In the summer of 2020, typically a season of slower living, longer days, and vitamin D-induced joy, we were still deep in the throes of a global pandemic hoping for a full reprieve the following year. We've made great strides with science and a resulting lowered case count since then, but we're definitely not out of the woods yet, and it's too soon to say for certain what next month or even next week will look like. We can't control the future, but what we can do is choose safety, the advice of medical professionals, and, for the sake of our mental health, our own happiness, whether that's served by a walk on the beach, a call with a friend, or, for us beauty-obsessives, a new product launch we can't stop raving about.
With uncertainty still whirling around us, a cooling serum, a swipe of a bright lip color, or curl-reviving crème has been a welcomed form of self-care, and testing new products—despite it being a part of our job descriptions—has offered respite in trying times. Some of our discoveries in the past year or so has left a lasting impact and become staples in our beauty wardrobes, so much that we have no plans of quitting them for the foreseeable future. Perhaps one day soon we'll be applying them in a world where the only "mask" in our lexicons is one that hydrates hair, but until then, we'll keep using them to make ourselves feel a sense of relief, even if just for a brief moment.
"This featherweight foundation lives up to its 'serum' name thanks to a silky, liquid texture that melts into your skin. A few drops on my face provides an almost full coverage that looks like my skin—but better."
"I’m not a gel person, but this Miss Jessies formula has made me a firm believer. The kind of sticky, kind of gooey texture latches onto my natural curls and provides an all-day hold that isn’t flaky or crunchy. From wash-and-gos to slick buns, this is a staple in my hair routine year-round."
"A nude pink lip gloss that is both creamy and opaque is always in my collection. This one checks those boxes giving my lips a barely-noticeable pink glaze that’s super close to my natural lip color. Bonus: It’s super nourishing and keeps me hydrated for hours on end."
"I took a chance and saw a new colorist in my fairly new hometown about a month back, and let's just say I entered panic mode when I looked in the mirror the morning after the appointment. The blonde color, which looked decent in the salon, now had a macaroni-and-cheese tinge to it. I had a wedding the following weekend, which would be the first time I would see some of my college friends in well over year, and I needed a solution fast to fix the brassy, yellow-y tones in my hair. Serendipitously, a new-to-me Aussie haircare brand called Davroe pitched me their Blonde Senses line, to which I immediately called in and put to the test. The results were exactly what I wanted: the combination of the dark purple shampoo and conditioner left on for just two minutes each completely reversed the yellowing in my hair and left me with silky, more subdued sandy-blonde strands. I also tested out the Ends Repair treatment to help reverse the damage my hair underwent from the color processing, and found it to be a super smoothing, revitalizing solution. Just call me a convert."
"I've been searching for the perfect ribbed workout set and finally found it in this Set Active collab with haircare brand, Ouai. The line is inspired by three shades of Ouai's most beloved products (ice blue for the Body Crème, taupe for the Treatment Masque, and dusty rose for the Hair & Body Oil). The colorway, Mercer Street, is the perfect medium stone shade, and the fabric itself is stretchy yet thick with a slightly shape-wear feel to help smooth and tone, which I love from my activewear. It's the perfect set to go from sweating to running errands—just tie a white linen button-down over it and throw on some tennis shoes and your workout garb is suddenly a stylish outfit."
"I recently learned that vitamin C and sunscreen are the ultimate pairing: Sunscreen helps prevent vitamin C from oxidizing on the skin while vitamin C offers added free-radical protection that sunscreen can't fully provide. What's more, vitamin C induces collagen repair as well as prevents sunburn cell formation for even better sun protection. As such, I've been adding this serum to my morning routine and have noticed an overall more radiant complexion. I've also been applying it to some newly formed sunspots on my shoulders and have seen a noticeable reduction in their appearance."
"I haven't been in sweats this much since my days on the soccer field or the track, and I still plan to dress comfortably as we venture back out into society. This wonderful black-owned apparel line called Declare It + Wear It was founded by two friends with the intention of combining a positive message and comfort. The 'I Am Fearless' sweatshirt will continue to get me through many chilly nights quite comfortably."
"I've been loving dabbling in different Ouai products and recently started using their Scalp and Body Scrub. The aroma is a lovely floral scent with a hint of bergamot and champagne. It feels buttery soft as I apply it and leaves my skin feeling silky smooth—not to mention, it smells so good. It's been super beneficial for evening out any rough patches from leftover pool-day peeling."
