I Try Hundreds of New Makeup Products, But I Still Use 9 of My College-Era Picks

April 23, 2020 at 05:09AM

Before I was a beauty editor, (surprise!) I was obsessed with beauty. I always had big dreams of working for a glossy magazine or digital outlet, and my goal of becoming an editor/makeup savant felt twisted into my DNA. (For those who don’t know, I interned for Byrdie during college, and it’s where I eventually scored my first gig in the world of beauty writing.)


I’ve learned a lot since I began my journey in the editorial industry, but I’d like to think I trained with Olympic-level focus all through high school and college. To my parents’ chagrin, I’d promptly cash babysitting checks in exchange for a holy-grail Clé de Peau Beauté concealer, and I’d compulsively save up for all the exciting new launches makeup artists and editors touted in my favorite magazines like Allure or Cosmopolitan. (Funny enough, I’m now good friends with many of said editors and makeup artists!) I was on a first-name basis with the staff at my nearest Sephora, and I was obsessed with the hunt. Whether it was finding the best bronzer or the most flattering shade of blush or lipstick, I wouldn’t rest until I had found the diamond-in-the-rough product worthy of my PB&J budget. 

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Things did (but also didn’t) change once I became a beauty editor. Of course, I was still testing and carefully critiquing tons of beauty products on a regular cadence, but the sheer volume of formulas increased exponentially. I quickly neglected my collection of carefully scouted, tried-and-true favorites in favor of a vanity and makeup bag filled with whatever was new and buzzy and not necessarily what was super amazing and great. Don’t get me wrong. I receive and try lots of truly wonderful new beauty products, but a few are majorly disappointing and the majority are merely mediocre. Suddenly, I had a realization that I was rather dissatisfied with most of the makeup products I regularly turned to, and I mourned the products that truly made my beauty-loving heart sing back in college. 

Wondering where I’m going with all of this? Nostalgic for my carefully vetted and dependable college beauty routine, I slowly began to reintroduce all of my old favorites—the bronzer that blended perfectly and never left me streaky or orange, the blush that won me compliments every time I was in public, and the drugstore concealer and mascara that I *still* deem the best things since sliced bread. In hindsight, I feel like a remorse-filled ex-girlfriend, and I regret ever dismissing them from my regular rotation.

Below, I’m sharing the nine beauty products I used and loved back in college and still use and love today. Plus, just to keep things spicy (and because I’m not completely jaded), I’m including a select few new-since-college finds that might give my college-era picks a run for their money. Keep scrolling! 

For $7, trust me when I tell you it really doesn’t get much better than this concealer stick from Revlon. It’s been around forever, and I first tried it after seeing one of my favorite beauty bloggers use it religiously during her tutorials. (This was back before Instagram influencing was a thing.) It has great coverage and is creamy enough to help camouflage breakouts and under-eye shadows alike. Also, if you set it with a little bit of powder under your eyes, it won’t crease. 

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I’ve actually accumulated a hoard of liquid concealers I’m pretty happy with, but if you like a good stick concealer, this is the only one I’ve tried recently that even comes close to my OG Revlon favorite from college.

I’ve been using this iconic orange mascara tube since high school. HIGH SCHOOL! Sorry to yell, but it’s just so dang good, and I restock every few months like clockwork. I’m obsessed with the brush (which I just realized is patent-pending) for giving my long, thin lashes lots of oomph, volume, and lift sans clumps, flakes, or smudging. It layers superbly—even later in the day when the first coat should be dry and crusty but, magically, is not.


Glossier’s beloved lengthening mascara is the only wand that can compete with my tube of LashBlast for the most accrued playtime I’ve given it. It’s less volumizing, but I’m addicted to the falsie-like length and fluttering lift it delivers. 

I recently came back to this best-selling eyebrow pencil from Anastasia Beverly Hills and wondered why I ever replaced it with any other formula. I appreciate how many shades there are, and as someone who prefers a very natural and feathery brow, I love the ultra-slim precision of the pencil. The fact that it’s retractable (I automatically despise anything I have to sharpen) is just the icing on the cake.

Stevi Christine is one of the best brow artists in Los Angeles, and she’s transformed my brows (for the better) since I first became an editor. Unsurprisingly, her product line is amazing, and if I’m not using my ABH pick, this is pretty much the only other eyebrow pencil I’ll touch.

Blush with a shimmery or radiant finish can go very wrong, very quickly. I never want to look like a disco ball, and this best-selling blush from Hourglass has only ever served me well. It delivers the perfect ratio of pigment and radiance so you look glowy, not glittery. The shades look really natural and flush-like on the skin, and I always get questions and compliments whenever I’ve swept this over my cheekbones. Diffused Heat and Radiant Magenta are the shades I’ve had in my kit since college.

