As most of you know, I’m a big beauty junkie. I struggled with horrible acne in my early 20s and was always a little jealous of people who could go out and buy the popular skincare or makeup products and use them without any issues. My skin was so sensitive! I finally had a breakthrough when an aesthetician told me that my skin was actually dry, not oily like I thought. I had been over-drying my face to try to clear my breakouts, but all it was doing was making my skin produce more oil to combat the dryness. Once I got my skin more balanced, everything cleared up.
Learning my skin type and how to take care of it was a game-changer for me (and I can teach you more about your specific skin type and how to take care of it in this free training). Now that I know what types of products work well for my skin, I love buying and trying skincare and makeup to see which is the absolute best.
There’s a lot of noise on social media about beauty products these days. So many people are telling you that this foundation is the best, or this cleanser is their holy grail, etc. It’s hard to know what’s actually worth the hype, especially if they aren’t telling you about the other stuff they’ve tried in comparison. So today, I’m doing just that. I’m going to share all of the products I tried this year (some I purchased and some I was gifted) and which ones win for each category (and of course, why).
Ready? Let’s jump in.
The winner for my favorite cleaning balm is the Colleen Rothschild Radiant Cleansing Balm. I was using Beautycounter’s for years before switching, but now I like Colleen Rothschild’s so much better. It’s more hydrating, has a nicer texture, smells better, and — this is the key point — it does not sting my eyes. I use it to remove my makeup at night (even my eyeliner and mascara) and my skin feels balanced after I use it. I hate when my face feels tight once I cleanse, and that never happens with the CR balm.
You can use (TERILYN20) for 20% off your Colleen Rothschild order. I shared more details about this balm in this in-depth review of the Radiant Cleansing Balm and have a review of more Colleen Rothschild products here.
Other cleansing balms I tried in 2023:
I really like my cleansing balm, but prefer to use a cream cleanser in the mornings for simplicity’s sake since I’m not removing makeup. I discovered the Alpyn Beauty Cream Cleanser when they sent me a few products in a PR package and shockingly LOVED it. My face feels so clean and fresh after I use it, thanks to the refreshing eucalyptus. It doesn’t strip my skin or make it feel tight, but I do feel like it’s a more clarifying cleanser than my CR balm since it has jojaba beads.
I only tried a few toners this year, and my trusty favorite, the Beautycounter Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence, still holds the #1 place in my lineup. The “Prep Step” (i.e. a toner or essence) is probably the most skipped step in most people’s skincare routine, but it’s one I NEVER skip. The right toner or essence is hydrating and preps the skin for your serums. Serums are pricey so you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of them, and the Prep step helps with that since it improves absorption.
I included facial mists in this list as well since they are a type of toner.
I tried a handful of Hyaluronic Acid Serums this year and felt like only one actually helped hydrate and plump my skin: the Colleen Rothschild Hyaluronic Serum. HA helps draw moisture to skin so it’s a must if you struggle with dry skin and works best when used under a moisturizer.
Nothing I’ve tried measures up to Beautycounter’s All Bright C Serum. It’s the most effective Vitamin C serum I’ve tried, and I like the way it feels best too. Some Vitamin C serums feel like they dry tightly on my face, but not Beautycounter’s. I also love that theirs uses two different forms of stable Vitamin C, so it’s effective and also lasts a long time (l-ascorbic acid looses it’s potency and effectiveness if it’s not super stable).
Most high-end vitamin C products use 15% L-Ascorbic Acid, which isn’t super stable. Beautycounter’s uses 5% bis-glyceryl ascorbate and 5% tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate which are more stable and effective at lower concentrations (which also means less potential for irritation).
There are a million great anti-aging serums on the market, and the majority of them have ingredients that target one or two signs of aging. The reason I love the Age Renewal Super Serum from Colleen Rothschild is because it was designed to tackle ALL the signs of aging at once: texture, dehydration, elasticity, fine lines, radiance, and tone. It has 20 potent ingredients that make it super concentrated. It’s definitely the best bang I got for my buck in terms of an anti-aging serum.
I have never liked prescription-grade retinol. My skin does not react well to it, and I obviously can’t use it while pregnant. I prefer a more gentle retinol that doesn’t require a prescription or a retinol-alternative. Beautycounter’s cult favorite Overnight Resurfacing Peel is still one of my favorite products after using it for years. It’s a safer alternative to retinol, but I swear it is more effective than anything I’ve tried. It increases skin cell turnover to slough off dead skin, reduces discoloration, and smoothes skin’s texture. I love that it has a slight tingle sensation when I apply it too!
