There’s a special comfort in discovering a beauty product that works for you, whether it be a mascara formula that doesn’t clump or the perfect nude lipstick that took years to find. I consider it part of my professional duties as a blogger to spend my days sampling and buying new products, stealing recommendations from friends, and testing them against what’s in my own beauty bag to find the best of the best in beauty. (Do they let bloggers write off testers on their taxes???) I’m very excited to share my 2018 favorites with you. Keep in mind, as I’m sure you already know, that every product has a different reaction on each skin type. What a friend described as a shine-free full coverage foundation on her, turned out to be a layer of slick no-coverage oil on me. While some products are universally spectacular (and many below are), some are best purchased according to your personal preferences! If you’re at a loss for holiday gift ideas, below you’ll find a plethora of beauty products at different price ranges that are totally gift-worthy. Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and your own 2018 beauty winners!
Liquid foundation: Smashbox studio skin 15-hour wear hydrating foundation, $36 — cruelty-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, oil-free, vegan, 24-month lifespan
Foundations are like great boyfriends—find one that treats you well, fall in love with it, and then keep it for a good long while. This formula provides great coverage, lasts the whole day and works on all skin types. I apply it with a wet sponge to even out the application and add moisture. Best of all, it’s touchable! It won’t rub off on your fingers or your fiancé’s shirt. (Unless of course you’re intending to mark your territory by leaving some of your foundation on his shirt—in which case—it will with enough pressure. But of course I have never tried this, how dare you suggest something like that.)
Mineral/powder foundation: bareMinerals original loose powder foundation with SPF 15 — cruelty free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, vegan, no expiration date
BareMinerals’ original loose powder foundation is my go-to fall/winter foundation. Apply a good moisturizer (or a tinted moisturizer if you feel you need more coverage: try Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer, $45). Once your base is dry, apply the loose powder with a large powder brush in small circles on your skin. You can then pinpoint conceal using a small brush with the what remains of the powder.
Translucent setting powder: Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder Glow, $38 — cruelty-free, non-comedogenic, 12-month lifespan
For your non-dewy days or in the fall and winter months, this translucent powder will set your foundation without eliminating the glow from your complexion. It also won’t cover up any of the work you did on your base using cream products.
Contour: Anastasia Beverly Hills stick foundation in shadow contour, $25 — cruelty-free, paraben-free,
I didn’t discover contouring until I did my first beauty pageant. The makeup artist took to my face, neck and shoulders like he was painting the Sistine Chapel, and when he was done, I did not look like a 12 year-old anymore. I kept the contour after that, but ditched the crazy high cheekbones. When I was much older, Michelle Phan, one of my favorite YouTubers, taught me how to contour other parts of my face, like my forehead and nose. My biggest bone to pick with contour products is that they’re often sold in palettes or in packs with other products that I don’t need. I don’t want a giant pack of contour colors that I won’t ever use. This one comes in one long stick and lasts like a gajillion years. It’s also easily blendable and won’t leave harsh lines.
Highlighter: Glossier haloscope in “moonstone”, $22 — cruelty-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free, hypoallergenic, six-month lifespan
The highlighter market is competitive. There are some gorgeous cream and powder highlighters out there. At the moment, I’m partial to cream formulas. The first time I ordered this product, I accidentally ordered two of them. I emailed Glossier to cancel one, but my order had already shipped, and so they told me to just keep it and they would refund me anyway. That type of customer service turns first time buyers into permanent customers. That and great highlighters. I gave the second one to my sister, who is also now a Glossier customer. Business strategy, people!
Concealer: Maybelline New York Master Conceal by Facestudio, $8.99 — fragrance-free, paraben-free, 12-month lifespan
I don’t like to spend a lot of money on concealer because I simply don’t use that much. What I like best about the Master Conceal is that it can be used on dark circles and blemishes. I didn’t realize there was a difference until someone told me there are concealers on the market that are formulated for dark circles that shouldn’t also be used on blemishes. If I can avoid putting one additional product into my bag, I will. This product does both just fine.
Blush: Glossier cloud paint, $18 — cruelty free, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, paraben-free, six-month lifespan
Glossier’s cloud paint has insane color payoff. The first time I used it, I looked like a clown because I used WAY too much. You only need a small dab on your finger or brush. The more color payoff a product has, the less product you have to use; the less product you use, the longer it will last. The longer it lasts, the less money you have to spend replenishing it. This color blends easily, and once it’s blended, it stays put.
