How to Build the Ultimate Capsule Makeup Collection

Multitasking is the name of the game.

If you think that layering a makeup look with 15+ products is akin to cooking a Julia Child dinner—possible, but not likely—then capsule makeup is for you. Just as a capsule wardrobe capitalizes personal panache, a makeup capsule streamlines your looks. "Makeup can be overwhelming when you have too many things in your makeup bag," says celebrity makeup artist Jenna Menard. To create the perfect capsule makeup collection, ask yourself: what do I need, not what should I buy? This means taking inventory and tailoring products to your signature look. (In other words, crimson lipstick and black liner can be as essential as tinted moisturizer and lip balm.)

Thanks to us lazy people, it's easier than ever to multitask with a single product. (Just remember to sanitize brushes and avoid cross contamination if you use the same product on a lip then an eye.) While no two capsules are exactly the same, here are a few common elements that experts say comprise an ideal capsule makeup collection.

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Given that your makeup will moonlight in different roles, proper brushes are a must. Fortunately, you only need two: a dome brush and flat defining brush.

The rounded tip on the dome brush is multifaceted and can be used beyond shadow work. It works to blend concealer, either on a specific spot or everywhere on tired skin tones. "We've become accustomed to big brushes, but these allow you more control," says Menard. Since these don't pick up a ton of product, you can be more strategic in using a highlighter, shading in the eye creases and contouring more precisely.

On the other hand, a flat brush lets you multitask with ease. Optimize your eye pencil by picking up pigment to define brows or apply mascara to the bristle of the brush and use in lieu of liquid eyeliner. Since you'll be using the brushes interchangeably, make sure to sanitize properly between uses and products. Menard swears by Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner ($24; because of the quick dry-time.

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If there is one product that all capsule makeup collections have in common, it's concealer. This universal staple doesn't just hide redness—it works to cover, correct, and refresh makeup. "If I have to choose between concealer and foundation, I'd go concealer 1000 percent," says Lennie Billy, professional makeup artist in Miami, Fla. A concealer has more versatility than foundation because it typically has thicker consistency. (A sheer or satin foundation finish can only go so far before you have to start layering it with other products for additional coverage.)

Alternatively, if you want to go lighter on concealer, a drop of moisturizer transforms it into a tint. According to Billy, the concealer formulation depends on how much coverage you need. Liquid works for light to medium coverage; creams, on the other hand, correct stubborn blemishes and create a polished, glam look.

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Cream blush stick

The multistick is your capsule makeup BFF. This 3-in-1 product will cut down time on your entire makeup routine: Use it as blush and lip tint, then swipe a bit over the lid for a uniform look. To create a sense of unity, find a color that brings warmth to your skin. "It's nice to have the same tone, a way to bring it all together," says Menard.

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Mascara may seem obvious, but did you know you can get different effects depending on how you apply it? Swiping lashes twice is great for a basic, understated look, but adding lots of layers (as many as 25 swipes, according to Menard) is what gives mascara its drama. "Create tension on the brush as you swipe your lashes upward," she says. "Think of closing your eyes as you are swiping the brush upward."

If you have shaky hands, mascara also works double duty as eyeliner. Menard suggests using a flat defining brush to transfer the mascara then stamp it along the lash lines (where you'd put fake lashes). "This adds weight to the lash line, creating the illusion of denser lashes," she says.

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Brown soft eye pencil

A soft, blendable pencil goes beyond lining lids. Use it as eyeshadow by spotting it (like a leopard) over the lower half of the lid, then blending with the dome brush. Start subtle, and build on it to create a smoky eye. You can also use the pigment on your brows to fill them in. Apply the pencil to a flat brush, then follow the arch (starting at the widest part) as if you're feathering it in. Another hack? In a pinch, a neutral brown pencil applied and blended just below the cheekbones creates a wicked contour, says Menard.

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Clear balm

A lip balm is important for obvious reasons, but Menard advises letting a clear lip salve or balm travel beyond your lips. "Because it's colorless, it allows you to create a dewy dimension without the shimmer," says Menard, who suggests setting the pencil-shadow application (above) with a bit of balm. You can also apply the balm to your eyelids and cheekbones for a youthful glow.

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OPTIONAL: Red lipstick

Think of crimson lipstick as a high heel—it's not for everyone's capsule makeup collection. Although, it is more versatile than you might think: Billie says it can double as blush and even eye pigment (below the crease of the lid). "Start by applying a little bit [with your fingers, brush, or sponge] and build it up little by little until you have the desired saturation," she says. "I wouldn't recommend using a matte finish because these are generally packed with a lot of pigment, and they're more difficult to sheer out and blend. Creamy finish lipsticks are more emollient, so they look better and natural on the skin."

RELATED: The Surprising—and Significant—History of Red Lipstick

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OPTIONAL: Highlighter and/or Bronzer

Highlighter and bronzer is the jewelry of your makeup capsule—sure, you might not need it, but it pulls the whole look together. Pro tip: When choosing a bronzer, opt for two shades darker than your natural skin tone and you won't end up with '80s streaks. Also, don't shy away from using bronzer and highlighter as eyeshadow to further dress up your eye pencil handiwork, says Menard. "Bronzer is neutral and sculpting," she notes, who dusts it on the lid to create an undone look (she recommends a fine powder as it blends better). After you're done, dab a bit of highlighter to the middle and inner corners of the lid to give a pop of light.

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OPTIONAL: Compact shadow palette

"Makeup is very individual," says Billy. "I love eye makeup, so for me, a great makeup capsule has to have colorful shadows and liners." However, keeping a 36-shadow palette in your capsule might be counterintuitive. Ask yourself, "Will I use at least 70 percent of the palette?" Billy suggests buying a palette with a range of the colors in your comfort zone. "For example, if you are into pinks, buy a palette with deep, medium, and light pink tones so you can play around."

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