My 15 Favorite Beauty Products of 2016

Because it’s year-end-roundup season until January 31, damn it. I’m back online, so it’s time to present my favorite new-to-me beauty products of 2016! As always, I’ve listed these items in the order in which I bought them. I listed 14 favorites in 2014 and 15 in 2015, but 16 seemed excessive somehow, so I kept the number at 15.

1. MAC Matte Lipstick in Antique Velvet (review)

This was the very first beauty product I bought in 2016, after a no-buy of almost two months. During those two months, I tried on Antique Velvet twice, loved it both times, searched the internet for cruelty-free dupes, and finally decided that nothing would satisfy me but the genuine article. Antique Velvet is a dark, cool-toned brown with a hint of plum. You’d think that such a dark matte lipstick would go on patchy, but it’s smooth and evenly pigmented, with the same soft, comfortable formula as the other MAC mattes I’ve tried.

After sticking to my no-buy for seven weeks, I expected to be thrilled to get my hands on a new lipstick, but I felt oddly blasé, even disappointed in myself for succumbing to temptation. I didn’t wear Antique Velvet until the next week, after a stressful interview at the Academic Job Conference of Doom, which was held in Austin that year. I went back to my hotel room, changed out of my interview dress and stockings and heels, put on my dark brown lipstick, and felt like myself again. It was the makeup equivalent of a deep, calming breath. I don’t wear Antique Velvet all that often (because, well, dark brown lipstick), but I feel like a really great version of myself whenever I do, and that’s more than enough to secure it a place on this list.

2. Zoya Kristen and Jules

I bought Kristen at the beginning of the year and Jules at the end of it, but I’m making them count as one product because I can. Kristen (right) is a pastel blue with a heavy dose of gray, making it less stark and lobster-hands-inducing than most light blue polishes look on me. I somehow can’t find a photo of Kristen on its own, but here it is with Floss Gloss Dimepiece on top:

Jules has a grayish taupe base with gold sparkles, but in direct sunlight I spot some flashes of pink and mint as well. It’s almost impossible to capture Jules’s subtleties on camera, but here’s how it looks in indirect natural lightthe very definition of a holiday neutral:

3. Glossier Boy Brow in Brown (review)

The word “game-changing” is as ubiquitous in the beauty blogosphere as the Chanel logo in a Jeffree Star video, but it’s rare that I encounter a product that truly changes my makeup game. Boy Brow is one such product, and you know I’m being honest because I’m as biased against Glossier as it’s possible to be. But if you have thick brows that need just a little extra color and hold, I’m not sure there’s a better product out there than Boy Brow. My one complaint is that the tube is so tiny for the $16 price. I don’t think I use that much every day, but I go through a tube in four or five months. If you know of a similar product that offers more goo per dollar, let me know.

4. Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence (review)

Another true game-changer. At the risk of TMI, I am an unusually sweaty person, particularly around the face. I also live in an area of the country that’s very humid year-round: we’re talking upwards of 90% for days at a time. These two factors make oily Western sunscreens slide right off my face in hot weather. After hearing over and over that Japanese sunscreens were lightweight and formulated to go under makeup, I ordered a tube of Bioré’s Aqua Rich Watery Essence from Amazon and waited three weeks for it to ship from Japan. And oh my god, it’s everything I wanted from a sunscreen: light, non-greasy, and slightly mattifying. Three small caveats: the formula contains a lot of alcohol (so it’s wise to wear moisturizer underneath, though I dont always), I finish a tube in about three months, and it’s almost impossible to find this sunscreen in the States unless you have access to Asian beauty stores. And of course it’s more expensive (~$15) than what you’d pay in Japan—though certainly cheaper than a ticket to Japan.

5. Barry M Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paints in Damson and Butterscotch Sundae (review)

I’ve never been impressed by Barry M’s original Nail Paint formula, but their slightly more pricey Gelly Hi-Shine line is fabulous. The word “Gelly” is misleading: these polishes aren’t as long-lasting as gel manicures, nor do they have a jelly or crelly finish. But they are beautifully opaque and they come in great colors: Butterscotch Sundae is the yellow-white of clotted cream, and Damson is that blazing International Klein Blue shade that nail polish bloggers were losing their shit over a few years back. I should note here that Damson totally smells like weed. I swear it does. I made my boyfriend smell it and he thought I was crazy, but I’M NOT. Go smell it and tell me I’m not.

