Like any good relationship, my connection to makeup has morphed and grown with each new phase of life.

It started as a mad experiment on a giant plastic Barbie head. I learned to braid on its mannequin hair (Surely buying it for me was my tomboy sister’s idea. I had been eyeing her as my first “beauty shop” client). The face had “Designing Women” dramatic eyeshadow and blush that could be added with a swipe of warm water.

Makeup morphed into a means of survival, as puberty hit and I dabbled in the art of covering up blemishes.

By the time I moved to New York and started a career, it became refined, a means of polish, armor, and (I cringe to think about this “problem” now), a way to seem older, more mature.

Now I’m back in the burbs, working at a great job, and raising a toddler, with one on the way. Makeup is mostly an indulgence. I see it as a luxury. I long for the days of choosing eyeshadow from a palette of 50 shades based on my mood and schedule for the day. When I think back on the time I’d spend in front of a mirror, just on a normal day (!) it’s hard for me to believe.

 

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I used to liken the ritual of doing makeup to that of coloring a favorite page when I was a kid. It had that same soothing, cathartic feeling.

I’m sure I’ll get back there someday. My kids will become too independent for my taste before I know it. It’s a mystery how I’ll feel about my makeup then. Maybe I won’t care about it anymore. Or maybe I’ll get expert-level good. Who knows.

For now, my aim is to get out the door in the morning without looking like a sleep-deprived, disheveled banshee. If I’m strapped for time, I only need one tool for that: clear mascara. It tames everything that needs taming and gets me to work with confidence – and THAT is the point of makeup, the confidence. I truly believe that if you feel great, you look great. If something invisible can give me that power, I may even go so far as to call it magic. Just sayin’.

Now, getting down to business: I prefer the super-affordable ($1.99!) e.l.f. crystal lash and brow mascara. It works just as well as other clear mascaras I’ve tried, but it has two chambers, and two brushes, which is key. You can use one or the other for any of the following grooming activities:

1 | Grooming out-of-place eyebrows

This is a no-brainer.

2 | Using as a simple thickening mascara

This won’t give you a huge oomph, but it will make your lashes look healthy and will make you feel a little more put-together, and that’s the important part! It also works as a sort of lash hairspray if you curl them first.

3 | Taming flyaway hairs!

I constantly have these, since having kids. I think they started when some of the hair that had fallen out after I had my first baby grew back. I can’t explain why they persist though. I just know that no matter what I do to tame my hair, I need a few swipes with clear mascara to get them under control.

4 | Thicken bottom lashes

I love the “wet” look this gives to bottom lashes, like you just got out of the ocean.

5 | Prime top lashes

When you’re going to use regular mascara, swipe this on first to give your darker pigment more lash to grab onto.

6 | Use as a topcoat

It also makes a good topcoat if you’re worried about your regular brand of mascara running. This is especially why the separate chambers are great. If you’re swiping it over a dark mascara, then one of the chambers might get cloudy but that’s fine because you still have one that stays crystal clear.

Doing all of this with one tiny little tool is fantastic. It’s way less to think about. It fits in anything from a pocket to a diaper bag, and it’s key in a flyaway emergency. If I still had that Barbie Head, I’d be using it on bangs, for sure.