Welcome to my 2021 round up of my favourite makeup, haircare, and skincare items!
The methodology of this rigorous report does not take into account any of the following: usages per year, year over year comparisons or analysis, cost per use, availability, or any quantitative measure whatsoever.
The sample size was one and primarily based on my general feelings. Suffice to say, this isn’t a comprehensive list beyond my personal favourites.
Also, as is evident by *gestures at everything* I’m not sponsored in any way.
This cleanser starts off as a powder and you add however much water you want – more water, less exfoliation, less water, more exfoliation.
Even for my sensitive skin, this cleanser doesn’t give me issues or leave me too dry. It’s awesome for that once a week or so exfoliation!
This is my ride or die balm cleanser – it’s part of my nightly double cleanse. I have tried half a dozen or more balm cleansers and NOTHING beats this! It breaks down every waterproof mascara, every long wear lipstick, and any eyeliner I could throw at it. No raccoon eyes the next morning.
I will say, if you are sensitive to scents, this might not be the one for you – I believe they do have a scent free version if you fall into this camp.
They are just about to discontinue this, so if you want it, stock up now!
This is the most gentle, hydrating daily cleanser I have ever used. Totally great for step two of my double cleanse, non irritating and non drying!
I’m not scent sensitive, but the scented version lingers on your skin for hours- it’s not pleasant at all. However, the unscented version is a really nice, thick moisturizer that has gotten me through the winter months!
I went on an essence bender in 2021… at first, I thought they were dumb, and mostly useless. So of course I got 10 sample sizes just to try. I thought it would make for a good blog post or a party story.
The fig boosting essence has been an incredible addition to my routine – literally within a week, people started commenting on my skin (like, people I know, not random, I-want-to-steal-your-skin people). Even without the nice comments from colleagues, it was pretty clean that this has added a bit of zing to my routine!
Ok, so this is a bit of a cheat because while it is gentle enough that that you can use it on your face – including your eyelids and around your mouth, it ALSO can be used anywhere on your body where you are dealing with an eczema patch.
If you are also a fighter in the war against eczema, this is a secret weapon when you want to claw your skin off.
Moisturizers, Not for your Face:
Boy howdy does this stuff WORK. I’m not together enough to do a lip care routine, but this has really kept my lips on tip top shape! Especially excellent after a day wearing matte longwear lipstick!
Per the above eczema comment, this stuff is amazing for eczema prone hands! The squeeze bottle format is less thick than the tub, so I find it absorbs faster and doesn’t leave greasy prints everywhere.
These nail oil pens are so much easier than making your own. Trust me, I’ve made my own and it ended with me taking Simply Nailogical’s name in vain.
Bonus, the fun scents linger and are a nice break from the hand sanitizer smell!
Tara also included a coupon to her shop, and the card says feel free to share! So use the code Tara15 if you would like a little discount!
The now sadly defunct Enchanted Polish had an incredible catalog of beautiful and unique polishes.
This one, part of their homage to the Pokémon series, is totally fun, beyond wearable, and is just a little quirky. This fun coral holographic polish is just so unique when you’re wearing it, it works with any outfit or occasion – a little classic and a little playful. Just great!
For my birthday, my sweetheart gave me two holo taco polishes, and man are they living up to the hype.
Purple with Envy especially is such a great shade – it’s a little moody and a little vampy but I have never felt out of place with it among more conservative folks.
Ok – so if you don’t yet know about Paint it Pretty, I am sorry for your forthcoming addiction.
Paint it Pretty is based out of Ontario, and she makes wonderful, unique shades and finishes of nail polish! They are all excellent, with the slight exception of their magnetic polishes being a significant hassle to apply.
Blue Ice specifically is just SO fun! It starts as a bright, light purple, then transforms to an icey blue! Super sparkly and super reactive to changes in temperature, the tones in these shades mean that you really can wear it any time of year!
Somewhere, Emily Noel is delighted to know someone else is spreading the good news of Milani eyeshadow primer.
This year, between samples and full sizes, I have used six different eyeshadow primers – not a huge sample size, but significant enough to crown Milani the winner by a landslide! My eyeshadow doesn’t come off until I take it off. And I like it that way!
When I was finding all my regular eyeliners were failing me, a dear friend suggested the Stila Stay all Day liquid liner – and it was magical. Beautiful felt tip, no smudging or smearing – perfect.
And then, I thought I lost my stila eyeliner. So, since I was in sephora specifically to get the selfless by Hyram facial cleanser (noticeably absent from this post, please note), I asked them what they recommended as a dupe for the stila felt tip eyeliner.
When the Sephora staff member said this is a perfect dupe, she wasn’t being hyperbolic. It’s a dead ringer with it’s easy application, long wearing application, and no feathering!
And, at ten bucks cheaper, it just squeaks in and steals the crown (bonus: Sephora brand stuff goes on sale all the time and often stacks discounts too).
