not a professional. just crazy.

Everything I Bought at My Favorite Place in the World: The Upper East Side Ulta Store

The author, photographed in her element. Photo: Rio Viera-Newton

I am psychotically obsessed with Ulta, the beauty chain megastore that carries skin care, cosmetics, fragrances, and hair products. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sephora (the Soho staff know my name and are familiar with my passion for Tatcha and Giorgio Armani foundation), but there’s something about the high-low nature of the Ulta experience — the ability to buy both NARS and Revlon, Bumble and Dove, all in the same place — that really gets me going. Generally, when I walk in, I black out from overstimulation and only come to on my way home. The downside of having such a massive selection (I swear, I’m not sponsored by Ulta — not that I’d say no if they asked), is that it can be tough to sort through what’s worth purchasing. But the Ulta beauty empire is home to some of the best products available — some of which are exclusives, like my beloved Tarte Shape Tape and It Cosmetic brushes.

As a rule, I tend to reserve my visits to Ulta for when I am reaching the last drop of all the products in my cabinet and am in dire need of a big, dupe-and-splurge beauty haul. When I go in, I like to swatch new foundations, concealers, and shadows, and ask the Ulta salespeople every annoying question I might have. Since I’ve been doing this for, well, years, I consider myself a seasoned expert at navigating the Ulta world in person and online.

For years, my Ulta obsession forced me to trek from the city out to Marine Park — i.e., very deep into Brooklyn — if I wanted my fix. So you can imagine how ecstatic I was when they opened their first Manhattan location in November on the Upper East Side. But, because I have Ulta rules I’m intent on keeping, I wouldn’t let myself visit until I was nearly out of products. Which finally happened last week. The new location is, as expected, vast and overwhelming — but seeing as I walked through every aisle at least seven times and pestered every sales clerk for information, also at least seven times, I’m fairly confident that I didn’t miss anything. Below, everything I purchased during my first visit to the instantly iconic NYC Ulta.

I have dry skin, so I’ve always gravitated toward cream blushes and bronzers. I had long been convinced that powders would make my skin look weird, dry, and cakey. However, this trip I asked an Ulta employee if she could recommend a cream blush, and she essentially told me to cancel everything I previously thought about powder blushes and give this a go. I was hesitant enough that I considered taking it out of my shopping bag several times, but ultimately decided to keep it. And now I am so, so obsessed with this blush that I actually find myself angry at the thought of being without it. The Sensuous Rose color is this beautiful browny-pink, the perfect in between blush and bronzer color. And it literally melts into my skin, giving no powdery or dry effect whatsoever. Since purchasing this, I have worn it every single day, morning and evening, on my cheeks and on my eyelids. It’s the perfect product for a pretty, natural, cohesive look. I’m obsessed.

Before this Ulta trip, I’m ashamed (yes, ashamed!) to admit that I had literally no idea It Cosmetics made brushes. I was in the market for a blush and bronzer brush, and this one is so good. It picks up pigment really easily, and does the best job of distributing powder evenly but subtly across your skin. This paired with the Estée Lauder blush is to die for.

The other day, my YSL Touche Eclat fell into my toilet and I mourned for days. So during this Ulta trip, I decided to try out this cute, teeny-tiny peach stick from Cover FX and have been pretty smitten with it. I don’t apply it directly onto my skin; I instead warm it up on my fingertips, and then go in on my under-eyes. It’s a little thicker than the Touche Eclat, but does just as good of a job at canceling out my serious dark circles. I also love that it’s so small that I can take it pretty much anywhere.

My go-to when my very pricey Biologique Recherche Lait U cleanser runs out. I’ve been using this cleanser for years, as I truly believe it’s one of the best affordable cleansers for those with dry, acne-prone, and sensitive skin. A bathroom staple of mine!

This is a serious case of “YouTube Made Me Buy It.” I had heard endless YouTubers rave about how this sponge was so incredible and so much better than the original beauty blender that when I saw it, I absolutely had to get it. Guys, I think they’re right. The Real Techniques brush has both a flat edge for really getting up in your under-eyes and the original pointed tip for concealing any imperfections. I dampened this with water and applied my NARS foundation with it, and I was beyond impressed with how evenly and smoothly it distributed my makeup, and also how well it covered areas I didn’t even know I was missing out on before. If you’re a beauty-blender person, definitely try this out.

As spring approaches, I try to wean off of the steroid I’m prescribed for my eczema and start incorporating regular lotions more frequently into my routine. This lotion from Nivea is so nice, thick, and great for soothing. But it also adds a really natural, non-glitter shimmer to the body that makes it the perfect lotion to apply both before bed and before a night out.

A really special concealer to me that is sold only at Ulta. I had originally purchased this concealer in the summer, and the shade was too dark for my pasty winter skin, so I decided this was the perfect opportunity to buy a new one. I know I’ve mentioned her a few times, but this concealer is the most incredible dewy yet full coverage look. I’m fair neutral in the winter, and neutral sand in warmer months. There’s a reason why everyone is so obsessed with this concealer — it’s a must-have.

Good old M.A.C Fix+. I really love a face spray for giving me a nice pick-me-up throughout the day, but I find that a lot of them actually don’t do that great of a job at setting my makeup, especially at night when I’m applying a little more than usual. This cult-favorite setting spray from M.A.C makes sure everything is locked the hell in, and when you’re using any kind of powder (like the blush I mentioned above), it’s also great for that extra boost of hydration to make sure it melts seamlessly into your skin so that it doesn’t look powdery or dry at all. Also, for those who are acne-sensitive, this has never broken me out.