I am so happy to chat all about the capsule makeup bag with friend and fellow makeup artist, Nika Ambrozic. Nika and I met in Sonia Roselli’s Glossischool (I’m a huge fan of her skincare line and also graduate of her Finding Your Ideal Client course). Let’s just say Nika and I become fans of one another and now also consider each other good friends.
Nika had been posting in her IG stories (which are so informative btw) all about her capsule makeup bag. While the whole idea of doing a lot of makeup looks with relatively few products isn’t a new concept, well, not to makeup artists at least, Nika was posting her personal capsule makeup bag and I knew she’d be the perfect guest for my podcast.
You can listen to the whole episode below and don’t forget to head over to Nika’s Instagram account to grab her free capsule wardrobe guide. It’s really, really good and thorough, you guys!
You know the capsule wardrobe where you have a few key items that you mix and match? Nika has taken this concept and applied it to makeup! You only need a few amazing products that can multi-task. With these products, you can create countless makeup looks that will suit you for any occasion.
Nika, what motivated you to implement a capsule makeup bag in your own life?
First of all, I’m kind of going through a style change. I’m turning 30 and I wanted become more of a lady. I’ve had some of my clothes for 10 years, and a lot of it didn’t fit anymore. I decided to try a capsule wardrobe, and I immediately started thinking about applying that concept to my makeup collection as well. As a MUA, I try to stock fewer products in my professional kit. I use high-quality products that I can use in a few different ways. When I started looking through my own makeup bag, I realized there were very few things in there that I used on a regular basis. I thought it would be fun to present this concept to other people so they could start doing the same. We’re living in a time where we’re all buying too much stuff.
And then that results in so much more waste, too.
Okay, so let’s dig into the actual capsule makeup bag. How many items are we talking about here?
This is a very personal decision. I feel like putting an actual number on it might give people some anxiety. To me, it’s more of a guideline, but my number is 10. We’re not talking about skincare or tools, just makeup products. For some people, that might sound like a lot of products and for others, it might sound like not enough. But the point of this is that you can actually make a lot of different looks using just 10 makeup products.
I love that! You brought up tools. What are your three favorite tools that you use?
I would say the first thing is an eyelash curler. It is a must. (ummm, I totally agree, and you can read more about why I think so in this blog post from back in the day). Unless you’re blessed with eyelashes that naturally curl, this tool is necessary. I use my fingers so much more than brushes when applying my own makeup. A good fluffy brush that you can use for a smokey eye look, and an angled brush that you can use for brows, liner, and in a pinch, lip color. Those are also good tools to have on hand.
What about eyeshadow palettes. Are those considered one item?
Exactly. When I talk about items, I mean individual items that you hold in your hand. So, yes, an eyeshadow palette would only count as one item. The point is not to have a bunch of items, which also means that the capsule makeup bag is really great for people who travel a lot.
Exactly. Personally, I’m looking for ways to make my kit more like yours; really small and compact. My mom, who is not an MUA, travels with a kit that’s almost as big as mine! So, this is good for everyone. Let’s get into the products a little bit. In your freebie, you break it down into five categories. Can you talk about that a little bit and tell us what your favorite item is for each category?
Sure! The first category is skin. This is anything that helps even out the skin tone: foundation, concealers, powders, and so on. So, I think here, you really need to think about your skin type and any issues you have. One product that is a star product for me is a concealer. It can cover under eye circles, spots, and in a pinch, can serve as a foundation.
The second category is skin color, anything that gives your skin a glow. This would be bronzer, blush, highlighter. For me, there is always a creme blush in my bag because I can use it on my lips, eyes, and of course, my cheeks. It’s just a perfect all-around item.
Next, we have eyes. Here, we can talk about shadows, primers, pencils, liner, and mascara. For me, mascara is the most important but if you wanted a second item here, I would suggest an eyeshadow palette with some good neutrals and shimmers.
The next category is brows. This can be something that’s not really important to you if you have great brows. But for regular mortals, like myself, you might want pencils, shadows, a brow setter, or a clear mascara. I like the clear mascara because it helps you make sure your brows are the right shape.
The fifth category is lips… lip pencils, lipsticks, glosses, and so on. Here, I would actually go the other way and use something very pigmented. You can always sheer things down, but you can’t really build a tinted lip balm up.
I love that! What’s missing in the industry is actually the knowledge and reasoning about why we, as professionals, use some products over others (I talk about this a lot in my book). For example, the creme blush! We both agree that this is a holy grail item that we use in our kit. Can you talk about why you love this product so much?
