Lucky 13: My Office Make-Up Essentials


On any given weekday, I only have a few minutes for make-up before I fly out the door. That’s fine for a starter spackle, but around lunchtime, I need a refresh. For years, I skipped the mid-day touch-up, thanks to my aversion for carrying a cosmetics case clattering with brushes and full-size products.

My make-up survival kit weighs almost nothing and fits into a slim pouch.
My make-up survival kit weighs almost nothing and fits into a slim pouch.

But as work-life demands became more high-stakes, I realized that looking presentable was more important than appeasing my inner laziness. Over time, I collected an all-star cast of products in a smattering of sizes and formulations. These products are durable, low-maintenance and easy to carry — perfect for a cubicle-side touch-up.

Here’s my war-tested survival kit. I promise, no fussiness or mirror are required — and everything fits neatly into a foldable, free Sephora pouch.

These 13 items are super-portable and can be applied without a mirror.
These 13 items are super-portable and can be applied without a mirror.

1. NARS Light Reflecting Pressed Setting Powder: This is translucent and ideal for busting T-zone shine. Bonus: This formula hasn’t cracked in the compact, so it’s suitable for travel.

2. Band-Aids: I’d wager that 60% of my time is in heels. To assure the remaining 40% isn’t spent moaning in agony, I carry these at all time. I buy the plain ones because I like the old-school look, but there are plenty of wacky designs, too.

3.  Givenchy Le Rouge Lipstick (Mandarin Bolero): I only carry one lipstick, and this orange-coral shade is my top choice. You can use the top of the lipstick’s leather case as a mirror for a mess-free application at your desk. (Your teeth will thank me later.)

4. Marc Jacobs Lip Lock Moisture Balm: Whenever Sephora offers mini samples of this, snap them up. This mini bullet balm is perfect for travel and fits nicely into a survival kit. Th formula is moisturizing and non-greasy — and because there’s no gloss or shine, your lips will have a very chic, matte look.

5. Benefit Fine-One-One: This is a self-billed multi-tasking product that doubles as a cream blusher and a lipstick. (I don’t recommend using it on the lips–far too drying.) But the product does a decent job of punching up a halogen-tanned complexion — and the color is so subtle, you won’t need a mirror. This is certainly not the best cream-to-powder formula I have ever tried. (That would be Make Up Forever’s version, which unfortunately requires a brush.) But this is easily the most portable and convenient of any product I’ve tried.

6. This Works Sleep Kit: I got this little rollerball at a hotel in London, and it’s packed with spicy essential oils that act as an effective pick-me-up in the middle of the day. (You can roll the elixir on your pulse points, but I just wave it under my nose for the same effect without the Phoebe Buffay overtones.)

7. Sephora Pro Kabuki Brush: At $36, this is pretty pricey — but it is luxuriously soft and very effective. I use it to buff on the Nars pressed powder — and to sweep away the mascara flakes that inevitably fall like snow around 2 p.m.

8. Smashbox Under Eye Primer: If I only got 6 hours of sleep, this product bumps it up to an even 7.

9. Boyfriend Rollerball: On the rare day I forget to spritz myself before I leave the house, this low-key scent comes to the rescue. (Bonus: The scent is light and inoffensive, so you won’t get any glares from cubicle neighbors.)

10. Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream: The industrial-strength soap in most office bathrooms is enough to strip your hands down to the bone. This is the best hand repairer in the biz. I go through 4 full-size tubes a year, but this mini sample size is perfect for the office.

11. Lady Speed Stick Mini: Because you never know.

12. YSL Touche Eclat: This magical concealer and brightening pen erases all signs of workday stress. It’s incredibly esy to apply and carry — if you only have one item in your purse, this should be it.

13. Smashbox Photo Finish Targeted Pore and Line Primer: Like many women who spent their formative years sun-baking like potato chips, I have some premature aging to contend with. This line filler seems cheaper than Botox.

So, you tell me: Do you have any miracle portable products? Tell me what you can’t live without!


  • Andrea Billups

    You rang! I am an Estee Lauder devotee. The Double Wear concealer and foundation are mega. Stay on all day. And I’m in love with their Sumptuous Extreme mascara. It’s delicious. Embryolisse Lait-Creme is genius moisturizer in a small tube. i smudge a bit under eye midday for a pick-me-up. I got this tip from a celeb make-up artist, who puts it under foundation for a nice glow. Estee’s Resilience Lift is wonderful moisturizer, especially in winter. I would NEVER be without it. Finally, the most color dense lipstick is Illamasqua – also a make-up artist tip. It’s not really creamy so if you want that feel, you can top it with a swath of clear gloss (Kiehl’s lip balm in tube is magic). Otherwise, it’ll stay on for hours. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

    • Diana @ The Style Pragmatist

      I’ve only tried a handful of Estee Lauder’s products — the eye make-up remover and some nail polish. (Both great!) I’ve heard great things about the Lauder skincare, like the A&R. You’ve inspired me to give the lift moisturizer a try when it gets cold!