Another year down; another year of buying and trying a colossal number of beauty products!
I always get excited to go back through my skincare, makeup and haircare collection to come up with my annual list of favourites. I fell in love with a lot of new products in 2018, especially in skincare... but I've also stayed loyal to a handful of Holy Grails that I can't see myself ever being without!
For 2019, I've got tons of reviews to come—but before we dive in, here are the most amazing products I tried over the last 12 months.
Best Beauty Products of 2018
Below, find my 2018 favourites in the following categories:
- Oral Care (bonus category because I got so many questions on this after sharing previously!)
Cleansers and Makeup Removers
- Makeup Removers: I don't think I'll ever be without my Bioderma Sensibio H2O, but I did finally try some alternative micellar cleansers in 2018, from Caudalie and L'Occitane. They're just as good! (And I always use them with Shiseido Facial Cotton, of course.) I didn't do quite as much cloth cleansing with coconut oil (I was more about my Foreo Luna 2). But I may pick that back up again this winter—a warm, steamy cloth always feels so good on a cold night!
- Gel/Jelly Cleansers: I went through so much Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser in 2018 that I recently purchased a second bottle; it's become my favourite non-drying gel cleanser. I also tried and love the Indie Lee Rosehip Cleanser, which has more of a jelly texture and is quite hydrating. I think most skin could use both! Apparently I was VERY into gels/jellies last year, because Drunk Elephant, COSRX, Juice Beauty and Tata Harper were all in my rotation as well (and suitable for normal/combo/oily types).
- Foaming Cleansers: I purchased the foaming cleanser from Thursday Plantation in the summer as an emergency cleanser, and ended up really liking it for those oilier skin times. I also used the foam from Graydon, which is non-drying and suitable for sensitive skin.
- Lotion Cleansers: In the mornings, I used a lot of the Schaf lotion cleanser, which is so gentle. I also went through an entire bottle of Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser that I mistakenly got through PR. Initially, I was just trying to use it up fast since it's high in sunflower oil, but I came to really enjoy the creamy texture.
- Face Wipes: I never use face wipes in place of actual cleansers, but for travel and post-workout I loved the ones from Consonant and Ursa Major (both reviewed here).
Acids and Toners
- BHA Treatments: The one product I was MOST loyal to in 2018 was definitely my COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid (reviewed here). No plans to stop using it anytime soon—I've lost count of how many bottles I've gone through at this point! It prevents acne, fades dark spots, brightens and more. I also tried the two percent salicylic acid pads from First Aid Beauty and B. Kamins, which are a little bit stronger but great for preventing acne. In the winter, I experimented with Juice Beauty 0.75 percent salicylic acid for a while; it would be perfect for anyone looking for a gentler BHA. In the summer, I kept body breakouts away with Alba Botanica.
- AHA Treatments: I wasn't big into AHAs in 2018, as I find BHAs do more. But I did break out my lactic acid-based Lotion P50T and Lotion P50 PIGM 400 on occasion (especially after interviewing Dr. Philippe Allouche!). P50 is my favourite AHA-based treatment for removing dead skin cells.
- AHA/BHA Treatments: I also tried out a combo AHA-BHA, the Tata Harper Resurfacing Serum. It's a nice choice if you're looking for something all-natural, gentle and hydrating.
- Toners: I'm in the camp that toners are not really necessary (unless they're acid treatments, in which case I'd call them AHAs/BHAs). That said, I do like to try them from time to time, so I bought the Herbivore Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner in 2018. Unfortunately, it doesn't play well with acids... whenever I've applied them close together, I get red, flushed skin! So I haven't been able to fit it into my routine, but if you're not using acids, I'd definitely recommend it.
Hydrating Serums, Essences and Mists
- Serums: Besides Consonant HydrExtreme (reviewed here and here—the first serum I ever loved and my favourite to this day!), I used lots of Indie Lee Swiss Apple Facial Serum (reviewed here) and the reformulated Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Serum. (I think the Swiss Apple Serum is being replaced by Indie Lee Stem Cell Serum, so I'll be switching to that this year.) For a budget option, I was really impressed with The Ordinary Marine Hyaluronics (reviewed here and here). And for a splurge, Omorovicza Instant Perfection Serum (reviewed here and here) is a lovely hyaluronic acid serum.
- Essences: I think I actually used essences more often than serums last year. My favourites were from Omorovicza and SK-II. I also did COSRX in the winter; it's super hydrating if you can get over the snail goo texture!
