Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
There are so many makeup brands on the market—not to mention so many new ones launching daily—that it can make even the most experienced beauty editor’s head spin. The upshot is that there are more products and formulations available than ever before; no matter what type of makeup you’re looking for, there’s a brand out there that has it, we promise. To make the search somewhat easier for you, we rounded up a handful of the best makeup brands we’ve ever come across, from OG classics to impressive newbies.
Keep reading to learn more about our picks of the best makeup brands, plus which of their products is an absolute must-have.
The brand: This international fashion house is also a key player on the luxury beauty scene, and has been ever since they first launched in 2000. The makeup takes a cue from the fashion, with the same timeless, classic vibe, not to mention incredibly high-performing formulas. And yes, ICYW, Mr. Armani himself is in fact very involved.
The hero product: Arguably one of the most iconic complexion products of all time, there’s a good reason why Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation is a true cult-classic, a staple for pro makeup artists and devoted customers alike. It’s surprisingly versatile, easily sheered out, or built-up depending on how you apply it, though always delivers a velvety-yet-radiant finish. This was the brand’s first product and to celebrate the recent 20th anniversary, they also added 10 new shades to the line, bringing the total up to 40.
The brand: Around since 2004, Hourglass has been a cruelty-free brand from the very beginning, long before it was the “it” thing to do. (They even go one step further, donating a part of their profits to an organization seeking to secure basic rights for animals.) They have a long list of celeb—and beauty editor—fans, and repeatedly come out with luxurious, high-performing products across every category. It’s not surprising that new launches often sell out, sometimes in as quickly as 24 hours.
The hero product: One of the brand’s best-sellers, Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick is an easy-to-use complexion perfector that holds a permanent spot in our makeup routine, no matter how many other foundations we try. Waterproof yet weightless, the creamy formula glides on seamlessly, offering buildable coverage that works just as well all-over as it does to spot cover areas like a concealer would. Bonus points for the innovative triangular tip.
The brand: We now think of Rihanna as a mega beauty boss, perhaps even more so than as a music superstar. She launched Fenty Beauty back in 2017, inspired by the lack of shade inclusivity in the industry. Not surprisingly, complexion products are a staple for this brand and come in an expansive range of colors; the foundation made major news when it launched with 40 different shades. (PS: Her latest launch, Fenty Skin, is equally impressive.)
The hero product: Speaking of, Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation is a must-try. The shade range is of course impressive (it now comes in 50 colors), but so is the actual formula itself. Despite the full coverage and a matte finish, it feels incredibly lightweight and velvety on the skin, blurring out lines, blemishes, and generally leaving your complexion looking flawless.
The brand: Forget the beauty industry, this is one of the biggest brands in the world, a global behemoth with haircare, skincare, and makeup lines. The cosmetics collection is rife with cult-classic favorites plus all-kinds of on-trend newbies, always at affordable prices.
The hero product: You truly can’t go wrong with their Voluminous Original Mascara, which makes lashes look up to five times thicker and never clumps. The tried-and-true pick also contains plenty of conditioning ingredients so you get some extra fringe benefits (get it?), and is a staple for many pro makeup artists.
Pat McGrath Labs
The brand: There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it—Pat McGrath is a legend, arguably one of the most prolific makeup artists of all time. A mainstay for fashion shows around the world, she partnered with multiple brands before finally launching her eponymous line in 2015. This is a brand for girls who love makeup and want that same edgy, editorially look McGrath is known for, think holographic shadows and gilded lips.
The hero product: McGrath is well-known for transforming everyday skin into a glassy, glowy masterpiece, and with this Skin Fetish Highlighter & Balm Duo you can do the same. The dual-ended stick touts a transparent, ultra-creamy balm on one end and a shimmery, equally-creamy highlight shade on the other. Pair the two together for ultimate dewy radiance, or use them solo.
