I have to admit: I’m far from a beauty expert. But the older I get, the more I realize the importance of taking care of my skin and finding products that make me look and feel my best. Whether it’s a splurge-worthy tinted moisturizer, a drugstore mascara, or — yes — a perfectly scented deodorant, I always love reading about other bloggers’ makeup must-haves. Today I’m partnering up with Secret (a brand I’ve worn since I was a teenager!) to let you take a peek at my morning routine. And in the interest of mixing it up, I thought it would be fun to add my recommendations for which products are worth shelling out for and which ones I just pick up at the drugstore around the corner from my apartment. I would love to hear if any of you swear by the same products, have favorite high-end or budget-friendly recommendations, or even if you think I’m applying my makeup in the wrong order… Because, truthfully, I’m not so sure myself. 😉

design darling makeup routine

design darling beauty regimen

Here are the ten products that I’ve made part of my morning makeup routine, with a few notes on what I like about each and my recommendation to splurge or save. For our purposes, let’s say that splurges are anything you’ll have to order online or pick up in a department store ($15+) and saves are anything you can pick up at Target or your preferred pharmacy ($1-$14). Oh and I forgot to photograph these as a product pick but I use these makeup remover towelettes morning and night.

mac concealer

1. SPLURGE: MAC Studio Finish SPF 35 Concealer ($19)

I wake up every morning with dark circles under my eyes and realized a year or so ago that my usual concealers just weren’t getting the job done. I turned to Amy for a recommendation (a recurring theme in my life…) and she told me to meet her at the MAC store in the Flatiron district, where a makeup artist helped me find the right shade for my complexion. The formula is creamier than I was accustomed to (a plus for those of us blessed with dry skin) and works as well on my under eye circles as it does on any blotches or blemishes. I also like that it offers SPF coverage for the thin skin around my eyes, which I’ve learned the hard way is extra prone to skin damage.

nars tinted moisturizer

2. SPLURGE: NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($42)

I know I’ve raved about this stuff before but I won’t stop until every single one of you has tried it for yourself. 😉 It gives my skin much-needed moisture with a little bit of color so I don’t scare people away with my translucence in winter. I first tried it as a free sample with a Nordstrom order a couple years ago and I’ve sworn by it ever since. And, again, more SPF because we gingers really can’t be too careful when it comes to the sun.

3 jouer cheek tint

3. SPLURGE: Jouer Cheek Tint ($20)

Okay, three splurges in a row — please bear with me. This one packs a real punch as the peony shade is perfect for both cheeks and lips. I know the color looks a little intimidating in pictures but I promise it’s really flattering in person. I’m totally sold on switching from powder blush to cheek tint — you can apply it with your fingertip (one less thing in your makeup bag!) and it stays on all day for a subtle rosy glow.

revlon eyeliner

4. and 5. SAVES: Covergirl Brow & Eye Makers Pencil ($3.99) and Revlon Colorstay Eye Liner ($5.99)

Finally, a couple of drugstore buys (I’ve linked to Target for your convenience). This eyebrow pencil is a recent discovery and I now feel naked without it. My advice? Less is more. I can’t pull off the bold brow look that’s so in right now but a quick swipe with this pencil gives my eyes instant definition. And I’m really not picky about eyeliner. I’ve tried more high-end options and I honestly just wasn’t impressed enough to justify the expense. (Especially since it takes me about five tries to perfect a cat eye… Told you I’m not an expert!)

5 maybelline mascara

6. SAVE: Maybelline Volum’ Express The Rocket ($5.99)

Until I satisfy my curiosity for eyelash extensions, this mascara is my secret weapon for making the most of what I’ve got. I pretty much won’t leave the house without mascara on and the brush on this one is good for daily volume. I know I should probably be using a lighter color (“brownish black”?) but I can’t resist the allure of long black lashes.

secret deodorant

7. SAVE: Secret Clear Gel Anti-Perspirant/Deodorant ($3.99)

Here’s my (very simple) thought process on deodorant: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve been wearing Secret for more than a decade now and I don’t have plans to change that anytime soon. My biggest concern with deodorant (besides the obvious) is walking out of my apartment in a navy blouse covered in white streaks. (Side note: we’ve all seen people make this mistake before and I’d like to know the protocol… Do you tell them like you would if they had food stuck in their teeth?!) Anyway, Secret is a water-based gel that goes on clear, dries in seconds, and gives you 48 hours of odor protection. Oh and this Paris-themed variety literally smells like a rose so you can too.

ralph ralph lauren perfume

8. SPLURGE: Ralph Ralph Lauren Eau de Toilette Spray ($56)

If you splurge on nothing else, do find yourself a fancy signature scent (or two). I dragged my mom to Sephora to get a second opinion on a couple perfumes and we wound up agreeing on Ralph Ralph Lauren (a light floral that I wear almost every day) and Coach Poppy (a flirtier scent that I usually spritz on if I’m headed out at night). Finding the right scent can be a long search (and you’ll get a headache faster than you think) but it’s worth it when you find one that suits you so well strangers will ask you what you’re wearing.

kiehls moisturizer with spf

9. SPLURGE: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($21)

Is this crazy to add a second moisturizer / third sunscreen into my morning routine? I bought this knowing that Amy swears by the Kiehl’s skincare line and I love the way it makes my skin feel: soft, smooth, and not the least bit greasy. I wonder if I should double up on this with eye cream at night…?

