When your job entails shopping for, learning about, researching, and test-driving beauty products almost 24/7, it's par for the course that you become the point person for all questions, conundrums, and "should I or shouldn't I buy this" quandaries. (Luckily, I'm in the right profession, and there's nothing I love more than discussing the world of beauty and what I do or don't think is "worth it.") And now, since we're entering the height of buying and gifting season, I've been getting more questions than ever.
Since every beauty product is marketed as if it's a life-changing fixture you absolutely need, it's hard to know what products are actually worthwhile and what's truly worth investing your hard-earned money in. Of course, no beauty product is *actually* life changing. And let us be clear: We never want you to feel like you need a shopping cart filled with 20 products to feel worthwhile or beautiful. However, we do find beauty really, really fun (we hope you do too!), and it can be a fun form of self-expression or even self-care—bubble baths and face masks, we're talking about you!
Even though some people will most definitely disagree with me (we all have different preferences, skin types, and budgets, after all), I'm sharing the products I routinely tell people to pass on from an editor's point of view. (Also, for what it's worth, I've picked up a lot of this intel and influence from actual experts like makeup artists, derms, and estheticians.) Below are nine popular beauty products I always pass on and what I recommend adding instead. Keep scrolling!
Pass: Harsh Facial Scrubs
Add: Hydrating Cleanser + Exoliating Treatments
Take it from someone who learned the hard way—scrubbing the eff out of your face every day will not clear your acne or iron out uneven skin texture. In fact, aggressively waging war with your skin via sandpapery cleansers and scrubs will probably do more harm than good, compromise your skin barrier, and perpetuate, possibly even worsen, your skin woes. Now, I'm not a professional, and I always recommend talking to a certified facialist or derm first and foremost if you have questions and concerns about your complexion, but the best piece of skin wisdom I've picked up since becoming a beauty editor is to cradle your skin with a gentle, hydrating, super-benign cleanser and then choose a few strategic exfoliating products (be it a cleanser, mask, peel, serum, toner… whatever) to sprinkle into your routine a couple of times throughout the week (literally, only one to three times). That way, you're still sloughing away dead cell buildup and vacuuming out your pores, but you aren't poking the bear and overexciting your skin to the point of redness, bumps, and inflammation.
My Favorite Gentle Cleanser
My Favorite Exfoliating Toner
My Favorite Peel Pads
My Favorite Resurfacing Mask
My Favorite Serum for Smoother Skin
My Favorite (Once-Weekly) Facial Scrub
Pass: Biotin Supplements
Add: Targeted, HIgh-Quality Hair Growth Products
Sure, I know plenty of people who take biotin supplements. If you take a look at the thousands of bottles of the stuff on the market, it's no secret it's one of the most highly marketed antidotes for healthy and strong hair, nails, and skin. That said, the studies on whether or not biotin is truly an effective means for expediting hair growth are still pretty inconclusive, and if taken in excess, biotin can do more harm than good. (Personally, it makes me break out like no other!) So whenever people ask me if hair-growth supplements are worth it, I usually steer them in another direction. If you're noticing differences in your hair health or are having more fallout than usual, it's imperative to talk to a professional like a dermatologist or nutritionist who can assess your skin or lifestyle. But if you simply want an extra boost, I recommend brow and lash serums, scalp elixirs, and even things like falsies to give your hair a boost wherever you want it.
My Favorite Brow Serum
My Favorite Two-in-One Lash Plumper
My Favorite Scalp-Stimulating Shampoo
My Favorite False Lashes
Pass: Wet, Heavy Mascaras
Add: Featherlight Mascaras & Lash Tints
Okay so, this does come down to personal preference, but you'd be surprised how many people come to me saying their mascaras are too clumpy, heavy, and absolutely resistant to curl (even if they're marketed as the opposite!). I totally get that everyone has a different lash vibe, but I also have a resolute list of mascaras that I've gotten everyone I know absolutely hooked on that are lightweight, are the perfect compromise between too wet or too dry, and can be layered to perfection depending on how much volume and length you seek. I get complimented on my lashes a lot, and buildable lash tints (like this amazing rod from Surratt Beauty) and fiber mascaras are my fail-safe suggestions for anyone doing some mascara shopping.
My Favorite Mascara for Length & Separation
My Favorite Mascara for Curl
My Favorite Lash Tint for Buildable Length, Curl & Volume
Pass: Tinted Moisturizers
Add: Foundation + Glow Serum
I've never been a tinted moisturizer girl—I just haven't. I get irritated by the lack of shades, and I get frustrated that many formulas either offer too much or too little coverage where and when I need it. So a fun little trick I've picked up from many a makeup artist is either to choose a tinted moisturizer-foundation hybrid that's buildable or use just a dot or two of the foundation you love and mix in small doses of your favorite serum to thin it out. (I find glow-inducing options are my absolute favorite.) Then, you get the same tone and texture base you're used to, but you're better able to manipulate how much product you lay down and can even target certain areas that might need more camouflage sans pilling or cakiness.
