Drugstore Makeup Picks

affiliate links picI’m cheap. By necessity and by nature. For makeup this has been tricky, since my early exposure was to mid-level brands like Clinique, which have gradually grown out of my budget. At first I was hesitant to use drugstore makeup and only used a couple of highly recommended products. But eventually it just had to happen. I needed cheaper products.

I’m someone who likes a natural look, I tend to use as little makeup as possible. I’ve learned what has more of an impact and what I can do without. I like a look I can have finished in 5 minutes that uses only a few products. 

Me, with my regular makeup routine


Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve been able to find out which products I can’t scrimp on (foundation with more coverage, under eye concealer) and what I can do cheaply (a lot more than you’d think). I don’t think of myself as a makeup maven, but lately I’ve had a lot more compliments than usual and my only real changes have been to use more drugstore makeup. So I thought I’d share my best products, the ones I wear almost every day and get for cheap at CVS. 


Blogger swag is so hit and miss, but every now and then I get a product that becomes a staple. I don’t remember when exactly I got Pond’s Luminous Finish BB Plus Cream but it was right when I was thinking about trying a BB Cream and it happened to be Light Shade so I figured I’d try. My fair skin has always been tricky for tinted moisturizers and other products like this, their light shade is still usually too dark for me. But it turns out this cream goes on perfectly and even in the winter when I’m extra pale it’s right on. It’s got SPF, a must for me. Since I’ve started using it, I use my pricy matte foundation less and less because usually my BB cream does the job just fine. 

As you’ll see in many of my other choices, I don’t like powders. Powders mean brushes, which means more purchases, which means more cleaning, and I prefer to just give my hands a quick wash, use a product I can put on with my fingers, and go. So for blush I needed a new pick when I could no longer afford my favorite powder from Benefit. I did a little research for this one and ended up getting Revlon PhotoReady Cream Blush in Pinched, the lightest shade. I like just a little bit of light color, very natural, and a cream blush means I can blend it in until it’s just right. 


Eye makeup is a balancing act for me, it’s where I can get the most impact but it’s also where I’m the most sensitive. I don’t wear mascara most days because my lashes are straight and because my eyes are always more irritated when I have it on. So I make up for it with eyeliner. Because of my sensitive eyes, this has to be a super soft pencil, preferably the kind you can turn, preferably something a little smudge-able. I also like to have more than one color. I go with black most days, but blue and gray are also favorites of mine. This pick was totally an impulse buy, it’s Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips Trio Custom Eye Enhancing Eyeliner Set. I needed a new liner but didn’t have any good leads, and when I saw this trio of liners specifically for Blue eyes I thought I’d give it a shot. This is by far the product I get the most compliments on (my Mom asked about my eyeliner, and she’s got way better makeup skills than I do) and the black liner is my go-to. The blue is a great shade. Honestly, I don’t use the brown much but it’s still good to have around. The downside is that this doesn’t last as long as other eyeliners, so a long day requires touch ups, but longlasting eye makeup is usually too harsh for my eyes anyway. There are also sets for brown eyes, hazel eyes, and green eyes. 

I hate eye shadow. It’s another product that requires more product: a brush, a base, etc. It doesn’t stay on well. So I have happily jumped on the eye shadow pencil trend. One product, no powder, I’m in. Initially I was getting these at sephora, but the pencils I got there were disappointing after getting sharpened. The shadow kept falling out of the pencil and the pencil didn’t sharpen well at all. So I started looking for a low-cost alternative. I settled on CoverGirl Flamed Out Shadow Pencil in Melted Caramel Flame. The only problem I have with it is that they often didn’t have that color in stock so I had to wait a long time to get it at my CVS. I’ve also purchased and love to use the blue color, Ice Flame. I tried the silver and was unimpressed. It stays on well, it doesn’t crease, and the Caramel color is a nice neutral that I wear almost every day. 


