Before you take advice or recommendations regarding luxury beauty products, I implore you to keep this in mind: People like to justify their own lavish purchases. Most of the time, it has nothing to do with you or the product they're recommending, but instead with the fact that they've spent a lot of money on it. It's human nature. Nobody wants to spend a huge amount of money on a makeup product, for example, and later have to admit it wasn't all they thought it would be. Hell, I do it myself all the time. Was the £200 jersey tank top I bought on a whim worth it? Absolutely not. But do I tell everyone who asks just how much I love it and how it's the best thing ever? You better believe I do. I'm convincing myself.
It's for this reason that I always advise taking luxury beauty recommendations with a pinch of salt, particularly when the person doing the recommending has actually purchased it. Chances are they're going to tell you it's worth the money. The truth is, however, nobody needs to spend big bucks on beauty products. There are plenty of great affordable options out there that deliver very similar results. No luxury beauty product is going to change your appearance dramatically. What justifies the expense of luxury beauty is the way it makes us feel.
On the other side of the coin, however, is taking advice from beauty editors who don't pay for their beauty products. Some have been known to slather a £200 face cream onto their elbows just because it was the closest moisturiser on hand. Losing sense of the monetary value of the products I recommend is something I like to think I've avoided, but I'd be lying if I said not having to pay for beauty products doesn't skew my perspective.
A few weeks ago, when I was feeling particularly out of touch about the cost of luxury beauty products, I sat down and considered how to share honest reviews in a totally unbiased way. After a long, hard think, I had an idea. I decided to compile a list of the most recommended and critically acclaimed luxury beauty products around, and over the course of a couple of weeks, I would drip feed them into our beauty-editor group chat. I would say nothing but the name of the product and let the honest opinions roll in. Then I was going to write it all up in this very article for the world to see.
Comprised of some of the most in-the-know beauty editors in the industry, this WhatsApp group doesn't hold back. So if you want to know if the "best" luxury beauty products around are really worth the cash, keep scrolling.
1. Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream
Beauty editors, celebrities and influencers love to recommend this product. It's considered an all-in-one skincare solution that houses the recipe for happy, healthy and glowing skin. The glitch? It's £215. Beauty editor at Elle UK, Jennifer George, had a lot of great things to say about it: "It's brilliant. I only use it at night when my skin is thirsty for it, and when I stop using it, I notice a difference."
And while most of us agreed it's a lovely moisturiser, there was widespread concern over its richness. My oily skin, for example, doesn't get on with it. However, it's worth noting that Augustinus Bader has released a lightweight version more suited for oily skin. "I've been using The Light Cream recently, which is the same formula just with a serum-like texture," adds George. Our general advice? Get hold of a mini version and try it first. It's not worth risking £215.
2. Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray
If you ask me, paying any more than £15 for a hairstyling product is extortionate. However, I would make an exception for this stuff. Adding lightweight but long-holding grit and texture to hair, Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray is considered the gold standard of styling products. "Every time I use something else and then return to it, I feel that frenzied sense of joy at having it in my life," says freelance beauty journalist Madeleine Spencer.
If you like a lived-in, voluminous look, this is a product you should know about. "It's legit gold dust in a can," says Zoe Cripps, deputy beauty editor at OK! Magazine. "It doubles up as hair perfume as well, which is technically a money saver if you think about it. So many of these sprays make hair greasy, but this somehow holds without turning sticky. I'd buy it with my own cash—just maybe on discount."
3. Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
It's no secret that the Who What Wear UK team loves this cleansing balm. Everything from the smell to the results oozes luxury. Truthfully, it makes cleansing your face at the end of the day an absolute treat. The problem? It's expensive. Spencer admits it's one of the only cleansing balms that doesn't make her spotty (a feat), while digital beauty editor at Elle UK George Driver was keen to reveal she loves every single version of it.
There are, however, a couple of minor issues that should be addressed. First of all, we all agreed we often forget just how expensive it is. There are affordable cleansing balms out there that are just as lovely (albeit not quite as luxurious). Secondly, it doesn't appear to be an all-around crowd pleaser when it comes to using it on the eyes. A couple of editors and I agreed that the essential-oil content leaves eyes stinging while the rest all said they have never had an issue. Proceed with caution.
