2020 FAVORITES - from all categories
I usually do my year-end round-ups as a long, exhaustive list, building on every year prior, telling you if I am still using any favorites from the year before or not. Frankly, much like 2020 itself, it was too damn much. This year, I am giving you my top3-5 picks (except I think there are 8 for skincare it was too hard to narrow down) across all categories of things I tried for the first time this year. Now, these things may not have launched in 2020, but they were new to me.
Pat McGrath Sublime Perfection Foundation - This surprised me. I was expected medium to full coverage, with a semi-matte finish. I expected I would have to meticulously prep my skin or else this would make me look insane, as it doesn't seem like a foundation that would work with dry skin. However, I am pleasantly surprised to tell you it's friggin delightful. The finish is skin-like but radiant on me. I do still prep the hell out of my skin and lover to layer the Elysian CONTINUUM™ Finishing Treatment under it for that super soft poreless look. I bought shade Light 3 and it's a pretty good match - it's slightly light but the next neutral shade seems like it would be way too dark for me. It lasts all day and stays put. It also photographs beautifully. This might be my new favorite foundation.
Danessa Myricks ColorFix 24-Hour Cream Color - Easily my most reached for eye product of the year, these creamy and highly pigmented multi-use products are so easy to use and last all day. My eyelids are incredibly oily, but the ColorFix will last all day without creasing, without using primer. Magic. My favorite shade is "exposed" but I also love the Nudes for their versatility.
Bodyography Glitter Pigments - I'm the queen of a one and done when it comes to my eye looks. I want one product that I can swipe all over my lid and have it look like I spent hours doing it. The Bodyography Glitter Pigments do the trick. These super soft and finely milled pigments pack a punch and glide on effortlessly. They have a wet look to them, more a shimmer than full-on glitter. My top picks are Off the Hook (a nude taupe) and Prism (duo chrome olive and brown).
Victoria Beckham Bitton Lip Tint - I don't think I've ever used a color lip product more than the lip tint. I have both shades, Bisou and Chérie, and Chérie is my favorite (but both are stunning). This lightweight lip stain is the ultimate my-lips-but-better color, and the formula is lovely. It glides on and sinks in like nothing, never feeling dry or looking patchy. If there was one makeup product I wish I had invented, it would be this. If I had to throw away all my other lipsticks and only keep one? It would be the VB Lip Tint.
Lisa Eldridge Lipsticks - The Lisa Eldridge Velvet Lipsticks had been filed in the back of my mind since they launched, and I finally picked up a few this year. While not an everyday formula for me, they are definitely worth the hype they are getting. The lightweight matte formula doesn't dry out my lips and the color stays put for hours. They feel like nothing on my lips - in a good way. I forget I’m wearing it. The colors are richly pigmented, and the packaging is extremely luxe. The texture on the side of the bullets is an exceptionally well-done detail, as it's meant to mimic the look of velvet to match their name. Overall, a dream matte lipstick.
Uruoi Moisture Milk* - This lightweight cream surprised me considering how dry my skin is and what I gravitate towards to handle it usually. Its almost watery texture tricks you into thinking it can't possibly be moisturizing enough for dry skin but IT IS. As soon as I start to rub this lotion into my skin it feels rich and sumptuous. But gentle, always gentle. Designed to boost your skin's water retention, moisture milk strengthens your skin barrier, protects the skin from humidity, and boosts your moisture level. I used an entire bottle this spring and summer and already miss it. The design of the vessel is also noteworthy, as it features an airless pump so you get every last drop of the product. It layers well with makeup and SPF as well.
Allies of Skin Peptide™ Antioxidants Firming Daily Treatment - This beauty entered my life only a few months ago and it was one of those love-at-first-use products. I *am* slightly annoyed at the name - it's not a treatment. It's a moisturizer. That's just marketing, ignore it. All skincare is a treatment. Moving on! With a pH 5.0-5.4, this soft and lightweight formula is supercharged with multiple peptides, 7 brighteners, 9 antioxidants, and a 16.5% Repair Complex to firm and repair damaged skin. She's pricey but worth it. My dry and sensitive skin seems to sigh with relief any time I use it. It layers well with makeup and SPF as well.
