My 15 Favorite Beauty Products of 2017

Welcome to my annual roundup of my 15 favorite new-to-me beauty products of the past year! (Here are my lists for 2016, 2015, and 2014.) My 2017 can be summed up in this viral tumblr post:

Because I had so little time for blogging in the second half of 2017, this post will double as a collection of mini-reviews for products I didn’t get around to reviewing when I first bought them. As usual, I’ll be listing my favorites in chronological order of purchase. This post comprises both makeup and skincare, since I never try enough new skincare for a separate list. All products are shown in their current state, to give you a sense of how much they’ve been used.

Beauty-wise, my year was a little odd, with distinct ebbs and flows of interest. For the first few months, I restricted my spending heavily, recording every cent I spent on beauty products. I began to realize that this regimen made me obsess over makeup more, not less. Instead of just living my life and enjoying my existing collection, I was committing too much time and mental space to planning my purchases for the next month. I took stock and decided to continue my low-buy, but without posting a monthly update on my blog or imposing hard limits on my spending. The fact is, I don’t have a shopping addiction. I’m frugal by instinct; I don’t spend large amounts of money thoughtlessly. So why was I subjecting myself to an elaborate system of regulations? It felt unhealthy and unproductive.

For the rest of the year, I relaxed my rules. Overall, I bought roughly as much beauty stuff in 2017 as I did in 2016, though not at a steady pace. I more or less lost interest in makeup during the fall, due to my insane teaching/research/job-application schedule, the overwhelming pace of new beauty releases, and—let’s be real—my newfound obsession with enamel pins. My beauty spending picked up again in December: I was in a celebratory mood following my PhD defense and wanted some glitter and fancy lipstick in my life, damn it. I’ve destashed quite a few things as well, especially old lipsticks (more on that in my next post), but my collection has grown a bit in 2017.

Some more scattered thoughts before we begin (feel free to scroll through; I know I’m verbose):

  • I didn’t discover many new staples this year. Most of the products I used over and over in 2017—Glossier Boy Brow, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, CeraVe moisturizer and cleanser, Urban Decay eyeliners in Whiskey and Demolition, the ABH Modern Renaissance palette—were favorites from previous years. A majority of my purchases in 2017 fell into the “meh” category, with a surprising number of outright disappointments. You’d think I’d grow more discriminating with time and age, not less!
  • We live in the golden era of eyeshadow palettes, yet I didn’t buy a single palette this year. The only one that tempted me was Urban Decay Naked Heat, but after reflecting that I wear the orange shades in Modern Renaissance maybe twice a month, I decided that $54 for a dozen more of those shades would be a mistake. I hope Pantone Ultra Violet infiltrates the beauty industry in 2018 and we get some purple and plum palettes, because the current orange/red/sienna trend seems designed to make me look like ass.
  • 2017 was the year I rediscovered glitter and gloss. I think we all need a little extra sparkle in this cold, dark timeline.
  • Of the 15 products on this list, six were either gifts or samples, suggesting that I’m only slightly more skilled than online pals and Sephora algorithms at selecting makeup for myself. That’s…sobering.
  • Each of the products on the list comes from a different brand. That wasn’t deliberate, but it gives me a good deal of weird satisfaction.
  • Only two of these products are from the drugstore, even though my drugstore/high(er)-end ratio for 2017 was about 50/50. I’m considering making a no-drugstore rule for 2018, since I’m obviously not thrilled with the makeup I’m buying there. Thoughts?


1. Wet n Wild MegaLast Liquid Catsuit Lipstick in Missy and Fierce (review)

I bought five Liquid Catsuits this year—Goth Topic, Missy and Fierce, Nice to Fuchsia, Nudist Peach, and Rebel Rose—but this rich blue-based red is the shade that truly has my heart. It is, bar none, the best matte liquid lipstick I’ve ever tried. It’s the only liquid lipstick that has ever made my chronically dry lips look better, not worse. It has largely replaced my former HG matte red, NARS Mysterious Red, in my rotation. And it’s $4.99. I love this shit so much that I’ve begun to remind myself of a brainwashed LipSense lady, commenting “Missy and Fierce!” on every “best red lipstick?” or “best liquid lipstick?” Reddit post.

For the record, here’s my quality ranking of the five Liquid Catsuits I’ve tried: M&F > Rebel Rose > Goth Topic > Nice to Fuchsia >>>> Nudist Peach, with Nudist Peach being the only shade I wouldn’t recommend.

