I’m doing it! For the last number of months, I’ve had a list in the works of products I discovered and fell in love with in 2021. Every year — I think but don’t mark my words, I might have missed one — I’ve been writing a blog post detailing my favourites from at least one category of beauty, it’s been some time since I did a whole roundup. It might be coming late, but it’s here!
This uber-gentle scrub-come-shampoo is my clarifying shampoo of choice. I don’t experience any build up (even with my more richer products used and heavy hand) using this every couple of wash days and have a happy scalp that doesn’t randomly start itching and flaking (which I’m prone to especially in the winter). It doesn’t contain either of the harsher sulfates that can be stripping (and you know give me dermatitis so there’s that) but can still remove build-up from silicones, oils and the like with the selection of potent but still gentler detergents it contains. I don’t really care about the vinegar and probiotic ingredients used because I don’t think they have enough contact with the hair to lead to benefit but I appreciate the humectants and other hydrating ingredients that keeps the shampoo gentle. This doesn’t ever leave my curls and waves stripped or looking less defined, even without a deep conditioner afterwards.
This was my favourite gentle shampoo that I happily used in between uses of the more clarifying Curlsmith shampoo. It was actually a rediscovery rather than a discovery, but it’s so great, even if a regular shampoo might seem quite boring. It doesn’t contain the traditional sulfates that are prone to giving me scalp dermatitis and are overly drying, instead containing a blend of gentler surfactants, including cocomidopropyl betaine that is really good at removing silicones and oil buildup, shea butter, honey, yogurt, matura seed oil, baobab seed oil and coconut oil. The result is a really gentle shampoo that lathers without tangling up the hair and while providing slip. The scent is a lot but it’s a nice calming perfume-y one. It hits the right balance of cleaning the scalp and removing some buildup, while being gentle and moisturizing. It’s also nice that it’s affordable and lasts me months and months.
For years, I’ve basically put regular rinse-out conditioners to the side, preferring to use deep conditioners in the place of a rinse-out. However, this was the year when not only did I get into using regular rinse-out conditioners, I actually have gotten to the point with my hair that I can rinse out all of my conditioner. This minty conditioner does contain isopropyl alcohol but this is not an issue, provided that you are rinsing it out. It has amazing slip, great medium but lightweight moisture with oils, hydrolyzed wheat protein and wheat amino acids and contains menthol and peppermint oil for a soothing and comforting minty sensation and smell. I avoid menthol and anything minty in skincare but I enjoy it, especially for soothing a scalp that is less than pleased. It detangles snarls like a champ and leads to great curl clumping. I’ve thought about actually going for a salon size of this conditioner, I’ve enjoyed it so much — and you get way better value with the salon sizes.
Given how well my fine but dense waves respond to protein, I’m kind of shocked (on a level) that my top deep conditioner discovery of the year only contains small amounts of protein and instead focuses on moisture. It’s a great one for adding a bit of strength with the moisture and TLC it brings. It has a nice light scent that most likely won’t bother anyone, offers out of this world slip and solid medium moisture without being heavy at all, even on finer textures with less density that I have. It features the humectant sodium pca, rice amino acids, avocado oil, castor seed oil, sweet almond oil, shea butter, linseed seed oil, chia seed oil, keratin amino acids, rice extract and hydrolyzed quinoa (at the very bottom of the ingredient list). It’s not protein free like it claims, but instead features mainly amino acids which support the strength of the hair and building of proteins overall and a very small amount of a hydrolyzed protein. My hair soaks this stuff up and I’m always left with juicy, smooth clumpy curls afterwards.
This cream styler has a lotion texture and offers medium moisture, lightweight weight and structure to the hair with the protein it contains. I actually have managed to use this on its own offering light-buildable hold, but prefer to use it with a gel for hold that lasts in a generally pretty humid coastal climate. This gets my waves and curls to clump and spiral up with that kind of effortless fluffy kind of effect on its own. It’s also a great product for refreshes, as it offers enough hold to bring back definition and clumps without requiring Herculean effort to remove the cast. I’ve used multiple tubes this year.
This was my most used and loved gel of the year and was a great combination in my hair with the previously mentioned cream. I’ve graduated from the tubs of product to the larger squeeze bottle — which is much easier to use and get a precise amount of product out — because I love using it so much. It’s a protein-free gel with a thicker milkier soufflé-gel kind of texture — it’s super weird to explain but this is my best attempt — that offers medium control, on the higher end of medium moisture, a ton of definition and curl enhancement. My favourite way to use it is over a cream but I can get great results used on its own, as well. The hold is medium-strong, depending on how much you apply and how much water is in your hair when you apply it. It’s super moisturizing with glycerin, babassu oil, sorbitol, irish moss, andiroba seed oil, flaxseed and avocado oil, and leaves the hair moisturized, bouncy, shiny and defined in a way that lasts in humidity. And, my hair still has volume when I use this, along with glorious curl clumps.