I recently crowdsourced my lipstick problem. I have found shades I love, but I’m so tired of reapplying. I was willing to spend more money if it meant I had a lipstick I could wear all day. Before I’d really liked Revlon’s Super Lustrous Lipstick, except that it was always gone in 3 hours. But I’m really cautious about drugstore lipstick. The colors tend to be garish and unflattering. I like to have lipsticks that are colorful and bright, but also lipsticks that are just enough color to not be neutral. I was willing to do whatever it took. And then several people recommended Cover Girl Outlast. So I figured I’d give it a shot if there was any chance I could get a good longlasting lipstick from the drugstore.

I sat down on the floor of my CVS and looked at every color. I settled on a first pick of Cherry Cordial 575, a pink hued neutral. I took a quick photo of two other colors that looked promising should I return. The Cover Girl Outlast is a two-step process, usually I hate that. But one is color and the other is a moisturizing stick. That I can get behind. Even if I don’t want to reapply color during the day, my lips dry out fast and I’m often wanting to put lip balm on a few times a day. The lip color goes on a little heavy and you have to give it about a minute to dry. It goes on very matte, so the moisturizing stick helps give your lips a little shine. (I actually hate sticky lip gloss, so this is another win for me.) Sure enough, I still had lips almost the exact same color 12 hours later. Huge win. Plus the color totally worked as a neutral/light pink, it wasn’t too bright or weird looking. It was the kind of hue I don’t expect from a drugstore lip. I went back this week to get a second one, this time I opted for Mauve Muse 585. I still don’t feel super comfortable with the bold berry shades we wore back in the 90’s, even though I know they’re coming back, but Mauve is a way I can have some purple without going really dark. It’s great against my eyes, too. I’ve worn it 3 days in a row now. I’ve also bookmarked Always Rosy 549, which I’m considering for a brighter pink. But now that I trust this product I may have to have another sit down on the floor of CVS to really hammer out my next shade. I’m even thinking about trying something a little redder. The extra moisturizing sticks are now a bit unnecessary, but I’ve just chosen to put one in my bathroom makeup bag and one in my purse. The next one will probably go in my evening clutch.

And that’s pretty much my makeup routine nearly every day now. Sometimes I add brows (Revlon Pencil & Gel, Dark Blonde 104) and sometimes I add mascara (I use it so rarely that I use the super cheap Maybelline Great Lash) and sometimes I go full throttle with expensive primer and expensive foundation. I do love my fancy under-eye concealer (picked out with the help of a good Sephora rep, it’s from Givenchy, talk about fancy) and that’s a staple, but otherwise almost everything can be done with my cheap makeup. My wallet is very happy. 

Ouidad vs. Deva Curl: A Curly Girl Throwdown

affiliate links picI’m 18 months into my curly girl journey and I learned early on that you need help. At some point someone is going to have to cut your hair and they need to know what they’re doing. The one time post-curly I got a fill-in stylist it went VERY BADLY. I left the salon I was at and switched to a full-curly Ouidad salon. And for my last cut I went to a Deva Curl salon. Now that I’ve done both and gotten styling tips from both, it’s time to see which one reigns supreme.


The cut: My Ouidad haircut looked amazing. Curls were perfectly formed, nice and thick, they looked fantastic. I honestly couldn’t believe it was me.


That's what I call curly! My first Ouidad haircut.

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on



The styling: Unfortunately I could never duplicate the salon look. Not even close. Ouidad advocates a Rake-and-Shake method to let your curls form naturally and every time I tried it I ended up with my hair separating into lots and lots of curls instead of just a few. It got kinda crazy and frizzy and uncontrollable.

ouidad selfies

The products: I purchased shampoo and conditioner from Ouidad and I had a sample of one of their gels. I wasn’t crazy about any of them, but they have so many that I can’t say if it was just a mismatch in the products. They also have several products that are not sulfate-free, which is a problem for some curly girls. If you are looking for sulfate-free products, consider the Curl Co Wash Cleasing Conditioner or the Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo.

Deva Curl

The cut: I don’t know that I saw much difference in terms of my cut with Deva Curl. Again, my cut came out great, it looked fantastic, and I was thrilled with it. The second time around I realized that a lot of their secret is the hair dryers, if only I had the time to sit under one every day. The only real difference I see is the lighting even though Deva Curl did a dry cut and Ouidad did a wet one.


