Here's the thing—when it comes to beauty, everyone has a different beat. A makeup look that one person loves might be totally unappealing to another, and a specific product that completely changes one person's hair, makeup, or skincare game might be a complete failure for someone else. It's all par for the course in the world of beauty, and while I'm far, far from an expert, I've certainly been around the block when it comes to trying, experimenting with, and yes, completely failing at certain beauty trends and product profiles. So I decided to write about it.
The below definitely isn't gospel, but it does outline my personal experiences and preferences as someone who works with and learns about beauty on the daily. Plus, as I'm lucky enough to interview and pick the minds of some of the best dermatologists, makeup artists, and estheticians, hairstylists, and colorists on a weekly basis, I have acquired some legitimate knowledge over time.
Ultimately, it's up to you to try and experiment with formulas and trends to see what works and resonates, but if you'd like to know what's failed me in the world of beauty and what I love instead, keep reading—my blatantly honest reviews, suggestions, and opinions lie ahead.
1. Wave Spray > Salt Spray
I just can't with salt sprays. And, quite honestly, I haven't met anyone who can. (For those who have had luck, please DM me and tell me your magical ways.) I never want my natural texture to be coated with crunchiness or stickiness—the ultimate result whenever I try to like a salt spray.
I've had better luck with texture sprays, but they can also be sticky and horrifyingly drying, so this No-Salt wave spray from Amika has been the most exciting addition to my hair product collection in awhile. It magically gifts hair with piecey, beach-perfect waves (regardless of your hair type or texture!) sans the icky signature side effects of a salt spray. It also has strand-boosting moisturizing ingredients that won't leave your hair weathered and worse for the wear come summer's end.
2. Blowout Brush > Brushes and Dryer
Again, props to anyone who's an actual octopus and can give themselves a salon-worthy blowout with round brushes and a dryer at home, but I most definitely cannot. I don't have the time, arm strength, or patience, and frankly, every and any attempt to copy my hairstylist in the cramped discomfort of my bathroom only results in ruin.
However, there is an ingenious tool to help! This revolving brush from Instyler is a best seller, and although it looks a tad intimating and definitely takes a little bit of practice, it ultimately gives you the salon-like blowout of your dreams, without a slew of hot tools and cursing. They even have a wet-to-dry model if you want to skip a rough dry beforehand.
3. Clear Hair Oils > Tinted Hair Oils
News flash: If you have light hair, yellow- or golden-tinged hair oils are not your friend. It wasn't until a colorist told me my previously beloved hair oil (which was golden) had caused my lightened hair to become prematurely brassy that I realized how much of a hair faux pas I'd been making for so many years. Do yourself a favor and always opt for a clear hair oil versus one that's tinted.
Not only will hair color remain bright, vibrant, and untouched, you'll also save money on your next color appointment. I have a number of clear formulas that I love, but I always find myself coming back to this affordable pick from Verb. (Friends of all hair colors swear by it!)
4. Clarifying Shampoos > Scalp Scrubs
Grainy scalp scrubs are a great idea in theory, but to be completely honest, they've only left me with a grainy, salty scalp, and no matter how thoroughly I try to rinse my hair post-scrub, I still end up with what feels like residue in my hair—precisely not the point. I've had much better luck with high-quality clarifying shampoos (many of which are now formulated to be less drying and hard on the hair), which detox the scalp and rid strands of unwanted product buildup, pollutants, and minerals. This one is new from Phyto and is specially formulated for all hair types.
5. Lip-Plumping Formulas > Lip Liner
Re-shaping and overlining our lips to fake the look of a fuller pout is a tale as old as time within the beauty industry. (Think Old Hollywood screen sirens like Marilyn Monroe for instance.) But the look just isn't for me. I've found adding some bronzer or contour powder beneath the center of my bottom lip and at the base of my cupid's bow (a trick I learned from makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes) yields more natural-looking results, and if I add a layer of a lip-plumper, the finish is perfect. There are tons of great formulas out there, but this one from Too Faced is a recent standout.
6. Long-Wear Foundation + Setting Spray > Baking
Some celebs like Kylie, Kim, and an overwhelming number of influencers have made the process of baking your makeup—aka piling powder on top of foundation and concealer in order to set it—quite infamous. But for everyday use, or even a special occasion, it can be a lot of extra effort and not the most believable in terms of finish. If you're worried about keeping your makeup in place, I suggest moisturizing and priming pre-foundation and concealer, and then I recommend using a translucent setting powder and setting spray as needed to keep things in place.
