I Spent 2 Weeks "Leaning Out" My Beauty Routine—Here's What Was Left Standing
Just when I think I have things under control (aka, I purge my apartment of teetering piles of beauty products), I find myself right back where I started. Obviously, I love the part of my job that allows me to test so many amazing beauty things, but my tiny apartment doesn't have the bandwidth to accommodate the Whac-a-Mole rate at which products seem to accumulate. As soon as I use up or give away one, five more appear it its place. Plus, given the fact I want to try everything, my routine as a whole starts to feel incredibly chaotic and much too involved. (Instead of choosing one eye cream out of 20, I just want the one that I love best and know really works!)
A few weeks ago, I hit a breaking point, and I decided to perform the ultimate product purge with some help from a few of my friends. Aside from my makeup collection—that's a whole separate adventure that I didn't quite get to—I think I donated or tossed (if expired) 3/4 of what was sitting on my shelves and in my cabinets. Obviously, I kept some additional things that aren't listed below, but I thought I'd share the essential beauty products left standing that I couldn't part with. Curious to see what made the cut? Keep scrolling! My favorite products in hair, body, skincare, fragrance, and more await.
Shower & Body
Please don't go spending 10 lattes worth of money on a dry brush. As long as the bristles are stiff, they'll get the damn job done! Once I started dry-brushing in the morning pre-shower a couple of times a week, I could never go back. The physical exfoliation and detoxification benefits are one thing, but I also swear it gives me the best buzz of energy.
Meet the best body lotion of all time that doesn't get the press it desperately deserves! It's made with natural ingredients and spreads and sinks into the skin like the dream. It doesn't feel sticky AT ALL (truly a phobia I have when it comes to body moisturizers) and gives your skin the prettiest subtle glow. There are multiple scents, but I prefer the unscented so my perfume won't go to combat! It's only $9 but feels like it should be at least three times that.
I love having a lighter-weight serum in my bodycare mix. I've tried lots, and this one from Iota—which is basically a multivitamin for you skin, bottled—is my favorite. The hydration and light radiance it gives your skin actually lasts, unlike most body serums I've tested. It's also the best way to stay moisturized if you self-tan because products with oils will break down your tan!
I just can't do body scrubs. They're gloopy, filmy, and I often feel like half of the product just goes down my drain. I love the ease and efficiency of an exfoliating bar, and while I have a few I like, I love that this one cleanses, exfoliates, and hydrates in one go. Plus, I truly look forward to the scent—think eucalyptus, black currant, and pine.
Uni has been one of my favorite brand discoveries in the last year. (The Hand Washes are another staple in my apartment.) And while I'm not too fussy with my bodywashes, I do really love this one. It's refillable, and the lush scent is inspired by Australia's Great Barrier Reef, rife with chamomile, geranium, and hazelnut. Not to mention Uni is completely zero-waste and one of the most sustainable, planet-friendly brands in the game right now.
I am obsessed with my Hanni Razor. It gives the closest, smoothest shave I've ever experienced, and I haven't gotten one ingrown hair or millimeter of razor burn until I welcomed it into my shower routine. All other razors are dead to me now!
As a very, very pale person who also happens to love to be tan, I have become incredibly proficient in the world of self-tanners and consider myself to be the ultimate guinea pig. I have three or so formulas that I absolutely love, but these new mousses from one of my favorite celebrity spray tan artists Kristyn Pradas are legitimate witchcraft. (Fun fact: I know other spray-tan artists who technically work with other well-known brands but use Pradas's stuff instead on their A-list clients!)
There are three shades to choose from that are geared to be especially flattering on certain undertones. I actually love them all, but Ibiza Nights is my go-to. The longer you wear the tan, the darker your ultimate color will be (I'm intense and will wear it for six to eight hours), and then after you rinse off with warm water, your color will continue to intensify over the next 24 hours. The formula itself also applies incredibly smoothly, dries almost instantly, and doesn't smell disgusting. Last but not least. it's loaded with crème-de-la-crème ingredients like aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, CoQ10, vitamins C and E, niacinamide, copper and silk peptides, sea buckthorn berry, and caffeine for a powerhouse dose of hydrating, firming, and tightening perks.
If you really like to be smooth down there (or really anywhere you shave), you absolutely need Fur's Stubble Cream in your life. File it under "products you never knew you needed."