Yes, absolutely! I have read your book by the way, and I think it’s absolutely fantastic for anyone trying to learn more about makeup. Blush is something that can really be a quick pick-me-up, especially if we look a little bit tired. I’ve been using a specific brand that’s from a woman that I’ve been assisting for a long time. She’s one of the top makeup artists in Barcelona. It’s called Ow! by Susana, and they’re these little creme blushes that have been infused with lots of natural oils, beeswax, and all that good stuff. There’s a nice sheen to them, they’re buildable, and I use them on EVERYONE. I use them on four-year-olds and mature skin and it looks beautiful and hydrates the skin really well.
A trick that I’ve learned by working with Susana is to use your thumb when applying creme blush to the cheeks. This isn’t a finger that you usually use for makeup application, but because your thumb is bigger, it works really nicely. Then, you can use whatever’s left on your thumb on the crease of your eyelid. If you have blue or green eyes, this is going to look really nice and bring out that color even more. You can always put a little bit on your lips, as well.
That’s amazing! I love when working makeup artists make their own products, because you know they’re going to work. Let’s talk about eyeshadow. They’re such a consumer culture around palettes. On your IG Stories, you recently posted a Christian Dior palette that had a lot of neutral matte colors and a few shimmers. Can you talk about that?
Yes. I find that eyeshadow palettes are eye candy. They’re so colorful which is why they sell so well. Most people aren’t going to use those colors, so for me, the best is when you find a palette that has a good selection of mattes and shimmers. The Dior palette that I posted has nine different shades and it retails for about $60, which may sound like a lot, but eyeshadows last forever.
I put this in the beginning of my PDF as well, but for me, it doesn’t make sense to invest in things like mascara, because they spoil so fast. If you invest in a good eyeshadow palette, it can last a long time because the powder doesn’t harbor bacteria (if you keep it out of the bathroom where it can get humid). This palette even comes with a primer, so you really get everything that you need in one place.
Let’s talk brows really quick. What’s the quickest thing you can do with brows?
An eyebrow tint, which is like a little eyebrow mascara with fibers in it, works really well. Glossier makes one called Boy Brow, but there’s also some cheaper ones that work well, too.
I like to use clear mascara for myself, but when I work with clients, I have to use single-use applicators so I try to find something less disposable. There’s some brow pomades and brow soaps that are out now that work well. Susana also makes a brow product that I use all the time called Browow that’s kind of like a gel. You apply it with a spoolie and then blend it with your finger. When you warm it up a little bit, you can easily use it to change the shape of your brows.
So when you’re thinking about your capsule makeup bag, you’re thinking about things you can use for multiple things. The last thing I want to touch on is lips. What is your lipstick choice and why?
It will kind of depend on what your lips are like. I have super dry lips, so for me, a lip tint works better than a lipstick. A lip tint stains your lips so the color stays on and you can apply a balm over it to moisturize throughout the day. For someone who doesn’t have dry lips, go for a satin finish or even a matte finish (but not a liquid matte) that’s a little more pigmented. It can be a red, a berry color, even brown.
You can build it up on the lips for a more dramatic look or blot it with a tissue if you want more of a stain. If you want, you can even use it on the cheeks as a creme blush! You can mix and match things. One thing I’ve been doing recently is taking a powder highlighter and making it into a creme highlighter by chipping off a little bit of the powder and mixing it with a moisturizer.
Read more: What’s the Ish With Lipstick?
Would you say that putting on your makeup is something that brings you a lot of joy?
I have days, and it depends what I’m getting ready for. Doing the capsule makeup bag has made it a bit more fun because I’m thinking more creatively about the products and how they can be used.
I love that. I think sometimes because we’re doing makeup for our clients all the time, makeup can feel like a chore. You have definitely inspired me to put a bag together and I’m going to share it with you!
Okay, final question. What is your favorite makeup hack?
This is an old theater trick. I always carry a lighter in my bag, so when I have a pencil that’s a little dry, I will sharpen it then pass it through the flame of my lighter very quickly 4-5 times. Once it cools, you can apply it to the eyes and it will glide so much more smoothly.
That is good! Thank you SO much for sitting down and chatting with me today. You’ve inspired me and I’m sure you’ve inspired so many of our listeners. Let’s have fun with makeup again!
I’m Natalie, an American born makeup artist & makeup educator based in Wiesbaden, Germany. I truly believe that makeup, when applied well, can transform us in so many ways. My page is a space for inspiration, education, and advice. Thanks for being here & I’d love to connect with you!