We’re halfway through January, and that means it’s well past time to round up my top dozen new products of last year! I resolved to buy 40 or fewer new pieces of makeup and nail polish in 2022, but I ended the year at 47, one more than the previous year. Though I never felt that my spending or consumption was out of control, I did notice that my online browsing and impulse purchasing ramped up during the busiest, most stressful periods of the semester. During those periods, I felt that I had time and energy for nothing more than ten-minute bursts of scrolling through shopping websites. Whether or not that was actually true, it was the excuse I made, and it resulted in some unnecessary purchases (and some great ones, to be fair). This year, I’m trying harder to block off free time and conserve energy for more fulfilling pastimes.
As for my purchasing patterns, I bought a lot of lip products and nail polishes (shocker). My taste in eyeshadow ran toward cream and liquid formulas, not powder, and I acquired zero new eyeliners, sticking mainly to an old favorite, NYX Brown Perfection. After the blush craze of 2020-21, only two new blushes made it into my collection in 2022. And I can’t remember the last time I wore, let alone bought, a highlighter—early 2019, maybe? Streamlining my color palette for work meant that I largely stopped buying warm-toned makeup and polish, which seems likely to continue into 2023. I didn’t have any big skincare discoveries, though I’ve been enjoying the Trader Joe’s facial moisturizer I picked up at the very end of the year.
Overall, it appears that I’m becoming less adventurous (or more secure in my preferences, which I suppose comes out to the same thing) as I progress through my thirties. However, I did try two new-to-me brands, About-Face and Gucci Beauty, and both brands made it onto this list. Those weren’t the only brands that captured my interest in 2022, but so many new beauty brands these days are “clean,” and I’m wary of buying makeup that will likely expire within a year. Though I do have my eye on the Merit lipsticks…
Enough chatter. As always, the products are listed in the order in which I purchased them, and pictured in their current state. Let’s go!
1. ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in Rooftop Cocktails
ColourPop’s ill-advised Harry Potter collaboration has put me off the brand for the foreseeable future, but I have to say that Rooftop Cocktails—which I bought in January, months before the HP kerfuffle—is one of the best Super Shock Shadows I’ve ever tried. A sheer pinkish taupe with very fine teal glitter, Rooftop Cocktails is a surprisingly versatile eyeshadow. I usually wear it on its own or with a matte beige or pink in the crease.
2. ColourPop Pressed Powder Blush in Flirt Alert (blog review)
Obviously, Flirt Alert is looking rough at the moment. I made the mistake of bringing it to San Francisco for my winter break, and when I got back in January and opened the compact, I was horrified to discover that the blush had shattered. I’d housed it in a Glossier pink bubble pouch inside another makeup bag, which had always been enough to protect my other powder blushes, but Flirt Alert’s softer formula made it more delicate. However, the softer formula also allowed me to smush the shards back into place with my fingers.
All this is to say that I was highly motivated to save this blush. In my original review, I called Flirt Alert my perfect nude blush, and I stand by that claim. It’s especially nice in the winter for that trendy “cold girl” look.
3. Cirque Colors Rose Jelly
For over a year now, I’ve been trying to grow long, elegant nails and kick my habits of peeling off chipped polish and picking at my cuticles. Unfortunately, years of abuse have left my nails prone to splitting and breaking down to the quick after just a week or two of growth. And since I can’t stand having uneven nails, cutting one short means cutting them all short and then staring at my depressing little nubs every day, willing them to grow. When my hands are in that state (as they are right now), I don’t like wearing eye-catching polish, but I also want to protect my nails and keep them looking halfway decent. Enter Rose Jelly. Two coats of this sheer, glowy pink lend even the most busted nails a touch of elegance. I love the Cirque jelly formula, which is self-leveling and quick-drying, and I have it in five shades, but Rose Jelly is the one I use most often. It might be the first non-clear polish I ever actually finish!
4. Cirque Colors Groove Thing
And then there’s Rose Jelly’s polar opposite, an orange-shimmered, holo-flecked chartreuse that immediately caught my eye when it appeared in Cirque’s disco-inspired collection in March. I have a zillion photos of this polish on my phone and I don’t think any of them truly captures its glory, though the ones below come close. The color scheme combined with the glitter is very San Francisco in the ’70s, which is obviously a good thing.
My one quibble with Groove Thing is that it starts chipping quickly, within two days or so. Then again, it’s not necessarily a polish I’d want to wear longer than a few days, since it makes such a bold statement.
5. CoverGirl Clean Fresh Tinted Balm in Bliss You Berry (Instagram review)
One category of lipstick that I can’t do without is sheer plum. I’ve gone through many sheer plums in my day: MAC Capricious, Glossier Jam and Ember, Revlon Plum Velour, Urban Decay Seismic, and now this tinted balm that has taken up permanent residence in my everyday makeup bag. It’s on the warm raisiny (pruney?) side of plum, no doubt imitating Clinique Black Honey, but it’s cool-toned enough to flatter me. So easy! So ’90s-chic layered over a brown lip pencil like NYX Nutmeg! Since it is a “clean” lipstick, I do worry that it will expire soon, but I might actually be able to finish it before then.
6. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Kiss Me Coral
A coral Super Lustrous lipstick on a year-end blog roundup—what is this, 2012? Unfortunately not, but I wish I’d discovered this lipstick in 2012, before I bought a series of unflattering neon warm pinks. Kiss Me Coral is a Hitchcock-heroine lipstick, an almost perfect dupe for the deep coral shade that Grace Kelly wears in To Catch a Thief.
It makes me feel Italian. Is that weird?
7. Gucci Rouge à Lèvres Mat in Anne Lilac (blog review)
Having owned Anne Lilac for five months now, I’ve concluded that I won’t buy any more Gucci matte lipsticks, since I prefer a harder, waxier matte formula (see the end of this list for an example!) to the soft, siliconey one popular nowadays. However, Anne Lilac is still the most flattering purple/magenta/bougainvillea/whatever lipstick I’ve ever come across, and I still feel like that bitch every time I take it out of my bag.
8. Bobbi Brown Crushed Lip in Blackberry
I spent, no joke, at least three years dithering over which shade of Crushed Lip to buy. I kept going back and forth between Blackberry and Cranberry, and when I finally decided on Blackberry in September, I couldn’t find it on any site for weeks and started to worry that it had been discontinued. Fortunately, it popped up again at Macy’s, and I wasted no time in ordering it. And it’s perfect! The sheer matte formula is everything I wanted Glossier Generation G to be, and the brick-brown-berry color is perfect for the colder months. Here I am wearing Blackberry with ColourPop Flirt Alert on one of the few snowy days we’ve had this winter:
9. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Damned
This is another one of those “where have you been all my life?” products. It’s incredible that I never owned it before October—my most reliably flattering shade in my favorite matte formula, really? What dark forces kept us apart? I’m not sure, but we’re together now. A+, no further notes.
10. Glossier Lidstar in Aurora (blog review)
On paper, Aurora and ColourPop Rooftop Cocktails are very similar: each has a pinkish base and fine blue-green glitter. In practice…all right, they’re pretty similar in practice, too. That said, Rooftop Cocktails has a sheerer, cooler-toned base and more noticeable glitter, which makes it bluer and shinier than Aurora on the eyelid. I find myself wearing Aurora more often for work and RC for special occasions. I’ve never tried layering them, but I’d like to! Swatches below—RC on left, Aurora on right.
11. About-Face Matte Fluid Eye Paint in Dionysus
About-Face’s products remind me of those really offbeat foods at Trader Joe’s, like chocolate enchiladas or cacio e pepe puffs or everything-bagel-flavored nuts: you know they’re going to be either really good or really disappointing. When I ordered three items from About-Face’s sale in November, I had the most misgivings about Dionysus, but it turned out to be my favorite of the three by a long shot. The “eye paint” moniker is accurate: the formula blends out smoothly and then sets. I’ve worn it for twelve hours without noticing much fading. The vivid mauve color makes my eyes look especially green. Dionysus even elicited a compliment from one of my 17-year-old students, which automatically vaulted it into the top dozen of the year. Gen Z-approved!
My one quibble: it should be spelled Dionysius, damn it.
12. MAC Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo
MAC is one of my favorite brands for lipsticks, but I’d somehow never tried Ruby Woo, arguably the most iconic MAC lipstick, until December of 2022. But when I found a tube of Ruby Woo for $7.99 at TJ Maxx, with a batch code from earlier this year and no sign of having been swatched by some grubby-fingered barbarian, I couldn’t resist. And it’s just as flattering, long-wearing, etc. as everyone says! I got a compliment from a stranger literally fifteen minutes after putting it on for the first time. I’m working on a full post about Ruby Woo, so I’ll stop this blurb here and give you a photo of it on my face.
Please ignore my frizzy hair and my mom’s food processor from the Carter administration.
Bonus from 2021: Etude House Dear Darling Tint in Red Bean Red (blog review)
I bought this lip tint in the very last days of 2021, so I didn’t have time to test it properly before compiling my end-of-year favorites. However, Red Bean Red was by far one of my most-worn lip colors in 2022. It’s just lavender enough to be interesting but just neutral enough to suit almost every occasion.
Honorable Mentions: Bumble & bumble Curl Reactivator, Cirque Colors Lavender Sky, CoverGirl Clean Fresh Tinted Balm in I Cherry-ish You, Essie Handmade with Love, Essie Head to Mistletoe, Glossier Solar Paint in Flare, ILNP Hallucinate, NARS Sheer Lipstick in Falbala, Trader Joe’s Nourish Oil-Free Antioxidant Facial Moisturizer, Urban Decay Vice Lip Bond in PDA.
I don’t know if I’ll find time for a worst-of-2022 post, but I did come across a few real duds last year, so I’ll try. All in the public interest, you know?