Eyebrow gel: Glossier Boy Brow, $16 — cruelty free, fragrance-free, paraben-free, hypoallergenic, three-month lifespan
If you’re looking for a product you can swipe into your brows in the morning with little to no fuss, the boy brow is for you. It thickens the hair that is already on your brows to make them appear fuller. Now, if you have sparse patches in your brows that no thickening can fill, and you need to draw them on using strokes, I would recommend a few other options to you. Anastasia Beverly Hills dipbrow pomade is especially great for free hand brow hairs. You’ll need a tiny, pointed brush (preferably angled) to use the pomade. If free-hand isn’t your thing, try a pronged brow pen like Maybelline’s TattooStudio Brow Tint Pen, $10, which essentially gives you the effect of microblading.
Basic neutral eyeshadow palette: Urban Decay Naked2 basics palette, $29 — cruelty-free, paraben-free, 12-month lifespan
The lifespan on this product is only a year, but I’ve been using my basics palette for nearly two. Granted, I’m out of my two favorite colors, but what can you do? This palette is compact and easy to travel with, has crazy color payoff and minimal fallout. It’s also multi-use; I often use the darkest shade and an angled makeup brush to layer and build my eyeliner. TIP: The darkest shadow layered with a brown pencil liner and a faint black pencil at the lash line makes for a gorgeous brown-based smokey eye.
Nude lipstick: NARS Audacious Lipstick in Barbara, $34 — paraben-free, 12-month lifespan
It took me many years to find my perfect nude lip color. When I would find a color that I liked, it would never stay on past my morning coffee. This nude NARS beauty is the best of both worlds.
Red lipstick: MAC matte lipstick in Russian Red, $18.50 — paraben-free, 12-month lifespan
I don’t believe in a light, casual red lip. When it comes to red lipstick, it’s either go hard or go home for me. MAC’s Ruby Woo shade, while it widely beloved, is not a deep enough red to merit wearing red lipstick. MAC’s matte Russian Red is a deeper, richer red and it pairs best with a flawless base and a thin black liquid liner. Nix the blush and the contour.
Liquid eyeliner: Revlon ColorStay Skinny liquid liner, $8.49 — frangrance-free, three-month lifespan
I’ve been using Revlon’s ColorStay formula for more than a decade. Back in the day, I used to use this liquid liner to draw paw prints on the faces of my Waterloo High School varsity football cheerleading squad (go bulldogs!) The only thing that’s different about the “skinny” liner from the original liner is the brush, which is way better for drawing cat eyes.
Pencil eyeliner: Revlon ColorStay Eyeliner, $8.99, — fragrance-free, 24-month lifespan
This pencil liner is as real as it gets without the annoying wood shavings. The product includes a sharpener (though I’ve never really used it) and a small tipped sponge for smudging. It’s an easy-to-blend waterproof formula that will stay for up to 16 hours without budging once it sets, and it comes in eight different colors—all of which are stunning.
Mascara: Benefit Cosmetics They’re Real! lengthening and volumizing mascara, $24 — cruelty-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free, three-month lifespan
Every day mascara has two jobs: It has to make your lashes look longer and stay the hell in place all day. While I love my inexpensive Great Lash mascara, this one stays on longer so it take the gold.
Waterproof mascara: Too Faced Better Than Sex waterproof mascara, $24. — cruelty-free, three-month lifespan
My biggest bone to pick with the non-waterproof Better Than Sex mascara formula is that it doesn’t stay on. A little fallout is great for a smokey eye, but not so much for an every day look. Though, the formula really does work to both lengthen and curl the lashes. The waterproof formula solves the fallout issue 100 percent. But, like any other waterproof formula, an oil-based makeup remover is necessary to remove it. I use good old Vaseline (cheap and easy).
Eyelash growth serum: Peter Thomas Roth Lashes To Die For™ Turbo Nighttime Eyelash Treatment, $85 — fragrance-free, paraben-free, six-month lifespan
Yes, I see the price tag. But, I’m one of those girls who loved overplucking in high school, and I am still paying for my sins. So, trust me when I say that I have the crappiest brows and eyelashes ever, and that for my entire life I have been searching for a growth serum that actually works. This one does, and that makes it worth a pretty penny in my book. The serum works on lashes and brows, which is a total double whammy.
