I always do an annual inventory of all the products I use and love most—and the time has come for this year's list!
If you're curious to know my EXACT routines for skin, hair and makeup, and the reasons why I chose each product, this post is for you.
(Having 100+ items on this list sounds so high-maintenance, but the truth is, this is actually me narrowing things down. What can I say? I am a born beauty editor!)
You'll notice that I'm still using many of the same things as last year. Even though I get sent loads of new product launches for editorial consideration, I've become pretty much immune to marketing at this point and will only switch things up if I think the ingredients and performance warrant it.
Warning: This is a long one, so pull up a chair and get cozy. And if you'd like to learn more about my skincare routine/philosophy, make sure to sign up for my FREE email course, Better Skin in 7!
Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil: This oil is the first step in my evening double cleanse, also known as "hot cloth cleansing." Yes, there are higher-quality coconut oils out there, but since it's not staying on my skin for long, I just use the cheap kind. I apply it to dry skin and massage it around to break up the makeup. Then, I gently wipe it off with a warm, wet cloth...
Pai Organic Muslin Face Cloth and MV Organic Skincare Muslin Cloth: These are my "high-end" washcloths, but I've also bought a bunch of plain white ones from Ikea since I go through them so quickly! (It's important to use a clean one each time.) The cloth is a super-effective way to thoroughly get off dirt, oil and makeup. It also gives an amazing gentle exfoliation if you drape it over your face for about 10 seconds first—the steam softens the dead skin so it sloughs off more easily. I repeat the steaming/wiping process up to four times.
Primavera Balancing Gel Cleanser: I've been using this all-natural cleanser at night, after the hot cloth cleansing, as the second part of my double cleanse. That's because it is probably the gentlest sulfate-free gel cleanser I've found. See my review here.
Derma E Purifying Gel Cleanser: I love this cleanser so much, I only have a few drops of it left! I keep it in the shower as a one-step cleanser; it cleans exceptionally well without stripping (although it might not be the best for dry skin). I plan to re-purchase!
Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser: I'd also re-purchase this cleanser (I finished the bottle this year). Although it foams, it is suitable for all skin types except the very dry.
Foreo Luna 2 for Combination Skin: When my skin needs a deeper cleanse, or I don't want to do the oil routine, I use this gadget in conjunction with the Derma E or Caudalie. It emits sonic pulsations from gentle silicone bristles, so you don't have to worry about micro-tears in your skin, and it won't get bacteria build-up even if you leave it in the shower. See my review here.
Bioderma Hydrabio H2O: I always keep a bottle of micellar water on hand, and I still think Bioderma's are the best. I don't have any preference between this version (for dehydrated skin) and Sensibio (for sensitive skin). I use this most often when I need to re-do my makeup, or to fix errant mascara or liner smears. See my review here.
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50T: Words cannot express how much I love this exfoliator, the Holy Grail of acid toners and one of the most important parts of my skincare routine. It contains lactic acid, my favourite exfoliating ingredient that is both gentle and hydrating. I use it twice a day, every day, after cleansing. See my review here.
Laboratoire Dr Renaud Peel Pads: These pads are a great alternative to Lotion P50, as they're soaked in lactic acid and fruit enzymes. I went through the whole jar this year and need to get more! See my review here.
Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme: I've also used two or three jars of these glycolic acid pads, which I think are the most effective and well-priced glycolic product on the market. Note: They're so strong that I don't use them daily, or in the wintertime. See my review here.
Elizabeth Arden Skin Illuminating Retexturizing Pads: Another great glycolic acid pad that I discovered this year. Although pricier, its ingredients are even better than the Nip + Fab. See my review here.
PMD Personal Microderm System: I use this home microdermabrasion device once every week or two. It's incredibly powerful and a fantastic alternative to pricey dermatologist resurfacing treatments.
Red Light Man Red Light Device: I invested in this red light therapy device this year, and it's so much more powerful than what I was using before (Quasar and LightStim). It is incredibly healing and can be used to prevent wrinkles and acne, reduce pigmentation, even out skin tone, improve circulation, decrease inflammation, and much, much more. I try to use it every other day or so. Review coming soon!