I tossed a disappointing pile-up of about six natural deodorants that just have not been it for me. This one from Native is my favorite. Against all odds, I actually love the scent (the light kick of cinnamon is subtle and the opposite of off-putting—who woulda thunk?), and it staves off odor for me for a full 24 hours and is also sweaty-workout approved.
Best vibrator ever (with an honorable mention going out to Smile Makers The Billionaire Vibrator, $60).
If you're not sipping a warm de-bloating, digestion-aiding peppermint tea whilst steaming your stress away in the shower, I truly don't know what you're doing with your life.
Hands & Nails
My all-time-favorite cuticle oil. This stuff quite literally "zips up" frayed skin and hang nails overnight.
I don't care what you're currently using on your hands, but you haven't experienced a true hand cream (and maybe heaven?) until you've tried this gilded, honey-laden concentrate from Guerlain. (Your skin will quite literally glisten with hydration—I need a tub of it!)
Crimson, vintage-looking nails are so classic, and if I could only wear one nail polish shade for the rest of my life, red would be it. In my opinion, Chanel does it best with Rouge Puissant ("powerful red," if you don't speak French). It's also a go-to among celebrity nail artists such as Betina Goldstein.
This stuff smells so incredibly good that one of my best friends stole my bottle right out from under me when she was at my apartment recently. Plus, since it's Gisou, you know you're also getting some strand-enhancing perks from spritzing it. The scent has top notes of ginger and blackberry leaf, a heart note of lavender, and a base note of honey. It's divine.
Since I'm so blonde, I don't like overdue it with purple shampoo since it can undermine the warm, buttery tone I like. But when things start to look too brassy (usually a couple weeks before I'm due for my next bleach and tone), I like to use a little purple magic to neutralize anything that's looking too yellow. I love Dae so much, so it's no surprise that I'm downright obsessed with its new purple shampoo. So many purple formulas leave my hair feeling like straw, but the gloss this one leaves behind is unreal!
I actually like to clarify my hair more than tone it, so these Malibu C packets come in really clutch. They're recommended by every colorist I've ever talked to and are a nonnegotiable if you're a blonde who wants to keep their tone as pure as possible. Just don't go overboard. You only need to use a satchet every so often as a nice little clarifying reset for bogged-down color. I probably only do it once every six weeks or so!
As a rule, I've always hated scalp scrubs. This one changed my mind. It has a yummy minty kick to it, and since it's a scrub-to-foam formula, your hair won't have that leftover gritty feel to it that so many other physical scrubs leave behind. Instead, this one effortlessly removes dead skin, oil, dirt, and product buildup that's sitting on your scalp while still adding lots of shine and bouncy volume. This isn't something I use super often, just when I feel like my scalp and roots need it!
I've tried to switch to other shampoos and conditioners, but I always, always, always come back to this dynamic duo. Nothing else makes my hair stronger, shinier, softer, or more resilient to breakage and shedding.
I swear on my life (and yes, I've tired other buzzy bond-building products) that I wouldn't still have hair on my incredibly bleached head if I didn't used this treatment at least once a week. I've personally had so much luck with Olaplex, and it's done wonders for my hair.
I'm also a huge fan of this serum. Nothing else makes my hair as lustrous or velvety soft. It also provides heat protection, liquifies even the gnarliest of snarls, and noticeably staves off breakage.
I've talked about (and used) this ultra-light-yet-somehow-super-hydrating hair oil from Verb for years, and I just can't quit it. Straying has never proven worth it, and everything else just feels incredibly subpar.
I dare you to find a better leave-in! No seriously, friends of mine with all different hair types and textures swear this stuff is the actual best. I think I've been using it for almost 10 years at this point. I can't imagine my hair routine without it, and it also smells absurdly good, so there's that.
Fun fact about me: I don't use real brushes. To avoid breakage at all costs, it's only wide-tooth combs for me, and I could not go a day without this chic, palm-size one from Crown Affair, which is also the perfect size and shape for massaging out knots and tension points.
I've had so much Nutrafol FOMO over the years, desperately wanting the long and lush hair-thickening results everyone I see and talk to raves about, but I was unable to actually try the formula thanks to the addition of biotin, which makes me break out like crazy. So not only am I thrilled about the brand's newest iteration because it's vegan (in the last year or so, I've swerved to a predominantly plant-based diet) but also because it's biotin-free! Suffice to say, I was so excited to get my hands on the new launch that I immediately put in a Sephora order fully knowing I had a shipment coming to me eventually from the brand as a press gift. That's how antsy I am for my bleached, fine hair to reap its magical benefits.
