My Go-To Beauty Products

Those of you who know me offline are likely familiar with my girly side – I can be a bit of a product addict. I’m happy to chat about beauty tips and compare products until the cows come home! It’s definitely gotten better as I’ve gotten older and skeptical wiser, and the closer I get to the big 3-0 the more I find myself with a good set of go-to products that are my Can’t-Fail, Always-Recommend Goodies. For how fickle I can be, if I’ve actually used up and repurchased something, you know it’s doing something right!
Which isn’t to say I’m not open to trying new things either – a few of these have made it onto my list in the last year or two thanks to beauty gurus like Tiffany D and Jaclyn Hill. (Sidenote: I’m super addicted to YouTube beauty videos. Aren’t you glad we no longer have to try and figure out the fifteen steps the magazine “tutorial” always frustratingly left out?) Plus, my skin has changed a ton over the last five years. Anybody else experiencing that?

Ellingsen Photography Go To Beauty Products - Face Prep

At any rate, first things first: the prep. Without ambiguity or agenda, it’s safe to say (1) the Clarisonic Mia has completely changed my skin. I had tried so many other things, many of which had ingredients that were way too harsh for my sensitive skin (rhymes with Plotactive), and finally my mom gifted this to me about four years ago. I use it several times a week with a gentle creamy cleanser (just a heads up, I hated the one that came with it), usually (2) Pond’s Luminous Cream Cleanser. Then before moisturizer I use a brightening serum to help with old scarring and dark spots; I love (3) Aveda’s Enbrightenment Serum. And as for lips, no matter what else I try, from Fresh to Nivea, I keep going back to good ol’ (4) Aquaphor. You can get the minis by the twosome and throw one in your purse to take with you. It’s also great for dry cuticles, eczema flare-ups, sunburn, etc.

Ellingsen Photography Go To Beauty Products - Base

Part two, the base. I’m still looking for my holy grail foundation, so I can’t claim a go-to product there. (Lately it’s been Revlon’s Colorstay Makeup for Oily/Combination Skin, which lasts really well but I’m not totally satisfied with how it sits on my skin to begin with.) Whatever I’m using, I apply it with my essential (4) Sigma Angled Kabuki Brush. I sure as hell wish I’d known about that brush years ago. Probably would have saved me a lot of foundation application mishaps and frustrations! Now that the weather is warming up, I’ve starting sheering out my foundation again like in this tutorial by Tiffany D.

(2) Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion is a go-to for three reasons: to even out my naturally pinky-red eyelids, to help the eyeshadow go on “true to pan” (what you see is how it looks on my eyes), and to help my eyeshadow last all day without creasing. You only need a teensy bit so it lasts for months, even with daily usage. I love the coverage of (3) Mac’s Studio Finish Concealer for any breakouts or extra redness, plus (1) Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewind Eraser for the undereye area. This stuff is beautifully lightweight and blends so well, I still can’t believe it’s a drugstore product. I don’t have super dark undereye circles, but this helps to brighten up the whole area nicely.

After a bit of translucent powder, I’ll set it all with (5) Mac’s Fix Plus setting spray (you can also wait to do this until you’ve finished all of your makeup). This is especially a must for me in the summer, and when I’m going to be doing a long shoot (like a wedding) and really need everything to last. I can easily tell the difference if I forget to use this stuff! (Urban Decay’s All Nighter Setting Spray is also fantastic; they’re really interchangeable.)

Ellingsen Photography Go To Beauty Products - Eye Makeup

Part three, eye makeup. I have really long but kinda spindly blonde lashes, so a long time ago I accepted that one mascara was never going to do everything I wanted. I’ve been using a combination double-punch for years, where I start with a coat of a basic defining and separating formula that will really get at the roots, like (1) Aveda’s Mosscara and then top it with a more volumizing coat. Most days it’s (2) CoverGirl Lash Blast, but give me a Sephora gift card and I’m all over Benefit’s BADgal Lash.

