We Called 211 Beauty Products the Best Last Year, But Here Are Our Top 50
By now, you've probably surmised that we review a lot of beauty products here at Who What Wear HQ. From nail polish and makeup to hair and skincare, we're eyebrow-deep in all things new, exciting, and, yes, wish list–worthy. That said, due to the volume of products we come in contact with, we've also transformed into the nitpickiest beauty consumers. Within seconds, we can tell if a new hair oil is too heavy, and we're quick to ignore a serum that yields disappointing results (no matter how many hype emails it has sitting in our inboxes—sorry!).
But when we find something that truly works, we simply can't wait to spread the word. Therefore, last year we decided gushing over our latest fave products should become a monthly ritual, and every 30 days or so, we gave you a full report detailing the highlighters, hair wands, and overnight skincare saviors we became addicted to that month—a whopping 211 in total for the year of 2019. Ahead, we chose an extra-special list of 50 standouts we think you'll love as much as we did. Grab your game face and your wallet. You'll be needing both.
"I kid you not: The first time I swiped this glimmer stick from Nudestix (pre–big night out), I immediately texted my beauty editor pal, Amanda Montell, to tell her how impressed I was with the formula. (She wholeheartedly agreed.) You can put it anywhere on your face, and it won't get sticky or crease (unlike so many gel highlighters), and it provides the prettiest sheen—not too much, not too little. I especially love dabbing it on my Cupid's bow, eyelids, and the inner corners of my eyes."
"It doesn't get any more chic than La Mer, and I already know the brand's lip volumizer (which pairs beautifully with the cult-loved balm celebrities obsess over) will be one of my favorite beauty products of all time. It has a light, iridescent sheen, which makes it look pretty and natural no matter the occasion, but since it's inspired by serum technology and features the brand's signature Miracle Broth, it simultaneously hydrates and delivers a surge of antioxidants for ultimate healing and plush softness."
"Since my pores clog like it's their sole purpose in life, regular exfoliation is key. Not only is this turquoise mint-infused mask from Maya Chia absolutely the prettiest beauty product I've ever seen (seriously, stare at it too long and you'll be hypnotized), it's one of the best exfoliating products I've used maybe ever. It's a bit intense and not for the faint of heart, but the strategic blend of natural enzymes and acids work cohesively to resurface, brighten, and boost your face with pigmentation-free brightness. After the initial semi-uncomfortable rush of coolness and tingle, my skin is left insanely soft, smooth, and congestion-free post-application. I've been using it about once a week and have noticed significant improvements in my skin's bad behavior."
"I don't know what to say about this epic tool from Amika other than it gives you perfect beachy waves in about 10 minutes. I know it's ridiculous to say this as a beauty editor, but curling irons and wands have a vendetta against me. This easy tool gives me the creaseless, super-cool mermaid waves of my dreams without the frustration of rods and wands. Bless you, Amika!"
"Friends, if you buy one skincare product and one skincare product only this month, make it these insanely killer exfoliating pads from M-61. They're not new, but ever since my AMAZING esthetician Dakota at Vanessa Hernandez Skincare recommended them to me, I've been hooked.
"I've tried other peel pads that left me feeling pretty meh, but Dakota and I agree—there's something magical about M-61's special blend of ingredients. (Think bilberry extract, vitamin K, soothing chamomile, plus salicylic and glycolic acids.) I use them twice per week at night to keep my acne-prone skin in check, and when I wake up the next morning, my skin has the most amazing glow. If there wasn't such a thing as acid overkill, I'd use them every night."
"I don't know if I've ever said I'm obsessed with a cleanser, but I'm obsessed with a cleanser. This Goop one, specifically. Most cleansers are pretty dismissable—all I care is that they clean my face and don't inflame my sensitive, breakout-prone skin. This one does neither, and it earns extra credit for being the only cleanser (ever) to leave my skin looking bright, clear, and pristinely clean—like I've just gotten the best facial of my life—before I've layered on any serums or creams. And how pretty is that hue of aquamarine?! If you want to get really crazy, follow suit with the brand's AHA Pore-Refining Tonic ($68)."
"I pretty much live for Lemonhead.LA's array of glitter, and if it was physically possible, I'd breathe and eat it too. So don't even get me started on the brand's gorgeous set featuring all of the pots and hues worn and inspired by the cast of Euphoria. I'm currently still in withdrawal from the show, so breaking out my favorite glitter (I wore the hot pink shade called Hollyweird last weekend!) is all that's keeping me afloat until next season."
