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WHAT’S IN MY SJ? By guest blogger Karla Sugar of

Me and Stephanie Johnson bags go way back.  I first spotted them years ago on an endcap in Neiman Marcus.  It was the pattern that made me stop, but I fell in love with how sturdily and thoughtfully they were built.  (Stain-resistant interiors!  Why doesn’t everybody do that?)

I dislike cavernous makeup bags — I just don’t like products rattling around.  I have visions of shattered powders (and scuffed packaging just isn’t as pretty).  But it seems like the cosmetics bag category (in general) is trending larger and flimsier.  My response has to become a total nut for SJ bags.  So when the lovely folks at Stephanie Johnson asked if I’d like to guest blog, my answer was obvious.  But I realized I couldn’t express myself in fewer than three bags. Most of the time, I do my makeup at home and leave it at home.  But there are occasions when I have to work my magic on the fly.  Maybe some of you work out before heading into the office (I applaud you), or you want to look presentable post-facial, or you’re going out in the evening.  Enter the Mini Pouch (seen here in candy-colored Malibu Coral crinkle patent).  It’s the perfect size for my minimum kit:

Prestige Waterproof Eyeliner in Charcoal Brown A cheap, excellent, dark brown eyeliner. The formula is soft enough that it’s a breeze to apply (but not so soft it breaks), and once it’s on, it stays put.  Eyeliner is the first (and most important) product I put on — the difference between feeling pretty and people asking me if I’m getting sick.  $5.25,

Sephora Slim Pencil Sharpener  $2,

Cle de Peau Beaute Concealer I’m the first to admit this product is expensive, but dang, it’s potent.  The formula is so full coverage, you need only the tiniest amount to erase any discoloration.  And because you used so little product, there’s nothing to crease.  This is you without undereye circles.  Click here for swatches of the different shades.  $70,

Kate Somerville CytoCell Eye Cream I like to put on eye cream first, let it dry halfway, then put on concealer (the Cle de Peau is thick; this just makes it a little more emollient).  I love Kate’s products because they’re lightweight and dry quickly, but they’re effective.  $75,

Mascara The mascara in my bag changes on a regular basis; GWP sizes are convenient. Recent favorites have included Guerlain Noir G, Burberry’s mascara, and Chanel Inimitable Intense.

Tweezerman iLash Comb Silly name, brilliant product.  It’s basically a row of sewing needles mounted into a plastic handle (which folds shut to protect the tines).  Apply any mascara, then comb through your lashes with this metal comb, and you will be utterly clump-free.  $9,

Lipstick The shade depends on the time of year and city I’m in, but bright lipstick makes up for times when I’m not wearing too much else.  In this photo:  L’Oreal Volcanic. Swatches here.  Regular price is $8.95 at, but it goes on sale all the time.

Q-tips You can correct almost any mistake with a q-tip.  Uneven eyeliner application? Smudged a little mascara on your lid?  A dry q-tip will take that right off.

Now makeup application at home is a completely different story — I am an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink kind of girl.  And those tendencies also come out on blog-related travel (fashion week, conferences, anytime I’m representing the category of beauty).  I need options.  And the only way to pack it all in one bag is to use the ML Traveler, a makeup travel case par excellence. The ML Traveler features two flat mesh pouches (which snap into the case) and one big plastic pouch that velcroes in.  The flat pouches hold everything securely (and make it easy to find stuff).

I won’t subject you to a full accounting of the contents, but this is how I build on the basics I carry in the Mini Pouch.  (If there’s a product you’re curious about, ask, and I’ll reply in the comments).

One last bag I have to mention (because I LOVE bags that can be two things):  the Large Pouch.  I often imagine myself attending cocktail parties and brunches and afternoon weddings — but I’m bad at shopping for these events (maybe because I actually attend them so rarely).  The Large Pouch has become my go-to clutch.  I use it for travel, too — it’s the perfect size for a medium amount of makeup (say, a trip to wine country, just me and Mr. Salt).


