Internet hyperbole—in which we frequently use over-the-top language to express a positive reaction online—is rampant. (Associate Features Editor Amanda Montell hilariously explains the phenomenon further on The Dirty Word.) Everywhere you scroll and click, there’s a different transformative product, must-see video, or someone literally dying. With that in mind, you might have assumed that this link fell somewhere along those lines—just another dramatic testament to garner attention. But, seriously, it’s not.
As beauty editors, we see so many products come across our desks. Most of them we try, many of them we take home, and a few we incorporate into our daily arsenals. But very, very few change our lives. There are moisturizers that I’ve loved and lost and quickly moved on from. There are hair products I wouldn’t repurchase. But for each of us, there are select offerings that reinvigorated our love for makeup or transformed the way we saw our hair. There are products that can take you from tired, sallow skin to bright and radiant in mere minutes (so imagine what they can do in six to eight weeks).
That’s right, dear readers, this list encompasses only the crème de la crème. It’s a testament to how important feeling good about ourselves alters each and every day—and how paramount beauty products are, at least partially, to those feelings. But most of all, it’s a celebration of the formulas that live up to (and possibly surpass) their claims.
So, keep scrolling to find our BFFs in the form of makeup, hair, and skincare products.
“I owe my entire skincare routine to this product. Prior to obtaining it a couple of years ago, it was lucky if I halfheartedly removed my makeup with a wipe after work. I didn’t moisturize, tone, or anything. It was only after I began using this luscious cream cleanser—and in turn, taking the time to use the muslin cloth method that goes along with it—that I began to realize just how drastically my complexion improved when I took the time to really give it some TLC. Fast-forward several months, and I am now *obsessive* in how I treat my skin.”
“Until a few years ago, I basically resigned myself to the fact that my hair was just poufy, frizzy, and shapeless by nature. It turns out I had some lovely natural curls hiding under here all this time—I had just abused and dried my strands out so much with all the products and heat tools that I had been using that they couldn’t reach their full potential! It wasn’t until I gave up traditional shampoo and switched to cleansing cream that I got the glossy, frizz-free waves of my dreams.”
“Looking at photos of myself from just a couple of years ago is jarring. At the ripe old age of 22, I look exhausted, stressed, and, honestly, old! (True story: I showed my co-workers a snap from that time just a few weeks ago, and they didn’t recognize me!) A change in lifestyle certainly helped, but my dermaroller has done a lot of the heavy lifting. Using it regularly has permanently removed my under-eye bags and dark circles, diminished my laugh lines, and plumped up my pout, in addition to giving me skin an extra glow.
I’ll never stop raving about it.”
“True life: I’m addicted to highlighter. But especially the creamy, iridescent, pearlescent kind that makes you look just the right amount of dewy and angelic. Of all of these, Rituel de File makes the best. All of the shades—ranging from a golden peach to my favorite Ghost Light, a purple-tinged holographic shade-blend beautifully wherever you tap them, and they don’t slide and melt off by midday. I can and have talked the ear off of many an unassuming co-worker, friend, or stranger when it comes to these, so I’ll refrain and just say this: If you want a subtle, gorgeous sheen, these are the best highlighters money can buy.”
“I’m rarely disappointed by a Maybelline launch, and this new matte lipstick has more than surpassed my expectations—it’s broken through them and skyrocketed to the heavens. First of all, the formula applies easily—it’s not too thick, gloppy, or liquid-y (aka, hard to control). Three swipes were all it took for my lips to look perfectly coated. But the true standout is the longevity. This stuff does not budge. I applied it at 2 p.m., ate two (very generous) meals, washed my face, showered, woke up the next morning, and it was still on my lips.
Unlike other liquid lipsticks, it doesn’t feel like paint, and it didn’t crack in my lip lines. I can't get enough of this magenta-mauve hue and want my lips to look like this, permanently—and thanks to the formula, it might just be a reality.”
“I don’t get breakouts anymore because of this product—I’ll leave it at that. (You can read my full review for the big picture.)”
“I’ve had so much trouble finding a foundation that looks good in bright summer light but still offers the coverage I crave. No longer. Lab3’s Aqua BB Cream comes in an easy-to-use, portable compact and applies glowy, warm, and natural-looking—all the while still covering up any redness or spots. Every single time I’ve worn it my skin has garnered more compliments than ever before, which is why I accept the hefty price tag sans skepticism. Another beauty editor told me it looked like I had a ‘skin transplant.’ It's a true game changer.”
“Renée Rouleau is more than just a celebrity aesthetician—she’s a full-blown skincare goddess. She’ll answer my late-night text messages about blemishes in minutes and send over products she knows will help. So, I couldn’t wait to try her new peel, as brightening my often tired-looking skin is my main priority. That, and it smells and looks like jam. It’s a blend of antioxidant-rich berries with AHAs, BHAs, and enzymes to clear blemishes and clogged pores, fade post-breakout marks, lift discoloration, stimulate cellular renewal, and smooth the surface texture of your skin—while it reduces fine lines and larger pores.
So, yes, this is the one-stop shop for all things good skin. And let me tell you, it delivers on those promises in spades. I apply it whenever I want to look instantly refreshed, when I’m hungover, or have a special occasion coming up. There’s no redness, sensitivity—nothing. You look amazing seconds after washing it off.”
“To me, a signature scent is so romantic and sexy. The idea that someone can catch just a whiff and be reminded of you is the coolest thing in the world. After years of trial and error, I finally found mine. This Tom Ford scent is woody, warm, and spicy, with just a hint of floral. It’s everything I want all in one. I wear it a lot—like, perhaps too much—but it’s paid off in compliments. I don’t feel like me unless I have it on.”
