40 Beauty Products Our Editors Discovered in 2021 and Now Can't Live Without

Dec 15 2021 - 2:15pm

This year (and the one before that . . . ) may not be getting any rave reviews from us, but it did allow for ample time to experiment with beauty and test new products [1]. From makeup and skin-care hybrids that allowed us to get ready for our millionth Zoom meeting in under five minutes to hair-care heroes that we credit for making us fall in love with our natural texture all over again, 2021 brought with it countless new hair, makeup, and skin innovations [2], and now, we can't imagine our routines without them.

Despite many businesses and schools yoyo-ing between closing and reopening, beauty trends hardly took a hit this last year. We have social media — namely, TikTok — to thank for that. The video app kept beauty-lovers connected and in the know on all of the latest new launches worth actually trying [3]. Many products, including affordable drugstore dupes and dermatologist-recommended regimens, went viral and subsequently sold out within days (or even hours) of launching. We tested many of those viral stars [4] as well as more under-the-radar products to find the best of the best, which have now earned themselves a permanent home in our showers, medicine cabinets, and cosmetics bags.

For our editors, discovering new products — whether actually brand-new to market or just new to us — is one of our favorite parts of our job. That, and getting to share those products with others. And we can confidently say, after swatching, swiping, sniffing, spritzing, sudsing, and smearing every product that came our way, these are our favorite new discoveries from 2021.

Fable & Mane HoliRoots Hair Mask

"I discovered the Fable & Mane HoliRoots Hair Mask [5] ($32) while testing for our Eco Beauty Awards [6] and can think of a gazillion reasons why it won the top spot and earned a permanent spot in my shower routine, starting with the fact that it is the best-smelling hair treatment I have ever had the honor of sniffing in my life — like something you'd order at an upscale beach restaurant (but not in a manufactured, piña colada way). It also leaves my hair feeling silky smooth, every single time, and aims to leave the world a better place, too: a portion of the proceeds go to the brand's charity arm, Fable Fund, which works to save the dwindling population of big cats in India and Africa." — Kelsey Castañon, beauty director

Jones Road The Best Pencil

"I made it my mission to learn how to do winged eyeliner during the pandemic, and I finally nailed the look with a little help from the Jones Road The Best Pencil [7] ($22). This pencil glides onto skin with minimal effort needed and produces a smooth, solid line. With the sharp pointed tip, I'm able to draw a crisp baby wing with little to no errors. I use it every day." — Jessica Harrington, beauty editor

Bliss Youth Got This Moisturizer

"With my new remote work lifestyle, I try to let my skin breathe and wear little to no makeup throughout the week. In 2021, I became a huge fan of the Bliss Youth Got This Moisturizer [8] ($25) because it feels great and makes my skin look great — no makeup required. It gives me a little glow for video meetings while nourishing my skin. It'll definitely follow me into 2022." — Jada Gomez, executive editor, entertainment and style

Danessa Myricks Infinity Chrome Flakes

"The Danessa Myricks Infinity Chrome Flakes [9] ($25) is the eyeshadow topper of 2021 (in my humble opinion). It doesn't budge, which is common for a glitter, but with this finish you definitely won't mind." — Ariel Baker, assistant beauty editor

Saie Sunvisor Moisturizing Sunscreen

"I consider myself a sunscreen connoisseur and probably tried 30 new formulas this year. My favorite is Saie Sunvisor Moisturizing Sunscreen [10] ($34), which belongs in a category all by itself. It's a mineral SPF 35 that's packed with good-for-your-skin ingredients like moisturizing hyaluronic acid and brightening licorice. But it's the super glowy finish that really makes it special — and worth buying again and again." — Dawn Davis, executive beauty director, Group Nine Media

SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF Gel

"If you Google the best vitamin C products on the market, one of the first results is the SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic. And let me just say, I love this product. However, I don't love that it smells like actual hot dog water, and I wanted a serum with a thicker consistency. So I turned to another SkinCeuticals product: the Phloretin CF Gel [11] ($166). It has nearly as much concentration of L-ascorbic acid as the traditional C E Ferulic, but with a much nicer smell (meaning essentially none) and a smooth, hydrating gel formula. I've seen essentially the same brightening results without having to deal with the smell of meat water in the morning." — Aviel Kanter, director, branded content

