What's in My Bag

What’s in my bag? — Madeline Ashby

img

What's in my bag? issue #20

Sign up here to get What’s in my bag? a week early in your inbox.

Madeline Ashby is a futurist and science fiction writer living in Toronto. Her most recent novel is Company Town.

My roster of bags rotates, but the one thing that’s always included is my cosmetics bag. Why? A few reasons. One is that I’m taken more seriously when I wear makeup. I’m over 35, but if I don’t wear makeup, I get carded. If I look like a kid to the servers at any given airport sports bar, what do I look like to my professional peers? It sucks that I have to ask that question, but as Hyman Roth says in The Godfather Part II: “This is the business we have chosen.” Our face is our primary instrument of communication. It’s the first mechanism we use to communicate with the world, and facial expressions are the first way we learn how to understand and empathize with others. Every face tells a story. Cosmetics act as punctuation marks in that story. They can’t change the narrative, but they can change the tone. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but I can at least do my best to appear professional, healthy, and put-together.

Here are four items from my little (always clear, and always TSA-approved) bag of tricks:

LANEIGE BB Cushion Hydra Radiance SPF 50 ($38)
I don’t wear foundation. It took me years to start wearing BB creams and tinted moisturizers with SPF. But the trouble with those is that they’re often in bottles or tubes, without a mirror included, and my lifestyle involves frequently doing makeup in cars, on trains, and in airport bathrooms. I need a mirror, and I need something that won’t get my hands dirty. I also need something that will protect my skin without clogging my pores. Enter the LANEIGE BB Cushion. I dithered for months reading reviews of this product before I finally decided to just spend the money and buy it. When I did, I wondered what had taken me so long.

Clinique Chubby Stick Cheek Colour Balm ($25)
The whole “stick” format has really expanded in recent years, thanks to the TSA’s war on liquids. Now you can get foundation, highlighter, bronzer, eyeshadow, lipstick, and blush in stick format, and treat your face like an exercise in oil pastels. I have yet to go that far, but I received this cheek colour balm as a gift with purchase years ago, and it’s still going strong. It’s not a shade of pink I would choose for myself, ordinarily, but just two quick dots and a little blending go a long way to giving my pallid countenance some life. Some people look like sexy Goths when they don’t wear blush. The rest of us have to find a shade and hope it’s never discontinued.

Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter ($36)
Everything you have heard about Fenty Beauty is true. It’s a godsend. I don’t know how Rihanna found the best cosmetic scientists on the planet, or what she’s paying them, but whatever she’s doing, it works. I use this highlighter (which also has a teeny tiny mirror included!) as an emergency eyeshadow — it brightens up my hooded eyes and makes me look more awake, even when I’m jet-lagged and haven’t slept in 24 hours. A gentle swipe of it along the cheekbones also makes me look more alive. Which, for a person who gets asked “OMG are you sick?!” when I don’t wear makeup, is kind of a thing.

Maybelline SuperStay 24-Hour Lip Colour “Keep Up the Flame” ($8)
This is it. My secret weapon. This is the lipstick I have worn for years. This is the lipstick that women cross crowded rooms to ask me about. This is the lipstick that makes other women pause mid-sentence at dinner parties and say, “How…how is your lipstick still there?” This is the lipstick that complete strangers tell me they love: on the street, in elevators, at conventions. Professional makeup artists have selected lipsticks for me for on-camera appearances, taken one look at this colour, and put their tools away. I wear this colour so often that when I don’t, my pharmacist fails to recognize me. It does that much for my face. Without it, my face loses all definition, and closely resembles a paper plate with holes cut out for eyes. Why am I so loyal? First, the colour is wonderful. It’s not for everyone, but the product comes in a wide variety of shades and I have no doubt you will find yours. Second, because the product does. not. budge. When I got married, I applied this once in the afternoon, and it was still there the next morning. No feathering, no re-applying, no need for lipliner. Its only weakness is oil: a big bowl of tonkotsu ramen, or a plate of fried chicken, and you might see some loss. It also adheres better to lips that are exfoliated and smooth: if you put a swipe of nourishing lip balm on every night (and you should), you’ll be in good shape to apply this the next morning. Let it set for two minutes before applying the moisturizing top coat, or just let it set without the top coat for a matte look.

-- Madeline Ashby 10/23/19