(Items marked with a * are products that I’ve been using for a minimum of 2 years. AKA my ride-or-dies.)
What I’m working with: I’m in my late 40’s. Combo skin in the warmer months, dry in the colder, and it’s super freaking sensitive: can’t really do many essentials oils, abrasives, or a lot of titanium dioxide (basically I’m pushing for a new skin-type called PITA).
This oil cleanser is nothing short of stellar. When I was battling PD, this was one of the key elements to recovering my skin barrier. For me to love an oil cleanser it needs to wash clean WITHOUT double-cleansing, and this does that while removing makeup, sunscreen, the works. Won’t be without it.
2021 was all about keeping my skin’s barrier strong (and keeping the PD away!). I’d been relying on oil cleansers that washed away clean (meaning no double-cleanse…too harsh for me). But I missed having something that wiped away eye makeup before cleansing, and while I’ve tried to be as gentle as possible (no manual exfoliants), I needed some sort of gentle sloughing action, especially when using heaver sunscreens. Enter Dara’s Water. I’d seen it mentioned a few times in Ayla’s newsletters, but this interview finally pushed me to try it. It truly is a wonder for us sensitive-skinned gals. No irritation (I used a super-soft cotton ball), and immediately after use my skin feels hydrated and plump. And I only use it when removing makeup or beach/pool-level sunscreen, so the bottle has lasted a long time. I’ve liked everything I’ve tried from Twelve, but Dara’s Water is truly a gem. UPDATE: made my Best of Clean Beauty finds for 2021!
This is the first non-oil cleanser I’ve been willing to try in 2 years (thank you, perioral dermatitis). The niacinamide was what drew me in. This serum-weight cleanser is great for those days when I just need a lighter cleanser (not that it couldn’t tackle a full face of makeup), or if I’ve used a cleansing balm that requires a $%&# double-cleanse. Gentle, doesn’t dry me out. And I really dig their packaging.
I was not a believer in toners/mists until I tried this. This is truly the one item I have to use whenever it looks like I may be starting a PD episode again (Marie Veronique’s line in general saved my skin after trying so, so many ‘remedies’ for perioral dermatitis…I wrote about my experience here). Much easier than a greek yogurt mask, and just as effective if not more so. Won’t be without it.
Another mist that has proved it’s effectiveness! Described as a “hydrating mist with serum-like qualities”, it definitely helps with hydration AND I kid you not, makes pores appear to shrink and give an overall look of smoothness. She has several seasonal offerings, and while I’ve blown through 2 bottles of the rose & tulsi blend, I can’t wait to try others.
I thought my PD (perioral dermatitis)-fighting arsenal was pretty solid, so as much as I’d already come to love this brand, I didn’t immediately pull the trigger on trying this. So dumb. The glowing reviews are all well-deserved as this mist is something special. If you have any type of skin sensitivity, jump on this. You’ll see redness start to dissipate IMMEDIATELY. And while I still use my trusty pre-probiotic spray, this has become my go-to the second I have any sort of issue. Definitely one of my top picks in clean beauty for 2021!
Have I mentioned that Marie Veronique’s line completely saved my skin from perioral dermatitis? This is one of those products that I get really antsy about getting low, because it literally stops a PD break-out in its tracks when I see it coming on. Absolutely phenomenal at re-balancing barrier function. Magic in a bottle.
If you’re looking to add a gentle, clean retinol treatment to your routine, this is the one. I can use this every night without any issues, but I typically insert a moisture-bomb night once or twice a week, plus a night or 2 of Altreno (tretinoin). In the warmer months this is plenty moisturizing for me, but in the winter I layer with a cream.
Something about these companies that start with ‘M’, hmmm….
I’m still in early days with this, but fingers crossed, I think I’ve finally found a vitamin C serum that doesn’t freak my skin out! This really does have a lovely, immediate effect on the skin, and I’m really interested to see the long-term results. And the smell…it’s like walking through an orange grove. UPDATE: totally love this, and it was one of my top clean beauty loves of 2021!
They had me at “healing, and anti-inflammatory”! Honey is well known for both its antibacterial and moisturizing properties, and when I saw this was included in a Beauty Heroes Discovery box earlier this Spring, I had to try it. Smells good, feels good, no irritation (knocking on wood) and definitely moisturizing. I know it’s labeled a serum, but just a heads’ up that this is definitely an oil.
