I’ve been writing about beauty for about 15 years, and one of the biggest benefits of being a beauty editor is that I get to try a glorious number of makeup and skincare products, from classic red lipsticks to questionable face masks. Many years and hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of products later, I still find it a really fun and exciting way to earn a living on this earthly plane. (Shoot, imagine if I could go back in time and tell the 6-year-old version of me who wore pink lipstick for school picture day that I’d be doing this as a grown-up job!)
Any beauty writer or editor will tell you that testing all sorts of cosmetics will help you become privy to what’s really worth your coin and which products are grossly overhyped. Of course, everyone is different, so a fancy, super-thick face cream that my beauty group chat swears by might be hell for my own oily, breakout-prone skin. Still, I’m always curious (read: nosy as hell) to find out what my fellow cosmetics comrades are using, so if you feel the same way about me, it’s your lucky day!
All jokes aside, today I’m sharing 21 of my all-time favorite makeup and skincare products, from the drugstore lipstick that is my mask-proof savior to the high-end skincare product that I covet so much I can’t bear to throw away the jar (even when it’s practically empty)! Keep scrolling for my holy-grail arsenal.
Years ago, when micellar waters were a completely new notion for those of us in the States, I tested and wrote about Bioderma’s Sensibio H2O, which had made its debut in America after being a French pharmacy staple. Since then, I’ve tested countless micellar waters and none of them have come close. This is the only one that effectively removes my makeup without burning my eyes. The best is the one that has a reverse pump. And yes, there are days when I only use micellar water, just as the French intended!
As someone who has been doing a cat eye for about 20 years, I am always on the hunt for a really good black liquid eyeliner, especially because a few of my old favorites are long gone (RIP, Benefit Cosmetics Magic Ink and Anna Sui’s old liquid liner). Any time a beauty brand comes out with a liquid eyeliner, it’s the first thing I reach out about. Haus Beauty’s liner has become one of my favorites due to how easy it is to apply and how black the ink is—crucial! It’s especially great when I’m doing a heavy shadow look, as the ink is pigmented enough to shine through.
Because my hair is bleached (and pink), I usually alternate between a color-protecting shampoo and conditioner (when my dye is fresher) and regular ones. Playa is one of my newer favorites. I’m obsessed with the smell. It’s also gentle enough to cleanse my pink hair without me having to worry about the color lifting, so I don’t stress if I run out of my other shampoo and end up using it on freshly dyed days too.
When I’m on my game, I’m a double-cleanse type of gal, and my favorite product to use when I need extra help in the makeup-and-gunk-removal department is Tatcha’s iconic Rice Polish, specifically in the Deep option. You just add a little bit of water, and the powder turns into a creamy exfoliant that makes my skin feel completely brand new.
I’ll be the first to admit I have a hoarder-type situation when it comes to my lipsticks that I’m not ashamed of, but the ongoing pandemic has made it difficult to enjoy my precious babies as often as I like. While other beauty peeps might swear by various long-wear, bulletproof, can-withstand-anything lipsticks, I find that for me personally, there’s only been one so far that is truly mask-proof, and that is Nyx’s Shine Loud. (Crossing my fingers the brand expands its reds!)
I’ve waxed poetic about this growth factor serum to What What Wear before, and I still continue to stan. On weeks when I’m lazy and my growth factor regimen goes on hiatus, when I start using it again, there’s a noticeable difference in texture, tone, and overall brightness in my complexion. Even my husband will comment on “my glow.” Seriously. He said I had “a glow.” LOL.
I’m a hard-core devotee to all things T3. There’s probably not another styling tool brand that I use as much. The flat iron and curlers are always great on my overly processed hair, giving it perfect waves, ringlets, and sleekness without ever damaging it. T3’s smart flat iron, the Lucea ID, takes our relationship to a whole new level. You can program the tool according to your hair’s length, texture, and whether or not it's color-treated, so it will know exactly how much heat to deliver to your hair so it will be protected against damage but still make you look like you stepped out of the salon.
I alternate between a few different brow products every so often (like Fenty’s Brow MVP and Huda Beauty's #BombBrows), but I always find myself going back to the OG: Benefit Cosmetics Precisely My Brow. Years ago during a Facebook Live (’memba those?), Benefit’s global brow expert, Jared Bailey, taught me how to create realistic-looking brows with this to help make up for the overplucked sins of the 2000s. There is a bit of a learning curve since the lead is so thin, so you have to learn how to be lighter-handed. But nothing beats this classic.
