12 Products I'd Actually Buy After Testing Hundreds For Free
Confession time: beauty editors get a lot of free beauty loot. As a former editor myself, I can attest to having a desk buried in samples and promotional packages. Lip colors of every formula, quirky face washes, body scrubs with secret ingredients, color-changing nail polish, placenta products (yep) — it was all there and then some. Behind every beauty company there's a hard-working PR team whose job is to spread the word about new launches. So, out go boxes containing the latest samples to editors at major publications as well as bloggers and writers, and yes, even Instagram influencers.
It sounds cool, but it's also a tricky game to play. Without them, beauty editors would never be able to afford all the products they're required to research, test, and review. However, some brands hope that cool swag and free products will make us forget that a lipstick or face wash is only mediocre. So, the true test for me became asking myself one question: would I actually buy this with my own money? If not, why would I recommend that others do?
Some brands (not all) get upset when their generous gifting policies and VIP invites don't result in glowing reviews, but a writer's loyalty is to the story whether it's about the best foundation they've ever tried or the hair chalk that made their strands a clumpy disaster. We aren't in it for the freebies, even though it is a pretty cool job perk. Our motivation usually boils down to an obsession with discovering products that actually work in a sea of products that only sort of work.
With that in mind, here are 12 products I've come to love over the years and would actually purchase with my hard-earned cash.
Dr. Jart Sheet Mask
The sheet mask trend is the real deal. The Dr. Jart Vital Hydra Solution Sheet Mask ($6) is like a revitalizing moisture surge when your skin is down and out — say, after a few too many glasses of vino (no judgment). I also once had someone tell me they use this on the plane, which a stellar idea to combat the negative, dehydrating effects flight time can have on your skin. You just have be cool with strange looks from 12C.
Beautycounter Recovery Sleeping Cream
The Beautycounter Countermatch Recovery Sleeping Cream ($55) is new to my arsenal, but I love it already. The texture is perfect for nighttime and feels like you're like applying another coat of skin. And I mean that in the best possible, least creepy way. With ingredients like plum oil and tara gum, it goes to town on your skin's moisture barrier and helps your skin recover while you snooze.
Drunk Elephant C-Firm Day Serum
Drunk Elephant is one of those brands that had me at hello, and I like to think we've been a power couple ever since. It is a bit on the pricier side, but worth it if your skincare regimen needs an overhaul, and your skin has yet to find its match. The C-Firm Day Serum ($80) is a good place to start, but you can't go wrong with anything in the line.
Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
If you're a Cetaphil fan (it does have a bit of a cult following), you just might change your ways for Glossier's Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18). It's a similar creamy formula but comes with extra conditioning benefits. I like to keep a bottle on hand even when I'm trying another cleanser. Here's why: you can gently massage it over your eyes to remove stubborn mascara. No burn. No irritation. You won't even flinch.
Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil
I'm not exaggerating when I say the texture of Josie Maran's Whipped Argan Oil ($35) is the bomb dot com. Applying it makes you feel like you could be floating on a cloud. It's rich, it's moisturizing, it smells like heaven on earth. Bonus: everything in Josie's line is free of parabens, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, and sulfates. It's natural, mostly organic, and mostly vegan.
Juice Beauty Green Apple Eye Brightening Cream
There are many reasons to make Juice Beauty's Eye Cream ($39) your go-to, one being that the main ingredient is apple juice! It also uses CoQ10 and peptides to brighten skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines. But what I really love about this product is that after applying it at night, I can feel that the area around my eyes is smoother when I rinse my face the next morning.
Olivine Atelier Sea Salt Spray
I feel like I'm on summer vacation just thinking about this Olivine Atelier Love + Salt Waves Spray ($26). It doesn't make hair sticky like other salt sprays are known to do (you can even spray on your body and the hydrating salts will go to work on skin too). But the real cherry on top is that it's also vegan.
Indie Lee Rosehip Cleanser
This is one of the first clean beauty brands I fell for. Indie, the founder, was inspired to start the line after she beat a brain tumor that was linked to environmental toxins. Indie Lee became her baby. It's all eco-friendly and nontoxic so you can worry less about giving yourself cancer just by cleansing or moisturizing. I love the Rosehip Cleanser ($32), and all Indie Lee products, because it thrives on simplicity. Good products without the extra fluff. Always a plus in my book.
RMS Beauty Un-Powder
RMS Beauty's Living Luminizer is responsible for that glow models always have in your J. Crew catalog. But it's not the company's only must-have product. As someone who doesn't like to go heavy on foundation, the Tinted Un-Powder ($34) is my go-to for light cover. It seems to soften everything with just enough cover to face the day but not so much that you lose your skin's natural look.
Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen SPF 50
I'm all about wearing sunscreen, but I get how people don't want to apply greasy goo on or under their makeup. In most cases, powder sunscreens and the sunscreen in your makeup just isn't enough SPF. Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen SPF 50 ($64) packs SPF 50, and you can carry it around in your purse for easy reapplication. You'll make your dermatologist happy with this one.
Ciate Triple Shot Mascara
At one point, Sephora couldn't keep this stuff on the shelves. And while I'm not one to wear makeup on the regular, I like to keep this mascara on hand for when the occasion strikes. When you need a quick jolt to your face to make you look alive, the Ciate Triple Shot Mascara is the woman for the job ($22).
Becca Shadow and Light Brow Contour Mousse
Contour brows? Yep, why not? Brow powders are great, but the Becca Shadow and Light Brow Contour Mousse ($25) goes the extra mile. The lighter color brightens your eye area (I typically apply under my arches) and the darker color . . . well you know the drill.