Urban Decay's new Stay Naked Weightless Foundation ($39) and Correcting Concealer ($29) literally stay perfect for 24 hours (don't ask how I know this) ,and if you mist your face with the brand's cult-favorite setting spray above, you can't go wrong.
7. Eyelash Curler + Fiber Mascaras > Falsies & Lash Extensions
My eyelashes are my favorite thing to play up, and I have tried everything under the sun to help them reach their most fluttery potential—from falsies to extensions to primers to growth serums to every mascara under the sun. My personal opinion? Nothing is easier, prettier, or low maintenance than pairing an epic eyelash curler with a two-step fiber mascara formula. This one from ModelCo is pretty lifechanging if you're a diehard mascara fan, and people never believe me when I say I don't have extensions.
8. Contour Creams & Powders > Contour Sticks
I don't know if you've noticed, but there are a lot of sticks out there in the beauty industry—be it for highlighting, contouring, blushing, SPF-ing—you name it. But, I have to say I just can't buy into them. I don't find them all that user-friendly (even though I believe that's their supposed intention), and it's so, so easy to accidentally apply too much and end up with an overly aggressive application. Usually, I just rely on my favorite bronzer and chisel powder brush to give my face extra dimension, but if I want something more, I'll use an easier-to-control potted contour cream (and coordinating brush) to chisel out my cheekbones, jawline, and temples. Goof-proof.
9. High-Quality Face Cream > Coconut Oil
I know some people still swear by coconut oil to remove makeup or moisturize their face, but I've experienced enough massive breakouts and talked to enough dermatologists and estheticians to tell you straight up: Coconut oil is a comedogenic oil (meaning it will clog your pores in two seconds flat) and thus has no business being on your skin. (Oh, and don't even get us started on using it as a natural lube replacement—don't do it!) Instead, derms recommend looking for oils that are less comedogenic or forgoing them all together in favor of oil-free face creams and moisturizers.
10. Exfoliation + Acne Spot Treatments > Pimple Patches
Trust me. I really, really want to love and benefit from the pimple patch trend, but sadly, they do absolutely squat for me and my breakouts. Although for what it's worth, I've heard some people say they've had success. Try and decide for yourself, but I have better luck with weekly exfoliation and as-need spot treatments once a pimple has been extracted or has opened up. (There's really no point in applying them to an infection that hasn't surfaced.) Ever since I started using pimple-busting exfoliating pads twice per week plus this zit-stopping cream atop surface-level pimple wounds, my breakouts have dramatically improved.
11. Gua Sha Facial > Face Rollers
Don't get me wrong—face rollers are fun, look beautiful on your vanity, and can have some benefits, but if you're looking for the 2.0 version of your rolling ritual, you should definitely invest in a Gua Sha, which is better suited to the structure and natural contours of your face. I have this gorgeous set from Wildling that features the brand's luxe Empress Tonic, Empress Oil, and seriously gorgeous custom crafted Bian Stone. When used in tandem as a trio, I see a significant difference in toning and de-bloating as compared to the rose quartz roller I had been using.
12. Tanning Mousse + Mitt > Tanning Gloves
I'm rather obsessed with tanning (which I go into here and here) and have tried every device and formula out there. And, while some brands are better than others, anything that starts to get too, hmm, innovative, usually ends up somewhat disastrous. I've tried a few tanning towelettes that are okay, and I get why they make sense in theory, but gloves and mitts steeped with formula tend to yield streaky, stain-y, or quick-to-fade results. Therefore, easy-to-spread and tinted mousses (versus clear mousses or oils, lotions, and sprays) are by far my bronzing vehicle of choice.
This combo from the Isle of Paradise is my summer favorite and only needs to stay on for one to four hours. (Just make sure to be super thorough when you do rinse off with warm water—or else you will have streaks, as explained here.)
13. Purple Conditioner > Purple Shampoo
I've been blonde my entire life (whether real at five or fake at 25), so the importance of violet-colored hair products isn't lost on me. But, I've learned after a few hair disasters and consultations with celebrity colorists that how beneficial your purple routine is really comes down to frequency and formula. If used too often, you can end up with dingy, ashy, or even purple-toned strands, and most purple shampoos out there are ultra-concentrated and pretty darn drying—not great for those with fragile, lightened strands.
I typically wait about two to three weeks post-color to start my purple regimen (bearing in mind I only shampoo two or three times a week) and usually choose a purple conditioner or mask instead of a shampoo to encourage extra hydration and TLC while still banishing any brass. (Shampoos that look like grape Koolaid aren't a go for me.)