- Mists: Tata Harper had my most-loved mist in 2018, although I fully admit I am swayed by the pretty bottle! I also spritzed on mists from Odacité, BIOeffect, Caudalie, Herbivore and Avène. All of these, I applied not so much for hydration but to refresh my skin, to cool down and/or to give my makeup a more lived-in look. The BIOeffect mist is really unique because it has silica to help mattify.
Moisturizers and Eye Creams
- Moisturizers: I'm more of a serum and oil person, but I couldn't help but fall in love with not one but TWO moisturizers in 2018. They were OSEA Atmosphere Protection Cream and Omorovicza Elemental Emulsion (reviewed here). Both are silicone-free and just so effective yet lightweight! If you're looking for a richer cream, I would recommend LXMI Crème du Nil (reviewed here); I'm still a big fan.
- Eye Creams: 2018 saw me trying more eye creams that I have in the past—I've always struggled with finding products that don't irritate that delicate skin. The best ones I discovered were from Indie Lee and Derma E; both hydrate well without being greasy, and I got zero irritation. Also Sisley, although it's a serious splurge. For treating and preventing fine lines, I tested out Drunk Elephant, which has copper peptides. I like it, but it did start drying me out after frequent use, so I can't do nightly yet. I had better luck with The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% and 5% in Squalane (reviewed here and here), even though they're not technically eye creams. I'd often use a smidge of oil on my under-eye area, such as the ones from Indie Lee and RMS Beauty.
- Pure Oils: After discovering it in 2017, squalane continued to be my favourite oil last year. Indie Lee, Peter Thomas Roth, The Ordinary and Biossance were all part of my rotation (see reviews here). I also used quite a bit of coconut oil from RMS Beauty. Yes, on my face, and nothing bad happened! It's definitely not comedogenic for everyone. Like I said, I often used oils as "eye creams," too.
- Oil Blends: I only tried one blend, Herbivore Orchid Facial Oil, and loved it. I'm very fussy about oil stability, but this one ticks off my boxes (it has coconut, jojoba, camellia and squalane). I find pure jojoba alone can break me out as it's a little thicker, but this blend is very thin and light.
- Face Sunscreens: I can't believe how many sunscreens I accumulated last year, in search of the most protective and elegant products to recommend to you all! The standouts that were new to my collection were from DeVita, Drunk Elephant, Kosmea, Ava Isa, CyberDerm. I also continued to use Juice Beauty, Derma E and Rocky Mountain, and I bought my second tube of Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30 (reviewed here) for a hint of tint. All of these were reviewed here and here. (I think the Kosmea may be in the process of being discontinued, though... sob!)
- Body Sunscreens: My favourite body SPF was from DeVita, just because it's so lightweight and non-greasy. For the beach, I got good protection from Attitude and Beautycounter. See my reviews here.
Retinoids, Niacinamide and Vitamin C
- Retinoids: The most effective retinoids for me in 2018 were without a doubt Resurface by Shani Darden Retinol Reform (reviewed here) and A313 Vitamin A Pommade (which I just started a few weeks ago and will be telling you more about VERY soon!). I also used CyberDerm Retin+Erase for a while, but since it's no longer allowed to be sold in Canada (Health Canada now considers it a drug), I've put my testing on pause for the moment. In the winter, I was on The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% and 1% in Squalane (reviewed here and here), which are good budget options. In the fall, I went through a bottle of Shani Darden Texture Reform, which I'd recommend if you have very sensitive skin and are looking for a super mild retinoid.
- Niacinamide Serums: In 2018, I was never without a bottle of niacinamide (find out its benefits here). For most of the year, The Ordinary (reviewed here) was my brand of choice, even though it's a bit prone to pilling. But then I switched to Paula's Choice, which I like even better as it's so thin and watery. I also dabbled with Glossier and Skin Inc Supplement Bar.
- Vitamin C Serums: To be honest, niacinamide seems to work better for my skin than vitamin C (and without having to worry about it oxidizing, like L-ascorbic acid). But I did try one vitamin C earlier in 2018, from Drunk Elephant. It has a good amount of vitamin C, ferulic acid and vitamin E; I would just say to be cautious with it if you are acne-prone.
- Clay Masks: During acne-prone PMS times, I liked to apply Indie Lee Clearing Mask to draw out excess oil and impurities. For general balancing, brightening and smoothing, I loved Odacité and MV Organic Skincare; both are dry powders that you mix with water.