6. Seventeen Eyeshadow Mono in Statuesque (review)

I’m not usually prejudiced against drugstore makeup, with one big exception: powder eyeshadow. I’ve been disappointed by almost all the drugstore eyeshadows I’ve tried. They tend to be chalky, patchy, and coarsely milled, and I’ve pretty much stopped buying them. So I was bowled over when I swatched this beautiful rose gold in Boots and it was as silky and pigmented as a high-end shadow. Like most of my favorite eyeshadows, Statuesque works equally well on its own and paired with other shades. It can be packed on for a metallic effect or blended out for a more neutral one (I wore it in this post on interview makeup).

7. CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (review)

My boyfriend has a running joke about “the planet of Hyaluronia,” whence all hyaluronic acid is imported to Earth.

Ugh, sorry, this is such a boring product. It’s a scentless, colorless, slightly gelatinous fluid without cute packaging or a high-end pedigree. But it removes my makeup (granted, I don’t usually wear heavy eye makeup), and it’s $14 for 12 oz, and it doesn’t leave my skin feeling dry. It’s also great for sensitive skin, which I don’t have but my mom does. I actually started using this because I ran out of my Lush 9 to 5 when I was staying at my mom’s place, and it worked so well that I bought my own bottle. Not only is it better at its job than our current president, it would also be better at his job.

8. Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in Rei of Light (review)

From the magnetic packaging to the absurdly pigmented formula, this is the most luxurious-feeling lipstick I ownand for $30, it had better be. Rei of Light sits halfway between brick red and rusty orange, and can take on the qualities of either color depending on lighting. I’d compare the Le Marc Lip Creme formula to the NARS Audacious formula, except that Le Marc is more matte and, in my experience, less drying. I’ve said a lot about Rei of Light on my blog and Instagram this year, so I’ll shut up now.

9. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Backtalk

When Urban Decay launched its 120-shade Vice lipstick collection last summer, I kept my distance. The shade range was so overwhelming that I resolved not to look closely at it until I wanted a specific color. As fall approached, I began searching for a matte dusty pink, something an early-’60s coed might wear with her gray angora sweater and strand of pearls. One swatch of Backtalk, a mauvey medium pink with the slightest hint of taupe, and I knew I’d found my ideal. The Vice Comfort Matte formula goes on smooth and opaque, and though it’s a little drying after a few hours, it’s nothing I can’t endure. More importantly, it makes me feel like an extra in An Education. I’ve owned it for just four months and have used almost half the tube, which says a lot. Here I am a few months ago, wearing Backtalk with Kiko Golden Mauve eyeshadow and what looks like my Kiko black eyeliner:

10. Revlon Super Lustrous Sheer Lipstick in Pink Truffle (review)

Despite my love for bold matte lipsticks, I like carrying a sheer MLBB in my makeup bag at all times as a sort of normcore security blanket. For years, that sheer MLBB was NARS Dolce Vita, but when I lost my tube in LA last year I couldn’t justify replacing it, given that almost every drugstore beauty brand makes a similar shade. This is a great “walking to yoga at 9 am on a Saturday” lipstick, a great “oh shit I spent 30 minutes blending out a halo eye and now I have no time for any other makeup” lipstick. We all need one of those.

11. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Whiskey

For a while, my go-to brown eyeliner was Urban Decay Demolition, which is cooler and darker than Whiskey. But now that I’m wearing a lot of warm-toned eye looks (more on that later), Whiskey is the eyeliner I use most often. It’s also great on its own, smudged out around the lashlines for some subtle definition. What I can’t understand, though, is why these eyeliners cost $20. I’m semi-okay with paying that much because I don’t wear eyeliner every day, and I anticipate Whiskey will last me the better part of a year. Still, $20? Why are Urban Decay’s pencil eyeliners more expensive than their lipsticks? I just don’t get it.

If you’re curious, here’s Whiskey (right) swatched next to Demolition:

12. Kiko Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow in 05 Rosy Brown

I reviewed another shade in this line, Golden Mauve, over here, but never got around to posting about Rosy Brown. The formulas of the two shades are identicalcreamy, sparkly, easy to finger-blend, and yes, long-lastingbut Rosy Brown ended up on this list simply because I wear it more often. I love bringing it with me for overnight trips, since I’m not fond of messing around with brushes while traveling.

