With 2021 now officially over, it’s time to review some of the best skincare and hair care products I’ve discovered this year. If you’re a regular reader here or a follower on Instagram, most of these should come as no surprise to you!
For beauty favorites from previous years make sure to check the links at the end!
Usually I love my scented bougie cleansers but there's something about the simplicity of this Inkey List one that just stands out. Maybe it's the gentle gel texture, maybe it's the short but effective ingredient list, or maybe it's just that this cleanser works as claims and is well priced. An excellent affordable cleanser that rivals Cerave!
Most cleansing balms come in jars that don't always include a spatula, so a tube packaging not only makes it easier but more hygienic to dispense. Love the soft balm texture that instantly melts into a silky oil and how gentle it feels on the skin. Rinses cleanly, doesn't leave the skin dry, and doubles as a wonderful in-shower mask thanks to all its nourishing ingredients!
I was blown away by how hydrating this toner (or is it an essence?) was without being sticky. There's some viscosity to the texture but no heaviness, and my skin was left plump and juicy with this in my routine!
I've become obsessed with milky toners since discovering the Laneige Cream Skin Refiner in 2019, and this Aromatica one is just as good, if not better. If you love pink, moisturizing but light layers, and/or rose scents, this toner is a must-try. It's also a great cruelty-free option to the Laneige one!
My favorite AHA exfoliating essence to date! It uses lactic acid so it's gentler than glycolic acid, plus it features squalane and other nourishing botanical oils to minimize irritations, which means softer + smoother skin sans redness. Whenever I'm experiencing some texture around my cheeks I apply this for a few night hello baby smooth skin again!
I've always been impressed by YTTP's products but they hit a home run with this gentle AHA/BHA/PHA exfoliant! This doesn't quite smooth your skin like the Kiehl's, but I love it on my t-zones to help keep my pores clear. It also feels lightweight, like water, which is an improvement from the popular Paula's Choice BHA Liquid. Overall a wonderful all-around exfoliant that's gentle for beginners!
My top retinol pick for beginners! It's affordable and gentle, thanks to the retinoid used: granactive retinoid, which has the benefits of tretinoin without the irritations! Seasoned retinol users may find this too gentle, but I also find it an excellent option to alternate with your stronger products.
For me retinol products have always been quite utilitarian and not exactly joyful to use, until I met this Maelove serum. Not only does it have a beautiful texture, but the faint citrus scent really elevates my entire evening routine. Efficacy wise it uses retinal, which is more potent than retinol but still gentler than tretinoin.
→ $36.95 for 30ml on Maelove, non US readers can use a service like myUS
107 might be my 2021 brand of the year, and of all the products I've tried from them, their Everyday Plump Hydro Cream is hands down my favorite. It's a lush cream with a hint of gel texture that's deeply moisturizing without being heavy or oily. The results are similar to my favorite Lancome Absolue Soft Cream at a fraction of the price!
Affordable, effective, and elegant are 3 words I'd use to describe this all-purpose moisturizer. Not only is it a lovely body lotion during the winter, but it's also great for the face year round if you're looking for barrier support. If you're not a fan of the Cerave cream texture (which is much thicker in comparison), this is an excellent alternative!
Filorga is a brand I discovered last year and boy this mask lives up to its hype. Usually I prefer sheet masks for their moisturizing + brightening properties but you can get similar results with this, or better yet, triple your results by using this together with a sheet mask! This is now my pick-me-up when my skin is feeling dull and blah.
While my go-to deep cleaning mask for my t-zone will always be the Kiehl's Rare Earth Mask, this YTTP is an excellent option when I want to do a full-face deep cleanse. It's non-drying, rare for clay masks, and it features BHA for a bit of chemical exfoliation as well. Skin feels soft and refreshed after using this!
The most elegant sunscreen I've tried and one that will work for all skin types and tones thanks to its invisible satin finish. It also makes a great working-from-home sunscreen with proven SPF30 and PA++++, because UVA rays can still pass through glass windows! Did I mention it's super affordable too?
The BEST sunscreen I've tried last year (and I've tried a few), and one of my top 5 sunscreens for sure. It has everything you can ask for: elegant texture, tested SPF50+ and PA++++, no white cast, and no pilling. This has a dewier finish than the Innisfree but nothing too shiny, and it's still affordable!
While I did like their personalized shampoo and conditioner, the star product for me is definitely their one-size-fits-all shampoo bar! It foams nicely, offers light exfoliation, and deep cleans without stripping your strands. Plus I love the waste-free aspect! I use this weekly and there's still a lot of product left!
Cheers to the new year and may 2022 treat us all a little kinder!
Many of these products were provided for review purposes, but all opinions are 100% honest and my own. This post contains affiliate links, and each purchase helps cover the
cost of running this blog at no extra cost to you! Full disclosure
Author: Jenny Wu
(she/her) Skincare educator and researcher with 9+ years of writing experience on the topic. Also a health coach in-training who is passionate about evidence-based wellness 🧪. Learn more.
Skin profile - 30's,
dry/combination, focused on well-aging, hydration, and a healthy glow ✨