Milani Color Fetish Matte

"I first heard about the Milani Color Fetish Matte [12] ($9) in 'Secret' on TikTok — where else? — and was hesitant of yet another Charlotte Tilbury Pillowtalk dupe. To my surprise, this lipstick was spot-on. Although the formulas slightly differ (Milani's is a bit creamier with a velvet finish), side by side, you can barely tell which is which. Would I love to have the real thing? Of course. Am I just as content with a $9 alt? No doubt." — Samantha Sasso, beauty editor, branded content

Good Light Cosmic Dew Water Cleanser

"I've never been particularly loyal to any one cleanser; it's the item in my skin-care regimen I'm most likely to experiment with and change out. So it's remarkable that, since Good Light Cosmic Dew Water Cleanser [13] ($18) came into my life a month or so ago, I've stayed true. In the morning, I apply it to dry skin for two to three minutes as a hydrating mask before rinsing. At night, I use it as the second step in a double cleanse after melting off the day — and all the grime and makeup that came with it — with a cleansing balm. It's gentle but effective, leaving skin fresh, bouncy, and, yes, dewy." — Lindsay Miller, deputy editor

Bliss Block Star Tinted Face Sunscreen

"I won't lie: there are many, many sunscreen formulas that I love, but none come close to the Bliss Block Star Tinted Face Sunscreen [14] ($21, originally $22). I immediately fell in love with the formula and the light, barely-there tint that it has, which makes your complexion look even and blurred without being heavy. It melts into skin effortlessly and leaves you with zero greasy residue (a hard feat for sunscreens). I used it down to the very last drop and even cut the tube open to make sure I didn't miss any." — JH

Kosas Brow Pop Dual-Action Defining Brow Pencil

"If you didn't get the gist from my loving review [15] of the Kosas Brow Pop Dual-Action Defining Brow Pencil [16] ($22), I'm back again to share just how much it makes me weak at the knees. The triangular tip allows you to easily shape, define, and fill in your brows and is particularly useful if you love an angular, precise brow finish like me. I love how the pencil itself feels like a gel pen in your grip (hi, Y2k nostalgia), and the pigment is nothing short of long-lasting and saturated. The coup de grâce of my brow-pencil search, indeed." — Alanna Martine Kilkeary, assistant managing editor, Makeup.com

Tower 28 ShineOn Milky Lip Jelly

"After feeling my hair suction to my lips every time I stepped outside in middle school, I swore I'd never revisit the merciless attack that is lip gloss. Then, I found the Tower 28 ShineOn Milky Lip Jelly [17] ($14) — the lip gloss for people who hate lip gloss (. . . me). Not only is the formula hydrating, the color flattering, and the finish just right amount of slip, but it also never leaves you with a can't-open-your-mouth level of goop you find from other options on the market." — KC

Missio Styling Cream

"Never have I gotten more compliments on smelling good than when I'm wearing the Missio Styling Cream [18] ($26). The cream itself is easy to apply and adds some much-needed moisture to my waves in the mornings without using too much product. Plus, the company donates 30 percent of profits to help fight against human trafficking, making this a beauty win and a product I can feel good about treating myself to." — Chanel Vargas, assistant editor, trending and viral features

Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum

"Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum [19] ($39) is a staple for me year-round, but especially in the winter. My skin really feels it whenever I run out. (I've gone through two bottles and will be finishing up my third any day now.)" — AB

NYX Professional Makeup Shine Loud Liquid Lipstick

"Every time I wear the NYX Professional Makeup Shine Loud Liquid Lipstick [20] ($12) I get so many compliments. It's labeled a liquid lipstick, but I'd classify it as more of a long-wear gloss. The dual-sided tube has a lip pigment on one end and a color-locking gloss on the other that acts as a top coat. The final result is super shiny lips that don't smudge or transfer, not even when wearing a face mask. That's unheard of for a lip gloss." — JH