Allies of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum* - I've been using this for about six months now once or twice a week (switching off with another acid). It has a pH of 3.5. I use it the same way I use the Deviant Gentle Resurfacing Liquid (my holy grail acid toner) but this formula is more of a serum instead of a watery liquid. It features 11% Mandelic, Lactic + Salicylic Acid, 1% Bakuchiol, 8 Brighteners, & 7 Antioxidants & Peptides. Again, this formula is just *chef's kiss*. Exfoliating yet hydrating. When I tell you my skin has looked better than it has ever looked I am not kidding. I have stopped wearing foundation 90% of the time because my skin is just goddamn RADIANT & my melasma is barely visible.
Elysian Continuum Treatment Oil* - This 2020 newbie is another powerhouse does-it-all formula. Created and developed by two makeup + skincare industry professionals, they grew tired of brands that were not inclusive and products that fell short of their claims. They hired a chemist and set out to develop their own line. The Continuum Treatment Oil is a yummy facial oil featuring a myriad of skin-loving ingredients like Tomato Lycopene which is an antioxidant-rich carotenoid pigment that helps brighten hyperpigmentation and promotes a more even skin tone, Tetrahexyldecyl (THD) Ascorbate - a form of Vitamin C that delivers superior brightening and collagen-boosting benefits, Dermaxyl which is a wrinkle-smoothing peptide that encourages cellular renewal while boosting ceramide activity to rehydrate and strengthen skin's delicate barrier, Teprenone which activates dormant molecules inside skin cells called heat shock proteins which give cells resilience and protection against DNA damage, and their signature Superfood oil blend featuring raspberry, strawberry, goji berry, prickly pear (and more) to provide lightweight moisturizing benefits as well as strong antioxidant protection from free radical damage. While fragrance-free this oil does have a strong natural scent from all the fruit oils. Frankly, it smells like candy. It took a bit of getting used to for me but the scent doesn't linger. Since the weather turned cooler I have been reaching for this almost daily. It delivers a beautiful glow and wears well under SPF and makeup.
Deviant Skincare Cleansing Concentrate - This sumptuous balm is my favorite first cleanse. The balm-to-milk formula breaks down all makeup, spf, and impurities. Balancing Hemp and Camellia Seed soften congestion and environmental debris, and a proprietary blend of Sacha Inchi, Blueberry, and Borage soothe against oxidative-stress caused by extrinsic factors. I apply this to dry skin and use a warm washcloth to rinse everything away before following with a second cleanse. While it features no added fragrance the ingredients give it an earthy, almost herb-like aroma. Deviant just launched a special edition Blue Tansy blend for the new year, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.
SkinBetter Science Alto Defense Serum - I have been favoring this well-round multitasking serum as of late. The award-winning serum is quickly becoming the most recommended Vitamin C serum by aestheticians. It is designed as a daily antioxidant protection and improvement of the appearance of uneven tone and redness. The creamy but lightweight formula sinks in like a dream and layers well with SPF and makeup. The brand describes it as, "Vitamin C and E + 17 additional antioxidant ingredients designed to provide a new level of comprehensive and dynamic defense against free radicals." I adore using this product and while pricey, it could easily replace several steps in your routine.
DefenAge 8-in-1BioSerum - After falling for the NeoCutis BioSerum Firm in 2019, I was keeping my eye out for a more affordable option. My friends in the skincare community found it for me. This serum uses Defensins, a term coined by Defenage, which are natural molecules that signal our body to create new skin by activating the dormant reserves of "fresh" and young cells. The serum contains an identical copy of human "defensins" made via bio-synthesis - but it won't activate the same type of cells as the NeoCutis, so this option is less controversial. It also contains Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, Sea Whip, and a blend of natural antioxidants, enzymes, and hydrating technologies. It is still pricey, but any BioSerum will be for the technology, and it's much more affordable than the NeoCutis.
ColoreScience Total Eye™ 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy SPF 35 - I layer this gem over my NeoCutis Lumiére cream every morning. The tinted SPF treatment protects the delicate eye area without ever irritating, while also providing sheer coverage. I wear the original shade "medium" but could probably get away with the light shade as well. The potent formula alleviates signs of aging, dark circles, puffiness, sun damage and dryness. My eye area is even more sensitive than the rest of my face, and previously I struggled to find an SPF that worked for me there.
Nécessaire The Hand Cream- The Hand Cream is thick but sinks in relatively quickly. You need less than you think. Its fragrance free (bless) and features skin-loving ingredients like Squalane, Niacinamide, and Shea Butter. I kind of have a love hate relationship with tubes like these - while visually the packaging is my vibe, I feel like the product is always pushing itself out of the tube so the tip and cap get messy. Once you get about halfway through the product and you need roll/squish the tube it gets...icky. Sometimes it cracks and products will seep at the seams, the letters will wear off, etc. I often avoid keeping tube products in my purse because I feel they are prone to punctures. I am not sure this will happen with the Necessaire, but I'm wary just from past experiences with similarly packaged products. Otherwise, this is a lovely formula I know I'll reach for often in the winter and even in warmer months.
