With so much to choose from in the beauty world, check out these time-tested favorites our editor buys again and again
Testing things with your own personal head isn't an ideal way to try anything new, but when it comes to beauty products, it's the only way. Will something break you out, make your hair crunchy, irritate your eyes or waste your money? Dab some on and wait. I've undertaken this exact course of action hundreds (maybe thousands) of times in my life, mostly because I want to look my best but also because I just enjoy the process of buying and examining new products. With all that time and research under my belt, I'm here to make some recommendations so you can arrive at the best formulations via a less circuitous route than I did.
The 15 products below are my fail-safe solutions in makeup, skincare and hair care, things I've bought repeatedly for years or things I've tried recently that made me abandon a years-long loyalty to a similar product. With each one, I've tried to explain what makes it unique and why I think it works for me, but like I said: the only real way for you to know for yourself is to try them out.
Amika Bombshell Blowout Spray
$24 via Sephora
This stuff sells out frequently on Sephora's website, and there's a reason for that: it's weightless and effective, providing protection, nourishment, volume and shine to even fine, thin, damaged hair like mine with none of the gunky product feeling of most formulations which do all that. Oh, and it also smells great. If it's sold out, add it to your wishlist and Sephora will contact you when it returns. (And it will!)
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter in 'Champagne Pop'
$38 via Sephora
This is a product that had a ton of hype when it debuted as a collaboration with beauty guru Jaclyn Hill, and as it turns out, the hype was so completely justified that it's become part of Becca's permanent color lineup. I got my compact when it came out almost two years ago and have worn it nearly every day since, and I'm only now starting to scrape out the last little bit around the edges. A little goes a long way, and the results are totally gorgeous. I'll definitely be buying a new one soon.
Bioderma Hydrabio Moisturizing Serum
$24.90 via Amazon
Moisturizing serums can be pricey (especially from European brands) and questionably effective, which is why I've been so impressed with this one from French skincare favorite Bioderma: it costs 25 bucks and it works. I knew it would work as soon as I rubbed it between my fingers. I have dry skin and have been using it at night lately, and I'll probably use it both night and day when the weather gets cold.
Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask
$71 via Sephora
Look, I understand: $71 is a lot of money for a hair product you use periodically. I thought the same thing, but I had a big sample pot of the stuff and my twice-bleached ends have been looking terrible lately, so I slathered some on and wore in overnight. That's not even how you're supposed to use it (the packaging says to apply it in the shower after shampooing, let it sit, lather it up and rinse, but I didn't read the packaging until later), and I cannot tell you how dramatically and instantly my hair's texture and appearance improved.
I could tell the difference would be huge before I finished washing, and there was far less hair in my drain than usual. My hair didn't tangle like it usually does, and my heat damage and split ends were nowhere to be seen after I dried my hair. The smell is a little baby powder-y, which some reviewers hate, but it doesn't bother me and the results are more than worth the smell and expense. If you have hair that's been bleached or heat damaged, you need this in your life. I've used countless hair masks (as well as pure coconut oil) in similar ways before, and none of them have come anywhere close to these results.
Clinique Almost Lipstick in 'Black Honey'
$17 via Sephora
I rediscovered this favorite from my teen years while visiting my parents several months ago, and it's still as perfect as it ever was. If you've never had a tube of Black Honey, don't be intimidated by how the color looks in the packaging. It goes on very sheer, leaving your lips smooth, hydrated and coated in just enough berry tint to make it clear you're wearing a product without looking too "made up." The shade is also as close to universally flattering as it gets, and countless friends have picked up their own tubes in recent weeks as a result of my raves.
First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer
$28 via Sephora
Because my skin tends toward dryness and I prefer a dewy look, I had always stayed away from primers or moisturizers that contained them. Most of those products contain silicone, and while silicone is very effective for many people (and it's not the demon ingredient some make it out to be), it's always sucked the hard-fought appearance of moisture straight out of my skin. So when I came across this one, I was intrigued: it contains no silicones, and it's from a brand that's always agreed with my sensitive, dry skin. Now, I'm on my third tube of Coconut Skin Smoothie and fully terrified that the brand might one day stop making it.
Not only is it the perfect underneath layer for a skin tint or BB cream, even on a hot day, but the moisturizer itself makes your skin super radiant and improves the look of my makeup. It also helps keep it in place all day without dryness, even when the heat and humidity are bad.
