Now that weekly Zoom calls, face masks, and social distancing have become the norm, many of us have taken a slightly more pared down approach to beauty over the past year. But with so many evolving hair, skin, and makeup tips and tricks to try (here’s looking at you, TikTok), the lingering effects of the pandemic have fueled a trend in beauty discovery. A juggernaut of buzzy emerging brands and new drops from tried-and-true ones have found their way into our shopping carts and shelves—with the exception of some out-of-stock favorites that are worth the wait—in 2021.
From expert-backed skincare essentials, like Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Fresh Day Serum and Revision Skincare’s Revox Line Relaxer, to new holy-grail picks from Black- and Asian-owned brands like Ami Colé and Tower28, 2021 has offered a robust selection of options that makes updating our range of favorites simple. Plus, a number of traditionally luxe brands like Dior, Hermès, and Valentino Beauty have released notable makeup and nail care staples shoppers beauty lovers can’t stop raving about. While we’ve already rounded up our go-to beauty picks of the year in the most recent iteration of the BAZAAR 100, we’ve rounded off our list with additional selections from professionals, influencers, editors, and brand consultants in the know to get the ultimate inside scoop on the most in-demand items of the year. Here, the 45 best products of 2021, according to beauty experts in the know—we recommend making room in your collection for these must-have gems.
Jenna Rosenstein, beauty director at BAZAAR.com
“Life is all about embracing little luxuries. Case in point: the new Hermès nail polish collection and insanely glam orange nail files. The combination makes the mundane task of DIYing your nails feel like a scene straight out of Succession.” —@jennarosenstein
Dr. Caroline Robinson, dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology
“I worked with Desirée Rogers and Cheryl Mayberry McKissack to bring a skin loving ethos to this newly launched fusion of a primer and a serum by Fashion Fair. Fashion Fair is an iconic brand in the Black beauty space that re-launched this year and I think this innovative product captures what the brand is about. We wanted to ensure that women and men did not have to compromise when it came to choosing makeup or skincare, why not have makeup that is actually good for your skin. With a blend of niacinamide antioxidant rich Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract and hyaluronic acid it is the perfect brightening primer base for makeup.
[Additionally,] a product that has been absolutely game changing in my practice was the newly launched Revision Skincare Revox Line Relaxer which has clinical data demonstrating improvement in the appearance of expression lines on its own or when paired with neuromodulator injectables like Botox. I use Revox Line Relaxer immediately post-injectable and have patients use it twice daily over the long term at home for enhanced results from their treatments. The product can also be used as a stand alone treatment to improve the appearance of expression lines such as smile lines and even under-eye lines. My patients who are not receiving Botox and other injectables love it because they can use it at home on their own to treat lines.” —@crobinsonmd
Fabulous Face Priming Serum
Kara McGrath, deputy digital director at Allure
“[Tower28’s SunnyDays Tinted SPF Sunscreen] was one of the rare products that had the whole Allure team raving this year—and we’re a very diversely picky bunch. It’s a lightweight, comfortable foundation that adds just enough coverage for Zoom calls and/or social distanced hangouts, and I love that it launched in the fall when people start to get a little lax about wearing sunscreen.
Also, Ellis Brooklyn’s Après Eau De Parfum is the fragrance that got me back into wearing scents during the time of not really leaving my house. It smells winter-y because of the juniper berry and cedarwood notes, but it has a warm vanilla and bourbon finish that makes it much more wearable than your classic evergreen candle.” —@kara.mcgrath
SunnyDays Tinted SPF Sunscreen Foundation
Lindsay Schallon, editorial creative director at Milk Makeup
“I was firmly in camp Primers Are B.S. until I gave this cult-favorite a go this year and never looked back. Its ability to keep your makeup looking fresh—even after wearing a mask!—and your skin glowy all day is unreal. My favorite part is that it’s made with skincare ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, so I feel like it’s hydrating my skin while I wear it. Not to mention, it’s clean, vegan, and cruelty-free too.
