Welcome to Our Favorite Products, a monthly feature in which ITG's editors discuss our favorite products. They're the best things we've tried all month long, reviewed, photographed, and anthropomorphized before we have the opportunity to get sick of them and move on to something new. This month, we're doing good for our skin, our planet, and our budgets. Did you think all three were even possible? From healing masks to updated staples, we're keeping it all under 60 bucks. Here's what's in rotation.
A Multihyphenate Base Coat
"A base coat is the middle child of nail polishes. It doesn’t have the stage presence of a color lacquer and quite literally lacks the eye-catching shine of a top coat. So, base coats! They’re easy to overlook. But if we’re being honest with ourselves here, a base coat is the first essential step in a manicure that looks good and lasts. This one from Jinsoon glides on in a seamless layer, like a gel, but without the extra thick ‘gel cushion,’ which you don’t need in a base coat anyway. That alone sets me up for a smooth ride to manicure-ville, but that Jinsoon! She’s always got an extra treat up her sleeve. In this case it comes in the form of three AHAs that work to buff out my nail texture, so each manicure goes on even more smoothly (and seamlessly) than the last. And really, this thing works—seriously. No weird ridges on my actual nails, and no chips on the polish on top. Base coats…it’s your time to shine!"
A Shampoo That’s An Optimist
"In the midst of a global pandemic, a stressful event in itself for obvious reasons, I must tell you that I can’t stop thinking about the environment. I mean, I’m always thinking about it. But now all the little cracks in the system are starting to seem like one huge, gaping hole and—look, I won’t get into all this in my monthly favorites blurb. I will say that I’ve been using Owa's Moondust Hair Wash, and it’s making me feel a little better. It’s a waterless powder shampoo, which helps cut down on energy in the manufacturing stage, the weight they have to ship, and the amount of replacement bottles you have to buy. (One teeny 2oz bottle of Moondust will last you just as long as 32oz of the regular stuff.) And honestly, I was worried at first but it's super easy to get used to the switch. After activating the powder with a little water, I rub my hands together and it starts to lather. It doesnt glob up or slide off, which I find excellent for getting into my roots—it's almost like my hands become the shampoo. And if I need more I just rub them together again, and whatever powder's stuck between my fingers or the wrinkles in my palms magically refreshes my supply. The best surprise? How creamy and moisturizing it is. Seriously!! It doesn't make sense, but neither do a lot of things right now—at least I know this shampoo has only the best intentions."
A Cleanser That Kicks Quarantine Acne’s Ass
"I entered quarantine with clear skin. No pimples, no leftover PIH, no swaths of dry skin stretching over portions of my forehead. It was great—and I got cocky. Cocky enough to think that I didn’t have to wash my face in the morning (something I’ve known is a must for my skin, thanks to years of trial and error). Solely cleansing in the evening was going just fine until… Until I got five deep papule zits on my forehead, all coming to the party in quick succession, kicking off their shoes and promising to stay a while. It was maddening. But! This is the reason why I keep super strong acne cleansers in my closet! My skin and I have trust issues and as such, I am always prepared. Renée Rouleau’s AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser is about two notches more serious than my steadfast Rapid Response Detox Cleanser; it’s got a heavier dose of acids that bust through dead skin and increase cell turnover. There’s also gentle jojoba beads for an extra layer of dead skin removal. I’ve found results to be pretty immediate, plus a long tail of zit reduction. A lot of things are stressful right now; feels good to have a friend in my medicine cabinet."
A Mascara For Brush Fiends
"When it comes to choosing lengthening mascaras, I’m a brush fiend. Before I even think about making a purchase, I inspect the brush from all angles. Are the bristles separated enough to get in between every lash? Can it reach the itty bitty inner corners of my eyes and coat my bottom lashes without looking gunky? Get my lashes as fluttery as possible, with minimal assistance from a lash comb or (God forbid) a safety pin to separate clumped lashes? Once I find a mascara that covers those bases, it’s almost impossible for me to let go, which is why I’m holding tight to Ilia’s Limitless Lash Mascara. It’s engineered to give my lashes exactly what I want! One half of the mascara brush has shorter, denser teeth, ideal for getting close to the root of my lashes and depositing a good amount of pigment. The other comb-like side has wider, more sparse teeth that effortlessly rake pigment through to the tippy tops of lashes. My lashes look darkened, but also natural––a few steps up from a lash tint. It applies a little wet, but a lot less goopy than what I’ve seen from other natural mascara formulas. And that’s a small price to pay for a painless makeup removal process at the end of day. It’s been the ideal mascara to wear when I’ve got nowhere to go at all."