Honestly, I would buy this incredibly effective nourishing hair balm for its heavenly scent alone, so the fact that it can truly transform dry, damage-ravaged hair feels almost too exciting to handle. One of my absolute favorite tricks is to saturate my dry hair with this stuff before pulling my strands into a sleek, slicked-back style. Your hair, again, will smell next-level amazing, and no one will know your chic style is actually a damage-proofing plan stealthily at play. Leave it in for as long as possible (sometimes I'll even go days) for shine, softness, and smoothness galore.
You heard it here first—the new fragrance brand Perfumehead will be the next perfume brand to know and wear. In fact, the brand is just so fabulously niche and special I think it might surpass the likes of Le Labo, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and other cult-loved fragrance houses. It's so hard to choose a favorite bottle. I actually layer Cosmic Cowboy (above) with Canadian Tuxedo (below) and have never been so obsessed with a scent before.
The unique mix of neon galbanum, cinnamon bark, orris butter, Whiskey a Go Go, angelica root, tobacco leaf, amber, cacao blanc, and musk come exquisitely hand-poured, -bottled, and -sealed in a traditional glass perfumer's decanter, and each is hand-labeled then numbered. It comes with a glamorous glass dabber, which, as the brand explains, allows for an intimate, close-to-the-skin performance. I'm basically unwell over how obsessed I am with this line, and any fragrance lover will absolutely freak out about it.
Again, it's magic when it fizzes alongside Cosmic Cowboy, but Canadian Tuxedo riding solo is equally good. Smelling just how it sounds, it draws inspiration from denim-clad Ryan Gosling in Drive, Britney and Justin, and The Outsiders by Francis Ford Coppola. It's fresh and a tad more relaxed, although still warm, spicy and woody—just not obtrusively. Think your favorite pair of Levi's that just gets better and better. Alchemic magic. The notes are as follows: coriander, orange flower, bay leaf (top); cumin, patchouli, cedarwood (heart); tonka bean, Peru balsam, and cistus absolute (base).
Bitter Peach is one of my favorite fragrances of all time. I have never smelled something so juicy, complex, and all-around addicting. It lingers and melts into your skin for a really warm and beautiful finish, but the mix of peach, davana (an aromatic herb native to India), and patchouli is unique—I've never smelled anything like it. I can't get over it, and the second I spritzed it, I knew it was over for me and every other perfume I ever claimed to love. Buy the travel size (and perhaps eventually the full size), and it will be the best thing you gift yourself with maybe ever. Normally, I say fragrance and perfume are extremely subjective, but this bottle just might be the exception.
If I had to describe my fragrance MO in one word, it would be "delicious." I love rose perfumes, and this one balances Damascus rose with spicy Sichuan pepper and headier hits of musk, Ambroxan, ambrette seeds, and orris, It's floral but far from basic. People always want to know what I'm wearing when I'm wearing this and they hug me, and if you ask me, it definitely deserves a spot atop your vanity this season.
This is my ride-or-die go-to cleanser no matter what. I just can't go without it—it's juicy and hydrating and keeps my skin perfectly balanced. Irreplaceable!
Since my skin is very congestion-prone, I like to mix this gentle yet turnover-promoting cleanser from celeb aesthetician Renée Rouleau into my routine too. (I like to use something that has a combination of physical and chemical exfoliation.) The fact that I've used this blemish-control face wash from Renée Rouleau for almost six years is a testament to how fabulous it is. It's gentle enough for daily use, but it kicks excess oil to the curb and helps clear existing breakouts in addition to lingering redness or scarring.
I'm not a huge toner girlie, but I fell in love with this one recently when I was lucky enough to get a facial with the brand and aesthetician Derek Davenport. It feels more like a serum than a typical toner (apply it with your hands!), and the strategic mix of niacinamide, mushroom, and red algae extra works to make the tone and texture of the skin look smoother and more even. I've been loving it.
I have a few serums that I absolutely can't live without in the name of smooth, clear, healthy-looking skin, but if I had to choose, this is probably the one I would be the most lost without. Vitamin C products can actually be super irritating and inflammatory if they're not formulated correctly and with certain skin types in mind. This is the only one that's ever played nice with my pimple-prone complexion, and it's made a huge difference in the overall tone, clarity, and brightness of my skin over time.