Dr. Jart Ceramidin Eye Cream

"Eye cream is a tricky business in my opinion. You know it's good for your skin in the long run, but it's often hard to see real-time results. However, it's something I always include in my nighttime regimen, and I look for products that feel super hydrating. The Dr. Jart Ceramidin Eye Cream [21] ($39) fits that bill. I already loved all the other Ceramidin products, and this one is no exception. The texture is silky and creamy and sinks into your delicate under eye skin within seconds. It doesn't feel sticky or heavy like some eye creams, but rather absorbs into the skin making you feel instantly hydrated." — AK

Makeup by Mario Soft Sculpt Shaping Stick

"The Makeup by Mario Soft Sculpt Shaping Stick [22] ($28) is completely sold out on Sephora, which should tell you something, and, honestly, it should come as no surprise that the artist behind Kim Kardashian [23]'s signature sculpted look created an amazing contouring stick. I used to be a powdered bronzer person all the way and never used a cream bronzer to contour on a daily basis, but this shaping stick is so easy to blend that there's no reason not to." — JH

Vacation Classic Lotion Sunscreen

"When it comes to creating a vibe, Vacation did it best in 2021. First, if you're ever having a hard day, I recommend listening to the brand's founding company's radio station (no actual radio necessary); the '80s synth beats will put you in a better mood, promise. Fittingly enough, Poolsuite FM makes every day feel like summer, so of course they created a sunscreen. Vacation Classic Lotion SPF 30 [24] ($20) scratches a specific itch in my brain I can't fully describe. Between the authentically retro packaging and distinct coconut scent, I believe this is the only sunscreen that's actually fun to apply. Bonus: it's reef-friendly." — SS

Alo Magnesium Reset Spray

"The Alo Magnesium Reset Spray [25] ($48) is my favorite post-workout companion. I have sensitive, combination skin that normally can't handle fragrance, yet this spray has never broken me out. The scent is subtle and gives me an overall feeling of calm, while my skin is just the right amount of hydrated. It never leaves my bag." — Angelica Wilson, associate editor, fitness

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Hyaluronic Clay Pore-Tight Facial Mask

"I usually am a little afraid of traditional clay masks, but I love the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Hyaluronic Clay Pore-Tight Facial Mask [26] ($40) because it's non-drying and hydrating while producing visible results. I'll throw this mask into my routine when my skin feels particularly congested, and I immediately notice smoother, tighter skin, and minimized pores afterward. Also, the natural watermelon scent — like in many other of the brand's products — is heavenly." — Yerin Kim, associate editor, trending and viral features

Maybelline Sky High Lash Sensational Mascara

"I was a loyalist to luxury mascaras for years, but the Maybelline Sky High Lash Sensational Mascara [27] ($9, originally $11) reminded me how good affordable options can be. Made with bamboo extract, just two coats of this lightweight formula fully extend my lashes above my brows without any flaking or smudging throughout the day. I totally understand why it sold out at Ulta (twice!) after going viral on TikTok earlier this year — it's completely worth the hype and it restored my faith in drugstore mascara." — Mary Honkus, associate editor, Makeup.com

Gisou Hair Oil

"Hair oil is a new product that I just started using this year, and now that I've added the Gisou Hair Oil [28] ($46) to my routine, I can't imagine giving it up. Don't let its thicker consistency scare you away from giving it a try — I have very fine hair, but my ends drink up this hydrating formula like it's nothing. I apply it to my air-dried hair or as a final step after using hot tools, and it leaves me with a smooth and shiny finish." — JH

Freck Beauty On Repeat

"My skin is super sensitive, so I was pretty hesitant to try out the Freck Beauty On Repeat [29] ($32), but I'm so glad I did. A lot of face washes feel heavy on my skin and leave my face feeling tight, but this lightweight cleansing gel is made with refreshing ingredients (like cactus water) that leave my face feeling clean and awake." — CV

Volition Beauty Mineral Prismatic Luminizing Shield SPF 35

"I started using the Volition Beauty Mineral Prismatic Luminizing Shield SPF 35 [30] ($35) earlier this year, and pretty much haven't gone a day without it since. Mineral sunscreens can often feel viscous and sticky, but this one is lightweight, easy to spread, and actually feels more like a moisturizer on the skin than a sunscreen. Plus, it leaves my complexion looking glowy and pores blurred — perfect for no-makeup days." — Stephanie Nguyen, senior editor, branded content

