Beauty IRL: On Finding Your Beauty “Holy Grail”

Beauty bloggers are eternally on the hunt for their “holy grail” product, the one that will finally put an end to late-night Target runs and endless Ulta orders. You know, the one product that feels like it’s just perfectly formulated for your individual needs, in the color that makes you look 10 years younger and that doesn’t make you break out in hives or pizza-face acne. You know, something that doesn’t actually exist.

The thing about the holy grail is that it’s not real. Searching for it is a fool’s errand, but the beauty-industrial complex uses this to their advantage.  That’s the way giant monster brands make money on gels that promise to erase your pores and make your skin look like it did when you were a baby. You buy into it because you want to believe, just for a second, that you can change what you’re working with. It’s fucked up, sure, but it’s also life. And, if you love the ritual of trying different salves, balms, glosses and tints, then the search for your holy grail product isn’t hell, it’s fun. Here’s a few things that I’ve found that come close to ending the interminable search.

Face: I have a basket sitting on my dresser that is full of foundations, BB creams, CC creams and various powdered mineral foundation. I have tried them all, with varying results. Some are too heavy, some are too light. Most skew pinkish or chalky on my skin and I’ve cast them aside, or given them to paler friends and siblings. I want my face to look like a smoother, even-toned version of what I look like when I wake up. I want it to look like you are gazing at my face through a Vaseline-smeared lens, like I’m lit both from within and above. Enter Bare Essentials Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream, which is new, but I already know it is the only thing I want to wear on my face for the rest of my life. It’s a tinted moisturizer/BB cream/regular moisturizer, with sunscreen and just enough color and coverage.  I don’t look crazy, and I don’t have to worry about leaving my house and having my face not match my neck. Everybody wins.
Lips: Sometimes when I’m stressed out, I go to Duane Reade and buy things I don’t need, like lipstick, more nail polish and hair products that I think I might be out of, but really am not. I will probably spend my entire life combing this earth for a holy grail lip product, but there is one thing that I love enough to keep in steady rotation. Revlon’s Colorburst Balm Stains are the budget answer to your champagne lipstick tastes. I would love it if I could have a NARS lipstick for every occasion, but I also need to pay rent and eat food, so I’m shelving those dreams for now. These Revlon stains are not new, but they are as close to a holy grail, lipstick-wise, as I am gonna get. I have three favorites:
  • The Lacquer Balm in Coy is probably the best nude lipstick option I’ve tried — and I’ve tried a few. It knocks on the door of the brown lipstick ’90s makeup trend, but isn’t so aggressively brown that I feel like I’m wearing chocolate on my lips.
  • The Matte Balm in Unapologetic is my go-to summer look. It’s a bright-ass pink that toes the line between coral and watermelon, and it makes my face look tan, even when I’m not. I’ve tried it out when I am at my sallowest, to mixed results, but after a day in the sun, this is the business.
  • The OG Colorburst Balm Stain formula is also pretty great. I like Smitten, which is a color that actually looks good on everybody. It’s a berry pink that skews darker on me, but looks different and awesome on just about everyone that’s tried it.

Eyes: This is a safe space, so I feel comfortable saying that eye makeup confounds me. I mean, I wear it. I know how to  put on mascara. I can dab some eyeshadow onto my lids and feel okay about it. I have figured out how to tight-line my eyes, and am comfortable with doing so because, as a contact-lens wearer, I touch my eyeballs all the time. Usually I end up with eye makeup all over my face, but the best eyeliner that I have found that actually stays on is by Michelle Pham, the beauty blogger. I will use her Waterliner forever. It stays on all day, and doesn’t leave me with black streaks down my face. It’s the best.

Skin:  I might actually die before I find a skin care regimen that cures my weird breakouts, and evens out years of sun damage on my cheeks and makes my pores look teensy. But, I have been treating my weird, crepe-y-ish skin with Noxzema, Purpose Daily Moisturizer and an extremely expensive night serum that I found on the free table at an old job, and I have been seeing marginal success.

So, those are my biggest success stories on my never-ending search for the holy grail of beauty products — what are yours?