Speaking of being a natural blonde, this also means my eyebrows are white blonde too. I get them tinted a darker brown when I get them waxed, and as-needed define them with (3) Maybelline’s Define-A-Brow Pencil. The super fine tip and softer formula means easy precision shading, plus no need to sharpen!

I’ve become a big fan of Sigma brushes for their affordability, durability and quality (plus, always check Tiffany D’s current videos for a discount code!), and the (4) Short Shader Brush has become part of my everyday daytime look to neatly apply eyeshadow at the lashline for a soft liner look. It’s also great for smudging kohl pencil. If I’m feeling fancy then I’ll go with Mac’s Fluidline gel liner applied with their awesome 263 brush (which makes doing a cat eye sooo much easier). I know (5) NARS Duo Eyeshadow in Cordura may seem like a splurge, but I’ve had this for (eep!) several years and am just now hitting pan. So when you figure cost-per-wear, it’s more than worth it. I use these colors for all kinds of looks and the formula is perfection.

Ellingsen Photography Go To Beauty Products - Maintain & Remove

And then there’s maintenance and removal. For longer days that need touch-ups (or before heading out for date night), a quick dab where needed of some (1) Mac Studio Fix Powder after blotting with (2) Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets (don’t even waste your time with the store-brand knock offs, only the original works!) and I’m good to go. As for removing all that eye makeup, (3) Avon’s Moisture Effective Eye Makeup Remover Lotion has become the only way to go for me. I’ve never been an “Avon girl” but a family friend gave me a bottle last year and I’ve been hooked ever since. My eye area is super gentle, and this stuff is perfectly creamy without being too oily, and works in seconds to dissolve everything. (Plus, last time I ordered it, it was on sale for 99 cents a bottle!) I also always keep a stash of (4) Yes to Cucumber Facial Towelettes. They smell amazing and are just about the gentlest wipes I’ve found.

When it comes to hair, if I had my way everything I put in it (or on it?) would be made by Aveda. I love the brand; my mom has been using it for years and years. I really think it’s the best quality for the price out there on the market and everything smells amazing. However, until my bank account becomes a bit more flush, I supplement with a few other brands.

Ellingsen Photography Go To Beauty Products - Hair

The two Aveda products I really can’t do without are both for styling, because I’ve found that hold and shine are hard to fake and it’s where my pennies are best spent. I use (1) Phomollient Styling Foam whether I wear my hair curly or straight, it’s blows out beautifully and really holds without ever getting crunchy or feeling gross in your hair. And when I do wear it curly (the ol’ scrunch-and-diffuse-dry method), I add in some (2) Be Curly Curl Enhancer and set with a bit of hairspray at the end and I’m good to go.

My hair was pretty much stick straight for the first, oh, 27 years of my life, so it’s been a bit of a learning curve with my hair going curly the past couple years. I’ve found that using (3) John Frieda’s Frizz Ease Hydrating Conditioner helps keep my curls looking smoother throughout the day without weighing them down too much. I also usually skip a day when it comes to shampooing, and dry shampoo is the way to help keep my hair feeling fresh. I’ve tried a ton of different ones over the years, from Bumble & Bumble on down, and (4) Suave’s is by far the best bang for your buck. Get the two pack at Target, or stock up when it goes on sale at CVS!

Now, here’s the trick for dry shampoo, and I’m only going to say this once: after you spray it on, you have to let it DRY and then RUB. Go do something else for a few minutes, then flip your head over and massage it well into your scalp and hair and that should get the job done. You’re welcome. (And don’t just take my word for it, check out Hairdresser on Fire‘s tutorial.)

Phew, what a novel! If you made it all the way down here, congratulations. Guess I should have just done a video like all of those regular beauty bloggers!

So dish, friends! What’s your go-to, no-fail secret weapon? What product would you hoard if they stopped production? I’m still looking for a bronzer for contouring that isn’t too orangey or dark on me, and the Hunt for the Perfect Moisturizer is on again after they (apparently) discontinued the one I praised a few months back.

xoxo