Facile Skin Tinted Lip Jelly Set

"The Beverly Hills-based dermatology practice Facile launched their own skin-care line this year addressing pretty much every skin concern you could think of. While I love the serums and moisturizers, the product that has really been a standout is the Skin Tinted Lip Jelly Set [31] ($38). There are three subtle shades — as well as a clear lip moisturizer — that have been moved up to the top spots in my routine. When I first received them, I was nervous that they were going to be '90s-esque tinted, sticky glosses (not a fan), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that they are more of a stain with just a slight sheen. Plus, the formula includes a blend of peptides, jojoba oil, and essential fatty acids to hydrate and plump." — AK

Farmacy Beauty Very Cherry Bright

"The Farmacy Beauty Very Cherry Bright [32] ($62) has been a game changer for my dry, uneven, acne-prone skin. After just a few uses, I could already see a difference in my skin's hydration and overall appearance. It truly does what it says it will and visibly brightens up my face, making my skin look and feel more supple and radiant. I've tried various serums throughout the years, but this one is definitely my favorite." — Kathleen Harper Owens, style editor, branded content

InnBeauty Project Face Glaze

"Makeup and skin-care hybrids were all the rage in 2021, and this glowy formula is the ultimate marriage of both. The velvety gel-cream of the InnBeauty Project Face Glaze [33] ($24) can be applied under or over makeup to give you a lit-from-within glow sans the chunky glitter found in your typical highlighter. The best part? It's packed with good-for-your skin ingredients like squalane, Kakadu plum, and hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture and brighten and hydrate the skin. You'll be left looking fresh, dewy, and just as you deserve to: like a glazed doughnut, but better." — AMK

Amala Youth-Renewing Powerhouse Eye Cream

"To say toddler-mom life has me looking tired would be an understatement. But I discovered Amala Youth-Renewing Powerhouse Eye Cream [34] ($138) a few weeks ago, and I already appear more refreshed. Thanks to pre- and probiotics and a botanical blend that includes a retinol alternative, it's working wonders on my lines and dark circles. Bonus: the formula feels really beautiful and leaves behind just the right amount of glow." — DD

Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum

"As a Black woman, I did buy the Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum [35] ($16) because of the name. Most sunscreens leave a streaky white cast on my skin, but this never has. It goes on white and in about a minute, I can't even tell it's there. The amount of compliments I get on my 'glowing' skin is immeasurable. Best of all, it's hydrating enough to be my morning moisturizer, so after I cleanse my skin, I just put this on and I'm ready to go." — AW

Kosas Air Brow Tinted Volumizing Treatment Gel

"I've been searching for a really great brow gel ever since I started trying to fake fuller brows — probably a decade ago. While so many formulas flake or look fake, Kosas Air Brow Tinted Volumizing Treatment Gel [36] ($22) does neither. Instead, it perfectly tints every hair, feels like nothing, and lasts all day. I finally found my go-to." — DD

Amorepacific Time Response Skin Reserve Creme

"This extra thick cream has been a regular in my beauty cabinet for years, but I feel as if I recommitted myself to it in the last few months. In the last six months or so I've done a few laser treatments like Clear and Brilliant, and I swear the Amorepacific Time Response Skin Reserve Creme [37] ($150) helped my skin heal faster and with less irritation. For those of you who haven't gotten a laser treatment, part of the process is a few days to a few weeks of scaly, peeling skin — a time when hydration is more important than ever. On nights when I slathered on this cream, I woke up feeling plump and moisturized despite my sandpapery complexion." — AK

Merit Shade Slick

"I'm super picky about anything that goes on my lips — the issue is that I like a bit of color, but don't like anything that feels heavy. I initially came to the Merit Shade Slick [38] ($24) in 'Taupe' for the color (it's the perfect my-lips-but-better shade), but stayed because the oil actually feels light and moisturizing on my lips. After years of trial and error, I feel like I finally found my signature lip product." — SN