The brand: This relative newcomer does a lot of different things, and does them all well. The brand is all about quick, easy, uncomplicated beauty; their products tout skin-loving ingredients, blurring the line between skincare and makeup in hybrid formulas that are choice for those who like to keep their routine simple and streamlined. The offerings also feature unique, comfortable textures, think a tinted face oil and liquid shadow unlike we’ve ever seen. On top of that, they’re also a clean brand, banning over 2700 ingredients.
The hero product: It’s a tough call to make, but we’re going to say it’s their latest launch. Five Byrdie editors (all with different types of lashes and mascara preferences) took The Big Clean Volumizing + Lash Care Mascara for a test run—and all loved it. Creating the standout formula was no easy feat; it took the brand over 104 iterations to get it right. It touts a seriously oversized, curved brush to help curl each and every lash, and a volumizing, buildable, clump-free formula infused with hair-conditioning ingredients.
Exa by Credo Beauty
The brand: This newbie made big beauty news as the first private line launched by Credo, the irrefutable leader in the clean beauty space. As such, everything is free of over 2700 chemicals, and there’s a strong emphasis on sustainable packaging as well. While there are only two products out right now (look for more to come soon), they’re so good that we felt this tiny but might brand was worthy of a spot on this list.
The hero product: Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus is just one of many loving the brand’s High Fidelity Foundation. With medium-to-full coverage, it’s especially choice for keeping shine at bay, yet is packed with hydrating ingredients to leave skin dewy and fresh. It comes in an impressive line-up of 43 shades, all with varying undertones, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find the perfect match. Also noteworthy is the pigment technology they use, ensuring the color is extra long-lasting.
The brand: What began as a small line of 12 lipsticks sold at Barney’s quickly turned into a veritable beauty brand juggernaut. Known for the iconic black and white packaging and cheeky product names (Climax mascara, Orgasm blush), NARS has been a staple of the prestige beauty scene for decades, yet remains fresh and innovative.
The hero product: Nars Blush in Orgasm first launched in 1999, but remains the best-selling blush in America. Founder Francois Nars intentionally chose the attention-grabbing name, though it’s the iconic, universally-flattering color—the perfect blend of peach and pink—that earned it a spot in so many women’s bags, and spawned off countless of other Orgasm iterations.
The brand: British makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury is a red carpet staple, known for the glamorous, feminine looks she creates for her A-list clientele. She launched her eponymous line in 2012 as a way for real women everywhere to have access to that same type of glamor. The packaging is chic, for sure, but the formulas never disappoint, with each launch getting us more excited than the last.
The hero product: Consider Matte Revolution Lipstick your desert island lipstick. We’re not quite sure how she did it, but Tilbury somehow created a color that truly looks good on anyone and everyone. A truly perfect pinky-nude, the formula is matte but never looks flat, and is anything but drying, thanks to the vitamin E and hydrating oils in the mix. It’s no surprise it’s the best-selling prestige lipstick in the country.
The brand: Urban Decay was an anomaly when it first hit the market back in 1996. Bold and unapologetically brash, it was the complete opposite of the many more demure, feminine makeup lines. That edgy vibe remains at the heart of the brand today (their tagline is, “beauty with an edge”), as is a focus on innovative formulas and statement-making colors and textures.
The hero product: We’re still not quite over the fact that the iconic Naked palette was discontinued, but the fact that the multiple other spin-offs, including this amazing option, are still around helps ease the sting. Naked Heat Palette boasts a dozen warm-toned neutrals, ranging from the requisite peach and copper hues to unexpected reds and even plums, in a variety of different finishes.
NYX Professional Makeup
The brand: As a general rule of thumb, pro makeup artists tend to stock their kits with higher-end, luxury lines; this drugstore brand is one exception to the rule. It makes sense, given that this brand is rooted in pro-level formulas, colors, and products, of which there’s no shortage. There’s a seemingly mind-boggling array of options across all categories and extensive color selections on top of that. And let’s not forget to mention the affordable price tags, a boon for those who like to experiment with makeup.
The hero product: Over 10 million Butter Gloss' have been sold since launch, with one sold every 15 seconds. We have a feeling the impressive shade selection of 26 colors, non-sticky texture, mirror-like shine, and bargain price probably has something to do with that. Probably.