And After. Now if I just sit under a drier every day for an hour, I can look like this all the time.

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on



The styling: A lot of the credit here goes to my stylist (Anthony at Shan Hair), who told me exactly what to do when I added conditioner and gel. I follow his directions almost to the letter. And you guys? It’s the curly  hair I always wanted. Thick, full curls that don’t look too frizzy or too crunchy.

deva selfies

The products: I still hadn’t found a gel I loved, so I purchased the Devacurl Ultra Defining Gel from the salon. I will probably never switch. It’s more expensive than drug store brands, but it’s also really reliable and one of the only products I shell out extra cash for. 


So what’s my daily hair routine like now? It’s pretty much all Deva Curl methods from my fantastic stylist.

Shampoo like normal, focusing on the roots and the scalp. When I condition, I flip upside down and add it to the hair that way. I’m prone to oily roots so these two steps help keep my hair clean and manageable. I’ll never be able to quit traditional shampoo. 

Out of the shower, I flip upside down and squeeze excess water from my hair and scrunch it with a t-shirt. Then I use duck bill clips to get my part the way I like, off to the left, and to give hair some volume and height. Ideally my hair stays like that for an hour or so, but there isn’t always time. When I remove the clips, I turn upside down again and scrunch and muss hair a bit to make sure the gel isn’t too crunchy. Flip back up, set with a bobbeye pin, and DONE.

I know some of this varies from salon to salon and stylist to stylist. But I never found a groove with rake-and-shake and was comfortable with Deva Curl styling right away. As another bonus, Shan Hair is more affordable than the Newbury Street Ouidad salon I tried and it’s just a few minute walk from my office. I’m sold. 

Since my Deva Curl cut I’ve finally been comfortable having my curly hair be part of my signature look. Which means I’m finally figuring out what my signature style is and feeling less self-conscious when it comes to beauty and fashion. It’s the best, you guys. 

I wasn’t given any product or anything for free, these were appointments and products I paid for and didn’t set up through the blog at all.

Going Bold in Boots

After a phone catastrophe recently, I had to get a new phone. And thus I had to get a new phone case. I went home with a silver sparkly one. As I told the first person I ran into who looked at my phone with skepticism, when it comes to phone cases you can either go boring or bold. And I chose bold.

These days that is where I stand style-wise, and it’s still a very strange place for me to be.

Of course, my version of bold is probably not the normal person’s version. It means I’m not playing it safe. I’m not going for what I know. I have never been fashionable or stylish. I’ve never kept up with trends. I’ve never been the best dressed person anywhere. I just try to make sure I get by with something I feel comfortable with.

Lately, though, in an office full of 20-somethings, I have started to realize that I’ve got to start upping my game. I work on my blog, on my writing, on my place in the online world. I should probably work a bit on how I present IRL as well, right?

This summer I did a pretty good job. I spent very little and shopped mostly at Old Navy, but picked up dresses that were perfect for summer, great for the office, and flattering for my body.

Now winter is coming and it won’t be so friendly to my budget. I must shell out for the standards that I never bothered with before. A great pair of jeans. A well fitted blazer. And a pair of boots versatile enough to go with all kinds of outfits. I don’t have the cash to buy a lot, so it’s just one or two well chosen items. And I’m working hard on being bold, figuring out what my style actually is, and getting more comfortable in my own skin.

Next on the list are the aforementioned boots. (The jeans are already done and they look marvelous.) 

What do all of you lovelies think? First, buckles: still definitely a big trend and they cover a surprising variety of styles.

Black Boots with Buckles

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9

 1: Alodie by Dr. Martens $135, 2: Mona by Naturalizer $139, 3: Riddle Avant by Clarks $160, 4: Leandra by Born $160, 5: Morgane by Born $135, 6: Quimby by Naturalizer $139, 7: Elwoodd by Lucky $139, 8: Kalea Gillian by Born $150, 9: Ondine by Born $124


Next: going beyond the simple bootie into an ankle boot that’s got simple but stylish details.