After three celebrity facialists advised that I add this active serum to my routine, I finally acquiesced, and it's maybe been the best thing to ever happen to my bump-prone skin. Many pros I've talked to say it acts as a nice alternative to retinol, as it uses a triple-threat medley of glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids to exfoliate the skin; slow visible signs of aging; and purges congested pores. It also includes strategic ingredients like arbutin and mushroom extract for extra brightening perks, and if I had to pinpoint one product alone within my routine that's made the biggest difference in the texture of my skin and its overall clarity, it would be this one. I use it religiously a couple of nights a week (it's potent, so you don't want to overdo it with this one), and by the time I wake up, it's like my blackheads and whiteheads have vanished.
I know some people really love a heavy, oily, glow-spackling serum, but I, for one, want something that absorbs almost instantly and doesn't just feel and look like it's sitting on top of my complexion. Not only does this hyaluronic-acid-and-antioxidant elixir sink into your skin without leaving any residual tackiness on the skin, but it also has this cooling effect that my sensitive skin loves. It's helped clear my acne (as it doesn't clog my pores), and there's just something about the meddling of Centella asiatica (a healing antioxidant) and vitamin B5, HA, kojic acid, and soothing menthol that hits the spot like no other hydrating serum I've tried. To me, it's irreplaceable, and perpetually number one on my restocked beauty list.
It's so hard to find a solid daytime moisturizer when you run oily and acne prone. This one is just so good and easy. It staves off unwanted greasies, it doesn't clog pores, and it gives you the best hit of long-lasting, dewy hydration. I'd easily use it every day for the rest of my life.
I have tried to wean myself off of this eye cream for years, but truly nothing else compares to the hit of moisture it delivers. It doesn't feel sticky or tacky (the worst), it provides the longest-lasting surge of moisture I've ever experienced with an eye cream, it doesn't cause my eyes to water or irritate, and it really helps plump up any fine lines or wrinkles. Oh, and it's the absolute best under concealer and makeup—no creasing!
If I had to choose one brand of acne patches to use for the rest of my days, it would be these potent dots from Hero Cosmetics. Whenever my skin decides to have a meltdown (typically the week before my period), I pop a few of these bad boys on, and by morning, anything that was angry, red, and raised the night before is flat and significantly faded. The name of this brand could not be more appropriate. Heroics, indeed! It has a few different variations of patches, but I stick with these ones, which are the OG!
So many facial self-tanners have tons of comedogenic ingredients. (Think coconut oil, etc.) These drops not only give the best sun-kissed glow, but they actually keep my skin clear and make my complexion look and feel healthier. I like to mix a few drops with my moisturizer in the morning to maintain a perpetual dose of natural-looking color, and I feel good knowing it has a roster of clean ingredients to boot. Fun fact: One of my best friends who's also a celebrity aesthetician and has acne-prone skin, like me, is the one who got me hooked on them!
Controversial statement, I know, but I'm convinced this is the best lip mask on the market. I have it on 24/7 since it hydrates, glosses, and plumps the heck out of your lips. I'm thoroughly obsessed and have all three flavors.
Day to day, I don't actually wear much makeup. But I won't leave the house without curling my eyelashes, which really opens up my eyes and makes me look like I put in more effort than I actually did. This model from Tweezerman has been in my arsenal for years—it's the absolute best.
Did you read our Editor in Chief Kat Collings's Deep Review on this stuff? Do so, and I won't have to explain why this is staple in my everyday routine! If you want your natural lashes to be as Bambi-like as possible, I highly recommend snagging a tube of your own.
I'm not huge into face mists, but I really love to keep this pure organic rose water one by my side at all times for whenever I need to refresh my skin with a little bit of moisture. It's become one of my favorite things and gives my complexion a nice glassy effect, which I love.
This shimmering skin enhancer will make your skin sizzle in the best way possible. No matter what's going on with my skin or what my sleep or lifestyle habits have looked like like, this stuff instantly makes me look like I've got my shit together. The entire Who What Wear beauty team is obsessed. Just be warned a little goes a long way! I like to take a tiny amount and mix it in with my daily moisturizer.
If my brows aren't brushed up at all times, I feel completely discombobulated. Thus, this double-sided wonder is probably my most-used (but yes, a little boring) item on my vanity. Oh, and the other side comes in clutch when I want to swing a cat eye for some extra definition.
- Explore More: