If I Could Only Use 30 Beauty Products for the Rest of My Life, I'd Pick These

Photo:

@erin_jahns

Most Wanted is a weekly series in which one Who What Wear team member or friend of the brand will share the top 30 finds on their current wish list.

I'll warn you right now, there are quite a few expensive, investment-worthy items on this list. That said, I've always been a "quality over quantity" type of person, and I'd much rather invest my hard-earned money on fewer truly amazing products than more just so-so products. Can anyone else out there identify?

Contrary to what many might assume, I've tried to hone and tighten (versus expand and complicate) my product regimen as a beauty editor. I'm exposed to hundreds of new items on a weekly basis and that level of exposure, and the many inevitable disappointments that come with it, have caused me to hang on all the more tightly to the products that just can't be beaten and that I'd happily use for the rest of my life, no questions asked. So today, I'm paying tribute! Below you'll find 30 all-star beauty products I'd happily pack with me en route to a desert island I couldn't leave for the rest of my days on earth. Spanning all categories of beauty, you'll find the unsurpassable standbys I've used since college intermixed with 2021 launches that have knocked my socks off. If you're sick of perpetually being on the hunt for a 100% satisfying beauty investment, you're in the right place. Keep scrolling—these won't disappoint.

Skincare

This soothing, hydrating cleansing serum from facialist Shani Darden ticks every single box no matter what type of mood your skin is in. It feels like five products in one, and it's so effective that I sometimes think I could throw out every other skincare product I own, and this would still do enough for my complexion to keep it happy, healthy, and balanced.

Hands down, this is my favorite face serum of all time. It nixes redness and instantly tops up my skin's moisture levels despite how quickly it sinks into the skin. I love that it doesn't leave any type of residue behind so I can apply any other makeup or moisturizers with abandon. I also credit it with finally kicking some of my most stubborn, lingering acne scars to the curb, sans harsh ingredients or irritation.

I've used one of these handy-dandy peel pads every other night for over a year now, and I don't think it's any coincidence that my skin is in the best shape if its life thus far: smooth, radiant, hydrated, and, for the most part, almost completely pimple-free.

This is the best eye cream of all time, and once you try it (and discover its insanely hydrating and dark circle–proofing perks for yourself), you'll never feel the need to buy any other eye care product for the rest of your life.

Thanks to, well, me, every single person in my inner circle uses this unbeatable lip balm from Fresh. Trust me—the second you try it you'll wonder what the heck you were doing all of your life, prior. It's smooth and buttery without being too rich or sticky, and you won't have to reapply it for the rest of the whole dang day.

Discovering this three-in-one product was like stumbling upon that fictional pot of gold you so wanted to believe in as a child, but deep down knew couldn't possibly exist. Well, this treasure proves that miracles do, indeed, happen. I always gravitate towards oil-free skincare products to reduce my chance of breakouts and clogged pores but most, admittedly, don't do a lot in the hydration and glow department. This one is the exception! Despite the light, oil-free formula, it showers your skin with radiance, sun protection, long-lasting moisture, and makeup priming capabilities all in one go. It's expensive, but it does the absolute most.

Hair

Every single person needs a high-quality clarifying shampoo in their haircare regimen, but way too many are harsh, abrasive, and will more likely than not transform already stressed out hair into a pile of sad straw. Not this one, though! The pillowy, gel-to-foam shampoo eliminates buildup and residues with just one application, and unlike all of its subpar competitors, it actually reinstalls moisture, volume, and balance sans shine-depleting stripping. I use it every other week or so, and it's been a huge game-changer for me.

I've gone on and on about this OG product from Olaplex for years, but truly, I can't imagine life—or my hair—without it. I apply it to wet strands once a week, and I try to let it marinate for at least an hour, but a whole day if possible. Because of said ritual, I only lose a couple of strands of hair post-wash as I comb out and detangle, which is a truly satisfying feeling that never gets old. I'll put it like so: If you're not using this, your hair is mad at you.

I have tried at least 50 hair oils in my life, and this lightweight one from Verb, years after its launch, is still the one I come back to and re-buy over and over again. It only leaves behind what you want: shine, strength, and smoothness, and nothing that you don't: stickiness, oiliness, or color-shifting stains. (FYI: If you have light hair, yellow oils will stain it!)

Honestly, I would buy this insanely 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.

