On the one hand, shopping for beauty products has never been more exciting. Fresh, innovative brands are launching at a breakneck pace, and sparkling new formulas from already well-established labels could out-pop a garden full of Whac-A-Moles. Our options are endless, which brings us to the other issue: Shopping for beauty products has never been more stressful. Sure, your fragrance soulmate is out there, but how on earth do you find it amidst the millions of gleaming bottles begging your attention? And, of course, the one retinol formula that won’t turn your face into an itchy twitchy feeling has certainly been invented, but the search could easily give that old needle in a haystack idiom a run for its money.
Shopping for your beauty vanity should be fun; it should feel satisfying. It definitely shouldn’t feel like embarking on a wild goose chase. And with the onset of fall being the ultimate time to revamp your current lineup (we’ll never be able to shake that ingrained going back to school feeling), we wanted to retrigger the fall shopping nostalgia of your childhood. To get you inspired for your autumn beauty wardrobe and to help hone your wish list, we tapped seven influential visionaries within the beauty space to share their under-$20 wonder products, the items so brilliant they wish they had invented them first, the best beauty launches of 2021 thus far, and so much more. From supermodels to brand founders to the beauty director of Sephora, keep scrolling to shop the hall of fame beauty capsules of people who have truly seen (and tried) it all. Enjoy!
The product most likely to change a reader’s life: Lotion P50 by Biologique Recherche. It’s one of those true multitaskers—it purifies, balances, exfoliates, and yields that ultimate healthy glow. It’s the most effortless way to give the complexion a real boost.
The under-$20 wonder: I’ve tried so many micellar waters over the years, but I always, always come back to Bioderma’s. It’s an absolute staple in my bathroom vanity. It’s suitable for all skin types, even the most sensitive; I’ve never seen it offend a complexion.
The beauty item you wish you had discovered 10+ years ago: Resorè’s Face and Body Towels. I can’t imagine going back to standard face washcloths! I’m well-versed in the benefits and necessity of washing my face towel after each and every use to prevent the transmission of harmful bacteria and pathogens from towel to skin, although to be entirely honest, I would reuse my towels more than a couple of times! Thanks to Resorè, now I can do this sans guilt!
The best beauty launch of 2021: I love Chanel's Le Lift Lotion as it hydrates, balances, and reinforces my skin's barrier function. I like to apply it after cleansing to best prepare my complexion for the following skincare and makeup I use. It gives a luminous, plump, and dewy glow to the skin!
The product that’s so brilliant you wish you had invented it: Any product that utilizes LED light therapy. It has so many benefits with zero risks or downtime. You can get these treatments in-office, but the at-home devices have come such a long way. I like the options from Desse Pro Dermalux, especially.
The gem that earns you the most compliments: Augustinus Bader’s The Rich Cream for sure. I don’t like to wear foundation, so I love that this product gives a healthy, radiant sheen to my skin. It plumps and pads out any fine lines, along with restoring, protecting, and hydrating the complexion.
The product most likely to change a reader’s life: The Klog Soft Shield Pimple Patches! I should have skipped the harsh alcohol pads I used for years and gone straight to these gentle hydrocolloid patches that shrink your breakouts down in a few hours. These affordable treatments are best used on clean skin and they also help prevent your fingers from picking!
The under-$20 wonder: Good (Skin) Days A New Day Cream Cleanser is unlike any cleanser you’ve ever experienced. It has real mugwort leaves, and it feels so delicious and creamy on the skin. Plus, it washes off beautifully without leaving your skin stripped or dry. It’s the best of both worlds, with a little bit of cream and a little bit of water-based cleansing power.
The beauty item you wish you had discovered 10+ years ago: Remember when sunscreens were only gunky, smelly, and left behind an unflattering white cast? Thankfully, innovation in skincare has developed enough in the past five years so that lots of SPF formulas are much more pleasant to apply. I’m obsessed with Neogen’s Day Light Airy sunscreen which has SPF 50 protection.
The best beauty launch of 2021: The Then I Met You Rosé Resurfacing Facial Mask is the latest addition to Then I Met You! [line]. It’s an at-home acid mask formulated with 6.5% AHAs and BHAs, Damask rose, and resveratrol, that works in harmony to exfoliate and hydrate. The result? Sparkling, smooth skin. I love using it after a long day as a luxurious skincare ritual.
The product that’s so brilliant you wish you had invented it: Cushion compacts are my favorite way to create an easy, flawless layer of coverage with the extra perk of SPF protection. EM Cosmetics’ DayDream Cushion is made in Korea, and with just a few taps on my face and neck, it makes my skin look airbrushed and dewy. Plus, it’s one of the few cushion compacts to have a wider variety of shade options.
The gem that earns you the most compliments: Han’s Pressed Blush! They make the perfect coral color for my skin tone. I use it as a blush but also as an eye shadow, which is very important as a new mom who doesn’t have a lot of extra time! It really gives me that subtle accent of color—quickly and effortlessly. Also, I appreciate the brand’s founder, Susan Wong, who went above and beyond to eliminate any non-recyclable material from the palette.