A Mask That Does Heavy Work Lightly
"The only masks I tend to use with any consistency are sleeping masks, the kind you put on and forget about until your next face wash. They appeal to my laziness but also to my skin, which a facialist once described as 'a little bit oily but also very, very, very dry.' (I know.) I’ve been trying lots of them since fall and the one that became my mainstay was this one from True Botanicals. Creamy yet lightweight, hydrating yet un-goopy, it left my skin visibly more soothed and smoothed by morning—so of course there’s a catch. It’s expensive! I wanted to find a cheaper one I could recommend to friends (20-something students or recent grads) and a little more digging led me to Indeed's version, which I love just as much at a third of the cost. It’s got that same in-between texture that's silkier than shortening but more substantial than a night cream. And, here's a cool thing: instead of the thick oils or butters I’ve come to expect from sleeping masks, In-Circadian leaves a too-thin-to-feel film on skin to seal in hydration overnight. That it's fragrance-free and comes in a sanitary tube instead of a jar just adds to the reasons why I plan on using it till the last drop."
A Dry Skin-Friendly Clay Mask
“Lately I’ve been using clay masks like a college student—that is, all the time. It’s because of these damn stress pimples! But a key difference between the clay masks I wore in college and the ones I use now is that the newer ones don’t dry my face out. I mean let’s face it, I’m far from my oily teen skin days and I have to fight to keep my face soft and hydrated, which is hard to do when your clay mask wants to raisin your skin! So I’ve been leaning on Lesse’s Bioactiv Face Masque more than ever. Its most abundant ingredient is aloe, which is both hydrating and soothing, followed by clay, charcoal, and rice powder to clear out the gunk in my pores. It stays ‘wet’ on my skin and smells, I don’t know…earthy? But not overwhelmingly so. I plop this guy on at least a few times a week and slowly, but surely, my skin has been clearing up. And it’s not drying up! The best of both worlds.”
A Workhorse Candle That Brings Spring Indoors
"If you’re a candle hoarder (like me) it’s likely you have a roster of candles for a variety of moments. There’s your Soothing Morning Candle, lit as soon as you’re awake to get into a pleasantn frame of mind. There’s the Luxurious Pricey Candle, the one you save for when your boo’s coming over and blow out as soon as they arrive. And then there’s the All-Purpose Candle. Mine are always affordable, can disguise any offensive cooking scents that sneak into the bedroom, and smell like the feeling of opening an old, dependable book. Filling that role right now is Paddywax’s Heirloom Tomato Candle, a candle I didn’t think twice about until I gave it to Andy Baraghani in a blind beauty product smell test. Upon first light there’s tart lemon, but it quickly blends into an earthy harmony featuring a subtle pepperiness and what reminds me of flower stems. I think it's the candle's basil notes that ultimately give it a homey feel. It’s definitely been my well-loved security blanket during this time––and it’s almost done! Can’t wait to re-up."
A Supremely Restorative Moisturizer For Tough Times
"So, upping my acid usage helped combat my quarantine acne. A win! But my skin continues to insist that it is, in fact, dry. So, what does this mean? For me the balance has become 'keep the acids, up the level of moisturizer.' After I cleanse, exfoliate, and serum, I reach for Avène Cicalfate, which is a very balmy (almost paste-y) restorative skin cream I imagine you might use on a baby’s diaper rash (there’s an illustration of a family on the tube for good measure). I’ve become emotionally dependent on this moisturizer: If this moisturizer were a person, it’d be the kind of mother who dotes on you until you turn into a helicopter child, unable to leave the nest. Every time I schmear it on my face, I finally feel at peace. And it’s never once let me down—clogging my pores or exacerbating existing pimples. It is perfect. I love it so much."
Photos via ITG
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