The 8 makeup products you don't need in your routine - according to beauty editors and experts alike

Don't be fooled, not every new beauty launch is a staple - in fact, we can name 8 products that are far from essential...

A close up of a woman with short hair, putting on lip liner alongside a woman, with curly hair, brushing her eyelashes/ in a textured, beige template
(Image credit: Getty Images: (L to R) Caroline Tompkins /Refinery29 | Maskot)

Tired of overcomplicated routines and products that cost a lot but contribute very little to your makeup look? These are the 8 items that the experts - along with woman&home's beauty team - say can be kicked to the curb, in favour of more versatile and effective beauty staples...

If the beauty conglomerates are to be believed, our makeup bags would be splitting at the seams thanks to 10-step-plus regimes - using primer this and setting that. But the reality is that not all makeup and skincare products are equal in their effectiveness. Now, we should caveat this by saying that beauty is subjective - what works for some, may not work for others - but there are a few items that might just be taking up precious space in your arsenal.

So, if you're sick of primers that don't lock in your best foundations, or just want to streamline your regime, these are the products the experts say are worth your money and the ones that aren't...

The 8 makeup products that aren't essential to your routine

Here on the woman&home beauty team, we’ve tried it all - from the best tinted moisturisers to the most radiant highlighters - and there are a few things we’ve picked up along the way. The main one being that not all makeup products are "essentials" or "game-changers" and if you dropped them from your daily rotation, you wouldn't actually miss them...

1. Eyeshadow primers

In theory, an eyeshadow primer seems like an excellent idea but in practice, you can achieve a very similar effect with your go-to concealer.

As Face The Future's resident makeup artist, Rachael Divers explains: "Eyeshadow primers were hot news when I was in my teens, but as I grew up and experimented more with makeup and began work as a pro makeup artist, I began to realise they were, really, a non-essential.

Instead, Divers says to "use your regular concealer to double up as an eyeshadow primer by buffing (with a brush) or bopping (with a beauty blender) a small amount onto your eyelids and up to your brow bone. Your concealer will work in the same way - it colour-corrects and also gives your eyeshadow a base to adhere to. You can also set it with a little translucent powder to ensure it doesn’t crease."

That being said though, if you have oilier lids or find concealer just doesn't cut it, eyeshadow primers are formulated to be long-wearing and will offer a tackier base than a traditional concealer - so, you may find they work really well for you.

2. Eyelash primer

If you have sparse or shorter eyelashes there are a plethora of the best volumising mascaras out there, along with mascaras for short eyelashes that are designed specifically to lengthen and fan out the lashes - for a feathered and accentuated look. Meaning a priming step might be a tad redundant, and a one-way ticket to clumpy lashes.

As woman&home's Beauty Editor, Stephanie Maylor says: "I've tried a couple of different mascara primers, each time hoping that they will extend my lashes to new brow-tickling heights. But the truth is I've never clocked much of a difference between applying a primer + mascara and mascara alone. Pick the right mascara - one that lengthens, defines and volumises, and you shouldn't need a lash primer IMO."

However, if you prefer using tinted mascaras, like blue or burgundy, you might find that a white or clear lash primer helps to make the shade pop.

3. Freckle pens

We can definitely see the appeal of a freckle pen, especially when summer rolls around but, if you already own a brow pencil or brown eyeliner - which when applied to the skin and blotted out, creates a very similar look - they are a tad unnecessary.

Prices of freckle pens are comparable to that of a brow and eye pencil and often come in teeny-tiny tubes, offering way less value for money. Thus, while we do have a soft spot for them, we would argue that they're not worth factoring into your next beauty haul.

4. Lip liner

Now, this will probably be a controversial one but hear us out. If you already have a liquid lipstick in your staple shade, do you really need a matching lip liner?

We understand that it can help to create a clean line around your lips, especially when you're tangling with the best red lipsticks - which are not exactly easy to apply - but one could argue that if your lippie or applicator has a sharp enough edge, it could line your lip just as well...

"I wear red lipstick every single day, and I don't even own a red lipliner," says woman&home's Senior Beauty Editor, Rhiannon Derbyshire. "I find that the pointy end of my liquid lipstick, or even a lipstick bullet does a pretty good job of mapping out the colour without the added step. While lip liners can add fullness and stop colour bleeding, I don't find it hugely necessary for my bright reds - especially as I tend to favour budge-proof, matte formulas."

Again, this does come down to personal preference. If you find lip-liners ward off smudging and colour bleeding, whilst also helping your lippie last longer in general, then you do you!