13. Diptyque Florabellio Eau de Toilette

I first tried Florabellio back in the spring, but I didn’t acquire my own bottle until my birthday in November. It’s such an odd fragrance that I can’t understand how it even got produced, but I’m not asking questions, because it feels like it was custom-blended for me. And isn’t that the impression every perfume should give us? The Diptyque website identifies Florabellio’s notes as “apple blossom, marine accord, coffee,” and it is indeed sweet and salty, reminiscent of Maison Martin Margiela Funfair Evening. What first hits me after application is a blast of salt, followed by Tootsie Rolls. Seriously! As it wears, it becomes more fruity and floral (I detect apple, though not necessarily apple blossom), but the salty seaside aroma really lingers. I suppose most people would classify Florabellio as a summer perfume, but I can’t afford to have seasonal scents and I’ve been happily wearing it this fall and winter. As a grad student who spends a great deal of time sweating nervously and writing in coffee shops, I find that the accords of salt and coffee really mesh with my lifestyle.

14. Urban Decay Vintage Vice Lipstick in Roach

Like ColourPop’s Monster highlighter last year, this lipstick made it onto my favorites list because it’s a great reminder of how fun makeup can be. Roach is part of Urban Decay’s six-piece Vintage Vice collection, which seems not to have done well commercially, because the lipsticks have all been on sale for $11 for over a month now. The sheer iridescent blues and purples in the collection are indeed on the weird side, but Roach caught my attention because it’s such a badass neutral. Sparkly blue is a “hey, look how quirky I am” lipstick shade (not that I haven’t been known to wear such shades myself); metallic bronze is less self-consciously eccentric, but still offbeat. Some of the lipsticks in the collection looked streaky or clumpy when I swatched them, but Roach can be built up easily to opacity, and it’s really comfortable and moisturizing as well. It’s also remarkably long-lasting and non-slippery for such a creamy lipstick. I wore it a lot during the holidays, along with my new velvet choker:

The name “Roach” reminds me that as terrible as the 2016 election was, it did legalize recreational marijuana in California. Weed has never really been my thing, but legalizing it will have a lot of social and economic benefits. Well done, fellow CA voters!

15. Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette

Like any good reader of r/MakeupRehab, I spent months trying to talk myself out of this palette. It was too warm-toned for my complexion, I told myself. It lent itself best to dramatic blown-out looks that weren’t to my taste. I’d never use all 14 shadows. The packaging wasn’t practical for travel. And surely any product surrounded by so much hype was bound to disappoint. But when my boyfriend’s parents gave me a Sephora gift card for Christmas, I finally got on the Modern Renaissance bandwagon, and I’m so glad I did. The warm browns, oranges, pinks, and reds flatter my green eyes and look surprisingly good against my cool-toned skin. The shadows can be packed on or sheered out almost effortlessly. There are so many potential color combinations: cool or warm, sparkly or matte, neutral or glam. I’m still a lipstick girl at heart, but I haven’t felt this excited about eyeshadowor, frankly, about makeup in generalfor a long time. And reader opinion is leaning toward my reviewing Modern Renaissance next, so expect that post after my January roundup!

22 thoughts on “My 15 Favorite Beauty Products of 2016

  1. I see you cheating with doubling up on some there! The Vice lipstick price point is really odd. It ends up being cheaper than a lot of things that UD has, and while I don't mind companies dropping prices (far be it from me to complain about such a thing), the old Revolution lipstick pricing made more sense in the context of the rest of UD's prices and place in the market. Florabellio sounds kind of awesome even though coffee notes give me pause. I might track down a sample. But not like I need to try more perfume, seriously.


  2. I haven't tried Boy Brow so no idea about the texture, but I really like Essence Make Me Brow – it's a Benefit Gimme Brow dupe. The darkest shade is a cool brown, I think it would work well on you. I have relatively full brows, not quite as full as yours, and I wear it alone pretty frequently though I add a brow pencil sometimes if I want a more \”done\” look. Also, it's only $3.


