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Mascara? Lipstick? Blush? : What could you not do without? O.C. women tell which products from the crowdedcosmetics drawer qualify as survival gear, and they don’t always agree with the experts.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Their bathroom drawers might overflow with cosmetics, but most women can narrow down their entire makeup collection to two or three essentials.

Women will remain loyal for years to a tried-and- true product, whether it’s a Chanel lipstick in the perfect shade of red, a Max Factor mascara that doesn’t clump or smear or a Clinique blush that’s the perfect pink. Some feel naked without these crucial cosmetics.

Makeup artist Richard Stevens, co-owner of Stevens & Cross Cosmetic Studio in Newport Beach, says that, when choosing those few cosmetic essentials, some women pick the wrong products.

Forget blush and eye shadow, he says--they should come later. Women get the most benefit from an eyebrow powder (often overlooked) and lip color, because they make the biggest improvement in their appearance, he says.

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“The eyes and lips are key to the face,” he says. “You can get a whole look just from lip liner. It makes a bold statement and makes women feel dressed up. Without lip color, nothing looks right.”

Eyebrow powder shapes and enhances brows without that artificial, drawn-on look sometimes given by a waxy pencil.

“Brows make a great frame for that picture,” Stevens says.

Still, Stevens says, those must-have makeup items will vary from woman to woman.

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“Every person has a specific something or other about her look. If she has dark circles, a concealer might be essential,” he says.

The following Orange County women looked through their makeup drawers and explained what they consider to be their critical cosmetics. If stranded on a desert island, these are the makeup products they would take, and why:

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Barbara Magness, owner of B. Magness women’s clothing boutique in Newport Beach:

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“I wouldn’t go out of my house without eyeliner. My eyes completely disappear without it,” Magness says. “I also bring my lip pencil. They go with me everywhere.”

Her black eyeliner pencil and red lip liner, both purchased from makeup artist Joan Mazzei at Salon Belcourt in Newport Beach, have proved more crucial as time goes by.

“The older you get, the more things disappear--like the color in your lips,” she says.

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Cathy Lowden, a Newport Beach resident active in local charities (she is the former president of the Sophisticates):

“I always use Cover Girl Extension waterproof mascara. It’s the best mascara. It stays on long and doesn’t smear. I also need my lipstick--maybe because I talk a lot.”

Among her tried-and-true lipsticks: Moon Drops by Revlon in Hot Coral.

“I find that price isn’t related to quality,” Lowden says. “I don’t care what a brand name is, as long as it works.”

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Jan Thielbar, owner and president of Make-Up Creations in Irvine:

“Mascara and lip color are the most important products. You can usually get by without everything else,” Thielbar says. “Our eyes and lips are the assets of our face, and we want to bring them out.”

When doing the makeup of clients, she uses black mascara by Max Factor, which sells for about $4 at most drug stores.

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“I’ve tried everything else, from the most expensive on down. I like their brush, and it doesn’t smear underneath the eyes.”

To achieve the perfect lip color, Thielbar mixes formulas in the microwave. She buys plastic, seven-day pillboxes (the kind with no metal), then, into each container, she mashes up leftover lipstick from tubes she already has in her makeup drawer. She microwaves the lipstick for no more than three seconds at a time until melted, then stirs. (A warning to would-be cosmetics chemists: Lipsticks cook very quickly.) Once filled, the pillbox makes a handy lip-color carrying case.

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Pamela Coffey, owner of Images, an African American gift store in Santa Ana:

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“I don’t wear a lot of makeup except for a Neutrogena moisturizer. Gotta have it. It gives the skin a good glow,” Coffey says.

She also favors the Fashion Fair cosmetics line designed especially for black women, available at Robinsons-May in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. She occasionally uses Fashion Fair eyeliner pencils and concealer, she says.

“You can throw them on and feel made up,” Coffey says.

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Julia Cross, makeup artist with Stevens & Cross in Newport Beach:

Lip color, mascara and eyeliner are necessities for Cross as well as her clients, she says.

“I practice what I preach,” she says. Cross prefers a matte lipstick for the greatest holding power and a product called Lip Last ($22 at her studio) that seals the color without drying the lips. She also believes in a custom-blended foundation and concealer to even out skin tones.

“It’s a big one,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how much eye shadow you put on if you don’t get rid of problems first.”

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Lisa Harrington, a black model from Anaheim:

As a model, Harrington has sampled all kinds of cosmetics, yet for years she has relied on a couple of basics. One of her favorites is the Souffle foundation by Fashion Fair in Honey Glow.

“I always go back to it--it looks the best,” she says. “It doesn’t look like I have foundation on, and I always get compliments.”

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She also prefers assorted products by M.A.C., available at Nordstrom in South Coast Plaza, Brea Mall and MainPlace/Santa Ana. She uses M.A.C. Espresso eye shadow for multiple purposes: as a contouring shadow below her brow bone, as an eyeliner at the corners of her eyes and as a brow powder.

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Adrienne Brennan, model and owner of Newport Skin Care in Newport Beach:

“The most important areas of your face are eyebrows and lips. That’s what a person looks at first,” Brennan says.

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She suggests outlining lips, which tend to shrink with age, with a pencil so they look fuller. Chanel and M.A.C. make lip liners that have enough moisturizer for a smooth application, she says. The color should be slightly darker than one’s natural lips and match one’s lipstick to avoid a clown-like appearance.

She shapes her brows with a powder that matches her natural brow color.

“A face is so much more expressive with nice brows,” she says.

Brennan offers a “Your Face in Five” cosmetics kit that includes all of the makeup needed to do one’s face in five minutes. That’s how long she takes to do her makeup.

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“How many of us have time to fuss with our face?” she says.

* ARTIST TO STARS: Kevyn Aucoin, king of magazine covers, has just written “Art of Makeup.” E13


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