Shopping for makeup is tricky. Trends are constantly changing, your complexion and undertones need to be taken into account, and formulas don't always live up to their claims. That, and there are about one million choices in every makeup aisle or online retailer. So what are the top makeup brands? What are the most tried-and-true products from those lines? We decided to ask some of the best celebrity makeup artists in the business to find out. Because after all, there's no better advice than that of seasoned professionals who spend their days painting faces.
We talked to Kelli J. Bartlett, Glamsquad's director of makeup artistry, along with celebrated celebrity makeup artists Patrick Ta and Daniel Martin, to get the answers to our burning questions. They each ran through their top makeup brands, along with their favorite offerings from each one. Keep reading to see which makeup brands made the cut and which products rank as their favorites.
British makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury launched her eponymous brand back in 2012 to the delight of beauty enthusiasts everywhere. Looking to empower women, Tilbury's high-quality products celebrate femininity and practicality. They are designed for easy application no matter where you are or who you are: one of her A-list clients—of which there are many—or just a mere mortal like us.
Bartlett explains what makes Charlotte Tilbury one of his favorite makeup brands: "It's the perfect combination of ultra-luxe glamour mixed with high-performance products. The packaging is so chic and the formulations are spot on. Charlotte just gets glamour." In other words, consider Tilbury's namesake collection one of the top makeup brands you can get your hands on. Here are Bartlett's picks.
According to Bartlett, this setting powder "Truly gives skin a flawless complexion, blurring imperfections and setting makeup to a bulletproof finish while still being whisper-light to the face and never cakey." It lives up to its "Airbrush Flawless Finish" name and is perfect for those with an oily complexion since it combats shine. The formula boasts hydrating rose wax and almond oil and is free of nasty sulfates.
One of the brand's bestsellers, "This product is the perfect shade for defining cheekbones and faking that supermodel sculpt and illuminated cheek. The ultimate multitasker, this product can also be used to make eyes pop!" says Bartlett. Thanks to its Light Flex Technology, the highlighter flatters any skin tone. It's also paraben-free and vegan-friendly, so you can feel good about your sun-kissed glow.
With its super-soft fiber tip, Feline Flick Volume 2 liner brushes on in an effortless application. Like its name implies, it's perfect for using if you're looking to rock a cat-eye. "Charlotte really nailed the texture of this eyeliner. It starts off creamy so you have plenty of time to achieve perfection, and then dries down for the ideal long-wearing finish," adds Bartlett. The liquid liner stays for up to 12 hours, but can easily come off with some eye-makeup remover.
When it comes to artistic creativity and self-expression, MAC reigns supreme. The brand's bold aesthetic embraces individuality and its endless offering of product shades—be it in lip color, eye makeup, or foundation—is made with its diverse clientele (and their tastes) in mind.
"With MAC, the shade range and innovation and technology behind the products can't be beat. MAC never disappoints with its Pro products," Bartlett muses. She calls MAC, "A true artist's brand." Here are Bartlett's must-have MAC products.
"I don't think I would be a makeup artist without this product," says Bartlett. "It's the ultimate eye shadow primer and cream eye shadow in one. It makes eye shadow more bendable, true to color, and non-creasing." The best-seller product boasts a waterproof formula that lasts up to 24 hours without caking or flaking. Just smooth over your eyelids with your finger or a brush.
Emollients serve as softening and moisture-locking agents, like kinds of butter, oils, esters, lipids, and fatty acids. It can also be used to describe a category of products that contain these ingredients, like lotions, creams, and ointments.
This lightweight, liquid foundation is a bestseller, and for good reason. Using emollients, the foundation works to moisturize while offering flawless coverage for both face and body. Bartlett agrees: "I call it my kitchen-sink foundation because it works on every skin tone and type. It has buildable coverage—it starts off super sheer and can be layered to an almost full-coverage appearance. I even put it on legs in lieu of pantyhose."
How could we discuss MAC products without highlighting a lipstick? Lipstick put MAC on the map. With a creamy texture and a standout color, this lipstick is a favorite of both Bartlett and MAC fans alike. Bartlett sums up MAC lipstick best when she says, "Iconic formulas and iconic colors, everything from moisturizing and sheer to full-coverage and matte."
While it goes without saying that you can apply lip color directly from a lipstick bullet, if you're looking for more evenness and precision, consider using a fine, tapered brush instead.
Founded by make-up artist and photographer François Nars, Nars has become a favorite among those looking for the perfect mix of cool and classic. The brand always seems to be one step ahead with its innovative way of thinking, no wonder its products, like Orgasm blush, have become cult classics.
As to why Bartlett ranks Nars as one of her favorite brands she says, "This cutting-edge makeup brand is always on-trend." She adds, "Its product launches keep me consistently inspired." Here are her top Nars picks.
Touted as the number one selling prestige concealer in the U.S., Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer is adored for its ability to correct rather than mask skin's imperfections. A blend of powders and botanicals work to improve skin's texture and tone while keeping it hydrated and protected against free radical damage. The effect is a radiant and natural complexion. "An under-eye warrior, this formulation is pigmented enough to cover problem spots and is supremely easy to blend. The new extended shades make color matching so easy," adds Bartlett.
The holy grail of pencil sharpeners, this one by Nars features a dual blade that achieves a precise point every time, no matter the pencil size. Plus, "It may sound trivial, but this sharpener has a totally genius design—it never eats my pencils," says Bartlett. It also captures shavings so as to not leave a mess, which comes in pretty handy.
