The 20 Best Beauty Products of 2021

Mark A. Carlson

In the latter half of 2021, we have reintroduced (safely) socializing into our lives, rekindling long-forgotten joies de vivre and relishing the moments spent with friends, family, and coworkers (that is, until we figure out what Omicron means for the future).

Seeing more people has also meant others seeing us—a lot more of us. The Zoom filters and strategic lighting at home that we once relied upon can’t always help us IRL. Luckily, the past twelve months have seen the release of dozens of stellar beauty products. We’ve chosen 20 launches from 2021 that we sincerely approve of—and deem deserving of your recognition (and money). We consider these products not only exceptionally effective, they’re also soothing, decadent, and in the cases of some of the makeup products highlighted below, utterly gorgeous when applied. As you get into the holiday spirit with loved ones, take a moment to review our favorite products of the year to add to your holiday beauty regimen before the clock strikes 12 on 2022.

If you’ve been feeling lately like you need an overnight facelift, look no further. This transformative serum promises visible results in under four weeks of use—but frankly, I personally noticed results after just one night. My skin was smoother, firmer, and visible lines were minimized after each use. Advanced Quad-Drone technology identifies the areas of your skin most in need of hydration and firming—rendering this product a bona-fide “Botox in a bottle” remedy. According to the internationally renowned facialist, Adeela Crown, the rapid skin-firming benefits of this serum are worth every penny. “RéVive Peau Magnifique Serum is literally a ‘liquid facelift-in-a-bottle’ with a dream team lineup of restorative anti-aging ingredients, like bio-renewal, bio-firming, and bio-volumizing proteins, hyaluronic acid, and retinol—components not out of place in a reconstructive plastic surgery practice,” she says. “For those looking for filler/surgical prevention and serious dermal regeneration, Peau Magnifique Nightly Youth Activator is a must-have.”

Initially created to appease Augustinus Bader clients who wanted a lighter alternative to The Cream series, this remarkably fast-absorbing face serum might be lighter in consistency but still delivers astounding results. The serum adheres to the Bader minimalist skincare routine and uses the brand’s prized TFC8 dermal technology. To be worn on its own, under The Cream, or as a flawless makeup primer, the texture feels hydrating but never dense on the skin. It promotes a smoother, more even-toned complexion that continues with regular use to aid in keeping skin elastic. Lord Gavin McLeod-Valentine, the esteemed facialist behind Emily Ratajkowski’s and Julia Garner’s glowing skin, says The Serum from Augustinus Bader is “my go-to skin-rejuvenating secret weapon for tired, stressed and sensitized skin—and it’s my must-have product for red-carpet radiance.”

Leave it to makeup artist extraordinaire Pat McGrath to launch one of the most sublime red matte lipsticks that lasts continuously, moisturizing without any caking or flaking over time. Elson 4, named after Karen Elson’s signature red lip, is a super-chic sleek blue-red that works well in all seasons and on all skin tones. The color is rich, the composition is feather light and provides full coverage with an applicator tip that helps shape the lips with or without the use of lipliner.

Glowing skin is taken to another level with this resurfacing mask created for all skin types. The Glass Face mask requires no downtime and delivers softer, glowing skin. First, the formulation uses the power of aloe vera and cucumber distillate to calm and hydrate the skin. Lactic acid is the exfoliating component here, which works with French silk peptides to smooth out your skin’s natural texture without irritating or causing any redness. (The mask is also ideal for those with acne because it includes sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a vitamin C derivative known in the dermal world to help minimize acne breakouts.) You can leave it on for 15 minutes or overnight for more intensity to create a bright, glasslike appearance. The Glass Mask is a constant for L.A.-based aesthetician Candace Marino—who works often with Khloe Kardashian. “Holi Bright by Agent Nateur is my go-to mask for an instant pick-me-up,” Marino says. “I like to think of it as a facial in a jar as it provides exfoliation, hydration, and that freshly ‘facialed’ glow we seek from professional treatments. This mask features lactic-based exfoliation to digest dead cells and refine texture and pores alongside deeply nourishing and hydrating ingredients. This mask deserves a place on everyone’s vanity.”

This is a new day-to-night moisturizer that works phenomenally for all four seasons and simplifies your skin routine in the most intelligent manner. The texture is light but hydrating, so there is not an overly weighted feel. This is Sturm’s first moisturizer to include hyaluronic acid to support the skin’s barrier for protection against environmental stressors. The combination of shea butter, purslane extract, vitamin E and squalene provide a powerful dose of moisturizing, helping support skin’s elasticity long-term. Ivan Pol, Tinseltown’s most endeared facialist and founder of The Beauty Sandwich Facial, is a loyal fan of the face cream, and incorporates it into many of his facials. “How can a cream this rich feel so light and smooth on the skin?,” he asks. “Formulated to mimic our own skin barrier, it’s the ultimate protection against dryness, especially during the winter months. Think of it as fine cashmere sweater for your skin.”

