Every year, I take a look back at my beauty routine over the previous 12 months to give you a list of the MVPs—my most valuable products!
We've got a lot to cover, so for Part 1, I'm starting with all things makeup, hair and beauty. Then, for Part 2, I'll cover skincare from head to toe.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who became a lot more low-maintenance in 2020. But despite the fact that I wore less (if any) makeup and barely did my hair, I still managed to add some real game-changers to my arsenal. If I had to choose the top three, I think this concealer, this lip stain and this root touch-up stick would be the trifecta!
But there's much more to talk about, so keep scrolling to discover all my favourite beauty products of the year.
Best Beauty Products of 2020
Primer: Dr. Barbara Sturm Anti-Aging Primer
After test-driving a mini from the previous year's Advent Calendar, the Dr. Barbara Sturm Anti-Aging Primer impressed me so much that I bought the full-sized tube. Unlike other primers, it has a creamy texture, doesn't pill, and is oil-free, fragrance-free and silicone-free. I wear it on its own instead of under foundation, and although this sounds contradictory, it somehow mattifies while giving your skin a subtle glow. Pricey but worth it!
Tinted Moisturizer: Omorovicza Complexion Perfector
The only foundation-type product I wore in 2020 was Omorovicza Complexion Perfector in Fair (although with the lockdowns, it was a "special occasion" thing rather than a daily occurrence). Still, this is my favourite tinted moisturizer—the ingredients list is top-notch, and it doesn't look or feel heavy on the skin.
Concealer: Kosas Revealer Concealer
Kosas Revealer Concealer was without a doubt one of my favourite new products of 2020. Ever since it launched, I've been using it almost daily! All my concealer prayers were answered here. It's medium-coverage, silicone-free and non-creasing, and works as well on dark circles as it does on blemishes. I wear the lightest shade, Tone 1, and I hear that more shades are coming out soon.
Concealer Brush: Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Concealer Brush
The Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Concealer Brush lives up to its name. I've never been happy with the blending capabilities of traditional flat concealer brushes, so when I stumbled upon this one, I had to have it. I just do a few dots of the Kosas Concealer around my nose and eyes, and use this brush to blend it out. The results are so natural-looking—no foundation required!
Spot Concealer: bareMinerals Blemish Rescue Skin-Clearing Spot Concealer
bareMinerals Blemish Rescue Skin-Clearing Spot Concealer is another product that I bought on a whim, and I was pleasantly surprised. Since it contains salicylic acid, and is both full-coverage and waterproof, it's a great choice for treating and concealing random breakouts. It even has a built-in sharpener so you can get a clean, precise application. I have the lightest shade, Fair 1C.
Powder: ILIA Soft Focus Finishing Powder
ILIA Soft Focus Finishing Powder continues to be my all-time favourite translucent face powder. It has this amazing airy texture (probably due to the cornstarch), and there's none of that dryness or weird slippery feeling that you can get with some other powders. It takes away shine, but is undetectable on the skin, so you still look totally natural.
Powder Brush: Bobbi Brown Sheer Powder Brush
For years, I've used a domed eyeshadow brush to apply my powder only on the T-zone, based on the advice of a makeup artist. But it was time for an upgrade. I got the Bobbi Brown Sheer Powder Brush after reading this interview with Nam Vo, who uses it for what she calls "precision powdering" (which is the same idea). I've always loved this brand's brushes, and this one is no exception.
Cream Blush: Lilah B. Divine Duo Lip & Cheek
I didn't wear a lot of blush last year, but when I did, I probably reached for Lilah B. Divine Duo Lip & Cheek the most often. I especially like this formula because it is so thin and lightweight, so it looks like the colour is coming from within instead of sitting on top of the skin. All the shades are great; I'm wearing B. True in the photo at the top!
Cream Bronzer: RMS Beauty Buriti Bronzer
In the summer, I like to wear some RMS Beauty Buriti Bronzer across my cheeks and the bridge of my nose to mimic where the sun would hit. I have trouble with most bronzers because they can easily look too dark or orange on my skin. But this one looks exactly like a real tan!
Cream Blush/Bronzer Brush: RMS Beauty Blush Brush
For applying cream blush or bronzer formulas, I've never found a better brush than RMS Beauty Blush Brush. The secret is the different bristle lengths, which ensure a streak-free application as you buff the colour into your skin.
Cream Highlighter: RMS Beauty Living Luminizer
For me, the best dewy highlighter will forever be RMS Beauty Living Luminizer. And that's not just because I love its minimal, ultra-clean ingredients list. Most importantly, it gives you the ultimate natural-looking pearly sheen, which makes your skin look instantly healthier and more radiant.