I’m proud to say that I started using this oil not too long after it launched, and waaay before all the hype. But know this…the hype is real. My skin loves this, and in fact it was one of the only oil moisturizers I could use for a long time (thanks again, PD). Pure plum oil, from my home state! Just can’t beat it.
Oooh Votary, you kill me. I got this duo from Boxwalla for a killer deal, and while I’m so glad to have found them, when I run out of the stash I’ve acquired (thanks, Poshmark!) I’m not sure what I’ll do. These are spendy, folks. But the oil is fragrance free and fantastic…and on days my skin is super-reactive, it’s my go-to as I know it won’t irritate in any way. And the bottle is huge…since I rotate it with Le Prunier, it’s lasted forever. But the cream…ooooh the cream. It is so nourishing (think old school cold cream at night!), but somehow has this fantastic matte dry-down. It soothes and calms and hydrates like nothing else. I don’t need the cream as much in the summer (unless I’ve been a bad girl with my SPF), but in the winter, it’s a lifesaver for dry skin and what I reach for most nights. Hard to come by in the States…hoping more shops pick up this line!
Miracle worker. I almost didn’t try this because my skin was so reactive this winter, but I’ve been hunting for something that’s great for the neck area, and the initial reviews were so fantastic. I have great luck with this line and couldn’t pass up a good deal, so I jumped in. So freaking glad I did!! I’ve tried too many anti-aging creams in the past decade, and this one right here is truly the only one I’ve used that has visible results. Not only did my irritations go away, my skins just looks…younger. And it’s definitely firmed up my neck, whoopheeeeee!!! I wish I could afford to slather it over my entire body. Believe the hype, this one is a hero product!
This is one moisturizer I think everyone should have in their arsenal. This is a light-feeling lotion, but boy does it hydrate. It also soothes irritated skin and calms redness. Fragrance-free and safe for the most sensitive of skin. It’s been a lifesaver for times when I couldn’t use anything else, and has also been great on my teenagers’ skin when dealing with irritated acne flare-ups…hydrated without causing more acne. Get the small bottle and keep it around for emergencies!!
I pondered placing this in the ‘Serums’ tab, but it truly does belong here as it’s a killer of a moisturizer! Again, it’s one of the products that saved my skin during bouts of perioral dermatitis. As you’ll read in reviews, it does not smell great. But it also doesn’t have any essential oils, which makes it great for us sensitive types. And it just feels so damn good when you put it on. In the summer I don’t need this quite as much…maybe once a week, or just if I can feel any dry patches (or PD) coming on. But in the winter, every 2 nights keeps my skin happy. Can’t be without it, I stock up during sales!
Another fantastic product from LB. I’ve always been wary of balms as they almost always broke me out, but somehow this gem traps all of the moisture onto your skin while being super-breathable. The texture is unique as well…almost whipped and airy! And the smell is like taking a walk in nature (but no essential oils here). Definitely a winter staple for me.
I have been through some sunscreens, y’all. And when it comes to a clean, mineral-based sunscreen for everyday, this is by far the best. Not shiny (shiny is no bueno on mid-40’s skin IMHO) – I’d say it dries down to demi-matte on me, little to no white cast (just needs a good rub in), plays nicely with serums/oils/moisturizers (no pilling) and best of all no break-outs or irritation.
I’m not sure what magickery Kinfield used to create this, but they changed the SPF game with this one. Oh, I was so excited when I found this over the summer. Finally, FINALLY, a clean, non-nano zinc-based face sunscreen that breathes! You know when you exercise with your mineral-based sunscreen on, and it feels like your whole face is a wet sloppy mess (because it is)? It’s like putting a sheet of cling wrap over a warm zucchini…all that condensation just gets trapped and slides around. Well I’m excited to say that Daily Dew is no cling wrap. No mess, no crazy sweating, smells great, very little white cast, not hard on the budget, water-resistant and reef-friendly. I will say it’s a bit glowy for me (I prefer a more satin finish), but honestly I’m really only using it for workouts and beach/pool time anyway. For those that do like some glow, Daily Dew did seem to play nicely with makeup. Doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin, plays nicely with my other skincare products, this, my friend, is a GAME. CHANGER. Best of 2021!