Stila does have Sephora beat in that there are two different felt tip sizes: Sephora’s is comparable to the Stila’s fine (not extra fine) tip.
Do I even need to talk about this? Everyone on the planet has heard about this mascara, for good reason!
Even with the new up and coming TikTok viral mascaras coming out in the last year, the lash paradise waterproof version is always my favourite. Nothing holds a curl like this, nothing wears through me weeping at sad dog videos or watching Steel Magnolias like this one, and nothing, I say nothing creates defined yet fluffy lashes like this one!
Downside: you’ll need to use a pretty tough cleanser to get this off, no question. (Luckily, I have linked my favourite above!)
This is a grown up version of vanilla. For me, vanilla has always been my favourite note in any scent, but I have definitely outgrown just straight vanilla.
Instead, this adds a level of deeper complexity without overpowering the sweet, warm vanilla scent that I love. It’s heavy on the vanilla, but with a twist.
This reminds me of a now-discontinued Tommy Hilfiger scent that I loved for years – it was a gift from my mom when I was in high school or university. When I hit the end of the bottle, I was pretty sad to find I wouldn’t be able to replace it.
I’m not sure about scent memory, but when I smell this, I think it’s a dead on match for the long lost perfume I loved so dearly.
I would say the notes on this one are vanilla first, because, obviously, it’s me. But there is also a clean laundry, sort of floral scent that makes it a little more exciting and complex. Very bright, sweet, and welcoming.
Ok, so this one comes with a HUGE caveat – it was a lot cheaper when I bought it. I might have had a coupon code or something, but it was a LOT less expensive than it is now. I’m including here because for the price I paid, I think it was a nice splurge item, and because it really is an incredible scent.
The scent of this one is incredibly complex and at first blush is very bright, almost citrusy, this is closely followed by what almost smells to be woodsy. I am not kidding when I say you need one and only one spritz for the day – it’ll stay with you but not overpower you. It also came with a beautiful box and a poem about the digitalis plant – so elegant, with a twist of fun colours and design elements!
What I would recommend is to get the sampler pack of the 9 potion fatales series because they are all beautiful, and you literally need one spritz for the full day. It’s such a fun way to try out the whole collection!
If you do fall in love with one of the scents, you can put the value of the sampler collection towards a full size bottle (within 2 months of purchase if you’re in Canada), which is a nice way to break up the cost.
As I’m trying to shampoo my hair less, and as I use dry shampoo and texturizing products more, this once a week vinegar is perfect! It makes my hair unbelievably soft. I got this as part of an advent calendar and tried it as a lark, before I was finished the tester bottle, I had ordered the full size product.
Acknowledging that anti-pollution claims by most beauty, skincare, and hair care brands are totally bunk, this is a really excellent conditioner – and I don’t even use the matching shampoo. It works so beautifully to make my hair soft and not weighed down!
As a dry shampoo, this is actually only OK. But as a texturizing powder, this works so beautifully for my fine, but admittedly greasy hair.
I use 2-4 puffs right at the roots and work it through with my fingertips. Especially as I am now playing with an asymmetrical cut, this added a lot of body!
Literally this is the hardest category to pick only three. I could easily pick ten or more without compromising my rating of “excellent”. So while these are my top three, the top, say, fifteen are all ranked within a hair of each other.
This stuff is… oh man, I love it. That perfect blend of matte but not drying, soft wash but still having colour, this is perfect for any day and any occasion!
I have found that the PeriPera does tend to run a bit orange-y, but I think it still looks nice on me.
This will wear on me for about 4 hours without needing retouching.
This colour just works. End of sentence. Any look, any occasion, it can be layered up and look more dramatic, or one layer is a perfect blush of subtle colour.
This wears beautifully, but it is a bullet lipstick so it doesn’t last forever, but it’s an incredibly comfortable wear while it is on.
This newcomer to the colourpop line has been a very welcome addition to my collection! The glossy version especially is just great – so easy to toss on and let it wear down into a lovely stain!
I find the matte version can be streaky, but the glossy version applies perfectly.
Big Apple is a perfect pinky red – bright, candy apple red to start, finishing to a pink blush stain.
I swear, I’m not just cruising TikTok looking for viral makeup. I had wanted to try Rare Beauty’s blushes for a long time, and Faith is just so unique and had the capacity for such range and depth, I needed to try it!
I’m glad I did – once you get the handle of application (which is a bit of a learning curve), the look is so classic! It makes me feel equally like a sassy heroine in a regency drama (yes, I know that at the time, makeup- if worn- would likely have been understated and natural but it’s a feeling ok?) and a fun loving flapper in the roaring 20s!
I tend to wear mine quite light but it can absolutely be layered up for a more dramatic effect.
I love everything about this blush – the little heart stamp, the squishy foamy part, the consistency, and the colour.