“I’ll always consider myself a lipstick kind of girl, even though I don’t wear it as often as I used to. These two perfectly matte shades were my first-ever reds. For years, I was scared of red lipstick, sticking strictly to light pinks and natural-looking stains. But when I first tried Red Lizard (the dark tube) and Heat Wave (the orange-y one), everything changed. For four years straight, I wore lipstick every time I went out at night (and most days at the office). It was a part of me. Recently, someone told me he thought I looked different but couldn’t put his finger on what it was.
Then he realized it was because I wasn’t wearing lipstick. Case in point: Nars changed my life.”
“I can’t write about this product enough. It is magic. It feels lightweight and goes on smooth, covers even the darkest of under-eye circles, and stays put—no matter what. I’ve accidentally slept in my makeup to discover it still looks perfect, come morning. If you’re still not convinced, read my full-on love story dedicated to the stuff.”
“My hair is kind of my thing—in that it’s wild and crazy, so people tend to take notice. For years I tried to flatten it, straighten it, painstakingly style it (I even wore clip-on extensions for nine years), and all the while I forgot to take care of it. This shampoo changed that. It changed the way my hair felt and looked and, perhaps most importantly, the way I felt about my natural curls. My hair is admittedly dry and processed, but this shampoo helps maintain a healthy, swingy ’do no matter what.
Now, I just wash and go without a thought. Sometimes, I’ll even brush out the curls, Jerry Hall style, when I’m feeling especially sassy.”
“This formula has been 100% mind-blowing. It’s cooling, moisturizing, and really good for your skin, as it’s packed with five different kinds of hyaluronic acid. And even better, it works as the best primer my face has ever come into contact with. On days when I forget to apply it before foundation, I’ll actually wash off the foundation and start over. It makes your skin look glowy and immaculate, and it allows for really long-lasting, silky-looking coverage. Basically, it makes my skin look exactly like me—but so much better.”
“Having a quality curling iron is the impetus for perfect curls. I curl my hair just about every day, and this iron is a game changer. It also makes the most magical noise when it’s all heated up (it’s the little things). My curls last all day and look super sleek and shiny.”
“I rotate through mascaras fairly often, but I keep coming back to this offering from Mary Kay. My lashes look so long and voluminous afterward, which is a big feat for my stubby little blond fringe. I also love that it has a thin silicone wand that grabs onto all of my lashes, which means virtually no clumps.”
“The only issue I have with this serum is that it comes in such a small bottle. Luckily, just one drop takes care of my entire face and neck, so I can stretch it out a bit longer. It’s a viscous consistency that initially feels like an oil, but it finishes as a serum. The next day, my skin is insanely glowy and smooth. This is due in part to the EGF technology (epidermal growth factor), which stimulates skin growth at the cellular level.”
“I hate wearing lipstick because I have super-dry lips; it always tends to settle in the cracks and look gross. However, when I got a sample of this Nars matte lip pencil for my birthday from Sephora (thank you!), I discovered the holy grail of lip colors. Even though it’s matte, it somehow works with my dry lips and stays put for hours, even through eating and drinking.”
“Once you find your perfect match, skin-perfecting foundation, your life is changed. Like many women, I have amassed a significant foundation graveyard—all products that are nice but just not quite right. This one’s a bit too light, this one’s more shimmery than it appears, this one looks great in the a.m. but can’t be trusted past 2 p.m., and the list goes on. Charlotte Tilbury ended the search for me. Fair 2 is my second skin. It blends effortlessly, the coverage is thoroughly medium (and buildable when I need a little more), it’s luminous but not shimmery—honestly, I can’t say enough good things about it.
I never need to test a new foundation again.”
“This was the first cleansing cream I ever used, probably a little over a year and half ago now, and I’ve never looked back. I have pretty oily hair, so stretching out my wash times was not pretty. Since switching to a cleansing cream, I can easily wash my hair no more than twice a week and still not look like totally greasy. Plus, my hair is softer and more manageable—no more fighting tangles. I’ve tried several different cleansing creams over the past year or so, and this one is still my favorite.”
“So the name of this mask is a bit histrionic, but it really is a holy grail product for anyone with color-treated hair. The formula works to bind the hair cuticle and cortex, strengthening it from the inside out, and ever since I started using it on my bleached strands, my hair has never felt softer or healthier. Total game changer.”
“Renée Rouleau’s chemical exfoliating serums have become my holy grail, and this fairly new launch is my favorite of hers. It offers the perfect combination of AHAs and BHAs to make my otherwise lackluster skin glow like a cherub (without irritation). I use it three nights a week, and my face would be noticeably, well, blah-er without it.”
“I have had pretty severe KP on my arms and legs ever since I can remember, and not much has worked to make my skin touchably soft—except this miraculous product. I get really frustrated when body scrubs are too mild, but this one combines intense physical exfoliation with the chemical exfoliation of glycolic and lactic acid to leave my skin shockingly smooth. If you have KP, you need this in your life.”
“This unique fragrance is the one perfume that feels like it reflects my inner spirit. Linda Rodin (my personal beauty icon) designed the scent to smell like a mixture of tobacco and Juicy Fruit gum, which is how she remembers her mother to smell. So, I guess my inner spirit is that of a chic middle-aged woman? Fine by me. I cherish this stuff.”
For more product recommendations, find out which drugstore product every makeup artist buys.