Karla Sugar is a beauty blogger in Dallas, Texas. On her blog, she swatches makeup on her arm and takes pictures of it — outside, in sunlight, so you can see what something “really” looks like before you buy.  She spends the rest of her time drinking coffee, chasing her dog Domino, and exhaustively researching Dallas’s taco offerings with her husband.


By guest blogger Jessica Graves of The Love List

1. The unbelievable amount of comments I get on this makeup bag alone has made it worth the purchase price.  Every time it ends up in a tweet or Instagram, I have tons of people ask me about it.  The print is killer, but what I love most is the size.  It’s just big enough that I don’t have to cram in all my necessities when traveling – there’s room enough for everything, so I don’t have to sacrifice any important items.  Here’s what I normally tote around in there. . .

2. Sephora Brand Waterproof Jumbo Eyeliner Crayon I live in Atlanta, Georgia, and that sticky Southern heat can melt the makeup right off your face in the summer.  I love this little magic stick – it smudges when I want it to, and then stays in place all day.

3. Essie “E-nuf is E-nuf” Nail Polish I have manicure ADD, but this punchy shade of coral red is a year-round favorite. It’s my default when a trendier shade just isn’t doing it for me.

4. Mason Pearson Comb I’ve had this comb for years, and it looks as good as the day I bought it.  I use it to comb conditioner through my hair in the shower or freshen up a dry blowout.  The investment in a Mason Pearson item is well worth it.

5. Kiehl’s Creme de Corps Body Lotion If I could buy this in a gallon jug, I probably would.  It’s my “desert island” beauty item – no lotion works better or lasts longer, and I love that it doesn’t have any sort of fruity smell.

6. NARS Lip Glosses (pictured L-R in Place Vendome, Wonder, and Coeur Sucre) They’re easy to apply and look great on my olive skin – I have a darker complexion in the summer because I tan easily, and the vivid shades keep my lips from fading into my face!

7. Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte Normally, Chanel’s scents are a little mature for my taste, and I feel like everybody in college wore Chance, so I didn’t even shop the Chanel counter until I went to a little fete the company threw in Palm Beach.  This perfume was in the gift bag, and I haven’t stopped wearing it since.  It’s so fresh and bright!

8. Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Nude I don’t do foundation or any kind of heavy makeup.  Somehow, this miraculous moisturizer has just enough tint to it to hide any little sins in your complexion while letting your real skin shine through.  I’ve since gifted it to my sister and my Mom, and they’re hooked too.  Even better?  SPF 20!

9. Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 No fuss, no scent, no color, no gunk, just moisture.  My house is littered with tubes of this stuff; I keep it in every desk drawer and purse pocket I have.

10. Bosica Luminizing Black Mask This stuff is total voodoo.  I have no idea what’s in it or why it works so well, but it’s like conducting a really fun science experiment on your face.  It peels off in one big piece once it dries and takes all the icky stuff on your skin with it – just keep it away from your eyebrows!

11. NARS blush in Mata Hari It looks super bright in the compact, but I promise, it gives you the perfect note of pinky flush to your cheeks.  It’s the only blush I ever wear anymore!

12. YSL Volume Effect Mascara in Noir I think full-size tubes of mascara dry out way too fast for their price, so I always scoop up samples when I can.  This is what I currently have cracked open, and I’m digging it.

13. Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage For those mornings when I was hooting with the night owls, a little touch of this under the eyes, and nobody ever has to know how many gin cocktails I downed the night before 😉


Jess Graves, a Ft. Worth, Texas, native spent the brunt of her childhood under the Spanish moss eating oysters on the state line of South Georgia and North Florida.  After visiting family there her whole life, she relocated to the island of Palm Beach, Florida as a young adult and traded shady oaks and camellias for palm leaves and hibiscus.  After a good long stretch of beach time, she now spends most of her time nestled back home in the South in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, Georgia.  She has been in freelance creative services specializing in branding and social media since 2007, working with retailers, designers, and creative brands large and small.  She has been blogging for over six years and in self-publishing even longer  – she even takes on the occasional freelance writing gig.  Jess likes live music, cooking with friends, and painting her nails insane colors.  She does not like mosquitoes or phony baloneys.


