I have always believed in the transformational powers of a great new beauty product. I used to comb the aisles of Sephora in my early teenage years, convinced that the cure for my middle school awkwardness resided somewhere among the shelves. This is going to be the thing that changes it all, I’d think as I walked out of the store, clutching a leave-in conditioner that I’d hoped would give me shampoo-commercial hair overnight.
While I’ve long ago accepted that my fine, dry hair is not likely going to land me a Pantene contract, I’ve never stopped romanticizing the thought of a new beauty find and the change it might bring about. When I look back at some of the major periods of growth in my life, I’m reminded how many times I came across a new product at just the right moment.
I discovered MAC’s Ruby Woo during my freshman year of college when I was trying to make friends in a strange new city, and I swear swiping on a layer of that bright blue-red lipstick gave me the small confidence boost that I desperately needed. Later, when I was navigating post-grad life and the stress of my first real job, I found IT Cosmetic’s CC+ Cream at a time when I truly thought everyone in Manhattan was staring at my hormonal breakouts. And just this past year, when a pandemic turned the world as we knew it upside down, I found a glimmer of hope in an at-home manicure set, of all things. It might sound minor, but learning how to paint my nails at home, a skill that had always eluded me, reminded me of how I’d learn to adapt in trying situations before, and how I could do it again.
Knowing that my fellow Byrdie editors also believe in the life-changing abilities of a good beauty find, I asked them to share the best new products they came across while at home this past year. Some of our picks are from amazing new brands that, despite all odds, were able to successfully launch during the pandemic, while others are from established brands we've rediscovered. All of them, however, have one thing in common: they were able to bring us some comfort when we needed it most. Behold, the 25 best new beauty products we discovered at home.
I admit, I had my doubts about Alicia Keys' new "soulcare" line, but I can firmly say that I'm completely blown away. All the products come housed in beautiful glass jars that feel luxurious to use, and the Golden Cleanser is now my new favorite part of my nighttime routine—it has a honey-like texture that gently turns into a creamy lather and gets rid of all of my makeup in one wash. And the scent is so addicting—a mix of honey, turmeric and chamomile—it feels like a self-care ritual every night I wash my face. I actually get excited about washing my face every night just so I can use this product, seriously. Plus, I love that each product comes with its own self-care to repeat as you're applying the product—something that feels especially timely as I've been finding more of my comfort in my beauty routine.
Never in a million years would I think that I'd turn into the kind of person that makes myself an Instagram-worthy matcha latte every morning, but here I am—a morning matcha queen, all thanks to Golde. I stumbled upon Golde first on Instagram through its superfood powders, but lately am now fully on the matcha train—more specifically, the Pure Matcha powder, which I add to a cup of warmed-up oat milk and then froth with the brand's Superwhisk. The result is a very frothy, very 'grammable, very delicious matcha latte that I happily sip on to wake myself up in the morning, knowing that I'm treating my body to an energy boost with zero crash, plus a dose of chlorophyll, antioxidants, and amino acids.
I've used so many serums over the years but have always come back to the classic Advanced Night Repair because I can almost instantly see results, even after just a few days. So when I heard the brand was upgrading their formula with a new Chronolux Power Signal Technology, I knew I had to try it. I'm not joking when I say that the newer version is even faster-acting than the original. I've been dealing with the most annoying adult acne, and the new serum even helped my breakouts look less noticeable. Overall, though, my skin looked noticeably brighter, firmer, and more lightbulb-esque (in a good way). I've been finding a lot of joy and comfort in my skincare routine, and this newly-revamped serum is a highlight.
I've really been gravitating towards products that offer some sort of sensorial experience, and this one from French brand Payot is my new favorite. The skin on my body gets incredibly scaly, dry, and irritated during the winter months, so I try to always treat it with care and avoid any harsh cleansers. This cleansing oil magically leaves my skin feeling super-soft and clean after I use it (there's minimal lather, so it won't dry you out), and makes my shower smell like a jasmine-infused oasis. I've also been adding a few pumps when I take a bath, and I emerge from the bathtub with silky-soft skin like Venus emerging from the ocean (or at least that's how I picture it in my mind).