I’m also not ashamed to admit the number of face lift before-and-after rabbit holes I’ve gone down on Instagram. While I’ve resigned to the idea that investing in one one day is an unlikely possibility, the Foreo Bear is satisfying that itch in a way I never thought possible with a microcurrent device. Using it regularly has helped lift my cheekbones, chisel the look of my jawline, and generally makes it look like I eat less salt than I do. It’s also incredibly easy to use (you can sync the device up to an app on your phone to follow a tutorial!) and takes only three minutes to do. It’s not a replacement for aesthetic work, but it’s definitely the next best thing, IMO.” —@lindsayschallon
Bear Smart Microcurrent Facial Firming Device
Hannah Fallis Bronfman, author, DJ, and founder of HBFIT
“2021 was a year of discovery for me. I wanted to dive into the beauty world and try out new products to add to my usual rotation, because there are so many great up-and-coming, independent brands available to shop. Some of my most loved products of the year include my HBFIT x Highline Wellness Kit, Sienna Naturals Curl Elixir Primer and Conditioning Spray, and the Ceremonia Guava Rescue Spray.” —@hannahbronfman
Body Oil and CBD Bath Bomb Kit
Curl Elixir Primer and Conditioning Spray
Garrett Markenson, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Reverie
“Suna offers the perfect balance of cleansing hair and gently treating the scalp with ingredients typically found in skincare, like hyaluronic acid, AHAs, clay and fermented essential minerals. It’s powered by rhassoul clay and hibiscus flower extract, unlike other scalp exfoliants that often use salt. It also helps encourage hair growth, promotes shine, and prevents dandruff and dry scalp by balancing natural oils that keep your scalp and hair healthy.
I also I love Make Beauty’s combination of powerful active ingredients and thick texture found in the brand’s Super Cell Deep Moisture Cream, which is perfect for maintaining a healthy skin barrier during drier months. The cream sinks into skin, and really leaves it feeling hydrated and protected.” —@garrettmarkenson
Super Cell Deep Moisture Cream
Jessica Matlin, beauty director at BAZAAR
“La Perla is known for their sexy—and always elegant—lingerie, but don’t sleep on their beauty collection. The brand’s Nourishing Body Balm leaves skin feeling like silk and it also imparts the softest, subtlest musk scent. The fragrance can cling to your sheets, but that’s kind of nice.” —@jessicamatlin
Dr. Shari Marchbein, NYC-based dermatologist
“I love over-the-counter skincare, and there were some great, high quality and affordable launches this year. Dove’s Sensitive Care Collection Body Washes are everything and as someone who has eczema, these are the only body washes I let touch my skin. They’re formulated with ingredients like DEFI and Glycinate, and also have been show to help the skin produce more ceramides, since it contains stearic acid (aka pro ceramides) and palmitic acids. As we know, ceramides play a critical role in creating a healthy skin barrier.
I also love Cerave’s comprehensive line of acne products, including the four percent benzoyl peroxide acne foaming cream cleanser, and two percent acne control cleanser featuring salicylic acid. Their Resurfacing Retinol Serum is also ideal to help minimize hyperpigmentation. These are great options for those with mild acne (of course if you have cysts, scarring, significant post inflammatory change or aren’t improving with OTC options, make sure to see your dermatologist).” —@drsharimarchbein
Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
Felicia Walker, beauty content creator and co-founder of Face Flawless Skin
“Standing hair appointments are so 2019, which is why lately, it’s been box braids for me, making my scalp health a big focus. A few days a week, I keep it soothed and nourished with the Nichole Avonie Rejuvenating Scalp Elixir—we truly don’t talk about scalp health enough. This soothing botanical oil blend not only minimizes scalp inflammation and irritation, but also helps lock in hydration.
