I’ve been wanting to write this post for a few months now: I’ve found so many great new beauty products this year that I thought I’d put them all into one post!
I’ve been lucky enough to have been sent quite a few beauty product samples this year, and some of them have made it into this list. I only accept a small proportion of what I’m offered, but even with the products I have accepted it seems like I’m overwhelmed with products. Some have been amazing, others not so much.
Last year I published a Top 10 Hero Beauty Products post, and I still stand by those (or I’ve maybe found an upgrade or two to some of those products as featured here). I’ll get straight into it – disclosure is below, remember everything I’ve written is 100% honest and this post isn’t sponsored in any way.
So, what exactly have I been loving lately?
I was gifted some of the items mentioned but was not obligated to feature them (all opinions are 100% honest) – items listed as* were gifted. This blog uses affiliate links at no cost to you. Full disclosure
The 12 Beauty Products I am absolutely loving right now are…
1. Eyebrows – Ardell Stroke a Brow eyebrow feathering pen
I thought I’d found my perfect eyebrow pen as mentioned in last year’s hero beauty products post – but I’ve found a MUCH better one in the Ardell Stroke a Brow eyebrow feathering pen (US link). I found out about it via MUA Katie Jane Hughes, whose eyebrows I adore. She fills in hers with this pen and her brows are stunning. It’s the finest one I’ve found yet (though I have yet to try Glossier’s Brow Flick which I mentioned in my soap brows post, let me know if you’ve tried it) – you really can create fine strokes that look just like real hairs.
Tip: always apply to unmoisturised, “clean” brows, and store the pen pointing downwards or the ink will run away from the tip.
2. Fake tan – Garnier Ambre Solaire No Streaks Bronzer Self-Tanning Dry Mist
I’ve used the Ambre Solaire No Streaks Bronzer face and body mists for years, and I swear by them. I’ve never experienced the biscuity smell that so many people talk about with fake tans… maybe I’ve just picked ones that don’t have it?! Not at all orange, easy to spray (including upside down), dries quickly. I use it before bed to wake up in the morning with a healthy glow.
I can thoroughly recommend a sleeping sack to protect your sheets if you’re self-tanning… mine’s pale green and Keith calls it “the green condom” for its, er, obvious passion-killing qualities.
3. Bronzer – Beached Rays for Days bronzer serum*
The Beached Rays for Days bronzer serum (US link) is by Australian company Beached – they only make three products so I guess they’ve truly perfected them – and I was asked if I wanted to try one of them. I’m SO glad I picked the bronzer… it’s nothing short of THE BOMB.
Unlike bronzing powder which I find just makes skin looks like a mask, this is a liquid bronzing serum. So when it’s bounced onto the skin either over foundation or on its own with a damp beautyblender (which I probably should have listed here as a hero product in its own right), it makes you look like you have glowing, shiny, sunkissed skin. I think it may be the one product I can’t do without this summer.
I LOVE IT.
4. Semi-permanent freckles – Maybelline Tattoo Brow Tint
Yes, you read that right… I use a tattoo brow tint for creating freckles: Maybelline Tattoo Brow Tint (US link). I’m certainly not the first, but I was told about this by one of my nieces and it seems there are lots of YouTube tutorials about using it to create semi-permanent freckles. I’ve been drawing on freckles since the mid 90s, essentially once I realised I shouldn’t bake my skin in the sun to get them back naturally. I had the classic sprinkle across my nose and cheeks as a kid and I always loved them – but miss them when they faded as an adult.
(See my faux freckles made with the tattoo brow tint here.)
The brush included in the tube is thick as it’s designed for staining eyebrows, so use a fine brush and dot it all over your face. Leave on for at least an hour – I do mine overnight! – and carefully take them off as they’ll be little dried blobs of colour. Some people rub them off, I use a just-damp cotton pad. They show through light foundation, and will last 2-3 days if you don’t scrub the skin. I alternate my freckle days with exfoliating to keep them as long as possible.
For all the different techniques I’ve tried over the years (henna, eyebrow pencil, etc.) this is the best method by FAR.
5. Gel nails – BlueSky polishes
Rather than getting my nails done at a salon, I started to get my niece to do gel nails for me as she does them alongside her eyelash extensions from home. I asked how much the UV lamp and the nail polishes cost, and I was stunned to find out that for the price of a couple of gel manicures you can simply buy the kit yourself. She recommended Bluesky nail polish, and there are a ton of different UV lamps on the market so shop around and read reviews for the best one.
