By now, you've probably surmised that we test-drive 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 wish list worthy. That said, due to the number of products we come in contact with, we've also transformed into the nitpickiest of 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.
The good news? We're far more often impressed than unimpressed after trying out a new product, and usually, we simply can't wait to spread the word to all of our fellow beauty junkies (aka you!). Therefore, we've decided gushing over our latest fave products should become a monthly ritual, and every 30 days or so, you can expect a full report detailing the highlighters, hair wands, and overnight skincare saviors we've become quickly addicted to.
Usually, we're covering our favorites on a per-month basis as mentioned above, but in the spirit of the upcoming New Year, we've opted to select, if you will, the favorite children of our favorite children. Translation: After skimming every monthly post of 2020, we forced ourselves to choose one or two (okay, and sometimes three) beauty products that really left their mark this year. Ahead are the best beauty products we tried in 2020! Grab your game face and wallet. You'll be needing both.
Erin Jahns, Beauty Editor
ZitSticka is known for its super-effective, handy acne dots, Killa ($29) and Hyperfade ($34), and this year, the brand introduced a third product to its pimple-busting lineup—a nifty Hydrogel Exfoliating Sheet Mask. The mask is wonderful because it sticks to your face with zero slippage or dripping and because the strategic mix of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, niacinamide, allantoin, and hyaluronic acid manages to unclog pores and ease congestion and redness, all while keeping your skin plump and hydrated. I made my way through my first five-pack with super-aggressive speed, and the morning after every application, my skin and makeup have looked significantly better—smoother, brighter, the whole nine yards. Fun fact: This mask is super high-tech and uses graphene technology, which essentially syncs with your body heat so that your skin is better able to accept and absorb the complexion-improving ingredients.
I don't know if you're ready for this. I mean, I still don't know if even I am ready for this, but without question, Bitter Peach is my favorite fragrance 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 so unique—I've never smelt 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. I told Courtney about it immediately, and when she got her hands on it and couldn't contain herself either, it was the last sign I needed to know Tom Ford has another truly legendary perfume on its hands. 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.
It's not often that a new beauty product leaves me speechless, but this bizarre-looking little rod did just that. I'm a lash girl through and through, and if you've been following me or reading my content for a while, you know I have a vaulted, very small number of mascaras I truly vouch for. I have high expectations (length, lift, lots of curl, separation, etc.), and so many mascaras just fall flat. But let me just tell you that this is literally the best mascara-like product I have ever used. I added three or four coats, and my lashes just got longer and longer and even more lifted and curled with each and every stroke. I don't know what's in the water over at Surratt, but this spectacular little tube truly transcends gravity and is the perfect solution for anyone who has been missing their extension appointments.
Sarah Yang, Managing Editor, THE/THIRTY
Hands down, this is my favorite beauty product that I've tried in 2020. After hearing my co-workers rave about C E Ferulic nonstop, I decided to follow their lead and give it a try. I don't normally spend a ton of money on skincare or beauty in general, so dropping $166 on this bottle definitely made me feel a bit guilty at first. Fortunately, I have absolutely zero regrets because it really worked magic on my skin. Using it every day gives my skin an amazing glow, even when I'm feeling tired. It's also gotten rid of some dark spots on my face and makes it just feel 100% healthier. And ever since I jumped on the C E Ferulic train, I've been getting tons of compliments on my skin from co-workers during Zoom calls, so that's a nice bonus!
Drew Elovitz, Director of Content Strategy & Senior Managing Editor
I've had the same bedtime routine for years—diffuse some essential oils, drink a glass of water, and read 30 minutes of a good book before blocking out the world with a Silk Sleep Mask. I saw no need to change what was working. That is until I experienced Osea's Vagus Nerve Oil and Pillow Mist. In a word? Wow. Or perhaps, "ahh." Never before I have felt so relaxed before my head hit the pillow, and in 2020, that's really saying something! Just place a few drops of the oil into your hands, rub them together, and take a few deep breaths. Then, rub your hands up and down the back of your neck and shoulders to activate the vagus nerve–calming properties (the vagus nerve activates the body’s relaxation response and helps regulate stress). Finish the ritual with a few spritzes of the pillow spray and prepare to be enveloped into the most comforting nest you've ever known. Still not convinced? I went through an entire bottle in just six weeks and have already restocked. Safe to say I'll be gifting this set to everyone on my holiday shopping list this year!
