Splurging On High-End Beauty Helps This Executive Feel She's Got Her Life Together

High-end beauty products help 25-year-old Natasha Mwansa feel confident in the workplace. Just don't ask her about the Laura Mercier powder she left in a Starbucks–unless you want her to cry.

by Natasha Mwansa; as told to Sirin Kale
Jan 8 2019, 2:51pm

All photos courtesy of Natasha Mwansa

Whether you're a drag queen or a doctor, everybody's makeup bag has a story to tell. Compact Report takes a look inside people's cosmetic toolkits to see what they say about our lives—broken palettes and all. This week, 25-year-old online marketing executive Natasha Mwansa, from London, takes us inside her makeup bag.

I used to avoid doing my makeup when I was younger because I was quite bad at it. Also, I had this idea that girls who wore makeup were insecure. I thought, You shouldn’t wear makeup to look pretty, so I didn’t allow myself to get into it. It was only after I finished college and all my friends were into makeup that I started experimenting. I realized that make-up was really fun! You can be a different person every day, depending on how you wear it.

I wear a full face of makeup everyday, though I don’t contour because I’m really bad at it. If I don’t have time, at the very least I’ll do my eyebrows and wear concealer. My boyfriend is always trying to nag me to stop wearing makeup. He prefers me without it! But I explain that makeup is fun for me—kind of like a release. Also, I swear that people are nicer to me when I’m wearing makeup. I don’t know if I’m being crazy, but I really feel it. When I don’t wear makeup, I feel invisible.

My makeup bag itself looks really grim—it’s covered in pink blush stains and brown foundation smears. The first item in there is my Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter Duo in Mimosa Sunrise / Sangria Sunset ($36). I bought it when there was the first hype around Fenty Beauty. I normally prefer to use blush sticks, but the person on the cosmetic counter insisted I try the powder. It’s super bright, and I was like, No way am I putting that on my face, but it’s actually pretty good for a daily look—provided you don’t put on too much product.

For me, the YSL Touche Eclát Radiance Perfecting Pen in shade 6 ($38) is my makeup product of the decade. The shade is perfect for me, and it really brightens my eyes as well. When I’m hungover and in a rush, I put it on and everything looks so much tighter.

I used to mess around with my eyebrows so much when I was younger. I’d tweeze them and do all this dumb stuff to them, like go to this really dodgy threading shop, when I should have just left them alone. You know that Rihanna British Vogue cover where she’s got those super-thin eyebrows? I look like that when I don’t fill mine in. I use Benefit Goof Proof Eyebrow Pencil in Shade 4 ($24). I feel annoyed that I’ve ruined my eyebrows. When I was growing up, everyone else had really thin eyebrows, and I felt like I needed to to fit in.

My Chanel Rouge Coco Gloss ($30) is fine, but it’s probably not worth the money. I bought it when I was on holiday in San Francisco with my friend Karen. We passed the Chanel counter in Neiman Marcus and Karen peer-pressured me into buying it, if I’m being honest. I’m so susceptible to peer pressure! But I really enjoy the whole process of going makeup shopping with my friends. It feels like a pure bonding experience. They never make me feel dumb for caring about a Chanel lip gloss; they make me feel validated.

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In my office, I tend to be one of the younger women, and most of my coworkers are not into beauty or fashion or anything like that. I mean, most of the time, we’re talking about Brexit. Plus, it’s very male-dominated. So I don’t feel like I can talk about makeup there; I have to be quite serious and discuss very important issues. So it’s nice to be able to just kick back with my friends sometimes and talk about lip gloss, or whatever. It doesn’t mean I’m not smart.


Next up is Urban Decay All Nighter ($32). It’s a setting spray which basically holds me together. I wear it every day without fail.

There’s a really heartbreaking story behind my Mac Mineralize Skinfinish Natural Face Powder in Dark Deepest ($34). It actually hurts me to tell this story. So, I was getting ready to go on a date, and I ducked into a Starbucks to fix up my makeup really quickly. I was in such a rush and I ended up leaving my brand-new Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder ($39) in the bathroom. I didn’t realize until much later, so I ran into MAC and said, “Give me any setting powder.” The date was okay, not great: We went out for a bit, then we broke up.

On dates, you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard, whereas if I’m going out with my girlfriends I’ll wear the brightest red lipstick or a hot pink. So, on that date, I just wore "natural" makeup: a nude-ish brown eyeshadow, a soft pink lipstick—that sort of thing.

Natasha's makeup bag.

I also use Fenty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in shade 410 ($34). Fenty as a brand is quite hyped, so I did my research before buying it: I went on YouTube and checked out all the other bloggers who have the same complexion as me to see how they’d reviewed it. I’ll probably replace it with something from an old-school brand like Estée Lauder when it runs out. All my friends say that Estée Lauder is better.

I’ve also got, like, three tubes of aloe vera gel in my bag. I use it as a primer to mattify my skin before I put on my foundation. I heard about the trick online—it seems to work pretty well.

I don’t usually spend any money on mascara. It’s basically the one thing I scrimp on, but I got this Givenchy Noir Couture Mascara ($33) as a present. I wouldn’t buy it myself—there’s no difference between it and what you’d buy in a drug store.

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Charlotte Tilbury’s Matte Revolution Lipstick in Red Carpet Red ($34) is the perfect red lipstick. I can wear it to work but also if I want to go out. Recently, I changed my braids so they’re a silvery-grey, and I feel like this lipstick goes really well with my braids. Most of my lipsticks are designer lipsticks. I feel better knowing I’m buying good-quality makeup. I hate the thought of putting cheap stuff on my face. It’s interesting, because I tend not to spend a lot of money on clothes—I’ll just shop at Zara, or whatever—but with makeup, I’m much pickier.

Your face is the first thing anyone sees. I want to put my best face forward. The days where I’m feeling like complete shit or going through a rubbish time in my personal life are the days where I show up to work looking the nicest in terms of my makeup. It’s an aspirational thing: that whole dress for the job you want mantra. I want people to look at me and think, She looks like she’s got her shit together.

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