By guest blogger Nicole Caruso of The City Girl in Me

Whenever I travel, I simplify my beauty routine down to the most versatile products and keep them tucked into this sleek Stephanie Johnson zip case.

With an upcoming trip to the cosmopolitan city of Santiago, Chile, I wanted to make sure I pack items that could take me from sightseeing by day to candlelit dinners by night.  What I love most about this SJ bag is how it also works double duty for daytime outings (passport, lip balm, concealer) and nighttime strolls with the chic gold wristlet attachment.

Here are some products I keep in my carry-on to look flawless, hydrated, and glowing, even with jet lag.

1. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid SPF 70.  This lightweight formula is perfect to wear everyday and keep skin from harsh sun, while marveling over city sights.

2. Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge.  Both a creamy cheek tint and lip color in one, Uber Beige adds shimmer-free bronze warmth to the skin in a few swipes.

3. Smith’s Minted Rose Lip Balm.  Whether sunburn or chapped lips hit, this balm will soothe and heal.

4. Benefit High Beam.   Get the I’m-on-vacation-glow:  dot and blend this on the inner corners of the eyes, brow bones, cheekbones, and the cupid’s bow.

5.  Choward’s Lemon Mints.  Old school candy never gets old, just make sure and save some for a post-flight pick-me-up.

6. Jouer Lip Gloss.  With one swipe, the hydrating formula in Birchbox Pink gives a pop of color for day, and can be layered into a deeper hue for cocktail hour.

7. L’Occitane Hand Cream.  10+ hours in flight is drying to the skin, and this rich cream moisturizes without getting greasy.

8. Sephora Waterproof Liner.  Creamy, waterproof eyeliner in a rich brown gives the lash line definition for day without smearing, and can be reapplied and smudged into a Sophia Loren cat eye for night.

9. Benefit They’re Real! Mascara.  Nothing widens eyes like super-black, volume-boosting, lengthening mascara.

10. Makeup Forever HD Concealer.  This HD concealer is the more pigmented mini-version of the HD foundation, so conceal a little or a lot and leave the big bottle at home.

11. Harvey Prince Yogini Perfume.  Since it is still summer in Chile, a heavy scent won’t do.  This fragrance is the perfect balance of sweetness and spice — one spritz for day and two for night.

12. Tools:  Hairpin & Tweezers.  A hairpin is a must for long-haired ladies and keeps hair back, unlike damaging elastics.  Brows look best when groomed, which makes a mini Tweezerman very useful.

The best part:  all of these beauty all-stars are under the TSA 3 oz. limit.  Happy jet-setting!


Nicole Caruso writes The City Girl in Me, a fashion and beauty blog for women looking to bring out their inner “City Girl”–  a style savvy, budget conscious, hard working girl who wants to look her best in order to feel her best.  Her mission is to guide women to become their ideal, while shopping everywhere from the thrift store to Saks.

Nicole has been enamored with fashion and beauty since the tender age of 2, when her stylish mom introduced her to her Coco Chanel perfume, Lancome lipstick, and Oscar de la Renta silk scarves.  She has since been pouring over magazine spreads and memorizing outfit ideas.  Nicole draws inspiration from art, period fashion, film, and her worldwide travels.  She has worked for a New York fashion house and backstage at Fall Fashion Week, while also freelancing as a makeup artist for weddings and special events.  The City Girl in Me is the place where Nicole shares her expertise on all things fashion & beauty, such as current trends, style tips, makeup application and more.

Find more of Nicole’s musings on PinterestCurrently ObsessedTwitter & Facebook.


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