Stylish Black Ankle Boots

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7  / 8 / 9 / 10

1: Limbo Dance by Clarks $185, 2: Movie Retro by Clarks $180, 3: Spye Celeste by Clarks $130, 4: Malia Hue by Clarks $150, 5: Later by Naturalizer $110, 6: Jolene by Dr. Martens $96, 7: Leyden Bell by Clarks $150, 8: Wera by Sofft $150, 9: Versant by Ariat $190, 10: Bayleigh by Born $165

My ideal pair is comfy, cozy, and completely versatile. Can be dressed up for a dress, but work just fine for an everyday outfit. If you were looking for a pair to go over jeans and tights, and you could only get one pair, which way would you go?

And any tips on blazer shopping would be much appreciated…

How to Survive Hell (aka Swimsuit Shopping)

The last time I bought a real bathing suit, one that actually fits and that I actually like, was before my honeymoon. That suit does not fit anymore. I’ve had a couple cheap ones to get me through since then, but it’s not going to cut it much longer. My kids are getting bigger, I can no longer pretend there’s no such thing as a pool. Oh, and we’re going to a water park in less than a week. It was time. 

Let me tell you a little bit about my body and what I look for in a swimsuit.

  • I’m a size 8/Medium top and a 10/Large bottom, which is why I find two-pieces to be a good option in terms of fit.
  • Even though I’m a smaller size on top, I have a C-cup bra size and a sizable post-baby tummy.
  • I hate hate hate clothes that are very tight. No Spanx for this girl. I suffer through tights. This makes swimsuit shopping particularly hard, since so many of them are heavy, tight fabric.
  • I may have a post-baby tummy, but I am not wearing any kind of suit that is supposed to camouflage or cover up my tummy. No Miraclesuits, please. I want to be comfortable. And have a little bit of jiggle control. And beyond that the belly is what it is.

I put out the call to see where people shop and if they could confirm to me that there is in fact a two-piece that fits my criteria. Based on their recommendations and my own choices I made 3 shopping trips for bathing suits. (Actually 4, but a look at Swim ‘n Sport in the mall yielded absolutely nothing I wanted to try on. Total bust.) Before I get to the specific places and suits, let me give you my tips to make bathing suit shopping a little less painful.

swimsuit tip #1

You’re probably thinking that I’m crazy, but I ate a meal right before I went swimsuit shopping each time. (Including a delightful lunch with several courses in Chinatown.) Why, you ask? Because the last thing I want is to take a suit home and find that it’s too small. I will be wearing this suit before meals, during meals, after meals. I’ll be wearing it when I’m bloated and when I’m not. But the times when I’m stuffed full are the times when I’m much more likely to care about whether this damn suit is comfortable.

A little food baby isn’t going to require you to go a size up, it’ll just help you make sure you’ve got a good fit.

Also food is awesome and you might as well enjoy something before you go into the fray.

swimsuit shopping tip 2

Start at the top and the bottom of your budget. When you know what’s out there for $30, it’ll give you a lot of perspective once you get to the pricey ones. You may also find that the most expensive suits are not necessarily your favorites. 

Also don’t be afraid to buy more than one suit. If you find something that works, buy it. If you find something else you like better, buy that and then return the first one. Or you may find two suits that you love that work in really different ways so you opt for both. 

swimsuit tip 3

Look, no one expects this to be fun. But if you do your job right you won’t have to do this again for a LONG TIME.

Now let’s do this.


First Stop: Macy’s


  • Variety. Way more than you’ll find at a store that only has one brand.
  • Great brand names: Nautica, Ralph Lauren, and Michael Kors all had plenty of suits there.
  • Sales! More sales, more coupons, more promos than you’ll find at many stores.
  • Suits for all body types, all kinds of coverage and several with built-in bras.


  • Not every store has the same variety. It’ll vary depending on where you are. 
  • You may find yourself in a very sad dressing room. Again, it varies.
  • Rare to find someone there to help you get a new size. Best to bring a friend.

What I Found:

My favorite suit from Macy’s was not one I expected, but it fulfilled all my requirements. And it was on sale so it cost less than $40 to buy both pieces.

macys suit 1

This is basically a bikini with a crochet cover below the cups. But it was unexpectedly flattering. Only downside is that with nothing holding on to the belly, it’s not great for running around. On the plus side: I looked pretty damn sexy in it.

