natural beige nude that won’t wash out the complexion.

If you prefer to ease into color and want just a tint of color and shine, Chanel Glossimers are among my favorite out of all the lip glosses in the market. Shades range from sparkling light pinks, bright corals, soft rose, beiges to plums. The holiday Chanel Give It Shine Glossimer Lip Trio has the perfect collection of shades to start your lip wardrobe. It has Amour (soft peach), Sweet Beige (nude beige shimmer) and Wild Rose (the perfect rose pink shine). These have a smooth texture with a naturally glossy sheen.

If you want a more budget-friendly lip gloss, MAC Lipglasses are hard to pass up. These are a bit sticky and tacky, but there are a lot of colors and finishes to choose from. Lovechild Lipglass is one of the most universally flattering colors I’ve seen. It’s a soft plum with pink tones and gold shimmer. On me it pulls very natural, on fair skin it’s the perfect plum, on darker or deeper skin tones it also looks good. Laura Mercier Lip Glacés also offer a wide range of colors with a natural finish. Pink Pop is a bright but sheer pink which brings the complexion to life with a sheer wash of bright color.

If you are more of a lipstick kind of person but want something natural, Chanel Rouge Coco Shines are my favorite no fuss swipe-and-go kind of lipstick. Boy 54 is the best classic rose pink shade that adds the prettiest hint of color and shine. The sheer formula won’t be as long lasting as a regular lipstick but the color is flawless and formula is hydrating. These are really good if you’re timid with bold colors and want something to ease into for lips. The sheer glossy formula is slightly transparent and lets you natural lip shine through.

If you want a full coverage lipstick but still want something that looks natural, the NARS Audacious Lipstick formula is hands down the best that has been released this year. The formula is full coverage with an amazing coverage that melds with the lip. If you have dry lips or peeling flakes you will need to moisturize or prep with a lip balm first, but if your lip is smooth, these are the best I have tried. It has a semi-matte and semi-velvety finish but there is a slight sheen to these which prevents it from looking flat. Raquel is my perfect nude pink. Brigitte is a nude pink beige that has more color but is still very natural.

For the eyes, there are a lot of different eyeshadows and liners that I adore. If I were pressed to pick my current top three favorites for eyeshadow, they would be Urban Decay Naked3, Chanel Tisse Rivoli and Dolce & Gabbana Smoky.

The Urban Decay Naked3 Palette is my most reached-for palette. It has 12 shades of neutral rosy-toned neutrals that can create a wide range of looks. There are shimmers, sparkles and mattes all of which have really incredible pigment. The texture of Urban Decay eyeshadows is buttery smooth and this particular palette doesn’t have any glitter shades which is a huge plus for me (and any neutral makeup lover). This is the one palette that goes with me on almost every trip. It’s a palette I find can go with everything. Pink shadow can be hard for me to wear (it often gives me a pink-eye look) but Naked3 is neutral enough to be very wearable. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing rose-colored shadow the next best option is Naked2 which is more neutral and taupe-based.

If having 12 shadows to play with in one palette is too overwhelming and you need something more edited, Chanel Tisse Rivoli is my favorite neutral quad. The texture adheres well to the eyes and layers well. The colors are smooth and pigmented. For something with more dramatic color, Dolce & Gabbana Smoky (swatched here) is my holy grail smoky eyeshadow quad.
For a cream shadow that is a good over wash shadow the Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Color in Rosegold is a good pick. It’s a soft shimmery champagne with rose and gold tones. It is creamy and blends easily on the eyes. You do need to let it sit for a minute or so to dry and then afterwards they last pretty well. It also works as an eye base for powder shadows and helps bring out the pigment.
For liners and mascara, a simple classic black is a good place to start. Not all black eyeliners are good though. Some pull grey in undertone or can smudge easily. Finding good eye makeup that you don’t have to worry about throughout the day is essential. My favorite mascara is the Armani Eyes to Kill Stretch because it grabs every little lash and volumizes, holds the curl, doesn’t smudge, doesn’t clump and defines the lashes really well. For me this one lasts all day without budging.
For liners, the Tom Ford Liquid Eyeliner is hands down the best liquid liner I’ve tried. It’s extremely pricey but it is worth every penny and will last you a very long time. There are two ends with different sizes of tips which allows for precise application and complete control. If you’re new to liquid liners, this hands down is the best one I’ve tested. It makes applying liquid liner super easy. If you prefer a pencil liner, Burberry’s Effortless Kohl Eyeliners were just released this year. Jet Black is one of the deepest and richest black liners I’ve tried and it stays put all day from morning to night. It comes in a twist up pencil format with a built in sharpener at the end which I find very convenient (especially if you carry it on the go or when you travel).