I have fancier body creams in my stash, but I have a soft spot for this lotion, which I discovered during a trip to Big Sur over a decade ago. I don’t know if it’s because it takes me back to those wonderful memories (I love me some nature!) or because it smells like coconut (a fave) without it being overpowering, but I am forever obsessed. It’s on the thin side, so I tend to use it more during the summer and use my thicker creams when I need extra help. If you love coconut scents, it’s definitely worth trying yourself.
There may be a ton of nostalgia-themed makeup launches these days, but I’ll be real—not many do them as well as Hipdot. There are three eye shadow palettes that I’m currently using, and I realized they are all from the brand. (If you’re curious: Clueless, Ouija, and Play-Doh.) The powders are super pigmented with no fallout, and hello, they’re just too cute! Oh, and for any My Chemical Romance fans out there, they’ve had multiple MCR collections.
E.l.f. Cosmetics is hands down one of my favorite brands, but the hold this blush has on me! This is another product that I’ve talked about before, and I’m happy to report that we’re still going strong! I’ve sadly realized that powder blushes don’t really do it for me anymore. It’s all about the creams, baybee. This one is so easy to apply. The brand makes a great brush that goes with it, but I also love using my fingers. Just dab and go!
I put my hair through so much the past few years that the least I can do is show her some tender lovin‘ care from time to time! That comes in the form of this jar of protein cream from the Taiwanese haircare brand SH-RD. It keeps my strands moisturized and brings life back to my hair, so hopefully, this will make her forgive me for all of my bleaching and dyeing!
I can’t believe there was a time when I avoided serums. I thought I didn’t need them! I thought I was too good! Now, I truly can appreciate a great serum, and this one from Glow Recipe is at the top of my list. Yes, the bottle is adorable, but it actually does what it claims in the name—it plumps my skin. Sometimes I even skip my moisturizer and use it solo. That’s how much my skin loves it.
First of all, anything called a beauty elixir has my heart from the get-go. Just the name alone makes me feel like a powerful ancient witch concocting a potion that will give me eternal youth and beauty (*evil cackle*). I love using this mist for skin prep before doing my makeup or just as a refresher throughout the day. The scent is a little strong, so it might not be for everyone, but I love it.
I remember the first time I used Dr. Dennis Gross's famous peel pads there was a huge difference. Dare I say, a youthful glow? But for real, when I’m consistent with these, my skin looks amazing. Texture, big pores, and hyperpigmentation are my main problems, and these lil‘ pads always make an improvement. Kelly Rowland told me they were life-changing when I interviewed her once, and she was right.
Peppermint is one of those things that can be polarizing (usually when it comes to eating it), but I love it in all forms: candy canes, ice cream, Christmas treats, and this scrub. It feels amazing on my scalp and smells incredible and is the number one in-shower product that truly makes me forget my troubles!
My everyday go-to eye look is pretty simple: a cat eye sharp enough to scare my enemies and a little bit of mascara. But my oily lids and I have learned one thing when it comes to drawing on a perfect wing: You MUST have a good primer! I absolutely love these primers from Sigma because they come in pencil form, so they’re easy to apply—no fiddling around with a tube and squeezing the product out— and they go on matte. This is usually enough for a solid canvas for my liquid eyeliner, but on days when I feel like I need a little bit more insurance, I apply a layer of eye shadow that matches my skin tone.
I once had a roommate who would steal her mom’s near-empty jar of Crème de la Mer just so she could have a smidgen of cream to use herself. That’s how I am with The Concentrate. Nary a speck goes unused with this precious gold! It contains a concentrated form of the brand’s proprietary Miracle Broth, which helps with inflammation and irritated skin, so when my face is pissed off at me, I whip this baby out. It's like hitting a reset button for my skin. I haven’t found anything else quite like it, TBH!
A full-coverage matte has always been my favorite type of foundation, but my 40-plus skin has been playing more games these days (such as needing a lot more moisture), so I need something that doesn’t give me what I call “mannequin face.” I always find myself returning to my Power Fabric foundation. It conceals anything I’m trying to, like uneven skin tone and acne scars, but doesn’t ever look cakey.
I have seriously tried every dry shampoo under the sun, including a designer one that was whiskey-scented, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING, compares to good ol‘ Batiste. It helps extend my dirty-hair days without making me look like I have dandruff. Love you forever, Batiste.