9 ysl lip gloss

10. SPLURGE: Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture in Encre Rose ($35)

One of my favorite new finds from this post and a pretty pale pink that’s nice and glossy but doesn’t wind up on my teeth when I open my mouth. (Is it just me or is there a magnetic pull between teeth and red lipstick?) I am very particular about lip products — I can’t stand anything that has a strong smell, weird taste, or drying effect — and I’ve tried a lot of subpar lip glosses in years past. (Just thinking about some of them makes me want to cover my lips in Vaseline…) This one passes all my tests and gets bonus points for looking pretty on my bathroom counter or in my purse.

favorite makeup

Whew! So there you have it: ten tried-and-true products that I’d really rather not live without. Beauty posts tend to be a fun conversation starter on Design Darling and I’m always excited to read your recommendations! Tell me: what do your morning makeup must-haves look like? Do we use any of the same products? What won’t you leave the house without?!

*Photos by Amy Stone. This post is sponsored by Secret, a brand I’ve used since I had braces. 🙂 All opinions are my own!

45 thoughts on “MY 10-STEP MAKEUP ROUTINE

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  1. I really loved how you actually explained evertthing. I’ve been switching back and forth between, dove, secret, and suave. I’ve officially ruled suave out since it really does nothing. And I love doves fresh scent but I might give the secret gel a try. I did notice that dove wears off once you begin to sweat its a bit annoying.

  2. I love the way you explained all the products so clearly! Question though, doesn’t the Secret deodorant make your armpits feel wet and sticky? I’ve gotten that feeling with the gel and stick with Dove because of it. Any tips for avoiding white stains? Also, Ralph Lauren Wild is another amazing scent!

    1. I haven’t tried Dove but Secret goes on really smoothly and dries almost instantaneously — definitely not sticky! I like using the gel because there’s no risk of white streaks on my clothes since it’s a clear formula. Give it a shot and let me know what you think — I have a hunch you’ll like it a lot! Will try out Ralph Lauren Wild next time I’m in Sephora or a department store. Thanks so much for the rec!

  3. Love this post! I also love Nars products and their creamy concealer for under eye cirlces works great! I learned that you’re supposed to apply the under eye concealers by drawing a triangle under your eye pointing down and then fill it in! Also, any suggestions for under eye cream for the night? Thanks!

  4. I’ve been wearing Ralph for close to 15 years! It’s such a great light scent and a perfect pick me up for gray winter days. I’ve also been using Avon’s Glimmersticks eyeliners for about that long as well. I can typically get 3 for $10, different colors and finishes, and they last forever.

  5. You’re putting your makeup on in the wrong order! If you do concealer then foundation (or tinted moisturizer in your case), you end up wiping off the concealer when you do your foundation. Do foundation first then concealer and you’ll need less concealer as the foundation will cover up a good bit of any imperfections.

    I read that in magazines all the time, was skeptical, but finally flipped it one day and it’s been a game changer ever since.

    Thanks for sharing your makeup routine with us…so refreshing that you use both splurge products and save products!

  6. Routine includes Rhonda Allison’s pumpkin enzyme lactic cleanser every night used w/clarisonic Mia. Followed by her skin smoothing gel for exfoliation. Morning and night I use an eye cream..and my secret weapon is the amazing Environ CQuence gel level 4, applied twice daily..the most potent form of retinol and vitamin c. I’ve had to work myself up to level 4 because so strong. I apply with a needle roller for better absorption. Another trick before applying product mist face w/a hydrating mist. Allows for better application and less use of product. I also have an exceptional aesthetician that I visit for monthly facials. She uses ultrasound and infrared light technology. I follow good sleep, eating and hydration habits too.

  7. Thanks for sharing these products! (great pics, too!)

    I’m usually more of a saver than splurger when it comes to beauty, but I do like Kat Von D Tattoo Liner from Sephora ($18). I got it a few months ago after 2 people with entirely different styles recommended it to me, and so far I think it’s worth it!

    I also like how it only comes in black, so I don’t have to hem haw around and pretend I’m going to get the more appropriate “brownish black” or whatever. I definitely agree with you on that. Black mascara for the win 🙂

  8. Mackenzie, Love your blog! However, iit seems shady to me to Rstyle links to Secret products when you are being compensated for the post by the brand as well.

