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Is Your Makeup Bag Working For You?

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Man, oh man was I excited for this “Ask Setareh” question/concern. Mostly because I think it’s a concern a lot of gals express to me. This question hails from Jenna a former photographer, mother, and tech gal! We met when she asked to interview me for a local wedding vendor post when I was living in Monterey, California. As part of the interview, she took some amazing headshots I used for quite some time (and still sometimes use) in my business.

Jenna asked me to provide her an honest assessment of what’s working for and against the products in her makeup bag. Like so many of us, she doesn’t have much time to do loads of research, she likes a quick, easy, and natural makeup application. She doesn’t really use many brushes and doesn’t really want to (that’s fair) because I don’t use but one or two brushes when I do my own makeup myself.

Inside Jenna’s Makeup Bag

What I love about this particular “Ask Setareh” is the fact that Jenna took a picture of al her products, nicely organized. And a picture of her cosmetics open. And a before and after picture of her makeup application. LOVE! But then again, of course she did! Here’s a little glimpse at Jenna and inside the makeup bag we are working on today.

Ok, here’s her lineup. See anything familiar? Let me know in the comments below!

Makeup Bag Ransack


Skincare + Foundation

Aveeno CC Cream

Aveeno Positively Radiant CC Cream

Jenna: “I bought Aveeno CC Cream for my wedding but I never liked the idea of wearing so much, and honestly don’t know if I’m applying it right. I just recently started using this instead cuz I figure it evens out the skin tone just a little bit and is easier to deal with. — This is your blog’s influence! I wouldn’t even know what it was before I met you!”

Natalie Setareh: First of all, good girl!! I believe that every woman {and man} over the age of 16 should be wearing moisturizer…everyday. So I’m proud of you because it’s a hard habit to implement. It’s also super convenient to have nourishing, tinted moisturizers, BB creams, and CC creams.

I always apply a moisturizer before I apply any sort of tinted moisturizer, BB cream, CC cream, foundation, etc. I feel that it really gets my face ready for anything with color. However, what you have going is fine as-is. CC creams generally moisturize, offer SPF (a must for everyone, everyday), even-out your skin tone, and are packed with nutrients. This is no exception.

Although I have not used this cream personally, I have used the Aveeno super convenient moisturizer that also has the pump. That may be a good product to use in tandem with your CC cream. Yes, I’m adding one extra step for you {again not required, just highly recommended} but I promise you’ll notice a difference in how your CC cream applies.

Best Way To Apply This CC Cream 

Make sure your face is squeaky clean (not literally squeaky) and make sure your hands are clean. That should go without saying but I know I’ll find myself needing to put on my makeup right after I got my son ready for school or something. It’s just a quick thing that makes a big difference – nice, smooth, clean, and dry hands and face.

I’m almost embarrassed to embed this video with you but this is one of my first YouTube vids when I applied my tinted moisturizer. We all start somewhere, right?! Since my CC cream is a bit thicker (check out this post for my current CC cream and why I love it), I have to dot on my face and then rub in. Feel free to fast forward the vid and skip the explanation.

First apply random dots all over your face (from a pea sized amount) and circular motions. Remember, you can always add more…too much, then you are wasting product. I always make sure I get deep into my jawline because I hate lines. Yuck. I learned this technique by watching my mom put on her makeup before work when I was little. That’s the quickest, easiest way but for long days or days when I want to look a little more polished, I use my dampened beauty blender or my Sigma F80 foundation brush (#6 on 2015 faves list) to apply.


Max Factor Concealer Stick

Jenna:“The Max Factor stick is concealer that I put under my eyes, and sometimes on a dark patch near the corner of my mouth. It’s pretty light, don’t know if its the right shade but I’ve been using the same stick for years!”

Natalie Setareh: This is a product I have not personally used but from the pictures, it looks like it’s doing a great job (not that you need it!).

I actually LOVE concealer sticks (Smashbox had one of my faves, unfortunately, they do not make it anymore). I’m currently using #3 from my 10 fave beauty items of 2015 post. Check it out here. I personally always use concealer a shade or two lighter under my eyes and only when I’m in a hurry to conceal little blemishes and scars. So you are fine with what you have! Of course there are times when I need to use color-correcting concealers for dark circles, redness, or yellowness. You don’t have that issue and I wouldn’t even think to grab one of those products for you! Phew! (Right?!).

Under Eye Concealer Application

I have a post dedicated to this  here.

Ok, this is where it may get a little tricky. Ok, so I will apply under eye concealer with my fingers (if I’m in a HUGE hurry and don’t have my tools handy). The key is to press really, really lightly and not to rub it in.

Two Main Reasons:

1) The skin under your eye is super delicate…so thin and can discolor easily. I’m careful even when I put in my contacts not to press too hard.

2) You don’t want creasing. (Creasing is sometimes inevitable with certain concealers—that’s where primers really help). Since you didn’t mention creasing, it is probably a non-issue for you. Ahhhh–I remember when it wasn’t an issue for me either but alas. I got older and I smile a TON.

Digressing. It actually takes more time to apply concealer with my fingers than it does to apply with my beauty blender or concealer brush. See my recommendations below on some tools you could invest in to take your makeup game up at notch.

