There's nothing I enjoy more than being asked for a product recommendation. Whether it's a glow-seeking colleague asking for tips on the best brightening face masks or a tired mum friend seeking an eye cream that will actually work on dark circles, I have always loved offering up advice on the best beauty products. But how do I determine what's worth recommending? Well, I'm lucky in my job as a beauty editor to be sent a huge number of products to test, which means that my beauty stash is in near-constant rotation. Some products make their way in and out pretty sharpish, while others might stick around for a little while before making their way into my donation pile. There is no greater seal of approval, however, than when I finish up an entire product. Trust me—as a beauty editor, that is the sign of a truly brilliant product. And this year I finished 44 of them.
Yes, in 2020, I made it my mission to keep track of every single product that I used up so that I could enter the new year with a list of brilliant beauty-editor recommendations that I could truly swear by. Of course, a year involving a lot of sitting at home means that my list is light on makeup and heavy on skincare, and we can put my apparent obsession with vitamin C down to the fact that I had a new baby in the mix and was desperately seeking products that would help me look less tired. There are some seriously good beauty products here that I would repurchase time and again.
Ahead, keep scrolling for my ultimate beauty-editor recommendations…
I try a lot of different cleansers, but I always come back to this gentle, creamy face wash for my morning cleanse.
This was a new discovery for me last year, and I wouldn't be without it now. My skin always feels so soft and smooth after cleansing with this, and it's so affordable.
My post-partum skin was treated to plenty of hormonal breakouts last year, but this cleanser helped to keep it feeling calm during the worst patches. It uses alpha-hydroxy acids to exfoliate without irritating active blemishes.
Generally, I'm not fussed about mists, which is why there's only one on this list. But I genuinely loved using this. Not only does it smell incredible and deliver an instant hit of hydration, but I also genuinely think it made my skin look healthier and brighter on the days I used it.
Beauty editors always rave about this serum, but I have to say that I used to find it a little too potent to use on its own. However, a couple of drops mixed with the following products provided me with some much-needed glow on mornings that I looked particularly exhausted, which meant that this bottle lasted me a good part of the year.
This is my favourite basic serum. I mix it with the aforementioned vitamin c serum daily but also love layering it after exfoliating acids or more active serums to prevent irritation.
I've used this serum for years. It contains natural salicylic acid to unclog pores, and I always recommend this as a daily serum for combination or oily skin types.
A brilliant does-it-all daily serum, this stuff brightens, tones, and plumps and always left my skin looking a whole lot better than before I'd applied it.
I've lost count of the number of bottles of this cult acid treatment that I've gone through. I always reach for it when I'm going through a period of particularly bad breakouts, and I know that within just a few days my skin will look calmer and clearer.
I was fanatic about retinol before I got pregnant, but sadly for my skin, you can't touch the good stuff while you're with child or breastfeeding. This was my first foray back into retinol serums—it's a great starting point, as it contains just 0.5% retinol alongside a whole host of other soothing ingredients, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to dip their toe into the world of retinols.
Trust me—this sheet mask is good. If we're ever allowed on a night out dancing with our friends again, then this is the product I'd reach for thanks to its ability to instantly brighten and revive your complexion. During lockdown, it was the closest I could get to the results of a facial since I couldn't make it to a salon.
It's rare for a face mask to make it into my regular rotation, but this one is just that good. It contains 3% sulphur to help clear and decongest pores and green clay to reduce angry, red breakouts. It's good stuff.
Another skin-friendly prebiotic product comes in the form of this day cream from Elemis. It's packed with superfoods like broccoli and goji berry (ideal when I was subsisting on a new-mum diet of tea and toast) and leaves skin looking dewy and fresh.
This stuff is basically like a highlighter in a moisturiser. The formula has a pearlescent appearance that does a beautiful job of reflecting light once applied to your skin.
I actually went through two tubs of this skin-energising moisturiser last year—that's how much I rate it. It contains an impressive three sources of vitamin C for a truly efficacious formula if you're after glow.
This is coined as a mask, but as an oily-skinned person, I used this in place of my evening moisturiser rather than on top of it. It is dreamy. It feels cool when applied, smells amazing, and helped my skin to look more refreshed than it would otherwise come morning.
The only eye cream I used up last year (sorry eyes!) was this one from BareMinerals. I kept mine in the fridge for extra cooling effects on particularly tired mornings.
This is my favourite lip balm of all time, and I went through two of them last year. It's really rich, so I always apply it before bed, but it's particularly brilliant during the winter months for preventing chapped lips.
