Before we get started, I want to clear up a few things. Long before I worked in the beauty industry, I was somewhat of a beauty consuming heavyweight. When I was 14, I could tell you the efficacy of every single drugstore product, and by the time I was actually making my own money, that quickly expanded out to the entire beauty market.
I was the go-to gal for smuggling U.S. beauty products into secondary school and knowing all the secret places for great international products (look at your local fruit and veg markets). As the great philosopher of modern times, Carrie Bradshaw, once said, "I like my money where I can see it." While Carrie was referring to her closet, I personally like to see my money in the form of skincare and makeup products on my face.
So, of course, once I actually started trying, testing and writing about beauty products for a living (and receiving samples), my collection grew, much to the perpetual annoyance of everyone I've ever lived with.
I keep my routine quite simple now that I've tried most things and worked out what works best for me. I tend to go for quality over quantity and only put my spending power behind the products that actually do the job and excel at it.
These products are the ones that I swear by, use, fangirl over and—most importantly—spend my money on.
1. REN SP 30
Ren Clean Skincare Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen (£30)
SPF really stresses me out. I spend a lot of time (too much) doing my makeup and wearing a primer, so when that midday SPF shine comes through, it's very disappointing. Luckily, sunscreen innovation has come a long way and I adore this one from Ren. It keeps me protected, shine-free, no white cast and doesn't disturb my makeup. I can even skip my primer in the heat of summer and know there won't be any face-melting moments.
Just going to pause for a safety announcement: If you have darker skin, please wear SPF every day. It's important. Thank you.
2. Aesop Hand Wash
Aesop Resurrection Rinse-Free Hand Wash (£33)
I take hygiene very seriously and always have some version of hand sanitizer or rinse-free hand wash in every single one of my handbags. I also never get sick, so I'm obviously doing something right. For a product that comes out of my bag more often than my lipstick, it has to be chic. Enter Aesop with the most fragrant blend of essential oils that knocks out any of those pungent hospital-esque sanitizers.
This one sits nicely on my desk. I decant it into a glass bottle to use on-the-go, but there's also a 50ml version for £7 if you're not as extra as I am.
3. Yves Saint Laurent Foundation
Yves Saint Laurent All Hours Foundation (£35)
I'm such a hypegirl for this foundation that my face should come with an in-built microphone so I can continue to shout about it. Foundation has been the absolute bane of my beauty-buying existence and I've quite literally tried every single one out there.
For darker skin, it's always a case of quality and quantity. In terms of quality, most foundation shades are pretty awful and very unrealistic. Then the quantity is also evident in the low number of shades for people of colour.
So as I was about to call it quits on foundation, I finally found this one. It ticks all of my complexion needs with true-to-life shades that actually stay on my face all day. When you have nightmares about a product ever being discontinued, you know it's special.
4. Huda Beauty Hoodie Lash
Huda Beauty Hoodie Lash (£17)
I wear false eyelashes every day, so I've tried pretty much every brand out there and nothing compares to Huda Beauty lashes. They're easy to apply, look incredible and most importantly, I get so many wears out of one pair by gently using some micellar water to clean them.
5. Garnier Eye Makeup Remover
Garnier Skin Naturals 2in1 Eye Makeup Remover (£4)
I have eyelash glue remnants, three blended eyeshadow colours, liquid liner and mascara to wash off my face every single night. It's a faff, but this is the life I chose for myself. This little bottle has changed my entire routine and I can't remember the last time I've been so excited about a product. You simply press a cotton pad with the remover over your eyes for a few seconds and swipe all the makeup off. It's basically magic and has shaved off so much time from my cleansing routine.
6. Penhaligon's Perfume
Penhaligon's Heartless Helen Eau de Parfum (£188)
I always envision a line of broken hearts following me whenever I wear this tuberose-filled scent. It's one that I always find myself reaching for as it makes me think of childhood days spent eating pink bubblegum before wrapping myself up in my Grandad's cologne-tainted cardigan. One that's well worth treating yourself to if you're looking for a twist on a white floral.
7. Pantene Moisture Boost Conditioner
Pantene Gold Series Moisture Boost Conditioner (£6)
This conditioner manages to cut what's usually an entire day dedicated to washing my afro hair, down to a few hours. It detangles, smoothens and softens like so few conditioners manage to do on 4C hair and the texture is still there after I blow-dry.
8. Emma Hardie Cleansing Balm
Emma Hardie Skincare Moringa Cleansing Balm with Cleansing Cloth (£47)
Gone are the days when I'd use one face wipe to "cleanse" my face in my mid-teens. Oh, the simple days. If only I'd been using this miracle balm since then, it would have led to a more joyful cleansing experience. This stuff is just pure magic. The essential oils make it such a treat to use. It not only takes off even the heaviest makeup but it also makes my skin look and feel incredible.
