Best in Beauty 2020: The Best Skin, Hair, Makeup, and Body Products of the Year
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We’ve discussed at length the horrors of 2020—and trust me, getting this year over and done is at the top of my to-do list right now. But when I take a step down memory lane, I realize just how much beauty has shaped my year. I’ll never forget the way applying a hair mask during the workday felt last March, or the way putting on makeup to see my friends for the first time in months made me feel in June. I’ll always remember what it was like making that first hair appointment after months of grown-out roots, and the joy I felt tipping my stylist for the hard work she put in bringing these strands back to life. There was joy and excitement around finding new Black-owned brands to support, and I felt pride in being able to fill my routine with new companies and products that benefited historically-marginalized communities.
Although it might seem surprising, beauty products themselves are a reminder of everything that we’ve been through this year. The face masks we tried when we had nothing to do at home, the spot treatments we used when the other face masks broke us out, the eyeshadows we wore to make our eyes the star of the show when you couldn’t see the rest of our faces, the hair treatments we purchased to keep our color intact when we couldn’t see our stylists, the images we Pinned when we thought we wanted quarantine bangs, how we finally tried Baby Foot and retinol and all those products that make you look wild for a few days because we weren’t seeing anyone, the way we welcomed the splurges on the daily essentials like body wash and razors—what the heck, the world was ending!
The beauty industry, much like fashion and wellness, will never just be products; they’re ways we’ve experimented and shifted and grown throughout time. And because of this, we felt it was necessary to give back to them this year. In honor of the ways beauty has impacted us this year, we pulled together a truly robust list of every beauty favorite from our team and our readers in every category you could possibly think of. As you’re reading this list, you’ll see favorites from our team, suggestions from our readers (some that we love too and others we’re dying to try in 2021), as well as the “hero products” our entire team was obsessed with in 2020. Plus, we’re breaking down the best innovation, the best splurge and budget-finds, the brands we loved, and what we used at our WFH desks all day. Whether you’re a beauty-lover or looking for a new favorite, we hope this list inspires you to think about the way beauty has impacted your 2020.
I picked up this squalane cleanser from The Ordinary this summer, and I’ve never looked back. I have super dry skin all year round, and time and time again, I’ve trialed cleansers that have left my face feeling stripped and dry AF. It applies similar to an oil cleanser and leaves my skin feeling smooth and moisturized. It’s super affordable and is now offered in a larger size (150 mL) which I’ll be buying when mine runs out.—Ashley Selleke, Editorial Assistant
We love face masks that we not only feel good putting on our skin, but we feel good buying. This 99 percent naturally derived, vegan, sustainable, and cruelty-free luxurious mask comes from one of our favorite small beauty businesses in Chicago. The Golden Masque (you know it's luxe when it's spelled masque!) is a go-to in my beauty cabinet because of the rich antioxidants and essential minerals that stimulate renewal and reduce inflammation for instant brightening and boosted glow. Gentle enough for sensitive skin yet entirely effective, it's the perfect mask for any skin type.—Josie, Associate Editor
The tool that took over our editors vanities and wishlists this year, the NuFace is *the* facial toning device on the market that truly makes a difference in the texture, tone, elasticity, and tightness of your skin.