I also must admit that I’ve forgotten how to do my own makeup. But Danessa Myricks Beauty’s Twin Flames Liquid Eyeshadow makes my highly unskilled smudge and smear resemble something magical and Instagram-worthy. These multi-chrome, high-impact shadows are the makeup version of lightening in a bottle. The way they shift, dazzle and set perfectly on the eyelid is just everything.” —@thisthatbeauty
Rejuvenating Scalp Elixir
Twin Flames Liquid Eyeshadow
Erin Jahns, senior beauty editor at Who What Wear
“I’m the ultimate player when it comes to fragrance, but if any perfume could turn me into a complete monogamist, it would be Byredo’s Young Rose. I’ve worn it almost every single day since its launch, and the ingenious blend of classic notes (like Damascus rose) with the unexpected (like spicy Sichuan pepper) transforms it into a complex, deeply intoxicating take on a classic floral. It’s divine.
As a beauty editor, the influence of SkinCeuticals iconic C E Ferulic serum isn’t lost on me, and practically every single human I know swears it’s some type of magical witchcraft for getting insanely youthful-looking skin. That said, I’ve had FOMO for years because my sensitive, acne-prone skin erupts in bumps and redness whenever I so much as look at a vitamin C serum, C E Ferulic, included. Until, Silymarin CF, that is! This serum was specifically developed for people who have oily, breakout-prone skin, and it’s quite literally the only vitamin C product my skin has ever been able to tolerate and thrive on. Despite continuous mask-wearing and abnormal stress levels this year, my skin has never been brighter, smoother, or more even thanks to this brilliant launch.” —@erin_jahns
Jesa Calaor, beauty and fitness editor at Byrdie
“I was recently at a dinner with other beauty editors and we found ourselves raving about Ellis Brooklyn’s unique and indulgent fragrances. Each of us had a favorite, but one that seemed to stand out was Super Amber, a perfume that swirls together notes of amber, cedar, and musk. It settles onto your skin to create a subtle, sensual, and warm scent. Three of us, including me, were wearing it that night—and to have this group (whose job is to sift through products to determine the best of the best) get excited about a fragrance means it’s that good.” —@jesamarie_
Super Amber Eau de Parfum
Jamie Wilson, beauty editor at BAZAAR
“Scalp care was a big priority for me in 2021. I love giving myself a scalp massage with the Shaz and Kiks With Love, India Moringa Oil before washing my hair. It smells amazing, and after a few weeks I even noticed that my hair felt softer.
In 2021, I also loved using a bronzer during colder months to add more warmth to my complexion. Pai Skincare’s Impossible Glow Bronzing Drops are easy to apply and complement my skintone to give me a natural glow without going overboard.” —@justjamiemarie
With Love, India Moringa Oil
The Impossible Glow Bronzing Drops
Katie Intner, assistant beauty editor at BAZAAR
“The pomade in this Refy kit fakes a brow lamination and it stays put from the morning well into the evening. I also love the pencil because of its tiny tip, which makes creating natural-looking, faux hairs a breeze.” —@katieintner
3.0 Stage Brow Collection: Sculpt, Pomade, and Pencil
Janell M. Hickman-Kirby, beauty editor and brand consultant
“Where do I even begin? First off, the Eadem Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum feels like a lotion but absorbs like a serum. Second, it has a great texture so you can layer it in with your other products. I’ve already been through two bottles this year, it’s 100 percent a staple in my routine.
And while opportunities to wear makeup have been few and far between, but when I do wear a full face, I reach for this no-budge liquid lip from Violette_FR. It’s the perfect shade of red to complement every skin tone. I always get compliments when I rock this bold color.” —@jmargaretbeauty
Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum
Dr. Robert Finney, Dermatologist at Entiére Dermatology
“Drunk Elephant’s launch of their C Firma Fresh Day Vitamin C Serum was a welcome addition this year. Vitamin C is notoriously unstable, and although you can find many cheap options, you can’t be confident that they’re formulated in a stable way that renders the product effective. By allowing the consumer to mix the product fresh, you can be confident that their vitamin C is going to provide the protection that a stable product should! It’s also nice that the price point is more palatable than the market leaders.
