All beauty collections have to start somewhere. Most start with cast-offs from friends and family, random GWPs accumulated over the years, and impulse sale purchases from drugstore runs. And then, slowly but surely, your collection evolves into a full-fledged beauty arsenal even your grandmother would be proud of. But it can take some work to get there. As long as you have these 13 fundamental products in your toolkit, you know you’re on the right track.
Scroll through to find out what if your beauty collection is stocked with the essentials!
As you age, cell turnover slows, and your complexion can dull and look lackluster as a result. For clear, bright skin, invest in a good peel. Whether you like a biweekly fruit enzyme and acid mask, like Rodial’s Super Acids X-Treme Acid Rush Peel ($94), or daily glycolic acid pads, like First Aid Beauty’s Facial Radiance Pads ($30), regularly using a peel will help you maintain your youthful glow.
What you use for cleansers, toners, and moisturizers doesn’t really matter too much as long as they’re gentle, don’t irritate your skin, and get the job done. But you do need a good scrub. Even if you’re team chemical exfoliation all the way, every now and then it just feels good to use a real skin-polishing scrub. Just be sure you’ve graduated from the grainy, skin-damaging versions and moved onto something with uniform crystals, like Lancer Skincare’s The Method Polish Exfoliator ($75) or Goldfaden MD’s Doctor’s Scrub Advanced ($98).
Retinol truly is the miracle product that will change your skin. Whether you’re fighting acne or wrinkles (or both), retinol should be a part of your skincare routine. It not only speeds up cell turnover but also promotes collagen production (among other benefits). The only issue is certain retinol products can be irritating for some complexions. If you’re one of those people who don’t tolerate retinol well, try Kate Somerville’s DermalQuench Liquid Lift + Retinol ($98)—it delivers oxygen along with retinol and other firming ingredients. Or try retinol in soothing oil-form, like Ren’s Bio Retinoid Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Oil ($60).
We’ve all been schooled enough on the importance of daily sunscreen. Many women still go without because they can’t find a sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white cast or cause them to break out. But let us tell you there are plenty that fit the bill. Radical Skincare’s Skin Perfecting Screen SPF 30 ($55) and Murad’s Invisiblur Perfecting Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($65) are two of our favorites because not only are they undetectable but they also deliver anti-aging benefits and diffuse skin imperfections.
Every beauty routine should have an indulgence—something you don’t use often but look forward to it when you do. Whether it’s your favorite brightening, moisturizing, do-it-all sheet mask (ours is 111Skin’s Bio Cellulose Facial Treatment Mask, $160) or the beauty gadget you splurged on, any established beauty arsenal should be equipped with a “pamper me” product.
You may not wear foundation every day and you may not even wear it every week, but there will be a day when you want (or need) to put it on and will be thankful you have it. And foundation may not even mean “foundation” for you—it could be a tinted moisturizer or pressed powder—whatever it is, just make sure it’s your perfect match. L’Oréal’s True Match Super-Blendable Makeup ($12) is still one of our top picks, for its extensive color range and long-lasting wear.
Equally if not more important is your perfect-match concealer. The search may take time, but it will be worth it. And don’t forget to experiment with different formulas, too—liquid, cream, serum, stick—until you find the one you like best. If you’re creamy-conceal type of girl, Bobbi Brown’s Creamy Concealer ($25) is one of the greatest, and it comes in 15 shades.
Not to be confused with nude, the your-lips-only-better color is that pinkish mauve or brown that almost matches your lips only it’s one shade more pigmented. Maybe that means it’s just one shade away your natural lip color or one shade pinker. Whatever the case, it’s the lip color that looks like you’re not wearing anything but just makes your pout look beautiful. Lorac’s Alter Ego Lipstick in Duchess ($16) falls into that category.
There’s something about red lipstick that you don’t get from the other colors. When you wear it, you just feel different, in a good way. But it can be intimidating. The key is to find one that suits not only your coloring but also your preferences. Your red lipstick may actually be a deep burgundy lip gloss or more of a true red, like Bliss’s Bold Over Long Wear Liquefied Lipstick in Cherry on Top ($21).
A blush that almost disappears and just gives you a natural flush is a must. A soft peachy pink, like Nars’s Blush in Orgasm ($30), is usually a safe bet for most complexions.
There’s no quicker way to perk up your complexion and fake a full night’s sleep than with a touch of highlighter. If you find the one that works for your complexion, you’ll be able to skip the contour altogether. Try Chantecaille’s Liquid Lumière Highlighting Fluid ($39); it comes in three different, slightly shimmery shades.
There’s nothing wrong with trial and error when it comes to eyeliner. The best part is you can achieve any look with any formula if you know how to use it. Just because you can’t wield an eyeliner brush dipped in gel liner the way you’d like doesn’t mean you can’t create a perfect cat eye. Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner ($22) is great for beginners and pros alike.
Hair masks may seem like an unnecessary addition to your already lengthy shower routine, but if you feel that way, it’s probably because you haven’t found the product that works wonders on your hair. But once you find one you like, it’ll be a part of your beauty routine you look forward it. Just make sure the one you choose is realistic. If you’re not one for long showers, don’t pick the product that has a 15-minute wait time. We like Briogeo’s Don’t Despair, Repair Deep Conditioning Mask ($26). But also don’t be afraid to keep it simple—if you’re coconut oil–obsessed and know you’ll use that, go for it.
How many of these products are already in your beauty arsenal? Tell us below!