Introducing: The Byrdies! We’re spotlighting the best in beauty with our biggest, most comprehensive collection of award-winning products yet. Never before have consumers and experts alike had to parse through more brands, launches, products, and formulas—so we wanted to cut through the noise and highlight the cream of the crop. You’ll find brand-new launches along with time-tested favorites, as well as a spotlight on the people who have shape-shifted the beauty space through influence, innovation, artistry, and medical expertise. Together, each one has made an indelible mark on our routines in 2021. Below, find the process we used to select winners, what our Tags mean, and an introduction to our knowledgeable guest judges.
Our Winner Selection Process
Our team of 15 editors and five guest judges tested hundreds of products in over 90 categories throughout the year and nominated over 400 as contenders. From there, we selected winners based on the three categories below:
- Efficacy: Does the product do what it promises?
- Overall value: How long does it last? Do the results feel worthy of the price? Did we use it until it was empty? How much joy does it bring us?
- That special something: Sometimes, it's hard to tell why you love a product. The texture, the scent, the ritual of applying it; it all adds up to that magical falling-in-love feeling when you find a new formula or finish one you've loved for a long while. We took those sparkly memories into account when choosing our winners. Beauty is supposed to be fun, experimental, and personal after all.
What Our Tags Mean
We know the beauty space can be confusing to navigate, so we’re making it easy with our Tags feature. With these tags, you'll instantly see which of our winners are Byrdie Clean, made with sustainable packaging, vegan, cruelty-free, Black-, AAPI-, or Latinx-owned, and/or have a charitable element. That way, it's easier be intentional with the way you shop and find brands that hold the same values you do. Here’s what each of these tags means below:
- Byrdie Clean: This means the product fulfills our Clean Beauty Pledge and does not contain any of the ingredients listed in the pledge.
- Sustainable packaging: A product made with sustainable packaging means it’s made from either fully-recycled or partially-recycled materials—or, that the brand made an effort to reduce excess plastic or packaging waste somewhere along its product creation process.
- Vegan: A vegan beauty product contains absolutely no animal-derived ingredients or byproducts. That includes popular natural moisturizing agents such as beeswax, honey, and lanolin, plus the color pigment carmine.
- Cruelty-free: If a brand does not test on animals at any point during a product’s creation, then we consider that brand cruelty-free.
- Black-owned: As part of our Diversity Pledge, we feature at least 15% Black-owned/founded brands in all of our product roundups, in accordance with the 15% Pledge started by Aurora James. The Byrdies are no different—at least 15% percent of our winners are Black-owned brands.
- AAPI-owned: If the brand is AAPI-owned or founded, we'll mark it with this tag.
- Latinx-owned: This means the brand is Latinx-owned or founded.
- Gives back: We use this tag to denote if the brand has a charitable element, such as donating a percentage of proceeds to a social justice organization or sustainable initiative.
Meet Our Guest Judges
To help us make our selections this year, we employed four guest judges who are all leading experts in the world of clean, ethical beauty. Get to know them below.
David Yi, co-founder of Good Light and author of "Pretty Boys"
David's editor at Very Good Light, co-founder of skincare brand Good Light, and the author of the book, Pretty Boys, the first and only history of men, masc-identifying people, and their relationship to beauty and masculinity. David's been named as one of Logo 2021's 30, is a GLAAD award nominee, Webby award nominee, and was named one of 25 people changing the beauty conversation by Marie Claire.
Katie Jane Hughes, celebrity and editorial makeup artist
Katie Jane Hughes is a British celebrity and editorial makeup artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Her clients include Ashley Graham, Hailey Bieber, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Kate Bosworth and more. When she’s not on set or working with clients, Katie is sharing her extensive knowledge of beauty tips and tutorials on Instagram, where she has amassed a cult community of beauty enthusiasts.
Elyse Love, MD FAAD board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Elyse Love is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in both medical and cosmetic dermatology. An Alabama native, Dr. Love completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Alabama and received her doctor of medicine from Emory University School of Medicine. Currently, Dr. Love practices at Spring Street Dermatology in NYC where she takes a holistic approach to medicine, incorporating diet and fitness as part of the patient treatment plan.
Sophia Emmanuel, trichologist and licensed cosmetologist
Sophia began her career as a hairstylist and, after fielding many concerns about hair loss from her clients and being unsure how to help, she decided to become an IAT-certified trichologist. Today, Emmanuel strives to identify scalp and hair follicle issues early on and offers premium restorative treatments at her practice. Emmanuel is also the founder of her blog, CrownWorthy, where she writes articles on hair-loss treatment specifically geared toward the natural hair community.
Sean Garrette, licensed esthetician and skincare specialist
Sean Garrette is a licensed esthetician and skincare specialist based in NYC. With over seven years of experience, Sean focuses on treating and educating his clients and followers on the importance of skin health through curated spa treatments and dynamic social media content. Concentrating on skin of color, Sean Garrette advocates for his clients to ensure skincare is not only accessible, but also inclusive.