2021 was the year that I figured out exactly how to use the ‘denman’ style brush or how to brush style in general. Nailing the technique of brushing through my wet hair with tension helps me to get controlled curls with bounce that last. There was a moment when how to form ringlets and spirals around the side of the brush really clicked and I started to consistently have good wash days that didn’t require much refreshing. It’s the right size on my wavy hair for encouraging clumpy ringlets and also works to define my hair when brushed with tension before styling.
Towards the end of 2020, I bit the bullet and purchased the Dyson dryer after much deliberation, after I had the opportunity to get $100 off. Safe to say, I liked it at first but now I can say that it’s been worth it on my hair. It’s basically the only dryer I’ve ever tried that I can stand to use long enough to get my hair dry because it’s light, and powerful enough to diffuse my hair. Note: I have the kind of hair that hairdressers complain about how long it takes to dry. Not only does it get my hair dry, it offers settings that allow me to get my hair to dry without disrupting my curl clumps that can easily fall apart, and it gets my hair dry without tiring out my arms. It seems ridiculous to have a hair dryer as a favourite, but here we are. Basically it allows me to actually get my hair dried before bed, letting me have better wash days that last, rather than wilting or frizzing out.
While I’m not a fan of a lot of Drunk Elephant’s customer relations and PR choices and marketing, I do really like this product (and another one I’m going to mention), especially as someone whose skin is sensitive to essential oils, fragrance and drying alcohols. This is a true oily balm that decimates makeup, has a truly nourishing texture and leaves my skin feeling soothed afterwards. It is also not an eye stinger. It uses safflower seed oil, açai oil, marula oil, sunflower seed wax, kiwi extract, strawberry extract, cranberry seed oil, borage seed oil, baobab oil, sweet almond oil and more to soothe and replenish the skin while breaking down makeup and sunscreen. It has a thick texture which i enjoy and I particularly enjoy the spoon magnetized to the top of the packaging for scooping the product out — because we all know I would have instantly lost the scoop if it weren’t attached magnetically.
This milky essence toner has been a standby in my more pared back skincare routine I enjoyed in 2021. It’s soothing, hydrating, moisturizing and plumping. It contains a whack of emollients, some antioxidants, sodium hyaluronate and centella asiatica. It make such a difference on sandwiching moisture that lasts into my drier skin, especially over the cooler weather.
This serum has become my no-fuss nightly serum for when I want one serum that will help with my barrier, brighten and generally support my skin health. It contains 5% niacinamide, which minimizes discolouration, helps keep pores clear and supports the skin barrier, what seems like a million humectants, some probiotic soothing ingredients and a few essential oils towards the bottom of the ingredient list. It has contributed to keeping my skin comfortable, soothed and happy and I enjoy not having to think about the serum step and just slap this serum on. I’m not a big essential oil person, but this doesn’t irritate my skin and feels really calming to apply.
This essence, like many products these days, features 5% niacinamide which supports the skin barrier, functions as an antioxidant and does a little bit of everything, along with wonderfully reparative snail secretion, betaine, panthenol, sunflower seed oil, allantoin and macadamia seed oil. It’s the most plumping humectant serum that I think I’ve ever dried and very calming and gentle. When I’m not using the aforementioned serum, I was certainly using this one. It’s fragrance-free and doesnt contain anything weird, you know, except for the snail goo.
I backed off and kind of chilled out with the actives in 2021, but this was the chemical exfoliant I happily reached for the most often. It’s a serum that contains 10% lactic acid to resurface the skin and boost hydration, along with a robust blend of peptides, which both serve as humectants and strengthen the skin barrier, amino acids that also support the skin barrier and nourishing ingredients, such as antioxidant-rich plant oils. It’s expensive and might not be easily worth the money, especially if you are hesitant to invest in the Drunk Elephant brand from past decisions the company has made, but it’s a multitasking serum that does all of its functions well. It gives me much more even textured-skin, keeps my pores unclogged and functions as a humectant serum that binds water to the skin and supports my skin’s easily upset barrier.
This moisturizer might be housed in a jar and be pricy to boot, but with its airy whipped balm texture and instantly soothing effect on the skin, it’s worth it for me. In fact, I actually have a couple of backups and I was lucky enough to find each and every jar for a significant sale. It never stings or irritates my skin, regardless of what kind of irritated state its been put in. It’s fragrance-free, contains ceramides, shea butter, honey, plant oils and calming extracts. It’s a cushioning cream without being thick and heavy and wears wonderfully under makeup on my drier skin that foundation tends to sit heavily on.
