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The Brands Selling Makeup for Grown-ups

Meet the new Bobbi Browns.

An assortment of IT Cosmetics products Photo: It Cosmetics

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We’re in a particular makeup moment where the stuff getting all the attention is loud and colorful and sparkly and — yeah, I’m going to be the mom and say it — impractical for everyday. Listen, glitter is fine. I’m wearing some on my nails right now. (Well, aesthetically speaking, it’s fine. It’s probably horrible for the environment.) But most women I know, of all ages, want to get out the door looking awake with slightly better-looking skin than they woke up with.

There are two makeup companies that are picking up where Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier, the patron saints of “you, only better” makeup left off: IT Cosmetics and Hourglass Cosmetics. They’ve both become go-tos for me, and they get bonus points for the fact that they both have fortysomething female founders instead of influencers no one heard of a year ago or, ahem, 20-year-old reality TV stars. They’ve put in the time and work to figure out what modern makeup users really want.

They both offer a range of really user-friendly products, many of which also contain multi-tasking skincare ingredients, and they’re both also known for making incredible makeup brushes. But while the two companies have similar philosophies, they’re expressed slightly differently. IT Cosmetics is more affordable with a pragmatic vibe, while Hourglass has a luxury price point and focuses a little more on design. (One issue that we’re seeing throughout the industry: Both brands still need to offer a wider range of shades!)

An assortment of IT Cosmetics products Photo: IT Cosmetics

IT Cosmetics

Jamie Kern Lima launched IT Cosmetics back in 2010 because she couldn’t find products that adequately covered her rosacea. She worked with plastic surgeons to develop formulas that worked for her. (Fun factoid: Before she got an MBA, she had appeared on both Baywatch and Big Brother.) She’s been hawking IT faithfully since then on QVC, where she racked up millions of dollars in sales simply by putting on her makeup and taking it off on TV, showing how well it covers her redness.

Last year, L’Oréal bought the company for $1.2 billion. A L’Oreal exec told New York magazine, “She’s taken the mystery out of cosmetics.” The brand, like Lima herself, is accessible, and spreads a message that you don’t need to be a makeup artist to perk up your eyes or even out your skin tone.

You can buy the products at Ulta, Beautylish, and QVC. Prices range from $24 to about $40. Here are three of its best-sellers:

CC Cream With SPF 50 ($38): It covers without feeling or looking heavy at all, plus it contains an antioxidant serum cocktail in addition to sunscreen.

Bye Bye Under Eye Anti Aging Concealer ($24): The brand’s most-beloved best-seller, it covers everything and never creases.

Superhero Mascara ($24): No gimmicks here, just a brush and formula that have amazing synergy.

An assortment of Hourglass cosmetic products Photo: Hourglass Cosmetics

Hourglass Cosmetics

Carisa Janes got her start developing beauty brands in the ’90s when Urban Decay hired her in its early days. Since then, she’s launched several brands for other companies and consulted with celebs and fashion brands that wanted to launch beauty. She created Hourglass in 2004 for similar reasons as Lima, though she wanted a more upscale feel. “I wanted something luxury, but I wanted oil-free foundation, SPF, and anti-aging ingredients. I couldn’t understand why foundation wasn’t helping you. It was just covering.”

The brand got some traction when Angelina Jolie’s makeup artist used it on her while filming Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Unilever bought the brand this summer for an estimated $250 to $300 million.

Hourglass opened its first store in its native Venice, California, two years ago, and just opened a store in New York City. It’s sold at department stores here and abroad, and at Sephora and Bluemercury. Prices range from $34 for a brow pencil to $62 for palettes. Here are three of its best-sellers:

Veil Mineral Primer ($54): This is something of a holy-grail product at this point and arguably what put the brand on the map. It’s oil-free, has SPF 15, and really helps makeup last.

Vanish Foundation Stick ($45): You only need a few dots from this sleek, triangular foundation stick, which buffs into skin beautifully. The brand is launching six more shades in January, which will bring it up to a respectable 32.

Ambient Lighting Palette ($62): Want a glow that is not Instagram glazed-doughnut strobing? This is it.

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