It's 2016! Are you feeling fighting fit, rested and ready to take on a new year? No, me neither, but motor on we must. Despite not being a fan of New Year's Eve and the whole idea of forced personal reflection at one single point, I do love end of year lists of people's absolute favourite things: beauty products, music, tech, books, video games, comic books, film, TV. Once you boil it down to the real highlights they're a great way of giving and grabbing recommendations.
The annual beauty favourites posts and videos I've enjoyed most this year have been those who curated slimmed down lists of what they really loved. In the past I've had a much more comprehensive collection of things I wanted to share spread over a few days. For 2015 I've kept it to just 20 items across all sections of beauty. Fewer products impressed me this year. Plus, I carried on using several of the items I loved in 2014. For a beauty junkie to stick with something for more than a year is quite the achievement. The urge is to try everything in case something better exists. Trust me when I say that I still tested a huge number of products, but I often came back to things I trusted. I've added a list of the 2014 favourites I'm still using at the bottom if you want to check them out.
Here are the hair, body, skincare and make-up heroes that really improved my life in 2015.
This year my hair became more damaged than it has been since I was a bleach-blonde. Trying to maintain a warm gingery colour when I wash my hair every day meant I was having to dye it with permanent colour almost weekly. A disaster with a bar of Henna left it an utter mess on top of that. I had the kind of rubbery-feel damage that needed to be cut out rather than repaired, meaning my attempt at growing my hair properly long had to be put on hold. I also returned to darker reds, which I found easier to maintain than the lighter colours. At some point I may write a full post on how to deal with damaged hair, but the few products that really saved me were the Pantene Pro-V Repair & Protect shampoo and conditioner and the Phyto PhytoKeratine Repairing Thermal Protectant Spray. As a lover of big hair it killed me to ditch all my thickening products, but switching to the Pantene shampoo and conditioner made a massive difference to the texture of my hair. The Phyto Protectant Spray took care of the ends while I was blowdrying, leaving it feeling softer than it had any right to be. I also have to mention the Pantene Instant Refresh Dry Shampoo. The only one I've found that makes my fine hair feel clean without leaving it full of powder. A more recent favourite is the new Mark Hill MiracOILous Nourishing Hairspray. If you just want a finishing hairspray that holds your hair without giving it a crispy feel, you'll love this. It adds shine, too, and when you first spray it has a slight liquorice scent. It doesn't last, but it smells delicious.
Speaking of aniseed scents, I switch perfume each day to match my mood and the weather, but my real favourite this year has been Jo Malone's Vanilla and Anise Cologne. It's definitely more of an autumn/winter perfume, but it's warm, slightly spicy and sexy. The best thing about it is that it stays smelling good even after it's been on your clothes for a few days. I love putting on a scarf or a jumper where I can still smell it from earlier in the week. It seems out of stock everywhere at the moment, so I'm crossing my fingers it's not being discontinued. Sticking with sultry scents, the Caudalie Divine Oil has been one of my ultimate obsessions of the year. I wrote a whole post on body oils here if you're looking for something less expensive, but as soon as this is on my warm skin or even just in my hair I immediately want to have wild sex with myself. I was actually given the perfume of the same scent for Christmas, which is great as a top-up, but there's nothing like how it feels massaged into your skin. I feel the need to add a growl here.
Caudalie also created one of my two favourite face masks of the year. Their Instant Detox Mask is the best thing I've found for when my skin's feeling oily and needs a purge. It leaves your face feeling clean and refreshed without drying it out. My skin still feels soft afterwards. The thing I enjoy most about it, if you enjoy the grossness of your own bodily functions as much as I do, is that you can watch the clay change colour as it absorbs the oil from your face. Almost as satisfying as squeezing blackheads. For when my skin was feeling a bit dry and dehydrated I loved the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask. It really plumps and softens the skin again. I did a full post on three of the best oat-based face masks here if you're looking for the one that fits you best. Not really a mask but certainly a boosting product, I found myself reaching for Clarins Beauty Flash Balm a lot in 2015. It's probably the only skincare item I used in my early 20s that I still use in my 30s. I use it in place of moisturiser, more dry skins can add it on top. Either way, it picks my face up when it's flagging.