For anyone who misses a professional mani-pedi (so, everyone), I highly recommend the Olive and June system. Not only are the polishes themselves amazing (and 7-free), but the Poppy and Posey have been total game changers in my at-home DIY capabilities. If you're thinking of gifting this to someone you love, you'll want to go ahead and gift it to yourself, too. Trust me.
Anna LaPlaca, Associate Editor
Not to be dramatic, but I’m convinced this stuff is bottled magic. I didn’t notice an immediate difference after the first few uses, but by the end of a full week where I was applying it morning and night, my skin was on cloud nine living its best life. My bathroom cabinets are very well stocked with skincare products, but after that first week, it became clear to me that Augustinus Bader’s formula is the most effective product I’ve tried. Believe me. I, too, was a skeptic. I pored over the many reviews my co-workers and friends have given the infamous face cream, attempting to understand if it was really worth the hype or the splurge-worthy price tag. Now for the specifics: The unexpected effect I really enjoyed from The Cream was how it sped up the recovery of my existing acne, calming newer breakouts and helping older ones heal that much faster. The other effect it had was in creating a poreless, dare I say, glass-like surface for my makeup to glide on easily. Count me as another passionate member of the Augustinus Bader fan club because I’m fully addicted. I’ve even been pinching pennies to ensure I can restock my supply as soon as it runs out.
I might be late to the hair-oil game, but wow does this work wonders. I used to assume that people with shiny, smooth hair were just born with it, but clearly, I was always just one product away from achieving the perfect shampoo commercial–quality strands of my dreams. Now if anything with the word oil scares you, let me just say that this particular blend of coconut, apricot, and sunflower oils is surprisingly weightless and nongreasy. The scent is also amazing and reminds me of going on a luxe beach vacation, which might have something to do with the name Playa and the fact that it's made from a natural UV protectant. Basically, it's made for the sun. Since I usually air-dry my hair, I'll wait until it's almost all the way dry and then work in about half a dropper of this oil (a little goes a long way—trust me) to the bottom half of my hair and then just sit back and enjoy having achieved polished locks with little to no effort.
Allyson Payer, Senior Editor
This is one of the most effective skincare products I've tried in a while. I'd heard great things about it and was curious enough to get one of my own. I'm so glad I did. I love products with instantly noticeable results, and this serum really delivers. When I use it, the next morning, my skin is brighter, more even, and less flaky. Since it contains vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and retinol, among other ingredients, it's all you need, which justifies the price. And a little goes a long way.
Don't ask me why, but I've been on kind of a face wash kick lately. Rice Wash has really good reviews, and I'm always eager to try anything Tatcha makes, and I can say that this really lives up to the hype. The rice powder gives it a grainy texture, which I like for the gentle exfoliation, but it doesn't leave my face feeling tight in the least (so it's great for year-round use). Plus, it removes makeup without requiring a double cleanse.
Jasmine Fox-Suliaman, Audience Engagement Editor
Whenever my skin is suffering from post-breakout bumps and redness, dryness, or overall dullness, I've turned to Peach & Lily's Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask. At first, I was dubious about adding more products to my skincare routine, as I've always had a minimalist approach. Still, after using this product for over six months, I can tell you it's really enhanced my skin texture and has helped keep my skin as dewy as possible despite all of the quarantine stress outbreaks. Honestly, this is magic in a jar.
My hair has grown so much this year, and I have Cantu's Tea Tree Hair Oil to thank. As anyone that's transitioned to their natural texture or is constantly caring for their curls knows, maintaining healthy coils is no easy feat. But the key, I've found this year, is using an oil every single day. For the days you don't want to wear a wash-and-go style, I recommend deep conditioning your hair, adding in a leave-in, finishing off your hair with this oil, and braiding it. It locks in the moisture, which, over time, allows your curls to flourish.
Having a great deep-conditioning masque is a nonnegotiable when it comes to maintaining curly hair. While I'll switch which masques I'm using based on seasons and what's happening with my hair, I've found Curl Dynasty's Pumpkin Mint Deep Treatment to be super helpful in combating dandruff and dry-scalp issues. Containing shea butter and peppermint leaf extract, it is perfect for deeply nourishing curls, and it's Black owned, which is a plus in my books.