L-R: Missy and Fierce, Rebel Rose, Goth Topic, Nice to Fuchsia, Nudist Peach.
Swatches, same order.

2. Glossier Cloud Paint in Puff (review)

My dry skin has always appreciated cream formulas, but as I advance further into decrepitude, I feel more thankful than ever for cream blushes and highlighters. Puff isn’t the k-beauty-inspired lavender-pink that the Glossier website led me to expect, but it blends beautifully into my cheeks, lasts all day, and bestows a surprisingly natural flush. It’s nice for travel, too, because it’s so compact (hence its current disreputable appearance). I’m planning to try the dark berry shade, Haze, in the near future.

3. COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence

Speaking of dryness, my everyday sunscreen (Bioré Aqua Rich Watery Gel) has a high alcohol content, so I like to apply this essence for a light layer of moisture before my SPF step. And now that winter has brought dry cold outside and dry heat inside, I just pat this on whenever I think about it. It has a very faint lemon-lime scent and a slightly slippery feel, but both of those vanish immediately after application. I love the weighty, frosted plastic bottle, the sturdy pump mechanism, and the cost-effectiveness: I paid about $30 for this product and it’s going to last well over a year despite near-daily use. (While buying the Hydra Power Essence at oo35mm in NYC’s Chinatown, I noticed that COSRX also makes a “White Power Essence,” which I assume is Steve Bannon’s secret to looking so young and fresh.)

4. ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in So Quiche (review)

This was a gift from a reader who kindly sent me a few Super Shock Shadows she wasn’t using. Prior to discovering So Quiche, I avoided sparkle-heavy shadows, but the unique color combination of this particular shade (brownish olive base, fine fuchsia glitter) won me over. This was the first glitter shadow I wore regularly, but it wouldn’t be the last: more on that later.

5. Lush Gorilla Perfume in Tuca Tuca

I was of two minds whether to include this perfume on the list, as it wasn’t completely new to me in 2017, but I’ve never properly reviewed it on my blog so what the hell. I had a cherished sample vial of Tuca Tuca a few years ago, but when I went online to buy a full-sized bottle, I realized that the perfume had been discontinued. Which was a bummer, because I’m very picky about fragrance: I’d estimate that I hate about 85% of the perfumes I try on. Earlier this year, though, I came upon some exciting news: Lush was bringing back Tuca Tuca for a limited time! The catch: it was available only in the UK, and shipping to the US was exorbitant (about $25, as I recall). I bitched about this on Instagram, and a lovely person offered to buy me a bottle and send it to me while she was visiting the US over the summer. Thank you again!

Now for an overblown fragrance description: Tuca Tuca is a dark incensey violet, the sort of perfume I’d imagine a Victorian spirit medium wearing to a séance. I love violet-based perfumes but often find them cloying, and Tuca Tuca is a great example of what a violet can be if a brand bothers to get creative with that particular note (which almost never happens, in my experience). Tuca Tuca is heavier than most of my favorite perfumes, but a tiny spritz lasts all day, so no complaints there.

6. Caudalie Make-Up Removing Cleansing Oil

As I’ve mentioned ad nauseam on this blog, I find skincare boring. Unfortunately, that means I often take far longer than I should to introduce new steps and products into my routine. While my CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is perfectly functional as a morning or second cleanse, it’s not the best at removing eye makeup. But for some reason, it took me well over a year to realize that I might need to double-cleanse with an oil cleanser. This one has a pleasant almond-oil scent, dissolves eyeliner in no time, and leaves my face feeling cleaner than CeraVe alone ever did. My two quibbles are with the dated-looking packaging (very ’90s-Clinique-counter) and the cost per ounce. Has anyone tried the Trader Joe’s oil cleanser? I might pick that up next time I’m buying kettle corn, mushroom Brie, and those amazing fig-and-olive crackers.

7. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Let’s Go Crazy (mini)

This pencil was a 100-point perk at Sephora in August. I almost never wear pink lipstick, but I immediately fell in love with this vivid berry pink. It’s a sophisticated pink, if such a thing exists. Lacking a white base, it’s bright and luminous without neon gaudiness. And, of course, I’ve loved the lightweight, long-wearing Velvet Matte Lip Pencil formula for years. It’s a shame that NARS is no longer cruelty-free, or I’d have bought quite a few of the new shades in the lineup. Here I am wearing Let’s Go Crazy back in August:

8. Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Amulet (review)

Just call me the poor man’s Gelcream.

