Most of these year-end favorites posts begin with a look back on the year, but to be honest I really don’t care, and you probably don’t either, so let’s just get to the good stuff.
Makeup Geek Poppy (coral) and Creme Bruleé (peachy tan) have become two of my all-time favorite eye shadows. Both blend beautifully, and on my pale skin, Creme Bruleé is an awesome transition. Poppy is easily one of my most-used shadows of the past year, and I’ve said before that I’ll find any excuse to work it into a look because I just love the warmth that it adds, especially to neutral looks. Confession: I’ve actually used Poppy on my brows when they were coming off a bit too cool-toned for my liking. Sounds horrifying, but as long as you use a light hand, it works wonders and no one will be able to tell that you have a coral eye shadow in your brows.
I love these two palettes from Anastasia Beverly Hills (World Traveler, bottom, and Self-Made, top). I think they’re an excellent value for the money and with the exception of one shadow in each palette, they perform beautifully. I’m especially fond of the titanium finish shadow included in both of these palettes, Pink Champagne. It has an incredible reflective quality, similar to a foiled eye shadow, and it can really alter the look of other shadows depending on how you layer it. I also really love Morocco and Intense Gaze from the World Traveler palette, and Blush and Sherbert (especially in the crease) from the Self-Made palette. In general, I love the formula of the ABH eye shadows and I can’t wait to get more (come to mommy, Henna, you beautiful orange gem).
The Julep Gel Eye Gliders are such an underrated product. These are the softest, silkiest eye pencils I’ve ever used. Not even Urban Decay makes liners as soft as these, and I don’t have the same problem with these smearing that I do with many of the Urban Decay 24/7 pencils. These truly do glide when you apply them, so much so that I’m sometimes not even sure if I’m touching the pencil to my skin. The formula of these is just absolutely beautiful, and I plan on purchasing the entire line eventually. I already have several more of these, but I wanted to include my two most-used shades, which are Champagne Shimmer and Bronze Shimmer. I love Champagne Shimmer as an inner corner highlight, and Bronze Shimmer is a great alternative to black for adding definition without the harshness of a black liner.
You can tell I really love a product when I’ve worn the writing off of it! On the right is ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in XO, which was part of the limited edition collaboration with Shannon from Shaaanxo. I love all of the shadows in her ColourPop collection, but this one is my absolute favorite. I love it as an inner corner highlight or all over the lid. It’s a more neutral gold than many of the others in my collection, which is part of why I wear it so much, it’s just so versatile! I’m going to be so sad when I run out of this shadow. On the left is ColourPop Mixed Tape which also gets a lot of use from me. Because of my uber-dark under-eye circles, I have trouble wearing purple eye shadows without emphasizing the darkness under my eyes, but between the satin finish and the slight grey and brown tones, Mixed Tape is a lot more flattering on me than most other purples.
The Julep Blank Canvas Mattifying Face Primer is another underrated product. I wouldn’t say that it’s mattifying in the sense that it controls oil throughout the day, it’s more like it gives you a soft matte finish to start with. Most primers make my skin feel oily because of the slippery silicone texture, but this primer has a gel texture that has a slight amount of slip and a slight amount of stick, allowing the foundation to blend nicely while helping it to stick to the skin and last longer. This primer is especially helpful when my skin is dry or I have flaky patches from healing breakouts because it helps to smooth out those areas. For that reason, I’d highly recommend this for combination skin. It would also work well for mildly oily or mildly dry skin, but if you’re at either extreme of the spectrum, you’re better off going with a primer that will infuse moisture or control oil. This is my absolute favorite primer of all time, and no matter what I try, I always go back to this one.
The Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Flawless Fluide is another product I always return to. The shade I have, Vanillé, is actually a bit too dark for me right now (actually all of my foundations are too dark for me right now, I’ve been somehow getting even more pale than I already was. Pretty soon I’ll be translucent -.-), but I’ve still been trying to make it work because I really enjoy the formula. One thing I want to be sure to mention about this foundation is that many people feel that it’s not enough coverage for them. With one layer, it’s a light to medium coverage, but I almost always apply two layers to cover up the redness and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in my skin, and with two layers it’s a solid medium to soft full coverage. My favorite way to apply it is with a flat foundation brush (the kind that looks like a paint brush), then I go over it with a beauty blender to make sure there are no brush strokes, but I also like applying it with my fingers to reduce product loss. It’s a very thin, runny consistency, but it’s also very pigmented, which is what I love most about it. Because of the texture, it looks very much like skin, more so than any other foundation I’ve used. It also doesn’t emphasize dry patches or make me feel oily throughout the day. When it comes to makeup, the two things I’m most fussy about are my skin and my lashes, so I don’t mind applying two layers to get a beautiful finish with the amount of coverage that I want, especially since this is one of the only foundations I can keep on my face during the summer without melting into a puddle or getting streaks from sweat (TMI? maybe, but it’s a very real problem when you live in a place that’s hotter than Satan’s balls).
