Shopping in a
Sephora is a bit like letting loose in a beauty playground. You can walk in with a bare face and walk out totally camera-ready with bags of products in tow. In fact, there isn't much it doesn't offer, including many of the best cult brands and up-and-comers alike. This, naturally, is both a blessing and a curse.
For many, large makeup stores can be incredibly overwhelming — especially if you have no clue how to choose among the thousands of products they stock. But fret not, because we have a solution. To help guide you through Sephora's glossy black shelves, we've put together this handy guide.
Ahead, we've rounded up the top products across 12 categories that have garnered our seal of approval, are beloved by celebrity and editorial makeup artists, and are some of the brand's top sellers. Translation: Definitely play with the products and have the staff weigh in, but also consider this guide, which is basically a foolproof shopping list made up of the best of the best.
Foundation Foundation is a tricky category to crack, since you have to consider both the formula and its ability to truly match your skin tone. There are many options at your local Sephora that get our seal of approval, but none quite like this one from Make Up For Ever.
Here's why: Ultra HD has shades ranging from very fair to very deep, with varying tones within each shade. And since they're made to perfect skin for the unforgiving lenses of HD cameras, you know they're going to even your skin with minimal product. (Heavy makeup looks extra obvious when captured with HD cameras.)
This innovative formula has hyaluronic spheres to keep it comfy on your face, and leaves a natural-looking finish somewhere between matte and dewy, while the pigments provide medium, buildable coverage that looks just like your skin. No shocker here: It's a Sephora best seller and is R29-editor approved.
Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation, $43, available at Sephora. More
Concealer This concealer is kind of like the blur tool in Photoshop: It's able to conceal blemishes as well as diffuse imperfections or discoloration with just a touch. The trick is in its luminous formula. Read: It doesn’t leave you shimmery, but instead creates a slightly reflective sheen to trick the light into making you look like you're glowing.
A little bit goes a long way with this buildable formula. Of course, it's also pro- and editor-approved. Makeup artist and Butter London Global Color Ambassador
Katie Jane Hughes calls this a top pick. “It’s a great, quick full-face product," she says. "Use around the eyes and anywhere else... I use it often when I want to just throw on a quick, clean, and fresh look and run out the door.” NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, $29, available at Sephora. More
Primer What’s great foundation and concealer without the primer beneath to let them shine (or leave them extra matte, if that’s your preference)? Hourglass Cosmetics’ pro-approved Veil Mineral Primer is just that — a light veil that works wonders. The super-light liquid magically evens out your skin tone, absorbing excess oil and leaving a smooth, velvety canvas for whatever look you want to create. This is why it's a cult classic and regularly stocked in celeb makeup artists' kits.
The best part? Instead of the pancake-y feeling you may get from heavy-duty primers, this one feels like nothing at all, while holding fast to your makeup all day long.
Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer, $52, available at Sephora. More
Tinted Moisturizer & BB Cream You're not out of luck if you don't want full-coverage foundation. Sephora is filled with lighter options that create an even base that actually feels like your skin. This one from Bobbi Brown is a long-time favorite with SPF and hydration benefits. Bobbi Brown BB Cream SPF 35, $46, available at Sephora. More
Blush & Bronzer Not just the queen of brows, Anastasia Soare is edging even further into the complexion market with this Glow Kit. It offers four shimmery shades that you can blend into a subtle contour or a light flush — it’s up to you.
With these highly versatile shades you really can’t mess up, which is why it’s a best seller. Layer it on for intensity, or wear the hues separately for something softer. Pro tip: You can also use it on the eyes.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit, $40, available at Sephora. More
Contour Powder We challenge you to find a makeup artist who doesn't have this contour powder in his or her kit. The easily blendable pressed powder has ashy undertones that make it ideal for shadowing cheekbones. Kevyn Aucoin The Sculpting Powder in Medium, $44, available at Sephora. More Read More
Highlighter We've waxed poetic about YouTuber Jaclyn Hill's new line with Becca — especially the Champagne Pop highlighter — and we're not the only ones singing the praises. “It’s really user-friendly, and it gives you a nice sheen for a natural-looking glow,” celebrity and editorial makeup artist Allie Smith tells us.
This shade is a soft gold with peachy undertones. What makes it different? You get a radiant effect thanks to the ultra-fine, luminescent particles, as opposed to a face full of obvious shimmer. Obviously, no one product can flatter every single skin tone, but the light finish and soft tone gets pretty damn close — the perfect excuse to sweep on a little in-store.
Becca Becca x Jaclyn Hill Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Champagne Pop, $38, available at Sephora. More
Powder Translucent powder is one of those things you never thought you needed until you try it. The common reaction: How did I live without this? The thin veil of a good sheer powder soaks up oil and makes makeup last way longer, so it's a win-win.
Of course, not all powders are created equal. This formula from Laura Mercier is a pro staple, a best seller, and works on every skin tone — contrary to what its appearance may make you think. (It's truly translucent.)
"This is a true cult product,” Hughes says. “It’s in pretty much every makeup artist's kit — I think that's saying something!” If it’s good enough for nearly every makeup artist, we think we can agree that it’s worth adding to your basket.
Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, $38, available at Sephora. More
Eyeshadow Shocker: One of Urban Decay's cult palettes made our shopping list. It's a name that needs little introduction: Naked has positioned itself as the standard of eyeshadow palettes, with a dozen neutral shades in various mattes and metallics. Think beiges, browns, grays, and black — all shades you’d actually use, in one place.
This palette gives you the freedom to create any kind of natural or dramatic eyeshadow look, hence its massive popularity. The powder pigments are also deeply saturated in color. Think of this as the perfect example of style and substance combined. The moral of the story: Just get it already.
Urban Decay Naked2, $54, available at Sephora. More
Although this palette hasn't been out nearly as long as the other vets on this list, the bold colors and silky formulas sky-rocketed it to pro status. The nice mix of shimmer and matte shades (and the on-trend hues of burgundy, peach, and brown) make it a makeup artist must-have.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Eye Shadow Palette, $42, available at Sephora. More
Mascara Everyone wants something a bit different when it comes to mascara. This Benefit one, however, seems to be a people-pleaser all around, as one of Sephora’s best-selling lash-lengtheners.
The reason? It actually delivers what it promises: length
and volume with an easy-to-use formula that doesn’t flake throughout the day. “If you’re going to splurge on mascara, this is definitely my pick,” Smith says. “It wears comfortably and it’s buildable, so you can create a natural lash look or go for the chunky effect.” Benefit Cosmetics They're Real! Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara, $24, available at Sephora. More
When it comes to voluptuous wands, Too Faced's Better Than Sex Mascara takes the cake. The hourglass structure hugs eyelashes while simultaneously coating, separating, and defining each one.
Even better, the formula is wet — and I mean,
wet. If you're looking for a dramatic lash look, this formula will give it to you. But unlike similar formulas, this one doesn't flake by the end of the day — and it maintains a glossy sheen on the lashes. Sure, it isn't really better than sex, but its long-lasting and smudge-proof power might as well be. Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara, $23, available at Sephora. More
Eyeliner Liquid-eyeliner options are a dime a dozen, but find a good one, and you’re hooked for life. Stila’s Stay All Day liner is that one for many of us. For one, it lives up to its name, not budging from our lids once it’s set (which is the most important thing, by far).
Bonus? Stila’s beloved liner comes in 15 bold colors, including stark white, so you can get creative. Smith can’t gush enough about these liners, but offers one caveat for liquid-liner novices: “You can’t really layer it over itself — it’s a one-and-done kind of deal," she says. "But if you’re going for opaque color, it does layer beautifully over pencil, so you can trace over and get a really vibrant effect that way.”
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner, $24, available at Sephora. More
Brow Pencil Brows are tricky — especially if you aren’t totally familiar with your shape and how you should be defining them. (It's easy to go too light, too dark, or too thick when you have the wrong product.) However, this Sephora private-label buy removes a lot of the guesswork.
This easy-to-use, retractable pencil always has a sharp tip to make drawing hair-like strokes a cinch. It also has a little comb at the end to soften any hard edges or lines.
The waterproof formula is creamy enough to glide on smoothly without tugging, but solid enough that it really does stick around all day with a natural effect. At $12, no wonder this is a Sephora staple and passed our tests.
Sephora Collection Retractable Brow Pencil Waterproof, $12, available at Sephora. More
Liquid Lipstick If you're only going to buy one lipstick, make it matte. Why? It's easier to apply, lasts longer, and gives a super-modern finish, no matter if you pick a wine, red, or nude hue. Make it a liquid lipstick, and it'll be even easier to apply.
Kat Von D’s Everlasting Liquid Lip is one of the leading liquid lipsticks, has 28 shades ranging from pinks and neutrals to bold red and goth black, and is an industry favorite among pro beauty bloggers and casual lipstick lovers alike.
This includes Lauren Urasek, celebrity and editorial makeup artist. “This is one of my favorite liquid lipsticks because it goes on smooth, is super-pigmented, and doesn't tend to flake as much as some other ones after hours of wear,” she says.
Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick, $20, available at Sephora. More
Lipstick If traditional lipstick bullets are more your speed, you can't go wrong with Bite's Amuse Bouche lipsticks. The creamy, demi-matte lipsticks come in a whopping 41 shades that range from tawny nudes to deep plums. Plus, thanks to the jojoba oil, castor seed oil, and shea butter in the formula, the lipsticks feel balm-like and comfortable all day. Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick, $26, available at Sephora. More
Lip Gloss Lip gloss may be a teenage throwback for many of us, but the gloss game is still running strong at Sephora — and back in mainstream media to boot — with a popular pick being Dior Addict Ultra-Gloss.
An everyday lip gloss should make your lips shiny, this we know, but these days we also demand the comfort of a balm and the rich color of a lipstick, whether that be a neutral or a bolder hue. With 15 sheer-yet-vibrant colors, Ultra-Gloss goes the extra mile with a hydrating and volumizing effect.
“It actually plumps the lips without the burning feeling, and the colors are beautiful!” Urasek says. To review: You get hydrating, plumping, and glossy color — what more could you want from a lip gloss?
Dior Dior Addict Ultra-Gloss, $30, available at Sephora. More
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