  3. Nice choices! I really must try Antique Velvet. Have become more of a lipstick person myself this year, in part because of the popularity of orange and red eyeshadow shades, which unfortunately really do not look very flattering on me (I have tried them — love shimmery cranberry shades — but they do not love me back). I love CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, too.I'm a longtime tinted brow gel devotee, because I've got a few bright white hairs sprinkled in among the dark brown ones, and I find it distracting (I like the white hairs on my head, just not in my brows). I haven't tried the Glossier product, but discovered a new favorite of my own this year: Chosungah 22 Dong Gong Minn Brow Maker in grey brown, which is an ashy (no golden or red tones) medium brown. The applicator takes a little getting used to, but it works beautifully, really sticks to my resistant brow hairs, and my tube shows no signs of slowing down after several months of near-daily use. My other favorite is Make Up For Ever Aqua Brow. I can get much more precise results with it, but it requires a separate brush for application, which I then have to clean, and I need to mix two shades to get a really good match for my brows, and the whole process takes more time, which I'm usually short of by the time I get to my brows in the morning — hence the almost-daily use of the Chosungah product.


  4. Haha, yeah, I can't say that a list of 16 products seems excessive when I'm actually featuring 17…The lowered price point makes me wonder exactly what corners UD cut when making the Vice lipsticks. The packaging is obviously cheaper (which is fine with me), but the formula also seems less consistently good from shade to shade.


  5. Ooh, thanks so much! I'd never heard of that product, but I'll look at it next time I'm at an Ulta. I don't actually have many demands for a brow product; I just want it to hold the hairs in place and give them a little tint. My worry is ending up with something that's too thick and dark for my needs.


  6. I wonder how red and orange eyeshadows became so popular. I don't remember any particular celebrity wearing those colors (as opposed to, say, the Kylie Jenner lip). People like to identify red shadows with \”grunge,\” but I'm pretty sure they weren't popular when grunge was actually a thing…I'll look for that Chosungah product next time I'm in an Asian beauty store! And yeah, Aqua Brow seems like more trouble than it's worth for me. I love Boy Brow so much because the applicator is enough: no fiddling around with extra brushes (though I do sometimes use a spoolie to remove excess product from my brows).


  7. This post was cool because I remember your original posts on all of these products! It's like a little trip down memory lane. I haven't tried most of these products but I agree with the ones I have.I always thought I wasn't a brown lipstick person, but I saw Tanya Burr wearing Antique Velvet and loved it on her, and that paired with your love of it makes me want it! I did just get a mini of Bite Whiskey in an Influenster box, though, so I think I'm going to have to see how that goes first.I second the rec for the Essence Make Me Brow. I haven't tried Boy Brow, but Make Me Brow is a dead-on dupe for the Benefit Gimme Brow, which is another one of those tiny-brushed fiber-infused brow gels. The colour range is super limited, though, which is its only downside.


  8. From the photos I've seen, Whiskey and Antique Velvet look very similar. Whiskey might be a bit warmer and shinier, but if you like it I don't think you need both. I'm curious what you'll think of it!I'm excited to try Make Me Brow! I'll be really happy if it turns out to be a cheaper alternative to Boy Brow. I hope I can find a decent color match.


  9. I'm excited to try Whiskey! I think I'm going to wear it tomorrow. And I think the darker shade of Make Me Brow will work for you – it's pretty cool-toned, which can be hard to find in a tinted brow gel.Also, I totally neglected to mention this yesterday, but up here Revlon Coy is being discontinued, so maybe check it out if you wanted to buy it again? We only have one shade of the Lacquer Balms left, and they've collapsed what used to be three rows (Balm Stains, Lacquer Balms, and Matte Balms) into one.


  10. It seems like almost every brand came out with an eyeshadow palette featuring orange and red shades this past fall/winter, and the trend is only starting to ease, hasn't gone away yet! Even though I'm not a fan of the particular green that Pantone has assigned to the known universe for this year, I would love to see a lot more green eyeshadows: golden greens, olive greens, lime greens, mint greens, forest greens… along with some silvers and some blue-violets, I have enough red-violets…Sehpora carries the Chosungah brow gel, too.


  11. Oh noes! Thanks for letting me know. It seems the schedules are different in the US and Canada, though: over here, they collapsed the three categories into one last February. And Coy is still showing up on the US Revlon website, along with three other lacquer balms. But I'll definitely get a backup of Coy when I have a chance–I've been missing it since I used it up!


  12. Yeah, the schedules don't seem totally in sync. You guys usually get things several months earlier than us, too, so it doesn't surprise me that the collapse happened earlier as well. But I do find that things that get discontinued there inevitably do here within a few months and vice versa. We've finally discontinued the Lip Butters, for example, though they hung around long after all the American bloggers mentioned their demise.


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