Out of all the beauty products I own, I would say blush, bronzer and highlighters dominate my makeup collection by far. Picking out a few favorites was a difficult task. For the face I’ve narrowed down my recommendations to a few items that will multi-task.

If I could only wear one blush palette for the rest of my life I would pick out the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette. It has three shades in a mirrored compact that cover all the shades you could need to go with any look. Luminous Flush is a coral pink, Incandescent Electra is a soft peach, Mood Exposure is a plum rose. The colors are very pigmented with easy to control buildable color. There is a bit of highlighter mixed into each blush which gives these a luminous glow. Those who don’t like shimmer need not fear with this one. The shimmer is finely milled and very natural on the face. It’s impossible to overdo but the pigment is rich enough to add visible color.

For a bronzer and highlighter, Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow offers both in one  convenient mirrored compact. The bronzey shade can be used as a contouring powder, although I like it as a bronzer on me. The highlighter is a pale warm gold champagne which has a high frost but looks very natural on the skin. The two combined can be used on the cheeks, temples and eyes.

Liquid illuminators are also something I consider in a makeup wardrobe. They can be used as highlighters on top of powder/foundation to add a glow or they can be used under blush to help color adhere better. I like to use these on the eyes occasionally to highlight. If you need a bit of shimmer in your foundation these can be mixed in. My favorite liquid highlighter is the Soleil Tan de Chanel in Sunkissed. It’s a pale golden champagne that dries to a semi-matte finish which means it stays put all day long. If you want more color options or want something more dewy, Armani Fluid Sheers are classic staples that will give you that glow from within look.

I hope you found this introductory guide useful! Whether you are new to higher-end makeup or want to know what my current favorites are, I hope this provides an edited list of recommendations for you to start exploring. If you could recommend your top 5 beauty picks to a makeup newbie, what would they be? I would really love to hear what your favorites are!

This post was sponsored by Nordstrom. All opinions are my own.
For more information please refer to my Disclosures

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  • Kica December 16, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Ok between you and TheLuxeBabe (not affiliated) on YT, my wallet cries everytime I head to a makeup counter 🙂

  • Jay S December 16, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Thanks for the help, I find it's hard starting my makeup wardrobe, especially on a budget.

  • Cashmere Lace December 16, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    As always, great picks! I have to say – I was quite stunned to see the Naked 3 palette sneak its way in here. The consistency of UD shadows is very different than DG & Chanel.


  • Bella December 16, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    I just have to spread the LURVE for Chanel Boy and *****Tisse Rivoli*****. As a former victim of the Chanel Euro baked shadows, I would never ever have thought a Chanel quad would be my absolute favourite.
    You have mentioned many of my other faves here too! Great guide.
    Only thing is, the Charlotte Tilbury bronze shade really is too shimmery and warm for a contour shade.

    • Sabrina December 18, 2014 at 12:19 am

      Thanks Bella! I adore Tisse Rivoli 🙂 Odd you think the CT bronze is shimmery, mine has a satiny finish, although the highlighter is pretty frosty. I love it though.

  • Clever Girl Reviews December 16, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    I don't have Naked 3 or the Hourglass palette but I think I really need both! I'm not a makeup newbie but an addict with a very small budget!

