I'm Picky, But These Beauty Buys Live Up to My High Expectations

If you were to ask my friends to describe me in a word, they'd probably say "perfectionist." We perfectionists tend to get a bit of a bad rap but, as far as I'm concerned, being one it also has its perks. I'm in no way competitive with others, but I am with myself, and I find that I thrive best when I put a bit of healthy pressure over my head; pressure to show up, to work hard, and to be the best I can be. So, is it that unreasonable to have the same expectations from the beauty products I buy? 

In the world of beauty, where products promising longer lashes, tighter skin, and fuller lips are launched almost daily, loyalty can be a hard thing to come by. It's easy to get swept up in the excitement of seeing your favourite influencer wearing the latest cult lipstick and, as such, forget about the lipsticks you've loved for so long. I too have fallen hard for the razzle-dazzle of new products in the past; hype, it turns out, is a powerful thing. But the products that are worth knowing are the ones that remain in-demand once the confetti settles and the spotlight dims.

As such, I came to the decision that I'd no longer buy new products on impulse. Instead, I think about the products I already use. Can they actually be improved on? Is the grass truly greener on the other side? I have serious doubts. I know that a product that works wonders for one person may not do so for another, but after years of being an editor, I feel that I've assembled a high-performing beauty edit; an edit which I've broken down for you below. From makeup and skincare to fragrance and haircare, keep scrolling to see the beauty buys I truly love and use every day and would give five-star reviews to over and over again if I could. 

SKINCARE 

For years, I couldn't find a cleanser that took off my eye makeup without drying my skin, but this vegan formulation changed everything. What I love about this Tropic cleanser is how nourishing it is. I swear, my skin looks firmer and brighter after I use it, and feels incredibly soft to boot (I've read that people also use it as a moisturiser because of this!). Unlike other cleansers that are riddled with chemicals, I can use this cleanser directly on my sensitive eyes, without any stingy consequences. When ordering, you can also opt to receive a bamboo washcloth along with it, which I recommend doing. Together, they gently wipe all semblance of the day away. 

When it comes to face creams and moisturisers, there are a few I've come to love (some of which I'll go into more detail on in a moment), but this wonder cream might just be my all-time favourite. My first time trying Bobbi Brown's Vitamin Enriched Face Base was by way of a sample pot but, after just one use, I was hooked. Marketed as a primer and moisturiser combined, never before has my skin looked so smoothed and plumped as it does after using this cream. Decadent in texture, but in no way greasy, I also want to take a moment to comment on its refreshing citrus scent; it's so incredible, it's enough to make me want to get out of bed in the morning, just to have the pleasure of applying it to my face. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Bobbi Brown's Vitamin Enriched Eye Base (£34) is equally incredible. 

La Roche-Posay's Effaclar Duo+ is as iconic as moisturisers come, and would like feature on any beauty editor's must-have list. I initially bought it to help blur the first fine lines that appeared on my forehead and on my neck. (After just one use, they disappeared entirely!) The formulation is designed to keep skin breakouts to a minimum too, so it has proven integral in my ongoing fight against maskne. Admittedly, this moisturiser stings my eyes if I apply it too close to the waterline, so I generally avoid using it in that area—a small sacrifice when I consider the wonders it works elsewhere. 

I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't give this moisturiser enough credit when I first started using it. At the time, I was using it in tandem with a product from a big-name brand, which I incorrectly credited my glowing complexion to. So I dropped Diego Dalla Palma's Oh My Lift! cream from my routine. As soon as I did, however, I saw my hereditary frown line start to reemerge. On top of that, the skin on my nose became dry and flakey, and my skin tone turned blotchy. I knew I made a mistake. I switched back to Oh My Lift and, honestly, my skin never looked better. I've since turned my mum onto this, and she too has found it made a significant difference to her skin. It's tighter, brighter, and looks incredible without makeup. In my opinion, this might just be the most underrated moisturiser out there. 

As someone who writes about style and beauty for a living, I spend much of my time glaring into a screen. Be it my laptop when I'm working on articles such as this one, or my phone when I'm trend-spotting on social media. Cue dryness and fatigue. Just one spritz of Caudalie's Beauty Elixir, however, and not only do I feel refreshed, but my skin and makeup look instantly better for it, too. I always carry a travel-size bottle in my handbag, while the full-size version has taken permanent residency on my bathroom shelf. 

