Sunday, December 27, 2015

15 Best Beauty Buys of 2015

Drumroll, please! Tis the time you've all been waiting for: my yearly favorites! Every December, I really enjoy looking back at twelve months of posts here on Rocaille Writes and deciding which products are making the cut into my favoritest favorites. However this year, I have to say that I was a bit stumped: I tested a lot of average products that I was feeling a bit 'meh' about, and a lot of good products that I liked, but maybe not quite enough to put them on the list. Then when I searched my memory for products that I used the most this year, a whole lot of them were things I've already mentioned in previous years' installments of my Best Beauty Buys: Buxom Full-On lip glosses, bareMinerals READY eyeshadows, First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads...

But in the end, when I thought about products I tried this year that I would not hesitate to recommend to just about anyone, these 15 beauties emerged from the depths of my beauty stash. All of them have been previously reviewed in detail, so I'll link all the separate posts and just jot down a few additional thoughts to spike your interest. Now, in no particular order...
1. Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder in Highlight 01 (review):
This year has definitely been the year of powder highlighter for me, and it all started with this one. In the past, when my skin was quite oily and I was struggling with textural issues, additional glow on the face was not my friend; but as my skin's became more balanced, I've been enjoying wearing luminizing products a lot more. Laura Mercier's Baked Highlight is a cult favorite for a reason: incredibly smooth texture, universal shade, and easily controlled to suit both very subtle as well as more dramatic looks. Yes, it is a bit pricey, but for the amount you get in the compact, it should very well last you for years.

2. Inglot HD Sculpting Powder in 504 (review)
I'm definitely not a fan of the strong contoured look championed by the Kardashians, but Inglot's HD Powder in 504 has won me over with its silky texture, supreme buildability and a very natural look on the face - when used sparingly, it's definitely subtle enough for my critical eye. Since my initial review, I've also been using it a lot as a transitioning shade in the crease to blend out just about any eye look. Big thumbs up.

3. Pixi Beauty Glow Tonic (review)
If you're looking for a gentle acid tone product to incorporate into your routine - perhaps something similar to my favorite First Aid Beauty pads but more economical - Pixi's Glow Tonic is your friend. I'm very nearly done with my first bottle and already have another one on back-up, and I love using it especially in the mornings, because I can rest assured it will keep my skin smooth and bright without any irritation or redness.

4. Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion Moist (review)
Out of all the hyaluronic acid serums I've tried over the years, I truly believe that Hada Labo Gokujyun is the most effective at hydrating my skin - and probably the least expensive price per ounce. It's an incredibly simple product: hardly more than a mixture of water, glycerin and three types of hyaluronic acid, but boy, does it work like nothing else. It's also quite a multipurpose product, as you can use it as a toner and serum in one, or on its own as a lightweight moisturizer, or like Claire suggested, mixed into a clay mask to make it less drying on your face.

5. Laneige Water Sleeping Mask* (review)
 I believe that 2015 was the year of Korean beauty trends truly emerging on our market - even Sephora now carries an assortment of popular Korean brands (obviously, at a steep mark-up; I recommend you browse around online to find the best price). One of the bigger trends are sleeping packs or simply put overnight face masks, out of which Laneige's Water Sleeping Mask is a cult favorite, and for a good reason. The ingredients may raise an eyebrow from those who prefer fragrance and dye-free products, but the truth is that this product really works - much better than the Origins Drink Up Intensive Mask that was so popular a year or two ago.
6. Fresh Sugar Shine Lip Treatment (review)
I've been a big fan of Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF15 and its various Tinted offspring ever since I tried them in a Sephora birthday kit years ago, but this year I finally tried the Sugar lip gloss and was very pleasantly surprised by it. It's just as comfortable and moisturizing as the lip balms, but gives an extra bit of shine and can be easily paired with a lipstick, especially if you want to counteract some drying effects of a less than stellar formula. As you may see in the photos, I'm very nearly done with my mini tube of the Clear shade, but I've recently snatched another mini in the Rose color and I'm very excited to crack it open.