Liquid makeup remover: Bioderma Sebium H20 , $10.90 —non-rince, works on face and eyes, fragrance-free, oil-free
The downside to choosing liquid makeup remover is having to buy cotton pads to use it. But honestly, any good makeup remover is going to require some kind of cloth. Even if you just want to use petroleum jelly to take off your eye makeup, you have to wipe it off with something. I discovered this brand while watching makeup artist and author Lisa Eldridge on YouTube and it’s absolutely fantastic. Check her out while you’re at it!
Makeup removing wipes: Neutrogena makeup remover cleansing towelettes, $4.99 — 25 disposable wipes, fragrance-free, paraben-free, no expiration
We like to tell ourselves that we’re going to be super diligent with our skincare, but in all reality, when we’re traveling, running late, or just plain tired, we forget and we get lazy. Instead of pretending that this tendency doesn’t exist in me, I believe it’s better to recognize that fault and have a backup plan to get your makeup off quickly and softly. Makeup wipes need three things: They need to be soaked enough to get the job done, they need to be gentle on sensitive skin and they need to be safe for use around the eyes. This product is all of those things. I go through these wipes fast (sometimes in place of my liquid remover or when I’m low on cotton pads) and so I regularly buy the two pack from Walgreens.
Face wash: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser — cruelty-free, paraben-free, non-comedogenic, vegan, 18-month lifespan
It’s billed as the one face wash to rule them all. Glossier replaced 1/4 of the water in this terrific concoction with rose water, which is super soothing and smells oh so delicious. It’s also hydrating, safe on eyes and will remove non-waterproof makeup only.
Acne treatment: Clean & Clear advantage acne spot treatment, $8.79 — oil-free, two percent salicylic acid
This spot treatment got me through puberty. Yeah, it’s been around that long. The formula contains two percent salicylic acid, which helps the reduce size, swelling and redness of pimples. This spot treatment can get rid of a zit overnight.
Moisturizer: Aveeno daily moisturizer SPF 15, $18 — SPF 15, oil-free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic
Your moisturizer has a hell of a lot to do. It has to smell nice, protect your skin from sun damage, make you feel good and give the appropriate amount of moisture without making you look oily. I once had a TSA agent take my Aveeno moisturizer away from me at security. It was right after they decreased size limit on liquids, and I didn’t think I had to put the lotion into a travel canister. Had assaulting a TSA agent not have gotten me arrested and made me miss my flight back to Chicago, I might have very well tackled him.
Facial sun screen: Glossier invisible shield daily sunscreen with SPF 35, $25 — cruelty-free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, paraben-free, vegan, 12-month lifespan
If you’re not incorporating SPF into your makeup routine—whether it’s in your moisturizer, your foundation or an actual sunscreen product—you definitely should—if only because I care about you and your skin. Glossier’s invisible shield is a great daily facial sunscreen. Keep in mind that it’s not water resistant, and so it’s not meant for sweaty summer days by the pool. It’s just meant to be an invisible layer of daily skin protectant. It won’t make your skin look or feel greasy. Apply a thin layer after moisturizer and before foundation, and then watch it disappear.
Under eye mask: La Pure 24K gold eye treatment mask, $19.97 for a pack of 15 — cruelty-free, paraben-free,
These gold eye masks are soaked in collagen, which can help to stimulate and regenerate skin cells. They visibly reduce puffiness and inflammation. On my no makeup days, I’ll pop these on during my commute to work.
Teeth whitener: Supersmile professional whitening toothpaste in Green Apple, $23.00 — cruelty-free, vegan,
I have a serious problem when it comes to toothpaste: I detest the taste and smell of mint. I know, weird right? I can’t help it! It makes me gag. Unfortunately, hating mint eliminates nearly every mainstream brand of toothpaste and teeth whitening product for me. I have used strawberry-flavored Colgate Total toothpaste for kids for the past 24 years, and my fiancé still makes fun of me. The problem is, kids toothpaste doesn’t whiten. I have struggled with this for years. So, believe me, I know that $23 is a lot to pay for a toothpaste. But, this flavor is great and it actually removes the coffee stains on my teeth. My rule with any beauty product is, only pay for the product if it’s worth it to you. For me, this one is.