It was so hard to narrow down my favorite products of this year because I use a variety of products for different purposes. Some things are great for a really quick 5-minute makeup look and others are great for special occasions. I also have favorite products that were limited edition but I chose to leave those out since it would be pointless to recommend a product that is no longer available. These final 12 are products that I have no qualms about recommending to others. I would absolutely repurchase each and every one of them. I took quality, price, amount of use each product got, and ease of use into consideration when putting this list together. If I found a product of equal quality at a cheaper price, then the cheaper one won. Keep in mind that no product is 100% perfect and will not work for every single person out there. These are just the best that I found so far.
Neutrogena Pore Refining Toner
I realize that this product is marketed as a “pore refiner” but that is not what I use it for. I have gone through two bottles of this stuff and before I started using it my acne was kind of going supernova. I would get tons of breakouts in just one spot on my face and have clear skin everywhere else. Then I would have a week with perfectly clear skin and a couple weeks with breakouts. Once I started using this it seemed to bring everything back into balance and I had fewer breakouts and more predictable skin. It has salycilic acid and glycolic acid which are the two ingredients that are helping to keep my pores from getting clogged, thus preventing breakouts. I bought it for around $7 at Walmart. One bottle lasts me several months if I use the toner with cotton rounds and not cotton balls!
The Body Shop Vitamin C Microdermabrasion
I’ve used two tubes of this so far and I purchased several more during the holiday sale last month. It’s very versatile and can be used for a gentle quick exfoliation or a deep down scrub depending on how long you use it and how much pressure you use. This scrub and the toner above are the two products that have changed my skin over the last year. If I am religious about using these regularly, my acne is nearly gone. This is best used in the shower because the exfoliant particles are so fine, the easiest way to be sure you rinse them all off is to the let the water run over your face for a minute. Be careful not to get the exfoliant particles in your eyes! I did a full review of this product about a month ago. One tube retails for about $20 and can last for about three months when used a few times a week.
Revlon Colorstay Foundation
This foundation has been a long-time staple of many makeup artists and everyday people alike. Even though I have other favorite high-end foundations that are very comparable in quality, the price is really what determined it’s spot in my favorites. It’s a medium coverage foundation that lasts all day without getting oily and the formula is very forgiving if you are having a “bad skin day”. It comes in two formulations, one for oily skin and one for dry skin and it has a wide selection of colors. The one issue I have with it is that it does not have a pump dispenser which is why I nearly gave this spot to my MUFE HD Foundation. However, if you carefully pour a small amount on the back of your hand you can use this in a hygienic way. This retails for around $10 and is sold in a wide variety of drugstores.
Mac Studio Finish Concealer
I am so picky about concealers. I use some of them for dark circles, others for breakouts, and yet others for acne scarring. Narrowing this down has been difficult especially because the concealer that works the best on me, Paula Dorf Total Camouflage, is kind of hard to track down unless you purchase online and it doesn’t come in a very wide selection of colors. The best all-around concealer that can be used for many purposes is Mac’s Studio Finish Concealer. Where it lacks is that it can be a bit dry for using under the eyes which I can get around by using a good emolient eye cream underneath it. It is widely available, moderately priced at $18 for 7g, has a great range of colors and covers quite well.
Nars Orgasm / Laguna Duo
I only got this recently but I can tell that I will be using this until it’s empty. Laguna is the perfect color and consistency for warming up my complexion or contouring. It is that kind of product that you don’t see on the skin but somehow makes you look better. I’ve been using it on a daily basis especially now that it is wintertime and my skin is looking so pale and dull. I have to admit I like the bronzer better than the blush and I thought it would be the opposite. I think it’s because I have ADD when it comes to blush and I never stick to one. I have ALOT of favorite blushes. However this one has been consistently good every time I have used it. It works with many different looks, light coverage foundation, full coverage foundation, and it always looks good. Orgasm is a nice everyday color because it’s a nice medium pink. It’s not too warm or too peachy and it can easily be applied with a light hand. The shimmer in it is a little noticeable but it’s not frosty at all. I have large pores and I don’t have an issue with the texture of the blush. It lasts all day without fading. My compact is the larger one and I got it at Sephora for $41. Nars recently released a smaller one that costs $24.