Macy's Suit

The big thing I learned from this suit: emphasizing the boobs can go a long way to help you care less about the belly. And it was possible for me to feel kinda cute and sexy in a suit. A welcome discovery.


Second Stop: Athleta


  • Oh comfy. So comfy. Like yoga clothes for the beach.
  • Lots of options for mix and match two-pieces.
  • Easy online shopping.
  • Lovely dressing rooms, and there was always someone back there to get me more sizes or options.
  • Really good refund policy.


  • Not many brick and mortar locations.
  • Less selection. There’s much more online, but in store is limited.
  • Little in the way of boob support. Skip this one, big-breasted ladies.

What I Found:

I wouldn’t have considered Athleta if a few friends hadn’t given it high marks. I only took two suits back with me to the dressing room. Their one pieces looked too complex for my taste, and even their two-pieces felt the need for a lot of detailing. So yeah, I was skeptical.

Until I put a suit on. And then I was just so happy. It was comfortable. The skirt had shorts beneath it, shorts that ACTUALLY FIT. I can’t remember if I’ve ever worn a pair of swim shorts that actually fit. The shorts have bikini bottoms beneath, and same deal. Actually fit. And I love that the shorts look like cute sport shorts instead of too-tight swim shorts.

athleta suit

This suit was not at all too tight on the tummy, the fabric was light and breathable. I just felt like I was wearing a tank top. It also didn’t feel too short, which is a definite plus.

Athleta Suit

(Apologies for the blurry pic.) But boob coverage is one of their weak points. I loved this suit, which also came with lots of cute bottoms, but the boobs were not having it.


Third Stop: Lands End


  • Lots of mix and match options.
  • Lots of colors and styles.
  • Good variety of sizes, including plus-sizes. Lots of cover-ups, too.
  • You can try on suits at Sears if you don’t want to roll the dice online.
  • Lots of suits with underwire bras.


  • So many skirts. Seriously, WTF? (Maybe it was just my story, but crazy.)
  • Prints are okay, but not great.
  • Old-school styles and fabrics.
  • Sears dressing rooms leave much to be desired.

What I Found: 

So I’ve been hearing about Lands End suits for AGES. YEARS. I have walked by them and thought about trying them on plenty of times. I finally bit the bullet and I was… not super impressed.

lands end suit

Yes, they have a variety of tops and bottoms. Lots of colors. But not one suit was flattering. Putting them on was horrendous. And once on they were tight and not terribly comfortable. They were everything I don’t really like about swimsuits. Everything I was trying to escape. Everything that made me dread trying on swimsuits in the first place.

They tended to emphasize the belly (especially the pink one) and do nothing for the boobs. I swear the models have their boobs smushed up to get cleavage in these suits or were photo shopped in. So yeah. We did not have much fun.

lands end suits

Look, it’s not like I look hideous in them. But they kinda look like wearing mom suits. And I definitely wasn’t paying that much for a suit that didn’t do much for my body.


The verdict

I ended up buying both the Macy’s and Athleta suits, but I’ll be taking the Macy’s one back. It was a good one to have in case I didn’t find anything else I like. 

The Athleta suit was more than I wanted to spend. But it really didn’t cost more than a Lands End suit. And I liked it a whole lot more. I also feel pretty confident taking it to the swim park, especially because their return policy is that you can work out in their clothes and return them if they don’t perform. So we’ll see how a day at the water park goes…


Anywhere I missed? Any tips you’d add?

An Open Letter

Dear Hot Girls at the Club,

You are standing at the bar or against the wall and your back is leaning against it so that everyone can see you. You are wearing something tight and short. Your hair falls shiny and perfect past your shoulders. If we were in a well-lit place you’d look amazing, but it’s pretty dark in here so you’re mostly a silhouette. Your feet are strapped in to a pair of heels that I’m guessing are about 6 inches, complete with those platforms at the front that I hate so much. No one can walk in those shoes without looking like a Clydesdale. But you aren’t walking.