4. Chanel Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream
There is quite honestly nothing we can fault about the formula of this product. As a makeup artist, Spencer admits, "I love it. It's a unique product that just creates fake-happy skin." It's a great cream bronzer that melts into skin delivering a lit-from-within, sun-kissed radiance.
There is, however, one issue. For years, this was the only product of its kind out there, and it was available in one measly "universal" shade, the problem being that this shade (which still exists) is far from universal. It caters to fair- to medium-toned white skin. As more competitors started launching their own versions of this product in varying shades, Chanel released a deeper shade—but again, it has its issues. "It works for me and gives a lovely glow, but it won't work for anyone darker than me," says freelance beauty editor and Who What Wear contributor Keeks Reid. "Black people aren't a monolith, so it would be good for Chanel to extend the shade range."
5. Skinceuticals C E Ferulic
Personally, I consider this to be the single best vitamin C serum on the market. As somebody that swears by the glow-boosting antioxidant benefits of L-ascorbic acid in my daily routine, I'd be lost without it. Having said that, I'd also be lost at the thought of having to spend £150 every couple of months to restock it. Hell, I'd be bankrupt. I am, however, taking notes from Cripps. "I love C E Ferulic. It's the best thing I've found for clearing marks after a breakout. I'm on my fifth bottle. It's one of those products you just know will make your skin look great. The price is hard to justify, but wait for Feelunique or Lookfantastic to do 20% off, and then invest," she says.
6. Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Blush Stick
Every beauty editor I've ever spoken to agrees that this is probably the best blusher ever created. It's creamy, melts into skin in a matter of seconds, is foolproof and leaves skin healthy-looking and glowing. Since Spencer is a makeup artist, I turn to her for her views. "All of Gucci Westman's products are amazing, but I choose the blushers above all others. They're not greasy or sheeny unlike so many others that rely on a lot of slip to disguise not so great colours. Gucci's got them bang on," she says.
At £44, they're no doubt expensive, but considering I use mine every single day as my go-to makeup product, I consider it worth it. And I'm not alone. George admits it's the only blusher she's ever finished (quite a statement from an editor). Tara Ledden, beauty editor at Fabulous Magazine, however, comments on just how long-lasting they are: "Jenn, how have you finished one?! I've been using mine every day since it launched in the UK, and I still haven't got through the whole thing."
7. Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540
It's not very often that beauty editors recommend a perfume en masse in the way that we do Baccarat Rouge 540. It's gone viral on TikTok, but we've been wearing it (and loving it) for years. "I've worn Baccarat for years and have always said it will be my wedding perfume. It is totally unique, and if I want to wear a perfume that brings in the compliments and that I can really smell on myself, then it's my go-to choice," reveals freelance beauty editor Grace Day.
The sweet, warm, expensive aroma of this perfume makes it an all-around crowd pleaser. "I keep a mini one in my bag and gladly let the compliments flood in whenever I wear it," says freelance beauty editor Tori Crowther.
Needless to say, as a bunch of fragrance-snobby beauty editors, we hate how popular it has become. "The whole of central London smells like it. Having said that, Jenn wears it, so I'll forever think it's classy," says Driver. In response, George declares, "I wear it because even though I don't love it on me, it gets the compliments. I would say, though, that there are a few good dupes. Or get the hair perfume, which is less than half the price."
8. Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum
This product caused a stir. Celebrities adore Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, but beauty editors aren't so happy to recommend it. The reason is that hyaluronic acid is, as far as skincare ingredients go, as cheap as chips. There is no justifiable reason for a brand to charge £235 for a hyaluronic serum. "It's a lovely serum, but would I ever spend my own money on it? Of course not! There are plenty of brilliant alternatives for such a basic product. I think a lot of the hype comes from the celebrity buzz around it," says freelance beauty editor Mica Ricketts.
If you want to spend £235 on a skincare serum because money isn't an object and luxury beauty makes you feel great, then yes, this is a lovely product—just don't expect us to ever say you need it.
9. Dior Backstage Face & Body Flash Perfector Concealer
This was a somewhat surprising addition to the list—not because it isn't fantastic but because it doesn't appear to have garnered that much hype since its recent launch. But amongst this group of beauty editors, it's considered elite. "It is everything," says Driver. "It literally disappears into my skin with no cakey-ness, and it doesn't dry out or flake. I love the paint-brush applicator, too. Big fan."