Applying Concealer Everywhere Else

For blemishes and scars and other areas not under your eye, you can use a lighter concealer but it’s really, really important to blend, blend, blend that concealer in. Sometimes mismatched concealer on blemishes actually brings more attention to them. It is probably easier to purchase a concealer that matches your skin tone—esp since you aren’t wearing foundation where it’s easier to blend. However, I’m kinda sorta cheating and reading below and you may be in the clear.

Pressed Powder

Physicians Formula Pressed Powder

Jenna: “The silver compact is which I dust over to help blend the concealer better. It’s actually about time for a replacement on that one…”

Natalie Setareh: I’m not seeing exactly how you are applying this bad boy from your picture. Powder puff? Fluffy brush? Ahem. Fingers are my fave tool for makeup application but unfortunately, fingers are not an acceptable tool in applying pressed powder. The brush that is pictured with the stock photo unfortunately is not adequate for applying this pressed powder in my opinion (but you could use it as a blush brush if you don’t want to spend any money).

*Update* She informed me that she applies the pressed powder with an older powder puff. I since informed her to replace it!

I have, and will always recommend Lancôme Dual Finish (I wear Matte Amande III) for a solid, quality, amazing, wonderful, pressed powder. If you wait until Lancôme is having a gift with purchase, it’s normally covered and you will likely score my fave eye makeup remover and one of the deluxe mascaras.

Yes, it’s more expensive than Physician’s Formula (which is another brand I know more about from word-of-mouth rather than experience…only thing I’ve really tried from them were their bronzers).

Check out my sis-in-law below using her Dual-Finish compact (purchased at my recommendation). It just goes on so smooth, has amazing coverage (you can wear alone over moisturizer but CC cream + Dual Finish almost replaces foundation in my book).

If you don’t want as full coverage, you can use your pressed powder with a kabuki brush (BareMinerals kinda started the kabuki fad) and apply in small, circular motions on your face. Sonia Kashuk (available at Target) is always my go-to brush recommendation for brushes as a more economical alternative.


Jenna: “… I’m all about eye shadow sets. I find one that I like and I just keep using it until I’m out or I eventually find something new. I especially like when they have the little diagram that shows you which shade goes where! LOL. For a long time I was using that Victoria’s Secret quad of purple/mauve eye shadows, those were just my go-to colors.

But I recently picked up the L’Oreal Paris set with the gold. I was trying to go for a more neutral lid color. It’s probably a lot shinier than it should be, but I really don’t know how to pick or use good matte colors.

Sometimes I line my upper lid with the darker color in that set, and other times I will use the blue from that other round compact. Don’t ask me what that is, I found it in a drawer from ages ago. I never go end-to-end with my eye liner, I usually just do the corner to the middle, when I did the whole thing I always felt overdone.”

Natalie Setareh: You did a beautiful job and it looks great! I do agree it is a bit on the shiny end, which may be a little much {for me} day to day. I love purples on brown eyes as they are complimentary and bring out the different shades within brown eyes. I’m seeing almost 100% metallic shades and no mattes…

colourpop eyeshadow

Since you love using your fingers to apply eyeshadow, I would recommend investing in a ColourPop matte eyeshadow for your lid. (You’re probably like what?! I’ve never heard of ColourPop before!

Check out my Inside the Brand: ColourPop post here 

ColourPop’s eyeshadows are actually meant to be applied with your finger or a synthetic brush. Perfect for you. I would do a neutral brown. And best part is? They are only $5. Yes. Five dollars. Because you aren’t using brushes, I’ve outlined some different combos that you can accomplish easily with your fingers. See the “chart” below. I’m so glad I’m not an eyeshadow namer, lol.

I’m using an image from Makeup & The Geek Blog below as far as eyeshadow placement.

Lid Color + Pop of Color Combos

3 + 1
4 + 1
4 + 5
4 + 7
6 + 1
4 + 5

If you want a bit more glam, instead of putting gold all over the lid (which is what I’m seeing), just put a touch of gold right in the middle of the eyelid (below the crease — pretty much on top of the pupil of the eye). Then blend outward and inward.

Additional Notes: You can also just use shades 3, 4, & 6 on your eyelid alone that’d be fine too. Colors 8 & 2 are great for dabbing pigment into the corner of your eyes and also under your brows. If you wanna dab a very little amount onto your cheekbones and cupid’s bow, that could be really pretty. If you really want to get into this, you should really check out my book, Be Your Own Makeup Artist here.

My Assessment of Jenna’s Eyeliner Application

It almost looks like you applied it with a brush. Maybe you smudged with your finger? Either way, if you want a more intense eye, I love NYX eyeliners (and MAC too, just more $$). Check out #2 in this post–easily smudgeable. Is that a word? *Update* Jenna informed me she has a flat edge brush that she applied her eyeliner with. My advice still applies…

That should keep you busy for awhile.



Jenna: “The TIGI is obviously mascara, which I really like.”

Natalie Setareh: If you love your mascara, don’t change a good thing. I change mascaras probably every season but I’ve had some that used for years…and that’s ok.