Powder Highlighter: Milk Makeup Flex Highlighter
I started experimenting with oil-free products in 2020, which is why I bought Milk Makeup Flex Highlighter. It's a powder, but a creamy powder (if that makes any sense). So you can actually apply it with a fingertip, which is how I use it. The shimmer is so concentrated that I think dusting it over a large area with a brush might be overkill. I wear the shade Lit, which is so popular that it is currently sold out!
Freckle Pen: Freck Long Wear Freckle Make-Up
It's no surprise that the best product for creating realistic-looking faux freckles is Freck Long Wear Freckle Make-Up. I don't tend to use this year-round, but it's fun in the summertime when I want to deepen or even out my natural freckles across my nose and cheeks.
Cream Eyeshadow: Kosas 10-Second Eyeshadow
Eyeshadow is a challenge for me since I have hooded eyes, but when I want a little somethin'-somethin', Kosas 10-Second Eyeshadow in Globe has become my go-to product. It's a neutral shimmery champagne, and it never moves or creases even though it's got a super clean ingredients list.
Powder Eyeshadow: Marc Jacobs O!mega Gel Powder Eyeshadow
During the first lockdown, I found myself watching this video of Dove Cameron's makeup routine. When I saw her apply Marc Jacobs O!mega Gel Powder Eyeshadow in The Big O! 520, I knew I needed this matte light brown. It's rare to find a brown like this, and I love how she uses it to subtly extend the outer corners of her eyes without looking like she's wearing a lot of shadow.
Eyeliner: Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner
In the last couple years, I retired all my dark eyeliners. Anything black, charcoal, navy and even most browns are just too harsh on me. I think it was a random Sephora review that led me to Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner in Lionfish, and there's no colour I like better. This is a warm bronze with subtle shimmer, so it's a lot softer-looking than 99% of the eyeliners out there... and it's also waterproof!
Eyelash Curler: Kevyn Aucoin The Eyelash Curler
Kevyn Aucoin The Eyelash Curler has been my eyelash curler of choice for the past few years. You know how some curlers just crimp your lashes, so there's this weird bend at the root and the rest of the hairs are straight? This one never does that! The curl is gradual, natural-looking and long-lasting.
Mascara: DHC Perfect Pro Double Protection Mascara
I'm very loyal to Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara (which is still the best!), but I thought I'd try out DHC Perfect Pro Double Protection Mascara for a change because it's half the price. It, too, is a tubing formula, and I like it nearly as much. It doesn't give quite as much volume, but it never clumps, smudges or gives you raccoon eyes!
Brow Gel: Maybelline Brow Fast Sculpt
I'm never going to forgive Maybelline for discontinuing Brow Drama, the best brow gel of all time. Celebrity makeup artist Nikki DeRoest loved it just as much as me, and so when she recommended Maybelline Brow Fast Sculpt as the closest replacement, I ordered it right away. It's definitely not as good and deposits too much product for my liking (I have to wipe off the brush). But it has more hold than other brow gels I've tried, and the shade Light Blonde is a really good match for me.
Tinted Lip Balm: RMS Beauty Tinted Daily Lip Balm
The last thing I need is more lip balm, but I couldn't resist getting the new RMS Beauty Tinted Daily Lip Balm when it came out. Honestly, it's so good. I hate when lip balms look like lip gloss or slide around on your lips, and this does neither. There's only a hint of shine, with just the right amount of long-lasting tint. I love all the shades, especially Twilight Lane (the berry).
Lip Stain: Dior Addict Lip Tattoo
I'm completely obsessed with Dior Addict Lip Tattoo, another contender for favourite beauty product of the year. It's a slightly creamy lip stain that dries matte, so there's no texture on your lips—just a pretty, "your lips, only better" flush of colour. I got it in Natural Peach (which I'm wearing in the photo at the top) and Natural Rose, and they're equally amazing.
Lip Liner: Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat
Since getting the lip stains, I haven't felt the need for lip liner, because you can use them instead to draw your ideal lip shape (which will last longer!). But before that, I would sometimes wear Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillow Talk if I wanted to build up my top lip a little bit.
Shampoo: Malin+Goetz Peppermint Shampoo
Normally, I only use sulfate-free shampoos, but I was sent Malin+Goetz Peppermint Shampoo to try and it's actually so gentle. The minty scent wakes you up, and it's clear, not creamy, so it doesn't weigh my hair down or contribute to body breakouts. I wash my hair every day—after reading Philip Kingsley's book I've realized that it's beneficial and NOT harmful—and this shampoo has been perfect.
Conditioner: Malin+Goetz Cilantro Hair Conditioner
Most conditioners are way too heavy for my fine hair, but not Malin+Goetz Cilantro Hair Conditioner. It's low in silicone and oil, so the texture is like a thin, lightweight lotion instead of a rich cream, which is ideal for my needs. Since it doesn't leave any residue on your skin, it is also less likely to cause bacne!