You aren’t doing anything. You are standing there with your friends. It’s loud, the music has a beat that makes your bones vibrate and it never pauses for more than a second. You can’t talk with this kind of music. At best you can yell directly into someone’s ear and they understand about half of what you say. But it’s okay for you, you’re not talking. A couple of you pull out your phones now and then and seem very interested in something, but that’s the extent of it.

It’s dark, it’s loud, there are only two things here: the bar and the music. And that’s all you can do: drink and dance. That’s what this place is for. You have  it about half right. You have a drink in your hand. I haven’t seen you drink it, though. 

Then again, maybe you’ve been drinking it a lot. I could’ve missed it. Because I am dancing. And when I dance I tend to focus on that, not so much on who is around and what they’re doing and whether they’re looking at me and what they might be thinking about me. Of course, it’s also presumptuous of me to assume that you’re thinking about these things. I’m just guessing. But I have to guess because I am so confused by you.

What are you doing here? 

Like I said before, I am dancing. It’s not something I do a lot. And by not a lot I mean never. But I’ve been feeling brave lately. (You don’t know this, but “gutsy” is my word of the year.) I am out tonight with my friend Di. At a glance, the two of us don’t appear to have a lot in common with you. We are both well over 30. We’ve had children. Our clothes aren’t as short and as tight as yours. Our heels are definitely not as high. If you catch us at the right moment we might be holding a drink, but that moment doesn’t last long. Because of the dancing.

We don’t dance the way you do, either. Most of you aren’t dancing at all, it’s like you’re standing in a silent room. The few of you that seem to realize there is music have a slight bump in your hip or a little toss of your head. 

We are moving. I close my eyes a lot. Because when my eyes are closed I just stop thinking and when I have my eyes open I get a little more self-conscious. I am not here to care about what anyone thinks. There are guys here, though it’s not my primary goal. I’m here for me, running into a guy could happen here, but it’s okay if it doesn’t.

The funny thing is, though, the guys keep floating around my friend and I. We are cute, but average, especially considering the other girls in the room. There is a bachelor party here, they look like guys in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Younger than us. The kind of guys I’d expect to make a play for you. And yet the only girls they’ve danced with are me and Di. 

We don’t take them home. We barely speak to them. Di and I dance in spite of them or around them more than we dance with them. They seem to think they know what we want. To be honest, I’d prefer it if they just danced and didn’t try so hard. 

One of them says to me, “You’re so sexy, the way you’re dancing, holding your purse. You know exactly what you’re doing.” And I want to laugh. I want to say back to him, “I don’t know exactly what I’m doing. I know nothing. I’m just not thinking about it.” I wonder if he realizes that it’s me not paying much attention to him that has him so interested. But it hasn’t occurred to him. He, I’d bet, is used to girls like you who seem so calculated. If we were having dinner, I’d be itching to leave, but it matters less here. I can keep dancing, so I do.

He brings us tequila shots. Which apparently is an effort to distract us from the fact that the next 2 rounds he brings us are Bud Light. Is this what club guys are like? I don’t know. I’d guess that you do, but like I said, I’d be assuming. It’s possible that you never do this either. It’s possible that you’re standing there on the sidelines because you don’t know what to do.

This guy, he’s not a total mystery. He either does this all the time or this is the first time he’s done this in ages.

My friend and I aren’t a mystery either.

You’re the ones I don’t understand. Maybe there’s something I’m missing.  There is a lot of dancing but it isn’t a really jubilant kind of dancing. And there isn’t much joy radiating from you, either.

But it’s too loud for me to ask you any questions. I’m not sure I would if I could, because there’s something about the way you’re standing there that makes me think you don’t want anyone to talk to you. (But this could, once again, just be me.)

So I hope you had a good night. I hope you enjoyed yourself somehow. I hope you got what you came for, even if I have no idea what that is. It will probably be a while before I see you again. This isn’t something I can do all the time. It wiped me out for much of the next day and my feet are still sore. I want to save it so it stays crazy and fun and a little bit magical. 

Until then,

The Girl Who Just Danced