This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click them and make a purchase, I can earn a small commission. This post is not sponsored, however some of the products mentioned were sent to me from the brand for free in exchange for my honest review.
Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe, but 2016 is already here. It’s amazing how quickly 12 months can fly by and all of a sudden its January again. While 2015 was a relatively low key year for me in my personal life, I feel like it was pretty exciting for me blog-wise. I started out my first affiliate partnerships, revamped my YouTube channel, worked with some great brands, and tried SO. MANY. PRODUCTS. I wrote 171 posts (that’s more than the two previous years combined!), totally revamped my site design, and have finally started to figure out this whole social media thing. In the end, blogging is definitely a labor of love, but I couldn’t be happier about investing my time and energy into creating this space that I can share with all of you. I’ve got so many plans and goals for the coming year, and hope that you’ll all be up for joining me on that journey.
But, before we get to ahead of ourselves, I want to give 2015 a proper send off. I’ve spent the last few weeks rifling through my cabinets, digging through my drawers, and perusing my old blog posts to come up with an epic list of my most favorite beauty products from the past year. For a moment I considered making one short list encompassing my best-of-the-best products, only to quickly realize that it’s kind of impossible to just pick one favorite makeup or skincare item from the hundreds that I’ve tried. So instead, I offer you this. Over the next few days I’ll be sharing my best beauty discoveries of 2015, with each post focusing on a particular group of products. So let’s start things right by talking about everyone’s favorite beauty addiction – makeup.
Best Primer: YSL Touche Éclat Blur Primer ($52)
I was so lucky to get a chance to try this super high-end primer through Influenster earlier this year, and while the price tag is kind of terrifying, the formula really is incredible. This feels so silky and light on the skin and makes your foundation glide on effortlessly. You also only need a tiny amount to cover your whole face, so a single bottle will last you a really long time.
Read More: YSL Touche Éclat Blur Primer Review
Best Foundation: L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Matte 24 Hr Foundation ($12.99)
As you’ll quickly find out from reading this post, I’m of the opinion that L’Oreal killed it this year with their makeup launches. This foundation was hands down my favorite of 2015 and performs just as well as any high end brand. It has awesome coverage, a natural looking matte finish, and is really long wearing. My only gripe is that the shade selection of this line is sub par. I personally needed to buy two shades to mix together to get a color that matched my skin tone. That being said, two bottles of this is still less expensive than a lot of foundations you’ll find at Sephora, especially when you consider how often products at the drugstore go on sale.
Best Concealer: Maybelline FaceStudio Master Conceal ($8.99)
I swear, despite the fact that I’ve been using this concealer almost every single day, my original tube is still going strong. You get a ton of product for the amount of money you pay, and the formula is pretty great too. It has solid coverage, but with a thinner texture that is easy to blend and doesn’t cake up or crease. I also really like the fact that this is in a tube, rather than a pot or wand, because I find it stays much more hygenic (especially considering that we often put concealer on blemishes and other bacteria laden areas).
Read More: Brand Focus: Maybelline
Best Bronzer: Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil ($30)
I think if I could only pick one bronzer to use for the rest of forever, it would probably be this one. Putting the fact that it smells like chocolate aside (which is, you know, awesome, but not the number one criteria) I really love the way this applies and blends onto my skin. I naturally have a bit of a more yellowish undertone, and this does not look orangey or muddy at all on my complexion. I can use it to contour or to warm up my face, as it has a nice, matte finish.
Best Highlighter: Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector ($19)
Becca does a lot of things well, but if there is one thing the makeup line is known for, its their highlighters. They’ve launched many different versions of their acclaimed Shimmering Skin Perfector, but my personal preference is the original formula in the Opal shade. A little bit of this on the high points of your face blended in with a sponge gives you that absolutely perfect glow. I’m also happy to see that they’ve made this available in a much more affordable travel sized version. The huge $40 bottle is more product than I will probably ever use, so I think this is a way more cost effective option.
Read More: Highlighters to Love
Best Setting Spray: L’Oreal Infallible Makeup Extender Setting Spray ($16.99)
While I have much love for Urban Decay’s setting spray, for the price I think this stuff takes the cake. A few mists across your face will help to give your makeup a more natural looking finish while locking it down into place.
Best Powder Blush: MAKE Satin Finish Powder Blush in Geisha ($25)
I have A LOT of blushes in my collection, but this is the one I always come back to. Geisha is the perfect neutral pink that would flatter any skintone and adds just the right amount of flush to the cheeks. The formula of this blush is also perfect- not too powdery, not too pigmented, and beautifully creamy and blendable on your cheeks.