- Exfoliating Masks: Before a night out on the town, I've always loved doing a gentle acid mask to give my skin an instant rosy glow. Favourites included Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask, Herbivore Brighten Pineapple Enzyme + Gemstone Instant Glow Mask and Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask.
- Other Masks: The mask I love most of all is Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant (reviewed here). It's truly like no other—so that's what I'd use if I could only choose one!
Beauty Tools and Extras
- Cleansing Brushes: To thoroughly remove makeup and sunscreen at night, I've been very committed to my Foreo Luna 2 for Combination Skin. I think I've been sent just about every version of this cleansing brush, and it's the best one, in my opinion. I'd often keep Foreo Luna 2 for Normal Skin in the shower to use in the morning; I found that helped get off any flaky bits from my overnight skincare treatments.
- Microcurrent Devices: I wasn't as consistent with it as I would have liked (hopefully that will change in 2019!), but I do love my NuFace Trinity Facial Toning Device. It uses a painless microcurrent to visibly lift and tighten the skin. Lately I've been using it with the newly reformulated NuFace Gel Primer (now silicone-free!), although you can also use aloe vera gel.
- Red Light Devices: The one gadget I did use ALL the time was my Red Light Man Red Light Device. It helps treat and prevent acne, gives skin a glow, and even helps delay aging. Sometimes, I'd swap it for my Red Light Man Infrared Light Device, which treats the deeper tissues. Learn more about red light here and here.
- Lip Plumping Devices: To give my lips more volume before a night out, I'd break out my PMD Kiss Lip Plumping System (reviewed here). Yes, it's kind of a silly gadget, but it does work, for a few hours at least. I'd much rather do this than get obvious lip injections!
- Lash Serums: After I used up the last of my Latisse supply, I switched over to NeuLash Lash Enhancing Serum, which appears to be maintaining my results.
- Eye Masks: Most nights, I wore my iluminage Skin Rejuvenating Eye Mask (reviewed here) to block out light while treating my skin with anti-aging copper fibres. Sadly, looks like they may be going out of business!
Concealers, Foundations, Tinted Moisturizers, Powders and Primers
- Concealers: No surprise here, RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up remains my all-time favourite concealer, and in 2018, I switched to the new 00 shade, which is a better match for me than 11. It can definitely take a while to get the hang of it using it, so see my tutorial for tips (I recommend pairing it with a translucent powder). Also in my concealer wardrobe were Make Up For Ever (for pimples), Omorovicza (for dark circles) and Glossier (for a less dewy alternative to RMS Beauty). I used the RMS Beauty Eye Polish Brush as my main concealer brush, and the tiny Kevyn Aucoin The Concealer Brush for spot concealing.
- Foundations: I've never liked the feeling of foundation, so if I can get away with concealer alone, I'll always do that! But for days when my skin needed a bit more coverage, I'd either sheer out my RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up or wear Sappho New Paradigm Essential Foundation in Leisha. And when I really wanted flawless-looking skin, I'd wear Sappho New Paradigm Liquid Foundation in 3 (which is medium coverage). All of these are silicone-free, by the way. To buff them in, I mainly used RMS Beauty Skin2Skin Foundation Brush.
- Tinted Moisturizers: I was happy to discover a couple of silicone-free tinted moisturizers from bareMinerals and Omorovicza. The former is fairly sheer, while the latter is more foundation-like in coverage. When I wanted a little tint and SPF in one, I used Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream SPF 30 (reviewed here).
- Powders: I only used translucent powders in 2018, and the one I loved most was from ILIA. It just mattifies really well without looking dry, and I love the not-too-slippery texture. Occasionally, I switched it up with the setting powders from RMS Beauty and W3ll People. I always apply powder sparingly with my Clinique Eyeshadow Brush, never a big fluffy brush.
- Primer: I only used primer on special occasions (under my Sappho New Paradigm foundation), but my new favourite is definitely REN Clean Skincare. It's mattifying yet hydrating, and silicone-free!
Blushes, Bronzers and Highlighters
- Blush: I do still love RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek on my cheeks, but the blush discovery I was MOST thrilled about in 2018 was Olio E Osso Balm (reviewed here). Nothing is easier than swiping on a little No. 2 French Melon! For powder blush, I invested in Antonym Certified Organic Baked Blush in Peach, and really like it when I need more staying power.