You can get a lamp for anything around £20 and the polishes are only £6-£7 each… Nails Inc polishes are a lot more than that! I will admit, there’s a lot of stuff you need to get to get yourself started. UV lamp, top and base coat, nail polish, acetone-free nail polish remover, buffers, gel polish removal kit. But you only need to buy (most of it) once, and it’s so easy and quick to do it yourself I don’t see the point of going to a salon.
Here are some options for everything you need…
Top/base coat / Gel nail polishes / LED UV nail dryer lamp / Acetone free polish remover (or you can use individually wrapped wipes, but then there’s all the packaging which I don’t like) / StylFile Gel Polish Remover Kit / Nail polish remover tool
And if you’re thinking “I don’t want the same colour polish for two weeks!” like I used to, remember that you can, of course, paint any colour of standard polish over the top and remove it with acetone-free polish remover without taking off the gel. Win win.
6. Mascara – IT Cosmetics Tightline 3-in-1 Black Primer Eyeliner Mascara*
I was kindly gifted a set of products from IT Cosmetics, and the absolute hero product among what I was sent was the Tightline 3-in-1 Black Primer Eyeliner Mascara (US link). If you’re not a fan of thick, clumpy lashes (like me), you will love this mascara. The secret is the skinny wand: you can get RIGHT to the base of the lashes to coat them, and there’s no danger of mascara blobbing through the lashes and onto your eyelid. Maybe it’s just me who finds that hard to avoid when trying to get mascara onto my lashes right from the base (?), but because the bristles are so short on this wand, that just doesn’t happen. So I can apply it in long strokes, coating every lash, all the time maintaining a really natural look.
It’s the nearest you’ll get to lashes that look long and amazing, but unmascara’d. Oh, and it lasts really well too – no smudging or flaking throughout the day. I’ll be buying more myself very soon.
7. Fragrance – Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Crush Body Fragrance Mist
I bought the Brazilian Crush Body Fragrance Mist (US link) without even smelling it after reading about it online. It was included in a list of beauty products described as “Products that will make people hit on you…” or something equally unsavoury. But the description of the smell had me intrigued, and I took a chance and bought it. It’s now my go-to daily fragrance, even when I’m seeing no one and am home alone.
It’s very much a summer smell (that didn’t stop me wearing it in winter and spring however), with a very sweet candy-like – mixed with suncream and sand – fragrance. Its name is apt as it makes me think of how you’d smell getting back from the beach. Just yum.
8. SPF moisturiser – Cetaphil Daily Defence Moisturiser SPF50+*
I’ve included the Cetaphil SPF50 moisturiser (US link) as I’ve realised it’s very hard to find an actual moisturiser for the face with an SPF higher than 15. I was gifted this moisturiser and found it to be a very reassuring high SPF cream that still works under makeup without having that greasiness that standard suncream has. Unsurprisingly it goes on very white, but keep working it in and it sinks into your skin nicely. I’ve been a fan of Cetaphil products for a while so was keen to try this moisturiser, and I’m glad I did – it’s ideal for very pale or sun-sensitive skin.
9. Dry shampoo – Batiste Damage Control Dry Shampoo
Oh, dry shampoos, how I love thee! But often not your strong smell or the white texture you add to my hair. I’ve tried LOADS of different dry shampoos, and I’m glad I picked up the Batiste Damage Control Dry Shampoo on a whim from Superdrug one day. Its smell isn’t overpowering, it doesn’t leave that white powder in your hair and it soaks up the grease. It’s also good for creating a beach bum salt spray look to your hair (otherwise known as the I Can’t Be Bothered To Wash My Hair look) as well as adding volume to newly-washed hair.
10. Hand cream – Dove Pro Age Nourishing Hand Cream*
I’ve included the Dove Pro Age Nourishing Body Care Hand Cream mostly because I love the smell. Again, this was gifted, alongside two other products (body lotion and body butter) in the relaunched, back-by-popular-demand Pro Age range. They all have the same smell, which is just HEAVENLY – it makes me think of The Great Gatsby and what Daisy Buchanan would have smelled like. Like a lovely, rich, jasmine, grape and figs sort of smell (don’t know if that’s accurate, that’s just my description. It smells exactly like the colour of the packaging, if you see what I mean).
The hand cream is perfect for keeping in your handbag. Not greasy, sinks in nicely, leaves your hands very soft, smells lush (and did I already say it smells nice?). Dove says it speeds up the skin’s renewal process and is rich in olive oil and Vitamin B3 – you’ve probably guessed from the name that it’s designed for mature skin. Though I do wish it had SPF, especially as it’s for hands.
