As we wrap up 2019—and the entire decade—I'm looking back at ALL the products I tried over the last 12 months to choose the absolute best of the best. (I think I've fallen in love with way too many products over the years to even attempt a 10-year retrospective!)
Since my 2018 list was practically a novel, I'm going to break this down into two parts.
First up is facial skincare (my favourite). From cleansers to serums to gadgets, I test-drove heaps of new launches this year, while remaining loyal to a few Holy Grail items.
Take a look at the highlights below—and then head over to my makeup, haircare and bodycare picks next!
The Best Skincare Products of 2019
Best Makeup Remover
There's nothing wrong with good ol' Bioderma to remove makeup, but I do love my BIOeffect Micellar Cleansing Water even more. It's fragrance-free, non-drying, and made with clean ingredients—and it's every bit as effective. Plus, it doesn't leave any residue on your skin afterward.
Best Cleansing Water
S.W. Basics Cleanser is sort of like a micellar water, except it's made with just three natural ingredients, and you do need to rinse it off. I love this one for an ultra-gentle morning cleanse.
Best Foaming Cleanser
My favourite cleanser purchase of 2019 was definitely Omorovicza Cleansing Foam. Unlike most foaming cleansers, it has a luxurious creamy texture, yet it still rinses off clean (and won't dry out your skin). Highly recommend! I also used the Indie Lee Purifying Face Wash this year, which is a good choice for oily skin.
Best Gel Cleanser
I love the Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser so much, I went through more than half a bottle this year. Most gel cleansers tend to be a bit drying, but not this one—it never leaves my face feeling tight. In fact, it's so gentle, any skin type can use it (even dry skin). The other gel cleansers I tested out were from Glow Recipe, Odacité and Indie Lee, and I'd recommend all of those, too!
Best Gel-Cream Cleanser
For a slightly more moisturizing cleanse, I enjoyed the new Lano Face Base Gelcream Cleanser. As a gel-cream, it has the cleansing power of a gel, but the gentleness of a cream. Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser was also in my rotation and has a similar lotion-like texture. Both are nice!
Best Cream Cleanser
The best cream cleanser I used (and probably will go back to this winter) is Dr Roebuck's Noosa Nourishing Creme Cleanser. It doesn't lather, but still works perfectly to cleanse while leaving your skin soft and moisturized. I also appreciate that there's no film left behind on your skin.
Best Cleansing Brush
I've remained loyal to my favourite cleansing brush, the Foreo Luna 2 for Combination Skin. I talk about it all the time because it really does deep-clean your skin (especially after sunscreen or heavy makeup), and is completely hygienic and non-irritating.
Best Face Wipes
I don't use face wipes very often, but when I do, Consonant Come Clean Anytime Natural Cleansing Cloths (reviewed here, for those of us in Canada) are the best. I love the simple, natural ingredients and how they make my skin feel so fresh.
Best Astringent Toner
I got really into toners this year, with the purpose of ensuring that all traces of cleanser are removed from my skin. But since I use an acid twice daily, I needed to find a toner with compatible ingredients... like Pyunkang Yul Acne Toner! This is a slightly astringent toner that is fragrance-free, alcohol-free and surprisingly inexpensive. The Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner is a similar option, but more exfoliating (thanks to 0.5 percent salicylic acid).
Best Hydrating Toner
As a hydrating toner, Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner (reviewed here) is something I like to use when I need to freshen up my makeup before heading out for the evening. I simply swipe a saturated cotton pad over my skin and then re-apply my concealer or foundation. (Again, I avoid using hydrating toners before acids—in my experience, they cause a weird flushing reaction due to some incompatibility with the ingredients.)
Best Acid Exfoliant
Is anyone surprised to see COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid (reviewed here) on this list? I think not! I still faithfully use this beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) treatment every single morning and night, and it's what keeps my skin clear, even and glowy. BHAs are so effective, I see no reason to use alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) anymore.
Best Hydrating Serum
Another Canadian product to mention—as most of you know, Consonant HydrExtreme (reviewed here) has long been my favourite hydrating serum. This year, it was a godsend for repairing dry, irritated skin under my eyes. It has only two natural ingredients, and has been clinically proven to out-perform hyaluronic acid!
Best Calming Serum
I discovered GEORGANIC Propolis Acne Care Serum this year, and it has quickly become a new favourite. I'm calling it a "calming serum" because it contains 78 percent Centella Asiatica extract, 10 percent propolis and two percent niacinamide, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties. It's ideal for sensitive skin as well as acne-prone skin.
Best Niacinamide Serum
I've tried plenty of niacinamide serums, but I have to say, I've been most impressed by Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster. In addition to containing a high 10 percent concentration, it has a thin, watery and non-sticky texture that plays well with other products. Everyone can benefit from this stuff—as I explained in this tutorial, it treats dark spots, breakouts, wrinkles, dryness and so much more.
Best Brightening Serum
While niacinamide is great on its own for pigmentation, I also fell in love with SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense for an even more targeted treatment. Besides five percent niacinamide, it has tranexamic acid, kojic acid and HEPES, which work in tandem to fade brown spots and brighten dull skin.
Best Vitamin C Serum
L-ascorbic acid serums and I don't always get along, as per my bad experience with Drunk Elephant's this year. So I was happy to discover Summer Fridays CC Me Serum, which combines two types of vitamin C derivatives with niacinamide and peptides. It has some pretty powerful ingredients in a lightweight and stable formulation (which hasn't broken me out!).