Maude Body Oil * - As we move into winter I start using body oil more often. This lightweight version is designed for dry or wet skin, as a hydrator or a massage oil. For me, it actually absorbs super quickly and doesn't leave an oily residue whatsoever. To use it as a massage oil you'd have to use quite a bit to maintain a slip. Key ingredient call outs are jojoba, coconut, argan, and castor oil. You can use code "CLAIRE" to save money on your Maude order.
Nécessaire The Deodorant- The ONLY natural deodorant to work for me. Now, remember, this is a deodorant not an antiperspirant. It does contain Silica, Zinc, and Kaolin Clay to help keep you dry but I found I sweat just as much as normal. The combination of Mandelic and Lactic Acids is what helps neutralize odor - and it does a damn fine job. I am so pleasantly surprised by how well this works for me. At first I primarily used the sandalwood because I was convinced it worked better but really I just liked the smell. Nowadays I interchange it with the unscented based on my mood. Lately I've leaned more into the unscented (*surprises no-one*). For the average day this deodorant works beautifully without reapplying. I did test it on a few 100+ degree days - I was sweating profusely and I needed to reapply. I have not worked out with this so I can't speak to how it handles intense activity. True life: I'm lazy. It is a twist up cream formula which has never been my favorite but I'm not exactly mad at it. It comes out white and dries down clear. You need to wait a hot second before putting on clothes. I found it will continue to dispense even after you've finished twisting so there is always product on the inside of the cap, which feels wasteful and messy. But other than that, I am thrilled with this and plan to rebuy.
Kristin Ess Fragrance-Free Deep Treatment Mask - Hair products have always been tricky for me. My hairline will easily breakout so I prefer things that are fragrance free. I also have hair that I highlight/bleach every so often, so I need something that packs a punch to keep it from feeling dry. I loooooooove this mask. So much so I spelled love with 8 'o's. When I got my hair highlighted last (when the COVID restrictions raised, lol remember then?) my stylist thought my hair just just been cut. I haven't cut my hair in almost a year. It's all due to this mask I use as conditioner 2-3 times a week!
Amika hAIR Dryer Brush*- I've always been lazy with my hair but ambitious with my hair goals. This dryer will take my damp locks to shiny and bouncy with relatively little effort and zero skill required. It's extremely lightweight so your arm won't get tired. Use discount code "BRIGHTYOUNG" to save on all of your Amika orders.
DermaFlash Dermapore Ultrasonic Pore Extractor & Serum Infuser *- I don't use a lot of face tools and I am generally pretty skeptical of most on the market. This brand, however, was founded by a former MedSpa owner and is extremely high quality, safe to use, and easy to use. I am a picker - I pick at my face constantly and it obviously isn't good for my skin. This device has helped cure that habit completely. The ultrasonic technology will unclog your pores with minimal effort, and you can also use this to infuse your skincare deeper into your skin. I use this maybe twice a week and have noticed the pores on my forehead and nose are significantly less clogged - and I'm not harming my skin with constant picking.
DermaFlash LUXE Anti-Aging Dermaplaning Exfoliation Device*- You have probably seen all those super satisfying dermaplaning videos on instagram and, if you're like me, been super intrigued. This easy to use tool helps you safely achieve those results at home. I've used mine only twice but it works perfectly. The removal of baby hairs and any dry, dead skin has revealed supple, soft, fresh skin, and my products and makeup go on like a dream. I cannot wait to see more results from regular use. Just be sure to discontinue use of any acids or retinol 48 hours before and after use to avoid over-exfoliating your skin.
Ranavat Kansa Wand facial massager - I’m the absolute worst at facial massage tools. I’ve tried several, hoping to alleviate the tension and pain from my tight jaw muscles that are basically permanently clenched. I’m sure the tools would work if I actually used them but I just can’t ever seen to work them into my routine. However, this beautiful wand from Ranavat has been the best contender yet, as the domed head makes it easy to massage the face in any direction. I love pairing it with my favorite facial oil from Deviant. But the trouble is never have the energy to spend a few minutes after cleansing on actually using the tool. Not sure why incorporating it (or any tool) has been so difficult but here we are.