I love oil products, but this squalane one has been a staple for years. Made of sugarcane, the natural oil is so hydrating that it gives you that dewy French-girl glow without even trying. You can actually use it for your hair, body, or face, but I choose to use it as a more luxurious (yet totally affordable) face oil at night.—Thao Thai, Executive Editor
When I was interested in introducing a retinol into my skincare routine just this year, I found that this product was a good starting point. This gentle serum is perfect for first-time users. I use it about every other night under my moisturizer and definitely have noticed a healthy glow and softness to my skin. As someone who has heard of people breaking out badly when using a retinol, I was worried at first but because it’s not too intense and contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, I never experienced that. I highly recommend this product for beginners!—Keely Geist, Social Media Editor for The Everymom
I tried a lot of concealers in 2020. When you're stuck inside for weeks at a time, finding the motivation to apply a full-face of foundation, let alone wear it all day, is simply far-fetched. I began using concealer exclusively most days, which began my quest for the best concealer that I could use under my eyes and all over the face. In a last-ditch effort a month ago, I tried Pat McGrath's Sublime Skin Perfection concealer, and now I'll never be without it. It's so good, I use it as a foundation all over the face pretty much every single day. It's a lightweight formula with a satin finish that dries down without looking cakey or settling into lines. It's officially the gold-standard of concealers for me. —Beth, Associate Editor
The creamy texture and the glowy pay off with just a touch of product has made this highlighter a front runner for me. I use it on my cheeks, brow bone, and as an eyeshadow. It's so versatile, and the compact packaging makes it easy to pop into a bag without taking up too much space. —Bianca Lambert, Contributing Editor
A good bronzer is hard to come by, especially in a cream formula. But our editors fell head over heels for this as soon as it released last spring. Available in varying shades to contour and bronze all skin tones, this blends evenly and stays put all day. We couldn't ask for anything more.
I must admit: I hate mascara. I hate when it looks clumpy, when it sheds onto your face, and (most of all) when you have to remove it. Thankfully, the Thrive Mascara solves literally all of those problems (and makes me feel, instead, like a mascara lover). It goes on very liquidy (so don't sneeze!), meaning it doesn't flake or clump off, but elongates. It makes your lashes look much longer, but then (thankfully) isn't a pain to take off. When the day is done, I use cleansing oil followed by a gel cleanser, and my eyelashes are back to their clean (short) selves in no time. —Abigail Yonker, Social Media Editor
The bushy, model-esque brow trend finally became available this year in the form of this brow shaping wax. Use with water or setting spray and a spoolie to make your brows look like you just got a brow lift.
There is no lipstick on the market that looks like a Lisa Eldridge True Velvet Lip Color. As a veteran makeup artist (for celebs like Dua Lipa and Eva Green) and Youtube tutorial queen, it’s no wonder Eldridge created what is perhaps the best lip product I have ever used. These lipsticks are the softest texture, both gliding on and staying put throughout the day (no drying out or cracking). They are so gorgeously pigmented, it’s like you covered your lips in a bolt of the richest velvet fabric, and the colors range from creamy beiges to the moodiest wines to shocking, saturated pinks. The tubes are gold and heavy—super luxe and worth the price. If I could only wear one lipstick for the rest of my life, this would be it—in the shade Velvet Beauty, the perfect deep, dusty rose. —Kelly Etz, Senior Graphic Designer and Course Director
I trade out my shampoo and conditioner as often as I change my clothes—flirting with different brands without commitment, trying everything and anything under the sun to find that perfect formula. I bought Rahua on a whim after hearing about the brand for ages on Instagram and in the (web) pages of Into the Gloss. The clean brand is all about healthy hydration, which my hair sorely lacks. I loved both of these so much that I would repurchase—high praise from a shampoo addict bent on trying everything she can. I could tell right out of the shower that my hair was silkier and easier to manage than usual and my blow dry (while still arduous—your girl has a LOT of hair) yielded salon-worthy results. If you’re looking to splurge on your hair, this is your product. —Kelly
Miss Jessie's Honey Curls has been my go-to gel for almost two years. I used to think that my hair was too kinky for a wash-N-go, but this gel proved me wrong. I love that it not only helps give my curls definition without the crunch, but it keeps my 4-type curls hydrated for days.—Bianca