The brand: Uoma means beautiful, and this brand seeks to create products that help you celebrate your authentic beauty as the ultimate means of self-expression. Founded by a Nigerian-born former beauty exec, there’s also a significant focus on diversity and inclusivity, as seen in the extensive shade ranges (think a foundation that comes in a whopping 51 hues).
The hero product: While the complexion products are definitely noteworthy, Team Byrdie is a big fan of their eyeshadow palettes, particularly Black Magic Carnival Color Palette. Featuring ten shades in a mix of matte, shimmery, and metallic finishes, the vibrant hues capture the energy of Carnival, while still being totally wearable for every day.
The brand: This Cali-based brand (fun fact, it’s named after a lifeguard tower in Santa Monica) brings that sunny, West Coast vibe to all of their products with fun colors and formulas. Not only is Tower 28 a great clean option, but it’s also choice for those with sensitive skin; the founder created the line when she couldn’t find products that worked for her own irritation-prone skin.
The hero product: Multi-tasking for the win. Dab BeachPlease Tinted Lip + Cheek Balm onto lips, cheeks, or lids, the perfect on-the-go product. The clean, silicone-free formula is also plenty hydrating, and all three of the colors are gorgeous and flattering. It goes on sheer, though is easily buildable if you’re looking for a bit more pop.
The brand: One of the first brands to really put clean beauty on the map, ingredients take the utmost priority for this brand—both the ones they use and the ones they don’t. Most of their line-up contains high amounts of skincare ingredients, truly straddling the makeup-skincare line, and they also emphasize sustainable packaging.
The hero product: A 2020 Byrdie Eco Beauty Award-winner for best foundation, we love Super Skin Tint SPF 40 not only for the sheer coverage and glowy finish but the fact that it also delivers your daily dose of SPF. An SPF 40, to be exact, particularly impressive given how light this skincare-makeup hybrid is. Bonus points for the dropper applicator, which makes it easy to get the perfect amount (top tip: a little goes a long way).
The brand: The makeup industry has come a long way when it comes to shade inclusivity (though there’s obviously still plenty of work to be done). But when supermodel Iman created her eponymous line in 1994, that was hardly the case. Sick of having to bring her own foundation to photoshoots, she launched the brand with the goal of offering plenty of shade options for women with darker skin.
The hero product: Iman Cosmetics boasts plenty of great foundations, concealers, and powders, but the brand's Luxury Concealing Foundation may just be our favorite. Along with the beautiful shade options available for a range of deeper complexions, the formula itself is noteworthy. Buildable and full-coverage, it’s ideal for using all over or to spot-conceal certain areas. It’s also infused with skin-loving antioxidants, which is always a good thing.
The brand: If you’re anything like us, this was likely one of the first “real” makeup brands you used, a department store staple that launched all the way back in 1991. Back then, it was one of the few brands doing “natural” makeup—nude lipsticks, neutral shadows, lightweight foundations. That natural simplicity remains at the forefront today.
The hero product: An oldie but goodie, Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner checks all of our eyeliner criteria boxes. Easy to use? Yep. Richly pigmented? Indeed. Long-lasting? You bet (we’re talking eight hours of wear time and waterproof, sweat-resistant, humidity-resistant formula).
The brand: Theirs is a beauty brand success story for the ages. Once an online-only, indie brand, Glossier had a meteoric rise, now one of the most recognizable, cool-girl brands out there. What started as a makeup line quickly expanded to skincare, body, and even fragrance offerings—who knows what’s next for this juggernaut.
The hero product: There was once a waitlist of over 10,000 people wanting Boy Brow, a one-stop-shop for flawless arches. The best-seller takes inspiration from a hair pomade, with a waxy formula that offers plenty of hold, but without any stiffness or crunch. It also offers the perfect amount of pigment (it comes in four shades, as well as a clear variant) for groomed brows that still look totally natural.