Did I save the best for last? Maybe. Actually, yes. If I could only use one hair product for the rest of my life, it would be this one. It's the only detangler/leave-in conditioning hybrid I'll ever use. It smells fantastic, it allows a comb or brush to effortlessly glide through even the most gnarly tangles, and it saturates hair with shine and moisture-boosting conditioning agents without weighing your look down or leaving behind a greasy or residue-laden aftermath. I'll be beside myself if Unite ever stops making this stuff. I've used it for six years! 

Fragrance

I get sick and tired of perfumes quickly so the fact that I am still just as fanatical about this early 2020 launch from Clean Reserve says a lot. The first time I sprayed it in the office (pre-pandemic) and wore it, everyone around my desk immediately jerked their heads around to ask what it was. That was the start of my love affair, and it's only intensified since. I'd describe it as a juicy, fresh, and slightly citrusy scent, and the key notes include ambrette seeds, pear nectar, and liquid musk. If my own testimony isn't enough, maybe the fact that all of my friends now own their own bottle, and that I frequently receive DMs from happy readers who I convinced to try it as well, will do the trick.

Every time I sniff a member of the Byredo perfume clan, I'm reminded of one inarguable fact: The Swedes know how to make a truly magnetic, completely distinctive fragrance. Founded in 2006 in Stockholm, Byredo is luxurious and a little bit obsession-inciting. (Trust me—once you try one, you'll want to try them all.) Certain scents like Gypsy Water and Mojave Ghost have gained notoriety among beauty and fragrance people, but, plot twist, I actually think 1996 (a glowing scent that's often forgotten) is the best niche option of the bunch. It's warm, mysterious, and just when you think sweet notes like vanilla and amber might be a tad too sweet, leather, black pepper, and violet snap it back into balance. Oh, and I actually love it in hair perfume form best.

Enter my favorite Tom Ford perfume of all time. Bitter Peach is everything I want in a perfume, and it's become one of my most treasured beauty possessions ever since its 2020 launch. 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 so unique—I've never smelt anything like it. Please, just buy it. It will be the best thing you gift yourself maybe ever. Normally, I say fragrance and perfume are extremely subjective, but this bottle just might be the exception.

There's a reason this dark horse perfume from Glossier is award-winning: it's addictive, unique, and smells insanely good (and a little bit different) on everyone. If you're looking for an affordable fragrance that's still very obsession-worthy, try it.

If you're a sucker for sophisticated, timeless, absolutely beautiful scents, you'll, like me, fall head over heels for Serge Lutens' French-made blend of rose, violet, musk, plus pink and black pepper.

Makeup

This stuff is ridiculous. I know the bizarre little rod shape has you suspicious (believe me, I was too!), but I've never tried another lash product that lifted, lengthened, and curled so well with so little effort. This won't give you tons of volume, but if you're after a sky-high extension effect, this prismatic little tube is well worth the $50 plunge.

In very, very exciting beauty launch news, Kosas (one of my all-time favorite clean makeup brands!) recently launched three epic new brow products called Brow Team. First, there's Brow Pop ($22), a dual-action defining pencil; Air Brow in Clear ($22), a lifting treatment gel; and Air Brow in Tinted ($22), a volumizing treatment gel. I'm a pencil girl through and through, so Brow Pop has been my jam ever since it landed on my doorstep. This pencil delivers the perfect amount of pigment, and the shape of the tip is great for definition, shading, and filling in your brows whichever way tickles your fancy. Plus, Kosas, per usual, took its pencil to the way next level by infusing it with hair growth-promoting ingredients like castor oil and panthenol provitamin B5. Oh, and is it just me, or does the adorable packaging give off Lisa Frank/Jelly Roll pen vibes?! Super into it.

You're probably sick of hearing me talk myself blue in the face about this SPF-enriched lip-plumping gloss, but it's one of my favorite beauty products of all time. It's formulated by top plastic surgeon Lara Devgan, (so you know she knows what's up), and it *almost* made me forget about my pre-pandemic lip-filler appointments.

As a former powder highlighter devotee, I've officially converted to the world of balmy sticks, and nothing can beat this one from Merit. It melts into the skin, it won't clog your pores, it's made with clean ingredients, and it's so easy to use. I don't like to apply it directly to my face. Instead, I work the tip of my finger into the balm, and then I start tapping it onto the areas of my face where I want the light to catch—the tops of my cheekbones and temples, my brow bone, my Cupid's bow, and a teeny bit down the bridge of my nose. It’s game-changing.