"I know a topcoat isn't the most exciting of beauty products, but you wouldn't believe how utterly life-changing this formula is from Olive & June. First, the flat, wide brush is seriously satisfying and easy to use (you literally need one stroke per nail), and second, the glossy finish keeps your nails looking manicure-fresh for at least a week. But honestly, I've been able to make it last for two, and I'm hard on my nails. It's miraculous."
"As the harshest months of winter approach and I have to start accounting for lower temperature–induced dry skin, I like to wear a foundation that plays nicely with all that extra product. This foundation is a great solution, since the formula is pliable enough to keep coverage natural or build to full, and it doesn't slip too much. I'd swipe a little bit of your favorite sheer setting powder on top for extra staying power."
"I've been a die-hard proponent of every Naked palette ever created, and this one is no different. I love this new color scheme and have found myself reaching for the case even on my lightest makeup days. I'm also so excited to have such a versatile collection of colors that travels easily."
"I've gone through a major bout of dry, tight skin, but incorporating this potent serum into my routine has made a huge difference. It's packed with a bunch of water-soluble vitamins that leave my skin feeling plump and hydrated. I've been applying it as part of my nighttime regimen to help my skin cell turnover while I sleep."
"I wear my hair up 99% of the time, and lately I've noticed some breakage in the areas where I'm often securing hair ties—yikes. I love the idea of wearing scrunchies instead, but they just aren't secure enough to keep my hair in place. Enter: this amazing hair tie by Invisibobble. I'm obsessed with this thing. It's a velvet scrunchie on the outside, but inside, it's got the classic Invisiboble hair tie for a more secure, zero-damage hold. This bunhead gives it two thumbs up."
"I recently discovered Circumference NYC skincare, and I'm smitten. Even after using the Pure Balancing Botanical Face Oil ($100) and Active Botanical Refining Toner for a couple of weeks, I noticed such a visible difference on my tired mom skin! Moreover, it's ethical and toxin-free. The products feel so luxurious and soothing; they keep my skin super hydrated."
"This year, I tried and tested our new sister skincare brand, Versed. The whole skincare range clocks in at under $20, and the brand prides itself on its clean, uncomplicated ingredients, and sustainably sourced, results-driven items—including cleansers, moisturizers, eye creams serums, and face masks. I fell in love with this Hyaluronic Acid Facial Treatment.
"I have very dry skin, and this hydrating booster is the missing product my skincare regime has been yearning for. It's made up of two types of hyaluronic acid (that magic ingredient that bumps up hydration levels), so I add a couple of drops to my daily moisturizer and occasionally to my foundation. It creates an overall dewier look and makes my skin feel quenched. It's such an easy, effective way to add moisture to parched skin."
"As a new mom who works full-time, I rarely get a moment to myself, which is why I've carved out a once-a-week luxurious bath session where I can really try and switch off. I've always just used generic bath salts and bubbles to make my bath even more inviting—until I tried Uma Pure Calm Wellness Oil. What a game changer! I add four to five drops of the oil into my bath and it makes the whole bathroom smell heavenly. Made with the most calming essential oils—vetiver, Roman chamomile, jasmine, lavender—it works wonders to help me de-stress and calm my overloaded mind and body. You can also massage the oil onto your pulse points, feet, and temples to help unwind."
"I recently got a new hair cut, and my hairdresser suggested I try Oribe Flash Form Finishing Spray to help style, separate, and add sheen to my locks. I'm so glad I did because I see a notable difference with how long my hair stays put after I style it. It adds texture and a lasting hold while taming my frizzies too."
"I add this vitamin C powder to serums, moisturizers, and sunscreen to supercharge them with brightening power. It's an extra step that surprisingly brings joy to my beauty routine. The powder mixes in really easily and makes me feel like I'm concocting a more potent skincare regimen."
"Making a good sunscreen is tricky work. It's why many skincare brands don't offer one, and why it took three years of research and development for Aēsop to arrive at its newly launched SPF 25 facial sunscreen. As a fan of the brand, I naturally I wanted to try it, and I can say it easily passes one of the most important tests of any face sunscreen: no chalky white residue.