Blending old and new, this Kabuki brush is a modern take on the ancient artistry of Japanese Kabuki Theater. According to Bartlett, "This brush is the ultimate tool for precise contouring and blending. The pointed tip carves out cheekbones and the fluffy head blends to perfection." Working best with loose or pressed powders, the Mie Kabuki Brush ensures an allover, even application.
Earning the spot of most luxurious on our list is none other than beauty brand La Mer. Its signature Crème de la Mer moisturizing cream is something of a skincare legend thanks to its magical ingredient, Miracle Broth™, that seems to work wonders (just ask J.Lo).
Ta says, "The brand is total luxury, from the moisturizers to the lightweight makeup, to the lip balms." If money is no object, Ta recommends purchasing the creme de la creme of La Mer products below.
This enriching oil not only hydrates skin, but it also improves its firmness and signs of aging. According to Ta, "It really moisturizes the skin for makeup and adds a radiant glow." It can also be massaged into other dry areas of the body, hair, and cuticles too. Plus, it's free of parabens and sulfates.
This nourishing moisturizer is formulated with lime tea which combats environmental pollutants and gives skin a radiant glow. "It is lightweight and really soothes the skin for a flawless canvas and makeup application," adds Ta. Ideal for those with oily or combination skin, the gel-cream aims to improve skin's texture, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles.
This velvety, mint-scented lip balm is just as refreshing as it is restoring. Ta says, "It leaves lips moisturized without looking too glossy." Just warm a small amount of balm and apply with your fingertip in light dabs. You can layer your favorite lip color on top or wear it alone for a natural finish. Oh, and did we mention it's cruelty-free?
If you want lashes like Bambi's, look no further than Kiss, a Korean-American beauty company specializing in falsies. Although the brand is also well-known for its artificial nails, it makes Ta's list for its eyelash line.
"Lashes are paramount, and they don't have to cost a fortune to bring the drama," asserts Ta. When it comes to flirty fringe, Kiss is, hands down, one of the top makeup brands to sink your lashes into. Here are his Kiss picks.
According to Ta, "These lashes add just the right amount of drama and look super natural because of the knotless band. They also act as a black liner, so if you are in a rush, these are all you need!" They are reusable up to 10 times with proper care: remove, cleanse, dry, repeat. (Note that this product requires eyelash adhesive for application.)
These three-knot lashes are easy to apply and blend in nicely with your lash line. The effect? Ta says, "The individual lashes add definition to the eyes but looks very natural." For a touch of flair, wear them on the outer tip of your eyes, or build across your lash line for added volume.
Applying eyelashes can be tricky, but if you bring your gaze down toward a mirror when placing the lash strip, you'll have a better view than if you were looking straight ahead.
Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin that helps to process glucose (sugars), fats, and proteins and convert them into energy for the body, which is important for many different functions.
Ta recommends this lash adhesive because "[it's] super gentle and has added benefits of biotin and blueberry extract." The former plays a role in nourishing skin while the latter is packed with vitamins C and E, which work to keep skin looking smooth and radiant. The adhesive also comes with a brush tip applicator so that application is easy-peasy.
Armani Beauty treats its approach to makeup like its approach to fashion: with an eye for sophistication and sensuality. Beautiful fabrics and textures—a source of inspiration for the brand—translate into the innovative and colorful makeup formulas.
Ta says, "Armani has great, easy to work with formulas that mix and blend well." What's a makeup artist not to like about that? Here are his Armani Beauty must-haves.
"If you're looking for the perfect pinky-brown nude, this is it," says Ta. However, the liquid matte lipstick also comes in a number of other velvety colors, in case you're interested. Not only will it leave lips looking luxurious, but it will also keep them hydrated. It's comfortable to wear all day and into the night.
This liquid highlighter illuminates skin with an "Armani Glow." The light-weight formula blends easily, leaving skin with a natural, sun-kissed radiance. It can be used s a blush bronzer or even as a base on eyelids to lend a subtle glow.
This bright, shimmery eyeshadow comes in six shades so you're sure to find something that suits you. Not to mention, "They are so blendable and easy to work with—like magic!" says Ta. That's due to the innovative formula of a polymeric gel base and emollient paste agent mixed with resin. For best results, apply an eyeshadow primer first.
Surratt Beauty was born from Makeup artist Troy Surratt. Its modern and innovative products are customizable, don't require instructions (read: easy to use), and once they run out, they are easily refillable.
Celebrity clients like Adele and Charlize Theron are fans of the brand, and so is Martin. He exclaims, "They have the best multi-use products, truly second to none." Here are his favorites from Surratt Beauty.
Martin tells us, "I love using this on deep, dark skin tones. This pops color on the cheeks without looking too made up." The powder blush comes in a range of colors, from golden melon to marshmallow pink. Simply swipe onto the apples of cheeks to give them a natural-looking glow.
Martin gushes, "These duos create a ton of dimension on the eyes and even on the skin. There are SO many great options to choose from!" The water-resistant, matte cream eyeshadow can be worn on the upper lash line for a dramatic effect or simply as a shadow base. For added glamour, layer with the duochrome powder.
"This dark-circle banishing concealer gives great buildable coverage, and the shade range is excellent," says Martin. It's lightweight, wearable, and stands up to hot days for long-lasting coverage. Not only will it vanish dark spots and discoloration, but it will also leave skin looking brighter.