Sephora: What's In My Basket


The best partnerships are those with companies I already love, brands of which I'm already an avid fan and customer. In this department, there is no store more qualified than Sephora. I've mentioned before that I have "Rouge" status, meaning I spend over $1000/year at Sephora alone, a badge of honor I carry with both pride and a tinge of embarrassment. :)

Thus, this collaboration is a total no-brainer as I can do two things I would want to do with you guys anyway: 1/ Give you a head's up about the Sephora Beauty Insider Event happening this weekend (no joke, it's been in my iCal), and 2/ Use that as an excuse to dish about my favorite products at Sephora right now (aka what I'm buying at a discount).


PS—While this post is sponsored by Sephora, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and I really do use all of the products mentioned here.


Building and blending with Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard.

Building and blending with Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard.


You guys know by now that I LOVE me a good discount—I'm not cheap but I am frugal, and though I'm not afraid to spend money, you can bet your ass that when I do,  I'll get the best deal I possibly can. So, when Sephora has these Beauty Insider events, I approach them with the stealth and savvy of a ninja warrior.

First off, if you're not already a Beauty Insider yet you shop at Sephora, that is utterly ridiculous and you need to fix that STAT. It's free to sign up, you accumulate points for every dollar you spend, and you get fun things like deluxe samples, online rewards, and birthday presents. These rewards vary, but some have lasted me ages (I've been using a Nars blush that I got as a reward for over 6 months!), while others have introduced me to my latest Holy Grail product (for example, Benefit's brow gel, which is on the list below). From there, if you spend $350 in one calendar year (a dangerously easy feat to accomplish), you get VIB status, and at $1000, Rouge status. There's a good breakdown of the perks HERE, but the event works like this:

This weekend, from April 20-23, you'll get...

  • 10% off for All Beauty Insider Members // Code: YAYINSIDER

  • 15% off for VIB Members // Code: YAYVIB

  • 15% off for Rouge Members // Code: YAYROUGE

When as much of your skincare and beauty arsenal comes from Sephora as mine does, this is a BIG deal. After all, this stuff never goes on sale or gets discounted, so even if I don't need a refill at this exact moment, I use this rare opportunity to stock up, since I know I'll be buying these products eventually anyway. Scroll down for my round-up of what's in my Sephora shopping basket...





Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx Peeling Gel ($48): Two factors led to this recent discovery: 1 - As many of you know, I've been using prescription tretinoin for years, and 2 - I was recently in Alaska for a few weeks doing an opera. The combination of the tretinoin (peeling and flaking) and the sudden cold, dry climate (New York gets cold but it's not as dry) left my skin VERY unhappy. I went to the Anchorage Sephora looking for an industrial strength scrub (they didn't carry Ren, and thus my Holy Grail glycolic mask, at that location) and was recommended this instead. The Sephora associate told me that this is way more gentle an exfoliant than a harsh scrub (which is probably a good idea considering the intensity of prescription retinoids in the first place), with the enzymes breaking down and "loosening" dead skin cells. The formula, combined with the dead skin, balls up and even subsequently serves as a soft "scrub" you rub around your face. Gross, but oh-so satisfying. This stuff really saved my skin and has become my everyday staple for smooth, exfoliated skin, versus harsher acids and scrubs, which I'd rather save for occasional and/or desperate situations.

Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Cream ($40): I am on a perpetual hunt for the perfect moisturizer. I am very picky with how moisturizers make my face feel throughout the day (I hate that "tight" feeling!) and generally want maximum hydration without greasiness. Despite the fact that I've got the worst wandering eye ever with moisturizers, I always come back to this one. It really does hydrate better than almost anything I've tried (its main competitor is the Dr. Jart Ceramidin Cream which I also love), absorbs without feeling too dry, and creates a beautiful pre-makeup canvas. It also smells like a dream. Also, every time I buy this I'm in awe at the price; comparatively with the many other, equally "high end" options out there, it's an insanely good value.