But well done Dove for not saying calling it “anti-ageing” (regular readers will know I can’t stand that expression) and going with Pro Age instead. Top marks.
11. Serums and retinoids – The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid and Granactive Retinoid
I FINALLY got round to trying some products by The Ordinary, and I’m happy to say they live up to the hype. I tried – and now regularly use – The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 (US link) and Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (US link). The main attraction for me with products from The Ordinary is the price… they’re just so damn reasonable. If you buy them from Asos when they have a 20% off promotion you can get 30ml bottles of hyaluronic acid for just £4.80 (normally six quid) – that’s some CRAZY low prices.
The packaging is beautifully minimal, and somehow they don’t seem like you’re putting anything overly chemical on your skin (which is I know doesn’t seem to make sense, considering they’re “acids” and whatnot).
I use the hyaluronic acid in the morning between cleansing and moisturising. It definitely makes my skin plumper, and I love the way it goes from super sticky to having sunk in within seconds. I use the retinoid overnight at the same stage. (Rather than me explaining all about acids and retinols here, have a read of Hayley Hall’s simple guide to skincare acids and retinols.) When prices are this low – but without compromising quality – I’m happy to use them and to heed all the beauty experts’ advice that we need them.
Important factor to remember: Retinols can make the skin more sensitive to UV radiation. So use them only at night.
12. Foot file – Nails Inc Tootsie Tamer
Last but not least, the Nails Inc Tootsie Tamer foot file (US link) is THE BEST FOOT FILE EVER. Ever, ever, ever. I’ve used lots of different ones over the years, from pumice stones to flat sandpapery-type files, but this one – and be warned it’s somewhat vicious – is the doggy’s doo-dahs of foot files as its scrapey bit is metal. Best time to use it is after showering when the skin is softer, and scrape away. Then do your moisturiser and cotton socks trick overnight and voilá: super soft, super moisturised heels in the morning.
Some mentions for other things I’ve been gifted and tested
Some great, some good, some not so good…
The first cult Korean skincare product I’ve tried, and I was impressed. (I used up the whole pot.) A really fantastic moisturiser that I used as a night cream – it’s got this weird, smooth, sticky quality (but it’s a really nice sticky) between your fingers that doesn’t stay sticky on your skin.
When I was first sent the Garnier Olia hair colourant that I now use regularly, I was also given this shine oil to try. It goes onto styled, dry hair… oh my GAAAAAD it makes your hair super shiny. I think it must have been what they used on the photo shoot to get my hair so glossy in the TV advert.
I first reviewed this serum on Instagram, and I still think the smell is incredible. I try to switch it up with other serums as I don’t like using the same one over and over – I’m sure your skin gets too “used” to one product and loses its effectiveness. After using it my skin feels amazing in the morning.
This one I just didn’t get on with… it seemed to have no effect whatsoever on my dark circles. I was blindly expecting a clear cream that sunk into my skin, but it was, in fact, a tinted, liquid concealer-like product that stayed on the skin and turned into (what looked like) cakey foundation. I couldn’t understand how it could be a product to use in the daytime as they described? (Maybe I was missing something?) Other people may have had better results – it just wasn’t for me.
e and f. Cetaphil Oily Skin Cleanser* (US link) and Cetaphil Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser* (US link)
I was sent these along with the SPF50 moisturiser, and I was SO pleased that there’s a foaming skin cleanser. I’m a fan of Cetaphil as mentioned before – and this stuff is good. My skin gets really really clean straight off the bat, and I’m going to be using this instead of the Gentle Cleanser from now on (I prefer cleansers that foam with water and wash off, especially in the shower). I’ll admit I haven’t tried the exfoliating cleanser yet, but if the other two are anything to go by I’m sure I’ll like that too.
And finally – one that does good aside from the actual products themselves. Debenhams are selling this beauty box in association with Look Good Feel Better, the international cancer support charity that helps boost the physical and emotional wellbeing of people undergoing cancer treatment. The box is £25 and £20 of that goes to the charity; it contains products from the Estée Lauder companies. So you buy the box for yourself or a friend, and 20 quid goes to Look Good Feel Better. It includes small sizes of the fabulous Estée Lauder DayWear Creme I reviewed in May and a Smashbox Photo Finish Primerizer, a MAC lipstick and an angled blending brush, among other products.
Great products, money that goes to a worthy cause… WHAT could be better.
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Do you use any of these products – if so, what were your thoughts? Tell me in the comments…