The brand: Talk about a classic. Maybelline was created in, wait for it, 1915 when founder Thomas Lyle Williams created a mascara-esque product. (It makes sense that they’re still largely known for their amazing line-up of mascaras.) Flash forward to today and it’s one of the best-selling cosmetics brands in the country, continually impressing us with both innovative new launches alongside their tried-and-true staples.
The hero product: Nope, in our opinion it’s not the iconic Great Lash. Instead, it’s Super Stay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick, hands down the longest-lasting lip product we’ve ever used, ever. Seriously, swipe it on then go ahead and eat a burger, drink a coffee, make out with your partner—we promise it’s not going anywhere. Not to mention that it comes in a million (okay, 36) colors, with something for every preference.
The brand: As beauty industry veterans, we’re always somewhat skeptical of celebrity lines—is it legit, or are they just looking for a way to make a quick buck? In the case of Rare Beauty—which was created, curated, and even formulated by Selena Gomez—it’s most definitely the former. It’s all about easy-to-use products with play-with-me textures, in shades that are extremely inclusive. Not to mention that part of the profits also go toward the $100 million Gomez has pledged to donate to mental health services.
The hero product: Byrdie Associate Editor Holly Rhue calls Soft Pinch Liquid Blush, “a blush for people afraid of blush,” a liquid formula that melts into skin for naturally flushed cheeks. It’s basically foolproof, even for those who are devoted powder blush users, and we also appreciate that it comes in four shades in both matte and radiant finishes.
Rituel De Fille
The brand: With a tagline that reads “spellbinding natural color,” and product names like Devil’s Claw and Love Spell, there’s a distinct mystical, magical vibe to this brand, which still flies somewhat under-the-radar. It’s a favorite of Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue, who refers to it as, “witchy makeup,” and is also a standout non-toxic option; all of the products are made with 99 percent natural ingredients. Unique colors and textures are also a mainstay.
The hero product: Cream highlighters are a dime a dozen, but rarely have we come across one that’s this creamy and highlight-y as Rare Light Luminizer. The solid formula melts upon contact, instantly sinking into skin for a perfect kiss of luminosity rather than in-your-face sparkle. Also noteworthy is the line-up of eight shades, including non-traditional highlight hues like a cool, holographic lavender.
The brand: Plenty of brands tout using skincare ingredients in their formulas (and many do), but this is the only makeup line we’ve seen created in partnership with plastic surgeons. The end result? High-tech formulas filled with good-for-your-skin actives, that truly make a difference for your complexion both immediately and in the long-term. It’s no surprise that they're known for their complexion-perfecting products, a go-to for many women, particularly those with issues such as rosacea (including founder Jamie Kern Lima) and acne.
The hero product: Speaking of complexion-perfecting, CC+ Cream SPF 50—and was the best-selling CC Cream in the US from 2016-2019. On the skincare front, it’s full of ingredients you’re more likely to see in a serum; think peptides, hyaluronic acid, and collagen, just to name a few. It also has an impressive SPF 50 and packs major coverage, much more so than most CCs. Oh, and it comes in versions for both dry and oily skin, too.
The brand: This once under-the-radar brand rose to fame via social media—more specifically, thanks to viral videos showcasing the impressive staying power of its Lip Whip (more on that in a moment). Now with more than one million Instagram followers and celeb fans (including Beyoncé!), it holds a firm spot as one of the best makeup lines out there. Indeed, the lippies are stand-outs, but so are the silky shadows, transformative complexion products, and more. Plus, the products all come housed in adorable packaging and have witty, dessert-themed names.
The hero product: We’ve heard of long-lasting and smudge-proof lipsticks before, but never have we seen—or tried—one with the staying power of Beauty Bakerie's Matte Lip Whip. Despite how well it stays on, it still feels comfortable on lips and comes in a nice range of more than 20 colors. Just FYI, you'll definitely need a dedicated makeup remover to take it off when the time comes.