Lancôme Génifique Youth Activating Eye Cream ($67): I am very finicky with eye creams, especially day ones, and this one is my current daytime go-to. It has a great texture that glides on smooth, absorbs quickly, and really hydrates, which I'm a stickler about. I am pretty sure my under eyes are a bit smoother and more taut, but without that feeling of tightness, which I can't stand. Oh, and it plays well under makeup. Need I say more?

Clinique Pep-Start Daily UV Protector SPF 50 ($19.50): I actually tried this as per the recommendation of a commenter on a previous blog post. (Thanks, Kash!) I love how liquidy and blendable it is, so I'm never forced to tug at my face applying it. It truly disappears with ZERO white cast—a peeve of mine with sunscreens—and, if you wait a few minutes, it gives the best, velvety smooth canvas pre-makeup, almost doubling as a primer. Finally, I love the size. I always have two of these in rotation; one in my bathroom for the start of my day, and another rattling around whatever handbag I'm carrying, for later-in-the-day sunscreen touch-ups. 




Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 in Ochre ($45): I've been using this baby for ages (you may remember it from last year's Best of Makeup post). Occasionally, a tempting new tinted moisturizer or foundation comes around and I'll give it a whirl (you can get samples made at Sephora so you don't have to commit right away), but I always come back to this. It's a combination of the color—I haven't found as good a match anywhere else (it irks me when brands only have 5 or 6 shades)—and the ultra natural-looking result. Of course, if you want full coverage, this won't be for you. But if you like to be able to see your freckles and all those other little unique things that make your skin yours, only more even, less ruddy, and polished-looking, this is a great pick. Fun fact: Andy hates the caked-on foundation look, and when I wear any foundation other than this, he notices. The more natural, the better, in his eyes, but I can pull a fast one on him with this. :)

Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard ($30): I confess I resisted the hype of this cult favorite concealer for quite awhile. I think I just wasn't wooed by their minimalist packaging (I somehow thought Nars was all about branding and not as cutting-edge) or their lack of sales pitches. However, I finally gave this a go and have fallen completely in love. I previously used the Kat Von D Lock-It Concealer Crème but prefer this; the Kat Von D was more on the tacky side while this is more creamy. It's very buildable, blendable, and hydrating. Consider me a convert.

Becca Hydra-Mist Set & Refresh Powder ($38): Conversely with the Nars concealer, I was tempted to disregard this powder because of the sales pitch. I thought, "50 percent water and glycerin? A 'mist-like sensation'? Please." But upon having a Sephora associate dust my face with it, I was instantly sold. It feels unlike any other product I've ever tried, powder or otherwise. It goes on cool and sort of moist, yet gives a velvety matte finish, with an almost airbrush-like effect. Seriously, my skin somehow looks perfect with this stuff on, which I've never felt with any other powder. Even how it wears throughout the day is great; very dewy and flattering, yet not shiny. I previously used the Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder, which I do still love and may go back to on sweatier Summer days—it's certainly a better value (cheaper AND there's more product). But lately, this Becca powder has been really hitting the spot for my travel-weary skin.

My favorite nighttime combo: Kat Von D Tattoo liner (Trooper) + Sephora Rouge Gel Lip Liner (12 - The Red) + Sephora Cream Lip Stain (01 - Always Red)

My favorite nighttime combo: Kat Von D Tattoo liner (Trooper) + Sephora Rouge Gel Lip Liner (12 - The Red) + Sephora Cream Lip Stain (01 - Always Red)




Blinc Mascara Amplified ($26): I used to be on constant "raccoon eye" watch, asking friends and Andy all the time if I had under eye smudges, until this mascara came into my life. It looks great on all your lashes but works particularly well for the bottom ones. The little "tubes" never run or smudge or anything. You can sweat, cry, and even rub your eyes without worrying about the dreaded raccoon eyes. I also find this new "Amplified" formula builds better than the original (the original could sometimes get a little spider-y). At the end of the day, you just wash your face as your normally would and the "tubes" slide right off. This mascara feels very high-tech and I'm all for it.

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Trooper ($20): This is THE BEST liquid eyeliner in existence. It's another staple in my makeup bag and has been for years. Despite having struggled with liquid liner bristle and foam brushes for years, I feel like a pro with this. It's super pigmented, the control  is unparalleled (the brush is super thin and easy to wield), and it lasts all day. My HG liquid liner!