One caveat: The product has a beige tint when it comes out of the tube, but as far as I can tell, it doesn't lay down any pigment. Still, customers with darker skin may want to check it out in person before ordering.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Lip Therapy Balm
$12 via Sephora
I've never in my life been truly satisfied with a lip balm until I tried this one. So many of them feel weird and waxy to me, or like they're mostly just Vaseline, when I've always just wanted an intensive moisturizer, but for my lips. That's what this is, and not only is there one riding around in the bottom of every bag I use regularly, but there's one next to my bed for nightly application before I go to sleep. Without fail, I always wake up with perfectly moisturized, plump lips.
Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water
$7 via Amazon
Micellar water isn't a sexy product, but it's one that's changed my skin for the better in a huge way, especially during cold or dry weather. I went micellar-only for cleansing at the beginning of last winter to see if that was the step in my routine that was contributing to my dry skin, and as it turns out, that was exactly the problem. Even gentle or oil-based cleansers were stressing my skin out, but dousing cotton pads in this stuff until they come up clean did just the trick. And there's no reason to buy the super-fancy stuff if you don't want to; most of the hardcore beauty obsessives I know use one of the Garnier versions. This one's my favorite because it gently removes even the toughest waterproof eye makeup.
Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask
$48 via Sephora
I'm big on adding as much moisture to my skin as I can, but that can only help you so much if you're not also doing regular, gentle exfoliation to remove dead skin buildup. In my opinion, using any kind of gritty exfoliator on your face is a bad idea, so I always go chemical. I've tried several great ones over the past year or two, but this one is my favorite. The company relies on simple, effective, plant-derived ingredients, and the formula is super effective without burning or redness, even with my redness-prone skin. (For me, it tingles a bit for the first minute and then feels like nothing.) For best results, use it as instructed: do it three nights in a row at first, then a couple nights per week after. I noticed a big difference in the evenness, radiance and texture of my skin very quickly.
Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil
$34 via Sephora
I don't know exactly how long I've been buying this pencil, but it's been at least four years, I think. Despite the cost, which is admittedly on the high end for this type of product, I just haven't found anything I like as much. Not only is this product a good, quick brow filler, but its waxy texture keeps brows orderly and groomed all day, which isn't usually a service provided by pencil fillers. Also, you get a ton of product for the money—I usually only have to buy one every six months or so, and I use it every day. For the product's longevity and how many compliments people give me on its results, the expense is easily justifiable for me.
Isehan Kiss Me Heroine Make Waterproof Mascara
$10.13 via Amazon
I've had the same problem with mascara since I was a teen: my lashes are long and my lids are oily, and the combination of the two means even waterproof mascara loses its grip during the day and ends up below my eyes. This raccoon effect has happened to some extent with literally every mascara I've ever tried, no matter how expensive or well-reviewed it was. I've tried a lot of very good mascaras, but never one that was exactly what my lashes needed.
When I saw someone recommend this inexpensive Japanese version on another website, I figured it was worth a shot—after all, ten bucks, free shipping and a few weeks to wait for delivery seemed like an absolute steal relative to all my other options. Y'all, it is better than I could have imagined. I've already ordered my second tube. It goes on easily once you're used to the formula's texture (it's a bit thinner than European mascaras), doesn't clump and makes my lashes look long and distinct. Best of all, though, it absolutely does not budge until I take it off. And getting it off takes the right product—the Garnier waterproof micellar above works for me, but the regular one does not. I could probably go swimming in this stuff.
Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint SPF 30
$42 via Sephora
I don't like the look of full foundation for everyday use, but I also want something that's a little bit more powerful than the average BB cream or tinted moisturizer, and I also want to look as moisturized and dewy as possible. I've found relatively few products that tick all those boxes, but this skin tint fits exactly in that sweet spot.
Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray
$46 via Net-a-Porter
This stuff is super popular in spite of its price tag for a reason: it smells great and it does what it promises to do. When I blow out my hair, I often need a little help getting some texture and volume back into it, and this does the trick, especially on days two or three.
Pixi Glow Tonic
$15 via Urban Outfitters
I never really believed that toner made much of a difference until I found glycolic acid. I've tried different formulations over the years and some of them are definitely too strong for my dry, sensitive skin, but this cult favorite product strikes exactly the right balance between the everyday exfoliation of glycolic and the soothing properties of ingredients like aloe vera.
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in 'Fiery'
$24 via Sephora
I've never used a color cosmetic more guaranteed to garner compliments and inquiries as this one. Most bright red turn pink on me, but this one stays true to color and super-flattering when applied. Like most liquid lipsticks, it's also super longer-wearing; you can put this on and go out for a couple cocktails or a have a snack without thinking about it again, and it's easy to touch up if you eat something particularly greasy and it starts to wear off. The formula is a bit drying, but not as bad as many of the similar formulations that I've tried, and it's not at all uncomfortable as long as you generally keep your lips well-moisturized.
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