Love the roller ball. Love that it’s so good that I don’t know how good it is until I cheat on it and use something else for a bit (the grass is not always greener, learn, Tracey, learn!). Definitely makes a difference in fine lines, and don’t let it being an oil deter you…sinks in after a few minutes and plays very nicely with concealer, though this is usually my nighttime eye ‘cream’ unless I’m particularly dry. And this little bottle lasts a looooong time…only a wee bit is needed. My only complaint is that with the dark bottle I can never tell when I’m dangerously low….
This became an important part of my hydration arsenal over the Winter. I mist, dab this all over the eye area (great for depuffing too), then put on eye cream. Might be able to go with just this in the Summer, we’ll see! The big takeaway for this one is its healing aspects… it definitely helped my eyelids heal from a bout of product-induced dermatitis (thank you to Sarah James of Whoorl for this rec! And if you love makeup application tips, make sure and follow her IG, she’s one of my favorite clean beauty bloggers!). That alone makes it really amazing, as I’d tried everything but an Rx.
M Picaut is another Swedish line that knocks hydration and anti-aging out of the park. I’ve been a longtime fan of the Hydra Lagoon Overnight Mask, and finally took advantage of a gift card to try their eye cream. It is yummy. Creamy and hydrating without pilling, it was a huge help this winter, and has been a terrific nighttime eye cream in the warmer months. Love to mix this with Maya Chia’s Eye Achiever at night, or when I’m feeling particularly dry!
The big daddy of all the lip balms, this right here is the Vaseline dupe you’ve been looking for. I use this first thing every morning, and during the winter when my lips are chapped, this is my go to. Nice and thick, great staying power. Wish it was a bit more minty, but otherwise it’s perfection.
I call this my purse lip balm. I’ve gone through multiple tubes of Baseline (clear). Seals in the moisture, sticks around, and love the tube shape. Again, it could be more minty, but otherwise it’s the closest I’ve found to a good ole, Chapstick-style lip balm for protection.
I’ve been through several tubes of this now, it’s just that effective. I’ve seen the lines that are trying to form around my lips fade away, and the pucker still feels moisturized in the morning. This one I have come to love so much that I gift it, as it’s definitely a splurge for most folks (though I only use it once a day, before bed, so one tube lasts quite a while!).
My new favorite body wash! Many times natural soaps/body washes don’t really get through things like sunscreen, so I was so excited to discover that this wash removes my mineral sunscreens easy peasy. A little goes a looong way, too! And the smell is definitely invigorating. Big bonus points for being packaged in a reusable, refillable glass bottle.
A list of all of my favorite clean body washes can be found here.
This is the creamiest, dreamiest body butter I think I’ve ever used. The texture is unbelievable! And the smell is so fresh. I’ve been using this right at the end of my shower to seal in moisture, and my skin is just so freaking soft. But no greasiness or oiliness. Some kind of magickery!!
I’m never without Monoi oil, and have used it for years. Such a great moisturizer, and can be used on your hair too! This seller has been my go-to for over 5 years. The scent will take you straight to a tropical destination.
So happy I got a sample of this, as otherwise not sure I would have tried it (the pumpkin threw me off lol). So good after a day at the beach! Not sure if it’s enough for a dry winter, but it’s been lovely all summer….
So last year I relied solely on Ursa Major’s Sublime Sage Deodorant…it was the first I’d found that actually kept odor away and didn’t irritate (coconut oil-based stick deos irritate and discolor my skin). Sadly I developed a sensitivity to something in it about a year in, so the hunt was on once again (I still highly recommend it…my skin is just freaking overly sensitive). Enter the magickery that is this deodorant serum from Kosas!!! I got the unscented to be safe and not irritate my skin further, and honestly I figured it would be money down the drain as surely I needed some sort of fragrance to mask the bad stuff, right?! But lo and behold, Kosas is not kidding about the AHA keeping PH balanced and unstinky, AND I feel like my skin just looks brighter. I’m super impressed, and interested to see how it holds up this summer.