In my experience, this is the ideal water-light sunscreen fluid for those who’s skin is typically too dry and too reactive to tolerate these fluids. It’s a combination sunscreen, containing titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide, along with the new generation chemical filters, Uvinul T-150, Uvinul A Plus and Tinosorb S, that are not only more photostable than traditional ‘chemical’ filters, but are also less irritating, too. This is one of the few hybrid or chemical filter containing sunscreens that does not sting my face, eyes or dry out my skin. I attribute this to it being formulated without the drying alcohols used to either stabilized the actives or get the water-light texture, being fragrance-free and using actives known to be easier to tolerate. It leaves a soft focus finish, setting on the skin without being overly drying or matte looking in the least and lasts in humidity and sweat.
As someone who has grown to love lighter bases and did not wear a whole lot of makeup in the previous year, I’ve happily clung to this lightweight face product as a tinted sunscreen of sorts. Don’t get me wrong, it has substantial medium coverage, but blends really nicely into the skin, leaving a radiant finish that actually works during a heatwave and/or heavy sweating sessions, even without being powdered or blotted or anything of the sort. It’s a combination sunscreen, consisting of zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and octinoxate (one of the only traditional filters that I can tolerate), along with niacinamide, the forms of centella asiatica the formula boasts having to reduce irritation and strengthen the skin barrier and iron oxides, to add an added layer of protection against visible light.
I’m pretty sure the only other base product I used in 2021 was this other variation on a tinted moisturizer come tinted sunscreen. It’s formulated without fragrance or alcohol, and is enriched with squalane, niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate and allantoin and has a broad-spectrum zinc oxide for sun protection. As far as tinted sunscreens go, this sits more on the makeup-y side of things, coming in thirty different shades and offering a luminous-to-dewy finish and light coverage. I knew I wanted to try this foundation-thing as soon as I heard about it but I had to wait a while for it to be available in Canada and I wasn’t wrong. Unlike most serum foundations, it sits well on my drier skin, doesn’t cling to texture and blends pretty seamlessly into the skin, feeling lightweight.
As someone who suffers from hereditary dark circles, a bone structure that makes dark circles and product settling into creases a reality and a dry, sensitive eye area, I know I’m making a lot of work for my concealer. However, when I’m wearing makeup, I always wear concealer under my eyes and this is one of the ones that works without making any of my problems worse. It settles into creases minimally — I haven’t met a concealer that doesn’t do this on my deep set eyes –, doesn’t cling to dry patches or dry out and/or irritate my sensitive eye area. The clean beauty marketing is not my thing, but I enjoy that it does not contain drying alcohol or pounds of masking fragrance. It’s medium coverage but looks like skin and works on patches without perfect texture; I will say that the shade range does, in fact, run horrifically yellow. It’s moisturizing with a blendable, skin-like finish.
I purchased this fairly pricy eyeshadow palette towards the end of 2020 and it’s been my eyeshadow palette standby ever since. The shades pretty much all lean warm — but without being a copper sunset — and sit mainly in the medium-tone family. However, there are deeper shades thrown in to make things smokier, darken the outer corner and to even create winged liner with and there are a few paler shades to add dimension and contrast. It’s not groundbreaking but it’s a great palette for those who like neutral-warm and leaning smokey shadows. There’s a wack of pretty light-to-mid tone metallic shades for the lids, a variety of options of matte crease, out of corner and plain old deeper shades and some more interesting shades, while still being a palette that blends like a dream without being fallout central. I like it for easy two eyeshadow looks and it also is great for more intricate eyeshadow-blending-for-the-soul moments.
2021 was not a year for lip products for a variety of reasons: one being that I didn’t wear a whole lot of makeup in general, another being that there wasn’t a whole lot of leaving the house and third, lip products were kind of a moot point and inconvenience with all of the mask wearing. My most worn actual lip product was this deep orange-based rusty coloured liquid lipstick. The formula didn’t really transfer onto the mask, wasn’t particularly drying and didn’t wear off unevenly (from my centre of my lips, leaving a ring around the outside). The shade really flattering on my neutral-warm leaning skin, without being too vibrant because of the deepness of the hue. The formula is long-wearing, as you’d expect, but feels lightweight and comfortable.
This citrus-patchouli warm floral was a fairly new to me purchase in 2021, and it was easily my most worn and favourite fragrance. It comes the closest to the long-discontinued Dior Miss Dior that was my favourite, but has it’s own distinct identity and great longevity. Its notes are orange, bergamot, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, patchouli, white musk, vanilla, tonka bean and vetiver, but warm citrus-y patchouli is the vibe that it gives off. Day to day, I just will spray this on my clothes, the sillage and longevity is so good that it lingers, but on more of an occasion, I’ll happily do a few spritzes.
What were your 2021 favourites?