Bamboo Wash Cloths - I used to really love facial sponges for physical exfoliation but I found they weren't as sustainable as I hoped because I needed a new one every month. My mom has told me for ages to just use a cloth - they give the gentle exfoliation I can do daily to get all the grime and dead skin off without overdoing it. I found these on Amazon and they are SO SOFT. And what's more, is they stay soft after frequent washing. The pack of 8 is perfect because I can use a new cloth every day. I love to use these cloths in conjunction with a cleansing balm to remove makeup and SPF and I massage all the areas that get build up (like around my nose and chin).
Always Aleda Chunky Charm Chain - If there is one piece of jewelry I've been saving for and dreaming of for ages: a thick gold link chain. I'd hunted around for years, never committing to any because I felt like I wasn't finding the right piece. Once I found Aleda I knew I'd found the chain. She is a one-woman production, a bench jeweler and artisan maker. She geeks out over ancient civilizations like I do; most of her charms are inspired by mythology. I already have my eye set on her chonky carved scarab (which isn't the real name but maybe it should be). The Chunky Charm Chain is made entirely by hand. Aleda crafts and shapes each individual 14 karat gold link, solders them together and shut, link by link, and finishes it with a chunky clasp. I can't get over this chain was handmade specifically for me. I'll treasure it forever.
Gem Gossip Vintage Hoops - Danielle of Gem Gossip is one of my favorite jewelry insiders. She is the person I reached out to when I first wanted to get into jewelry professionally, and we've kept in touch all these years later. Her page is filled with all the latest trends and new designers to follow, and she also sells her finds on the side. I finally found a pair of 14k chunky gold hoops for an incredible price through her page.
DRD Sadie Pearl Baguette Eternity Ring - This girl loves her step cut diamonds. This ultra skinny baguette band is delicate and dainty, but so much more eye-catching than a classic pavé-set band. It is the first step in what I hope will be a massive right-hand ring stack one day. (It also looks great as a wedding band, just FYI).
DRD Sophia Ryan Station Necklace - Another long-awaited item I'd been vying to add to my collection, the Sophia Ryan Station necklace is the perfect delicate and feminine layering necklace my collection was missing. I often opt for larger pendant necklaces or chunky chains, so this dainty station necklace brings an element of movement and softness to my stacks.
Eliche R Custom Dresses - An Etsy find that changed my life! She is based in Hungary and makes stunning cotton and linen pieces to order based on your measurements. I had spent most of spring hunting for flowy cotton pieces to wear at home and had not found exactly what I was looking for in any big brand retailers. In my quest I discovered this shop. I ordered several pieces and 6 weeks later I had them in my hands. They're everything I hoped for! Soft, flow-y, comfortable, and made to fit me. Admittedly, I am not the best at sustainable fashion but this is a great step in that direction! It does take some patience, as the pieces are made to order, but well worth it IMO.
Oddbird Robes + Loungewear - You know I'm obsessed with robes. Unless you are very new here. Each item Oddbird Co. sells is handcrafted ethically and sustainably in small-batches. Oddbird is a female owned and run company who aims to offer the highest quality textiles at fair prices so they can support talented artisans and their customers alike with ethically-made and priced small-batch collections. They are one of many sustainable fashion brands I have discovered recently and I am thrilled with all my purchases so far.
Lunya Washable Silk Button Down Pant Set - 2020 was the year I decided to stop sleeping in crappy old t-shirts. I deserve silk, damnit. Luxury sleepwear is the thing I didn't know my life was missing. I hate that I love Lunya so much, because holy shit, is it expensive. However, I will say, the pieces are incredibly thoughtfully crafted down to the tiniest details. The silk is washable. WASHABLE. SILK. Everything has pockets. The cropped button down top is so cute I could wear it with real pants for a night out (lol who knows when that will be an option again), and the high-waisted pants have side slits that are both flattering and functional. The fabric is also apparently thermoregulating, so your body temperature stays comfortable. This set makes me feel like I was dressed by the wardrobe department who dressed Cameron Diaz in The Holiday. Use discount code "GIFT-CLAIRE20" for $20 off your first purchase.
Free People Easy Street Tunic - I am a sucker for 100% cotton slouchy knits. Sue me. I bought this sweater three times because I liked it that much. It's heavy and cozy and has an oversized fit. Do I really need to say more?
