Those who love beauty typically have these certain, almost cult-like products that are just lodged in their minds. In a way, they’re like the historical documents of the beauty world. They can be known as innovators, or the best of their kind, or just have a certain iconic aura about them. And any beauty fanatic worth their salt can reel them off at the drop of a hat.
The question is, are such products actually any good? And, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, the answer is more long-winded than a yes or a no—which is a good thing for my writing career. But having long been invested in testing as much makeup and skincare as physically possible, I have discovered that some of these products truly are as good as their reputation. Without further ado, here are the iconic beauty products that are worth the hype.
Let’s start with tools, shall we? There are most certainly a lot of them on the market. This means that, in order for something to really stand out, it has to be exceptional. My favorites are the Beauty Blender and the Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler, both of which are oft-imitated but incomparable. For airbrushed-looking bases and cartoon-esque lashes, respectively, there’s nothing better. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Speaking of bases, the best one out there is Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk. I can’t imagine anyone not thinking this is the tits. It blends in extremely quickly and totally seamlessly, and then sets and stays put without ever looking dried out or cakey. It has the most stunningly skin-like finish, giving just the right amount of glow. It also comes in enough shades to cater to everyone, which is amazingly still not the case with some foundations. Get a sample, and if you don’t like this I’ll eat my proverbial hat.
Blush-wise, is there anything more iconic than Benefit’s Benetint? Also, did you know it was originally conceived as a nipple tint for erotic dancers? Just when you thought you couldn’t love a product more. What’s great about this is both its naturalness and its universality. On any skin tone, it gives a beautiful, just-pinched flush to cheeks which lasts all day.
The cheeks are also where you’d want to apply contour. If you are going to do so, it should probably be with the Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder. Unlike other products mentioned here, I can’t seem to properly describe why this is the best. It just is. It makes your contour look the best. It just does. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.
Another of these slightly enigmatic cult products is the Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick. Even the name is confusing! Well, that’s part of the beauty of it: the Shimmer Brick is whatever you want it to be. It’s either a shimmery blush or a lightly colored highlighter. Oh, and it can also be used on the eyes. When applied generally in the cheek vicinity with a fluffy brush, the Shimmer Brick gives skin a polished glow like nothing else. It’s one of the best ways to get compliment-worthy skin. The shade “Pink Quartz” is a good bet across the board.
Lip wise, I have two iconic options which have taken up permanent residency in my heart. The first is MAC’s “Ruby Woo.” In some ways, it’s quite a basic product—a matte red lipstick, groundbreaking. But truly, it’s the matte red lipstick. It suits literally everybody, like the sisterhood of the traveling lipstick. It also lasts like nothing else without drying lips too badly. And the MAC bullet and scent are just great—that’s just a universal truth.
For those who favor a more natural lip look, the Dior Lip Glow is the way to go. It’s often imitated, but nothing is quite as good. Dior’s formula is slightly thicker and waxier, meaning it coats the lips in a hydrated and glossy finish while far outlasting competitors. It also has a gorgeous vanilla-mint scent. Oh, and it comes in loads of shades now, so there truly is one for everyone. My favourite is “Lilac,” which is not in fact lilac, but a flattering, cool-toned pink.
A total eye game changer is the Urban Decay Naked Palette. Am I aging myself by admitting to remembering a time before this came out? Well, I do, and let me tell you young’uns that before this, there were basically no neutral palettes on the market. Now, and I think we can be in agreement on this, there are too many, so in a way we have Urban Decay to blame. Anyway, the original Naked Palette and its many iterations still hold up. My personal favourite is Naked Heat Palette, which has more reds and oranges, but whichever you buy I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Of all the “iconic” skincare products in the world, I narrowed my favorites down to just three I think warrant a mention. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, skincare is science, so as science advances, skincare tends to, too. This means new launches typically outperform their “iconic” predecessors. Also, I happen to enjoy shopping around more niche, indie skincare brands to find favorites. But some famous products do still sneak into my routine, and I’d be remiss not to mention them.
The first is the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion. It’s something I often overlook, because it’s not really a part of my “routine” per se. It’s essentially only used in moments of total emergency of the zit kind. You apply a dot of this pink powder over any underground activity, and it shrinks at a dramatically heightened pace. Glamorous? No. Effective? Hell yes.
Another product which falls within these unglamorous, highly effective constraints is the GlamGlow Supermud Clearing Treatment. This is the best mask for sucking gunk out of pores, and when it dries you’ll see what I mean. Pools of oil are revealed, blocked pores are freed up, and any potential blemishes are stopped in their tracks. It’s super expensive, but worth having on hand for moments of dramatic clogging.
My final mention, of course, has to go to the Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair. For one thing, it was the first ever serum, so we have a lot to thank it for. But aside from this, it’s also still an exceptionally good serum. It’s designed to be anti-aging, but it’s also hydrating, soothing, healing, and brightening. In fact, there seems to be little that this brown bottle can’t do. Which, for a product over 25 years old, isn’t just impressive—it’s unheard of.