- Bronzer: I only wore bronzer in the summertime, and it was always either RMS Beauty Contour Bronze or Buriti Bronzer, applied with the RMS Beauty Skin2Skin Blush Brush. (In case you haven't noticed, I have a serious RMS obsession.)
- Highlighter: When I met with Rose-Marie Swift last year, she told me I should only use RMS Beauty Living Luminizer with my skin tone, so I've been doing just that! On the high planes of my face, it always makes my skin look that extra bit healthier. I like to apply it with the RMS Beauty Kabuki Polisher.
- Freckles: Faux freckles are the makeup artist secret to natural-looking skin, no sun damage required. I used Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade in Taupe to draw mine on with a tiny pointed brush.
Mascaras, Brow Gels, Eyeshadows and Eyeliners
- Mascaras: Nothing makes me look worse than smudged mascara, so I only use tubing mascaras these days. And last year, I finally discovered the best one, Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara. It's volumizing yet natural-looking and stays put like a dream! The tubular formulas from Glossier and Estée Lauder were also in my rotation.
- Brow Gels: I wasn't loyal to any one brow formula in particular. Depending on the look I was after (and how long it had been since a brow appointment!), I used Marc Jacobs, Benefit, Glossier, Yves Saint Laurent, Eyeko, Bobbi Brown, Givenchy and Anastasia Beverly Hills.
- Eyeshadows: I honestly didn't try anything crazy with my eyeshadow in 2018—I'm getting lazier as the years go by! Day to day, I generally stuck with RMS Beauty Eye Polish or Glossier Lidstar in a pale, shimmery tone all over my lids (and applied with my fingers). If I wanted to go a little fancier, I used Chanel Stylo Eyeshadow (so easy to swipe on) or RMS Beauty Swift Shadow applied with the RMS Beauty Powder Eye Shadow Brush.
- Eyeliners: I didn't wear much eyeliner in 2018, but when I did, it was always waterproof and either Smashbox or Make Up For Ever. Instead of black, which is a bit harsh on me, I wore soft browns and greys.
Lip Balms, Lipsticks and Lip Liners
- Lip Balms: Finally, I figured out how to heal and prevent chapped lips! Lanolin was my Holy Grail lip balm ingredient in 2018, and I used both Lanolips and Lansinoh (technically sold as a nipple cream, so that one's strictly for home use!). I also treated my lips with The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane Oil and LXMI Pure Nilotica Melt. More on lip treatments over here.
- Tinted Lip Balms: To keep my lips moisturized with a hint of colour, I basically wore tinted lip balms non-stop—rarely did I pick up a lipstick. The very best addition to my collection was Henné Organics; I liked this balm so much that I bought every shade! I also wore Lanolips, Tata Harper (reviewed here), Olio E Osso (reviewed here), French Girl (reviewed here), and in the summer, COOLA (which has mineral SPF). Some of these have a shiny finish; I just realized I didn't actually wear any lip glosses in 2018.
- Lipsticks: My most-worn lipsticks in 2018 included Charlotte Tilbury (Sexy Sienna), Tom Ford (Sweet Spot) and Chanel (Sari Doré). I guess you might say I have a thing for luxury lipsticks in coral! I really wanted the new RMS Beauty Wild with Desire Lipstick to work for me—the texture, colours, finish and ingredients are all perfect—but they give me chapped lips due to the high vitamin E content. (The same goes for Lip2Cheek if I wear it on my lips.) But if vitamin E's not a problem for you, definitely give them a go. I was so impressed otherwise!
- Lip Liners: I loved RMS Beauty Lip Liner (reviewed here), especially in Nighttime Nude because it's a perfect match to my lip colour and goes with every lipstick shade.
Body Washes, Body Scrubs and Body Moisturizers
- Body Washes: In the shower, my lineup included Ursa Major, REN Clean Skincare, Desert Essence and Consonant. I'm not too fussy about body wash, but I liked that all of these are natural and sulfate-free.
- Body Scrubs: I got quite addicted to natural body scrubs in 2018, often using them in place of body lotion since they leave behind a coating of oil. My collection included Herbivore, Indie Lee, Kopari, Basd, Odacité and Tata Harper (all reviewed here).
