As a beauty editor, I have spent many years trying to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to products. Few things upset me more than people wasting their hard-earned cash on products that come loaded with false promises—it's true that beauty brands like to lead us down the garden path. As a result of the masses of false information out there, I totally understand that, as beauty consumers, most people want an uncomplicated list of dos and don'ts—and we beauty editors try our best to give you that.
Over the past few years, however, I have noticed that beauty has become a very divided place—one filled with conflicting opinions and a heap of shame. We are told that fragranced skincare is the devil, that we categorically must wear SPF every single day and that cheap shampoo will quite literally cause our hair to fall out of our heads. But the truth is nothing in beauty is really that simple—and these "lessons" do nothing but leave some really great products totally underrated. When we're dealing with skin (which, let's not forget, is a complex organ that functions differently from person to person), personal tastes and differing budgets, putting products into de facto boxes of "good" and "bad" doesn't sit well with me.
Let me first start by saying that, actually, most beauty products are relatively good—just because one person doesn't get on with something, doesn't mean there aren't thousands of others out there who will. Second, I would like to say that in my seven years working in beauty, never have I seen any good come from ostracising people for their beauty choices. In fact, I believe those that put products (and their users) into certain boxes do more harm than good.
The secret to a great beauty routine, I have found, is in finding what works for you, ignoring the beauty buzz and sticking to it. The key piece of advice I have? Educate yourself well enough so that you feel safe in your product choices. You will soon find that every ingredient and product out there comes with caveats. It's about knowing which ones apply to you.
So if you're sat there thinking that all beauty editors practise every word they preach, forget it. I think these six types of underrated beauty products go massively overlooked.
1. Fragranced Skincare
Perhaps one of my least favourite pieces of skincare advice out there is that we must avoid fragranced products like the plague. Please believe me when I say this is categorically untrue. Not everyone needs to avoid fragrance in their skincare products. If you have extremely reactive skin (for example, in the form of contact dermatitis, eczema, acne, rosacea, etc.), you will probably benefit from cutting out fragrance, as it can further irritation. For most people, however, fragrance in skincare is a perfectly okay thing.
As a beauty editor who has a pretty in-depth knowledge of skin function and skincare formulation, I'm happy to admit that most of my skincare products contain fragrance. Why? Because I like it. My skincare go-to, aesthetician Pamela Marshall of Mortar & Milk, once told me that the best skincare products around are the ones that get used. For me, fragrance adds a sensorial touch to my skincare routine—one that actually makes me want to take my makeup off at the end of the day. If your skin is really aggravated, irritated and angry, lay off the fragrance for a little while. But if not? A little bit of fragrance in your skincare isn't going to hurt.
Whenever I come across somebody who isn't massively struggling with the state of their skin but wants to start a routine and stick with it, I send them in the direction of Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm. It's such a joy to use you'll be counting down the minutes until it's time to get ready for bed.
Proving that fragrance doesn't have to scupper the efficacy of a product, this vitamin C serum is easily one of my favourites out there. By nature, vitamin C has quite an unpleasant, medicinal scent, but this creamy serum smells like fresh citrus while leaving skin next-level glowy.
I'll admit I don't like my moisturisers to smell overwhelmingly fruity or floral. Instead, I prefer a fresh, skin-like scent. This super-nourishing day cream smells delicately fresh (thanks to basil, lemongrass and camomile) and plumps skin beyond belief.
2. SPF 30
I am always being shamed for my SPF choices. Beauty snobs tells me that my daily SPF 30 products are nothing compared to an SPF 50 and that I must update my collection. But once again, I simply have to disagree. The truth is although SPF 50 is always the preferred choice (particularly on days when the UV index is high), for most of the year in the UK, an SPF 30 is perfectly sufficient. It is thought that, when applied properly (which, by the way, is a rarer situation than you might think), SPF 50 will block around 98% of UVB rays, while an SPF 30 will block somewhere around 97%. So, yes, it is always better to opt for an SPF 50 considering very few of us know how to (or simply don't want to) apply our SPF properly. However, if you are applying your SPF properly (that's two to three fingers' length of product to the face), then you can feel safe in your choice of SPF 30.
With a gel-cream texture, this product feels undeniably cooling and refreshing when you apply it. Plus, it doesn't have that chalkiness that so many SPF 50s possess.
This is, I believe, the best facial SPF product to have come out in years. It's lightweight, isn't greasy and sinks into the skin in a matter of seconds. It hasn't had a huge amount of praise in the beauty community and when raising the question with a few of my peers, I discovered it's because they only recommend SPF 50. If you're asking me, they're missing out.
Another exceptional SPF launch. I absolutely adore this mineral SPF. Great for sensitive skin types, it has a lightweight, milky texture that leaves skin feeling suitably hydrated.
3. Overpriced Skincare
I hummed and hawed on whether or not to include this section, but after a conversation with some experts a few weeks ago, I decided I should. Trust me when I say that I am the first to admit no one has to spend a lot of money on products to get great skin. In fact, I'd always recommend you invest in seeing a dermatologist rather than trying to fix it yourself with off-the-shelf skincare. However, do I think that owning high-end, luxury skincare is a wonderful thing if you can afford it? Absolutely.
In reality, there are a lot of skincare products out there that do a similar job to most of the super-expensive cult buys, but if you like your products to feel luxurious and special, then there should be nothing wrong with wanting to splurge. By putting excessively high price tags on their products, luxury brands position themselves as punching bags for the rest of the industry. My advice? If you can afford it and you want it, buy it. It's not going to revolutionise your life, but if it helps add some joy to your day, what's the harm?