Candice Aman, Social Media Editor
This year, my shower routine has improved tenfold thanks to Nécessaire’s truly amazing body wash. Prior to picking this up, any grocery story bar soap would suffice, but if 2020 has taught me one thing, it’s that taking care of yourself is always worth it. This product (I love the eucalyptus scent!) really helps to elevate a routine activity into a spa-like experience. Plus, it’s helped to diminish the keratosis pilaris on my arms—miracle products do exist.
Besides sunscreen, lip balm is the one beauty essential I use every day without fail, so I’ve gotten through my fair share of them. Though technically a lip mask, the Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm works like magic. The ultra-moisturizing formula goes on silky smooth, and you’re left with the juiciest and softest lips ever. This balm is a year-round favorite for many reasons, but especially now in the colder months, it becomes a lifesaver. I love it that much!
Courtney Higgs, Associate Beauty Editor
This is my top beauty find this year—by a lot. Eyebrow maintenance is one of the only beauty practices I've stayed on top of throughout the quarantine, and this wax has had a lot to do with that. I love that, within minutes, my brows go from looking unruly to perfectly feathered. Even if it's the only thing I do to spruce my face before a Zoom call or quick errand, I feel exponentially more put-together. Don't let the reviews fool you—a quick scan of the complaints quickly reveals how many folks didn't bother reading the application directions!
I love a good body exfoliator, so when I heard Glossier would be dropping its take on a skin-softening buffing bar just in time for dry-skin season, I was beyond excited. First of all, I'm obsessed with the smell. In typical Glossier fashion, the scent is light and fresh and just so good. I also love that the scrubbing element is milled, biodegradable bamboo powder. It's super fine and really feels like it removes dry skin in a single pass. Very into it!
It's been a while since I committed to a straight retinol cream, but something inspired me to crack open this tube the other week, and I can't believe how much my skin has changed in such a short time. I don't have many big skin concerns right now, but I've certainly noticed that my skin has been less vibrant lately. I chalked it up to spending much of my time indoors lately, but this stuff brings my skin to life in the best way. I've been limiting myself to using it twice per week, but I bet my face will glow like J.Lo when I work up to more frequent use.
Getting to know my natural hair texture has been my most exciting beauty endeavor of the year, and as such, I've become obsessed with mastering my no-heat hairstyles. After my weekly washday ritual, I've been practicing my twist-outs and perm-rod sets. This styling cream by The Doux has been an integral part of my pursuit of perfecting both of those styles. It's super thick and creamy and coats my hair in the most luxurious concoction of coconut, vitamin E, avocado oil, and minoi oil. I apply it on my wet hair as I twist or curl it, and once dry, my curly styles are super defined and frizz-free.
Yusra Siddiqui, Assistant Market Editor
One of my most-used products had to be Glossier's Skywash. I love any makeup that makes getting ready quicker, and these liquid eye shadows blend so well, especially my go-to shade Echo, a gorgeous cocoa brown that's perfect for when you want a little something on your eyes. I don't think I've touched my shadow palettes since venturing into liquid formulas this year.
I was looking into a new vitamin C this year, and a few, unfortunately, broke me out, but this one by Biossance became a holy grail for me. It's an oil, so it feels very hydrating. Most serums tend to feel tacky and sticky on the skin, which I don't like, but this feels luxurious and sinks into the skin so well. I feel like I'm in a spa when I'm putting this on in the morning. What more could you want?
I'm very picky when it comes to foundation and BB creams. I don't really use drugstore and opt for lighter formulas like Kosas and Ilia, but this L'Oréal one surpassed all my expectations, and I use it all the time. It glides on like a serum but gives the perfect amount of light coverage. I have dry skin, and it gives me a perfect, healthy glow.
Kristen Nichols, Senior Editor
I've been using Le Prunier's Plum Beauty Oil since it launched a few years ago, but it wasn't until this year that it became an essential part of my everyday skincare routine. Since I've been wearing less makeup recently, I've been putting even more time into what I put on my skin, and this antioxidant-packed oil is the first thing I apply every morning and night. Not only does it make my skin look instantly plumper and dewier, but it also smells heavenly.