I Try Hundreds of Makeup Products a Month—and I Always Recommend These

Amanda Montell

Because the beauty editor's life is #blessed, I get to try zillions of new makeup products every month. This is especially fun as someone who genuinely loved experimenting with makeup long before I got to do it professionally. Not all the products I try are worth buying or recommending, however. I've had run-ins with streaky foundations that broke me out, waxy lipsticks that made my lips peel, and goopy brow gels that caused my forehead to look like it was covered in mud.

Disappointing makeup is a sad, sad thing. And as one responsible for making sure you never have to deal with it, I take my job quite seriously. That's where this list of products comes in. Out of all the makeup I've tried over the years, these lipsticks, highlighters, concealers, and more are the ones I swear are worth buying every time.

1. Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation

Koh Gen Doh Aqua Foundation
Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation $77

If you're asking what foundation to buy, I'm automatically suggesting Koh Gen Do's impossibly lightweight, buildable, and newly formulated Aqua Foundation. Basically, every makeup artist I know is obsessed with this, and so am I, because better than any other product, it conceals blemishes, darkness, and unevenness while genuinely looking like real skin.

2. Nars Contour Blush

Nars Contour Blush
Nars Contour Blush $42

Nars Orgasm is its most famous blush, but I actually like this one even better. A former Allure editor introduced me to it a couple of years ago, and I have used it almost every day since, even after I dropped it on a concrete floor and shattered it to bits. The pigment stays on your face all day without ever fading; the taupe shade Olympia is incredibly natural and flattering and still warms up the skin. And I love that it comes with a little pan of setting powder to mattify your skin wherever needed.

3. Sisley Paris Phyto-Lip Twist Tinted Lip Balm

Sisley Phyto-Lip Twist Tinted Lip Balm
Sisley Paris Phyto-Lip Twist Tinted Lip Balm $53

Have I recommended this product enough? I mention Sisley's hydrating, shiny, blindingly pigmented lip color practically once a week on Byrdie because even though it's pricey, the fact that I wear some shade of it practically every day makes it worth the sticker price. My favorite thing is to apply the shade Coral on my lips, cheeks, and eyes for an easy monochromatic look—this move consistently yields more compliments than I know what to do with. 

Amanda Montell
Amanda Montell

4. ModelCo More Brows Fibre Gel

Model Co More Brows
ModelCo More Brows Fibre Gel $16

A fairly new but fervent obsession, this under-the-radar brow gel tints my brow hairs while keeping them in place however I choose to style them (which is usually brushed-up and wildly feathered) unlike any other. Whenever I wear it, people gush over my brows as if they naturally came that bushy and beautiful—little do they know, it's this $18 secret weapon in the shade Medium-Dark.

5. Glossier Haloscope Highlighter

Glossier Haloscope
Glossier Haloscope Highlighter $22

Two or three years ago when the entire beauty industry exploded with highlighter fever, I went buck-wild with powder highlighters and would always wear something blindingly shimmery on the high points of my face. Since then I have thankfully calmed down and am only into cream highlighters that look like real (dewy) skin. Some people think Glossier's take is too subtle, but I think the shade Quartz is just perfect for anyone who wants their skin to look glowy and kinda slick, but not cakey or fake. 

6. Dior Dior Addict Lacquer Stick

Dior Addict Lacquer Stick
Dior Dior Addict Lacquer Stick $38

If you like comfortable and hydrating yet absurdly pigmented lip colors, this one needs to be in your life. No lipstick packs as much moisture or color payoff; plus, it comes in a massive shade range, from bright oranges to deep berries to everyday pinky nudes and browns, like Underground, Poison, and LA Pink—my personal faves. 

7. Tarte Shape Tape Concealer

Tarte Double Duty Beauty Shape Tape Contour Concealer
Tarte Shape Tape Concealer $29

This tried-and-true concealer is news to no one, but if I didn't include it on this list, it'd feel dishonest. There is simply no other concealer on the market that offers a better shade range, coverage, blendability, or non-cakey texture.

8. Stila Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow

Stila Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow
Stila Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow $24

Want people to flip out over how good your eye makeup looks all day and night? Because that's what happens when you wear this too-pretty-for-words liquid glitter, which you can use sparingly for just a hint of dazzle or slather all over your lids for an all-out party on your face. For a product so sparkly, it dries down and stays put shockingly well. The shade range is so pretty. For these reasons, it is the only glitter eye makeup I'll wear. 