Best Hyaluronic Acid Serum
I don't apply Timeless Hyaluronic Acid Pure as a day-to-day serum (although you certainly could). Instead, I've been using it on my skin after I do a microneedling treatment. That's because it contains high-molecular weight hyaluronic acid and very few ingredients overall. Since microneedling significantly increases the penetration of topical products, you want to be careful to avoid anything that is potentially inflammatory.
One of the most incredible products I discovered this year has to be Truly Doll Skin Face Cream. Who knew you could make a moisturizer out of only a few simple ingredients, like soy lethicin, xanthan gum, aloe vera, coconut oil and cocoa butter?! It's honestly perfect (and so inexpensive). I also used lots of Biologique Recherche La Grande Crème this year, which is equally wonderful... but that one's $600+!
Best Moisture Stick
In the colder months, I've been carrying Cocokind MyMatcha All-Over Moisture Stick in my handbag. It's a blend of coconut oil, beeswax and matcha powder in a solid stick form. So it's easy to swipe on any dry patches, such as around my nose or on my lips.
Best Face Oil
The face oil I used most this year was RMS Beauty Raw Coconut Cream, which is a high-quality, 100 percent virgin, raw coconut oil. My skin and coconut oil get along really well (even though I am acne-prone), so I use it as a final layer to seal in my serums and creams and even as an eye "cream." (I still love squalane, by the way, even though I didn't use my Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil as much this year!)
Best Eye Serum
Sometimes, you just want a light layer of moisture around your eyes to wear during the day underneath your makeup. That's where Indie Lee I-Waken Eye Serum (reviewed here) comes in. I love that it sinks in fast and is just hydrating enough, with zero greasiness. Best of all, it doesn't irritate my sensitive eye area!
Best Eye Cream
I'm still searching for the perfect eye cream, but Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream (reviewed here) was one of the best I tried this year. Although I wish its ingredients were a little more stable, I love the texture, that it doesn't cause irritation, and that it has so many actives. I feel the exact same way about Caudalie. But I may just go back to Dr Roebuck's, which I initially found a bit too rich, and try applying less.
I was already a fan of Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen when it launched in 2018, but after doing this tutorial, even more so! The fact that it gives you such high protection against UVA (the rays that cause skin aging and skin cancer) makes me not want to use anything else! I also loved REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 for its super lightweight texture, but how much UVA protection it offers is unknown.
Best Hydrating Mist
I'm a total face mist junkie, and Dr Roebuck's Bondi Hydrating Mist (reviewed here) was new to my collection this year. It's got aloe vera, glycerin, niacinamide and cucumber extract for refreshing, hydrating and soothing your skin. I also love to use Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist as the last step after makeup, since it dispenses a super fine mist.
Best Mattifying Mist
In the warmer weather, I had Tatcha The Satin Skin Mist (reviewed here) on high rotation. This is such a unique mist—it's actually a liquid powder that tames shine while it refreshes your skin. It could even replace the need for blotting papers or powder touch-ups.
The best retinoid I used in 2019 is one of France's best-kept secrets: A313 Vitamin A Pommade (reviewed here). Even though it only contains retinol derivatives, it's actually very strong—stronger than one percent retinols, like Lixirskin, and more akin to a low-dose retinoic acid. The texture is not the best, but the results certainly are!
Best Lip Balm
I used to get chapped lips all the time, but never again after using Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm every night. As a 100 percent medical-grade lanolin ointment, it's honestly the most healing thing you could ever use on your lips. (If you don't care about cute packaging, Lansinoh Nipple Cream is the exact same thing!)
Best Purifying Mask
I didn't have a lot of time for face masks in 2019, but I did use Indie Lee Clearing Mask (reviewed here) on occasion when my skin felt on the verge of breaking out. (This is nice to use premenstrually!) It has clay, zinc, sulfur, glycolic acid and salicylic acid—all the good stuff for acne-prone skin.
Best Brightening Mask
Best Hydrating Mask
Dr Roebuck's Icebergs Hydrating Mask is unique among hydrating masks, because it's oil-free and non-occlusive, with a light jelly texture. So I don't have to worry about it clogging my pores, and it's great year-round (not just when my skin is drier in the wintertime).
Best Balancing Mask
No matter what new mask I discover, I always come back to Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant (reviewed here). There's just nothing else like it. No, it's not pretty, and the smell can be off-putting, but the yeast, clay, vinegar and lactic acid work wonders.
Best Microneedling Device
I experimented with microneedling this year (after not having done it for several years), and my tool of choice has been the BeautyBio GloPRO Microneedling Regeneration Tool. I like this one because the needles are only 0.3 mm, and it emits red light to enhance your results. You can also replace the head (rather than throwing out the whole thing), as well as switch it out for the body, eye and lip attachments.
Best Microcurrent Device
Last year, my Christmas gift to me, from me, was the ZIIP Nano Current Device—and I haven't regretted it! This sleek little gadget, which emits both microcurrent and nanocurrent, lets you target virtually any skin concern via its app and step-by-step videos. There are programs for lifting, calming, clearing, brightening and more. But I do still use the NuFace Trinity as well. That one is microcurrent only, and best for firming and anti-aging.
Best Red Light Therapy Device
It's no secret that I'm a huge proponent of red light therapy for all aspects of skin health. You won't find a more powerful, effective device than the Red Light Man Red Light Device. I still use this several times a week (every night if I can!) to keep my skin firm, plump and clear. If you can only invest in one device, get this one. (Read more about its benefits here and here.)
Best Lip Plumper
Last but not least, we have the PMD Kiss Lip Plumping System (reviewed here). This suction device produces temporarily fuller lips, and is my alternative to lip injections and overlining. I don't use it every day, but it's a fun quick fix. (Not that thin lips need to be fixed!)
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Have you tried any of these products?
What were your favourite skincare products of 2019?