If you haven't heard of Bésame Cosmetics by now, the first thing you need to know about the brand is that it's heavily vintage-inspired. (So much so, in fact, that its products have become ubiquitous on the sets of Hollywood period pieces and Ryan Murphy shows.)
And it's no wonder why: The brand's founder—designer and photographer Gabriela Hernandez, who originally started the brand as a passion-slash-side project in 2004—says she always wanted to capture the feeling of her Argentinian grandmother's glamorous vanity and makeup collection. "I wanted to make products that not only looked good on you but were also nice to look at," Hernandez tells Byrdie. "I want it to feel like an experience like you're stepping into your boudoir."
Founded: Gabriela Hernandez, 2004
Based In: Los Angeles
Best Known For: Providing high-quality, vintage-inspired makeup in elegant packaging.
Fun Fact: Hernandez studies antique makeup from specific years and decades to formulate the exact shades to use in her collections.
Other Brands You'll Love: Charlotte Tilbury, Winky Lux
She says memories from her childhood have heavily influenced the brand. "I remember admiring the women in Argentina and how effortlessly put-together they seemed," she says. "I thought the women were so feminine and well-groomed, with perfect hair and makeup."
With the idea of effortless, vintage glamour in mind, Hernandez decided she wanted to create makeup that felt slightly more elevated than the options she could find on the market and originally started the line solely for herself. "It was for me, for fun—and then people took notice, and I realized there's an opportunity here to make makeup that's not only functional but makes you feel good."
The brand's bread and butter is its classic red lipsticks, with several unique, saturated shades available on its website. But these aren't your average lip colors: Hernandez spends years in advance analyzing antiques to reproduce the exact shade from a particular year (like 1922, for example).
Bésame's commitment to historical accuracy has made it a go-to for Hollywood makeup artists—so much so, in fact, that the brand's extensive resumé includes blockbusters and streaming hits like American Horror Story, Ratched, Black Panther, Mad Men, The Avengers, and more. "Period shows and period movies—you'll spot our products a lot in those," says Hernandez.
Along with its devotion to verified vintage attributes, Bésame also doesn't compromise on quality.
"We take a lot of time and effort to do things correctly," says Hernandez. "Everything is thoroughly researched, and we go to great lengths to make things the exact way they should be." She cites a past collaboration with Marvel in which the brand worked directly with the movie's art department to collect the exact ink shades used in the film. "You're buying something special when you buy our products. A lot goes into it. You're buying a collectible."
Even more, the line is entirely low-waste, cruelty-free, and safe for sensitive skin, according to the brand.
Read on for our favorites from Bésame Cosmetics.
Blood Red Lipstick (1922)
If a long-lasting, luxurious formula is what you're looking for in a lipstick—and let's be honest, it most likely is—you'll love Bésame's ultra-pigmented iterations. And it probably comes as no surprise that the brand's iconic Blood Red hue was specially-researched and inspired by "beauty risks taken by women in the 1920s," giving it totally authentic vintage vibes. Old Hollywood called, and they want their lip color back! (You can also find the rich formula in retro pinks, vampy purples, and more.)
Although it has a matte finish, I've found it leaves my lips soft and buttery (which may be thanks to the squalane, aloe, and vitamin E found in the formula).
Black Cake Mascara
One of the brand's biggest surprise hits has been its Cake Mascara (which, in addition to black, also comes in brown and purple). "We wanted to create an early-turn-of-the-century mascara remade for modern times," says Hernandez of the natural wax-based formula.
I was originally intimidated by the idea of using a separate brush for my mascara. Still, the product immediately quelled my fears once I tried it for myself—and I ended up loving the fun, playful process involved.
The water-activated formula comes in a pan, lasts for two years, according to the brand, and can be used not only as mascara but also as an eyeliner or brow "pencil." Net-net, it's an ultra-versatile (and zero-waste!) product to have on that vanity of yours.
Bésame's foray into skincare came only recently, but "vanishing cream" was one of the first for-skin products Hernandez knew she wanted to formulate right off the bat—and it's already flying off the shelves.
"Vanishing cream used to be incredibly common, and it was used so that the powder would stick to women's faces," she explains. "It was glycerin-based, so it was matte and wouldn't leave shine—aka, it would vanish." (Hence, the name of the product.) "Ours is made from natural, non-synthetic ingredients that won't clog your pores, and it's a great primer to apply before makeup or to mix with foundation for a 'tinted moisturizer' feel."
The Vanishing Cream certainly lives up to the hype as far as I'm concerned. It's lightweight, reduces redness, and I've found it leaves my skin matte even until the end of the day. Goodbye, shininess.
"When people usually think of cold cream, they usually think of Pond's," says Hernandez. "I wanted to make this formula really lightweight and great for cleansing and removing makeup."
And it definitely is: I've found it completely washes any traces of makeup off at the end of the day, dissolving with water and leaving my skin as clean and fresh as an old-Hollywood starlet's at bedtime. Plus, it's rich in vitamin E, which is great news for your skin.
Apricot Cream Rouge (1938)
I love a good lip-and-cheek one-stop-shop—and this multitasking compact (in the brand's signature cute packaging) is no different.
Along with Apricot, Bésame's Cream Rouge also comes in bold Crimson and warm Poppy. You can swipe on the creamy, highly pigmented formula with your fingers to achieve the dramatic monotone makeup looks of beauty's past—or use it solely on your cheeks for a dramatic flushed look. It's also a great on-the-go lip product for when you want a little pinch of color.
The best part is that it's straightforward to apply and even easier to blend—and when I've used it on my cheeks, the matte finish gives serves up "glowiness" without "greasiness." Win-win.