My beauty queen friend gifted me this gorgeous hair oil, and let me tell you, it could not have come at a better time. My hair was getting brittle from too-few salon visits (thanks, pandemic!) and frosty Midwestern temps, and this hair oil revived those strands right up. It’s customized to my exact needs and smells like a dream. Plus, it lasts forever! —Thao Thai, Executive Editor
With the world coming to halt drastically this year, I was able to make personal care a priority—and in comes Tree Hut’s Exfoliating Body Scrub. This body scrub has been a staple for me since the beginning of the year. It’s affordable, comes in a variety of scents and ingredients based on your needs, and it leaves my skin amazingly smooth, especially after shaving and waxing. I use this scrub at least twice a week all over, and the gentle scrub doesn’t irritate my skin at all. This is the perfect affordable body scrub for soft, smooth skin that I plan to take with me into the new year! —Blair Bedford, Contributing Editor
After years of buying the most very basic skincare products from local pharmacies, 2020 was the year I choose to invest in my skin. I’m also very much a sucker for fun packaging, so I started using new products like the Flamingo razor and foam shave gel to enhance my shower routine. I love how silky smooth they make my skin feel and both the razor blade and the foam gel have lasted a lot longer than my others have. It's the little things, you know?—Leigh Ryan, Junior Graphic Designer
I've been obsessed with Megababe's products for a while now (the Thigh Rescue is a literal lifesaver—if you know, you know) but hadn't tried their hand sanitizer until earlier this year. I found it in-stock on Megababe's website when all other sanitizers were flying off the shelves, so I ordered a big bottle to try out. Since then, it has become my all-time favorite hand sanitizer—I'll never go back! Unlike others, its formula includes plant-based alcohol (plus, no parabens, phthalates, or sulfates) to keep your hands feeling soft and moisturized while still killing 99.9 percent of germs. Being able to use sanitizer often without majorly drying out your hands is key, especially this year. And it smells lovely, which we all know cannot be said for every sanitizer out there. Highly recommend! —Julia Poulter, Managing Editor of The Everymom
The second the temperatures drop below 60 degrees, I get EXTREMELY dry skin. And for some reason (as if 2020 wasn’t bad enough), it has been so much worse this year. In searching for anything that might help hydrate my face, I read a few recommendations that I should incorporate a heavy night cream. So, I went to Ulta’s website, found this one, and decided to try it solely based on the glowing reviews. It not only has helped keep my skin hydrated, but the Vitamin C makes a visible difference in combatting dullness and redness. Every time I use it, my skin feels brighter! I will definitely be repurchasing.—Jessica Welsh, Editorial Assistant
L'Oreal's Wonder Water was by far the most standout hair product I tried this year. The technology it new and innovative; lamallar water is super lightweight and is able to penetrate the hair cuticle, where heavier conditioners can't. Literally in 10 seconds, it manages to completely smooth out your hair and leave it looking shiny and healthy, without absolutely any weigh-down. It's also super affordable—I'm so glad L'Oreal released it before any high-end brands did, because I'm able to make it a part of every hair wash. I don't even remember what my hair was like before this, and I notice a difference each and every time I use it.—Madeline Galassi, Associate Editor
Face tools come and go in my routine, but using this handmade Kansa Wand always feels special. Each time I use it coupled with a facial oil, my skin glows, which can likely be attributed to the wand's copper head. Copper is known to help promote natural collagen and elastin production. Not to mention, my jawline —where I carry much of my stress—gets an instant and much-needed release.—Bianca
UOMA Beauty had been on our radar ever since their Say What?! Foundation launch, but after testing the brand further, their products have become must-haves in many of our daily routines. From their brow pencil to their concealer to their lipsticks, we can't stop raving about their formulas, their packaging, and their brand message. (Little known fact: their founder created the #PullUporShutUp movement to encourage brand owners to share the demographics of who make up their teams!)
After interviewing the founder of Tower 28 Beauty on The Everymom, our team immediately became enamored with the brand and its cool, unique products. They're made specifically for those with sensitive, eczemic skin, so you don't have to worry that anything will cause flare-ups or break you out. Our favorite products are their cream blushes and bronzers and their lip glosses—as shown above.
Of all the facial oils out there, this non-toxic option is a unique go-to. It's made of 100 percent cold-pressed blueberry seed oil, which helps defend skin against blue light damage by absorbing the light before it penetrates the skin. But that's not all it can do: blueberry seed oil is high in antioxidants and contains ingredients like beta-carotene and omega 3,6 and 9 to fight inflammation, nourish skin, and improve overall radiance. —Josie