I tried seven daytime moisturizers this year, expecting to love my Beautycounter Soft Cream most, as I have for years. However, I was blown away by the Alpyn Beauty Super Peptide & Ghostberry Moisturizer (Alpyn Beauty’s products surprised me many times this year). I have VERY dry skin, so even my daytime moisturizer needs to have some really potent ingredients, and I think I liked this best because it’s technically a repair cream that someone might use at night but it’s not heavy.
I’ve been using the Countertime Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream from Beautycounter since it launched about 5 years ago, and I have yet to find anything I like better. It’s the thickest, most hydrating, protective night cream I’ve ever tried but it’s not greasy. It contains anti-aging ingredients in it, so I also love that.
Like the Beautycounter Supreme Cream, the Ultra Renewal Eye Cream from Beautycounter has been a long-standing favorite of mine. It’s hydrating, soothing, and does not make my eyes water or sting in the slightest. And since it contains anti-aging ingredients, it has more benefits than just hydration (my crows feet have lessened).
I also have to note my honorable mention winner, Colleen Rothschild Illuminating Tinted Eye Cream. Since I use this as concealer + eye cream when I’m not wearing makeup (or I wear underneath eye cream), I don’t feel like it totally fits in this section, but I do think it’s worth every single penny. It’s one of the only products that makes me look awake if I’ve had a rough night of sleep.
If you’ve never used a face oil, you’re missing out. It’s my favorite addition to my skincare routine when my skin needs a little more hydration and protection. I rarely use an oil in the AM, but use them every night under my night cream for a boost of hydration. The Colleen Rothschild Face Oil N°9 is the best EVER. It feels like a blend of bamboo, silk, and velvet on your skin. And the smell is crazy luxurious – like a 5 star hotel spa.
I tried a lot of sunscreen this past summer, always hunting for the best mineral-based SPF that doesn’t dry my skin out and still looks good under makeup. My favorite was the Beautycounter Countersun Daily Sheer Defense For Face – SPF 25. I appreciate that it’s super sheer (even though it uses zinc oxide), goes on smoothly without having to rub it in for a long time, and it looks great under makeup.
My favorite tinted base from this year is the Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Skincare Foundation from ILIA. The coverage is light (but buildable to somewhat medium coverage), the have a TON of shades so finding a match was simple, and it has SPF in it (bonus). The only qualm I have is that it smells bad when you first apply it (like dog food?). Thankfully that smells dissipates in about 2 minutes and it looks so good that it’s worth it to me.
I alternate foundations pretty often, depending on my mood. So picking just one as my favorite feels a little unfair. It just depends!! But for the sake of this post, the foundation I wore most often was the Tarte Maracuja Juicy Glow Tint. It’s a medium, dewy/radiant coverage and it lasts all day, which most dewy foundations don’t. I wear shade 24N. (This post has a round-up of all my favorite lightweight foundations.)
I’ve tried a ton of concealers this past year and my favorite for all occasions is the Tarte Shape Tape Radiant Concealer. It has a medium to full coverage that’s buildable, and it leaves the perfect radiance without making your under-eyes look too dewy.
Other concealers I tried:
I LOVE blush and like my foundation, switch it up all the time. If I was on a desert island, I’d take the Tarte Precious Gems Amazonian Clay Cheek Palette because it has a ton of shades, applies easily, looks natural, and has a bit of a radiant finish.
The bad news is that my favorite bronzer, the NightLite Bronzing Powder from ILIA seems to be discontinued. You can still find it a few places, but I am going to have to start my hunt for a new favorite this year once I can’t get my shade!
I am SO picky with mascara. I want length, volume, and it can’t smudge. And the problem is, most mascaras (the oil-soluble ones, anyway), smudge. So I have to stick to water-based (also called tubing mascara since it comes off in tubes with water) and that doesn’t leave a ton of options. Thankfully, I discovered Tarte Tartelette Tubing Mascara a few years ago and it’s the best I’ve found so far. Would I prefer a little more length or volume? Sure. But I am really happy with this find, and with a little eyelash primer, it looks great. I always layer it over a primer, either the Dime Lash Primer or Tarte Primer for extra volume.
I got the best brow pencil at the same place I go to get my brows done, and gosh it’s good. It’s called the Glo Skin Precise Micro Browliner. You can buy it online at Amazon or if you’re local to Winston-Salem, you can get it at The Parlor.
I couldn’t pick my favorite self tanner between the N°36 Supernatural Tanning Mousse and Coco & Eve! And funny enough, I didn’t even like self tanning until this past year. I found that when I used a mit to apply it, it was super even and those two products didn’t have the nasty smell I always hated.
These are my favorite products from this year that didn’t fall into a specific category because I didn’t try enough of each type but they still deserve a shoutout.
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