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: We forced ourselves to choose one or two (okay, and sometimes four or six) 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, Senior Beauty Editor
I'm the ultimate player when it comes to fragrance, but if any perfume could turn me into a complete monogamist, it would be Byredo's Young Rose. I've worn it almost every single day since its launch, and the ingenious blend of classic notes (like Damascus rose) with the unexpected (like spicy Sichuan pepper) transforms it into a complex, deeply intoxicating take on a classic floral. It's divine.
As a beauty editor, the influence of SkinCeuticals iconic C E Ferulic serum isn't lost on me, and practically every single human I know swears it's some type of magical witchcraft for getting insanely youthful-looking skin. That said, I've had FOMO for years because my sensitive, acne-prone skin erupts in bumps and redness whenever I so much as look at a vitamin C serum, C E Ferulic, included. Until Silymarin CF, that is! This serum was specifically developed for people who have oily, breakout-prone skin, and it's quite literally the only vitamin C product my skin has ever been able to tolerate and thrive on. Despite continuous mask-wearing and abnormal stress levels this year, my skin has never been brighter, smoother, or more even thanks to this brilliant launch.
Katie Berohn, Associate Beauty Editor
"I started rebelling against pressed eye shadow a few years ago, instead opting for cream formulas or none at all. Jones Road's eye shadows have finally convinced me to love eye shadow again. These shadows are blendable, buildable, and more importantly, have minimal fallout and stay on all day, even without a primer (and nothing annoys me more than eye shadow primer). I love them all, but I'm particularly partial to the shade Ash. I find so many brown eye shadows lean warm, and I love that this one is cool-toned. I use an eyeliner brush to sweep this around the outer perimeter of my eyes for a subtle, smoked-out look."
"I wrote this about Diptyque Orpheon in this piece about cozy fragrances, and my love is still true! It's my personal opinion that nothing is more satisfying than walking into a warm, candlelit bar on a frigid night in the winter. You might not be able to bottle that feeling, but Diptyque Orphéon Eau de Parfum comes close. Modeled after a bar in Paris by the same name, Orphéon is the fragrance equivalent to a warm bar and a stiff drink. Tonka beans, cedar, and juniper berries meld together to create a scent that feels cozy and inviting."
Imagine a lipstick that makes you look like you just got tangled up in the best kiss of your life. That's what this lipstick does—it gives you that just-kissed, natural flush. My purses are full of tons of different lip products, but since trying this one, it's been on heavy rotation. It's also hydrating, so it doesn't cake or crease.
"Black Orchid was the first 'real' perfume I ever started using, and I've been loyal to it for almost eight years. For me, no other Tom Ford perfume ever came close, that is until Ébène Fumé came onto the scent. This woodsy perfume is a hypnotic blend of palo santo, ebony wood, and rose. I can't stop wearing it, and by proxy, I can't stop getting compliments on it."
Kat Collings, Editor in Chief
"I bought this because our senior beauty editor recommended it with such gusto that I actually thought, 'I guess it would be dumb not to buy this.' She has tried more mascaras than the average bear being a beauty editor and all, and she doesn't normally gush that much. The price point is definitely steep, but if you're looking to splurge a little, I promise you won't be disappointed. It gives me the longest and prettiest lashes of any mascara I've ever tried. Point blank. Also, I'm not sure why they call it a lash tint—I just use it like mascara, but it is not as thick and globby as your average mascara. See how my lashes don't actually look like I'm wearing mascara? It's natural and gorgeous. It also has the most interesting wand that's like a tight coil of wires. I love this mascara so much that when I went on a girl's trip recently, I mentally planned to tell everyone about it and share the life-changing mascara. It was a hit. Today, I'm spreading the word to you! Also, you can see the difference in the picture above—one eye with, and one eye without! "
Caitie Schlisserman, Beauty Director, Branded Content
"I'm always a little skeptical when there's so much hype surrounding a single product because I've been let down too many times. But if anything warrants the buzz, it's this oil. Holy shit, it doesn't disappoint. I'm honestly not sure how I ever lived before introducing it to my routine. Not only does it leave my skin unbelievably soft and moisturized (and glistening might I add!), but it [also] smells insanely good with notes of orange blossom and wildflowers. "
"Okay, my co-worker, senior beauty editor, Erin Jahns, had been raving about this for months and I finally got my hands on it earlier this year. I'm a total beauty tool and gadget girl, but I'm picky. I can honestly say that I've never tried anything as legit as this. It's a palm-sized device that syncs with an app on your phone and every time you use it, it basically delivers the same benefits of an in-office electrical nano current facial… just at home. It essentially creates a circuit with your skin and stimulates collagen and elastin by pushing in electricity. It sounds totally crazy, I know, but my face looks way more sculpted, lifted, and honestly just better. It's a splurge for sure, but definitely worth it in my eyes."