I’ve owned this goddamned lipstick for five months and I still can’t decide how to describe the color. Rosy copper? Metallic spiced plum? Whatever: it’s one of those offbeat neutrals I love, a true MLBW (My Lips But Weirder). It also has an outstandingly comfortable formula. Urban Decay’s Vice Lipsticks have really impressed me this year: I also bought Lawbreaker, a sheer brown, and I suspect that Ravenswood will come home with me before long.

9. Cirque Colors Polish in Red Hook

I put myself on a nail-polish no-buy for the first half of the year and managed not to go completely crazy after it ended. I did, however, make my first purchase from Cirque Colors, a Brooklyn-based indie brand. Cirque is probably best known for its glitter and thermal color-change polishes, but I ended up with two creams: Urbanized, a perfect mustard yellow, and Red Hook, a complex muted brownish red. Urbanized didn’t make this list because it chips too quickly (couldn’t resist photographing the two bottles together, though!), but Red Hook lasts for several days without chipping. I need two coats for Urbanized and three for Red Hook.

Red Hook was the nail polish I wore on my 30th birthday! Autumn in a bottle. It also reminds me of a sweltering and unusually social evening in the summer of 2013, when I traveled from a birthday party in Red Hook, the only Brooklyn neighborhood without a subway stop, to another birthday party in the Bronx, a few blocks away from Fordham University. I bought a coconut-pineapple cake at the Archway grocery store near the Red Hook IKEA, then balanced it on my lap for well over an hour of bus and subway travel. I was a sweaty, exhausted mess by the time I reached the Bronx, but that was one of the most memorable days of my twenties.

10. Bésame Classic Color Lipstick in Noir Red (mini)

Bésame is one of those brands that appeal to me more in theory than in practice. In theory, I would love to patronize a small, female-owned, vintage-inspired, historically accurate makeup brand. In practice, I already have too many red lipsticks and I’m not particularly into the ’50s-pinup aesthetic that dominates Bésame’s offerings. For vintage inspiration, I vastly prefer the ’20s. So I was excited when Bésame debuted Noir Red, a deep, rich tobacco shade based on a lipstick from 1930. I mentioned wanting Noir Red in an Instagram story, and another Instagram friend sent me a mini tube! Fun fact: all lipsticks had this push-up lever mechanism before the invention of the twist-up tube.

My nail polish is Zoya Honor.

Noir Red has to be one of the most flattering lipsticks I’ve ever worn. While it contains a lot of brown, there’s also enough purple in there that it’s not quite a warm red, either. It’s perfectly balanced in a way that I thought only NARS could manage, and it’s remarkably opaque and long-wearing for such a dark shade.

Last day of my twenties! HAIR SO LONG.

Below, I’ve swatched it alongside three other beloved vamps: Maybelline Smoking Red and Raging Raisin and MAC Antique Velvet.

L-R: Smoking Red, Raging Raisin, Noir Red, Antique Velvet.

11. Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Paaarty (mini)

The obnoxiously named Paaarty was the Sephora birthday gift for 2017, along with a mini tube of Tarte’s liquid lipstick in Birthday Suit. The lipstick was a flop: it’s one of those “universally flattering nude” shades that pull too warm on me, and the powdery finish makes me feel like I’ve dipped my lips in flour. Paaarty, though, is a winner. It’s not quite warm enough to be peach, but it’s a little warmer-toned than my HG nude blush, Illamasqua Zygomatic. Here’s Paaarty on the left and Zygomatic on the right:

Paaarty is pigmented yet almost impossible to overapply. I don’t know if I’m old enough to claim that a beauty product makes me feel “youthful,” but whatever: this blush is like youth in a pan. It doesn’t quite read as blush on my cheeks; it just makes me look a little fresher and glowier. I’ve never been very interested in Tarte as a brand, but I’m deeply impressed with Paaarty (ugh, that NAME).

12. Pat McGrath LuxeTrance Lipstick in Madame Greige (review)

You knew this would make the list. I reviewed it in my last post, so I’ll be brief: Madame Greige is my favorite beauty purchase of 2017. The end. Sorry, I’ve been working on this post for days and I’m running out of words.

13. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid in Opal (mini)

Yet another Sephora sample! They killed it with the deluxe samples and 100-point perks this year. It’s fashionable on Reddit to praise Ulta over Sephora because the Ulta point system gives you actual dollars off purchases, but I’d rather try a generous sample of a high-end product than get a $2 discount on a lipstick. Maybe I’m weird.

I like cream and powder blushes equally, but I vastly prefer cream and liquid highlighters to powders. Powder highlighters tend to be too sparkly for my taste, and the sparkle emphasizes the fine lines around my eyes. It’s just not a good look. This, though? This may be the best highlighter I’ve ever tried. I worried that Opal’s base color would be too dark for me, but it blends seamlessly into my skin, creating a natural but noticeable glow. (Though, looking at the swatch above, I wonder if it isn’t a little too dark. Moonstone might be a better match.) Opal pairs perfectly with Paaarty, and I’ve been wearing the two together constantly. When I use up this sample, I’ll think seriously about buying the full size, or at least the $19 mini.

14. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss in Rosy Future (review)

Never did I imagine that my best-of list would feature a lip gloss. It was a close contest between Rosy Future and NYX Gingersnap, but the shimmer in Rosy Future makes me just a little happier than the smooth cream finish of Gingersnap. Rosy Future is also more versatile as a layering gloss: I wore it over Milani lip pencil in Nude for Christmas and loved the effect.

15. Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow Liquid Shadow in Smoky Storm

Neutral glitter. Work-appropriate glitter. Christmas-dinner-with-your-partner’s-preppy-relatives glitter. It exists. I credit Lena of Faceonomics for both this revelation and the encouragement I needed to drop $24 on a liquid glitter eyeshadow. I initially bought Smoldering Satin, but the glitter was chunkier and more silvery than I wanted, so I exchanged it for Smoky Storm, a warm taupe with pale gold glitter. Here it is swatched at full strength, then dabbed across my skin (as I prefer to wear it):

Smoky Storm dries down very quickly, wears all day, and has a lot less fallout than other glitters I’ve tried, though there is some. But that’s just an occupational hazard of wearing glitter: it will inevitably creep outside the boundaries you’ve set for it. I don’t really mind.

Runners-up: ColourPop Pressed Powder Shadow in Paper Tiger; Essie Nail Polish in Sorrento Yourself; Maybelline Inti-Matte Nudes Lipstick in Naked Coral; NYX Butter Gloss in Gingersnap; Smith & Cult Nailed Lacquer in Tang Bang; Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Lawbreaker.

To close out this post, here’s my Christmas makeup look, which incorporated four of the products on this list. On my eyes, in addition to mascara, I have Stila Smoky Storm and three Modern Renaissance shades: Warm Taupe in the crease and on the lower lashline, Antique Bronze on the lid (I wish I’d gone with a slightly cooler brown), and Cyprus Umber in the outer corner. I’m also wearing Tarte Paaarty, Becca Opal, and the aforementioned lip combo of Rosy Future and Milani Nude liner.

And we’re done! In my next post, I’ll update my lipstick inventory from almost a year ago and talk about the lipsticks I’ve panned and destashed this year. Until then, stay warm!

15 thoughts on “My 15 Favorite Beauty Products of 2017

  1. Let's Go Crazy looks great on you! Besame lipsticks are my favorite thing. I'm grateful that they mainly make reds because I have no reason to buy more red lipstick and therefore I restrain myself. The packaging of my Blood Red recently came apart and I emailed their customer service and they gave me a $25 store credit so I ordered Wild Orchid. Really nice of them and it's now my favorite pink lipstick. For cleansing oils I really recommend Korean ones. They can be really cheap and always excellent quality in my experience. The most recent one I purchased was The Face Shop's Rice Cleansing Oil for about $7 via my roommate's Amazon Prime.


  2. I really like the look of that Tarte blush – colour and description seems similar to one of my favs this year, Clinique Nude Pop. And I almost put Becca's Moonstone (the liquid version) in my 2017 favs as well – I usually pair it with a Bourjois CC cream and the combination just works. I would love to try some Pat McGrath makeup but not sure when/if the brand will launch into Sephoras here…I'd get one lipstick for the packaging only notwithstanding the covetable colours/high quality formula :p And those Stila shadows have been everywhere this year – I am really annoyed I missed out on the mini holiday sets as they sold out so quick.


  3. Tuca Tuca is the only violet perfume I've ever liked (they usually give me a headache). I haven't tried the spray but I used to have it in the solid stick form. I still miss those!