Best Cream Blush: Vapour Organic Beauty Aura Multi-Use Color Stick in Courtezan ($36)
This all-natural blush stick was a great find in 2015. The texture is really creamy and blends into cheeks with ease for a natural looking flush. Courtezan is a dusty pink shade that I think is also universally flattering and makes for a perfect everyday shade. Plus, you can’t beat the ingredients list, which is full of plant oils and extracts.
Best Stain: Stila Aqua Glow Watercolor Blush ($26, discontinued)
This blush was my jam all summer long. I personally own the shade Water Poppy, which is a vibrant, extremely pigmented coral red, but the line has other gorgeous and less intense choices if that’s more up your alley. The formula on this blush is really unique. It’s a sort of liquid-cream-gel hybrid that provides lasting color to your cheeks. Unlike other stains it doesn’t stay tacky and is also really comfortable to wear.
Best 2-in-1 Lip & Cheek: Nudestix Lip & Cheek Pencil ($24)
It’s so hard to find a good product that works double duty for lips and cheeks. Some feel nice on the lips but are too tacky on the cheeks, or are nice on the cheeks but way too drying on the lips. These pencils, however, are just right. I was all about the shade Ripe this spring, which is a deep apricot-pink, and was impressed at how easy this was to work with on both lips and cheeks. Plus, the pencil format is so easy to use on-the-go, and it even comes with its own little case and sharpener to store it in.
Eyes & Brows
Best Mascara: Maybelline Lash Sensational ($8.99)
Does this surprise anyone by being here? No? I’ve been using this mascara (although not the same tube) for pretty much the entirety of 2015. It’s got a really volumizing formula, but the unique brush shape helps to add length and definition. Considering how often you’re supposed to chuck a tube of mascara, it makes so much more sense to go drugstore, and this particular one is definitely my current pick.
Read More: Save or Splurge? Budget Beauty vs. Hyped High End Makeup
Best Brows: Anastasia Brow Wiz ($21)
2015 was the year I finally understood all the hype around the Anastasia Brow Wiz. This super slim retractable pencil will make your eyebrows look better than they ever have in your life. It’s not only super precise, but the formula strikes just the right balance pigmentation and firmness to make filling in your brows a piece of cake. And it also has a built-in spooly to better distribute product and groom your brows into place.
Read More: Sephora Favorites Brow Wardrobe
Best Primer: NYX HD Eyeshadow Base ($6.99)
The NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base has definitely had my heart for years, but this drugstore dupe is almost identical and is way WAY more affordable. This primer is creamy and transluscent, making it friendly to all skin tones, and creates a perfect base for shadows to adhere to. If you aren’t currently using any eyeshadow primer at all, they make a HUGE difference, and this is a great one to start out with.
Best Eyeliner (liquid): LORAC Front of the Line Pro Liquid Eyeliner ($23)
Anyone who’s been around here for some time knows I love me some winged liner, and this discovery totally upped my game. The Front of the Line Pro Pen has a brush tip that stays super sharp and precise, but is also soft and flexible enough to not feel like you’re stabbing yourself in the eye. Creating a perfect flick has never been easier than it was with this liner, and I couldn’t recommend it enough!
Read More: LORAC Front of the Line Pro Liquid Eyeliner Review
Best Eyeliner (pencil): L’Oreal Infallible Silkissime Eyeliner ($8.99, discontinued)
This 2015 eyeliner launch was seriously awesome. The formula on these pencils is incredibly smooth and creamy, packs on the pigmentation, and is totally budge proof once it sets. I was especially drawn to the Highlighter shade, which is a gorgeous metallic pink that looks killer in the waterline, as an accent to black liner, or all on its own. It really brightens and adds light to the eyes and is a unique color (especially for the drugstore).
Best Shadow (single): NYX Prismatic Eyeshadow ($5.99)
These eyeshadows are BOMB. Seriously, I continue to be so impressed with how pigmented and metallic and gorgeous they are. If you didn’t know these were drugstore and saw swatches, you probably would expect they were Urban Decay or another high end brand. I’m actually writing up a full review of these bad boys to go up this month, so be on the lookout if you’d like to see more of them in action!