However, the brush applicator does have some drawbacks. "I find it a little bit messy, but the finish on my skin makes it worth it," says Crowther.
And despite most of us agreeing it's a keeper, Ledden has reservations. "I swear by Dior Forever Skin Correct instead. It's the one I always keep in my bag. It covers anything and layers over the top of makeup without going patchy," she says.
10. Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector
I'll admit I'm in the minority with this, but Olaplex No. 3 does nothing miraculous to my hair. I totally get this is because I'm not the product's target audience (hair does need to be particularly dry and damaged for it to do its thing), but it's worth noting this isn't going to change every single person's hair game.
It has, however, changed the game for many others. "If I had this product when I relaxed my hair, it would have been way healthier," says Reid. "There are other bond-builders out there now, which give it a run for its money, but this is the most effective product that Olaplex offers."
Speaking of competitors, it seems we all had a lot to say on them. "I love Olaplex, and until K18 came along, there really wasn't anything else like it," says Day in reference to the new bond-builder on the block, K18 Molecular Repair Hair Mask. "It frustrates me when people label random hair masks as Olaplex dupes, though—the formulas are worlds apart. Olaplex is worth paying for if your hair is damaged, but a lot of people could save themselves the money by using a regular deep-conditioning treatment," she adds, to which Crowther replies, "I'm also a K18 girlie now."
11. Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation
This foundation has long been heralded as one of the best around for a natural-looking, lit-from-within glow. Makeup artists swear by it, and beauty editors sing its praises. But it's been around for years and hasn't ever really been challenged. "I love it on older skin but not so much on younger. (Although I seem to be in a minority)," says Spencer. "It's a lot of work to get it to stay put if there's any sort of oil from within on the skin."
Overall, we all agreed that it's a truly beautiful foundation for a natural-looking glow but is probably best reserved for full-makeup days. "Great photo makeup, but I wouldn't wear it every day," concludes Ledden.
12. Aesop Reverence Aromatique Hand Wash
I'd like to start by saying there is nothing bad to say about this product—literally. We set out to find something bad about it and couldn't. Other than the hefty price tag, this product is exquisite. And to be honest, we think it's worth every penny. "There's literally nothing better than a swanky hand soap, and I'll never not love Aesop," says Driver.
It also doubles up as a fancy ornament. "It's a great way to upgrade your bathroom vibe without spending an insane amount on a candle. Because it's exfoliating, it helps justify the price. You don't see many of the cheaper brands doing that," says Day.
The best bit? Most of our decorative bottles don't even contain Aesop soap anymore, and we still love it. "Aesop soap is the bomb. It smells incredible, looks chic, and the exfoliation is next level. It's the perfect gift, even though the bottle in my kitchen currently contains Carex," admits Ricketts.
13. Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter
If you've ever used this product, you'll know where we're going with this. Hollywood Flawless Filter is great. In fact, everyone in our group chat feels almost insanely passionate about it—except me. As someone that doesn't wear a lot of makeup, I could take it or leave it. I get that it gives skin a beautiful glow, but I just see it as another fiddly step in my already loathsome routine.
But let's stick to the good bits, shall we? Every single editor who says they use this couldn't sing its praises any louder. There were lots of "I love it," and, "I adore Flawless Filter," and "Big fan—huge," comments. Basically, if you want a makeup product that delivers healthy-looking radiance and glow with minimal effort, this is the one to buy.
The insider tip? Buy the mini size. "It's so much better because I don't use it all over my face and can't get through a bigger size. Plus, it's better for travelling," advises Ledden.
14. Diptyque Feu de Bois Candle
While you might not necessarily think candles fall under the realm of beauty, out of all the different types of editors out there, we beauty journalists try them the most. It makes sense, too, considering most candle brands are founded by perfumers and all candle reviews rely on the same fragrance knowledge as perfumes. So when we say Diptyque's smoky and woody Feu de Bois is the luxury candle to buy, believe us.
"I know everyone loves Baies, but Feu de Bois is my favourite candle scent of all time. It's definitely more wintery, but it makes any home feel cosy. You can't go wrong with any of Diptyque's scents—you can smell them across the room even when not lit," says Ledden.
And, much like Aesop soaps, they double up as chic ornaments. "I feel like people actually do reuse the candles as holders (e.g. to hold cotton buds). Rarely does anyone do that with other brands," reveals Crowther.