I’ve always been pretty low-maintenance when it comes to my beauty routine. A dab of foundation, a swipe of drug store mascara and some clear lip gloss — and I’m out the door. In fact, up until about a couple of years ago, my skin care secret was that I had no skin care routine at all. Then, after discovering my first wrinkle right before my 31st birthday, I decided it was time to step up my regimen. And begin an affair with Sephora.
I’ve tried my fair share of beauty products since then. But I have to admit, I’m still skeptical of spending too much cash on any one item. That’s why I’m betting on some expert advice. If you’re ready to step up your beauty game, this is your arsenal of must-have beauty tools that are definitely worth breaking the bank.
Kevyn Aucoin’s The Essential Brush Collection ($650)
If you think all makeup brushes are created equal, think again. According to celebrity makeup artist Christina Flach, who’s also the face behind the brand Pretty Girl Makeup, Kevyn Aucoin is the Holy Grail when it comes to makeup brushes.
“This collection is worth every penny of the $650,” Flach dished. “These 14 high-end professional handmade brushes were made for the working makeup artist that demands perfection for a shoot!” She added, “Quality makeup brushes for me are like fresh surgical tools in an operating room.”
NARS Makeup Brushes ($26-$70 each)
If a $650 makeup brush is just a tad outside of budget (maybe one day, right?), consider upgrading your drugstore makeup brushes to some fancier ones by NARS, instead.
Celebrity hair stylist and key artist at Revolt-TV, Keka Heron, swears by this brand, saying, “When purchasing makeup brushes, you want to select brushes that are going to stay in good condition, and have minimum shedding. Having a great quality brush allows you to apply makeup evenly.”
Beautyblender – Original ($20)
I love a good sponge for applying my liquid foundation and Munemi Imai, celebrity makeup artist, and co-founder of MŪN, says there is no substitution for the original Beautyblender. “I’ve tried a lot of different sponges for base makeup, and this is the easiest to apply, blend and spread,” she said. “No mistake, no streak.”
L.A. stylist and makeup pro Fae Norris agrees, saying, “The Beautyblender sponge is my go-to choice and I haven’t found anything on the market that comes close to touching it. While the $20 price tag for a sponge might seem steep, I find I need to use much less makeup because it doesn’t absorb into the sponge.” She also loves the fact that it’s reusable and gives a super smooth foundation and concealer application. An added bonus? It can be used for highlighting, too.
Revive Light Therapy Anti-Aging Panel ($399)
In an effort to slow the aging process, many skin care enthusiasts are looking to professional light therapy sessions as a way to reduce wrinkles and boost the skin’s natural collagen production. But realistically, not many of us have the time (or money) for regular spa visits — no matter how much we want to look younger. That’s why Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skincare Collection, loves the Revive Light Therapy Anti-Aging Panel.
“It is as small as an iPad, so it is super easy to pack and it opens like a book to lay on your face,” she told me. “The light saturation is much better in this unit than anything else on the market right now and will reduce inflammation, de-puff your eyes after a long flight or in the morning after too much wine, while helping to increase collagen all over the face.”
NuFACE Trinity Facial Toning Device ($325)
If an entire light therapy panel doesn’t seem like your thing, consider NuFACE Trinity Facial Toning Device — a handheld facial toner, which, according to Sephora, “Is clinically tested for improved facial contour, skin tone, and reduction of the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”
It’s also a favorite beauty tool of Ashli Carnicelli, a licensed esthetician, massage therapist and founder of the blog, The Skincare Belle. “I love the Trinity because you can change out the heads for an eye [or] lip contour piece and an LED light that is called the ‘wrinkle reducer’,” she told me. “I recommend this to any of my clients who have slight skin sagging (especially around the jawline/jowls) as well as the very first appearance of dynamic (expression) lines on the forehead. The results are amazing!”
The Ashley Black Guru FaciaBlaster ($99)
When it comes to minimizing wrinkles and saggy skin, Jennifer Devlin Waller, founder and CEO of Celtic Complexion Luxury Artisan Skincare, told me her tool of choice is the The Ashley Black Guru FaciaBlaster.
“If I was stuck on a deserted island and I could have ONE beauty tool, this would be it,” Waller said. “I simply massage my face with it 5 minutes a day (after the shower) paying close attention to my neck and jowls (a.k.a. the ‘problem’ areas of the woman over 40) and it firms it all up, instantly. I have turned on every customer, friend and family member I have to this little workhorse.” The added bonus: it’s a lot cheaper than a plastic surgeon.
Clarisonic Mia ($129)
If I had to choose my own number one beauty tool, it would definitely be my trusted Clarisonic Mia. So I was excited when I found out Waller was equally obsessed, even calling it the gold standard of cleaning brushes.
“I have three, the Mia model is my favorite because of it’s compact size,” she told me. “Every time I cleanse my face, it feels like I’ve had a spa treatment – and that’s no surprise because when I worked at five star resort spas, we used these brushes on clients to deep clean the pores. I’ve tried using the cheaper/knock off versions over the years, but always come back to the original. It’s even safe and gentle enough to use on my rosacea (with the sensitive skin brush head).”
It’s also on celebrity makeup artist Ashunta Sheriff’s list of must-haves. “It’s amazing because it exfoliates and renews skin so fantastically that your skin feels and looks like a baby’s bottom,” she told me. Did I mention Sheriff uses the DERMAFLASH on clients like Taraji P. Henson? No big deal, right?
Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer ($399)
Surely, you’ve heard of Dyson, makers of super fancy vacuum cleaners with the spherical base. It turns out they also make an amazing blowdryer. So stellar, in fact, that nearly every expert I chatted with for this post mentioned it. It’s a serious splurge at nearly $500 — but so worth it, according to Shelly Gast, a former model and market research executive based in Chicago. “Lower temperature, less frizz, efficiently dries and handles my long hair!”
Amanda Hume, makeup artist, green beauty expert and owner/founder of VERT Beauty, agrees, saying, “This is hands down best dryer ever. I have thick hair and this little dryer gets it dry in less than 10 minutes and it’s super lightweight.”
YS Park G-Series Curl Shine Styler Round Brush ($120)
Because great hair is a major part of feeling beautiful, I asked Fae Norris of L.A. Rock Paper Salon what hair brush she can’t live without. The verdict: YS Park G-Series Curl Shine Styler Round Brush.
“$120 for a brush? It’s worth it if it’s ‘magic’,” she wrote in an email. “From its lightweight teak handle, to its boar bristles, this is the choice for pros looking to deliver phenomenal lift and shine. Most stylists have tried a ton of different brushes and I’d bet this one is in more stylists’ hands than any other. Simply the best.”
Aquis Waffle Luxe Hair Turban ($40)
“I travel a lot, and one of my favorite packing items is my Aquis turban,” she told me an interview. “There are a lot of microfiber towels, but Aquis towels are thick, light weight, better absorbing and last a lot longer than cheaper brands. Since my hair is thick and coily, it quickly dries hair gently and efficiently with no heat needed. Additionally, it reduces frizz by smoothing the cuticles.”
A (priceless) word of advice
From makeup brushes to hair dryers, there are plenty of products out there that are worth the splurge. But before you go out and break the bank, celeb makeup artist Imai reminds us not to feel pressured to try everything at once. “It’s good to start with essentials,” she told me.
“Invest in tools, skin care (products that have multiple effects/purposes are always good to save for both money and space) and base makeup. Try to find what works and what doesn’t for your lifestyle and personal style. It’s a fun journey – enjoy it!”