Tarte Fake Awake Eyeliner ($20): I first learned about using a beige liner on my waterline from an interview with Heidi Klum, who swears by this trick. Since my old Mally waterline beige liner (featured in Best of Makeup) was discontinued, I had to look for a new option. This one more than does the trick; it stays put as well as anything can in that waterline, the beige is the perfect shade without being too white or too, well, beige, and it really does make you look more alert, wider-eyed, and awake. 


Benefit Gimme Brow+ Volumizing Eyebrow Gel in 03 Medium ($24): You've heard me go on about this stuff both on my Best of Makeup AND Everyday Arsenal blog posts. This stuff is brow beefing magic. A lot of brow options out there involve drawing on a shape or color that barely resembles your natural brow. With this little potion, your brows are still yours, only better. Needless to say, I'm stocking up on this one.


Buxom Full-On Lip Cream in Pink Lady ($20): This is another one that's been on pretty much every makeup-related blog post I've published. I can't live without Pink Lady and she is with me at all times.

Sephora Rouge Gel Lip Liner in 12 The Red ($12): Honestly, I mostly buy this liner to go with the Cream Lip Stain below, but it serves its purpose with flying colors. It glides on very smoothly (I guess that's the gel part?) yet stays put, almost like a waterproof liner. Also, for how well it does the job, the price is certainly right. I've re-purchased this gem several times.

Sephora Cream Lip Stain Liquid Lipstick in 01 Always Red ($14): Ahhh, Always Red! I wore this on my Bachelor season for my infamously terrible first kiss with Juan Pablo! I have bought countless tubes of this over the years and each one lasts forever—well worth the $14 price tag. It's a stain that doesn't give that drying feeling that some stains give, and though it's not completely smudge-proof, for the most part it really doesn't budge. (I find it a bit heat-sensitive in this regard; when it's a hot day or I'm running around on stage and have a stage kiss, it does wander. But for regular, daily wear and eating/drinking, it more than suffices.) It's the perfect shade of punchy red (not too bright, not too goth, not too orange) and makes an instant statement. Seriously, whenever I wear this, I'm asked about my lipstick! 




Josie Maran Argan Moonstone Drops Makeup Priming and Highlighting Oil ($48): This is another new addition; it has bumped Benefit's Watt's Up! Cream-To-Powder Highlighter as my daily highlighter. What I like is that it gives a gorgeous dewy effect, versus the many shimmery, glittery, and "holographic" highlighter options out there. Plus, I just like the idea of dabbing a bit of nourishing Argan oil versus smearing yet another stick of God-knows-what onto my face. I may reach for the Benefit on nights out when I want to amp things up, but for day-to-day, I'm loving this.

Urban Decay All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray ($32): One of the perks of being an opera singer means getting to try all sorts of products and having a professional makeup artist on hand whom I can interrogate about his or her favorite products. This purchase is the result of such interrogation. I used to use MAC's setting spray, then toyed with Smashbox's, but when a makeup artist on a recent gig swore by this and I gave it a go for our performances, I was converted. When it dries you really do forget that it's there (it doesn't leave a tacky or moist feeling behind) and makes a substantial difference in how long my makeup lasts. 

t3 Voluminous Hot Rollers Luxe ($119): Could this list really be complete without mentioning these? I use these rollers almost daily and they have spawned hundreds of questions on Instagram about how I curl and style my hair. If you need some guidance on how to use them (I know there's a bit of a learning curve), check out my Hot Rollers Handbook. If you've been eyeing these, Sephora's 10%-15% off is a nice perk for a purchase of this size!

My latest obsession for a highlight that's more dew than shimmer: Josie Maran Argan Moonstone Drops

My latest obsession for a highlight that's more dew than shimmer: Josie Maran Argan Moonstone Drops









That's it for my Sephora Beauty Insider Event product round-up! Let me know what Sephora HG picks you're stocking up on this weekend, and as always, I look forward to your questions and comments below!