Another (challenging, traumatic, <insert negative adjective here>) year has flown by in what seems like the blink of an eye. Even though I haven’t been blogging nearly as frequently as I used to, I couldn’t let this end-of-year opportunity pass by without looking back and reflecting on some of my most near-and-dear products. In past years I gave you a top ten ‘best of’ list, but this year I decided to shake things up a bit, get really vicious and slash my usual ten products down to five.
So, here are my top 5 hero products of 2021. There were sooo many things that I could have included here, but I ultimately landed on these five. They’re my best-of-the-best, can’t-put-them-down little gems that have made my makeup (and skincare) routine over the past year such a pleasure.
PREVIOUS BEST OF LISTS
My Top Ten Beauty Products of 2020
My Top Ten Beauty Products of 2019
CERAVE DAILY MOISTURIZING LOTION
If you’re a long-time reader around here you’ll know that my love for CeraVe runs long and deep. I’ve tried many products from this affordable, good-for-sensitive-skin skincare line (check out this guide I did last summer), but if I had to pick just one stand-out product it would have to be the OG of OG’s: the Daily Moisturizing Lotion.
I literally slather this stuff everywhere, within reason: my face, my body, my lips, over scars, over red, inflamed skin, and on and on. It’s intensely moisturizing yet it sinks into the skin without being sticky, tacky or greasy. It’s just perfection, and it’s saved my skin from dehydration, flakiness and redness on too many occasions to count.
If you’re in the market for a moisturizer that’s gentle on the skin, fragrance-free, but still hydrating, affordable and accessible, I highly, highly recommend that you get your hands on this.
REFY BEAUTY BROW SCULPT
This one is a bit of a wildcard. You were probably expecting me to include the Maybelline Brow Fast Sculpt here again (it was on last year’s top ten list). I still absolutely love that product and have it in my collection, but the Refy Beauty Brow Sculpt very quickly became my new go-to fave in the last half of this year. It’s the type of product that you use once and become completely obsessed with; at least, that’s what happened to me!
This is a clear, waxy brow gel/pomade with the most unbelievable hold of any brow product that I’ve tried so thus far. You swipe this through your brows and they’re as good as being frozen, no joke. The NYX Control Freak Brow Gel comes pretty close if you’re looking for something more accessible – and it’s also clear – but the Refy Brow Sculpt just has that extra bit of boost; that “something-something.” I’ve already got a back-up on deck!
You can over-apply this product, so be warned. Too much and you’ll get white bits in your brows, so I recommend doing a quick swipe through and don’t over-layer.
I bought Glossier Futuredew right at the start of 2021 (check out my full review), and boy am I so glad I did! It became a fast favorite of mine and now I can’t imagine my collection without it. If you want something that will both prime your skin for makeup and give it a dewy glow that lasts all day, look no further.
You can use Futuredew in a number of different ways. I like to use it either pre-makeup: one pump all over my face and then layer my foundation/concealer over top; or add about a half a pump into my liquid foundation, mix, and then apply together. (It works seamlessly with nearly all my foundations, like the Fenty Beauty Eaze Drop Skin Tint, the Flower Beauty Get Real Serum Foundation and the Merit Beauty Minimalist Perfecting Complexion Stick.) Either way, my makeup ends up looking flawless and my skin feels intensely hydrated all day.
So for me, as a dry and dehydrated skin type, this is a total win. If you have oily or even combination skin, it may be too dewy and too intense for you. (You could use it as a liquid highlighter though, in very targeted areas of the face.)
FLOWER BEAUTY GET REAL SERUM FOUNDATION
It wouldn’t be a top 5 hero products list without an appearance from Flower Beauty! If you haven’t yet tried anything from Drew Barrymore’s affordable makeup line, go check it out at your local CVS; it’s amazing quality. (If you’re looking for some top-tier recommendations, check out my edit here.)
Their Get Real Serum Foundation became my go-to everyday base product of 2021. I wrote a whole deep-dive review a year ago. This foundation is just perfect for me; and if you’re into super lightweight, hydrating bases with buildable sheer-to-light coverage, then it may be perfect for you too! It’s so easy to use and apply. I use one to one and a half pumps for all over my face, blend it out with either a brush or my fingers (light stippling motions are best), and bam you’re done. The finish is natural to slightly dewy, depending on how much you apply.
It’s not completely dissimilar to the now iconic ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint in texture and finish, so if you were curious to try that at a much lower price, you might consider picking up the Get Real Serum Foundation. (Note that the ILIA contains sun protection and specific skincare ingredients that the Flower does not.)
LAURA MERCIER CAVIAR STICKS
I’ve been a die-hard cream shadow stick lover for years. So easy, so convenient to use. While I still adore my Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Sticks, this year I’ve really fallen hard for the Laura Mercier Caviar Sticks, particularly in the shades Au Naturel, a satin-finish pink beige, and Cobblestone, a matte-finish taupe grey. I love ’em so much that I dedicated a whole post on the subject.
The texture on these is perfect: creamy enough to apply and blend, but then they set for a good eight or so hours of solid wear. I wouldn’t call them completely crease-less, but keep in mind that I generally don’t prime my lids before applying these.
Au Naturel is a great throw-on, all-over-the-lid shade for me when I want something barely-there. If you have a medium to deeper skin tone, this shade will be more statement and less natural. Cobblestone is a great shade for deepening up the outer corners of the eyes for something a bit smokier, or lining under the eyes to create shadow and definition. I’m constantly reaching for these two products – nearly everyday or at the least a few times a week – and with a collection as broad as mine, that’s saying something!
I’d love to hear your top 5 hero products from this year in the comments. Have a healthy and Happy New Year! See you in 2022!
xo, and be well, Erica
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