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“Really random question/favor,” read the subject line of the e-mail from Lindsey Stanberry, one of my former editors from my days as a beauty editor at Refinery29. Lindsey is currently the Director of Work & Money at R29 and the recent author of Money Diaries. The recent publication of Lindsey’s book had catapulted her into the spotlight. There was a book tour with signings and lots of professional appearances (including on camera) that she was becoming accustomed to. And, as she admitted, she had “absolutely no idea” how to do her makeup. “Either I get it done and it feels like way too much, or I do it myself and I know it’s way too little,” she explained to me. “Either way, I haven’t been happy with how I look at all, and it’s stressing me out.” She went on to ask me if I’d be willing to help her come up with an easy beauty routine that she could execute herself. Without hesitation, I quickly replied to her with a resounding YES.

 

I decided that the first step in my process here would be to do some digging and really understand more about what, exactly, Lindsey was struggling with when it came to her beauty routine. First, I asked about her skincare routine. I’ve learned over the past few years that no matter your products or methods, your makeup is only going to look as good as your skin does. From there, I asked her specifically what her makeup routine was at the time, both for everyday and for special events (answer: bb cream, powder blush, mascara, with the addition of a bright lipstick to dress things up); the kinds of beauty looks that she admired on others (answer: that J.Crew-model-look…healthy, fresh, and natural); and any products that we shouldn’t even bother discussing because she knows that she’ll never use them (answer: liquid eyeliner was out). Once I gathered all of this info, I worked with some of my favorite skincare and makeup brands that I knew would be easy to use and look natural and beautiful on Lindsey: fresh and Dr. Roebuck’s for skincare (full disclosure: I currently work for fresh as a copywriter), and RMS, W3ll People, and Seraphine Botanicals for makeup. Armed with samples generously sent over from the brands, Lindsey and I met up one weekend to dive right in and get our hands dirty, so to speak.

 

I had a few goals with Lindsey. First, I wanted to revamp her skincare routine, helping her get some of that glow that she was looking for before she even started applying any makeup. Next, I wanted to show her the basics of an everyday, “base face” that could work as well for everyday at the office as it did for the playground on the weekends (Lindsey has a very adorable son named Desmond). After that, I wanted to show her how to add a bit of definition and polish to her eyes—a great look for a big meeting, or a casual date night with her husband. Finally, I wanted to help her find a new bright, flattering lipstick that she could add as a final touch for her most important events.

A smooth canvas: Skin prep

So, some context: Lindsey is in her 30’s and has naturally dry skin. Like many women, she knew that her basic moisturizer totally wasn’t cutting it, but found the world of skincare totally daunting (hey, I get it!). So to start, I introduced Lindsey to one of my favorite fresh products: the Black Tea Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence. This product is a total game-changer: it’s easy to apply (just shake a few drops right into your hands and pat onto your face and neck) and it provides a light yet deeply hydrating layer under your moisturizer. Plus, it’s packed with antioxidants to protect skin from pollution and other environmental aggressors—very important for us city dwellers. Next, I had Lindsey blend two products for an extra dose of hydration under her makeup. In her palm, she mixed one pump of Dr. Roebuck’s Tassie Anti-Pollution Serum with a couple of drops of W3ll People’s Bio Booster Facial Serum. When she’s home, she can follow this with her regular moisturizer, but in this instance we moved right on to eye cream. I had Lindsey pat on a bit of fresh’s Lotus Youth Preserve Eye Cream, which is deeply hydrating but not greasy (i.e. your concealer won’t go sliding off your face!).