  4. I have been lurking your blog for probably a year now (found you via Bad Outfit Great Lipstick) but wanted to pop in and say Happy New Year! Hope 2018 is good to you. I totally lost it at the Steve Bannon reference. Love getting those little Nars lip pencils as Sephora point / birthday perks – they are so cute and it's great to try colors I wouldn't spring for a full size of. I have that pink sitting in a drawer at home and you've inspired me to pull it out, maybe for New Year's Eve! Like you, I am also constantly stanning for those Wet n' Wild liquid lipsticks. I have Rebel Rose, and I keep having to talk myself out of Give Me Mocha (I think it'll pull too brown on my skintone).


  5. I really enjoy \”favorites\” posts when the products have actually been used and approved, and I kind of expected certain items to be on your list. My collection is a bit too large for my taste for any products to reach \”favorite\” status, because I try to rotate everything regularly. But I hope time will help me to curate my stash more. I really recommend trying a drugstore no-buy. I've taken notes about my purchases this year, and I don't really enjoy most of my purchases from the drugstore because they tend to be more impulse-y and I don't do a lot of research before. Of course, it might be different for everyone.


  6. I adore the Stila glitters! I got Rose Gold Retro for my birthday in June and have used it a surprising amount for something that is pure glitter. Smoky Storm is gorgeous – if I get another it will probably be that one. I just love taupe so much…Let's Go Crazy and Noir Red are absolutely perfect on you. Like, seriously beautiful. I have not seen any of the NARS lip pencils as point perks when I go to Sephora, but I will keep my eyes peeled 'cause that's a great deluxe sample. I was just at Sephora today and all the point perks were very disappointing, but they're probably quite picked over at this time of year anyway.Happy new year!


  7. Besame seems like a great company. I love that they sent Renee of Bad Outfit, Great Lipstick a bunch of products to review even though she's known for her extreme honesty. If I ever finish this sample of Noir Red (it's so pigmented that I've barely made a dent!), I think I'll have to buy the full size.And thanks, I'll definitely look into Korean cleansing oils! I don't know why I didn't think of that. I love the Caudalie, but I use less than half as much product per cleanse as the bottle recommends and I'm still running low after four months. D:


  8. I swatched Moonstone at Sephora yesterday and it really is pretty: it reminds me of one of my favorite highlighters, ColourPop Lunch Money. I think I'll buy it once I run out of Lunch Money (if I ever do…). I'm sad that I missed out on the Stila holiday sets too! I saw the testers of the mini trio in Ulta and was so excited to order it, but nope, sold out online.


  9. Violet is a tricky note to get right, for sure. So many brands make it really sweet, which I hate. My other violet perfume is L'Artisan Verte Violette (now discontinued, like every violet thing I've ever bought), which has a bit of green to balance out the sweetness.


  10. The mini NARS pencils really are great. I hated Rikugien on me, but I still have the mini Cruella. I wish NARS sold duos of the mini pencils. I've been tempted by Give Me Mocha too, but yeah, I think it's too warm-toned for me.And Happy New Year to you, too! Thanks for commenting!


  11. I think I will do a drugstore no-buy, at least for the first few months of the year (more on that in my upcoming resolutions post). Drugstore makeup was very useful to me a few years ago, while I was still figuring out what colors and formulas I liked, but I'm well beyond that now.


  12. Rose Gold Retro is so pretty! And yes, I'm surprised at how often I've used Smoky Storm since buying it (though, admittedly, that was just two weeks ago). It's the most wearable glitter I've ever tried.Let's Go Crazy is definitely one of my most flattering lipsticks, but I haven't worn it recently because I have a weird hang-up about wearing bright pinks in autumn, even if they're berry-toned. I always pull out my pinks around February, though, so I'm sure I'll return to it before long.Happy new year to you too! ❤


  13. Yaaahhhhssss to the favorites. I ended up getting Revlon's Rosy Future(s?) because of your review. I actually like it a lot – it's comfortable to wear and goes with everything. The Wet n Wild catsuit lipsticks are also another win, although I have the rose shade and I'm a bit reluctant to introduce even more reds into my already overburdened collection. Thanks for the post, keep em coming.


  14. Just stumbled across your blog and I love it! The looks are so pretty and thematic (I love your lip color in the last pic), the posts are well-curated and your analyses are thoughtful and fun to read! Only thing is that I couldn't find a button to subscribe to your posts/blog?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s