This blush. I've been using it since college and have no plans of ever quitting it. I'm a true believer that warming your face up with a believable glow comes from a hint of highlight and some "I just ran around the block" color. But—there is a but here—there is a fine line between a subtle hint of radiance and a panic-at-the-disco level glitter and shimmer. The key is finding your perfect color of the former. You absolutely can't miss with Hourglass's best-selling Ambient Lighting collection—every single color is stunning (I have three different shades!), and they perfectly toe the line between halo-like and full-on strobe. It's almost like you're getting a highlighter, bronzer, and blush all in one go! I like to take a blush brush and apply it to the tops of my cheekbones, all the way to my temples, my chin, the tip of my nose, the creases of my eyes, and the very tip-top of my forehead. It keeps everything cohesive, and natural-looking, like you just spent a week on a yacht off the coast of France. (Radiant Magenta and Diffused Heat are my two favorite shades.) 

Body

If I could only use one body lotion for the rest of my life, it would be this fragrance-free one from Nécessaire. Unlike lots of lotions out there, the moisture perks of this one aren't fleeting, and I notice my skin stays soft, supple, and radiant up until my next shower sesh. Plus, you can rest easy knowing there aren't any sketchy ingredients lurking within.

I've already forgotten what life was like B.G.E.B. (before Glossier's Exfoliating Bar). In fact, body scrubs are now obsolete in my apartment because this pretty little bar (which smells like dreamy neroli and orange BTW) is literally the best thing to ever happen to the skin on my body. It's rich and has a satisfying lather, but after working it in circles from head to toe, your skin will reach peak baby-bum softness. Its catchphrase should truly be "no dead cell left behind!" Plus, it's pretty much the only physical body exfoliator I've ever used that doesn't totally tap out my skin's hydration stores or leave me red and scratched up. Oh, and if you're someone like me who self-tans and can't stand that in-between scaly stage, this will be a game-changer for you.

Speaking of self-tanner, this is the absolute best one I've tried. It's affordable, it's made with organic, clean ingredients, it lasts a full week even with regular showers, it fades super evenly, and it delivers a bronze that looks like it came from the sun and not a bottle.

I know this is super-spendy for a hand cream, but this formula from Dr. Barbara Sturm is what made me realize that not all hand creams are made equally. It's decadent, and a little goes a long way so rest be assured chapped hands will be able to reap long-term hydration benefits before you have to spring for a new bottle.

This stuff is pure heaven. For days when I want to be a little bit extra, or if my skin is screaming for next-level moisture, nothing can come between me and this tub of skin butter from Mutha. Try it once, and you'll understand the addiction.

Tools

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' time. This easy tool gives me the creaseless, super-cool mermaid waves of my dreams without the frustration of other more complicated hair tools. Bless you, Amika!

Even though I've been trying to lay off the heat as much as possible, this is my favorite curling tool, and I'm pretty much 100% certain it's the only curling iron I've touched my strands with in the last year. Since it's convertible, you have tons of different styling options and the results are just better. (I'm not sure why, but for now, I'll blame magic!)

I never really took the rise (and culminating obsession) with skin-tightening devices seriously until a couple of years ago when I got my hands on ZIIP's ultra-coveted Nano Current Device ($495). You can read the long story here, but the short story is that it pretty much lifted, toned, and contoured my face after the very first use, and when I'm consistent with the ritual, the results just get better and better. It's an investment piece, but I'm a firm believer it will save you money on unnecessary products and facial treatments in the long run. 

I know, I know. The price tag is a sucker punch to the gut. But if you have the means or are able to treat yourself, it pays itself off in the long run. (Trust me—I don't recommend $400+ beauty products lightly!) Ever since I started using this mask regularly, my acne has pretty much vanished (along with any acne-related scaring), and I've deserted 70% of my other skincare products. I also haven't felt the need to get any expensive facials or skincare treatments. If you're into skincare and have specific concerns like acne, scarring, age spots, wrinkles, loss of collagen, etc., this is a super-smart splurge you won't regret. 

Next, Stop Everything: 30 New Beauty Finds That Deserve Your Undivided Attention

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