This is probably the most contentious product in skincare. Hyaluronic acid is renowned for being a cheap ingredient, so the fact this serum costs £250 is a tad ridiculous. However, I don't believe it deserves to be knocked in the way that it is. There are a whole bunch of hyaluronic acid serums out there that leave skin feeling sticky and looking drained of moisture after just a few minutes, but this clever formula gives skin a welcome slurp of hydration that seems to last all day. I don't think anyone should have to spend £250 on a serum, but if you do want to, this stuff isn't bad.
Again, no one should have to spend £54 on a cleanser. But no one should have to spend over £15K on a handbag, either, and people still buy Birkins. This cleanser is probably one of my favourites in existence. It's lightweight and non-irritating yet still gives the skin a suitably hardworking cleanse.
This lip balm is a favourite across the Who What Wear UK office. If you have severely chapped lips, picking up a La Roche-Posay option from your local Boots is no doubt the best way to go. However, if you want to splurge on a luxury beauty product that helps give you a little boost throughout the day, this minty balm is the perfect nourisher.
I get slammed on Instagram for admitting this, but I love a scrub. I scrub my body, my scalp and, yes, even sometimes my face. As a very oily gal who is prone to congestion, I get a great sense of joy from rolling tiny granules of grit over my skin. Is it bad for the skin? Sometimes. The key to getting your scrub right is down to two things:
1. Choosing a gentle product.
2. Knowing when to stop.
Aggressively scrubbing your skin will eventually damage your barrier, but reaching for a gentle scrub once every couple of weeks and carefully rolling it over the skin isn't going to ruin your complexion forever more. In fact, reaching for strong acids can, in my opinion, be just as damaging.
I consider ExfoliKate to be one of the best skincare products of all time. It contains acids, enzymes and, believe it or not, a scrub. You gently massage it into skin for 30 seconds and then leave it for a further two minutes. Skin will be left suitable decongested, smooth and glowing.
The skin on our bodies can typically tolerate a little more than the skin on our faces. Blended with essential oils and shea nut shell powder, this body scrub from Mirror Water is the perfect way to start your bath or shower routine. My skin has never been softer.
If you are prone to greasy roots like I am, I highly recommend incorporating a gentle scalp scrub into your routine once a week. Not only does it help get rid of buildup, but I also find it gives my roots a subtle voluminous lift.
5. Celebrity-Owned Brands
Look, I'm not saying that celebrity-owned brands are the pinnacle of cool. In fact, every fibre of my being wants to dislike them. Sadly, though, I just can't deny that some of them are really very good. Do they tend to have questionable morals? Yes. Is the packaging usually a bit naff? Absolutely. But I like to think that I can enjoy the celebrity beauty products that are currently out there while simultaneously wishing celebs would stop launching them.
I'm such a huge fan of Keys Soulcare that I often find myself forgetting that it's a celebrity skincare brand. With niacinamide, zinc and snow mushroom, this skin-soothing serum is my reach-for on days when my complexion is looking a little drab and congested. It helps to breathe some healthy glow back into my skin, and I rarely go away without it.
You'd think I'd be slightly embarrassed over admitting that I use face scrubs and adore fragranced skincare, but truthfully, I haven't felt a pang of embarrassment until right now. Needless to say, I keep this bottle of perfume buried at the very back of my cupboard, despite the fact I reach for it all the time. You know the iconic Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540? That sort of sweet, comfortingly warm, £215 bottle of perfume that beauty snobs can't get enough of? This smells exactly like it.
As a Hailey Bieber mega fan, I was counting down the days for her skincare brand Rhode to come to the UK. However, I do know many people, including beauty influencers and editors, were feeling a little sceptical. Since its highly anticipated launch in May, I honestly don't think I've seen anyone share a bad word about the line up and I now count the Glazing Fluid and Lip Peptide Treatment as a non-negotiable duo for achieving that coveted glass-skin effect. If I had to recommend one product to add to your basket immediately, it would be the new Glazing Milk, which is a lightweight essence that boosts barrier function and immediately adds a luminous and hydrated sheen to the skin. I would bathe in it if I could.
6. Silicone Haircare
I totally get that curly girls might not agree with this point. If you abide by the curly method, which involves cutting out silicones from your haircare routine entirely, this point does not apply to you. However, if you find yourself battling crispy, dry strands that lack a certain gloss, you might want to consider looking for products that contain silicones.
Most hair experts will tell you that silicones will weigh down your hair, leave roots greasy and generally wreak havoc with its health—but I'm not so sure it's that important. A few years ago, I sat down with a very prominent celebrity hairstylist, and he spent 15 minutes declaring his love for silicones to me. "I love silicones; I don't get why it's such a big deal," he said. And I have to agree. Adding shine, gloss and softness to the hair, silicones can make a big difference to the way your strands feel immediately after washing. Are you at risk of product buildup if you use them every single day? Potentially, but the risks really aren't that bad. Your hair will survive. If your hair stops playing ball, reach for a clarifying shampoo to rid the hair of buildup and go again—it's not life or death.
I adore this range by L'Oréal. For £4 a bottle, it leaves my hair clean, my scalp feeling balanced and my lengths super shiny. If you have fine hair that requires a moisture boost (as mine does), I highly recommend this.
This cult product does contain silicone, but it is a rare form of water-soluble silicone, meaning it doesn't come with added buildup. You get all of the hair-smoothing, gloss-boosting benefits without any of the major so-called risks.
You only have to stick your hand into this pot once to know it's full of silicones. That super-silky, smooth texture that notorious silicone dimethicone delivers is apparent from the get-go. Does that stop me from using it? Absolutely not. In fact, whenever I use it, I can guarantee someone comments on how shiny my hair is. The best bit is Chris Appleton himself (he does Jennifer Lopez's hair, FYI) told me this mask works for every single hair type.
This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.
Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.
While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.
When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.