Look 1: The “base face” (aka the J.Crew-girl glow)

The first look that I wanted to show Lindsey how to create is what I think of as my “base face:” skin, highlighter, blush, brows. To start, I had Lindsey apply just one pump of W3ll People’s Bio Tint Multi-Action Moisturizer SPF 30, a tinted moisturizer that actually has fantastic coverage (if you’re looking for a foundation with a wider shade selection, I love bareminerals BarePro or beautycounter’s Tint Skin). I had her apply it with a brush, like she was painting a canvas. (Bonus: applying her base was super-easy, because her skin was so hydrated!) Next, she applied concealer with her fingers all around her eyes (she wasn’t using concealer before! I was shocked!). RMS “Un” Cover-Up has a coconut oil base which makes it super-easy to apply and blend. For cheeks, I’m newly obsessed with Seraphine Botanicals’ lip and cheek sticks: they’re these amazing buttery stains that are SO easy to apply and blend. The Guava shade is a natural peachy tone that looked so natural and lovely on Lindsey. Lindsey applied it straight to her cheeks and lips from the tube, and blended it with a flat-top brush. Next up, we added a light allover dusting with bronzer. We finished Lindsey’s skin with a touch of highlighter. When your skin is hydrated, you can easily see where the light catches on the high planes of your face (your brow bones, cheekbones, the inner corners of the eye, and the cupid’s bow). The creamy highlighters by RMS (the Living Luminizer is the most popular and universal) just perfectly enhance that natural dewiness. You can simply dab it on with your finger anywhere you want a bit of extra glow. There are many different ways to enhance one’s brows, but I find a tinted brow gel to be the easiest and fastest solution, with no elaborate makeup artistry required! I’ve love this Hourglass brow gel lately: it has a tint plus fibers in it to add some fullness and depth to your brows without any extra effort. We finished Lindsey’s everyday look with a tinted lip balm: my favorite pick is Sugar Spice by fresh, a warm pinky-nude.

Look 2: Workday Polish

If Lindsey just wants to add a small amount of definition to her eyes, she can always just apply mascara, but I wanted to show her a simply way to add depth and definition to her eyes for days when she wants to bump things up a notch. Eyeshadow can seem a little bit intimidating to beauty newbies, but it doesn’t have to be—you really only need one medium-toned shade that you can apply all over the lid. I used a gray-taupe from W3ll People's Nudist 2 palette and had Lindsey apply with an eyeshadow brush, but I encouraged her to simply use her fingers to blend any hard edges. Next, I successfully got Lindsey over her fear of eyeliner with W3ll People's Hypnotist eye pencil in Brown. I had her sketch the pencil along her upper lash line and smudge with her finger. As I told her, the goal here isn’t really to create a line necessarily, but more of a subtle extra bit of definition at the upper lashes, which helps to lift and open up the eyes. Finally: mascara. Lindsey LOVED W3ll People's Expressionist Mascara, which happens to be all-natural as well. I always like two generous coats on upper lashes, and one extra-light coat on bottom lashes to keep the eyes looking wide-awake and balanced.

Look 3: Lips!

The final step was the easiest: add a pop of color with a bright berry lipstick (W3ll People Optimist in New Mystic), and add a bit moisture and shine with a matching lip gloss (W3ll People Bio-Extreme Lip Gloss in Berry). Done!

I had so much fun giving Lindsey this beauty consultation, but I have to admit that when wrapped up the shoot that Saturday, I was a little bit worried. I had sent her away with lots of information and products, but would she be able to execute these looks herself? Would she even want to?

 

Thankfully, any doubts I had were dashed when I got a follow-up email from her a few days later. She reported that she had dutifully set up and organized all of her new products and was really enjoying her new skincare and makeup (and was already noticing a big difference in her skin–wahoo!). But, she said, the transformation was about way more than a few new fun products. “This experience has inspired me to pull out clothes out of my closet that I haven’t worn in forever, and I’ve been experimenting with new outfits,” she explained. “I just feel SO much better. Prettier, healthier, and more like the “old me” (that pre-baby person who wasn’t just exhausted all the time). But, maybe it’s even better than the old me!”

 

This is the thing about beauty, and the reason why I’m proud that it’s my career. Yes, beauty can seem a little frivolous and inconsequential at times, especially in our current world where huge political, societal and environmental issues loom. But when I think of Lindsey and the change that this made in her life, I’m reminded of the positive potential of my industry: the fact that the right products can help a woman realize, enjoy, and own the beauty and power that she’s always had. And that is not inconsequential at all. That is the very thing that can change everything.

Photographed by Neil Rasmus/BFA on location at Regular Visitors in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.

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