Celebrity makeup artist Patrick Ta is known for the ethereal, glassy makeup looks he creates. Therefore, it’s only fitting that a blush he created for his namesake makeup brand would stand out from the rest of the shimmer-infused blush pack. 

Okay, so Too Faced might not be as sophisticated as the Chanels and Diors of the beauty world, but this buttery powder bronzer from the brand is irreplaceable. You can go for matte or shimmery with your finish of choice, and you can also choose from a few different shades. I use it for both contour and bronzer and actually keep all three shades in the matte finish at the top of my makeup stash. (Although I always reach the bottom of the Milk Chocolate pan the fastest!) It blends effortlessly and never reads ruddy, ashy, or orange. Shopping for the perfect bronzer is like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans. This one removes any guesswork.

Kosas hasn’t made one product I haven’t absolutely loved, and I’m not just saying that. This is its newest launch, and it’s managed to somehow exceed my very high expectations. I’m not a shimmery-bronzer kind of person, but this baked piece of makeup magic has turned me into a shimmery-bronzer kind of person! It looks natural, feels right for summer, and it’s also infused with amazing ingredients for your skin. I’ve been thinking of it as a one-two-punch highlighter-bronzer hybrid.

If you’re a highlighter freak like I am, you’ll love this iconic liquid formula from Armani. If you’re a fan of the brand’s cult-classic Luminous Silk Foundation, it’s the perfect accompaniment. I highly recommend mixing it into your moisturizer or foundation for a lit-from-within vibe or layered directly on top of your foundation for true pop of eye-catching highlight. After a three-year hiatus, my selfies have loved my recent reintegration. 

That said, I’m REALLY having a moment with this highlight wand from Charlotte Tilbury and the shade called Pillow Talk, in particular. I’m not a huge fan of the sponge applicator, so I just put some on the back of my hand, tap my damp Beautyblender in it, and start dabbing away. I like to apply it all over the high points of my face—think cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, my Cupid’s bow, and maybe a touch around my browbones depending on how crazy I’m getting.

I’ve always been obsessed with making my lips look as full and plump as possible—even before I knew such a thing as lip injections existed. In college, this plumping, color-adjusting gloss was my go-to solution. I still own a tube, and while the gloss goes on clear, it slowly customizes to your perfect shade of pink. I’m pretty sure the success of this gloss and its sister, Smashbox’s O-Gloss, is the reason there are so many color- and pH-adjusting lip products out there these days.

For something that’s a little less intense, shiny, and sting-inducing, I’m very much in love with my tubes of Nars Afterglow Lip Balm. Orgasm and Deep Throat are my favorite shades to subtly enhance my natural lip, and they’re the perfect thing to keep tucked in your bag. I also find I can use them to retouch any type of lipstick I’m wearing. They’re sheer enough to blend seamlessly with any color and silky enough to top up shine and hydration. 

Word on the street is this beloved drugstore foundation boasts a near-identical formula to one very famous, very expensive foundation (which shall go unnamed). I don’t know if the chatter is true, but I can attest this is one of the best foundations on the market despite its very affordable price tag. As the name would suggest, it easily blends and buffs into your complexion for a believable, second-skin finish. It’s not too matte, not too dewy, and the color range is fantastic.

Apparently I have a drugstore-foundation fetish? Even though I have multiple (very deep) drawers filled with some of the most expensive foundations on the market, this SPF-spiked formula from Physicians Formula is always my fallback. The coverage is amazing, it doesn’t feel mask-like, and it looks great on camera (if you care about that kind of thing).

This OG setting powder from MAC Cosmetics has never left my side since I discovered it back in my early college days. In fact, any time I’ve strayed, I’ve only experienced deep and instant regret. I thought I was unique, and then I realized fellow beauty editors like my PIC Courtney Higgs and even celebrities are equally obsessed with how great this powder is. It won’t alter the color of any other makeup you’re wearing, it doesn’t look cakey, and it’s my number one secret for keeping my foundation and concealer from creasing. Seriously, I’ve gone 24 hours without taking my makeup off (not something I would recommend), and this product is responsible for keeping my makeup looking freshly applied.

However, if I did have to choose one powder, and one powder only, to rely on instead of my beloved MAC compact, it would be this blurring beauty from Pat McGrath Labs. The majority of my powder application is concentrated under and around my eyes (with a light dusting on my chin and T-zone), so the fact that this is specifically geared toward keeping the crease- and cake-prone eye area free of all the above is game-changing. Plus, unlike most powders, it really does look invisible on top of your other products.  Up next, It’s Official: These Makeup Brands Score Our Beauty Editors the Most Compliments

Author Erin Jahns | Whowhatwear
Selected by CWC