Alastin Skincare launched their Ultra Light collection this year and it’s great. My two favorite products from the line are the moisturizer and sunscreen. The Ultra Light Moisturizer is very hydrating, and doesn’t feel heavy on the skin. It also includes the brand’s Tri-hex peptide complex, which proves collagen and elastin stimulation via skin biopsies. Most companies don’t do the kind of research to back their claims that Alastin Skincare does, and it’s refreshing in an industry where there are so many marketing ploys and a lot of snake oil. Their sunscreen from the launch is great for daily use, but is also safe for post-laser and procedure. This also features their Tri-hex technology, and serves as a nice primer, given its feel. It’s been a fan favorite among patients since its launch, especially through laser season!” —@robertfinneymd
Ama Kwarteng, beauty editor at The Coveteur
“[The Dieux Skin Deliverance Serum] has been a godsend for me this year. It’s spiked with niacinamide, peptides, and a cannabinoid complex to help fade lingering dark spots and soothe inflammation while also minimizing the appearance of fine lines. It only took less than a week for my skin to look glowy as hell.” —@amakwarteng
Chanel Parks, social media manager at W Magazine
“I use a small amount of products for someone who used to be a beauty editor, and this year, only a mascara, lipstick and serum caught my attention. The most impressive was L’Oreal’s Sensational Sky High Mascara, which I thought was just another TikTok dud but it really transformed my lashes.
[I also] caved and tried Dieux’s Deliverance Serum, which made a difference whenever my skin was a bit irritated and needed to calm down. ” —@chanelinezp
Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara
Melissa Hurkman, celebrity makeup artist
“Like everything from the Makeup by Mario line, these sculpting sticks are so effective, and have incredible color pay off. When you apply this product no matter your technique, it will blend out like butter.
I also count the Dior Addict Lip Glow Oil as one of my favorites for 2021—allow its ‘always sold out’ status to speak for itself. Its shade range is amazing, and the way they wear on the lips is beautiful. It smooths out your lips and gives just a small hint of color to the lips. And the texture doesn’t feel like an oil but it does hydrate and last a long while.” —@melissa.hurkman
Soft Sculpt Shaping Stick
Lara Adekola, beauty writer and social media strategist
“I’m typically a shower person but my new obsession is Homebody Bath Soaks. Powered by CBD and a healing blend of botanicals, adaptogens, and vitamins, this pearlescent intoxicating elixir is pure bliss. I use it to unwind after a stressful day or an intense workout as it helps soothe muscle pain. Best part? It even doubles as a nourishing body scrub! If you’re looking to level up your relaxation game in 2022 this is 100 percent the move.” —@lara.adekola
Full Spectrum of Possibilities CBD Bath Bomb Soak
Hannah Baxter, deputy beauty editor at The Zoe Report
“I’m a bonafide Tatcha superfan, and this remarkable serum-meets-cream hybrid has my skin feeling softer, smoother, and more hydrated than ever. The velvety texture is an absolute joy to apply, and it’s almost as if my microbiome breathes a sigh of relief when I use it before bed. You can thank the Japanese indigo extract (plus plenty of hyaluronic acid and ceramides) for that.” —@hannahbaxward
Indigo Overnight Repair Serum in Cream Treatment
Austen Tosone, NYC-based beauty and fashion content creator
“I never got into Glossier’s Generation G (even after they repackaged it) and was crushed when they discontinued Vinlyic Lip, but their Ultralip makes up for all of that. It’s super creamy, but still provides a beautiful sheen to the lips. I own it in three colors: Portrait, Fête, and Trench, and there is always one floating around in my purse.
2021 was also really my first year incorporating retinol into my skincare routine and I fell in love with the Kiehl’s formula. It actually uses pure retinol, the most potent form, and still works great even if you have sensitive skin because you’re getting a small amount of it (aka, a micro-dose) when you apply.” —@austentosone
Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide
Tembe Denton-Hurst, beauty and culture writer at The Strategist
“Even though the Ami Colé Lip Treatment Oil launched in May, it’s already become a staple in so many Black beauty girl’s bags. I’ve seen them pulled out at events, slipped into a purse while on the subway and in the corners of photos on Instagram. And I get why. It’s probably the best lip gloss I’ve tried to date. It has a subtle brown tint that looks good on absolutely everyone and is moisturizing enough to double as a lip treatment. I own two and am looking forward to buying more in the new year—I need one for every bag.” —@tembae
Lip Treatment Oil
Editor’s note: Ami Colé’s Lip Treatment Oil is currently sold out.