9. Kat Von D Tattoo Eyeliner

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner
Kat Von D Tattoo Eyeliner $21

Winged liner is entirely too much trouble for me to mess with every day, but when feeling ambitious, I reach for this classic liquid pen nine times out of 10. The tip is fine, flexible, and easy to maneuver; the shade is black as night; the product doesn't dry out easily in the pen; and it stays on your face, totally budge-proof, for as long as you want. I've even slept in this stuff (not recommended) and had it stay in place.  

10. Covergirl TruBlend Bronzer

Cover TruBlend Bronzer
Covergirl TruBlend Bronzer $13

Sure, there are expensive bronzers I love, but this Covergirl one is just as good. It has the same baked formula of so many pricier products, doesn't look orange, goes on really smooth, and stays all day. The only problem is I think it's almost totally sold out online, though I think you should still be able to find it at the drugstore IRL. 

11. Burberry Eye Colour Contour Smoke & Sculpt Pen

BurberryEye Colour Contour Smoke & Sculpt Pen
Burberry Eye Colour Contour Smoke & Sculpt Pen $30

Bad at doing a smoky eye or just too lazy to mess with all that shadow? Same. So instead, I just layer on a few shades of this creamy stick eye shadow—I get that same sultry effect without needing any cumbersome brushes or fancy skills. 

12. Tom Ford Cream Color for Eyes

Tom Ford Cream Color For Eyes
Tom Ford Cream Color for Eyes $46

I'm not exaggerating when I say I wear this cream shadow six out of seven days a week. The shade Opale is a perfectly blendable, buildable champagne hue, which you can either wear alone for a bit of natural brightness or pack on for major shimmer and/or blend with other shades. I also wear it in the inner corners which makes me look instantly awake and energized. 

13. Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Luminous Modern-Matte Lipstick
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick $34

Every time someone asks what lipstick to wear on their wedding day, this is the first I recommend. The shade range is beautiful, the finish is matte and lasts for hours, but it actually feels comfortable on the lips and won't dry them out, flake, or pill. 

Amanda Montell
Amanda Montell

14. Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara

Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara
Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara $27

Another trusty makeup pick that deserves a place on this list, Too Faced's iconic Better Than Sex Mascara is simply the best for its non-flaky formula and ability to make the lashes look long, full, and separated but never clumpy. It's not waterproof but also doesn't come off at the first sign of water. An all-in-all perfect mascara. 

15. Milk Makeup Tattoo Stamp

Tattoo Stamp - Washed Black One Size at Urban Outfitters
Milk Makeup Tattoo Stamp $12

This is kind of a weird product and definitely not something I wear often, but it's one of those unique touches that give you the most compliments for your buck, so I can't not talk about it. I wear the star shape of this easy-to-apply stamp (it also comes in a smiley face, peace sign, and a few others) either just below one eye, on either side of both eyes, or stamped all over my lids like eye shadow art, and it looks stupidly cool every time. Just an easy and affordable way to take your makeup from blah to fun. 

16. Tatcha Kyoto Red Lipstick

Tatcha Kyoto Red Lipstick
Tatcha Kyoto Red Lipstick $55

You will enter a minor state of shock after spending $55 on this lipstick; you also will not regret it even once. I've said it before, and I'll stay it again: Whenever I wear this matte-but-comfortable, vibrant true red, the rest of my face looks like it's in black and white. It's been my holy-grail red lipstick since it came out three years ago, and I can't imagine that changing. 

17. Benefit Cosmetics Precisely, My Brow Pencil Ultra Fine

Benefit Precisely, My Brow Pencil
Benefit Cosmetics Precisely, My Brow Pencil Ultra Fine $24

And for the grand finale: Of all the many brow pencils I have gotten my brow-obsessed hands-on, this handy little sucker is the one I'd recommend to anyone. The pencil is smooth and easy-action, but it doesn't deposit too much pigment per stroke, and because it's so tiny, you can easily use it to create the look of real individual brow hairs. The included spoolie makes it easy to blend. It comes in six shades, which is comparatively quite a lot. Overall, it's simply the most solid brow pencil I've used, and I'm a huge fan.

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