"I'm a fragrance polygamist (I've even written about it), so I’m always trying out new fragrances because I haven’t found a signature scent in the 31 years that I’ve been alive, though, I came close earlier this year after Celui came into my life. So I feel blessed that yet another fragrance has made me totally smitten. Après just launched this, and I honestly can't stop the compliments from rolling in. If I had to choose one word to describe it, it'd be 'cozy.' It makes me think of holiday breaks while growing up, but not in a seasonal way, but comforting. It smells like winter with notes of cardamom, bourbon, musk, cedarwood, and sandalwood. Basically an ideal scent to wear during the winter and beyond. It's heavenly."
Jasmine Fox-Suliaman, Audience Engagement Editor
"This past year for me was all about experimenting with serums more. Of all the ones I've test-driven thus far, none hold up to BIPOC-owned brand Eadem's Milk Marvel Serum. I love this serum because it's a bit creamier than most (it doesn't have that oily, liquid formulation that other serums have), which has left my skin with way fewer breakouts. What I also love is that after using it for seven months, I can so visibility see how it's helped not only heal pesky pimple scars that take longer with my skin tone, but my skin's vibrance overall is on another level. This is the glow-up I didn't expect I'd have in 2021, and I'm not mad about it."
"No other product has entirely done right by my low porosity 3B curls quite like Adwoa Beauty's deep conditioning treatment. It keeps my curls hydrated, helps with definition, and is never greasy—it's become my holy-grail curly-hair product."
Sarah Yang, Managing Editor, THE/THIRTY
"My skin had some crazy bouts of dryness this year—and my skin is already prone to dryness! This mask seriously saved my skin. I'm only sad I discovered it in the fall and not sooner! Every time I used it, my skin was so much softer and less irritated. Now I use it whenever I see even a patch of dryness creeping in."
"This might be my favorite makeup product currently—I've been using it in the place of concealer or foundation when I want that no-makeup makeup look. It's so good at hiding any redness and small blemishes. So low-maintenance, which is what I'm always looking for in a makeup product!"
Sierra Mayhew, Associate Fashion Editor
"I wore this perfume all summer long and never got so many compliments. Out in crowded spaces even, strangers approached me to ask where I got my fragrance from. A Chanel classic. If you're looking for a light and feminine fragrance, here she is. Pretty in pink, she looks just as good on your shelves as she does on the web. It's been a bit rare for me to find a floral fragrance that doesn't feel too outdated, but this one has vibrant accents that change everything."
"Speaking of fragrances, just catch a whiff of this and you'll be in heaven. A combination of plant-derived butters give off the perfect scent while keeping my body extremely hydrated. I faced the winter this year without my usual humidifier and was able to survive by using this lotion just once in the morning. If you're still on the fence, just know that I've reordered it at least three times already in one year."
"I spent a good part of the year relying on just this one brand for my entire skincare routine. The definition of a natural glow comes out to play the morning after I follow this routine as I truly feel radiant. My personal favorite step here is the exfoliating scrub that I feel really makes all of the difference on my skin, especially when I let it sit for a few minutes after scrubbing away."
Bobby Schuessler, Market Director
Anna LaPlaca, Fashion Editor
"Despite having a makeup drawer overflowing with lip products, I think I exclusively wear Merit's Shade Slick now. The consistency is so yummy and hydrating but unlike other tinted glosses, it's never sticky. I recently gravitated towards the Cara Cara color, a warm reddish-orange hue that I was surprised to like so much. It's the perfect shade to bring out my warmer undertones and feels fresher than my everyday pink lip."
"Well, friends, I did it. I think I've finally found the scent that will become my signature and that I'll most definitely be buying for the rest of my life. As soon as I caught a whiff of Gypsy Cowboy, I knew it was something special. It's warm and inviting but with just the right amount of muskiness so that it lives up to the mysterious vibe conjured by a name like Gypsy Cowboy."