Maya Allen, beauty director at InStyle
“Trust and believe in the hype of Ami Colé’s Lip Treatment Oil because it’s that good. My official vote is in: I’m calling this the lip launch of the year because it treats my lips to maximum moisture and leaves behind a lustrous, juicy shine. Before my love for this ignited, I wasn’t much of a gloss girl. I found other formulas to be sticky, tacky, and way too shimmery for my aesthetic. The subtle brown tint pairs perfectly with a rich chocolate liner, like Mented Cosmetics Lip Liner in Dope, on my skin tone. Other times I wear it alone for a subtle wash of color and added hydration.
And as a Dr. Barbara Sturm devotee, my skin swears by her science-backed products. This scrub is the perfect addition to my rotation as it sloughs away impurities and truly takes the debris of the day away. I use it twice per week and each time the texture of my skin feels pillow-soft and brand new. I’ve also noticed that it helps the rest of the products in my routine absorb effectively.” —@mayaalenaa
Editor’s note: Ami Colé’s Lip Treatment Oil is currently sold out.
Cara Lovello, celebrity makeup artist
“The Buxom Lip Plumping Serum has become a staple in my everyday makeup routine. Just as frequently as I apply my moisturizer, I apply this plumping serum. My lips look so full after using the serum, and its formula helps me create a more youthful appearance.” —@makeup_cara
Plump Shot Collagen-Infused Lip Serum
Cortne Bonilla, editor at New York Magazine
“Beauty has been so much fun for me lately, especially with all the new and Black-owned brands circulating. Since I haven’t yet gone back to the office, I’ve had time to experiment with a few things. My favorites as of late are, of course, the Ami Cole Lip Treatment Oil for a glossy but nourished pout. On hair salon days I’ve been living Bread Beauty’s Everyday Gloss for added shine. And scent? I’m now known for always smelling like Margiela’s By The Fireplace, which is a the best compliment.” —@cortnebonilla
Replica By The Fireplace Eau De Toilette
Lisa DeSantis, deputy beauty director at Real Simple and Health Magazine
“I’m not a huge dry shampoo user mostly because I don’t like the way it makes my hair feel and luckily I can get away with multiple (read: five plus) days of not washing. This cream is different in that it turns to a powder and not only does it trap dirt and oil, but it removes styling products from your hair, too. I’ve really loved it for a few days post-blowout when my hair starts to feel weighed down and sticky from the products applied at the salon. Similarly to the micellar water I use to cleanse my face, this lets me start with a fresh canvas and restyle, sans suds. Bonus: it smells ahhh-mazing.
And while I typically, I reach for the pore-purging, detoxifying and oil-absorbing clay masks when I spot a breakout or I’m sick of staring at the blackheads on my nose. While those are great, they often leave my skin stripped of moisture. In an effort to stop the self-induced sebum-spike after using harsh exfoliators, I’ve implemented this nourishing and soothing cream mask. Olive, avocado, pumpkin and–as the name implies–pistachio oils help to hydrate and plump. For an extra boost of moisture, instead of washing off, I’ll slather it on before bed and sleep in it.” —@lisa_desantis_
My Hair My Canvas Meltaway No-Rinse Micellar Cleanser
Tiffany Dodson, associate beauty commerce editor at BAZAAR.com
“This three-in-one brow pencil, pen, and spoolie from Valentino has become one of my most consistent makeup go-tos since its launch—it’s pretty much fire all around. Both the pen and pencil have excellent color payoff that’s pigmented but still looks natural, and I love having a number of options in one to fill in the sparse areas of my brows—its convenience is unmatched. And, Merit Beauty’s Day Glow Highlighting Balm has consistently been one of my favorites this year for a lit-from-within glow that’s not overly shiny or sparkly. I love wearing it with and without makeup, since it melts right into my skin like butter.” —@tiffdods
Day Glow Highlighting Balm
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