Lorac Perfectly Lit Oil Free Luminizing Powder
This highlighter was for me last winter what Nars Laguna bronzer has been for me this winter. I was on the hunt for a highlighter that would banish the dull out of my skin. But I didn’t want frost, shimmer, or glitter. I wanted a dewy look, like my skin was well moisturized and lit-from-within. After swatching all kinds of products side by side, liquid, powder, cream, you name it, I came across this. I’d never heard of it before but the effect it gave was so natural I knew it was what I’d been looking for. It’s the least shimmery shimmer highlighter you can think of – if that makes sense. The shimmer particles are incredibly fine so you don’t see them individually. It also doesn’t create a metallic-looking highlight either. The effect is just dewy and it’s a powder which I prefer since it feels more comfortable on the skin. It comes in three shades. I have swatched the two lightest shades and neither of them were too gold, or too pink. They were just perfectly neutral beige highlights. I highly recommend this to everyone. At $32 the retail price is steep but I wasn’t successful at finding a comparable drugstore alternative.
Covergirl Lashblast Length Mascara
This mascara just happens to be my personal favorite and I know it might not suit all that many people out there. I have medium length sparse-ish lashes and small eyes which I tend to often smudge mascara all over. I also have a preference for very natural looking lashes. The super skinny brush and evenly spaced bristles on the brush separate my lashes, deposit just enough color, and don’t smudge all over my eyes. I like that it’s not volumizing because it still looks natural. It’s a my-lashes-but-better type of mascara. I use the non-waterproof one because I prefer it to be easy to remove. You can pick this one up for around $7 in most drugstores.
Palladio Eyeliner in Taupe
I like to use this pencil to fill in my brows. At only $2 it is cheap, works well, and the color matches my brows well. It would work for those with blonde hair, and light to medium brown hair. It’s a taupe that is not too grey or too orange so it blends in nicely with the color my brow hair. It glides on easily enough that it does not tug on my skin but it’s not so soft that it will smudge easily. I’m not sure how it performs as an actual eyeliner since I don’t use it for that purpose.
Maybelline Color Tattoo Eyeshadow in Bad to the Bronze
When these first came out I didn’t pay much attention to them because I’d never really been a cream eyeshadow type of girl. I thought they’d be difficult and messy to work with. But then I saw the reviews and knew I had to try it. This color is easy to apply and blend with your fingers for a super quick, defined eye. I could wear this by itself with no other makeup and it would look fine. It does have a shimmer but the texture is versatile. If you apply a thin layer the effect it gives is luminous. If you apply it more heavily, it will start to look more metallic. They retail for around $8 at drugstores, Ulta, Walmart, Target and similar stores.
Ardell 301 False Eyelashes
These are super easy to apply, comfortable to wear, and natural looking but they do add a little something “extra” to your look. They cost about $4 for one pair and can be worn a few times (or until they start to look bad).
Real Techniques Stippling Brush
This brush got lots of use this year and I rotated between it and my Sigmax brushes pretty evenly but if I were to recommend one or the other the Real Techniques brush would win because it is cheaper and it’s way easier to wash. One scrub with some shampoo in my hand and all the foundation and soap suds easily rinse away. The bristles are not so much dense as they are short and stiff (but not scratchy) which is different than most other sippling brushes. It will buff in your foundation just as good as the Sigmax brushes but it might take slightly longer (we’re talking like one minute longer, not such a big deal right?). I’ve seen these at Ulta for $10.
Mac 239 Eyeshadow Brush
I’ve used a lot of eyeshadow brushes and until I used the 239 I was convinced all shader brushes were pretty much the same. This brush is different because it’s more dense, slightly stiffer, and the bristles are perfectly cut and shaped. The size of the brush is a happy medium, not so big that it won’t work for those with small eyes and not so small that it takes forever to apply shadows all over the lid. It retains its shape well after being washed and does not shed. It’s a brush I can count on to always apply color the same way every time I use it. It can be used to pack color onto the lid, sweep shadow across your bottom lash line, apply highlight to your brow bone, and blend into the crease. It’s a good multi-use brush. At $25 it can be pricy however the quality is much better than the cheaper ones. If I add up how much I’ve spent on cheaper alternatives over the years, I bet I would have spent less if I just went out and got one of these. One caveat – if you need a large amount of brushes (budding makeup artist, beauty blogger, etc.), then having a bunch of these might not be cost effective unless you have the budget for them.