    1. Hi Sloan,
      Thanks for the feedback! Since Secret doesn’t sell products on their own website, I linked to a familiar brand where my readers could find their product. Sponsored posts do not negate use of affiliate links; in fact, nearly every advertiser I’ve worked with encourages them since they make it easy for brands to track which bloggers are driving what sales. I hope that makes sense but please don’t hesitate to reach out with any other questions — definitely not trying to be shady 🙂

  9. I needed to purchase more mascara so I bought your brand to give it a try! My favorite cleanser has been discontinued, :(….it was Mary Kay’s creamy cleanser. I used it for many, many years and very disappointed they no longer make it. Thanks for sharing your routine and products!

  10. I have also realized recently that my dark under eye circles are getting worse with age. I will definitely have to try the one you use–it also seems like such a decent price which is a bonus! Thanks for sharing!!


  11. I’ve never been comfortable enough to fill in my eyebrows, but knowing there’s a quality, SAVE item I can try, I’m thinking I’ll take the leap! Have you ever considered using eyeshadow as eye liner? I use a dark brown palette from Bobbi Brown with an angled brush and a little spit. (gross, I know. but it works…) It took a lot of getting used to but now I can throw it on and be out the door in ten minutes! Loveddd this post!

  12. I absolutely love that lip color and I’ve been a long time Secret wearer as well! My absolute gotta have’em beauty buys are Younique 3D Fiber Lash mascara, Urban Decay eyeliners and Clinique moisturizing gel just to name a few. I do a full face of makeup every day but those are my absolute must haves.

    Southern Belle Secrets

  13. I have to second Annie on the Laura Mercier foundation rec! Of course, I also love their tinted moisturizer – it’s perfect. I have ridiculously fair skin, and it adds a bit of color and acts as a sunscreen too. I don’t go a day without it, even if just for the sun protection!


  14. You’ve inspired me! I got lazy and stopped using tinted moisturizer, opting for just regular moisturizer and concealer instead, but I really think I could use the extra coverage and sheer color that tinted moisturizer gives. Come to think of it, reading this post really made me think I should overhaul my whole routine. I could certainly benefit from a higher quality concealer I think…mine isn’t helping with the under eye circles nearly as much as it should! Maybe I’ll pop over to MAC sometime and try a few new products, or NARS. And Kiehls! 🙂

  15. I am obsessed with Mary Kay CC Cream, MAC lipsticks & lip liners, and Wet & Wild eyeliner pens. I definitely want to try the mascara that you are using! I used to be such a snob about my mascara, but I feel like it dries up so quickly that it only makes sense to use drug store brands at this point!

    Thanks for sharing your faves 🙂

  16. I have always wanted to try a few of these products! I always buy drugstore mascara after trying a “splurge” mascara that made my eyes burn and eyelashes fall out.

  17. My go-to “tinted moisturizer” is the It Cosmetics CC+ cream (the tube) in Fair (I am also a “pasty ginger”) and QVC has a supersize tube for $55 right now that is a STEAL. It is 2x the size of the regular $38 tube and will last a damn long time! But It Cosmetics has a F&F 25% off deal right now on their site through I think Monday if you want to try the regular size tube, so there’s that as well. The normal size tube is more travel friendly, so that’s in my travel pouch, and the super size I have at home. I hoard this stuff. It has SPF50 in it…and it has great coverage. I use *A* single pump for my entire face, and that’s all I need! And it helps me use and need less undereye concealer. Phenomenal! I also love their powder cheek stain (the pressed “vitality flush”) and I wear Matte Sweet Apple. It stays all day. I love their brushes too, the Heavenly Luxe Ball Brush and the French Boutique Blush Brush are the bomb.

    Besides that I am a huge fan of Tarte’s chubby eye pencil, I wear it in Bronze though they might have discontinued that shade. It does a great job defining my eyes and smoking them out. I hoarded that too.

    Because of raging allergies to a lot of common lip product ingredients, I don’t wear any lip products besides Eos lip balm or Marc Jacobs lip balm, and occasionally Julia’s Lip Tint.

  18. I’m obsessed with beauty posts like this! I like how you seem to be on the same level as me, still trying to figure out what products work best for you and you want something that’s easy and simple. I am not into wearing a lot of makeup, I just don’t have the patience for it, but I’ve recently been experimenting with some new products. I think I’m going to have to try out that tinted moisturizer and the eyeliner!

    – Kelsey

  19. It sounds like you have a foundation/base you are pretty loyal to BUT I just tried to Laura Mercier Smooth Finish foundation and I really may never change!! I’m beyond obsessed! I have done lots of different mascaras but always end up back at the drugstore – I like to change around too much to pay a lot!

  20. Yes! I am (obviously) equally obsessed with the MAC concealer. Agree on drug store mascara. I like to layer two different kinds (one for lengthening, one for volume) to achieve the perfect lash.

  21. Mackenzie,

    I, too, love seeing what beauty products people swear by! Thanks for sharing yours. I love that you, also, mix up low and high end makeup. I’m a huge fan of the Maybelline Volum’Express mascara – can’t live without!! Glad to see you switching it up some and sharing your beauty routine. Love everything you do – keep it up!!