The product most likely to change a reader’s life: Shani Darden’s Retinol Reform is magic. It’s helped clear my acne, which is the most bizarre thing to me because I’ve struggled with breakouts for my entire life! My skin loves the addition of lactic acid—it makes me glow! Pair it with a solid SPF routine and a little patience, and you could be well on your way to dream skin.
The under-$20 wonder: The Sephora Collection Golden Hour Highlighter in High Noon is the perfect warm rose gold shade, and it complements so many skin tones. It’s a deeper tone, so it never looks ashy or frosty. I have an entire trunk of highlighters, and I always go back to this one because it’s perfection!
The beauty item you wish you had discovered 10+ years ago: The entire Olaplex range, but specifically, the No. 3 Hair Perfector. Like many [others], I assumed it was only for color-treated hair, but it’s amazing for curls—it’s great for all hair types, actually! The No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo has also made a shampoo lover out of me, and—hot tip—mixing the No.6 Bond Smoother Reparative Styling Crème into your leave-in conditioner will super-charge it!
The best beauty launch of 2021: I usually find skin tints to be overly moisturizing for my oily skin or lacking an inclusive shade range, but the coverage of Fenty Beauty’s new Eaze Drop Skin Tint is lightweight yet still really buildable. It’s SPF-free, which I prefer because sunscreen is way more effective when layered on top of your products anyway.
The product that’s so brilliant you wish you had invented it: Danessa Myricks Beauty Color Fix Eye, Cheek & Lip Cream Pigments! These pigments are so magical, and they lock down flawlessly anywhere on the face—even the glittering options. They mix easily, so you create absolutely any color you want. I’ve been a Danessa Myricks fangirl for years—her brand is professional quality yet still beginner-friendly and she’s an absolute genius.
The gem that earns you the most compliments: I think the reason I get a ton of compliments when I wear Tom Ford’s Costa Azzurra Eau de Parfum is because it’s unassuming and gender-neutral. It’s citrusy, woody, and it smells like a warm day on a foreign beach, which is something we all need right about now.
The product most likely to change a reader’s life: I believe in double cleansing to ensure we’re getting our pores extra clean, so I’m in love with The Nyakio Sweet Almond Cleansing Balm. Almonds are packed with antioxidants, so the formula also gives your skin a high dose of hydration. It’s great for taking off makeup, and it really helps assist with thorough cleansing without leaving your skin dry and tight. I think we all used to believe dry, tight-feeling skin meant clean skin, but that’s just not the case! Hydration is key.
The under-$20 wonder: The Eleven by Venus Williams Game Day Perfect Form Lip Balm SPF 15 is only $19, but it’s filled with amazing benefits (like mineral UV protection) and high-quality, nourishing ingredients like shea butter and bayberry fruit wax. It leaves lips fully hydrated, silky smooth, and it is sheer, so you can apply it almost like a primer before lipstick or gloss. The mouth area is actually one of the very first places we start to show signs of aging, and this formula helps.
The beauty item you wish you had discovered 10+ years ago: Dry brushes! They’re amazing for skin exfoliation and for attaining baby-soft skin. Anti-aging is not just from the neck up, and using a dry brush like Gilded’s Marble Body Brush lets you exfoliate the areas that aren’t always visible. We have to take care of our skin from head to toe.
The best beauty launch of 2021: Anything from Ami Colé—a brand that created their product based on research conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that found women of color are disproportionately exposed to harmful chemicals in makeup. They’ve really created a special line of clean, no-fuss products that give your skin a natural-looking glow.
The product that’s so brilliant you wish you had invented it: Buttah Skin’s Vitamin C Serum! I use it every night before bed and I love that it keeps my skin looking refreshed and awake.
The gem that earns you the most compliments: I get a lot of compliments on the softness and vibrancy of my skin. I credit that to the oils I use like my Nyakio Maracuja & Yangu Rescue Oil. It really helps your skin as it goes into repair mode before bed. All of my products are derived from African beauty tips I learned from my family. My grandfather was a Kenyan medicine man, so I really learned the power of restorative oils from him.
The product most likely to change a reader’s life:
RHW: I absolutely love my Rose Inc. Soft Light Luminous Hydrating Concealer. It is a does-it-all concealer that brightens, blurs, and contours while nourishing the skin. It’s so good that I’ve actually been able to cut foundation from my daily makeup routine. Once I buff it into my skin with a brush, my complexion looks brighter and smoother, but completely bare. There’s no trace of makeup—just smooth, radiant skin.
CH: All of our Rose Inc. products are great, but the life-changing top contenders are probably the Softlight Luminous Hydrating Concealer, the Lip Sculpt Enriched Amplifying Color, and the Blush Devine Radiant Lip & Cheek Color. They all utilize clean chemistry and ingredients such as squalane.
The under-$20 wonder:
RHW: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion! I don’t think there’s a night I don’t apply at least one dot before heading to bed.