Its packaging may not be as aesthetically pleasing as some of the lip balms on offer, but this is without a doubt the best lip balm I've ever used. I first discovered it at a Marks and Spencer beauty event way back when and was initially drawn to it on its SPF levels alone. Then when I applied it, I was shocked at how nourishing it was. My lips were previously prone to cracking, but since I started using this lip balm regularly, that problem is gone out the window. The subtle sheen of the formula also makes your lips look plumper and fuller. So much so that my friends tentatively asked me if I'd had "anything done" to them. It really is that good. 

I'd spent months looking for a natural deodorant that could keep sweat at bay, but my search was fruitless. Then I ordered this Tropic deodorant when I was stocking up on my favourite cleanser. Having used it for well over a year, I can confirm it keeps you fresh all-day, even performing during the hellish HIIT workouts I would force myself through. It also smells divine, which is a serious pro when it comes to natural deodorants. The only criticism I have is the application. Instead of a roll-on mechanism, you have to squeeze the cream out, and applying it to your armpits using the bottle is incredibly messy. As such, I've taken to applying a small amount to my palms and rubbing it into place using my hands. Although a tad inconvenient, it's less-wasteful and, in my opinion, makes it perform better. 

Okay, so this technically isn't skincare, but I had to include this toothpaste somewhere. As someone who has naturally dark teeth (a consequence of enamel, not staining), I've spent more money than I care to admit on teeth-whitening, both professional and at-home treatments, which have always ended in disappointment. Enter Marvis toothpaste. I'd initially tried the brand's Strong Mint offering, which I found cleaned my teeth better than any toothpaste I'd previously tried. So I soon progressed to the Whitening formulation. Not only has it made my teeth look whiter than ever before, but my dentist has since said that my teeth and gums appear to be in better health than ever before. While £9 for a toothpaste might seem extravagant, rest assured a little goes a long way. I tend my invest in a fresh tube whenever I get paid, so it never feels like I can't justify it. I also highly recommend Marvis's toothbrush (£4), which I think out-performs my £100+ electric option. 

MAKEUP

Before investing in this Zoeva set, my collection of makeup brushes was a hodgepodge of freebies that'd I'd assembled over the years. Not only does it feel fancier having a matching set, but these brushes have taken my makeup application to the next seamless level. 

I've already written thousands of words on why I think this base product is so great, but let me consolidate that information for you. Created by an impressive team of dermatologists and plastic surgeons, this CC+ cream is intensely nourishing, while providing full but radiant, non-matte coverage while protecting your skin with a veil of SPF 50. It's truly a game-changer. 

Here is another hero product I've already championed here on Who What Wear UK. Its ability to blend, bestow radiance and, of course, conceal, never fails to amaze me. This Nars concealer is absolutely my "desert island" beauty product. 

Quite simply, this is radiance in a tube. The lightweight formula blends beautifully on bare skin and atop foundation alike. The shimmer is subtle, too, which I love. 

I've always used Nars's matte collection of bronzers, and after my go-to shade, Seaside, was retired, I was worried I'd have to start from square one. Thankfully, the brand swiftly followed through with new shade, Vallarta, which is the perfect bronzer match for my pale, alabaster skin tone.   

I had long sworn-off blushers; that was until I tried Cheek to Chic. Instead of looking cartoonish, this blusher blends into your skin seamlessly. I've chosen the palest colour-way, but it builds beautifully, meaning I can create more dramatic looks with it, too. 

I may have thick and dark brows, but they still need subtle sculpting and patch-filling. I started using Benefit's Gimme Brow years ago, and while I've tried other brow products along the way, this is the one I always come back to. If it ain't broke.  

Another Charlotte Tilbury must-have of mine is the Sophisticate palette. A perfect quartet of neutral shadows, owning to my sunken peepers, my eye makeup always tends to crease, but not with these pigmented wonders, which sweep and blend with impossible ease. I'm not a liquid liner girl, so I use a wetted Zoeva angled brush with the darkest shadow to create my trademark flicks. 