Inspired by Chinese superfoods and ancient rituals, this dual-phase makeup remover and cleanser removes the impurities of face and eye makeup while still nourishing the skin. CBD is used in this formulation to calm skin and reduce any redness, while superfood oils black sesame and black cumin seed oil work gently to improve skin rejuvenation and health. Sheri Knight—often the makeup artist in charge of creating Kerry Washington’s onscreen looks—is an ardent fan of the product. “Yensa CBD Superfood Dual Cleansing Oil is excellent at removing all traces of makeup, yet leaves my skin feeling nourished and glowing,” she says. “The light, fresh scent is a lovely bonus. I typically break out from oils, but the calming action of the CBD and eight super oils has my skin looking and feeling its best.”

Those of us that have been around the melasma block attest that lasers and peels will often cause more harm than good when it comes to dealing with hyperpigmentation long-term. (Sun protection and non-invasive, quality products are often the way to ensure skin isn’t scarred or overly stimulated, either.) But this serum delivers visible results almost overnight—with a plant-based formulation that helps minimize signs of melasma and hyperpigmentation. Plus, the genius anti-pigmentation formulation not only adds a radiant glow to the skin, it also brightens and evens out the skin’s texture with a special oat seed derivative. Famed makeup artist, Jo Baker, has also become quite besotted with the new Sisleya serum. “I am completely obsessed,” she says. “I found that it works wonders. I was blown away by how luminous and vibrant my skin looked with just one application. After about three weeks of using the serum morning and night, I could see that my skin looks more even.”

This lip product is worth the much talked-about hype, without a doubt. A refined gloss that glides on smooth and can be worn alone or over a lip gloss, the infusion has a cherry oil base that is hydrating and nourishing, and lasts for hours. The berry shade is a winner and applies sheer and luminous. Sabrina Bedrani, the makeup artist in the rolodex of Gal Gadot, Charlize Theron, and Petra Flannery, relies on #006 for sultry-yet-natural lip looks. “I used the 006 the most because it’s a very natural tint that just enhances everyone’s natural lip color. I love the Dior Lip Oil—I used it every day, especially in this dry weather. It’s really moisturizing and gives a nice shine without being sticky.”

This cream transforms stressed-out skin overnight using high-caliber ingredients. Officially launched this year, the soothing serum-in-moisturizer was originally created by Tatcha founder Vicky Tsai to help with her stress-related eczema flare-ups. The formulation uses Japanese indigo extract for overnight skin restoration, as well as ceramides and Mondo grass root to help balance skin’s microbiome—essentially, fostering good bacteria growth for a better complexion. It’s ideal for dehydrated, exhausted, and irritated skin that needs deep moisture. Indigo Overnight Repair is a skin savior for Daniel Martin, the makeup whiz that often works on Elizabeth Moss, Jessica Biel, and Jessica Alba. “This product has a beautiful gel cream texture and feels really comfortable on the skin,” he says. “I haven’t been as diligent as I should about applying sunscreen, so this helps repair and calm my skin, toning down any redness from over-exposure. I’ll apply it at night and wake up in the morning with no redness and soft, hydrated, dewy, radiant skin.”

The high-grade powers of 10 flower essences are used here to heal, moisturize, and protect the skin without leaving heavy residue behind. Hibiscus is one of the hero ingredients, which is not only phenomenal to use post laser and microdermabrasion treatments, it’s also touted for its natural Botox-like attributes. The composition uses pure 1 percent long chain sodium hyaluronate, which is the most stable derivative of hyaluronic acid—providing deeper penetration into the skin and a far more stable quality, with no oxidization. Celebrity makeup artist Kindra Mann counts on this moisturizer often to prep skin before applying makeup for her clients. “The intelligent ingredients in this moisturizer make it a standout face lotion that I will use again and again and again,” she says.

Don’t you dare shy away from this glorious Daisy Pink shade. It may look shockingly bright in the tube, but upon application, glides on with a chic, rosy hue that flatters all complexions through all four seasons. Not to mention how gratifying it is when a product properly lives up to its name, as lips appear plumper and voluminous upon application. It goes on smooth and stays put with an applicator that hugs the lips without feeling heavy, providing full coverage. It also provides a nourishing infusion of shea butter, rosehip and almond oils. The creamy composition also contains special maxi-lip peptides that help stimulate your own collagen and hyaluronic synthesis. It feels good on—and looks even better.

To be used 2-3 times a week, this potent blend of squalene, CoQ10, and vitamins C and E works intelligently with your skin chemistry to protect the skin barrier and surface lipids. Klur’s newest skin treatment has garnered much attention lately from revered facialists including Beverly Hills-based skin expert Ronit Falevitch, who prefers this formulation to hydrate skin—especially during frigid temperatures. “I think this is an extremely well-formulated face oil because of the squalene factor, which I am a huge fan of,” she says. “It absorbs easily and prevents water loss from the skin. I apply it over my moisturizing cream for extra hydration. This is an ideal skin protector for winter.”

Not just for under the eyes and spot coverage, this concealer, which is fast becoming a favorite of lauded makeup artists worldwide, works for all over the face. Whether used to smooth out lines or help with flattering contouring, Lancôme’s newest concealer promises all-day hydration and staying power without any residual creases or lines that most concealers often give way to after a few hours of application. The formulation is one that makeup artist Genevieve Herr will often incorporate into the many makeup looks she creates. “Teint Idôle Ultra Wear All Over Concealer is great for everyday wear and when I work with my celebrity clients for red carpets and events,” she says. “It is lightweight and melts into the skin, while still offering full coverage and a natural matte finish. It has true 24-hour wear and does not crease or cake throughout the day because of the skincare ingredients included.”