There's some debate among beauty writers whether you really need a separate eye cream or if you can get away with just using your regular serums and moisturisers under your eyes. Personally, as I've always had fairly oily skin, my other skincare wasn't necessarily suitable or moisturising enough for my under-eyes. I feel knackered most days, so all that redness and puffiness gets frustrating. When I found myself completely out of eye creams and serums without a single sample left in my stash, I decided to take a break from them to see if they were actually making a difference. Over two months I noticed a significant change in how my under-eyes looked. They were more dry and just generally looked more tired. The product that rescued them was the Hylamide SubQ Eyes Advanced Serum. It took a couple of weeks to notice the difference, but it massively improved how exhausted I looked, even without make-up. It's no miracle serum, but it's definitely moved me into the camp that believes in separate eye products.
For bases, my foundations stayed much the same, but my favourite primer of the year was Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer. It smooths without being too dry. The large bottle is incredibly expensive. Hourglass is, after all, a premium brand. But they also sell a smaller version for £20 and as a little goes a long way, it's fairly easy to stretch it out, especially if you don't wear make-up every day. One of my most intriguing finds of the year was the Becca Under Eye Brightener. Unlike typical under-eye correctors, it has a light pink, shimmering, oilier finish that's almost like theatrical greasepaint. I was a little dubious at first as to whether it would do anything or even stay on the skin, but with a standard concealer on top it makes a huge difference to how bright and long-lasting my under-eye make-up looks. I'm a convert! Sticking with bases, my favourite powder of the year has been L'Oreal Nude Magique BB Powder. It gives velvety smooth coverage that never looks dusty or cakey. No other powder I've tried this year has come close.
For base colour I got really bored with matte contouring this year. That heavily sculpted look might appear fabulous on a 20-something in an Instagram photo, but it's not my style. I switched to the Cargo Waterproof Bronzer and it immediately perked up my face. It has some glow to it, but it's neither glittery nor too orange. It just adds some warmth. I didn't ditch adding some shape to my face entirely. I still use something a little brown to create some very gentle cheekbone shading and my favourite brush for doing that was the Real Techniques Bold Metals Flat Contour Brush. It's wide enough to fit neatly under your cheekbone but dense enough that it blends the colour out without leaving you with that telltale muddy stripe. For blush something cheap as chips. By far my most used cheek colour has been the Makeup Revolution Ultra Blush Palette in Sugar & Spice. At just £6 for 8 colours it's a steal. Although, the two shimmery shades are awful, so it's more like £6 for six, but still a great deal. I've mainly used the top three left to right shades, but I would certainly pick it up again once they run out.
Shifting to eyes, I really enjoyed using the L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes Feline mascara. The brush is curved, making it easier to use on my very rounded eyes, plus it has shorter bristles on one side to help with bottom lashes and getting into the top roots. This was the year I really tried to find the best false lashes for me. Like I said, I've got fairly small, rounded eyes, which makes attaching a strip lash fairly tricky. I've also got long, naturally curved lashes, so getting behind them can be extra hard. The voyage of discovery continues, but the ones that worked best for me were the Dolly Wink lashes in No.17, a Lisa Eldridge recommendation. I have to cut them down slightly, but they blend nicely into my own lashes and give that really pretty look you'd expect of Japanese lashes.
It's all been about the lipliners this year rather than what I was putting on top of them. My most used all round is Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in Manic. It's a difficult colour to describe; caught somewhere between a brownish red and a soft berry colour, it becomes the perfect base for a multitude of lipsticks and glosses. The Urban Decay lip pencils are also the only ones I will happily put over my entire lip and know they won't dry them out. The other liner I've loved has been the Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillow Talk. I'm always a touch suspicious when something is that heavily hyped and I'm sure there are plenty of dupes out there, but as a lover of dusky pink lipstick shades, this really does fill out your lip shape without giving them that overly-done puffy look.