CH: Biossance’s Squalane + Rose Vegan Lip Balm! I love to use this product every night before bed to hydrate overnight. It’s also a product you can always find in my purse when I’m on the go.
The beauty item you wish you had discovered 10+ years ago:
RHW: If I had discovered the Dyson Airwrap 10 years ago, that would mean 10 years of way better at-home blowouts!
CH: Eyebrow gel. Rosie has taught me her favorite tips and tricks from her many years behind the makeup chair, and how transformative eyebrow gel can be. (It helps give you that professional laminated look!) Even if I forgo makeup one day, I still can’t go without a clear or tinted eyebrow gel.
The best beauty launch of 2021:
RHW: Rose Inc.!
CH: Rose Inc., of course!
The product that’s so brilliant you wish you had invented it:
RHW: YSL’s Touche Éclat Radiant Touch is possibly one of the most iconic beauty products of all time!
CH: Either Costa Brazil’s Óleo Para O Corpo Kaya Jungle Firming Body Oil or the Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector—both products have really transformed my skin and hair respectively.
The gem that earns you the most compliments:
RHW: My Rose Inc. Radiant Lip and Cheek Color in Foxglove. Its long-wearing, buildable color glides effortlessly and blends evenly. It instantly brightens for a more radiant complexion and helps blur the look of pores and smooth the skin’s texture. Most importantly, it delivers lasting hydration and is non-comedogenic, which I need for my acne-prone skin.
CH: Definitely the Rose Inc. Brightening Serum! Launching a new brand means lots of early mornings and late-night meetings. To keep my skin looking hydrated and refreshed, I love to use this product first thing when I wake up and again before bed.
The product most likely to change a reader’s life: This fall is all about falling back into glamour. I recommend two candles by Tom Ford to set the tone, Rose Prick for your dressing room, and Fucking Fabulous for your drawing room.
The under-$20 wonder: Free Rain makes naturally enhanced sparkling water that actually delivers without being bad for you. There’s one for focus, one for energy, one for calm, and one for arousal.
The beauty item you wish you had discovered 10+ years ago: Augustinus Bader’s The Cream just works. I call it the smart cream because it not only hydrates and moisturizes, [but it also] activates your dormant cells and convinces them they are young again.
The best beauty launch of 2021: Hands down, Westman Atelier’s Squeaky Clean Liquid Lip Balm.
The product that’s so brilliant you wish you had invented it: The Rejuvenating Breast Oil invented by Dr. Janine Mahon, a doctor of Chinese Medicine. She developed a quality-of-life–changing formula to improve circulation to the breast and lymph area while relieving tender swollen breast discomfort.
The gem that earns you the most compliments: Mixed Emotions, the fragrance from Byredo. I would not recommend wearing it if you don’t want to attract others.
The product most likely to change a reader’s life: The U Beauty Resurfacing Compound is something I use to the last drop. It has such a profound effect on the texture of my skin, and I honestly can’t get enough. The formula has a consistency that feels great when you apply it, and I can see a difference every morning after I’ve used it before bed. It makes my face feel less blotchy and more even-toned. It’s a splurge, but I highly recommend this product to anyone who is interested.
The under-$20 wonder: You can get Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30 for under $20 at places like Target and Ulta. It’s a total game changer because the formula melts into your skin with such ease that there is no residue left once you’ve applied it. My kids love it and I’m so happy to have something that actually works and is comfortable to wear.
The beauty item you wish you had discovered 10+ years ago: Supa Balm in OG Rose was a long time coming for me at KNC Beauty because, for years, I literally could not find a lip balm that lasted through the day. Everything else I’d have to apply over and over, but this is something I know is guaranteed to work. The formula is so hydrating and feels great when I apply it. I honestly wish I’d created Supa Balm 10 years ago when I was becoming obsessed with beauty in my 20s. Now I just can’t live without it!
The best beauty launch of 2021: Our KNC Beauty x A Bathing Ape collaboration was such an exciting launch for us, and we were truly overwhelmed with the amount of love it received. It was a special one for me, as I’ve always been a Bape Head, so it was an honor to be able to design a collection with the brand. It’s been a treat hearing all of the positive feedback from our customers with who the products have really resonated with. Our pink Bape camo print is one that will for sure go down in history. I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to work with them again in the future.
The product that’s so brilliant you wish you had invented it: Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Sun Drops are a brilliant invention. I love the concept of mixing a serum with my moisturizer to accomplish the same result I would get with a regular sunscreen lotion. They’re perfect for summer, and it’s something I use every day to make sure I’m protecting my skin. I think it’s such a unique concept for a sunscreen product.
The gem that earns you the most compliments: StackedSkincare’s Dermaplaning Exfoliation Tool makes a huge difference in the overall appearance of my skin. I don’t dermaplane all the time, but when I do, I get a lot of compliments on how refreshed and bright my complexion looks. It takes some time to get a hang of the process, but once I did, it became such an amazing addition to my skincare routine.