The Laura Mercier Translucent setting powder is a more recent addition to my routine, but I spent about half of this year searching for a setting powder that wouldn’t make my skin look dry and cakey, and this has been the winner. I’ve mentioned before that when a product gets a lot of hype, I go running in the other direction, and this product was no exception. I tried several other powders before finally giving this one a try, and even then, I was only willing to give it a try because it was 30% off. What finally pushed me over the edge with this product (other than the sale) was the fact that it’s actually translucent rather than white, like many of the other most raved about setting powders are, such as the one from NARS. Several of my friends have recommended that one to me, and I’ll probably try it at some point out of sheer curiosity, but white powders freak. me. out. I don’t care how pale I am, I want to avoid a white cast or, even worse, flash back. Depending on how matte I want my skin to be that day, I apply it with either a beauty blender or a fluffy powder brush, like the Real Techniques blush brush. I’m not about to sit here and tell you “OMG it’s a miracle product!!!!!” because it’s not, it will still make your skin look a bit dry if you have dry skin or oily-dehydrated skin like I do, but for me it’s been far, far preferable to the other powders I’ve used, especially because it’s so silky. I have to set my foundation to keep it from moving around, and this is the best way I’ve found to do that so far. So is it worth the hype? Yes and no. No, in the sense that people talk it up to be some kind of sent-from-the-gods product, but yes in the sense that it’s a damn good powder.
The Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector (Poured) in Opal and the Benefit Watts Up! are my absolute favorite highlighters. I tend to prefer cream highlighters to powder because I like the way that they blend in to the skin rather than sitting on top of it, which is a big part of why I like these so much. They also blend out without disturbing my foundation or making it break up throughout the day. I’d say that the glow from Becca Opal is more intense than Benefit Watts Up, so I reach for Watts Up on more natural or casual days, and Opal when I want to do the happy highlighter dance (you know what I’m talking about—when you keep moving your face around to catch the glow of your highlighter, I know you do it too!).
I’m not much of a blush person, partially because my cheeks are where I tend to break out the most and I don’t want to ruin my concealer, and partially because I’m so pale that I can go from zero to clown in two brush strokes. I can easily skip blush and be perfectly happy most days, but these are two of my favorites for both color and formula. I have a full review and swatches on Vasanti Himalayas here, It remains one of my favorite blushes because of how buildable and versatile it is. I can use a light hand for a soft rosy flush, or layer it for a more intense look. I’m especially fond of colors such as Himalayas and ColourPop Between The Sheets because they give me more of a subdued, almost neutral blush. I like to apply Between The Sheets with an angled kabuki brush because it picks up just the right amount of product. I like the formula of this blush (it’s the only blush I own from ColourPop, so I can’t speak for the line as a whole) because it doesn’t emphasize any flaky bits from healing spots as powder blushes tend to do, so if I’m trying to cover a breakout but still want to wear blush, this is what I usually reach for.
The ColourPop Lippie Primer (I grudgingly type ‘lippie’ every time because it’s the name of the product, but holy mother of god do I hate that word, sorry if you’re #teamlippie, I’m just not about that life) has become an everyday product for me. I love that it hydrates my lips while giving me a slightly tacky base to apply my products to. I definitely feel like this keeps my lipstick on longer too, which is awesome because I hate having to reapply lipstick.