"Ask any digital editor and they'd tell you that a dizzying number of products land on their desks. So when one of them goes on to create a formula all their own, you just know it has to be good. Enter Restorva. It was launched just last month by a Harper's Bazaar alum with a single product, its facial moisturizer, on the basis that less is really more. It's packed with botanicals local to the Arizona desert like aloe, prickly pear, cactus, bamboo, and thyme to help skin retain its moisture and quell irritation. As a bonus, they've committed 10% of all proceeds from the moisturizer to the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy."
Eliza Huber, Fashion Editor
"This body oil is about as close to magic as it comes. Going into the colder weather, my skin was getting super dry and irritated, despite the fact that I was lathering myself in body lotion multiple times per day. Once I swapped out lotion for this oil, however, I started to see instant results. I put it on right out of the shower while I'm still wet and then allow myself to air dry. On really dry or cold days, I layer it with some moisturizer, but nine times out of 10, this oil alone does the trick."
"I got Chanel's La Creme Yeux from its super-luxe Sublimage line last year as a holiday gift from the brand and have been slowly but surely emptying the container ever since. I get terrible eye bags and dark circles—it's genetic—but this cream keeps them at bay with its ultra-rich formula. I put it on twice a day, in the morning and at night after serums, and it keeps my under eyes feeling hydrated all day. Obviously, it's a pricey product, but finding an eye cream that works is harder than it sounds, and this one definitely does the trick."
"I'm not kidding when I say that I'm obsessed with Caudalie's Beauty Elixir. If I even get close to running out, I physically have to go to the closest retailer that stocks it and replenish my stash. Unlike most facial sprays, this one actually works and wakes me up every morning with as little as one spritz. I use it before an early morning run to get me moving."
Allyson Payer, Senior Fashion Editor
"I love everything Shani Darden makes, so I was very excited to get my hands on this eye cream. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that it's perfect. It addresses every concern I care about in an eye cream (wrinkles, loss elasticity, and dark circles). It works beautifully under makeup too, which is a big bonus since I usually have to wear different eye creams for day and night."
"This new-to-me device is my favorite thing right now. I've been concerned with lines forming around my lips and the nasal folds lately, so I've been focusing on those areas, and you can also use it around [the] eyes and on the forehead. The most interesting thing I've noticed is that my lips seem plumper since I started using this, and I don't think it's just in my head. Other than that, my fine lines are already starting to fade a bit, and I can't wait to see the results once I've been using it a bit longer."
"I started using this buzzy new serum about a month ago (I've been using it in the evening before moisturizer), and I'm honestly blown away. I'm just skimming the surface here, but it basically stimulates your skin cells with clinical-strength ingredients that plump your skin. It treats fine lines and wrinkles, redness, dullness, loss of elasticity, and a slew of other concerns. I swear that my lines are noticeably less pronounced and it's kind of a miracle. It's exclusive to Violet Grey (so you know it's good—they never misstep) and it's pricey, but I promise it's worth it if you want your skin to age in reverse sans injectables."
"Hardly a day has gone by since I started using Merit's The Minimalist early this year. It makes my complexion look flawless but it isn't heavy in the least, and the shade range is great. Plus, it's great for travel and is actually fun to apply (especially with the help of Merit's incredible blending brush)."
Yusra Siddiqui, Assistant Market Editor
"I'm always über skeptical when it comes to hyped up beauty products—I'll probably read at least three pages of Sephora reviews before making a purchase because, yes, I'm clearly very decisive! I finally ended up buying a mini of this during the sephora sale and it surpassed all my expectations. It not only puts a soft blur onto my skin, but gives this 'beneath the skin' glow that I can't get enough of."
"Yes, I know this product has been out for a while, but while I was in L.A., I forgot my moisturizer and needed to grab one, so I bought this while at the newest Glossier store. Is it weird that I do not remember it being this good? It helps my makeup apply like butter, and for someone with extremely dry skin and eczema, it leaves my skin supple and soft. Shout-out to past me for forgetting a moisturizer—I found a new winner!"
"I've tried (and fell in love with) a lot of Merit's products this year, but their clean lash mascara has to be a top contender for me. It doesn't leave your lashes all goopy and clumped which a lot of mascaras tend to do, unfortunately, but thickens them all while adding the perfect amount of length. It's also the only mascara I've had that doesn't smudge, which is a game changer especially when you're rushing. It tints, lengthens, and lifts. What more could you want?"