- Body Moisturizers: Given how much it costs (gulp!), I didn't mean to fall in love with Sisley White Ginger Contouring Oil for Legs. I'm not sure about the contouring part, but I became rather addicted to its gel texture and how silky it leaves my limbs. For intensive moisturizing, I used Lavanila, which rivals the scent and texture of any mainstream body butter. For body oil, I'm all about coconut oil with Kopari. In the fall, I started using REN Clean Skincare for hydration and exfoliation in one go. It's also great for getting rid of scaly legs (a common problem here in Canada!).
Hands and Feet
- Hand Lotions: I relied on lanolin not only to nourish my lips, but also my hands and feet. I love ALL the Lano hand lotions and would highly recommend them. In my purse, I always had a tube of Kopari Coconut Balm, which is so multipurpose. And then, just to feel chic, I'd sometimes break out my Chanel.
- Foot Creams: More lanolin here—I found the product that worked best for my feet was the Lano Golden Dry Skin Salve Allover. It has more of an ointment texture, so it's great as an overnight treatment for dry heels and cuticles.
- Nailcare: I don't know if I mentioned this, but I've been giving my nails a LONG break from nail polish and nail polish remover. I was forever dealing with weak, peeling nails and chipping nail polish, and nothing ever helped—except leaving my nails along for a while! They're now much stronger and longer without having that constant chemical assault. I do still like polish on my toes, but I'm not sure when I'll venture back to it on my fingers (I'm kinda scared to ruin my hard work!). For now, I'm loving the Revlon Crazy Shine Nail Buffer—it DOES give "crazy shine"!
- Foot Peels: To take care of dry skin build-up on my feet (from overpronating), I do a hard-core Baby Foot treatment every once in a while. It's disgusting but so satisfying!
Deodorants, Fragrances and Other Bodycare
- Deodorants: A few years ago, I switched to natural deodorant, and I can honestly say that I haven't missed antiperspirant one bit. (You just have to be patient in the first month as your body adjusts!) Schmidt's has the formula that seems to work best for me, but I also use Captain Blankenship and Consonant.
- Fragrances: I'm always collecting natural fragrances (since mainstream ones tend to be loaded with allergenic and hormone-disrupting chemicals). In 2018, I bought scents from By Rosie Jane and The 7 Virtues. I also wore Lavanila, Child, Kai and Tata Harper.
- Cellulite Treatments: I started off the year trying out the Ashley Black FasciaBlaster, and honestly, it does work to smooth out lumps and bumps. But then I bought the Cellu-Cup on a whim, and I actually like it better. I find it easier and more relaxing to use—it's like a deep massage to get out the adhesions—and I've seen results even in a few short weeks!
- Shampoos and Conditioners: For my fine, straight hair, I loved the shampoos and conditioners from Briogeo, Kérastase, Captain Blankenship, Innersense, World and Nature Clean in 2018. They all have great sulfate-free, silicone-free options that won't weigh hair down.
- Hair Masks: My favourite hair mask was from Phyto; it's like butter!
- Styling Products: For adding texture, I loved the beach sprays from Herbivore and Captain Blankenship.
- Styling Tools: I can't live without my Mason Pearson (reviewed here), T3 hair dryer and Drybar flat iron.
- Pre-Rinse: A little detour now from skincare and makeup! For those interested, I switched up my oral care routine in 2018 and I'm now following the advice laid out by Dr. Ellie Phillips, author of Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye. I have some baby teeth still hanging around that are more prone to cavities, so I want to try and keep them for as long as possible! The routine starts with a 60-second rinse with UltraDex or Closys to kill bacteria.
- Toothpaste and Toothbrush: Then I brush with Crest Regular Cavity Protection Toothpaste (the ONLY one Dr. Ellie recommends). I used to be a dedicated sonic toothbrush user, but I got frustrated last year that a new $200+ one completely broke on me! So now I'm brushing with a regular old-fashioned soft toothbrush. Apparently it's more important to keep it disinfected and to replace it regularly, than to have one that vibrates electronically.
- Disinfecting Rinse: Then I do another rinse, with Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash (Dr. Ellie says to only use this flavour or Original). It kills the germs that cause plaque; I also use it to sterilize my toothbrush.
- Fluoride Rinse: Finally, I rinse with ACT Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash (only Cinnamon, Bubblegum or Mint are allowed) and wait 30 minutes before eating or drinking. This is to help teeth become more cavity-resistant.
- Xylitol: Throughout the day, I have xylitol mints or gum such as Pur. The xylitol helps get rid of mature plaque. So far, I've really liked this system, and Dr. Ellie's testimonials really speak for themselves!
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