I discovered Black-owned brand 54 Thrones last year and was immediately intrigued by its chic packaging—and as it turns out, the formulas are even better. I love the consistency of the Beauty Butter, which I keep with me at all times and slather on my dry elbows and limbs, cuticles, and even use to smooth flyaways. The lavender scent is incredibly intoxicating, and using it feels like an aromatherapy experience in and of itself.
One of the travel-sized products I packed when I came home to Seattle is a tiny face oil vial from Mab & Stoke—it's now going to be my next full-size purchase. Mab & Stoke was founded by a True Botanicals alum and features customized wellness supplements you can drop in any liquid called "Mab Tabs," and also a face oil and body butter. The face oil and body butter are handcrafted in small batches, both smell incredible, and are made with a blend of antioxidants, linoleic, and oleic fatty acids to firm and help repair your skin's moisture barrier. The face oil especially has been saving my finicky skin, which is constantly feeling dry in some areas, oily in others, and breaking out everywhere else. I use the face oil as the last step in my skincare routine to seal everything in, and it instantly calms me down with its soothing scent. It's my new favorite face oil, and trust me, I've tried so many.
Back in October, legendary makeup artist Bobbi Brown launched this new, clean brand with six essentials—love them all, obsess over this one. I can think of only one other clean mascara that worked as well as a synthetic, and this one works better. The chic matte tube is filled with vitamin E, vitamin B and sodium hyaluronate for loads of lash TLC. The XL brush deposits a generous amount of formula that thickens and lengthens. (On days when barely there lashes are your thing, just give it an extra scrape along the side of the tube.) Plus it stays all day, no smudges, crumbles or smears.
My fine hair is also very fuzzy, especially on shampoo days. To soften the frizz, I need moisture. But the extra weight flattens me out. If reading this strikes a chord, do yourself a favor and buy this trio, which somehow delivers weightless moisture while thickening strands with amino acids, which have a strengthening effect over time (great for bleachers like me). Bonus: the fresh, aromatic blend of green notes and oakmoss is heavenly, plus it follows the EU standards of clean.
Of course, the launch of Fenty Skin sent shockwaves through the industry. I was so excited. My favorite of the bunch is the moisturizer, which is technically a two-for-one SPF and moisturizing combo. I like to layer it for added sun protection, and because the finish is incredible. It makes your skin look so good—glowy, plump, and bouncy. It's a pink-tinted cream formula, which is why it makes your skin so supple and radiant-looking, with kalahari melon for antioxidants and niacinamide (my favorite!) to even your skin tone.
I'd heard great things about Dr. Loretta products for a while before trying them (I'm a product loyalist at heart), but now the Intense Replenishing Serum is part of my daily morning routine. It is like a luscious, comforting blanket of moisture. I've never used a serum this thick and pillowy. Plus, it plumps, increases luminosity, and keeps your skin happy and smooth. The formula is a blend of Vitamins E and F to calm redness, glycolipids to replenish moisture loss, as well as an antioxidant called lipochroman, which protects against free radical damage caused by pollution and UV radiation. And, just so you know, Dr. Loretta's skin is stunning. So, yes, it works.
The pandemic has definitely changed my usual beauty routine, allowing me to streamline and remove any unnecessary extras (apologies to my lonely bag of makeup and styling products). That said, I added Pattern's Mist Spray Bottle to the mix because it's easy and genius. My curls have been through it over the years, from color, heat tools, and a less-than-helpful hair care routine. So my curl pattern isn't consistent and my hair isn't as healthy as it could be. This spray bottle helps. When my curls look lifeless or inconsistent, I fill it with water, spray my hair down, and scrunch. Immediately, everything perks up. The best part? The water is free and the bottle will last forever.
