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Confession time. I’m Katy, and I hoard beauty products. I love to try new beauty products- skincare, makeup, hair, tools, etc. I need to try them all. This behavior of mine doesn’t leave much room for buying the same thing more than once. However, there are a few exceptions. There are a handful of products that I never stray from for long because they are the best of the best, my tried-and-true favorites.
C.O. Bigelow My Favorite Night Balm: This is a super thick lip balm that repairs your lips overnight. You apply before bed and wake up to a soft and hydrated pout. If my lips are extra dry, cracked or peeling, I’ll use this during the day, too. I keep one of these in my nightstand, one in my purse, and one in my car so I’m never without it. It is the only lip balm I’ll buy. It’s usually buy 2, get 1 free at Bath & Body Works.
Kerastase Elixir Ultime: This stuff is not cheap, but OMG, y’all. It works wonders on my hair. Every time I stop using it, my hair gets increasingly brittle, tangly, frizzy, damaged, and extra straw-like. And every time I start using it again, my hair becomes instantly softer and healthier looking, and I wonder why I ever stopped using it. It is a miracle in a bottle. A little bit goes a long way, and one bottle should last a good year even if you have long, thick hair like me. I just ran out and ordered my second bottle…I cannot wait for it to get here!
BareMinerals Original Foundation: I have insanely sensitive skin, but this foundation has never caused even the slightest bit of irritation. It goes on nice and sheer, but the coverage is buildable which makes it perfect for evening out my skin tone on good skin days, and covering up the blemishes on bad skin days. I have been using this foundation for almost 6 years. It is that good. I also love that it’s made up of minerals and other gentle ingredients so I don’t feel too terrible if I -don’t judge me- fall asleep before I wash off my makeup.
Amika Curling Wand: I actually ordered this on a whim a year or two ago when I had a bunch of Birchbox points saved up. I didn’t really expect too much from it, but I was hopeful that it would be better than the drugstore wand I had been using. It totally exceeded all of my expectations. It heats up so quickly, it curls my hair much faster than others I’ve tried which results in less damage (less time hair is on the wand means less heat damage!), and the curls last for days. I’ve heard a lot of people complain that they can’t get the hang of curling wands, but I promise if you give it a chance and maybe watch some Youtube videos like this old one from yours truly (oh hey, awkward throwback), you’ll be a convert. I can curl my whole head of hair in 20 minutes or less with this wand, versus 40+ minutes with a traditional curling iron or cheaper wand. This one also comes with a heat resistant pouch that unfolds to protect whatever surface you put your iron on while you’re using it.
Bausch + Lomb Alaway Eye Itch Relief Drops: This isn’t really a beauty product, and it’s definitely the least glamorous item on this list, but it has improved my quality of life so much that I feel it’s necessary to include in this list. I suffer from very severe allergies, and my poor eyes tend to get the worst of it. My eye doctor recommended trying these drops before we resorted to prescription-strength drops. According to the packaging, you’re supposed to use them twice a day. I only use them once a day unless I feel like I need an extra dose. They have completely transformed my eyes! No more itchiness, no more excessive watering, no more runny mascara, and my eyes haven’t swollen shut once since I started using them which is pretty impressive considering they used to randomly swell shut once every few weeks. #glamorous
Chanel Mascara: I tried this for the first time at a beauty event at Nordstrom, and I was astounded by the results. I thought the mascara I was using at the time was was the best mascara ever, but the Chanel one made my lashes look better than I ever thought possible. I don’t really even know how to explain it, but I swear this mascara opens up my whole face and makes me look super well-rested. Now that I’ve started using this one, people ask me all the time what mascara I use. I don’t want to use any other mascara ever again! It’s definitely a splurge, but this is one of those times where you absolutely get what you pay for.
Up & Up Pore Strips: I’m one of those people who needs to be able to see immediate results to know that a beauty product is working. I have a sick fascination with ripping these off my face and checking out all the gunk that came out of my pores. I have tried tons of different brands & types of pore strips, but the Up & Up ones always work the best. These are hands-down the best pore strips, and they get bonus points for also being one of the cheapest.
Sensationail Gel Nail Kit: This nail polish system has turned me into such a nail polish snob. I will only use gel polish now. Using this primer, base/top coat and lamp makes my nails look 10000x better than even the highest end regular nail polish. They also “dry” instantly once you cure them with the lamp, so gone are the days where I smudge a nail 3 hours after painting them or wake up with my bed sheet imprinted on my mani. Here’s the thing though- I don’t like the Sensationail gel colors. It’s not so much the colors themselves, but I’ve found that using the Sensationail primer, top/base coat & lamp with a gel color polish from OPI, Gelaze (China Glaze), or even Sally Hansen tends to result in a much longer-lasting manicure than using the Sensationail system with a Sensationail gel color polish. The OPI ones are only sold to salons, so you may need to have a licensed cosmetologist friend get some for you at a store like Cosmoprof. The Gelaze brand you can get at Sally’s, and it’s great because it doesn’t require that you use a base or top coat. The Sally Hansen ones are good, too, but I still prefer OPI and Gelaze. I have not tried any Gelish or CND gel polishes yet, but I’ve heard good things & I have a whole bunch of them on my nail polish wish list. See? I told you I have a problem.
