The year 2015 was the first year that I started writing about beauty on a professional level and, as such, I took a much closer look at the products I was using — both at their effectiveness and the reasons I felt compelled to buy. As it turns out, the past year was full of surprising beauty products, all of which I'll continue to use in 2016 and beyond. Looking back on the last 12 months, my skepticism was unfortunately almost always at the forefront. I assumed that many popular products were nothing but hype, that expensive products weren't worth the money, and that drugstore brands would ultimately fail me.
And, much like my prophesy that this would be the year I became a millionaire with perfect skin and a velvet chaise lounge, it turned out that my beauty predictions and assumptions from 2015 were utterly and completely wrong. Instead of wasted dollars and disappointment, what I got were a bunch of amazing products that worked wonders for my hair and skin. Looking back, I feel a little bit guilty that I didn't believe in these gems from the get-go. Moving forward, I solemnly swear to appreciate the hell out of them, and remind myself to give all worthy beauty products a chance to be great.
1. The Perfect Glow
At the beginning of 2015, I stumbled across an article on xoVain claiming that the RMS Living Beauty Luminizer looks amazing on every skin tone. Until then, I'd never been able to find a highlighter that didn't make me look like Goldenface, especially because I lacked the skill with which to apply it, and many highlighters are liquid and difficult to manage.
Skeptical, I also scoffed at the $38 price tag. Until one day, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase it. While I obviously can't claim that it works for every skin tone (since I've only got the one), the RMS Luminizer was easy to use (it's the consistency of lip balm, and comes in a similar tub), and subtle enough to bring a glow to my dull, highlighter-inexperienced skin. It made my cheekbones smell like coconuts in the process too.
2. The Unexpected Secret Weapon
What if I told you there was a facial mask that could exfoliate and moisturize your skin at the same time, smelled amazing, and cost less than $4? If you're anything like me, you'd basically start to weep — which is exactly what I did when I discovered this lesser-known St. Ives product.
After applying the mask to dry skin, I wait 10 minutes for it to dry (that's when the moisture part happens). Then, adding a little bit of water, I gently use my fingertips to remove the chunky, oatmeal-rich mask, exfoliating my face in the process. It's pretty brilliant, and it didn't break the bank. I see you, St. Ives.
3. The Totally Affordable Fragrance Dupe
Earlier in the fall, I experienced a very serious emotional pitfall when I discovered Tom Ford's Neroli Portofino fragrance. It smells like the air at the beach with a hint of oranges, and I immediately knew it was the fragrance that could elegantly carry me into grown-ass womanhood. That's when I looked at the price tag: At $140 for an ounce, Neroli Portofino is far out of my budget.
After a bit of research, I came across this virtually identical drugstore dupe, an old school scent first concocted in a German fragrance house in 1792, according to Amazon. It's become a mainstay on German drugstore shelves, and you can get it in the United States from places like Amazon and Walgreens. Though it doesn't have much staying power, it doesn't matter. At just under $12 a bottle, you can spray 4711 all day long.
4. The Perfect Matte Lipstick
Proof that high-quality cosmetics don't have to come at budget-crippling prices, Colourpop was queen of my matte-lipped heart this year. For $6 each, I couldn't afford not to buy these. My favorite shade was LAX, a blood red that made me feel diabolically chic.
5. Davine's Shampoo & Conditioners
I once stayed at a friend's house for the weekend, and she had Davines in her shower. I used it, and while I was doing my hair, I noticed that the softness and shine had improved dramatically — and that was just from one wash. The sustainable, largely all-natural Italian company is dedicated to producing high-quality products for every hair type, and my hair has never been healthier. Check out the Davines website to learn which of the amazing formulas is best for your own hair.
6. KISS Nails
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Glue-on nails have come a long way from the French mani press-ons we used to know, and I absolutely love using KISS brand oval nails on my otherwise hideous paws. If your nails are healthy, it might be a good idea to avoid press-ons and focus on keeping them healthy. For those of us who, despite our best efforts, can't get our nails to grow, these bad boys are the answer.
In May, I wrote a story about the Joanna Vargas skincare collection. While I praised the line (the results I got were undeniable), I didn't exactly express the whole truth: I was totally skeptical that it was going to work. After all, "celebrity skincare secrets" often seem all hype and no heat. But when it comes to Vargas' products, the results are worthy of all Queen Julianne Moore's praise:
For years, I laughed heartily at the idea of spending $150 on a little machine to wash my face for me. I have hands, you know. I watched all of my friends get Clarisonics, still unconvinced that they were worth the price. Then for Christmas this year, I got a Sephora gift card. Well-stocked on all of my products and noticing the Mia2 was on sale, I decided to take the plunge. If you heed no other advice from this list, heed this: The Clarisonic is worth it. My apologies in advance to your bank account.
When it comes to pricing facial oils, I quickly realized that the sky is the limit. This $9 ampoule of awesomeness smells amazing, absorbs beautifully into your skin, and (especially when used under an overnight mask) really makes my skin glow. Who knew that a facial oil that costs so little could pack so much punch?
I'll admit it: It physically pains me to spend nearly $50 on cleanser. Like, as I was standing in line at Sephora, I got physically uncomfortable with what I was about to do. Still, I had to do it: After using a sample of the stuff, I realized that nothing else cleansed my skin quite so effectively without over-drying. You apply the cleanser in mud form, then add a bit of water and allow it to turn into a foam. After about a week of using this, my skin had gotten so supple and smooth that I knew there was no turning back. Despite the higher price point, it's worth mentioning that a little goes a long way. Hopefully this one bottle will carry me all the way through 2016.
Even if all beauty editors are losing their minds over a product, I'm always skeptical before I try them. When this product was released, everyone was talking about it. And they actually had good reason to: This tonic exfoliates incredibly well, even if you have sensitive skin.
For a time, it felt like every photo on my Instagram feed was a celebrity shilling one of these at-home whitening kits with an LED light. I didn't think it could possibly work, but when I found a cheap one, I had to give it a try. Shockingly enough, these LED whitening kits are pretty damn effective — and they're also a lot more fun to use than whitening strips.
While everyone was busy freaking out about the Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask and the Boscia Luminizing Black Mask, I had discovered a clarifying mask of my own: The Eminence Clear Skin Probiotic Masque. Eminence Organics, established in Hungary in 1958, is an organic skincare line with a pretty steep price point, but products like this remind me that sometimes, quality comes at a cost. Mixed with a tiny bit of water and spread in a thin layer on your face, this mask will make your face feel tingly and cool while simultaneously clearing your pores of all sebaceous malfeasance.
These were some of my most surprising beauty finds of 2015. Here's to being a bit more open-minded (and continuing to be absolutely ravishing) in the new year.
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Images: clarisonic/Instagram; Courtesy Brands