Normally, universities cut out the confusion of back-to-school shopping with long checklists, including shower caddies, mattress protectors, and at least two bath towels because roommates love using your things without asking (it’s inevitable, get over it). But those lists almost always leave off the essentials you can’t get at Staples or the campus bookstore, like a new collection of grown-up beauty products.
Gone are the days of never washing your face and wearing clear mascara. It’s time to graduate from your high school beauty routine. You’re in college now — you’re going to parties, snagging internships, and making connections in every lecture hall you walk in — and it’s as good a time as any to upgrade your vanity.
But as a budding adult, you don’t really make a lot of money — or know exactly what you like when it comes to products. Not sure where to begin? We’ve built our own checklist of must-have back-to-school beauty buys. These tailored kits are filled with everything you need in tiny bottles and jars you’ll actually use up by the holiday break. Shop our favorites, ahead.
There’s not always time for brushes, and even the backstage makeup pros will admit that fingers are faster. If you’re using your hands to paint on your makeup while riding the bus to class, these creamy eyeshadow pots make the process even easier because of the buttery texture and opaque pigments.
ColourPop First Charmer Super Shock Shadow Foursome, $18, available at Ulta Beauty
Making time — and budget space — for pedicures, facials, or any spa treatment can seem like a distant goal when you’ve got student loan payments looming. For now, stick to easy sheet masks and foot peels to keep your beauty game strong without totally breaking the bank.
Patchology Spoiled Rotten At-Home Pampering Kit, $25, available at Ulta Beauty
Washing off your makeup at 1 a.m. is better than sleeping in it until noon. Avoid a post-party raccoon eye with an eye-makeup remover that you can keep on the edge of your bathroom sink. Bonus: This kit comes with an eyeliner and mascara that aren’t too stubborn to wash off in a tipsy stupor.
Clinique Eye Favourites Set, $19.5, available at Ulta Beauty
Anyone studying sustainability will want to supplement their coursework with a revamped skin-care routine that’s vegan, cruelty-free, environmentally-friendly, and rid of questionable ingredients (synthetics, preservatives, and dyes). This routine from Herbivore is a sufficient starter kit — including a facial mist, moisturizer, oil, and face mask — that will keep your face glowing even after you camp out in the library one too many times.
Herbivore Botanicals Hydrate + Glow Natural Skincare Mini Collection, $39, available at Sephora
Graying may not be in your present realm of worries, but fading highlights may be. When you’re hours away from your most-trusted colorist, these root concealers make a huge difference. Even better, the set comes along with a dye-friendly shampoo and conditioner to sweeten the deal.
Rita Hazan Instant Fix Kit, $25, available at Sephora
There’s no better time to experiment with glitter makeup than college. Still, most will stick to your skin longer than a clingy ex from high school. Opt for these liquid shadows that wipe off with a cleansing towelette, and your professor will never know about last night’s antics.
Stila Oh My Stars Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow Mini Set, $25, available at Sephora
When you’re 21, your skin won’t feel nearly as wrecked by alcohol as it will by the time you’re 30. But if you want to combat the dehydrating effects of vodka shots — at any age — turn to a super hydrating product regimen like this one from Kiehl’s.
Kiehl’s Healthy Hydrators Kit, $35, available at Sephora
When you move from your parents’ house to a dorm with zero curfew restrictions, it’s time to upgrade your signature fragrance from something that smells like a watered-down daisy to a scent that’s manifesting your future study abroad semester in Paris.
Yves Saint Laurent Mini Black Opium & Mon Paris Eau de Parfum Duo, $28, available at Sephora
You’re 18, just got into the Ivy school of your dreams, and your T-zone has yet to get over puberty-related acne. You need a sensitive skin-friendly kit with a pimple-fighting cleanser, mask, and daily exfoliating pads to get you through your freshman year. Because your Jane Austen Anthology syllabus is enough stress for one semester…
First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Banish Acne Kit, $24, available at Sephora
If your hormonal acne is more stubborn than your R.A. (she really should get out more), you need this set that’ll have your pores cleared out before your Friday French class.
Sunday Riley Space Race Fight Acne, Oil + Pores at Warp Speed Kit, $65, available at Space NK
Already packing for spring break before the semester begins? Throw in this handy bag of travel-friendly necessities when the time finally comes to jet off to Cancun. This curated set from Sephora includes a cleanser, face mask, perfume, mascara, dry shampoo, and a red lip. So, you never have to stress about TSA trashing your entire vanity in one security check.
Sephora Survival of the Chillest, $10, available at Sephora
Still sharing a room with two other people? Fight the trifecta of competing scents — imagine Velveeta, Burnett’s vodka, and dry shampoo — with these fancy candles.
Diptyque Baies, Figuier, Roses Mini Candle Set, $105, available at Space NK
Skin care is low on the priority list for most incoming college students, but when you’re just a few months away from graduating, you’ll want invest in this pro-quality kit of skin necessities. It’s got hyaluronic ampoules and an eye cream (yes, you care about eye creams now). Consider it your first step into #adulting.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Discovery Set, $110, available at Space NK
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