"During this extended time at home, I discovered new Latinx haircare brand Ceremonia. I've recently started using their Pequi Curl Activator after washing my hair. Using a dime-size amount of the milky serum, I apply it from mid-length to the ends of damp hair and run my fingers through to detangle. As my hair air-dries with the help of the curl activator, the results are amazing. My natural waves bounce back to life. The wave pattern only gets bouncier as the day goes on; it's a true miracle product. I'm excited to use this once the commute back to the city starts again. My hair will now be able to withstand the long day's itinerary."
"One of the best habits I’ve adopted during the pandemic is making my own coffee. In place of my daily Starbucks and free office coffees, I started brewing my own lattes at home and am now the proud owner of a milk frother, trendy glass mugs, and just about every coffee syrup under the sun. The best addition to my new coffee routine, however, has been Golde’s Coconut Collagen Boost powder. It adds the perfect amount of sweetness and froth while supercharging my lattes with collagen, so I’m giving my hair, skin, and nails a boost while I sip. I’ll undoubtedly be keeping a tub at my desk once we return to the office."
"The uses for this watermelon dew drop serum are pretty much endless, which explains why I found myself reaching for it so often this past year. It can be applied on its own for a natural, fresh-looking glow sans makeup, which was perfect for early morning Zoom calls during the pandemic. It also makes for a great primer under makeup, can be used as a gloss for your eyes, and can be mixed with foundation for a boost of hydration. My favorite way to apply it, however, is on top of my makeup as the last step in my routine—it gives my foundation a glassy, almost wet finish that I love. It’s garnered me compliments both on video and IRL, so it’s officially earned a permanent place in my routine."
"This blow-dry cream from Briogeo has gotten me as close to faking a salon blowout at home as I’ll ever get. I apply a quarter-size amount to my damp hair before blow-drying, and it makes my hair ten times smoother, softer, and shinier. Plus, it protects against heat up to 450°F so I can achieve my desired sleekness without causing as much damage. I recently skipped the salon blowout after getting my highlights done because I knew I could get the same look at home for free using this cream… that’s how good it is."
"In the privacy of my apartment, I had the space and time to play around with a makeup product that always intimidated me: bronzer. About-Face's Light Lock Highlight Fluid is now my go-to for a sunkissed glow. I'll apply it on my cheekbones and nose, and I'll forgo blush and highlighter—it's an all-in-one product. A warning: These drops are seriously pigmented. The first time I applied them, I looked like I was covered in dirt. But, now I've learned that if I accidentally go overboard, they're also super blendable: A fluffy brush will buff away the excess, no problem."
"For a while during the pandemic, I forwent foundation entirely. My old foundation had been discontinued and I learned to literally be comfortable in my own skin again. After a while though, I started to attend more social events and realized I wanted a product with some coverage to smooth redness and texture issues. Ilia's Skin Tint is my favorite your-skin-but-better product for an ultra dewy look that's natural and radiant. Plus, it has SPF. This is my new workday staple. I pat it on like a serum and I'm ready to go."
"Pre-pandemic, I thought face oils made me greasy. I'd convinced myself they were an extra step for nighttime hydration, one I didn't need. How wrong I was. I've learned that a morning face oil can either lock in my moisturizer (during the winter) or replace it (during the summer) and prevent grease throughout the day. Now, I have a full collection of face oils, but my favorite for daytime use is Herbivore's Phoenix. I pat on a few drops and the amber color wakes up my complexion immediately. It absorbs very fast for a dewy but never slick finish—plus, the rosehip oil contains Vitamin A and all the regenerating properties that come with it."
"I've developed a deeper appreciation for scent during the pandemic. Candles have been one of the things that have helped me create a calm, peaceful environment at home amid the pandemic. There are a plethora of candles laying around my house, but nothing compares to the smell of Alexandra Winbush's Sunday in Brooklyn. The candle fragrance is a blend of lemongrass and wild basil. It smells incredibly soothing. I now look at candles as an integral part of my self-care routine and plan to burn this one well into the fall and winter months."
"The pandemic quickly taught us beauty lovers that masks and lip glosses don't mix. Eventually, I'm excited to return to the office wearing all of my favorite lip glosses, but until then, I've been enjoying trying new products in the comfort of my home or in safe settings. Ami Colé's Lip Treatment Oil has become my favorite to use. It leaves my lips looking shiny and with a beautiful, natural tint. This lip gloss is especially perfect for the fall and winter months because it also conditions your lips while you wear it thanks to ingredients like baobab, camellia, and passionfruit seed oil. You'll probably find me swiping this on several times throughout the day at my desk."