I’m not a fan of cutesy for cutesy’s sake, but everything about this is cutesy for a reason – the shape of the heart lines up nicely with where I place my blush, it folds and stores nicely within itself.
This blush was part of the CandyLand collaboration and it is just perfect. It has a cute little shimmer running throughout and has a two tones of colour that blend just perfectly. This blends into a unique shade that’s somewhat coral, but also somehow mauve-y?
If you haven’t tried the colourpop super shock cheek products, they really are excellent – super easy to blend out, and a really lovely colour payoff! as a reminder, close them every time, they can dry out quickly.
When this was marketed as “Selena’s favourite shade” (Rare Beauty being owned by Selena Gomez), I thought for sure that was a marketing line. But, when Robert Welsh’s (heh) glowing review came out, I really wanted to try it.
It’s perfection. Soft, subtle, but easy to layer up, this colour works SO well. It blends in like a dream and blinds anyone who comes within a 5 block radius.
Oh man alive, this Kaja highlighter is fighting head to head with the rare beauty one above.
It’s a warm champagne colour that goes on just so smoothly. It’s a really similar texture to the colourpop super shock, so it blends like a dream, of course.
Oh that Disney villains collection- such an amazing collection end to end! My partner gifted me the whole entire set and I cherish it. It’s one of my favourite things I have ever been given.
Of the six (SIX!!!) highlighters in this collection, each shade is fun and spunky in their own way. But in my opinion, the best of all is Maleficent. This is a soft golden tone without visible sparkles, this wears well whatever the look you’re going for. It layers up beautifully but can also be blended out to she sweet and subtle.
Whenever I want to pull out a palette that I just know will work for me, this is the one I go to.
I would have never pegged a mostly green eyeshadow with neutrals to be in my top three, but this palette delivers every. Single. Time.
A few pops of colour, coupled with these well thought out neutrals can be combined and recombined into so many different looks – just so good. Maybe I’m a little biased because it’s a colourpop palette with a mirror, or because my partner got it for me, or because Grogu is pretty cute. Whatever the reason, this is an incredibly wearable and super fun palette!
I love bright palettes, but I acknowledge that most of the time, it’s difficult to put together a complete look with them.
Enter, Trendy in Tokyo! This palette has so much range – you can go all out with the fun bright shades, but at the same time, you can create really wearable everyday looks. It’s all matte which normally would not be my vibe but something about this just WORKS!
A note on packaging: BH Cosmetics has changed their travels series packaging to a Polaroid-style photo on the front. I have not tried the Trendy in Tokyo palette in the rebranded packaging, and I acknowledge that mattes can be difficult to formulate well. I have tried other BH cosmetic palettes with mattes in them with the new packaging and they are excellent, so I think it is pretty safe to say that this will also be good.
A lot of reviews focused on how it would be impossible to use this palette on it’s own because it doesn’t my have any mattes. In my opinion, it really isn’t a big deal because literally every other palette on the planet has a matte brown or black.
But here’s the thing: this palette is incredible all on it’s own. You can make several beautiful, unique, and impactful looks with these five shades. I honestly don’t know how rare beauty did it.
I have the sister palette to this one too – and it’s also absolutely stunning, but I find that I fewer distinct looks I can create with that one.
And bonus? I got this one as gift from my best friend – does she know me or what?
From the high representation in this relatively small sample size, it is a reasonable conclusion that I, as the youth say, stan Rare Beauty. As I am generally neutral towards Selena Gomez, I do not believe this represents a conflict of interest.
Also, it is evident that my makeup and skincare collection is significant… some may say too significant? I choose not to address that comment on the grounds of self incrimination. No further question.
But truthfully, I wanted to take a moment at the end of a difficult year (because for some reason covid is still a big thing in our lives even though my initial guess was that we would be done with it by like, June 2020 but we’re not). So I’m here, grateful that I have the opportunity to invest my spending money on fun beautiful things that bring me joy. I wanted to take a minute and think about the ones that I cherish the most, and consider my collection holistically. And arbitrarily assign top scores so the lesser performing eyeshadow palettes and cleansers will be motivated to do better next year. But mostly the cherishing and being thankful thing.
Something fun, since you got to the end:
Since it is the season of giving, I want to share my love for these products with my friends, family, and close acquaintances. So, if you would like to win one item on the list above, comment here, on Facebook, Instagram, or text me the phrase “I want to win (and then the item you want to win)”.
I’ll randomly assign everyone who messages me a number and use a random number generation to select a winner. Enter by 11:59 PM PST on Dec 30th to enter!
A few things:
– This is only for my friends, family, and close acquaintances. Sorry bots and random internet people- this isn’t for you!
– No tagging friends or extra entries or whatever. One entry per person, please!
– If you pick a really pricey item, I’ll be gifting you the sample size.
– If an item is discontinued, I’ll pick the next closest item I can find.
– If you’re selected, you’ll need to tell me your mailing address so I can send the item to you! I promise I won’t give it to anyone.