This category is one I struggle with. Natural deodorants just don’t cut the mustard during hot weather or work-outs as they’re simply deodorants, not anti-antiperspirants. The hunt continues….
Several bottles in on this, and luckily one bottle lasts a long time (I use it at night before bed). Sinks right in! In the dryer months I seal it with a thicker cream or balm, but in the warmer months it’s moisturizing enough on it’s own. Has definitely made a difference on hands that are starting to show their age (sun damage from the young-and-dumb years). Gift-worthy for sure, my mom loves to receive this stuff!
I was super happy to find this last year! 25% Non-nano Zinc Oxide, 80 minutes water-resistant, reef safe and gets a great rating from EWG. Moisturizing, white-cast is easily rubbed out, and the coconut-vanilla fragrance…takes me right to the islands!
I’ve used Giovanni’s Tea Tree ‘poo and ‘dish for years for times when my scalp is acting up (so cooling, love it!!), and used their Weightless Moisture conditioner as a detangler for years. Somehow I hadn’t dipped into their other offerings until recently, and I’m really digging this shampoo. Moisturizes without weighing down my fine hair. Love it!
I actually use this primarily as a detangling rinse-out…has great slip, smells great. If I’m using a foam/mousse for styling I’ll use a small bit of this beforehand and it doesn’t weigh down my fine hair. Smells great!
This is far and away my favorite conditioner. Again, I use as a detangling rinse out. Refreshing, tingly, great slip. The problem is catching it in stock. But if you can grab a bottle, GRAB TWO! The Blueberry Bliss is as close as I’ve found in consistency to this, but LHDC is still the overall best.
Listen, curly girls. You MUST try this. Especially if you have 3A/3B curls that’s fine and easily weighed down (though it also works great on my daughters’ super tight curls). I’ll be forever grateful that my hairstylist @ajstain introduced me to this styler! I’d used much of the rest of the line, but ICV just never hit my radar…it’s described as “…a volumizing cream with a lightweight lotion feel”, and history shows that cream and lotion stylers do NOT work on my beast. But here’s the thing…I Create Volume IMHO is no cream, nor lotion. It’s a lightweight, liquid GEL. And when applied to WET hair (praying hands-style), scrunched first with your hands to help distribute, and then with a t-shirt or microfiber towel to get out excess water, you get gorgeous, defined, bouncy curls. No flaking, hardly much SOTC needed. AND a little goes a long way. It’s the goodies ladies, get you some. Best of 2021!
What I’m working with: Combo to dry skin, product-sensitive. Blue-gray eyes, light-medium neutral skintone. Late-40’s so I’m off the sparkles and shimmer as they’re not a girls’ friend when it comes to the lovely fine-lineness of it all…beauty over 40 for me leans less-is-more.
You’ll notice I don’t have a foundation listed here, and it’s because I stopped hunting for one after I started using this amazing concealer. Covers what you need it to cover, but light and breathable and applies beautifully. And I’m saving money not buying foundation anymore! Metis works the best on me…it’s a tad light in the summer, but a bit of bronzer fixes that. Goes on well using just your fingers, but do yourself a favor and when you grab the Lip Mask from Clove + Hallow, grab their Precision Buffer brush too…then it really applies dreamily.
If you’re hunting for a replacement for YSL Touche Eclat, this is it. On days I’ve got sleep-deprived and/or allergy-related dark circles, a tiny tiny tiny bit of this before my concealer works WONDERS.
Tower 28 is quickly becoming my favorite new line. The founder is a sensitive-skinned gal herself, and creates with us in mind! My dry cheeks require a cream blush, and this one is lovely. Happy Hour was the perfect color for the summer, but I’m excited to start using Power Hour into the Fall (gorgeous on the lips, too!). And for the price, it may knock out KW for me.
I did NOT want to love this. But after seeing it reviewed sooo many times, I treated myself during a sale for my bday, and I am glad I did. Promises of both soothing and firming, a magic glow that’s not sparkly and the ability to use multiple ways have been upheld. We did some traveling this summer that required traveling super light, so this was my eyeshadow, bronzer AND lippie. Subtle but buildable, perfect color. It’s a beauty.
I had used the iconic Guerlain Terracotta bronzer for well over a decade. It was the only bronzer that looked natural on me, was somehow moisturizing and surprisingly didn’t irritate my skin. So it was going to be a toughie to find a clean replacement, but I have to say, this is the winner. Great color, moisturizing and NO FRAGRANCE. You might choke when you see the price of this bronzer. I get it (luckily I was able to get this right when it launched in a combo deal). But a teeny bit goes a long way, so this compact will last ages.
I’m thrilled with this setting powder. For real provides an airbrushed finish, lessening the look of pores, without looking dry/too matte. My skin is super dry right now (and very sensitive), and this powder didn’t exacerbate that. I would say I’ve finally found the match to my old, non-clean holy grail (KA)!
Sets without drying out (I can even use a bit under my eyes without it making me look like a dry, liney mess), takes away shine while still allowing for some slight glow…not exactly matte. I used Comfy this summer, would probably need to switch to Feathery when not bronzing it up.
Both of these shades are perfect for that no makeup makeup look. Kjaer Weis eyeshadows apply beautifully and easily, great staying power, and my favorite thing is that there’s not fallout all over my undereye area…super fine and applies where you want it.
I could just kiss RMS! I was so sad when I had to break up with Ilia’s cream shadow as it caused an allergic reaction #stupidsensitiveskin. Eyelights *might* even apply a little easier as it doesn’t dry down quite as fast. The colors are gorgeous and I can’t wait to try others! Fantastic for a one-and-done eye.
I was a HUGE fan of Urban Decay’s 24/7 eyeliners. Creamy, great colors and they stayed the *beep* on. These are the closest I’ve found in clean beauty. Bronze is gorgeous, and Stone has a bit of a UD ‘Underground’ vibe (one of my faves). My only complaint is the lid…all of mine split almost immediately.
This one gets a big YAAAAAAAAS! I was so sad when Ilia’s mascara started flaking on me, and after trying several others that were new on the market (with the same flaky results), ATHR launched this beaut. I get lovely long lashes, holds a curl well, and no flaking until the very end of the day (minor). Thank you ATHR BEAUTY!!!
Oh I have fallen hard for this lip gloss. GLASS tube (so cool), fantastic staying power for a gloss, and it has PEPPERMINT?! The minute I saw that Erin’s new lip gloss has peppermint in it I had to snag one and boy am I glad I did. New favorite! Sonata is described as a pinky brown, but it’s definitely a dark peach on me. I totally dig it but I do hope she adds a more brown and/or mauvey number to the line. Love love love the texture of this gloss!!!
I’ve mentioned my lippie problem, so suffice to say I have tried many lipglosses. These are just so comfy on. Beautiful colors, packed full of goodness for your lips, no stickiness (I actually wish they had a bit more sticky so they’d last a tad longer). Love the scent, too!
This was my quarantine go-to, as it’s super minty and stiiiicky! Stayed on under the mask, and made it so refreshing in there LOL. Great on its own, super glossy, or over a matte lippie. Definitely gives the appearance of plumping…lips definitely appear fuller and smoother.
The clear version of this (Baseline) has been in my purse for quite a while now. So happy they came out with Flow, as it’s definitely my jam. Not super pigmented, but gives a lovely wash of color, all in the awesomeness that is the LipFuel base.
I will tell you…I came across this lipstick entirely by accident. I’d never heard of the brand, but I was on the hunt for something that mimicked the look used on Adele on the cover of her new album. The color Soul looked to be a close match, and it is! But more importantly, this is a tremendous addition to the world of clean matte lipsticks. Namely because I don’t feel like my lips are screaming for hydration when I wear it (unlike many others). And such great ingredients! “Formulated with antioxidant-filled hemp extract to help sooth and protect lips from daily environmental stressors. The blend found in this formula is crafted with the same botanical oils found in skincare, to help moisturize and nurture this delicate area.” I’m excited to try other colors, because this is truly a great lippie and I’m so glad I stumbled across it (maybe I should thank Adele??).
I always feel let down by lip liner…it’s usually too drying and makes me lips look older. But this liner really lives up to the rave reviews. It goes on creamy but has terrific staying power. And the heft of the lid makes it feel so shmancy! Saturate is the perfect shade to add depth, shadow and definition. Will definitely try other shades! One of my favorite Spring Discoveries.
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