'Tis the season for my beauty favorites of the entire year 2014! Are you as excited as I am? I've been jotting down ideas for my annual picks for a good month now, and I'm finally ready for a grand reveal. So... drumroll please! In no particular order, but starting with skincare:
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads (review & comparison with other exfoliating pads and acid toners here): I don't often woe seeing the bottom of a deluxe skincare sample, which is what happened when I first tried the FAB rounds last February. I promptly finished my other pads and repurchased the full size of lactic acid-based Facial Radiance Pads, and I'm definitely planning to pick up another tub once my current one runs out - I love them this much. I see a visible improvement in the clarity and texture of my skin, as well as better absorption of serums and moisturizers I layer over the top - all of that without any redness, stinging or peeling.
here): Another exfoliating favorite, but this time something I use weekly rather than daily. This clear, water-like, liquidy serum sinks in immediately, and does this magical thing where the morning after application, my skin is so soft, so bouncy, and a lot more even. I think it's good to mix up your acids for better efficacy and the Intense Renewal Serum does the trick for me.
Now, onto what you've surely been waiting for - make-up!
here): I've been hearing that a lot of people had given in to the NARS concealer hype only to return it a couple days later because it looked too dry under their eyes. But for me, it's perfect, maybe because I don't ever use it to cover dark circles - I use it on spots and scars. It's very pigmented, very blendable and layerable, and never looks cakey on my 'problem areas', ha. I use it by swiping a tiny bit from the doe foot wand on the back of my hand, and then I pick up little by little with a small brush and spot conceal - not the most time-efficient method but looks supremely natural. Chantilly is a very light shade that oxidizes just a smidge to blend in with my skintone perfectly - a shade match and formula win-win.
Shu Uemura Hard Formula 9 Brow Pencil in Seal Brown (full review here): Since my initial review, I've stared to appreciate this cult eyebrow pencil even more - it's quick, precise, looks natural on the brows and lasts all day. The shade Seal Brown is spot on too, the best color match I've ever found for my brows. I've recently tried the popular Benefit Gimme Brow gel too, but nothing beats the Shu pencil for me!
here): Last year I was all about the Sephora Contour 12 HR Wear eyeliner pencils, but this year Pixi Eye Pens (pencils, dammit!) have surpassed them: on top of just as creamy and pigmented formula, they seem to last better on my waterline, and they don't even transfer from top to bottom waterline. If you've still not tried them, you're missing out!
here, and look - are there three more pans in the photo...?): To be honest, I like all of the RBR eyeshadows I've tried, but the original 'When Birds Are Singing' formula slightly more than the Limited Edition mineral wet/dry formula of the Chronos palette (click!). There's something very special and sophisticated about Rouge Bunny Rouge shimmers, and the newer to me mattes are simply dreamy. I fell down the bunny hole of these eyeshadows, no doubt about it.
here, and the pastel Static here): Since we're already talking about sophisticated shimmers, I'd be remiss not to mention the Shiseido Luminizing formula. While their trios are not the most pigmented shadows I've ever encountered, the subtle, glowy, perfecting finish they impart on your lids is hard to come by in other brands. The color combinations in these trios are very interesting too, and I already have my beady eye on a couple more. I definitely recommend you swatch these next time you're near a Shiseido counter!
here): This year was also the first time I've tried a cheek product with a jelly finish, and now I'm completely hooked (more jelly reviews to come next year!). If you're looking for an inexpensive, radiant, lightweight but pigmented cream blush, the Canmake Cream Cheeks are simply beautiful. While they're not easily accessible in the US without shopping on eBay or a dedicated Japanese cosmetics website, these little gems are well worth the trouble.
here): Again with the glowy but not sparkly finish (can you see a pattern here?) - I really, really like this year's Hourglass blush palette. But my love of this blush formula goes beyond the palette, so if you skipped out on that one, I would still give their regular Ambient blush line-up a good swatchathon next time you're in Sephora. Beautiful, easily buildable shades in a formula that melds into your skin and lasts an entire day.
here): Quite surprisingly, I only have one favorite lip product for the entire year, and it's this Shu Uemura sheer number. I simply haven't bought (and tried) very many new to me lipsticks this year, but from what I've sampled, this one was a clear standout: lightweight, decently hydrating, and beautifully cushiony on the lips, the light pink PK331 leaves me wanting more Shu Uemura lipsticks.
here): I know I've said there's no reason to buy the Beautyblender if one already has the less expensive Real Techniques sponge, but in the end, the Beautyblender seems to have gained an edge over the RT thanks to its better durability and bounciness. The reason I'm including the famous pink egg in my round-up is the fact that I've been working with some less than perfect foundations this year, and the only reason they look decently natural and even on my skin is down to the application with a damp Beautyblender. So, if you have any bases in your stash that drive you absolutely nuts and you're thinking of throwing them in the trash, give them one last chance with this - I find that it really makes a difference.
And a first for my annual beauty favorites, a couple haircare picks - because now that I have long and somewhat damaged locks, I need a bit more TLC.
Batiste Dry Shampoo: I've tried a good number of different dry shampoos in the past couple years, both on the drugstore and salon end of the spectrum, and good ol' Batiste may just be my favorite of all. It soaks up the oils effectively without making your hair stiff, sticky or dirty-feeling, gives a little bit of texture and volume, costs under $8 and comes in a variety of scents and shades. What's not to love? I'll be repurchasing.
And there you have it! You may have noticed a prevalence of high-end brands here, as well as a respectful nod towards Asian brands, especially in my make-up favorites. The simple reason for that is that those products are genuinely what I've been interested in trying this year compared to last year for example, which featured a lot more easily accessible American brands. I have also tried and fallen in love with some cult classics this year, like the Shu eyebrow pencil or the Beautyblender. What can I say, I like to mix up more niche brands with old favorites!
I hope you enjoyed this round-up of my favorite beauty products for this year, and please let me know in the comments what your picks are for this year, so I can try them out in 2015! Can you believe how fast 2014 has gone by? Are you already planning your New Year's Eve party outfit and make-up or are you still in the post-Christmas food coma?