My under-eyes are prone to dark circles and puffiness—that's genetics for you. But these eye masks have been so helpful. Now that I have more time in the mornings (i.e. no commute), I pop them on for about 20 minutes and my under-eyes soak up all the good, helpful ingredients in my eye cream. They're transformative, and they're unprecedented. See, you don't throw them away after one use, or even after a few. They last up to a year (according to the brand) and they work with any of your favorite eye products to help the ingredients better penetrate your skin. So, all you have to do is buy them once, pat them dry, and leave them in the sleek little case until the next day.
This finishing powder is the exact product I've been manifesting for months, and it finally launched. I love to apply very glossy base products to keep my skin glowing, but sometimes (like around my nose, chin, and T-zone) it's a bit much. Enter: Becca's Finishing Veil. It's a powder, so it tones down those hot-spot areas on my skin, but it doesn't have an entirely matte finish. It's more luminous. It means I can keep my skin radiant without dealing with unwanted shine. It's perfect.
After months of looking into my dull, blemish-prone reflection on Zoom, I went a little overboard with chemical peels. My skin became even more acneic and inflamed until I tried Luxe Botanics' Kigelia Corrective Serum. Immediately, the redness faded, the flaking stopped, and I began to glow. I haven't stopped using it since. Its hero ingredient Kigelia africana is a Southern African fruit with antimicrobial and antifungal properties, and their formula also contains high impact classics like vitamin C, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid. Luxe Botanics also uses recyclable packaging, sources sustainable and fair trade ingredients, and partners with Buy1Give1 to support communities in Africa. Each product supports a different cause—for every product purchased in their Kigelia Line, they provide a 1 day business training course to a woman in Malawi.
Around since 1970, Japanese brand Decorté is far from new to the beauty industry, but new to me. I got the chance to try their products this fall when I interviewed their new brand muse, Brie Larson, and I've been in love ever since. I could go on and on about their products—their Moisture Liposome Cream is the only product that keeps my dehydrated-yet-oily skin soft and non-greasy all day; their Cream Blush and Lip Oils are the best I've ever tried, the platonic ideal of natural makeup products. Their Guasha Plate, however, has been my quarantine hero. Like many under the stress of the pandemic, my teeth-grinding habit took a turn for the worse this year. I'd always been suspicious of gua sha plates and jade rollers as just more products to buy, but stuck at home and desperate for a solution, I started to work Decorté's plate into my jaw and found sweet relief. I use the tool to massage my face and neck while I'm watching TV each day. The plate has so many notches and surfaces for different pressure points, and it's even helped with my perpetual sinus pressure and headaches.
Playing around with makeup has become one of my favorite pastimes during the pandemic. One of the best parts of creating different makeup looks has been taking time to try new brands and products. Last summer, Glamazon Beauty popped up on my radar and their products have quickly become some of my favorites to use. Founded by model-turned-MUA Kim Baker, the brand creates cosmetics that empower women of color. Their newest eyeshadow palette, for example, is completely dedicated to celebrating brown skin. Glamazon Beauty’s Hydro-Matte Liquid Lipstick ($20) and Second Skin Foundation Stick ($34) are two of my favorite products from the range. You’ll always find me wearing them.
Ever since being introduced to Odele's chic packaging, "clean" formulas (none of the 1,328+ cosmetic ingredients banned by the European Union are used), and remarkable price points, I've been exclusively using its hair products. You can easily shop by hair type and hair need to help narrow down your search—I've personally been a big fan of the Smoothing line for my fine, slightly-wavy-but-mostly-straight hair. Since I've been taking a fairly hands-off approach to my hair (re: air-drying and… that's it), the Air Dry Styler and Leave-in Detangling Tonic have been my go-to "tools" to help my hair lay nicely once it's fully dry. After I've absorbed most of the water with a towel, I spritz on some of the detangler before combing out, then work in a nickel-sized amount of the Air Dry Styler from mid-lengths to ends. This helps encourage my natural wave and smooths down any frayed cuticles.