Erin Fitzpatrick, Senior News Editor
"I feel like I'm in a spa every time I use this luxurious neck and décolleté cream. I turned 30 this year and realized that I'd been focusing too much on my facial skincare and not enough on my neck. This cream is incredibly moisturizing and feels like a dream to apply. I know it's a huge splurge, but I've found that the best beauty products are the ones you're actually excited to use every day."
"As I've written about before, I'm constantly dealing with an itchy and dry scalp. Sudtana is an amazing brand from Thailand that makes this glorious treatment for your scalp and roots. This product is made with bergamot oil, turmeric root oil, and peppermint to clean and soothe your scalp and promote hair growth, among other benefits."
"I have frizz-prone curly/wavy hair, and this made my hair feel super moisturized and shiny. It's a brand-new, clinically-tested product from Briogeo that just launched in December. The weekly treatment complements the brand's already-famous Don't Despair, Repair Mask and is made with rice water, which "delivers a balance of protein and moisture," per the brand. Who doesn't want to feel like they just left the salon after a shower?"
"Facile is my favorite place to get a facial in Los Angeles, and now it has its own new line of products that I've really been enjoying. I particularly love the hyaluronic acid serum because it makes my skin feel so bouncy and fresh. Plus, I'm very acne-prone and it hasn't made me break out, which is always a crucial test."
Anneliese Dominguez, Fashion Editor, Branded Content
"This is the only lip product I use now. It's just the right amount creamy [and] the perfect amount of glossy. It makes my lips feel hydrated and luxe all at the same time! You can't go wrong with any of the colors, but the clear holds a special place in my heart."
"A friend recommended this squalene vitamin C serum to me, and it really changed the game. I noticed a significant decrease in my dark spots right away, and my skin felt so soft. I changed to another product after my bottle was finished to try and save a bit of money but quickly realized that nothing could really compare to this one. Trust me—it's worth the splurge."
Drew Elovitz, Director of Content Strategy and Senior Managing Editor
"I'll admit it: Glow Recipe has seriously changed my skin for the better this year—even my facialist has noticed. At my last appointment, she said the only thing missing from my effective-yet-simple regimen was an extra boost of hydration, so I've been laying this hyaluronic serum on before my moisturizer. Another obvious fix, but wow, it has made such a difference! Plus, all the colorful bottles look cute in my new bathroom, right?"
"Peace Out just launched this Retinol Face Stick at the beginning of December, but I'm sure it's going to make several best-of lists. It's perfect for anyone new to retinol—or skincare, for that matter—and easy to incorporate into any routine. Plus, it comes in an easily portable solid tube, which is great for travel, whenever that becomes a thing again. I apply liberally to my forehead and frown lines after serum and before moisturizing every evening. Just don't forget the sunscreen, even in winter, since using retinol makes skin extra susceptible to sunburn."
"Let's be honest: I haven't felt the need to put on a full face of makeup in a very long time. But I have been loving the minimalist beauty line Merit for when I want to put my best Zoom face forward. While all the products are truly remarkable, I will definitely be keeping the subtle, moisturizing highlighter in rotation throughout the year."
Kristen Nichols, Senior Fashion Editor
"Perhaps the best possible shade of nude, Dior's liquid lipstick in color 100 feels '90s in all the right ways, and I really can't get enough. I don't always wear a matte lip but when I do, it's this. If I want to soften it up a bit, I'll add a quick swipe of Aquaphor on top for a more dewy look."
"When I want to really melt away all of my makeup—including the hard-to-dissolve mascara that not even micellar water can make budge—I always turn to Make Beauty's Pre-Cleanse Fluid. The oil cleanser takes away any trace of makeup from the day, leaving my skin plump and hydrated—never stripped."
"When it comes to moisturizers, I tend to get underwhelmed by all of the promises. That is until I tried Guerlain's Orchidee Imperiale cream. Lightweight yet incredibly rich and luxe, my skin looks and feels its best when I'm using this. I didn't think moisturizers could be as insanely good as this."
"When I tell you my skin changed after using this toner, I'm not exaggerating. The results are almost instant with noticeably tighter skin after a single application, but over time, it's also diminished some bumps that have been persistent for years. I even turned my mom onto it, who has an equally glowing review."
"This is like a drink of water for your face, and I am so impressed at the level of hydration my skin reaches after putting this on. I've already gone through two bottles and just ordered my third."