"Like any Aēsop product, there's a pleasant, natural-smelling scent too. I usually stick to mineral sunscreens to fit within my cleanish beauty routine, so I also made sure to check out the ingredient list of this chemical sunscreen. One of the active ingredients is avobenzone, which is great for offering UVA and UVB protection. A quick rundown: Some sunscreens only protect against UVB (rays that burn your skin) and not UVA (rays that cause premature aging), so it's important to get one that blocks both kinds of rays.
"The Aēsop formulation also includes octocrylene, which helps stabilize avobenzone, but also has a moderate hazard rating from the EWG. On the plus side, the Aēsop sunscreen doesn't have oxybenzone, which is an immediate sunscreen red flag for me, and in comparison has a high hazard rating from the EWG. All in all, I would absolutely recommend this product to someone who wants a high-performance sunscreen with beautiful packaging, and is okay with some non-clean ingredients."
"I know Weleda Skin Food is not new to those who know what's up in the beauty world, but I just hopped onto the bandwagon last year and honestly think I'll use this product for the rest of my life. It has actually turned me into a nightly lotion user—and I couldn't be bothered to use lotion regularly before. How? Why? Well, it smells delicious with a faintly herbal or citrus scent I can't quite nail. It's also super thick, making it feel luxurious despite its affordable price tag.
"Because it's a heavier lotion, I use it mainly on my body, but I occasionally use it on my face as well when I have dry skin. Fun fact: The lotion was created in 1926. Something that has stood the test of time for that long must be good, plus it's formulated with clean ingredients. There's a long list of people who knew and loved this product before me (including Victoria Beckham and Priyanka Chopra), but I'm just glad I know about it now!"
"I wasn't a body-scrub person until I met Nécessaire's The Body Exfoliator. I've become a big fan of the brand's lotion and shower gel, but was pretty convinced this launch was less necessary, at least for me—that is, until I tried it. Like its other products, this one has an intoxicating scent; I personally prefer the sandalwood variety. One very noticeable differentiator is that this body scrub foams up, which I have to admit creates a very satisfying user experience. It's 50% bodywash, 50% exfoliator, and I'm 100% on board."
"This was the year of the retinol for me. At 31, I decided it was finally time to jump on the bandwagon. Reducing fine lines, fading acne scars, boosting collagen, improving skin texture—retinol seemed like a godsend. Per my colleague's recommendation (who looks 15 years younger than she is), I got a prescription for adapalene 0.3% (the generic of Differin). This, it turns out, was a mistake. Everything was fine for a month or so.
"In fact, I saw a very noticeable difference from the product; my skin looked like it was reverse-aging. I introduced the product slowly, but my skin was in tatters after a couple of international flights (the dry air of planes is known to exacerbate the drying effects of retinol). It was flaking off so badly that I looked like I had a true skin disorder. It stayed that way for two weeks despite the fact that I stopped using the product immediately. I know you have to build up a tolerance to retinol, but prescription strength was a bit too aggressive for my skin, and from what I've read online, someone my age doesn't need a product that strong.
"After my skin had recovered, I conveniently got an email from Shani Darden's team about her newly packaged Retinol Reform. Darden was inspired to create the product as a gentle yet effective alternative to options that too harsh for her clients' skin. And while I'm not lucky enough to be a client of Darden's yet (she counts Jessica Alba and Chrissy Teigen as clients), if it's good enough for her A-listers, I was more than down to try it.
"The first thing I noticed when trying the product was the lovely lotion-like texture that makes it super easy to spread onto your skin and leaves your face feeling truly moisturized. This was the exact opposite of adapalene, a drying gel that left my skin feeling parched and sort of mask-like. Adapalene also had strict rules about not using more than pea size because it's so potent, and I feel relieved about using a gentler formula that doesn't have so much potential for disaster. Adapalene also has methylparaben in it, and Retinol Reform is free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and gluten.
"I've been using Retinol Reform for about a month so far without any peeling, and I can already see my skin changing for the better—it's more even tone and just overall more youthful-looking. Our managing editor, Kristen, who used to work at Allure (aka has been exposed to the very best in beauty), has also been a longtime fan. If you're new to retinol like I am, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Retinol Reform as an effective yet gentle place to start."
"I got my hands on the new Glossier eye cream this year, but it's trumped all the other little vials of eye cream sitting on my bathroom shelf. Unlike the others I've tried, Bubblewrap's lightweight formula immediately sinks into the skin and keeps it hydrated the entire day, so wearing makeup on top is a no-brainer."