Selena Gomez's Rare Beauty launched in October with one mission in mind—to raise $100 million for mental health services over the course of 10 years. And it couldn't come at a more critical time; according to a report by the CDC, 40 percent of adults have struggled with their mental health and/or substance use during the pandemic. Not only has the brand created some of my favorite complexion products to date (everything is intuitive, inclusive, and effective), but it also feels so good to send my dollars to a company that's giving back in such an impactful way. The cream blush from her Stay Vulnerable is my absolute favorite.
I had heard so many amazing things about The Honey Pot but it was only within the last few months that I was able to try them out. My introduction to the line was with the sensitive wipes and foaming sensitive wash. I love how these products are not only natural, but plant-based, and are really gentle where it really counts. Many feminine products I’ve tried in the past can be intimidating, over fragranced, or messy, but The Honey Pot seems to have taken these notes and totally figured it out. I never felt uncomfortable or had a negative reaction after use either, which, let's be honest, can happen with many washes and wipes. They really just keep you fresh and confident. Plus, they’re Black-owned which makes me more excited to give them a permanent place in my wellness routine.
Maybe I was living under a rock, but somehow I had never tried Dame Pat McGrath’s much-lauded makeup brand until last year. Her beautifully pigmented eyeshadows and soft yet study makeup brushes are some of the best quality products I’ve tried in a while, but the real star of the show for me is the Lip Fetish Sheer Colour Balms. They’re super hydrating and give my lips that much-desired-but-impossible-to-achieve popsicle stain finish. It comes in seven beautiful shades, but the warm-toned Flesh 3 hue is my favorite for a “your lips but better” look.
As I mentioned in my introduction, I was painfully bad at at-home manicures prior to the pandemic, which is why discovering The Mani System from Olivia and June truly felt like divine intervention. The polish brush handle makes it so much easier to paint both hands, but the real game changer is the clean up brush, which instantly swipes away any of my mistakes. I’ll admit, for me painting my nails is still not the self-care moment it is for other people, but I do love the end result. Something about having a fresh manicure makes me feel more put together while WFH even if I’m makeup-free and wearing sweats.
During quarantine, I discovered the Latinx haircare brand Ceremonia. After suffering from a bout of severe eczema last fall, I was looking for something that would help soothe my dry, itchy scalp. I love the fresh, floral yet earthy scent of Ceremonia's Aceite de Moska hair oil. It's become part of my nightly wind down routine, applying a few drops onto my scalp before showering then to my ends post shower.
Spending way too much time in front of my mirror this quarantine with an eagle's eye, I noticed subtle loss of elasticity in my skin. With salons closed and quarantining guidelines in place, I wanted to give my skin some TLC and perk it back to life. This compact at home microcurrent tool did just that. I noticed the skin on my cheeks felt instantly more taught. It felt like a 2020 miracle and a small skincare win.
I discovered suncare brand Everyday Humans last summer when it launched its newest sunscreen: Rosé S'il Vous Plait, a lightweight mineral SPF with skin-soothing ingredients like rose extract, aloe, and vitamin E. After falling in love with that product, I came across the brand's Resting Beach Face Sunscreen Serum, a sunscreen-serum hybrid (and Byrdie fave) that leaves absolutely no white cast—the only thing it does leave behind is a subtle, lit-from-within glow that looks gorgeous on all skin tones. During a summer when I was spending even more hours than usual outside—it was the only way to socialize safely with friends!—I used one or both of these products virtually every day, and have never looked back.
For me, 2020 was the year I dialed back my makeup routine. I stopped wearing foundation, pretty much, and often went totally bare-faced save for a swipe of mascara or lip tint, here and there. However, on days when I wanted a little extra glow, I found the perfect new product, which launched last fall: Live Tinted's HUEGLOW, a serum-highlighter hybrid that comes in two universally flattering shades. Plus, it can be worn both on the face and the body, anywhere you want a bit of extra shimmer (I love to use it on my shoulders and collarbones).