Best Shadow (palette): Laura Mercier Eye Art Artist’s Palette ($55)
2015 was such a good year for palettes that picking a single one felt near impossible. However, I realized that this Laura Mercier palette was probably the one I got the most excited about in the end. This was actually a relaunched product that was originally LE for the 2013 holiday season and is now part of their permanent collection. These shadows are so buttery, pigmented, and easy to blend, and the colors are absolutely gorgeous. I also have a serious weakness for purple eyeshadow, so this palette was totally just meant for me.
Best Matte Lipstick: NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil ($26)
Sephora Beauty Insiders got a real treat by being gifted two amazing NARS lip pencils for their birthdays this year. While I’m a fan of all three pencil formulas (satin, matte, and gloss) its the matte version that takes the cake for me. The shade Iberico (a coral orange LE shade released in the 2014 holiday season) was my ride or die lip color all summer long, but for something that never goes out of style, try the shade Cruella. If you only want to own one red lip product, make it this and you will seriously not be disappointed. The formula is crazy pigmented, long wearing, and stays super matte without being overly drying.
Read More: Lips & Nails to Match Your Valentine’s Day Mood
Best Satin/Cream Finish Lipstick: YSL Rouge Pur Couture Lipstick ($36)
Influenster was so good to me in 2015, and perhaps my favorite product freebie of all was the YSL Rouge Pur Couture Lipstick in Rose Stiletto. The formula is incredibly creamy and pigmented, and feels super luxe in every possible way. And the shade Rose Stiletto is my perfect fall nude, as its got a slight berry undertone.
Read More: YSL Rouge Pur Couture VoxBox
Best Liquid Lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($24)
The formula on these liquid lipsticks is SO GOOD. They dry down super matte, are incredibly transfer resistant, and they smell like buttercream frosting. I got a sample of the shade Venezia in my Birchbox over the summer and fell absolutely in love. I also used the shade Beso in my recent holiday makeup tutorial. If you’re a fan of liquid lipsticks and haven’t tried these yet, you’re seriously missing out!
Best Gloss: Chantecaille Luminous Gloss ($34)
The idea of spending $34 on a lipgloss is a little insane to me, and the only reason I ended up trying this was because Birchbox puts together THE best Limited Edition boxes during the year. But, I must admit, now that I’ve tried it, this might just be one of the nicest lip glosses I have ever used. It’s super plumping and shiny, minus the stickiness of many other formulas. The shade Lychee gives your lips the most beautiful flush of pink and is perfect for accenting a natural makeup look.
Best Balm: Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask ($26)
Back in the spring I picked up a little set from Bite Beauty with this lip mask and a scrub inside, and from then on I’ve been obsessed with slathering this stuff on my lips at bedtime. The smell is a little funky (it’s got vanilla absolute, but for some reason it also smells like play-doh), but if you can get past that what it does for your lips is incredible. It’s rich with lanolin, which does an amazing job of healing chapped lips, as well as other plant oils to smooth and soften. If you’ve had trouble finding a lip balm that’s moisturizing enough for you, this one does not disappoint.
Tools & Brushes
Best Brush Cleanser: Japonesque Makeup Brush Cleanser ($14)
For the longest time I had been using a cheap-o spray brush cleaner in between deep cleaning sessions, and just sort of assumed all spray cleaners worked the same. Needless to say last year I was proven wrong. So very wrong. This Japonesque cleanser works SO WELL. Spray a little onto a paper towel, swirl your brushes in it and everything will come right off. It’s got a slightly more oily texture, which means that it does an insanely good job of cleaning foundation, concealer, and other creamy products off your brushes. And it smells like oranges, which is lovely.
Best Sponge: Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge ($6.99)
2015 was also the year that I finally experimented with a makeup sponge. As much as I still love brushes for buffing in face makeup, some formulas really do go on better with a sponge. And when it comes to sponges, this one from Real Techniques can’t be beat. It does a great job of pressing makeup into the skin for a flawless finish, and it holds up really well to repeated washings.
Best Brush Set: BH Cosmetics Sculpt & Blend ($17.99)
Perhaps my best impulse purchase of last year, the Sculpt & Blend set has been a wonderful addition to my brush collection. This ten piece set has just about every brush you need to perfectly blend in your makeup. Whether you want to apply foundation, bronzer, or even buff color onto your eyes, there’s a brush for that. You can’t beat the value for the price (especially considering how often BH Cosmetics has sales) and they look and feel way pricier than they actually are.
Read More: BH Cosmetics Sculpt & Blend Set Review