There was a brief, blissful time during the early '00s when a handful of Sephora stores popped up around the UK. Although I didn't have any awareness of what a big deal this was at the time, I have vivid memories of my 13-year-old self and my best friends taking a monthly pilgrimage to Brent Cross (the journey involved two buses from our homes in the London suburbs and a dash on foot across the North Circular) to spend hours swatching lipsticks and spritzing perfumes there. To us, Sephora was the height of cool, and although we couldn't afford a thing, there was something about that shop that made beauty products seem like the most exciting things in the world.
Boots, on the other hand, did not. With one on pretty much every high street and in every shopping centre in the UK, it's fair to say that Boots just doesn't have the same level of sex appeal as Sephora. Maybe it's because it's the shop that your mum dragged you to as a child to buy anti–car sickness tablets for your school trip (just me?) or where your grandma finds the best deals on her toothpaste. Perhaps it's because a fridge full of limp-looking sandwiches doesn't help the displays of new lipsticks and nail polishes look their most glamorous. Or maybe it's because it's the place you visit every month to stock up on tampons, deodorant and shower gel and then wonder how you've spent £50 on basics once you've got to the till.
However, at 31 years old, I'm beginning to appreciate the value in a high-street store that you can rely on. While Sephora has come and gone in the UK, Boots has always been there—and, when it comes to beauty, it has plenty of hidden gems on its shelves.
From a £14 mascara that's sold every nine seconds to a Scandi skincare brand with a 13,500 person waiting list, Boots has its fair share of sellout beauty products and cult brands.
Keep scrolling to shop the best Boots beauty products—from its own best-sellers to my personal favourites.
At launch, one of these tubes of mascara sold every nine seconds at Boots. (Yes, you read that right!) Its insane popularity is down to the curved brush that grips every single lash to curl and lengthen them for noticeable volume. Plus, unlike some other mascaras, you can layer it up to create a really dramatic, falsies effect—if you so desire.
Another cult product that is continually flying off the shelves of Boots is this fruity, gel-textured cleanser from Soap & Glory. Not only do you get a bumper bottle for the affordable price tag but it's a 3-in-1 formula that cleanses, gently exfoliates and purifies all skin types. It does a great job of removing makeup so it's a great timesaver too. Plus, you can't argue with this product's popularity.
When Scandi skincare brand Ole Henriksen first landed on the shelves of Boots it did so to a 13,500-person waiting list. The cult brand has been raved about by beauty editors and insiders for years now, so it's good to see that it's been such a success on the UK high street too. In fact, it's been such a hit that this brightening toner is something of a sell-out.
One of the biggest skincare launches at Boots came courtesy of this No7 serum. It had an initial waiting list of 17,000 people and a serum was sold every seven seconds during the first three weeks of it being on sale. Talk about a cult product.
I remember rushing to Boots as a teenager to pick up a bottle of this face wash after reading about it in CosmoGirl magazine. Almost 16 years later and I still swear by the stuff if you're looking for an affordable, blemish-fighting daily cleanser. I don't use it every day (my skin needs some more nourishment than it did in my teenage years), but it's a great skin refresher in the mornings.
In all honesty, I have never tried a luxury face powder that rivals their most affordable counterparts. This one from Boots' own beauty brand, Natural Collection, is as cheap as they come and gets the job done. It soaks up oil in places that you don't want to look shiny and sets your other makeup products in place. Impressively, it's also enriched with chamomile to soothe and protect skin at the same time.
I'm lucky enough in my job to be sent lots of new beauty products to try each week. But there's something to be said for the buzz that I still get when I discover a cool new beauty product for myself. One such product comes in the form of this K-beauty hair wrap, which I spotted in my local Boots. You use it as a sheet mask for your hair by washing it and then wrapping this over your head. Then, you let all of the pampering ingredients get to work on your strands before rinsing it out. Truly innovative.
Another of Boots' own beauty lines, Botanics has an amazing collection of skincare products with high-quality ingredients and natural formulations. This cleansing balm smells like a fancy spa and is rich in shea butter and beeswax to really melt away all traces of makeup and grime from the day. It also includes a cloth to use with it for less than a tenner which I think is pretty amazing.
Taking inspiration from spa treatments, this body scrub is what I reach for when I need some proper exfoliation. It contains wonderfully gritty sea salt to slough away dead skin cells but leaves behind a lovely nourishing oil that adds plenty of glow to your skin.
This is my lazy-girl skin saviour on mornings when my skin looks dull and grey (or when I've had a big night out and need some help disguising the after effects). It contains three different kinds of vitamin C for truly brightening results. Just smooth it onto damp skin, leave it for 60 seconds, and then rinse it off to reveal a more luminous complexion.
I pride myself as being somewhat of a connoisseur of great shower gels, and this one sits firmly in my top three favourites of all time. The smell is incredible—like freshly-squeezed limes and sweet vanilla (trust me, smell it). And, I'm a big fan of the fuss-free pump dispenser for when you're in the shower. Even better, the bottle is absolutely enormous. You get half a litre of product for less than £7. Needless to say, it lasts for ages.
This is another throwback product that has stood the test of time for me. There was a time about 10 years ago when beauty girls and bloggers were going crazy for this specific shade of minty green. To give Boots their due, they were one of the first UK retailers to stock Essie and I remember being so excited to get my hands on this polish. Years later, it's still one of my favourite spring nail colours.
Although you can get a certain French pharmacy micellar staple at Boots, it's this one from Garnier that I always come back to. This huge size might look ridiculous on your bathroom shelf, but it means that I pretty much never run out of something to remove my makeup with. It's super gentle, takes everything off and is normally on offer so you can snap it up at a bargain price.
Boots has an amazing selection of affordable and luxury makeup brands (both in-store and online), but it's this £10 foundation that I come back to time and time again. It has a great shade range compared to other price-friendly brands—40 shades in total—and the coverage and finish compare to high-end counterparts. In fact, I've heard it said that it's a great dupe for Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, and I'd be inclined to agree.
Is there a Briton out there who doesn't have a bottle of Soltan lurking in the back of a bathroom cupboard or under the kitchen sink? Either way, Boots' own brand of sun protection is a winner in my eyes. It has a 5-star UVA rating (making it the cream of the crop in terms of sun protection) and is offered at a truly low price point compared to some of the premium sun-care brands. Soltan, I salute you.
A classic French pharmacy staple, I tend to stock up on all my La Roche Posay favourites from Boots because—if you're lucky—they will regularly be on offer. This scar-reducing moisturiser is great for acne-prone complexions who are looking for hydration combined with spot-busting power.
Another favourite from Soap & Glory comes in the form of this new shampoo. If you're a dry-shampoo fiend like I am, then it's important to add a deep-cleansing shampoo into your haircare rotation to clarify your scalp and prevent product buildup. This one uses charcoal to exfoliate and purify and my hair always feels like it's been given a new lease of life after using it.
I've been shopping Rimmel at Boots since my earliest teenage years and the brand really has stood the test of time for great, affordable beauty products. This concealer, in particular, is one that I always come back to for its ability to provide both coverage and brightness where you need it.
I believe that Boots was one of the first UK retailers that Real Techniques was available to buy, and I still always return to the store to stock up on new brushes. Real Techniques have to be one of my favourite makeup brush brands. I have multiple of these Expert Face Brushes and use them to apply everything from foundation to cream blusher.