7. Zoeva Make-up Brushes (review of brushes no. 105, 109, 227, 231 and 317 here, review of brushes no. 101, 102, 142 and 226 here)
Zoeva's make-up brushes are easily my most used make-up tools this year. Yes, my Surratt Artistique brushes are more luxurious, but I think that in terms of performance for the price, Zoeva is hard to beat. Out of the nine brushes that I own, my favorite are the 101 Luxe Definer, the 105 Luxe Highlight, 227 Luxe Soft Definer and 231 Luxe Petit Crease - I find the shapes of all these brushes to suit my personal needs perfectly, but all of the Zoeva brushes I have are great quality and have so far been holding up very well, even with almost daily use.
8. Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation (review)
It has somehow transpired that I've been trialling a whole skew of new bases this year, but out of all the older ones in my stash and the newcomers, Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation is definitely my favorite. I find that a lot of liquid foundations and BB Creams in my stash are a bit finnicky to work with - they either accentuate dryness unless I prep my skin very carefully, or slip and slide on the face within a couple hours, but the Aqua Foundation does neither; I can really count on it to look great every time I apply it. A word of caution, my bottle isn't the newer reformulated version, but I've heard that die-hard fans are still using it, so I'm hoping it's not massively different.

9. YSL Rouge Pur Couture Lipstick in Rose Stiletto* (review)
And conversely to foundations and BB creams, I have not actually tried very many new lipstick formulas this year, instead focusing on using up what's already in my possession. I haven't been overly impressed by the old YSL Rouge Pur Coutures, but the newly reformulated iteration is much, much better. Sure, it's not the most moisturizing lipstick I own, but the high pigment, beautiful satin finish and long wear time make up for that - and Rose Stiletto is one of those 'it' shades you need to swatch next time you're at the counter.

10. Catrice Defining Blush in Rose Royce (review)
Drugstore make-up fanatics rejoice, Catrice is now available in the US at Ulta! Sad face though, because their Defining Blushes, which are among my very favorite products from the brand, have not been brought out here (yet - I hope). Out of all the powder blushes at the drugstore, I truly believe Catrice's formula to be the best: buttery with just enough pigment, and very natural-looking on the skin. I only wish they carried a bigger shade range in the permanent displays.

11. Maybelline Color Elixir in Caramel Infused (review)
Maybelline's Color Elixir formula is my drugstore lip pick for this year. I realize that make-up aficionados are divided on this: some people love the Color Elixirs, some people hate them. I find the Maybelline lipstick-lipgloss-lip balm hybrid to be very comfortable and cushiony on the lips but not very long lasting, but that's expected for such a glossy product in my humble opinion. I really enjoy the one shade I have, and I may look into purchasing more in the future.

12. Rouge Bunny Rouge Matt Eyeshadows in Sweet Dust Seriema and Chestnut Napped Appalis (review)
Some people use a matte beige/ off white eyeshadow in every single eye look, but I find a matte midtone brown infinitely more useful to seamlessly blend out shadows on the lid and those darker shades in the outer corner. Rouge Bunny Rouge Matt Eyeshadows are beautiful to work with, and these two shades pair easily with any look: Sweet Dust Seriema with cool-toned hues, Chestnut Napped Appalis with warmer colors. They're my current shadow-transitioning staples.

13. Makeup Revolution Death By Chocolate Eyeshadow Palette (review)
I thought long and hard whether to include this inexpensive eyeshadow palette in my yearly round-up. Even though the quality is great and the colors beautiful, I was trying to find fault with it - and my conclusion was that it's TOO EASY to use. Excuse me? I wasn't happy how effortless it was to pair any of the shades in this palette together - like that's a bad thing? Seriously, I don't know what's wrong with me. So yes, if you like a challenge in your eyeshadow palette, don't pick this up. If you're a normal human being who likes neutral eyeshadows, please do yourself a favor and get it.

14. Andalou Naturals Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk (review)
I've tried quite a few products from Andalou Naturals this past year and many - most of them get two thumbs up from me. But I guess if I were to choose one stand out product that's not widely available from other brands, be it green or not, Andalou's Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk is the one to look out for: an effective non-foaming cleanser at a very reasonable price point, gentle and non-drying on the skin, and packed full of skin-loving plant oils. As you can see, my bottle is half empty already! (or half full. Depending how you're choosing to look at it :)

15. Perfume: Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan Eau de Parfum
This is the one product in this line-up that I have not reviewed separately on the blog; mostly because I find perfume reviews a bit difficult to write in a convincing fashion. Out of all the fragrances in my stash, Ambre Sultan is my absolute favorite. It's definitely a ballsy scent: heavy, lingering, attention-grabbing... meaning, not something I can wear at all times (NYC subway in the summer, anyone? I don't want to be THAT person). Yet I wish I could - it feels warm and cozy, like pulling on your favorite sweater. It's a sweet and spicy oriental heavy on resins, myrrh and amber. If you enjoy wearing orientals, you need to give it a sniff - you can thank me later.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorites from this year; I bet that if you're a regular reader of Rocaille Writes, few of these were very surprising to you. Please let me know in the comments your best finds this year - I love reading about your favorite products too! And while we're talking about the best in beauty, please spill your biggest fail too; I had quite a few personally, but I felt that Nature Republic Botanical Shine Lip Tint (reviewed here) was a complete dud. What should we all be avoiding in the future?