There’s a reason every dermatologist on this earth continuously recommends this sunscreen. It’s light to the touch, properly broad spectrum protective, and can be worn under makeup comfortably. Launched by Elta this past February, the MC UV Sheer Broad Spectrum +50 is geared toward those who are physically active and spend time outdoors. The new 50+ formulation provides not just protective vitamin C and squalene antioxidants, but manages to soothe over-heated skin. New York board-certified dermatologist Dr. Robert Finney of Entiere Dermatology holds the new Elta formulation in high esteem—not for just for himself, but for his patients, too. “The Elta MD UV Sheer Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ is a personal favorite and one that I recommend to my patients who are active, including my celebrity clients,” he says. “As an active person myself, I love that it is water- and sweat-resistant. On top of that, it’s got great zinc-based, broad-spectrum UV coverage and they add vitamin C and other hydrating ingredients to fight dark marks and keep the skin barrier looking fresh. More importantly, it’s lightweight, absorbs quickly, and won’t leave a white cast.”

Biologique Recherche Serum Liposmose

Biologique Recherche Serum Liposmose

Bid farewell to the appearance of puffy eyes with this advanced serum that uses scientifically formulated ingredients containing triple osmoregulatory, lipolytic, and firming actions. In simpler terms: if you suffer from puffy eyes brought on by dehydration or water retention, this eye serum will diminish drastically any signs of it—that, or the appearance of plain exhaustion that tends to accumulate around the eye area. Master aesthetician and Rescue Spa founder, Danuta Mieloch, prefers this eye treatment in conjunction with her eye cream and in a homemade eye mask patch to properly depuff the eye area. “Most women are very concerned about their eye area because the skin is the thinnest, often showing the first signs of aging,” she says. “The most common issues are puffiness, dark circles, fine lines, and wrinkles. We all know we should be using an eye cream to combat these issues, but adding a serum like Biologique Recherche’s Serum Liposmose takes your regimen to the next level. In addition to using it with my eye cream, I also love applying it to a cotton round and sitting with it on my eyelids for 10 minutes.”

The revamped vitamin C serum from Drunk Elephant uses a powerful 15 percent vitamin C and 1 percent vitamin E complex that delivers brighter, tighter, and more glowy skin. The new formulation must be self-mixed, so it maintains freshness—and the 2.5 PH level means a longer shelf life. Fruit enzymes pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract help slough off any dead skin cells that often are the cause of a lackluster face. New York-based makeup artist Kimi Duncan often uses the C serum not just on clients, but in her own skincare routine. “Unlike most vitamin C serums, this one is unscented and gentle on sensitive skin,” she says. “I love using this serum as part of my skin prep routine; it instantly gives dull, tired skin a major glow up!”

Aside from all of the clinical results and the nutrient-rich benefits, this face oil simply gives one of the best, most dewy glows ever. Unlike many other face oils on the market, it never appears oily when applied, either. The formulation is made with nine powerful nutrient-dense oils that hydrate the skin and still feel light on the face. This oil is appropriate for both day and night use, and can be applied under makeup and even on top of moisturizer. Known as the natural retinol, Bakuchiol is in the composition—it helps to even out the texture of your skin, making it feel smooth as velvet. It’s best to smooth two to four drops evenly over your face morning and night, and is also recommended for the neck, décolletage, and even on the backs of the hands.

This is one of the best tightening and glow-inducing sheet masks ever created. Using a combination of Japanese rice sake, yeast-derived ferments, and a signature olive complex, this product is thoroughly effective and deserves recognition—but all kidding aside, if Jennifer Lopez told us that we needed to apply Windex onto our skin to get her signature glow, we would. Launched in January, That Limitless Glow sheet mask is more than just a saner alternative to Windex. It has an easy loop that hooks behind your ear, is light on fragrance, and is particularly advantageous to use before big nights out.

This serum is an essential eye rejuvenator for celebrity makeup artist, Mellody Vere, who applies it on her runway and editorial clients frequently. “I actually sometimes give this to my clients to use the night before a shoot or event, when I need to work on them the next day,” she says. “It’s almost what you’d call a topical ice mask serum. It gives that tightening effect, softening any lines and wakes up sleepy eyes.” The combination of a specialized caffeine complex and Swiss wine essence work together to minimize the appearance of crow’s feet as well, and keep the area looking bright and smooth.

For use once or twice a week, this physical and chemical multitasking exfoliant resurfaces skin exceptionally well, giving way to super soft skin. Volcanic ash is used in the composition to draw out your pores’ deepest impurities, while the hero ingredient is galactoarabinan, a powerful larch tree derivative that promises cell turnover and brightening. It can be applied and rinsed instantly—or, as Vargas recommends, “apply overnight as a mini-facial before a red-carpet event to even out pigment and minimize inflammation.”

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