My Favorite Serum/Foundation/Tinted Moisturizer Hybrid
One of My Favorite Foundations
My Favorite Glow-Inducing Mix-In Serums
Pass: Tinted Self-Tanners
Add: Clear Mousses & Tanning Waters
Not everyone uses or likes self-tanners. And if that's you, feel free to proceed to the next listing. That said, as someone who has consistently dabbled in the world of self-tanning since middle school, I consider myself an unofficial official expert in the subject. After years and years of trying literally every kind of tanning product on the market, clear mousses and tanning waters are absolutely my favorite. Sure, the idea of applying something with no tint or guide color can be daunting because you feel like you will miss spots, but I promise you, the below formulas are so great and streak resistant that, if you're being thorough and paying close attention while applying, you'll have perfectly even, glowing end results. I prefer clear because the color that eventually does develop always seems to look brighter and more authentically natural (like what your actual skin tone would look like tanned). They're also less messy and don't transfer to every single thing or person you come in contact with.
My Favorite Clear Tanning Water
My Favorite Clear Tanning Mousses
Pass: Heavy Body Creams, Lotions & Oils
Add: Dry Oil Mists & Body Serums
Some people absolutely love the richest, heaviest, thickest of oils and body creams, but I personally can't stomach them. Yes, I want my limbs to glow with hydration, but sticking to my clothes, gluing my thighs to my car seats, and becoming mummified while I sleep with my sheets stuck to every inch of my skin is just not my MO. Since I still crave indulgence and obviously don't want my skin to turn into a long-lost relative of the lizard, I swap in dry oils and body serums. Interestingly, whenever people ask me for a lotion, oil, or cream recommendation, I point them this way instead, and they'll almost always come back saying they're completely converted. Of course, I will opt for a regular lotion sometimes because I do have some favorites, but they're always super-light, fast-absorbing formulas (like the below from St. Ives).
My Favorite Lightweight Body Lotion
My Favorite Dry Oil
My Favorite Featherlight Body Oil
My Favorite Body Serums
Pass: Facial Rollers
Add: Microcurrent Devices
Here's the thing—jade rollers and other types of facial rollers do have their perks. I own them! I use them! The thing is, if you want something that's truly effective in the toning, lifting, and firming department, I personally think it's worth it to invest in microcurrent devices. Yes, they're expensive, but they give you both instant and long-term gratification and mimic similar technologies and treatments you'd find in expensive salons. Prices are steep, but the sales around the holidays make it the perfect time to splurge, and I, for one, predict you'll save money in the long-term since you'll probably feel less compelled to buy fancy office treatments or expensive skincare products.
My Favorite Microcurrent Devices
Pass: Lip Liners
Add: Bronzer + Plumping Lip Gloss
Alright, stay with me here because this one largely comes down to how and why you use your lip liner. More specifically, if you're using lip liner to overline and plump the look of your lips, I have a more natural-looking hack for you with products you likely already own. That said, if you're using lip liner as a way to outline your lips before, say, going in with a super-bold lip color like red, by all means, have at it. But back to the plumping hack! A makeup artist once told me that a more natural way to enhance and "enlarge" the look of your pout is to dip a small brush (an eye shadow brush would be perfect) into your bronzer and lightly dust it right underneath the middle part of your bottom lip (the skin right beneath, not the actual lip) and just above the top of your upper lip—only in the center, right around the Cupid's bow. It creates a shadow effect that automatically makes your lips look plumper and more pillowy. Then, to enhance it further, apply your lipstick or lip color and top it all off with a plumping lip gloss. It looks more subtle and natural in my options, and I love that I don't waste tons of money on liners to match and coordinate with all of my favorite lipsticks anymore.
My Favorite Bronzer for Shading
My Favorite Plumping Glosses
Pass: Oversize Eye Shadow Palettes
Add: Eyeshadow Quads & Smaller Palettes
I get the appeal of gigantic eye shadow palettes. I really do! I just never actually recommend people buy them. First of all, they're usually expensive AF, and more than likely, you'll only end up using four or five shades at most. Instead, I tell people to ignore the hype surrounding the big-name, 20-pan palettes and look for a quad or mini palette housing the colors they know they'll actually use and love. Sometimes, people think they're getting lots of bang for their buck by spending more for more eye shadows, but if you're only using the same shades, what's the point? You'll just have to go out again and make another purchase once you hit the pan on the colors you rely on.
My Favorite Pint-Size Palettes
Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.