IGK's Mixed Feelings Leave-In Blonde Drops ($29) make it easy to customize the hair formulas you already love. I also like the above conditioner and mask formulas from brands like Leonor Greyl and Unite.
14. Eye Creams > Eye Masks
Eye masks are very photo-friendly and they can be soothing—especially if you have puff—but when it comes to actually seeing a difference, I'm team eye cream all the way. Specifically, I look for formulas with mica to help diffuse the look of dark circles and things like caffeine to tighten sag, bag, or fine lines. I swear by either of the formulas above, which I pretty much can't live without. That said, if you're more concerned about hydration and dryness, this hydrating eye serum from By Terry is really divine.
15. Misting My Beautyblender > Misting My Face
Maybe it’s because I ran through too many sprinklers a kid, but I just kind of hate spritizing my face with things. Even though I realize I’m the minority here, I still automatically flinch and wrinkle my nose no matter how delightful or whimsical the ingredients are in a new mist or setting spray. I do swear by my beloved setting spray from Urban Decay (see above), but that’s only because I refuse to have my makeup move halfway through a night out. Plus, I’ve heard countless derms and facialists say face mists really aren’t doing that much for your skin or your complexion’s hydration levels. They may feel nice, but other than that, there’s no much going on there.
However, what I do love doing is using these elixirs (which do often have great ingredients!) on my Beautyblender instead of regular old water. I can’t say for sure, but I’m convinced I end up with a dewier glow when I use a mist versus whatever is running out of my bathroom sink.
16. Beautyblender > Makeup Brushes
I used to always use my fingers or a brush to apply my foundation and concealer, but ever since my first experience using my beloved Beautyblender, I’ve never been able to go back. No other application tool or sponge delivers such a believable, natural, perfectly skin-like finish, and while I might use a foundation brush to buff my foundation in as a finishing touch, it’s definitely not necessary. Plus, I love that the small tip of the Beautyblender is the perfect size for my under-eye area, and I’ll even use the sides and wider bottom to apply liquid bronzers or blush formulas. There’s nothing it can’t do! (Although obviously if I'm using powder highlighters, blushes, or bronzers, I stick with brushes.)
17. Liquid & Cream Eye Shadow > Powder Eye Shadow
Plenty of people love and use powder eye shadow, but I’m completely averse. Not only do I make a mess of things if I’m using a darker shade of pigment, I also think powder can be harder to control. Thus, I swear, swear, swear by liquid and cream eye shadow formulas instead. They’re easy to apply and work with, in my opinion, and they're more natural-looking, and way less messy. Plus, they’ll never break or crack if you’re on the go.
More and more brands are coming out with really great liquid and cream formulas, and all-natural brand Kosås is the latest to debut an amazing new pigment that’s equal parts goof-proof and gorgeous. Although Tom Ford, Charlotte Tilbury, Kaja, and Crop Natural also have great options. (Can you tell I’m obsessed?)
18. Body Lotions > Body Oils
By now you know I’m not a body oil person. In fact, I’m not even really a body lotion person. That said, when I do need to slather something all over my body I want something that will treat my skin to the moisture and nutrients it needs without leaving me sticky or oily (which is why I just can’t stand most of the oils on the beauty market). These two lotions are made with clean, luxurious ingredients, absorb quickly and easily, and keep me glowing and hydrated for days post-rubdown—even after numerous workouts and showers.
19. Wide-Tooth Combs > Detangling Brushes
So many people say they couldn’t survive without their Wet Brushes and Tangle Teezers, but as someone with fragile, quick-to-tangle hair, you’ll only ever find me with a wide-tooth comb. I’ve tried them all, and this simple, super-cheap staple results in significantly less strand loss and breakage. I’m even that annoyingly high-maintenance person who brings it to the salon or blow-dry bar with me and asks that my stylist use it to detangle instead of whatever type of torture tangle device they had in mind.
20. Curling Wands > Curling Irons
More and more, I’ve been trying to embrace my natural texture and wave, and I try to let my hair air-dry whenever it’s possible. That said, sometimes I do need a little more polish and the easiest way to enhance my waves or create a mermaid-y look is with an iron. But I just can’t do the clamp. Hair has never been my strong suit (I’m much better with makeup and skincare), so wands—specifically this collection from T3—has been my saving grace. I just choose the wand based on whatever look I’m after and after a few twists, winds, and twirls, I have an effortless style that’s super low-maintenance. No dreaded clamp-marks or breakage necessary.