The Top 10 Beauty Products of 2020

A collage with the top skin, hair, and wellness beauty products of 2020

Things have been anything but celebratory during this tumultuous year, we know. Since the early weeks of March, some self-care habits have gone the way of our lives overall: haywire. But in the chaotic months that followed, external self-care became equally as important as internal self-care. Although we went through phases of “letting ourselves go,” mocking ourselves for on social media for wearing leggings and messy buns every day, some have managed to step back into a few pre-pandemic habits of normal life (and if you haven’t, that’s fine too). Maybe you’re putting makeup on again when venturing out to see friends responsibly, or blowing out your hair for Zoom meetings. Perhaps you’ve done a hundred and one DIY face masks this year—all while cooking, scrolling, and watching Netflix.

If you are one (or all) of the people described above, this article is for you. With the input of respected beauty experts in skin, hair, and wellness, we compiled the 10 best products that launched this year—those which we consider fabulous, exceptional, and worthy of recommendation. In the coming months, life will resume. Expect to use concealer again, and setting sprays to extend your makeup’s longevity to go out all night—and you will surely find yourself on the beach sooner than you think. Here are the latest offerings from MZ Skin, Giorgio Armani, and more, to fill out your makeup kit.

Angela Caglia Daily Botanical Serum, $150,

Launched late January from celebrity facialist Angela Caglia, this botanical formulation acts as a daily serum or stand-alone moisturizer. Simply put—results are visible and happen fast. There is just the right combination of fatty acids and antioxidants to calm the skin, regenerate, and heal the epidermal layers. The blend also contains an ingredient that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: sea buckthorn oil, a potent vitamin C and E element that helps brighten skin and protect it from broken capillaries. Added plus: if it’s good enough for Helena Christensen, it’s good enough for us. She revealed to W her dedication to the daily serum, saying, “I am obsessed with my L.A.-based aesthetician Angela Caglia’s Daily Botanical Serum. It has transformed my skin this year. She uses only the best ingredients with the most innovative formulas and this serum makes my skin plump, ageless, and glowing. I love the intoxicating smell of the ylang-ylang and frankincense too. It’s divine.”

Hourglass Veil Soft Focus Effect Setting Spray, $48,

This is the perfect finishing touch to complete any makeup look—a sulfate-free, paraben-free, vegan, cruelty-free setting mist to prolong coverage for up to 24 hours. As we mentioned, life will inevitably resume in these coming months and this will keep in place your makeup for hours on end—and blur out any makeup imperfections. This spray is ideal not just for long days at the office (when you do, indeed, have to show your face,) but for the ensuing festive long evenings, events, and award shows. Celebrity makeup artist Lisa Aharon details further why this is her favorite product of the year: “As I got back into working this summer, not only was I piecing together makeup bags for my main clients (to avoid cross-contamination), but I was exploring products that ultimately would give makeup longevity. Hourglass introduced their Veil Soft Focus Effect Setting Spray—it was in my kit during a 12-hour shoot, so I figured, why not try it? After spritzing the face, the makeup look was extra flawless; it lasted through a hot summer day and was still workable during touch-ups. It’s quickly become a staple in my foundation bag. I absolutely love it.”

Sisley Black Rose Eye Contour Fluid, $150,

An eye treatment those suffering from dark circles and puffiness will fall in love with, this rapidly absorbing eye fluid reduces inflammation, to give your eyes a well-rested appearance. In tandem with a reasonably healthy lifestyle, of course, this product delivers. It’s comprised of botanical ingredients Sisley’s team of researchers spent years formulating to give fast results.The fluid satiates the eye area with ingredients like aqueous black rose extract and padina pavonica extract (a brown algae that acts as a sort of scaffolding for the skin, holding tissues together). This product is a favorite for makeup artist Rachel Goodwin (whose clients include Priyanka Chopra, Winne Harlow, Emma Stone, and Laura Dern). “When it comes to luxury French skin care, Sisley Paris is my ultimate indulgence,” she says. “Their Black Rose Eye Contour Fluid not only makes my under-eyes look and feel like I’ve just had a facial and a full night’s sleep, but the de-puffing tool transports me to the spa, even if I’m only in my car on my way to work. It’s my self-care magic wand.”

Westman Atelier Eye Shadow Pods, $88,

A set of chic, clean formulated eye shadows in beautiful palettes that blend effortlessly together or alone—because when it comes to eye shadow, we always want options that are natural, bold, and above all, user-friendly. The creamy application makes it smudge-proof and easy to apply. (There’s also an intelligently designed magnetic element holding the palettes together that is ideal for travel.) A quick hit with beauty experts like Knockout Beauty founder Cayli Cavaco, “The product performs like a cream with control and blend-ability but has the soft diffusion of a powder,” Cavaco says. “It’s complex enough for the pros and yet super easy to apply. It has sold out three times. It’s been hard to keep on stock.”