"Planning for a return to the office (one of these days) already has me thinking about what my morning beauty routine will look like. On the days I wear makeup, I predict I'll reach for easy-to-use products that will help me create a quick look. One product I've fallen in love with this year is Fenty Beauty's Eaze Drop Blurring Skin Tint. It requires little effort or time to apply, making it perfect for the days I'm trying to get ready in a flash. It also delivers amazing results. I apply a few drops to my face and blend it out using my hands. This tint instantly evens out my complexions, blurs my skin, and leaves me with an overall natural glow."
"For TMRW is an Afro-Latina founded, non-toxic, vegan, and cruelty-free brand that focuses on providing an intentional nail care ritual. I am currently loving their cool-girl shade, For Always. Not only have I been applying it a bunch in my recent design work, but I'm using it on my nails as well. It's the perfect combination of a pop of color for summer, while also being neutral enough for year-round use."
"Nopalera is a vegan and cruelty-free fragrance that uses natural Mexican botanicals in its bath and body products. As a Latina woman, I love that they source the bulk of their products from plants that are rich in the Latinx community. My favorite of their products is the Cactus Flower Exfoliant. It's the perfect summer product, especially after a long beach day, but can also be used any time of year."
Mented is a Black, woman-owned beauty brand with the goal of ensuring every woman, regardless of her skin tone, can find herself in the world of beauty. Not only is their mission beautiful, their products are stunning. As someone with lighter olive skin who gets both pale in the winter and tan in the summer, I wanted to try Mented semi-matte lipstick because I've always struggled to find one that wasn't too cool or too warm, but could also be worn year-round despite the differences in my skin tone. With Mented, I think I've found the one. Their Semi-Matte Lipstick in Peach Please complements my coloring and my yellow undertones that I feel confident will still look good even in the winter months."
My go-to makeup look is very highlighter focused; glowy, glossy skin or bust. That said, not all highlighters achieve the natural-looking, finish I desire—i.e. no sparkles, no holographic undertones, no cake-y finish. I'm looking for that ever-elusive lit-from-within stuff (cliché, I know). This product is the one. It offers a highlight that looks like it just ended up perfectly placed across your cheekbones and temples because your skin is just that good. It's a little sweaty, perfectly dewy, and translucent. There's been a ton of buzz around the Ami Cole products and now I understand why. This highlighter feels like it was dropped from the heavens to offer the perfect golden, lightweight, melty finish on my bare skin. I've been using it since it dropped and I plan to continue until I'm digging it out from the bottom of the packaging.
The magic of Byredo's fragrances is no secret—there are so many heavy-hitters on the brand's docket. This one, however, is my absolute favorite. It smells like fancy, freshly-washed skin—in fact, the brand describes it as "bodies slipping beneath fresh sheets; laundry baskets filled to the brim; a punch of detergent." If that doesn't take your breath away I don't know what will. With notes rose, violet, sandalwood, and musk, this intimate-feeling scent is everything I've ever wanted and more. It's light enough for sweaty summer days and warm and woody enough to take me straight into the fall and winter months.
Taking care of my skin has always been a big thing for me, only the last 18 months have made it a constant priority. I've watched as stress and anxiety have practically furrowed my brow permanently and my skin just feels sallow and cloudy. For me, finding a good cleanser has been a priority for the last few months (I ran out of my previous favorite and have had a revolving door of other options come through as I try to replace it with a new launch). This one is genuinely lovely. The texture is a delicate gel that turns to a light foam when introduced to water. It smells fresh; faintly herbal and citrusy but not in an obtrusive way. It's clarifying, so it rebalances my skin while still hydrating, nourishing, and soothing inflammation. Together, the ingredients (grape and olive leaf extracts, as well as a combination of linoleic and linolenic acids) work to promote cell turnover, bring the radiance back to my skin, and leave my face feeling bouncy and happy. Plus, the brand creates this product using the Waste-Not Sourcing Initiative—this means Circumference partnered with Brightland Olive Oil to upcycle the leftover olive leaf and use it in their products.
I've never used a cream bronzer before and liked it, but Saie changed my mind. This balmy, velvety, easy-to-apply formula makes me look naturally bronzed (and I haven't been to the beach all season). It's easy to build and blend, a must for makeup novices like me, and it looks like real skin. All I do it smooth it on along by hairline, cheekbones, and jawline—and blend. It's as easy as that.