    • Sabrina December 18, 2014 at 12:20 am

      I really love Naked3, some prefer Naked2 for a more neutral option. The Hourglass Blush palette is really a good one.

  • Dar December 16, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Such a great set of products here – along with some of my favourites too!
    I adore Chanel's Boy, UD Naked 3 and the Charlotte Tilbury Bronze & Glow.

    Now to get my hands on that Soliel Tan De Chanel…

    • Sabrina December 18, 2014 at 12:20 am

      Thanks for sharing some of your favorites Dar!

  • Siham Hamdan December 16, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    This is such a helpful post, this year I decided that I wanted to care more about having good quality makeup rather than a million lipsticks, liners, eyeshadows, that I would never use, just to say I had a somewhat large collection. I'm glad to see thing on my wishlist in this post, totally made me feel like I'm making right choices haha. If it's not too much to ask, I would love to see a post like this one but with brushes. I really need a big help on that department, specially because I have never paid much attention to brushes but I feel like it's already time to invest in a few good ones. Thanks for this post! X

    | |

    • Sabrina December 18, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Hi Siham, glad you found this helpful! Stay tuned for a post next week on brushes. I have a few roundups on my favorites if you look at the sidebar categories ESSENTIALS label, but I'll do a more consolidated post next week.

  • Jenny December 16, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    These are really good picks. The Hourglass palette is amazing and I think a must have for everyone!
    Jenny // Mish Mosh Makeup

  • Mandy S December 17, 2014 at 1:28 am

    These are such great picks! I am loving the HOURGLASS palette so much so I think I have to pick it up soon! x


  • Kelly December 17, 2014 at 4:06 am

    NARS Dolce Vita is my favorite limp shade!

    xx Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

    • Sabrina December 18, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Dolce Vita is a good classic 🙂

  • Jessica December 17, 2014 at 5:00 am

    Great picks!!! I am so drooling over these items. Now I will be making my wishlist and most of it are seen here.

  • Louisa December 17, 2014 at 5:04 am

    Thank you for yet another well-curated, fabulous post! Loved everything.

    • Sabrina December 18, 2014 at 12:22 am

      Thanks Louisa, glad you liked the post!

  • Ava December 17, 2014 at 5:55 am

    Always look forward to your posts! Beautiful photography as usual 🙂

    I recently got the Hourglass Blush Palette and can easily say it is my favorite makeup item I own! So versatile and flattering.

    • Sabrina December 18, 2014 at 12:22 am

      Thank you Ava, so sweet of you to say!

  • Amber Rhodes December 17, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Thanks so much for narrowing it down!

    • Sabrina December 18, 2014 at 12:22 am

      Happy to help 🙂

  • Candice Petersen December 17, 2014 at 6:55 am

    These are so pretty!!

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

  • Dovey December 17, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Hi Sabrina,

    What a fun post! It's definitely hard to pare down a must-have list for the new collector, as tastes do vary, but there seem to be a lot of great pieces here. I have to agree that Urban Decay NAKED 3 is on my must-must-must have list, if only for the rose-toned mattes. I think for glosses (though I rarely wear them), you can't go wrong with CHANEL Glossimers! I tend to shy away from shimmer and glowiness in favor of mattes, so my other most-used products differ a bit! (Love Bobbi, MAC, NARS).

    • Sabrina December 18, 2014 at 12:23 am

      Glad to find another Naked3 lover 🙂

  • Gina Onyemaechi December 17, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Wow, some exciting recommendations here, including some brands that I hadn't heard of (and keep in mind that I own an online beauty shop!!!). Thanks for sharing.

  • BrownEyedCurvyGirl December 21, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    This is such an interesting post. Am gonna keep this list in mind when i go shopping

  • Isla December 30, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Wow, thanks for the comprehensive post! I'm going to have to use this to help me rebuild and pare down what I have!

  • Natalie January 28, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    This is such a great post! So amazing. I like that you opt for mode nude and natural shades to help compliment.
    Ivory Avenue