The brand: Coco Chanel famously once said, “If you’re sad, if you are disappointed in love, put on your makeup, give yourself some beauty care, put on lipstick, and attack.” And while her beauty line is perhaps best known for the iconic No5 fragrance, there’s an astounding array of exceptional products equally as luxurious and splurge-worthy as a classic Chanel quilted bag.
The hero product: Per Mademoiselle Chanel’s aforementioned quote, Chanel lipsticks are incredible, though if you’re only going to try one product, make it Vitalumiere Aqua Ultra-Light Skin Perfecting Makeup SPF 15. A liquid formula with a water-like texture, it imparts plenty of hydration, subtle coverage, and leaves skin with a beautiful natural glow, an ideal foundation for foundation haters. Top tip: Make sure to give it a good shake prior to using it.
Anastasia Beverly Hills
The brand: Anastasia Soare is the undisputed brow queen, responsible for the flawless arches of Hollywood’s elite (we’re talking Madonna, people). Her first product line—featuring, obviously brow must-haves—hit shelves two decades ago, and has grown to a full-on empire since then. There are of course plenty of brow-perfecting options, as well as a full range of color cosmetics, think impressive eyeshadow palettes, and lip offerings.
The hero product: Dipbrow Pomade earns top marks for both sculpting and filling in brows for that perfectly-defined look. It’s smudge-free and waterproof, choice for those with oily skin and/or to use on hot, humid days, and comes in an assortment of 11 colors, very impressive for any brow product.
The brand: Famed makeup artist Gucci Westman launched this brand to show that makeup, skincare, a focus on clean ingredients, and complete luxury could all intersect in one place—namely with this line. A big fan of stick formulations, four different makeup sticks were the foundation (pun intended) for the brand, which also includes a curated line-up of several other products for eyes, lips, and face, as well as high-end brushes.
The hero product: Beyond creamy, Baby Cheeks Blush Stick glides on like a dream, no matter whether you swipe it onto cheeks, lips, or lids, thanks to a blend of botanical oils. The color it offers is fresh and sheer, though can be built up and layered for more impact.
The brand: Prefer to spend no more than 10 dollars on any given makeup product? This is the brand for you. It’s a drugstore staple highly-regarded for both the extremely wallet-friendly prices and quality formulas, which easily rival those of its pricier counterparts. They also launch products at a rapid pace, both setting and keeping up with various trends in the industry.
The hero product: One of the best drugstore primers money can buy, Poreless Putty Primer is packed with hydrating squalane and has a velvety texture instantly eliminates the look of pores, lines, and more. It’s nice and grippy too, definitely upping the longevity of your makeup, and now comes in both mattifying and illuminating versions, too.
The brand: As the story goes for so many other lines, French-born makeup artist Laura Mercier’s eponymous line was born out of an unmet need, namely for complexion products that left skin looking naturally-flawless. Fun fact: She even created the first foundation primer.
The hero product: The brand's Tinted Moisturizer first came out in 1996, an innovative formula that was like any other…at the time. Last year it got a complete revamp; now paraben-free, it’s also infused with protective antioxidants, and a higher SPF (30 instead of 20). There are also more shades—a total of 20—but still has that creamy texture, buildable coverage, and hydrating feel that made the original such a fan favorite.
The brand: Widely considered the first celebrity makeup artist, Kevyn Aucoin rose to fame as the go-to for a litany of Hollywood’s elite, including it-girl supermodels of the 1980s. He also thought outside the box, breaking many rules of the time, think using fingers over brushes, and pioneering a clean face look. The brand launched in 2001, only a year before his death, and continues to emphasize the same focus on naturally gorgeous beauty that works for real life and the red carpet.
The hero product: Blurring the line between concealer and foundation, The Sensual Skin Enhancer is one of the brand’s best-selling products for good reason. It’s crazy, crazy pigmented (so a little goes a long way), perfect for spot correcting areas, or buffing out for more allover coverage. Still, it’s non-cakey and contains plenty of hydrating and smoothing ingredients to never settle into fine lines, and comes in a nice line-up of 16 shades.