5. Oil-based primers

While there are some great face primers out there, Divers notes that there are some that, depending on your skin type, might actually be hindering your makeup routine. "Primers can feel amazing on your skin and can indeed smooth out those tiny imperfections, but many of them contain ingredients that clog up your pores and have the opposite effect on your skin in the long run."

Oil primers fall into that category for us. Despite most claiming to offer radiance and a glass-like glow, unless you have very dry skin, they can instead cause your makeup to migrate and your foundation to pile. Our team have also had experience with some clogging our pores.

So, if you're considering an oil primer to boost hydration and achieve a dewy complexion in the place of let's say, one of the best hyaluronic acid serums, Divers reminds us that our foundation or base products, "are only ever going to be as good as your skincare routine," adding that, "prepping your skin properly with a consistent skincare regimen is the best approach.

Instead, Divers recommends something like Hello Sunday The Illuminating One Glow Primer, which features skincare elements - specifically hyaluronic acid and SPF50.

6. Powder highlighters

With the shift towards more natural-looking and radiant makeup, our powder and pressed highlighters are starting to gather dust. As woman&home's Beauty Writer, Annie Milroy notes: "With the overwhelming amount of illuminating primers, pearlescent foundations and glowy setting sprays available on the market, I never find the need to add a highlighter to my makeup routine.

"Long gone are the days of chalky, matte makeup looks (thank god), so for me personally I never feel the need to add another luminous dimension to my makeup. Sorry, highlighters, I just don't see the point in you..."

Digital Beauty Writer, Naomi Jamieson agrees, adding that, "when you also have multi-purpose glow-boosters out there (like that of Charlotte Tilbury's Hollywood Flawless Filter), that are designed to be used as primers, highlighters and foundation illuminators, all in one convenient bottle, a powder highlighter - with limited versatility - seems pointless."

7. Colour-adapting face products

We've all seen the TikTok and Instagram videos of these foundations, blushes and lip tints that are touted to change colour, depending on your pH levels, to afford you the most perfect, natural match for your skin tone. However, our team have found them to be pretty unreliable and disappointing.

"As someone who needs products to suit a darker skin tone, I don't always completely trust colour-changing products," says w&h's Digital Beauty Editor, Aleesha Badkar. "And if I'm honest, any colour-changing product that I've tried in the past has always turned out too light for me, so hasn't worked properly anyway."

Instead, Aleesha recommends opting for a lighter coverage skin tint, "like Shiseido skin tint, which will suit your skin tone and is light coverage enough to adapt to your shade."

8. Peel-off lip tint

Peel-off lip tints are as they sound, a product you apply to your lips, allow to dry and then peel away to reveal a pop of colour that is said to last for hours. Sounds great in theory, right? Well, according to Naomi they're more trouble than they're worth.

"I liked the idea of a long-lasting lip tint but the application process is just so much hassle, for a finish that isn't even neat nor particularly wowing," she quipped, adding: "Often they come with multiple steps and are just unnecessarily time-consuming. I'd much rather swipe on a tinted lip balm and go."

Makeup products to buy instead, according to experts

So, now that that's settled, what products should we look to add to our makeup arsenals instead?

  • Foundation or concealer: "If I were to choose between the two in a pinch, I’d opt for a foundation as this can be used both as an all-over foundation, or a concealer, too," Divers says and for those who want a 'our skin but better' finish, she recommends l love Perricone MD No Makeup Foundation Serum - which is a skincare/makeup hybrid.
  • Clear brow gel: Along with setting your brows in place, Divers says a clear brow gel, "can also be used as a mascara – perfect if you have your lashes and brows tinted and would just like a little extra lift and definition."
  • Bronzer/blush palette: A palette containing bronzer and blush is a true staple and will save a ton of space in your makeup bag: "You can use both products together or on their own. Bronzer is a particularly versatile product as you can put it to work to add definition to your eyelids too, for a cohesive makeup look."
  • Lip balm: "Lip balms are a real essential whether you’re using them to prime your lips ahead of liquid lipstick application or wearing them on their own."

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Naomi Jamieson
Digital Beauty Writer

Naomi is a Digital Beauty Writer from woman&home, where she covers everything from skincare to fragrance but specialises, particularly, in makeup and nail trends. Through her work, Naomi gets to share her trend expertise and share her own shopping recommendations and product reviews. Previously, she worked as a Lifestyle News Writer for My Imperfect Life magazine, where she used her savvy for TikTok to bring readers the latest beauty buzzwords, fashion movements and must-have products. 

Before that, Naomi split her time between both GoodTo and My Imperfect Life, whilst training for her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ, for which she earned a Distinction. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but leapt into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing. Now, when she isn’t reporting on the best perfumes and latest beauty releases, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping...