Everyone’s the CEO of their own beauty startup: when it comes to figuring out a routine that works, there’s a lot of learning-by-doing. What do you budget for? Where should you splurge? How do you get this to work like that, or even just run smoothly? There’s a whole vocabulary to learn, processes to get familiar with, and at the very beginning, no one knows what the heck they’re doing. True to form, it helps to network. Through The Top Shelf, we’re constantly learning new tips to navigate our way through the beauty aisle—think of the interviewees as beauty mentors, and you their bright eyed and bushy tailed beneficiary. Beyond just product recommendations, there were so many nuggets of wisdom from this year’s Top Shelf cohort that made us say “ohhhh.” Just some we have bookmarked:

Beauty, at its best, should help you feel more like yourself

“One of the best tips a makeup artist gave me was to decide on three things in your routine that matter the most to you, and make them a part of your consistent casual look. My three things are mascara, lip gloss, and eyebrows, for sure.” —Poppy, Musician

“When I wear a red lip, I can’t wear any cheek color. I like for my face to feel very matte, almost like a cross between that dramatic Gwen Stefani look and Snow White. If I don’t wear a red lip, the only other lip product I’ll use is balm. And that’s when I’ll do a more flushed cheek.” —Athena Calderone, Interior Designer, Author, + Chef

“When I was younger, my mom would say, ‘Don’t wear red lipstick because it looks garish on dark skin.’ But as soon as she said that, it made me want to go out and buy all the red lipsticks. I actually think that bright lipsticks and really bold, dark lipsticks look really cool with dark skin tones. And especially because I don’t know what to do with everything else, makeup-wise, lipstick has always been a way to feel like I’ve put a look together.” —Zeba Blay, Writer

It doesn’t have to be expensive

“I think people always want to think they got a steal, but just because two creams are good doesn’t mean they’re dupes! It just shows you that cheaper formulations can be excellent.” —Charlotte Palermino, Founder, Dieux Skin

“The Body Shop is my small secret. If I want to buy beauty and don’t want to go broke, I go there—everything is so affordable and so good.” —Molly Goddard, Co-Founder, Desmond & Dempsey