It's an unusually hot day in Paris. I'm here on vacation and have been walking around all day—from my Airbnb to the Second, to the lines inside the Musée D’Orsay, to lunch. By afternoon, I realize the little bit of makeup and SPF I put on before heading out is close to gone. This would be fine, but I’ve already committed to drinks tonight with some friends. It's cool though, because I’ve perfected what I call the Sephora Touch-Up—a technique in which I walk into the makeup mega store like I own the place and navigate the aisles to put together a glowing look in five minutes for my next destination.
The first step in the Sephora Touch-Up (STU) is setting up camp. A quick scan of the place shows that, unlike the New York Sephoras, Parisian Sephora barely has any makeup test areas. There's an area for makeup artists to work with customers, but I'm not seeing much for the girl like me who's going solo. Finally, I spot two mini vanity tables—absent of the usual applicators and sponges, but I think I can manage. Actually, this highlights my general philosophy for a good STU: It’s less about specific products and more about making sure they have the consistencies you need for a successful blend. For me, it's all about using light, creamy, buildable products that can be blended with your fingers. It’s important to start with a clean face and hands; any makeup remover will do.
Next I'm looking for a primer, and Make Up For Ever has a pretty great range. At home I use a combination of their Skin Equalizer Hydrating Primer and Laura Mercier's 'Radiance' Foundation Primer, but this time I use MF's peachy Step 1 Skin Equalizer Primer as a means of trying something new. I ask a makeup artist if they have Laura Mercier, which, astonishingly, they do not. Instead she points me in the direction of a CC cream by Black Up (never heard of it), which she says is the next best thing. It's light, you can apply it with your fingers and I won't walk out looking like a cake-face. The product line is made specifically for women of color—after one hand swatch, I find my perfect tone. Score.
I nimbly move on to finding a liquid or creamy bronzer. The keyword here is liquid: Since I don't have a brush, I'm keeping myself away from the powders. I don't see the Giorgio Armani Liquid Bronzer I'd met on my Sephora runs (and subsequently become addicted to) so I'm on the hunt for something similar. Instead, I stumble upon YSL Touche Eclat Glow Show and end up applying it to my cheekbones. Reflecting on it, I think I could have used something more dramatic, but I keep it moving for the sake of time, and the drinks I need to be at in 20 minutes. It is in the spirit of the Sephora Touch-Up to try new things, and so, I do.
The most frustrating part of my Paris Sephora expedition is the lack of mascara test applicators available in the store. I ask a few artists and they have no idea what I'm looking for. Maybe my request got lost in translation, but eventually, a makeup artist pulls a test wand from behind a makeup display. Formula is crucial since I'm using a run-of-the-mill mascara spoolie. Do I want something that feels light? Am I in the market for a dramatic, thick eyelash? I go for Kat Von D Immortal Lash 24 Hour Mascara, which is high drama. You only do the STU in Paris once, right?
The last step is lips. Lately, I’ve been really into a popsicle-stained lip—that red tint you get on your lips after eating five or so red popsicles. I head over to Sephora's branded counter, and all I do is apply the Sweet Raspberry shade of the Cream Lip Stain to my lips before blotting it away with a tissue. I'm left with a reddish tint that’s a little darker around my lip line and lighter close to my mouth. This, ladies and gentlemen, is The Look. I grab a nearby clear gloss to seal it—I figure, even when the clear gloss disappears, the red tint will still remain: Cute, and intentional.
The ultimate test of the STU is to step outside and take a bunch of selfies in natural light to make sure I nailed the look. No weird, unblended or missed spots. Fifteen minutes after entering, I’ve got a full, nighttime-ready face, without any buyer’s remorse. This is the beauty of the Sephora Touch-Up. Wins all around.
—Darian Symoné Harvin
Darian Symoné Harvin is a breaking news editor at Buzzfeed News. You can find her everywhere at @dariansymone.
If you're staying in rather than going out, try turning your pantry into a Sephora instead. Right here.