I don’t know about you, but lip liners are something I just don’t feel the need to splurge on. The thought of paying for a MAC lip liner makes me cringe, especially since there are so many great options at the drugstore. If there’s something magical about high-end lip liners, I don’t want to know. With the exception of the limited color range (I turn to NYX for more colorful options) I’m perfectly satisfied with this lip liner by Essence, which is only $1.49. In The Nude is my most used shade because it has just enough brown and grey to work well with my skin tone. Lipsticks and lip liners that are typically described as nudes are almost always waaay too pink on me. That’s also why I love NYX Butter Gloss in Madeline, especially paired with this Essence lip liner. I like the NYX Butter Gloss formula in general, but I’m specifically talking about Madeline as a favorite because I love how brown it is. So much more flattering on me than a pale pink, like the NYX Butter Gloss in Eclair, which I’ve heard so many people talk about as being a great nude lip gloss. It might be a nude on them, but on me it’s far from it, which is why I’m not a fan of the term ‘nude’ as a color descriptor. ‘Nude’ shades vary so, so much depending on skin color, undertone, etc. so don’t get discouraged if the ‘nude’ shade everyone is raving about just didn’t look right on you.
Manna Kadar Lip Locked Priming Gloss Stain is another one of those products that doesn’t get the attention is deserves. I’ve heard KathleenLights talk about it recently, but that’s about it. It’s such a unique product because it’s a liquidy, shiny, almost opaque gloss, but the pigment stains the lips slightly, so as it wears away, you lose some of the glossiness, but not the color. The shade shown here, Lucky, is my favorite, but I also have it in a more purple/mauve shade and I love that one as well.
You might be wishing I would shut up about the Ofra and Jeffree Star liquid lipsticks already, but I just love them so much. I’m always really hesitant to purchase liquid lipsticks because the formula can be so hit or miss, and when they’re bad, they’re usually awful to the point of being unwearable. These, however, are practically perfect. They’re both comfortable to wear, easy to apply, and when they finally do start to wear away, they don’t get flaky and weird. The Ofra formula is thicker, which makes them easier to apply for me personally, but they dry down about 90%, whereas the Jeffree Star formula is more of a true liquid and dries down all the way. I love them both. Colors shown here are Ofra Miami Fever and Jeffree Star Unicorn Blood.
The Real Techniques Deluxe Crease Brush is an amazing multi-tasker. I use it to buff out eye shadow when I’ve gone a bit overboard, blend in concealer, and even to contour. I love this brush so freaking much, especially for the price. Brushes are another thing I just can’t bring myself to spend a lot of money on, they don’t excite me. I just want them to work well, and these definitely do. I’ve had that RT brush for over two years now and it’s held up very well with no shedding.
The Essence Precise Eyeliner brush is a hidden gem. I originally just threw it into my cart to hit the free shipping threshold at Ulta, and because my previous favorite angled liner brush had mysteriously disappeared (I think one of my cats took it, those sneaky little bastards), but I’ve completely fallen in love with this brush because it’s so thin. It makes winged eyeliner so much easier for me and it’s held up through several washings already. Plus, it’s only $1.99. Yes, please.
After dragging my feet for ages, I finally started using Asian beauty products midway through the year. Of all the sheet masks I’ve tried so far, the My Scheming masks are my favorite. I purchased the My Scheming Chapter 2 Brightening and Clarifying Book of Masks from Beautius, which came with an assortment of several different masks. These masks are absolutely drenched in essence, so much so that I either use the excess as a body moisturizer or save it and use it on my face over the course of the next few days. They’re silk masks, which adhere to the face very well, making them more comfortable to wear, but the trade-off is that they’re also quite delicate, so you have to be careful when unfolding them. I really enjoyed all of the masks in this set and will be purchasing more varieties from My Scheming soon, especially this Mandelic Acid mask. I felt that it helped to soothe my breakouts while also brightening and moisturizing my skin.
I’ve been using the Radical Skincare Skin Perfecting Screen for almost a year now and my love for it hasn’t waned at all. My only complaint about it is that it’s expensive at $55 for 1.35 oz. I plan to investigate some Asian sunscreens in 2016 as a more budget friendly alternative, but it’s going to take a lot to get me to stop using this stuff. It’s a very liquidy formula with gold veining throughout, which gives my skin a gorgeous luminosity without being glittery. It doesn’t make my makeup slide around, give me a white cast, or cause me to break out. It can also function as a primer, but most of the time I layer the Julep Blank Canvas primer over top of this because, like I said, I’m super fussy with my skin and I like the way that primer helps with the texture of my skin. I used to be so bad about wearing sunscreen, but this has converted me.