Supergoop City Sunscreen Serum

"It's totally fair to say I wore the Supergoop City Sunscreen Serum [39] ($42) every day this year. To get right to the point, it's hands down my favorite face sunscreen. It's lightweight but still makes me feel protected, doesn't pill when applied over other skin care or under makeup, and leaves a healthy glow on its own when I forgo makeup. Not to mention the fact that I've never gotten a sunburn while wearing it, which says a lot since I am a major sunbather — even the Los Angeles UV rays couldn't penetrate the City Serum." — AK

It Cosmetics Confidence in Your Beauty Sleep Night Cream

"The greatest lesson I learned this year is that mindlessly wandering through Sephora is fun, but asking for product suggestions from a beauty advisor offers results. I've been writing about beauty products for a good portion of my adult life, but that will never stop me from wanting to know everyone's personal product recommendations — and if I'd never sucked up my social anxiety to ask a beauty advisor about their favorite night cream, I would've never found the It Cosmetics Confidence in Your Beauty Sleep Night Cream [40] ($54). No offense to It Cosmetics, but I don't always reach for skin-care products made by primarily cosmetics brands, but this cream was a happy surprise. Personally, night creams have always been notoriously hard to find and love (I can only think of one off the top of my head that was honest-to-God effective), but this purple ceramide-packed cream gets the job done every single night. The result: soft, bouncy skin even in the winter." — SS

Pattern Leave-In Conditioner

"Over the past couple of years, my hair has gone from a few inches to past my shoulders (pre-shrinkage). With all of my new length, it's important that I keep my curls hydrated so my hair can continue to grow healthily. Luckily, my 2C-4A pattern curls thrive with the Pattern Leave-In Conditioner [41] ($25). I can go days without having to wash my hair in order to get defined curls because they just stay that way. But when I do want a bit more shine and frizz protection, I add the brand's Curl Gel." — AW

Tower 28 SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation

"The Tower 28 SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation [42] ($30) has easily replaced my former (more expensive) favorite. I love how it applies like a moisturizer with no sunscreen smell or greasy feeling, and the buildable coverage is great for everyday use." — YK

Bedrock Balm

"This cure-all is my new go-to for pissed off skin. Bedrock Balm [43] ($40) features calming ingredients like calendula oil and protectants like zinc oxide to soothe irritation, and it works. Whether I've got underarm chafing after a long run, razor burn after a hasty shave session, or an agonizing bug bite, a dab of this white, opaque formula is like sending my skin to anger-management class." — LM

Ambari PM Active Serum

"I love a serum with active acids — something you can really feel working. Ambari PM Active Serum [44] ($98) is exactly that. I use it twice a week, and the blend of AHAs, BHAs, Bakuchiol, and Niacinamide turns over my skin, so it looks totally fresh and new the next day. It's the most effective exfoliator I've used . . . maybe ever." — DD

L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Self Tan Drops for Face

"As someone with moody, combination, and acne-prone skin, I've always relied on makeup to match the tan on the rest of my body. That is, until this past year, thanks to the L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Self Tan Drops for Face [45] ($14), which made the prospect much less intimidating. All it takes is mixing a few drops into my morning moisturizer (no mists, sprays, or tan towels in sight), and I'm left with a radiant, golden finish — plus a plumped complexion. (Did I mention it has hyaluronic acid, too?) This product proves that self-tanning your face can be easy, quick, and, most importantly, affordable." — AMK

Caudalie Vinergetic C+ Instant Detox Mask

"Another non-intimidating clay mask I discovered (via TikTok, of course) is the Caudalie Vinergetic C+ Instant Detox Mask [46] ($39). This one is particularly useful for fighting those pesky little blackheads, which I've always struggled with, and doesn't leave your skin super dry." — YK

Corpus Naturals Nº Green Body Wash

"Corpus Naturals has mostly been known for their lovely smelling natural deodorants, but this year they've branched out into other realms, like cleansing bars and body washes. I've been loving the Corpus Naturals Nº Green Body Wash [47] ($28) in their signature "Green" scent. It's a subtle scent that's full of spicy bergamot and cardamom, alongside sweet citrus notes of pink lemon and orange blossom. The plant-based, vegan formula lathers nicely and leaves my skin feeling supple when I step out of the shower — plus, the aluminum bottle packaging is climate conscious." — AK

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