Hair Towel: Aquis Lisse Luxe Hair Towel
I finally got on the microfiber towel train, and Aquis Lisse Luxe Hair Towel does live up to the hype. It's so much lighter than a terry cloth towel, and does a way better job of wicking away water to reduce drying time. (And I don't even leave it on for more than a few minutes, since that would make my bangs dry funny!)
Leave-In Conditioner: Together Beauty Whatever Wherever Leave-In Conditioner
I use Together Beauty Whatever Wherever Leave-In Conditioner as more of a styling product than a detangler. (Since Tony lightens my hair with this "breaking the base" technique instead of highlights, it never gets very tangled.) Although not silicone-free, this spray is super lightweight and so effective at smoothing out my hair without leaving it greasy. I'd recommend it for all hair types. It also doubles as a heat protectant!
Comb: Mason Pearson Rake Comb
I always comb out my hair with the Mason Pearson Rake Comb, starting from the ends up. I learned from Philip Kingsley that you don't want to cheap out on your comb, as any seams on the teeth can actually slice into and weaken the hair shaft. This one is saw-cut, so it is completely smooth and non-damaging.
Brush: Philip Kingsley Vented Grooming Brush
I haven't given up my Mason Pearson Junior Mixture just yet, but I have been using the Philip Kingsley Vented Grooming Brush a lot more often. Why? Because brushes with smooth, rounded, widely-spaced plastic prongs are much kinder on your hair and scalp than boar bristle (not to mention less expensive). Again, I found this out from his book!
Hair Dryer: T3 Cura Luxe Professional Ionic Hair Dryer
I'm so loyal to T3 for hair dryers because they're non-damaging and leave my hair smooth, soft, healthy and shiny... plus they never break on me! That's why I'm still using an older model from a few years ago that isn't even for sale anymore (the PROi). It's been replaced by the T3 Cura Luxe Professional Ionic Hair Dryer, which is what I'd recommend now.
Flat Iron: Drybar The Tress Press
Another hair tool that I'm super loyal to is Drybar The Tress Press. I've never found a flat iron I've liked better! Mind you, I already have straight hair so I'm not doing a major straightening job with this. I just use it to touch up my bangs and ends if I've let my hair air-dry. It's so quick to use, glides through the hair effortlessly, and never creates any dents.
Waving Iron: Amika High Tide Deep Waver
I've wanted a waving tool for ages now, so I finally pulled the trigger on the Amika High Tide Deep Waver after reading tons of positive reviews. If you like the look of Boho waves, you need this thing! It's very easy to use (for me, much easier than a curling iron). I also find the wave stays put longer than curls, while adding a lot of body, so I don't need to use any styling products at all.
Root Cover-Up: Rita Hazan Root Concealer Touch-Up Stick
Rita Hazan Root Concealer Touch-Up Stick is my saviour whenever hair salons get shut down (which is currently happening here for the second time). It's like a lip crayon but for your roots, which makes it quick and easy to cover any regrowth or greys. It has a waxy texture that doesn't budge until you're ready to shampoo it out, and I find it's also great at taming any flyaways near my part. I wear Dark Blonde, and it's a perfect match.
Hair Ties: Slip Silk Skinny Scrunchies
I don't feel like I can pull off a big, '90s-style scrunchie, but a skinny scrunchie? That I can do. Slip Silk Skinny Scrunchies are the only hair ties I've been using, and they're even better than the ribbon ones I was wearing before. They're so gentle, they make you realize how much tugging and pulling that other elastics do on your hair.
Deodorant: PiperWai Activated Charcoal Deodorant
In an effort to try something other than Schmidt's Ylang-Ylang + Calendula (which is still my favourite), I went through a tube of PiperWai Activated Charcoal Deodorant. I find them equally effective, and I like that this one glides on more easily and smoothly. It just takes a lot longer to absorb into your skin.
Fragrance: Lush Sikkim Girls
Just when I settle on Lush Sikkim Girls as my signature scent, I find out it's being discontinued. I'm devastated. It's an au naturel mix of tropical white florals, vanilla and something a little bit spicy and smoky, like incense... there is nothing else like it! (But if you find any dupes, let me know!)
Nail Polish: Londontown Illuminating Nail Concealer
I love a sheer, milky white nail polish, because it's quick to apply and very forgiving if you make any mistakes or if it happens to chip. Why Nails Inc. got rid of their Nail Illuminator, I'll never know, but I've found a very good replacement for it: Londontown Illuminating Nail Concealer. It's the easiest way to make your nails look clean and pretty with minimal effort.
Epilator: Braun Silk-Épil 9 Epilator
I upgraded my old epilator last year, switching to the Braun Silk-Épil 9 Epilator instead—and it's pretty much life-changing. This is all I use for hair removal, and it's fast and virtually painless. (But if you're new to epilation, it can take time to build a tolerance.) The results are so much longer-lasting than shaving, and over time, your hair will grow in softer and finer.
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