9. Shisheido Crystal Gel Gloss
Shiseido Crystal Gel Gloss (£22)
I've been cheating on lipsticks for a while now, so I had to find a gloss that would have a mirror shine, a gloop free texture and actually last on my lips. With much appreciation, I found it. I pair this dream gloss with Nyx Suede Matte Lip Liner in Cold Brew (£4) for an everyday nude lip.
10. Kiehl's Buttermask for Lips
Kiehl's Buttermask for Lips (£22)
Dry, chapped, sore lips? Those words aren't even in my vocabulary anymore since I started using this buttery wonder balm. It's an overnight treatment, but I use it in the day and also under matte lipsticks in winter to keep my lips looking their best.
11. Herbivore Botanicals Facial Oil
Herbivore Botanicals Phoenix Regenerating Facial Oil (£74)
I like to keep my moisturising game quite simple at night, so I need a product that packs a big hydration punch. I don't use anything complex on my skin, so I put my money into really great face oils and this is one that's always on my bathroom shelf.
It gives me that "I just had a facial" glow that makes me want to cry because I feel like I can never replicate it. Well, this does, and when I pair it with Herbivore's Coconut Body Oil (£30) on the rest of my body, it's like a spa's having a pop-up in my bathroom.
12. Byredo Eleventh Hour Eau de Parfum
Byredo Eleventh Hour Eau de Parfum (£115)
I went to every shop in New York City that stocked this scent so I could spend my days living like a grown-up in this fig syrup–like cocktail haze of a perfume. I started off with the Hand Cream (£30) but found myself re-applying it every five mins just to get another fragrant fix, so now the perfume is sitting pretty on my dressing table. There's honestly nothing else that smells like it.
13. Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Balm
Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Balm (£27)
I have a lot of requirements when it comes to body lotions, and this is one of the very few that makes the cut. It leaves a lingering scent of bergamot and geranium on my skin and keeps me hydrated for hours without being greasy and leaving stains on my clothes. A million bonus points as it doesn't take long to absorb (no one likes that).
14. Penhaligon's Vaara Eau de Parfum
Penhaligon's Vaara Eau de Parfum (£140)
I know, I know. Another Penhaligon's perfume, but it was impossible for me to pick one, especially as this one guarantees me at least three "What perfume are you wearing?" comments a day.
I can't even put a price tag on the way Vaara makes me feel. It's basically the smell of luxury. You know when you're travelling and all the scents around you blend into one? From the heady roses and the sweet treats lining the market stalls to spices all jumbled together; it's hard to pinpoint exactly where the place is that Vaara conjures up. Trust me—you'll want to go there.
15. Beautybelnder Pro Black
Beautyblender Pro Black (£17)
There's nothing quite like a Beautyblender for a flawless foundation finish. We use "flawless finish" a lot, but I don't think I really got what it meant until I swapped out my foundation brush for this sponge. No streaks and no unnecessary time spent blending in. It makes every single product look like a pro has applied it for me.
16. Glossier Priming Moisturiser Rich
Glossier Priming Moisturiser Rich (£29)
This is my face cream of choice for working from home. It's got the texture of mascarpone thanks to its blend of skin-nourishing butters like shea and my face does a round of applause once I lather it on. I don't get too excited by moisturisers, but this one has me captivated.
17. It Cosmetics Powder
It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Powder (£25)
I know dewy, glass-like, radiant skin are the mood right now, but I'm all about the matte life. I probably watched too many Old Hollywood films growing up, but I like a powdered finish. So, of course, pressed powder is one of my most-used products, and this is an incredible one. It doesn't cake or settle and it still makes my complexion look realistic without being shiny.
18. Hourglass Primer
Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer (£49)
Alright, before you roll your eyes at the price of this primer, hear me out. Yes, I use a great foundation and tools to apply my makeup but the secret to my complexion success is this bottle right here. I've tried every single primer around and nothing compares to this. It adds a good 6 hours of life to any foundation and makes any products I use over it, look dramatically better.
I mistakenly slept in my makeup on a flight once (the horror), and when I woke up, the woman next to me asked how my makeup was still so immaculate. This primer is the answer, my friends.
19. Beauty Pie Moisturiser
Beauty Pie Qi Energy Breathable Moisture Ginseng Beauty Sleep Mask (£7)
My love affair with this product started when I used this on an 8-hour flight and woke up looking like I'd just had 12 hours sleep. My skin was more hydrated, plumped up and juicy than I'd ever seen it. So I slotted it into my routine. I normally layer this with an oil at night for extra dewiness. It's light on the skin but the results are incomparable.
This article originally appeared on Who What Wear
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