What’s in the Bag? Makeup Essentials

Scott barnes glass palette

How do top makeup artists continuously create dozens of personalized, sought-after looks without breaking a sweat?  One of their tricks is having the right products in their bags for the right situations. With the appropriate essentials for your makeup bag, you too can be ready for any occasion.

The Classics

Whether you’re doing makeup primarily for yourself or for clients, here are the classic makeup essentials you’ll want to have.


  • Choose a foundation that matches your (or your client’s) natural skin color and undertone. For a more natural look, choose lighter coverage. For discoloration and blemishes, build layers for desired coverage..
  • Again, opt for one that suits your skin tone.
  • Color correction palette. Apply correctors under other face products to cancel out discoloration (green for redness, for example).
  • Contour and highlighter. Choose a contour product that’s slightly darker than your skin but has the same undertone. Likewise, pick a highlighter that suits your skin and your preferred luminosity.
  • At minimum, you should have a shade that looks subtle and natural on your skin. This adds color without adding drama.


  • Eye shadow. A palette with classic browns, beiges and earthy colors is a must. Choose other colors based on what suits you and what styles you like.
  • At least one black and one brown liner in your preferred formula (pencil, liquid, etc.).
  • Black is the go-to, but brown and clear are good for natural, subtle definition.
  • False lashes. Have a few sets on hand if you plan to wear them often. An extra tube of lash glue is a good backup, as well.


  • Lip balm. For hydrating lips and creating a smooth base.
  • Nude and natural shades are great staples for everyday and professional looks. Bold and bright hues can garner special attention on dates and special events.
  • Lip gloss. Perfect for a tinted lip to add shine or shimmer without the heavy coverage.
  • Lip liner. Match or coordinate your liners to your lipstick colors for perfect combos.

Tools and Supplies

  • Brushes
    • Medium face brushes for foundation and contour
    • Small face brush for concealer and corrector
    • Large fluffy powder brush
    • Lip brush for precise lipstick application
    • Standard and tapered eyeshadow brushes
    • Blending brush
    • Blush brush
    • Fan brush for highlighter and setting powder
  • Great for grooming brows and stray facial hair, as well as for placing and holding false lashes.
  • Lash curler. A must for lifted, flirty lashes.
  • Cotton pads and swabs. Handy for smudges and slip-ups.
  • Setting spray. Sets and seals the makeup look to prevent smudging and extend wear.

Grab and Go

Chic cheek n-1 blush palette

If you have a variable schedule or things tend to pop up unexpectedly, you need to be able to roll with the punches. This is especially true for working MUAs who need to meet clients where they are.

Here’s what you should have for fast action:

  • A bag or case that’s easy to tote. You should be able to lift and carry your on-the-go kit with ease.
  • Cream foundation and concealer palettes. Palettes with cream products are more resistant to spills and breaks, and they’re often easier to carry. If you work with clients, have various shades you can mix for custom color.
  • A small color correction palette. If working with clients, mix colors as needed.
  • A loose, translucent powder. Loose powder won’t break, and translucent powder suits diverse skin.
  • One neutral, earthy eyeshadow palette. Think basic browns, beiges and grays.
  • One eyeshadow palette with shades that suit a broad range of styles and skin tones. Good options for diverse clients include burnt oranges, golds, coppers, lavenders and rosy pinks.
  • One black liner and one brown liner, at minimum. A small palette of other cream or gel liners can give you more variety.
  • One black, one brown, and one clear mascara. This trio should do the trick, and clear mascara can double as brow gel in a pinch.
  • 2-3 blushes. Natural, peach and pink shades flatter any skin tone.
  • 3-4 broadly flattering lipsticks, a clear gloss and a shimmery gloss. You can also curate a small palette of other colors to avoid carrying a bunch of tubes.
  • A few basic brushes. A powder brush, foundation brush, concealer brush, eyeshadow brush, and angled brush will cover most of your bases.
  • Other grooming and shaping tools. Don’t forget your lash curler and tweezers!
  • If you’ll be switching clients often, carry disposable tools. Disposable cotton swabs, doe foot applicators and spoolies can minimize the need for full brush cleansing.
  • A facial moisturizer and a hydrating lip balm. Always be ready to combat dryness.
  • Makeup wipes, or makeup remover and cotton pads. Use these to correct mistakes or remove other makeup as needed.

Travel Bag Essentials

Travel Brush Set

A travel makeup kit is even more pared down than a grab-and-go bag, as it needs to be packable, efficient and, if you’re flying, legal to take on a plane (think: ounces of liquid makeup products).

Here’s what you want to pack for your next trip:

  • Bare minimum face makeup. Unless you’ll be required to go heavy, bring only the foundation, concealer, and powder you need for the simplest base.
  • 1-2 lip colors. Think about your planned activities and the clothing you’ll be packing when choosing shades.
  • 4-5 eyeshadows. Again, think about planned activities and clothing for coordination.
  • 1-2 liners, if necessary. If you really want to travel light, skip liner products and use a damp angled brush dipped in eyeshadow instead.
  • 1 blush. Pick a subtle shade you can wear with everything.
  • Waterproof mascara. Crucial if you expect to be swimming, caught in the rain, or shedding tears of joy (e.g. going to your best friend’s wedding). Minimal basic brushes and tools. Investing in a dedicated travel brush set can save you time and luggage space.
  • Face sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF. This should actually always be in your bag, but it’s especially important if you’re traveling somewhere sunny or will be outdoors a lot.

It’s Your Turn!

Create your own perfect makeup bag for home, travel and more with the professional-quality makeup products and tools created by celebrity makeup artist Scott Barnes. Shop online today to stock up on what you need, and stay tuned for more goodies as we expand our line!