You Only Need One Beauty Product—This Is It

ZOE CLEMONS HAS whittled her morning makeup routine down to four minutes flat—and far fewer products. Pre-lockdown, the 27-year-old would spend nearly 20 minutes perfecting her visage, relying on an extensive beauty arsenal: “BB cream, a palette for eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, matte-finish spray, primer…” These days, Ms. Clemons, a systems administrator living in Boise, Idaho, follows up her moisturizer with swift swipes of peach-colored powder across her cheeks and eyelids. Occasionally, she’ll add mascara for special socially distanced occasions.

After months spent mostly makeup-less at home, many women find the thought of navigating winged liner or blending out a contour jarring. And while some want to up the beauty ante in anticipation of re-entry, they’re wary of relinquishing the ease a yearlong makeup hiatus has afforded. Some, like Ms. Clemons, are finding their solutions in multiuse products: triple-threat creams, balms and powders that can serve as blush, lipstick and eye shadow. “We’ve gotten used to simplicity, looking a bit more natural,” said Hadia Kabir, a makeup artist in Los Angeles. Multiuse products accomplish that effortless look. Plus, she said, “they make life easier.”

In its early days, pigmented makeup did double duty: Ancient Egyptians ground ochre to tint their lips and cheeks and Chinese women of the Shang Dynasty era used extracts from blue and red flowers on their faces and eyelids. In the 1920s, American beauties applied rouge as lip color and cheek color, and used mascara for both lashes and brows. As more colors were deemed acceptable for makeup, however, cosmetic companies pounced on the financial opportunity that differentiating products presented.

Over the past few decades, the beauty biz has embraced a “more is more” approach to products, said Dr. Kathy Peiss, an American history professor at the University of Pennsylvania. A year of relative isolation, she said, has given people a chance to ponder how much time they want to spend on makeup vs. less-finicky pursuits and to consider “what kind of face [they] want to put forward into the post-pandemic world.”

For a lot of women, the answer’s simple. “We’re moving away from the 10- or 12- or 20-shade eye shadow palette,” said Michael Nolte, creative director at trend-forecasting company Beautystreams. (Calm down—it’s not like you’ve ever used more than 3 hues, anyway.) Now, he said, “it’s about, ‘I have one product, it’s a nice color that suits me and I’m sure I will finish it because it has multiple uses.’”

Hybrid products aren’t unprecedented, but a slew of new releases during the pandemic year has broadened the market. Last spring, Los Angeles-based Tower 28 released a range of cream bronzers that can tint lips, cheeks and eyelids. In October 2020, makeup magnate Bobbi Brown’s brand, Jones Road, launched its “no-makeup makeup” Miracle Balm that also does triple duty. For uncompromising maximalists, this April brought an expansion of beauty entrepreneur Danessa Myricks’s Colorfix line, a batch of hybrid colors ranging from neutrals to neons that again perform that trio of tasks. After all, pointed out Ms. Kabir, “We all have those nights where we want to go all out.” Indeed—or at least, we’ve been dreaming about them.

To find a flattering everyday shade, look to your current favorite products. “If you have a lipstick that you love, it’s probably going to look pretty good on your cheeks, and maybe your eyes, too,” said New York celebrity makeup artist

Romy Soleimani.

That said, she doesn’t endorse bright-red cheeks and lids. Instead, opt for terra-cotta shades for an “elevated” monochrome look. Ms. Kabir relies on RMS’s Lip2Cheek products including Illusive, a mauve tone, for light to medium skin; and Diabolique, a deep burgundy, for darker complexions. She uses these hues on almost all of her clients.

To achieve a gentle flush, pros suggest using your fingers to gently tap the product onto bare skin; for bolder color, opt for a dense brush. And this doesn’t only apply to products marketed as multiuse. “I personally love using a lipstick” on the cheek said Ms. Soleimani. Pick one that’s a bit sheer for more control over the color’s intensity and avoid ultra-glossy options, which could leave you looking greasy.

As we ponder returning to socially distanced workplaces, a four-minute morning routine like Ms. Clemons’s sounds appealing. “I’m always the mom that’s dropping off the kids at school and then rushing to the studio,” said Ms. Soleimani. “I just want to look like I got way more sleep and like I feel good…it’s not about being laborious.” After all, with social lives waiting to be resumed, do we really want to spend another hour at home perfecting our highlighter?


Multitasking makeup to minimize your routine

Baby Cheeks, $48,

You Only Need One Beauty Product—This Is It

Colorfix, $18,

You Only Need One Beauty Product—This Is It

Multi-Stick, $34,

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