  1. Happy holidays and thanks for sharing! I really love your taste - a lot of these like the Laura Gellar had been on my list already but now it seems I really need to give them a try. My favorite find of this year are my eyeshadows from the brand 3 Concept Eyes (I recently rediscovered them and they're just so bright, beautiful and high quality) and the biggest dud is the Banila Co White Wedding Dream Cream.

  2. Now, I have rbr mattes on my list...I just need to get over the compact that always crack on me (or get another z palettes?).

    I think I am getting shot for saying this but I think chikuhodo brushes were my biggest (not disappointment but more like) I don't-see-the-hype. They are a tad expensive for what they are, not the most effective and the similar brush with same size, shape and hair type, other brands usually hold up much better and are cheaper... Ahh, what a first world problem.

  3. Are you using one of these Zoeva brushes for Blush or Contouring? I'm missing a great brush for these products but I don't know which to buy.

    Mmmh you remind me that I haven't swatched Rose Royce Blush and the Color Sensational Caramel Infused yet. They looks like lovely every day colours. I haven't found the Inglot Sculpting Powder for some reason, but I will try next year again.

    That YSL Rouge looks gorgeous on you!

    Loool an eyeshadow palette which is *too easy* too use *lol* Most palettes are a mess. Some shades are pretty but too hard pressed, some shades are unpretty and dusty. I'm glad you found the right one for every day.

    My best finds were:
    - Innisfree sheet masks
    - Weleda almond products (my skin likes most of them)
    - W7 In The Buff (another inexpensive nude palette with the colours of the UD Naked 2)
    - almond oil (as treatment and for removing make up)
    - INGLOT Duraline (thanks to you, it saved my gel liners)
    - Sleek Ultra Mattes Palette (the best matte eyeshadows I ever had)
    + other random stuff you can not buy in the US.

    1. Hi Lila! I use the bigger 101 for bronzer or more subtle/ diffused contouring sometimes, and the Face Paint one (not included in my photo) for precise contouring. The Catrice Rose Royce blush is actually really peachy on me, but still perfect for everyday wear :) Lasts very well too.

      Thanks for sharing your favorites! I definitely need to try some things from your list - I've never tried Weleda's almond line, for example, and I've used almond oil in the past, but haven't reached for it in a really long time. Hugs!

    2. Thanks for your reply, Monika!
      I will have a look onto your Zoeva favourites and the Catrice blush. The Weleda almond line is for dry and sensitive skin. xoxo

  4. I've bought Inglot contouring powder after your review. As for other products from the list - I want to buy some Zoeva brushes in 2016. As for the thing I love, too - that'd be RBR eye shadows, of course.

  5. Lovely variety of products. And I totally agree on Chocolate palette!! It's too easy, exactly. I'm trying to find a fault too, actually it's already in my bag for donating. It's lovely but somewhere average in terms of colours. Oh my, blogger's problems :)

  6. hey I love reading blogposts about the favourites of the year. after reading your post I am really looking forward to finally buy the ko gen do foundation and the chocolate bar palette. Ive already read so many things about both and everyone seems to like them so much! i was wondering that you also liked a catrice product because I thought catrice is only available in germany but then I read the your text and I think its so cool that its also available at ulta now!
    Have a nice new years eve!

    xx Lisa

  7. I enjoyed going through your list and have a few things to add to my list to try. I love Pixi glow tonic as well in my morning routine. I hope to try their rose oil soon and the 20% glycolic pads. My first Korean essence purchase was Whamisa Organic Flowers Deep Rich Essence Toner -love this naturally fermented essence.

    FYI - I tried the new Koh Gen Do Foundation. I was disappointed - wanted to love it from so many positive blogger comments. For me, it really emphasized my pores. Had to return it.

  8. Would love to try that sleeping mask!