It would be fair to say that I have a small problem with beauty products. I'm at the top tier of the Sephora loyalty program, I've got an entire piece of furniture dedicated to beauty storage--I'm in deep. I've always liked puzzles, though, and for me, beauty products are like putting one together: identifying the open spaces, finding the appropriate pieces and trying to fit them together in a way that makes a sensible whole.
Unfortunately for my wallet, that means I buy and test a lot of cosmetics and skincare products of various types in the space of a year. Fortunately for you, that means I have a pretty lengthy list of what actually made a difference for me. Whether you're looking to indulge yourself as we head into months of cold, dry weather or you're looking to shop for the beauty addict on you holiday wish list, I have some personal suggestions below.
Amika Nourishing Hair Mask
$28 via Sephora
My hair is naturally curly, so it's dry to begin with, and when you add bleach and heat damage on top of it, well...it's very dry. I blow it out straight in the winter, and to keep the ends (which are the aforementioned bleached portion) from looking like straw, I use this hair mask as a conditioner when I wash (which is only 1-2 times per week). It's good enough to fool you into thinking my hair is in good shape, which means it's really good. (Also, it smells heavenly.)
Belif The True Cream Moisture Bomb
$38 via Sephora
My skin is also very dry, and New York winters do it no favors. I've been trying to find something to keep the flaky patches away for literally half a decade, and my success has mostly been with expensive creams or lots and lots of masking. I was skeptical whether something that cost less than 40 bucks would work, but my couple weeks of experience with this cream has been exceptional. I use it mostly as a day cream, but sometimes also at night if it's not too awful outside.
DevaCurl One Condition Delight Weightless Waves Conditioner
$22 via Sephora
If you have curly hair that isn't super coarse or thick and want a good conditioner that will help define your curls without weighing them down when you wear your hair natural, this is a great choice and has become my go-to.
Elizabeth and James Nirvana Bourbon Perfume
$65 via Sephora
I love Nirvana Black and also love scents with bourbon or cognac notes, so this was a match made in heaven for me; I wear it nearly every day.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask
$24 via Sephora
If you need an extra kick of moisture but need something gentle and that won't make you feel greasy, this quick, wonderful-smelling mask is the way to go.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Intensive Lip Balm
$20 via Sephora
I put this ultra-moisturizing balm on my lips at the end of my nightly skincare routine, and using it regularly has helped the look of my lipstick applications a lot, especially when it comes to drying, matte liquid lipsticks.
Garnier Skinactive Micellar Cleansing Water
$6 via Target
I've mostly stopped using soap cleansers in favor of this inexpensive micellar water morning and night, and the result has been great for my skin, especially since the weather has gotten colder.
Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask
$48 via Sephora
The more I use this, the more I think it might be my favorite new discovery of the whole year. It's essentially an enzyme gel peel, and I paint a little (very little--it goes a long way) on with an old foundation brush a few times a week after initially using it three nights in a row, per the instructions. The results are great--not only does my skin feel smoother, but it also feels plumper and brighter.
Herbivore Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish
$36 via Sephora
This stuff is pure personal indulgence: it smells like a mixture of rose oil and coconut and leaves your skin scrubbed smooth and well-moisturized.
Kat Von D Tattoo Liner Pen
$20 via Sephora
Liquid liner pens are my preference in general, and for a while, I used Stila's famous (and very good) version. This one is slightly less expensive and just as good to me, though, and maybe even a little better when used without any lid primer.
Make Up For Ever Excessive Lash Volume Mascara
$25 via Sephora
My lashes are long and my lids are oily, which often eventually results in me getting dark mascara circles underneath my eyes, even with waterproof formulas. I got this one as a sample and was so impressed that I bought the full-size; it's not perfectly smudge-free, but it's light years better than the others I've tried in the past couple years. (All of which were sort of...fine.)
May Coop Raw Sauce
$43 via Sephora
I heard about essences and decided I wanted to add one to my beauty routine because unfortunately that's how my mind works. I did some reading and searching and decided on this cult favorite product to try, and I've loved it so far. My skin feels more well-primed for the ingredients in my serums and moisturizers, and it seems to magnify their effects.
Milk Makeup Holographic Stick
$28 via Sephora
This highlighter stick is often sold out, and there's a good reason why: fun makeup usually isn't also everyday wearable makeup, but this highlighter makes me feel like a sexy office cyborg on the regular. It's super easy to apply and buildable, so it's can be part of your daily routine or your going-out look.
Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint
$42 via Sephora
My favorite medium coverage BB cream got discontinued. (Or maybe just got very hard to find in the US? I'm still not entirely clear.) and I've been searching for a replacement for nearly a year. This skin tint is far and away the best option I've found, especially for colder months, because the formula is moisture-rich. It also comes in a wide range of colors.
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
$24 via Sephora
I've worn this lipstick every Saturday for months because it perfectly matches my college football team's main color (Go Dawgs), and both the formula and true red color are great. (It's a bit drying, like all liquid lipsticks, but far more comfortable than many of the ones I've tried.)
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