Aritzia Powder Parka - This year I continued my hunt for my dream winter coat. And for once, I finally found it. The Powder Parka is the neutral oversized jacket of my Chicago-winter dreams. It is SO WARM. I've already spent a few nights outside in it walking the dogs in -12F temperatures and felt perfectly comfortable. I wanted mine to be a bit more oversized and to be layer-able over heavy knits and hoodies, so I got a size medium and it is perfect. I normally wear an XS in Aritzia coats but this one is cut to be slim fitting and the size S was too tight at my boobs and underarms.
Nest - Hearth* - Part of their holiday line, Hearth is comprised of oud wood, frankincense, and hints of smoky embers. It is a warm, comforting, almost masculine scent that fills a space without being overwhelming. I tried Nest candles for the first time this year and I'd definitely been sleeping on them. Their vessel size is larger than Diptyque and have a 50-60 hour burn time, and the throw of all the scents I've tried is INSANE. A single classic size candle will fill my condo in under an hour. Heart is on sale at the time of writing this and will disappear once the season is over, but return next year.
Mala - Milk + Sugar - Another candle I’ve been reaching for quite a bit since the weather turned cooler - Milk & Sugar is just lovely. It does not smell like cake batter or some other nauseatingly sweet dessert. It is sweet but in a warm, sophisticated way. It truly smells like warm, sweet milk. Like the ingredients in a bakery that haven't yet been used to make something delicious.
Haus Witch - The Witches - I can't stop burning The Witches (pun unintended) from Haus Witch in Salem, MA. Notes of vetiver, smoke, and spruce make for the ideal fall scent. Even my husband made the point to compliment it (for someone who burns candles as often as I do it's rare he compliments a particular candle). The wood wick is such a nice touch as it softly crackles as it burns! This candle also pools evenly all on its own each time I've burned it which is a sadly rare occurrence for most of the candles I own.
Dyad - Dark + Stormy* - This newbie shot to the top of my most burned list right away. I have been leaning into fresh, woodsy, masculine scents lately and this fits the bill. I joke it smells like a really sophisticated men's body wash but in reality it is a complex blend of Bayberry, Sage, Eucalyptus, Spices, Fir Balsam, Woods, Ciste, Moss, Olibanum, Amber, and Labdanum. The vessel is hefty and minimalistic, I plan to keep it once I empty it. Dyad is a small company based out of LA, run by two twin sisters, Britta and Carli.
Otherland - Sacred Dusk - Another bright but woody scent, Sacred Dusk is a mix of palo santo, crimson incense, and cypress bark. The vessel is beautiful and comes with a little cap to keep the dust out. This was part of their holiday release and appears to be sold out, and I am not sure if they are bringing it back again. If they do - I will definitely be getting a backup.
USB lighter - A candle hoarder needs a cool lighter, no? I love this rechargeable option I found in a local shop, Cowboys and Astronauts. It feels like a tazer. A tazer for candles. I've only had to charge it once since purchasing a few months ago!
Dedcool Milk Detergent - My favorite perfume is now a laundry detergent and I’ve never been happier. Thank heavens I’m still WFH because I literally spend my time smelling myself and I can’t imagine that would be cute in public. Washing my sheets in this is next level.
Mug Warmer - Since I started working from home adding this mug warmer to my desk changed the game for me. It feels the weight of the mug and turns on and off on its own, which is great. I recommend using a flat-bottom mug on it for best results.
Lolly Lolly Ceramics Mugs - I have become particularly obsessed with mugs over the years, and have subsequently developed some strong opinions on what I think makes a good mug. I like a big mug, not huge, but at least 10oz capacity, preferably 12oz. Once you go bigger than that you need 2+ tea bags and a longer brewing time and it throws off the milk to tea ratio. If the opening of the mug is too wide - the tea gets cold too quickly. I prefer flat, wide bottoms - because those work best on my mug warmer and are less prone to be accidentally knocked over. The handle must be comfortable to hold, and if I can slide my whole hand under it to hold the mug itself, even better. I like to invest in handmade, ceramic mugs in neutral colors with a bit of personality. Lolly Lolly mugs check off all these and more. I just wish her pieces weren't so hard to get my hands on!
FLIKR Personal Concrete Fireplace - The one thing my gorgeous condo doesn't have is a fireplace. This lil number does the trick! Fill it with rubbing alcohol and light that shit on fire et voila - mini indoor bonfire. You could even roast marshmallows over it. The burn time is about 45 min so not as long as I'd hope, and depending on the alcohol you use there might be a bit of an unpleasant smell, but it's hardly noticeable. I have used this nightly since picking it up.
Well, there we have it. My top items from 2020. 2021 - bring it on.
An * denotes a PR Sample
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