12 Back-to-College Makeup Essentials

Want to stock up on the best makeup for back to school? Look no further than our list of college makeup must-haves.

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Back to college makeup essentials

I know that for most of you college girls, school is probably the last thing on your mind. At least the schoolwork aspect of school is. I’m with you on that – in fact, I’m dreading it! But, I’m not dreading back-to-college shopping, and most importantly, a little makeup bag refresh!

As you may or may not know, makeup does have ashelf life (read more about that in with this handy chart). Plus, what girl doesn’t need an excuse to buy some new makeup? I’ve put together a guide to college makeup essentials that will hopefully help you have a more successful shopping trip, wherever you do your makeup shopping. Let’s get right to the list:

Your list of essentials:

  • Basic eyeshadow palette (light, medium, and dark colors)
  • Eyelid primer
  • Eyeliner (liquid, gel, or pencil)
  • Mascara (regular and waterproof)
  • Eyebrow pencil with brush
  • Foundation or tinted moisturizer
  • Finishing powder
  • Concealer
  • Basic non-shimmer blush
  • Bronzer
  • Lip gloss, lip balm, or lipstick depending on your preference!

What to buy (in order!):

Naked basics

  • Urban Decay Naked Basics, $27 at Sephora
    All the shades in this palette are matte, which I love for class! So simple and easy. It looks like you aren’t even wearing eyeshadow – perfect for a low-key daytime look.
  • e.l.f. Essentials Eyelid Primer in Pearl, $1 at e.l.f.
    It’s only a dollar and it’s amazing. This works just as well as any high-end brand I’ve seen.
  • L’Oreal Infallible The Super Slim Liquid Eyeliner in Black, $8.49 at Target
    This easy-to-use felt-tip liner is jet-black and creates flawless lines so easily.
Benefit's they're real mascara

  • Benefit They’re Real! Mascara $23 at Sephora
    This mascara is seriously my best friend. It makes my lashes look fake – in a good way!
  • Physicians Formula Brow Definer Automatic Brow Pencil, $5.95 at drugstore.com
    This pencil requires no sharpening and is hypoallergenic, so it won’t irritate skin. It also has a brush on the end to tame unruly brows.
  • Maybelline Fit Me Foundation, $5.94 at Target
    This foundation is affordable and works so well with any kind of skin! I love the airbrush effect it gives your skin.
Laura mercier tinted moisturizer

  • Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20, $43 at Sephora
    Anything Laura Mercier is going to be a high-end product, but let me just say that this tube lasted me a year. I love what it did for my skin and my morning routine! I didn’t need to use another moisturizer beneath this one, plus I just loved how natural it looked on my skin.
  • Physicians Formula Organic Wear Loose Powder, $13.99 at drugstore.com
    This loose powder is all-natural and organic so it won’t irritate your skin, plus it will keep your skin looking matte all day long.
Hard candy glamoflauge heavy duty concealer

  • Hard Candy Glamoflauge Heavy Duty Concealer, $6 at Walmart
    This is extremely pigmented so it will literally cover anything. It’s even been marketed to cover tattoos!
  • Cover Girl Clean Glow Blush, $8.99 at Ulta
    A blush that’s natural-looking and non-shimmer? Here it is!
  • Nyx Matte Body Bronzer, $8.99 at Ulta
    Yes, it says “body” but trust me it looks perfect on the face. It’s non-shimmer so it looks super natural and blends amazingly.
  • Lip products are SO hard to choose and honestly, every girl’s preference is so different! For an everyday look, I go with a simple pink-tinted balm like Maybelline Color Whisper ($6 on Amazon).

3 More Makeup Tips for College

  • Don’t be a makeup hoarder! I try not to bring TOO much because honestly, you won’t use it. Having four mascaras is a little ridiculous…but that’s what I had in my bag in the beginning of last year.
  • My rule of thumb is, if you won’t use it at least once in the semester, leave it at home. You can always pick it up when you come home for a break.
  • Getting yourself into the habit of a simpler routine with fewer products. It’s a time-saver and lets you sleep longer in the morning, which is always appreciated. That was a lesson I had to learn in my freshman year since I was one of those girls who meticulously applied makeup like a surgeon every morning. I learned so quickly that mascara and a little eyebrow touch-up and powder is all I needed when I was rushed!

What do you think?

What do you think of these makeup picks? Do you already own any of them? Let me know in the comments if you’ve used any of these products or if you have any other products that you think are essentials in  your college makeup bag! If college is approaching quicker for you, good luck on your first semester!

11 thoughts on “12 Back-to-College Makeup Essentials”

  1. LOVE that you included the e.l.f. eyelid primer, since college students are usually pretty broke (I’m a prime example) it is really important to find good inexpensive makeup. A lot of e.l.f. products are really great and super cheap, but I do think the primer is one of their best, if not THE best.

  2. I love that Naked palette & I use one like it on a daily basis when I don’t have time for anything special. If I want something with more color in it, I usually go to my BH Cosmetics California palette which gives me a bunch of color options (without being overwhelming) and blushes that match! Super simple & easy.

  3. The Maybelline Fit Me Foundation sounds like a really good purchase, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it when I next go shopping!

  4. Yes, I actually do because I have terrible, terrible skin. I completely understand where you’re coming from with sun protection, and I do use a daily sunscreen moisturizer as well.

    This was a makeup article so I wanted to focus 100% on makeup. I will be doing a skin care version of this back to college list so I will definitely be including sunscreens. Thanks for the feedback!

  5. Sarah – In order to actually get the sun protection, you would have to use an amount the size of a quarter. Do you actually use that much foundation each day? I know I don’t.

  6. Aria – both of the foundations I included contain sunscreen! 🙂 SPF 20 is definitely enough for everyday use.

  7. I have more makeup than I know what to do with, but I’m definitely on the market for a cute cosmetics bag for school.

  8. I have that benefit mascara and its sooo awesome! I stopped using the laura mercier tinted moisturizer because it made my skin oily. Great picks.

    Style n love, jamaica


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