"In case you haven't heard, we launched a (really cute) skincare line in 2019, and above all the serums and moisturizers, it's actually the body oil I've been loving the most. It smells so good and using it post-shower is such a luxurious step in my routine."
"I consider myself to be a makeup novice. I have a standard makeup look that consists of a thin cat eye, red lipstick, and a swipe of brow gel, and I rarely experiment outside of that. It's safe to say I'm the last person to order a huge eye shadow palette, so when I heard about a new eye shadow product from Kosas, a clean beauty brand I already love and trust, I was curious to test it out. Dubbed 10-Second Eyeshadow, it's a shimmery liquid formula that's as quick and simple to apply as the name suggests. You just slide the applicator all over your lid, then dab it in using your finger, and depending on how subtle or bold you want to go, you can layer on more pigment—it's like it was made specifically for uncoordinated people like myself."
"I started applying this lash and brow gel before my mascara, and let me tell you, my lashes have achieved a length and fullness they never would have with mascara alone. I have yet to try it out on my brows, but I'm curious to see if it will improve them, too."
"A few flicks of the wrist later (bad joke?), Glossier's new brow product will give you that naturally thicker, fuller look that will trick people into thinking you have perfect brows to begin with. See five of our editors review it here!"
"I will admit I haven't been very diligent about eye cream in the past, but I'm not getting any younger, folks. I tried Tatcha's new Silk Peony Melting Eye Cream, and the 'melting' description is the key point here. In the jar, the cream is solid, but it melts as your skin warms it up, which feels so luxurious and fun at the same time."
"This Caudalíe salicylic acid serum has really helped my acne after I went through the wringer with other products that weren't helping. After a few years of relatively normal skin, my acne decided to come back with a vengeance last year. Since then, I've tried a few beloved products like Renee Rouleau's Anti Bump Solution and IS Clinical Active Serum, but my acne persisted, so I rotated them out. My dermatologist even prescribed an oral medication called spironolactone, which has definitely helped but not completely. Fingers crossed, but I think this serum is my best find so far. I use it in conjunction with my regular routine, which includes Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser ($28), Tatcha Water Cream ($68), and PCA Skin Sunscreen ($36)."
"As someone who's obsessive about sun protection, I was definitely intrigued by Supergoop's new powder designed to protect your scalp where you part your hair. I think it's pretty genius and has worked well for my auburn hair. Whenever I don't want to wear a hat, I'll definitely be using this to protect my scalp."
"I'm already a huge fan of Tatcha's Water Cream ($68), but I started using the brand's Violet-C Serum on any marks left behind by acne. I think it's really helped fade the spots and give me a more even skin tone. It should be used at night only, but as my dermatologist reminded me, the post-acne marks will not fade well if you're not using sunscreen every morning as well."
"I'm not generally one to switch up my hair (or makeup) routine, but in 2019, I borrowed my sister's GHD wand to touch up my hair for a night out, and it was seriously next-level. It creates the perfect beachy waves that also last for days without flattening out. I'm sold."
"This balm takes a while to apply and work into your skin, but if you're willing to put the effort in, the results are amazing."
"Last year, I decided that it was probably about time I used some type of eye cream or serum, so I asked Erin Jahns for a rec, and I think she spoiled me for life with her suggestion. This anti-aging eye serum from RéVive is hydrating, brightening, and makes me feel like a really fancy skincare lady."
"I was on the hunt for a glowy bronzer to subtly complement my summer tan last year, so I asked Erin for her help. She probably had like 13 suggestions, but after some back and forth, she concluded that Kevyn Aucoin's Neo Bronzer would probably do the trick for me. Of course, she was right: I love it. The powder has shimmer on one end and bronzer on the other, and they blend together perfectly. It's also easy to apply with a brush (which is an important factor for me), so I'm more likely to actually use it when I'm rushing out the door in the morning. A glowy, tan look with no messy fingers involved? Win-win."
"This probably sounds like an overstatement, but Charlotte Tilbury's Hollywood Flawless Filter made me actually look and feel flawless. It's the perfect light layer of coverage for those of us who don't love a heavy foundation situation, and while it looks like you have nothing on, it does so much, giving your skin a glowy, even appearance. I 100% recommend for extending the life of a summer glow indefinitely."