I initially discovered the Anthony Oil Free Facial Lotion when it arrived in a Birchbox mystery sample pack, and I’m so glad it did because I probably would have overlooked this product otherwise. They’ve changed the formula since I first tried it, it was originally a whipped texture that melted into the skin on contact, and to be honest, I miss that since it felt so pleasant, but the updated formula gives me the same amount of hydration, it’s just a much runnier formula. It’s very light-weight, but still very hydrating, so if most moisturizers make you feel like you’ve got something heavy and gross on your skin, this is a great one to try. I’m not a big fan of scent in skincare products, but this one does smell nice, slightly citrusy and fresh, but not overpowering. On its own, it’s not enough for me in the colder months, but I love it the rest of the year. In the winter, however, I slather so many different moisturizers onto my skin until I look like I’ve used the grease from the fryer in a fast food restaurant all over my face. Yep, I’m super cute when I go to bed at night.
The Tokyomilk Dark lip balm is something I just can’t get enough of. I have it in almost every flavor, but my favorites are salted caramel and cocoa noir, which is a chocolate cherry flavor. They’re nice thick balms, which I really like. I hate feeling like I’ve just put a layer of oil on my lips or thin balms that just feel like they’re sliding around not really doing anything for my lips. I put this balm on at night and wake up to it still on my lips in the morning, so I know it’s really helping to create a barrier on my lips to stop moisture loss. I initially purchased one of these thinking it would just be a fun little gimmick with flavors like absinthe and cherry bourbon, but I was so pleasantly surprised by these.
Lastly in the skincare category are Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Oil and Good Genes treatment. Part of me wishes I didn’t love these because of the price, but they both work so well for my skin that I don’t see myself being without these in my skincare lineup any time soon. I’d had several samples of Good Genes over the last couple of years, and every time I would try to convince myself that I really didn’t love it, and every time I failed. Then I got a deluxe sample of Luna and loved that, too. I decided I was finally going to purchase Good Genes during the Sephora VIB sale and would eventually purchase Luna once I could afford another splurge, but I got super lucky and just before the VIB sale, Sephora started carrying a duo of these two products that were each half the size of the full product. Many of us figured out that with the VIB discount, you could buy two of the duos and get the equivalent of the full sizes for less money, so that’s what I did (after having to stalk the Sephora website because it kept going out of stock, including disappearing out of my cart during the last stage of checkout). I have zero regrets about that purchase. I use these on alternating nights because I feel that they work better that way and since AHA and Retinol are best at different pH levels, it just makes more sense to use them this way to get the most out of them. Luna has been helping to address my hyperpigmentation, and Good Genes gives me a gorgeous glow while also helping to deal with my dry skin. I fuh-reaking love these and now I have a case of the heart eyes for the entire Sunday Riley brand (especially after seeing her video with the Pixiwoo sisters). R.I.P. bank account.
Podcast: Real Ghost Stories Online. I love listening to podcasts while I’m doing schoolwork or taking care of things around the house, and this is easily my favorite podcast of all time. Real Ghost Stories Online is a podcast where people either write in or call in their true paranormal experiences. I love the conversations that the hosts, Tony and Jenny, have with each other, they’re just so funny and insightful and Jenny does a great job of selecting the stories to share on the air. There are several other paranormal podcasts that I listen to and enjoy, but I feel like RGSO is the best there is. Came for the ghost stories, stayed for the banter.
Youtubers: Leighannsays, Shameless Fripperies (Karima), Sharon Farrell, Karissa Pukas, GlamLifeGuru (Tati), Shaaanxo, Lisa Eldridge, and KathleenLights.
Yes, that’s kind of a lot, but I genuinely love all of these people. They’re all very talented and have an authenticity to them that I really appreciate. Lisa, Karima, and Sharon are amazing at teaching, Shannon does amazing makeup looks with a great amount of variety, Tati, Kathleen, and Leigh Ann are refreshingly honest, funny, warm people, and Karissa is such a kind-hearted, fun person to watch. I’ve really enjoyed watching Leigh Ann, Sharon, Karissa, and Shannon’s vlogs as well. All of these people have taught me something, helped me in some way, and brought a smile to my face, and for that I’m very grateful. And that’s as mushy as this year-end wrap-up is going to get.
Music: If you’re interested, here’s a Spotify playlist of my favorite music from 2015. Normally I restrict these end-of-the-year playlists to songs/albums that actually came out that year, but so much of what I enjoyed this year was released in 2014 or beyond, so I’m cheating.
My Disappointing Products of 2015 will be up shortly, so be on the lookout for that. Definitely let me know what your favorite products were this year, and leave me your music, podcast, and Youtuber recommendations, I’m always looking for new content to follow in those categories!