Tanwise Sunless Tanner Mousse: When Cara recommended this tanner, I bought a bottle right away. My beauty philosophy in life is basically if Cara recommends it, I will try it. This product did not disappoint. It’s pretty cheap, it’s easy to apply (I wear these gloves to apply it to keep my hands from getting orange-y), and it imparts the perfect glow that is quite long-lasting. Of course, proper application is key to the perfect sunless tan, but I’ve found that even my streakiest application of Tanwise has produced a very even tan.
PMD Personal Microderm: This is a great little tool if your skin is on the dry side. It’s an at-home microdermabrasion tool that sloughs off dead skin. It also uses suction to bring the blood to your skin or something…I’m honestly not sure what the suction is actually supposed to do, but I can tell you that the PMD has been a lifesaver for my skin, especially during the winter. Once I get all the dead skin cells off my face, my skin care products -especially my moisturizers- work so much better. This tool helps my skin glow! When you first get the PMD, it comes with training discs and you work your way up to using more abrasive discs for a stronger exfoliation treatment. I currently use the green discs for medium-level exfoliation. I use my PMD 2x a week unless my skin is extra aggravated by a breakout, super excessive dryness, etc. in which case I’ll only use it once/week or take a week off completely.
These next two products have recently solidified their spots as holy grail products, so they needed to be added to this list!
Kenra Clarifying Shampoo: Since that fateful day in the summer of 2013 that I chose to dye my dark hair hair blonde (by an inexperienced colorist, no less), my hair has been an over-processed and constantly tangled mess. I’ve tried everything to get it back to it’s healthy condition: deep conditioning masks, sleeping with coconut oil slathered all over my hair, hair cuts, salon treatments, vinegar rinses, switching to sulfate-free products, washing less, co-washing, “washing” with baking soda, a salon keratin treatment that made my hair even worse, clarifying powders, at-home keratin treatments, ridiculously expensive masks, etc. The list goes on and on. My Kerastase wasn’t even helping that much, which really threw me for a loop. I had always dismissed clarifying shampoos because I had tried using other clarifying products and the baking soda/vinegar method, both of which are supposed to help with buildup, and none of that helped. I had determined that buildup was not the issue. My hair was just permanently ruined by a bad dye job and, even though that made no scientific sense to me, that was that. Then two weeks ago I was placing an order at Ulta and needed to spend an additional $10 to get free shipping. (They always get with me that..Oh, I need to spend $45 in order to save $5 on shipping- DONE!) This shampoo was on sale for $9 and had tons of rave reviews, and I was almost out of shampoo, so I added it to my cart. We have really hard water, so I thought this might make my hair a little shinier, but I was not expecting anything else from it. You guys. After ONE wash, my hair is back to it’s pre-highlight fiasco state. I am absolutely shocked. I almost cried happy tears. I’m happy to say that, after ONE wash, my hair is healthier, softer, shinier, smoother and less-frizzy than it has been since 2013. It is virtually tangle free. I no longer have to use a Tangle Teezer before and after I wash my hair just to avoid disaster. Honestly, I don’t even know where my Tangle Teezer is because I haven’t needed to use it since I used this shampoo. It’s a miracle. If your hair is a mess and nothing seems to be helping, buy this shampoo.
Hum Nutrition Daily Cleanse: I discovered this brand from one of their Instagram ads. This product promises to help clear up your skin troubles by detoxing your body from the inside out. I was skeptical, but I bought it anyway since it’s not particularly expensive and I was having a meltdown about the condition of my skin. I’ve been taking it for about two weeks now, and I have- shockingly- only gotten one blemish. I have been at odds with my skin since the summer when it went from dry and perfectly clear to majorly acne-prone, seemingly overnight. Thanks to these supplements, my skin is finally in better shape. I’ve also been using the Hum melatonin supplement and love it too.
–GlamGlow Masks: The Supermud Clearing Mask is by far the best clearing mask I’ve used. I especially love that I can see it working as it absorbs excess oil from my pores. The only reason it’s only an honorable mention is because it is expensive. The GlamGlow ThirstyMud Hydrating Mask is equally amazing, but also very pricey. I recommend trying some samples or travel sizes of these before you splurge on the full sizes so you can make sure they work well with your skin. I think they’re worth it, but they might make your American Express burst into flames.
–Becca Backlight Priming Filter and Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector: I’ve only used them twice, so I don’t feel like I can call them “tried and true” favorites just yet…but they are definitely heading in that direction. I absolutely love these products. The Backlight Priming Filter makes my skin look perfectly dewy & the highlighter amps up the glow without looking shimmery. I’m not really sure how it’s possible for a highlighter to not look shimmery, but the proof is in the pudding!
–MAC Eyeshadow in Omega: This is the perfect color for contouring. Most products that are marketed specifically for contouring are way too warm for my skintone, so I just end up looking weirdly tan or dirty. This eyeshadow is a perfect gray color that mimics the color of the natural shadows on the face, so it enhances the natural contours without adding unnecessary warmth or color.
–E.L.F. Studio Brushes: Okay, you may think I’m a little crazy with this one, but I really like these brushes! They are soft enough that they don’t irritate my skin, and I’ve been really pleased with the way they distribute my makeup. Best of all, most of the ones I have were only $3. Just make sure you get the Studio ones and not the $1 ones. I think all of the Studio brushes have black handles, versus white handles on the cheaper ones.