I know I’ve been saying I’m going to do a mascara post for awhile BUT I’ve tried so many new mascaras in the last year…and they are all so good for so many different reasons. However, I’m always gabbing and demoing my favorite mascara in my GRWM videos on Instagram stories — follow me here.  So those folks also know.



Jenna: “…the lipstick and gloss are from Sephora. The girl at the counter helped me pick the shade out for my wedding, but I rarely wear either of them. I usually just wear chapstick, and only the gloss if I’m feeling fancy.”

Natalie Setareh: So lips and I have had a love/hate relationship. Now that I’ve gotten older…I feel that adding lip color is necessary to complete a polished look. If you really don’t want to hassle with lipstick shopping and are comfortable with your chapstick (which you should be, you look great without lipstick). A trade secret that is quick and easy starts all the way back to when you apply your CC cream application/pressed powder. When applying your bases, apply to your lips too. That way when you put Chapstick on, it’ll have a more “nude” lip look.

However, I would recommend replacing your {boring} chapstick with a lightly tinted one. Two that immediately come to mind are Burt Bee’s for something inexpensive, Fresh for a higher end (be aware, the Fresh melt easily, don’t leave in the hot car).

Consider Adding the Following Products To Your Collection


For days when you will be outside a lot or busy running errands, a primer is a must. It will help your CC cream go on even smoother and help your makeup last even longer. In my youth, I used primer everyday. A kid and less-fabulous life later, primer is not my everyday staple. I love Too Faced Primed and Poreless but Makeup Forever is great, so is Smashbox, and Loreal.


Blush adds color to your face that kind of disappears with CC cream and powder.

Blush adds dimension and a slight hint of color to awaken your face.

I think you could benefit from a little blush from what I’m seeing in the pictures. Also because you have a rounder face, it’ll give it more dimension. I always recommend Nars Orgasm because it looks good on everybody and is a great year round shade. It has the perfect balance of pink and bronze. You will need a blush brush if you want the powder version but you can use your fingers with the cream version.


Benefit blushes are also and I love the brushes that are included. Dallas would be a great color on your but tread lightly, it’s highly pigmented and you will have to tap the blush off a few times. But if money is an issue, an economical blush that I’ve heard a lot about but haven’t tried personally is Neutrogena. I’m also not sure if a brush is included but that’s a great color. But that Paint It Pink collection by Sephora posted above looks amazeballs. It’s probably going to be purchased soon by me. You get THE beauty blender, a great blush, and a great illuminator. It’s only $40. That’s not that expensive for what you get.

Again, if you really, really don’t want to buy or use a brush, then a blush stick or crème would be perfect. I swear by NARS the Multiple but the Clinque chubby stick is popular these days (by fails in comparison in my opinion with NARS). Lipsticks also work! You just have to make sure to blend blend blend! I prefer cream blushes to anything!


Now brows are super intimidating for so many women. Why? Because we’ve all seen those women who “draw” on their brows and they look awful. And of course we are inundated with brow ads and perfect brows and whatever. But Jenna, you got some mad brow game. Spending a little more time on your brows and less on your eye shadow will pay huge dividends. Why? Because you have goregous almond shaped eyes with full, symmetric, thick, and proprotional brows.



Just a little bit of grooming (Benefit brow bar or find a local gal who threds) and a bit of brow powder (or a pencil/gel that you can blend). I just saw a Maybelline commercial for a brow pencil that look like it was thick and less intimidating… (I also saw that SO much could go wrong with it).

But if you just fill in your brows a little to your natural shape, you’ll be like double take. Seriously. Pixi is a great inexpensive brand (available at Target) but I also recommend Senna Cosmetics. Eugenia Weston is the origianal brow queen of our time. Her brow products are staples in pro kits arount the world.


Blush Brush



I will say I use my hands for 90% of my makeup application on a day to day basis. And I can comfortably apply 100% of my makeup with my hands. But. Blush/bronzer always gets me. Unless I am in a hurry and need to use my lipstick as a blush, I generally always apply blush with a brush. Actually, I use the blush brush to also apply my highlighter and bronzer, sometimes an all over eye color (like a MAC shroom or something).

If I forget a brush when traveling and don’t have a cream blush, I kinda freak out and will go and buy a blush brush (or new blush with a brush). A blush brush is kinda one of those things I can’t recommend not to have. I use the MAC blush brush and it’s seriously over 10 years old. I’m eyeing the NARS blush brush because it’s pretty. Yes. That’s the only reason I would change. Isn’t it gorge?!

Beauty Sponge

I am using THE original beauty blender but you can find dupes at Marshall’s or TJMaxx in the beauty section for cheaper. Tbh they are all kind of the same. I got my beauty blender in the Sephora Faves of 2015 set I purchased. Just dampen it (I do with cold water) and sqeeze out all excess water and it’ll make applying concealer, cream blushes, and even your CC cream a breeze.

I think this is a pretty long winded post but I hope it answers your {and others} questions. I would love to update this post with some after pics, so please send when you can!

Thanks for this question and bearing through this super long post!




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Need Makeup Help?

Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can't put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you're doing it from a position of correction.

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