Is it embarrassing to admit that I went through three of these last year? Twenty-twenty was the year of dry shampoo—not only because I barely left the house but also because a new baby is not conducive to regular hair washing. This is the best dry shampoo on the market because it actually cleans your hair by soaking up oil and odour.
Admittedly, I am fickle when it comes to haircare, and I tend to move onto a new shampoo as soon as I finish one. However, this French pharmacy brand really impressed me with its strand-nourishing formula.
My hair is naturally quite coarse in texture, but this shampoo left it feeling soft and bouncy. Plus, it smells so good.
To counteract all of that dry shampoo, this detoxing shampoo from Ouai uses apple cider vinegar to get rid of product build-up for a squeaky-clean scalp.
This rich conditioner smells like a fancy salon in a bottle.
I used a hair mask every single time I washed my hair last year (as an apology for the lack of frequent washing), and this one was my go-to. It's super rich, so avoid it if you have fine hair, but it's brilliant at softening damaged or coarse strands.
For about three months after having my baby, I was blessed with the kind of clear skin that I had only ever dreamed of, and during that time, this slightly tinted, glowy serum was all I needed to wear. Sadly, the good skin days didn't last, but I still layered this beneath a tinted moisturiser or foundation to even out skin tone and add luminosity.
This is my favourite tinted moisturiser of all time. It's non-comedogenic, so it doesn't clog pores, and it has enough coverage to disguise redness and scarring left from old breakouts. It's my go-to for days when I can't be bothered with a full face of makeup but want to feel a little more pulled-together.
Traditional liquid foundations weren't on my radar at all last year, but this mineral stick from BareMinerals was my compromise between a tinted moisturiser and a full-coverage face. It's deeply moisturising, has a natural-looking finish, and can be scribbled on and blended in with fingers.
I went through two of these last year thanks to its magic ability to brighten dark under eyes in a flash.
For concealing blemishes, I loved this gel-textured concealer from Shiseido which lasts all day on the skin and never looks cakey.
I can honestly say that I use this product every single day—that's how good it is. Even on no-makeup days, I'll pop a bit of this on for some extra glow, but it works equally well as a radiance-boosting primer beneath foundation or patted over makeup as a highlighter.
This is a beautiful and sheeny cream product that can be applied wherever you fancy, but I religiously applied it to my cheeks for most of last year. I was genuinely devastated when this ran out, as I love it that much.
I went through two tubes of this cult brow product—one in Brown for easy, one-step brow days and one in Clear, which I used in conjunction with my next empty product for a more precise brow look.
This is an ultra-fine brow crayon that mimics natural hairs precisely, and I loved using the tiny brush to create a fluffy brow look.
I've had this little pot of cream eyeshadow for longer than I'd care to remember, but I finally finished it up in 2020. While eyeshadow wasn't on my radar at all last year, this taupe-y shade was brilliant at evening out discolouration on my eyelids and helping me to look as if I'd made a little more effort with my eye makeup than I really had.
I won't list every single bottle of handwash that I went through last year because there was a lot, but I will give a special mention to this beautifully scented one from Byredo for making the daily chore feel a little more luxurious.
Similarly, this Rinse-Free Hand Wash from Aesop made on-the-go sanitation feel a little fancier. It contains all of the alcohol needed to combat germs but with a healthy dose of mandarin rind and rosemary leaf for a spa-like scent.
Are you sensing a theme here? This nourishing hand cream sinks in quickly and smells like holidays—a total winner in my book.
Twenty-twenty was the year of the bath, and I made sure to take advantage. This one from Goop is specially designed to soothe tired muscles (and a tired mind), and while I can't say it was as transformative as Gwyneth Paltrow might have promised, it definitely made for a relaxing soak.
Another coconut-scented product to recreate that holiday feel, this milky soak leaves your skin feeling silky smooth once you've stepped out of the tub.
I know that a lot of people think body oils are a faff, but I love using them. This one comes in a spray bottle so you can spritz it on and rub it in. It really keeps skin hydrated until your next shower. Be warned though—put a towel down before you spray, as it can cause bathroom floors to get seriously slippy.
A genius product that you slap onto soaking-wet skin while you're still in the shower before drying yourself off and getting dressed as normal. I don't know how it works, but my skin is always left feeling moisturised and looking radiant.
This is my favourite shower-gel formulation ever. I have gone through multiple bottles of it over the year, but this zesty citrus scent is my favourite.