 

The older I get, the more my mascara priorities have changed. Previously I wanted volume and definition—my obsession taking me to borderline spider leg territory. Over the past few years, however, my goal is feather-light and fluttery, and no mascara makes the most of my natural lashes like Bobbi Brown's Smokey Eye Mascara. So much so, I don't think I'll ever want to tempt fate by trying something else. 

Clinique's Black Honey Almost Lipstick was the first lipstick I ever purchased, and it remains one of my favourites to this day. Yet another product I've devoted countless WWWUK paragraphs to, it boasts buildable colour and a just-kissed finish—a look that's incredibly coveted right now. 

Some collect coins, others collect stamps. I collect Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks. While Pillow Talk will always have a place in my heart, my favourite CT lipstick has to be Very Victoria, which is more taupe than pink. 

Being sceptical is one of my character traits. I've come to find that if something sounds too good to be true, it often is. But Urban Decay's All Nighter Setting Spray has given me hope that this might not always be the case. I'd used setting sprays before, all of which we're incredibly underwhelming, but this spray is different. It gives my makeup serious staying power, even after hours of dancing on pre-COVID nights out. Don't ask me how, but it also makes my makeup look significantly better as soon as I spray it overtop—three words: believe the hype. 

Nails are my Achilles heel. I'm rubbish at painting them myself, which is why I'm on first-name terms with all the technicians at my local salon. A creature of habit, my go-to shade is always a deep oxblood or burgundy, just like this Essie colour. My advice? Opt for three coats.

FRAGRANCE

Last year, I saved up all my 30th birthday money and finally treated myself to a Byredo fragrance. Initially I was tempted to invest in the iconic Gypsy Water, but I ended up choosing Slow Dance. With its floral and warm notes, it has since become my favourite perfume. 

Chanel No.5 is as iconic as perfumes come, and I have so many fond memories from when I was first given a bottle as a gift from my husband. I spritz it on my collarbone and my wrists for evenings out, or whenever I'm in need of a confidence boost. 

Sweet but not sickly so, Malin + Goetz's Dark Rum perfume is the ideal fragrance for day-to-day wear; I keep the roller oil permanently in my handbag, not only because of its handy size but also because I find the scent lasts longer than the spray iteration. I guarantee you that, every single time I wear it, the complements always roll in. 

HAIRCARE

I've become wary of most hair styling products, as many of them just make my hair look greasy. But after years of heat-inflicted damage, my hairdresser finally convinced me to add an oil into my very minimal routine. She recommended this L'Oréal number, and I've used it for the last five years straight. I apply a small amount to the wet ends of my hair before blowdrying, or directly onto dry hair between washes, and it helps keep my tresses nourished and shiny. 

My mum, who used to be a hairdresser herself, would continuously complain about the sheer volume of hair I had. "There's just so much of it," she'd state, as she tried to tease out the knots in my waist-length locks, which my 10-year-old self refused to let her cut. Nowadays, my hair is significantly shorter, but it still gets just as tangled. This taming brush from Kent, however, is the ultimate tuggy hair salvation. 

Most days, I'll use Lush's shampoo and conditioner bars to keep my hair in check. But, on the days I'm feeling particularly bougie, or that my hair is in need of some TLC, I'll reach for my Aveda Damage Repair shampoo and conditioner, which I always add to my Christmas list and ration out over the course of the following year. 

Ahh, ghd. I dread to think what my hair would look like if the brand's styling tools hadn't intervened. Of course, I have a set of ghd straighteners, which I'll always fall back on, but seeing as I'm spending most of my time indoors right now, I'm finding that I'm able to carve out more time to blow-dry my hair properly. I treated myself to ghd's award-winning Helios hair dryer after countless stylists recommended it to me, and the results are nothing short of incredible.

As I've already mentioned, I avoid using hair styling products as they make my hair look greasy or, at best, weigh it down. The only exception I make is for Windle London's Invisible Cream. Hailed as a hair moisturiser, this cream revitalises locks and bestow it with an unbelievable shine between washes. But I find its most redeeming feature to be the volume it gives the ends of my hair. I apply a pea-sized amount of the cream to my palms, warming it between them and my fingers until it becomes, you guessed it, invisible. Then, I flip my head upside down and run my hands through the ends of my hair, lightly coating the strands with the now transparent cream, whilst carefully avoiding my roots. When I stand back up, my hair looks impossibly full and, for lack of a better, more poetic word, sexy. 

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