"I was running low on Moroccanoil and wanted to try something new, so I bought this on a whim based on the good reviews. I can confirm that the hype is real. It's so lightweight, and it makes my hair so soft and smooth that it almost looks like I had a professional blowout. Plus, you can't really beat that price for a hair oil of this quality."
"I've been moving away from drugstore face washes in the past year, but this one may change that. It removes makeup so much more effectively than other cleansers I've tried, and even though it has a nice foam, my face never feels tight and dry after using it."
"I'd heard good things about this lip oil but was a bit skeptical that it wouldn't be as good as the brand's Orgasm Afterglow Lip Balm. Now I get it, though—it's lightweight but stays on for hours, and provides the prettiest glow."
"I've always just gone the drugstore route with bodywash, but Nécessaire converted me in 2019. This product is filled with skin-softening oils, and it makes my shower smell like a spa. Plus, they don't sell bodywashes that look as chic as this at the drugstore."
"I get excited for every Charlotte Tilbury launch, and per usual, her matte foundation and color corrector really lived up to the hype. The foundation honestly makes your skin look flawless. It isn't heavy by any means, but I've been mixing it with a bit of the brand's Wonderglow when I want to sheer it out a bit for daytime. Bonus: It comes in a whopping 44 shades. I've been pairing the foundation with Magic Vanish, which is a godsend for someone like me who never gets enough sleep. I just apply a dab under my eyes before my concealer and I look like I got a full eight hours (which is never the case)."
"I had heard nothing but rave reviews about the Augustinus Bader face cream, so decided to put it to the test. After months of using it, I now know why it has such a cult following. My skin has never felt more hydrated or dewy."
"Makeup artist Nikki DeRoest, who regularly works with celebs like Bella Hadid and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, launched a clean beauty brand Róen in 2019, and I can't stop using this eye shadow palette for the perfect shimmery glow all year round."
"Tom Ford's lipstick in Carriacou has become my go-to everyday color since the moment I got my hands on it. It's the perfect shade of coral."
"I've tried plenty of products that promise to reduce blemishes, but nothing I've used in the past compares to these patches from Zitsticka. The adhesive stickers have micro-darts that penetrate active ingredients (including salicylic acid and hyaluronic acid) deeper than anything you would apply topically to your skin. After leaving them on for two hours or overnight, I saw blemishes dramatically reduced or practically gone. Definitely have these on hand if you ever need to clear up your skin fast."
"When I was in London last year, I had the chance to meet Fatma Shaheen for one of her signature facial treatments. After using a combination of cutting-edge devices and products from her skincare line, Skin Design London, I walked out with a sculpted face and glowing complexion. I wanted to replicate it at home and have been using her C Antioxidant Glow serum religiously every morning since. It's a cocktail that includes seven superstar ingredients like ferulic acid and 30% vitamin C to help promote collagen production, plump skin, and really make your complexion glow. And to top it all off, it includes vitamin C–rich Kakadu plums, which makes it smell heavenly."
"Okay, I might be late to the game here, but I finally tested the Le Labo body lotion last year. Yes, I live for the fragrances (Santal 33 and Thé Noir 29) and candles, but the luxurious lotion just might be my new obsession. It makes my skin feel so smooth and legit heavenly with the scent. I know it's an investment, but it's worth it."
"I'm trying to up my skincare regimen and wanted to test a few products I've been hearing a lot about from The Ordinary. The cult-favorite Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (also available at the Club Monaco x The Ordinary pop-up in select CM locations like the Fifth Avenue and Beverly Drive stores) is designed to help reduce pores—something I need help with at the moment—and I've been very pleased with the results!"
"I just recently tested out this brand Hawthorne—and love. The company essentially sends you a box of all of the grooming essentials you need—tailored specifically for you after you take a quiz to go over your beauty habits. The products are all of high quality and smell amazing. It's the perfect gift idea, honestly."
"To be honest, I know hardly anything about beauty, but I know that this La Prairie cream leaves my skin feeling moisturized and blemish-free every time. I apply it at night after washing my face and applying serum. It's the only product I've used that has given me consistent results of evening out my skin tone and deeply moisturizing. Plus, the smell is personally soothing, which is a nice bonus to my nightly routine."
"I was on the hunt for a new gentle cleanser to use in the morning, and this one from Caudalie is just perfect. It leaves my skin feeling fresh and rejuvenated. I particularly love using it in the morning as a way to start my a.m. skincare routine."
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