Magic Lip Oil Crystal Elixir by Charlotte Tilbury, $40,

It’s as if the Kissing Potion gloss you loved in your youth just came back into town after graduating magna cum laude from an Ivy League university. The object of obsession for celebrity skincare expert Georgia Louise, this rollerball application dispenses lip oil without being sticky, heavy or messy. It has the potency and effectiveness of a serum because of its plant adaptogens. The oil infusion contains healing shea, rosehip and Camelia oils and lip conditioning elements of alpine rose extract and aloe vera to help volumize and heal the layers of skin.

The Mascara by Jones Road, $26,

A bold, lash-elongating mascara that delivers the wow factor, from celebrated makeup artist Bobbi Brown’s new clean beauty line, Jones Road. With this product, a little goes a long way—it’s thick and does the job without you wasting time, hovering over and under each and every lash. The wand applicator even reaches the baby inner lashes, giving a complete, dramatic look without being overdone. The cruelty-free, paraben-free mascara is infused with vitamins E and B to keep it from drying out. UBeauty founder Tina Craig says it’s a favorite of hers, adding “I love the Jones Road mascara. I reapply it throughout the day, it’s never clumpy and it doesn’t dry stiffly.”

Fuwafuwa Foaming Cleanser by Seiso JBeauty, $38,

We do believe this is the most perfect foaming cleanser created this year, because it removes all makeup and moisturizes without harming the lipid barrier. It’s not oily, it’s not stripping and it’s how we like our products—uncomplicated. Added plus: no stearic acid or palmitic acid, common irritants found in cleansers which leaves an undetectable film or soap scum residue that can clog pores, dehydrate, and prevent the proper absorption of any subsequent products applied to the skin. The cleanser was specifically designed to be used on dry skin to further protect from hard water and mineral deposits that interfere with healthy barrier function. Japanese scientists used a purified water base and added gentle cleansing agents, like fermented rice extract and coconut aminos, to ensure effective cleansing that leaves skin hydrated and soft to the touch. This is an ideal cleanser for those who also use retinoids, as actress, model and lifestyle guru Molly Sims can attest. “I love the whole Seiso system. This is the Olaplex of skincare for me,” she says. “The Fuwafuwa Foaming Cleanser is literally the best cleanser I’ve ever used. It’s so moisturizing. I like to pair it with their Pure Ceramide Concentrate. It’s ideal for me also because I use retinoids and vitamin C, so the Seiso ceramide formulations help to heal and protect my skin barrier.”

Armani Luminous Silk Concealer, $38,

If there was a concealer hall of fame, this one would be inducted ASAP. Launched earlier this year, Armani’s hydrating concealer is a dark-circle savior. It glides on easily, provides phenomenal coverage, and still feels light; a no-brainer to add to your makeup collection. The product was a favorite of renowned makeup artist, Molly R. Stern (she works on the faces of Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Maya Rudolph, and more) this year. She says she’s been using it consistently since its launch, adding, “This is magic in a tiny bottle. It performs very similarly to the Luminous Silk Foundation in that it can be whatever you want it to be, ranging from sheer and natural to layered for full coverage. I like it because the applicator makes it very easy to apply and it blends perfectly. Also, I have to shout out the amazing shade range—there are 20 shades and there is something for every tone of beauty out there.”

Exfoliating Body Treatment by Dr. Dennis Gross, $58,

A smart alternative to the overhyped daily dry-brushing trend that just won’t go away, these exfoliating pads successfully slough off your body’s dead skin for softer, smoother skin—especially in problem areas such as elbows, knees and heels. There’s no mess and no excessive time consumption. The pads use a gentle blend of lactic, glycolic and salicylic acids—perfect for anyone suffering with dry, bumpy skin or even acne prone skin (especially this winter). If you’re still late to the laser hair removal bandwagon, this should be an essential routine step for anyone who waxes or shaves, as it effectively reduces ingrown hair and skin irritations. To be used two to three times a week after showering, it’s become a fast favorite of beauty experts, including veteran celebrity makeup artist Yolanda Frederick. “Most of us have experienced dull, dry, and bumpy skin on our bodies,” she says. “Thankfully, Dr. Dennis Gross, known for his phenomenal exfoliating products, has added yet another winner to his collection. This new Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment will leave your body’s skin both radiant and as smooth as silk.”

MZ Skin Anti-Pollution Illuminating Eye Mask, $25 for one pair,

An indulgent eye mask that lives up to its cult following hype, this mask works in under 15 minutes to brighten the eye area and offset the visible effects of stress, fatigue, and environmental factors. In the screen-heavy world we live, London oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Maryam Zamani formulated this eye mask with Lumicease, an ingredient created by biotechnicians to specifically protect skin against UV, infrared, and blue lights. The gel mask also contains cotton stem cells to protect against outdoor pollutants, as well as licorice root, which effectively brightens the delicate eye area without irritating. An essential for London-based celebrity facialist Sarah Bradden, “It’s my personal go-to to revive my eyes,” she says. “The hyaluronic acid creates an effective pre-boost lift for special occasions and just all-around smart eye area care and maintenance.”