IdeaLabs SolBan: This is a "skin health" mist developed by an indie supplement company run by a team of biochemists. It contains caffeine, niacinamide and aspirin in an alcohol base. (The alcohol can be drying, but it increases the penetration and efficacy of the other ingredients. With a good moisturizer, it shouldn't be an issue. Like FutureDerm, I'm not convinced it is harmful or aging.) I use this spray twice daily after exfoliation, and it has made a huge difference for me in decreasing pigmentation, clearing post-acne marks and even preventing breakouts. It's definitely a key product in my routine.
IdeaLabs MelaNon: This is a spot treatment containing naringenin (a flavonoid), apigenin (a flavone) and caffeine in a DMSO and ethanol base. It's intended for moles and blemishes; I've used it with great success on the latter. It gets rid of pimples amazingly fast, and without drying out my skin like most other products do. However, I only use it sparingly as the DMSO can be irritating and may be slightly estrogenic.
IdeaLabs EstroBan: I've been using this MCT oil infused with vitamins A, D, E and K2 to hydrate my eye area instead of eye cream. Since the skin is thin there, it's also a great way to absorb these fat-soluble vitamins.
Genestra A-Mulsion: I take this retinyl pamitate (vitamin A) liquid supplement orally to prevent acne. For more details, see here. Correcting a vitamin A deficiency can also help with dry skin, keratosis pilaris and calluses.
Éminence Neroli Age Corrective Hydrating Mist: I rotate between a few natural face mists to layer hydration underneath my serums, moisturizers, face oils and foundations. I often use this one as a mid-day pick-me-up, as it has an amazing neroli scent. See my review here.
Caudalie Grape Water: This spray might be overtaking the Éminence as my favourite. I love that it dispenses a super-fine mist, and it helps calm the skin while strengthening its barrier. See my review here.
Consonant HydrExtreme: This natural moisturizing serum with just two ingredients continues to be a staple in my routine. As you probably know by now, it is one of my top products of ALL TIME! I use a few drops twice daily, and it is so hydrating that I don't need any other moisturizer in the warmer months. See my review here.
Odacité Beautiful Day Moisturizer: When my skin is dry, I layer this moisturizer on top of my HydrExtreme, and sometimes under an oil. It's very important to use stable oils that aren't oxidized (read: aging!), and this one contains safe coconut, jojoba and olive oils. See my review here and learn about bad PUFA oils here.
MV Organic Skincare Pure Jojoba: I like jojoba oil because it helps balance both dryness and oiliness; it's also a monounsaturated oil that is more stable than the dreaded PUFAs. I think this is the best quality one on the market. I use a couple drops on top of serum or mist, in place of moisturizer. It penetrates quickly and is non-comedogenic.
RMS Beauty Raw Coconut Cream: Coconut oil (a saturated fat) is an even better oil choice than jojoba. This is the highest-quality one around, since it hasn't undergone the heat processing that destroys the beneficial natural antioxidants and lauric acid. I use it as a moisturizer and have had no issues with it breaking me out.
L'Occitane 100 Percent Pure Shea Butter: I use this as a lip balm. It's just shea butter and nothing else.
Cyberderm Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30: I only wear mineral sunscreens for these reasons, and this is the best one on the market. It's the only high-zinc formula (22 percent!) I've found that is non-whitening and free of the unstable oils and silicones I always avoid. See my review here.
MV Organic Skincare Signature Mineral Mask: I mix this fine French clay with water to create a creamy mask that softens, exfoliates, hydrates and prevents breakouts. The trick is to not leave it on long enough to dry out. See my review here.
Slip Silk Eye Mask: Okay, this is another kind of mask—a silk one to wear at night when you're sleeping. (Sleep is a skincare treatment!) Hands down, it is the most luxurious and comfortable mask I've worn.
RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up: The one makeup item I use the most often is this hybrid concealer/foundation. It's made with safe, natural ingredients and gives beautiful light coverage that doubles as skincare. I wear shade 11. See my review and application tips here.
RMS Beauty Skin2Skin Foundation Brush: I always use this brush to apply my "Un" Cover-Up—it mimics a skin-to-skin application.
RMS Beauty "Un" Powder and Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder: I never apply "Un" Cover-Up without setting it through my T-zone with one of these pure silica powders. They take away the dewiness and help makeup last much longer; silica is also great because it never goes cakey. Usually, I apply with a powder puff, but if I'm in a real rush, I will use my Clinique Eyeshadow Brush. See my review and application tips here.
Sappho Essentials Liquid Foundation: This is the best liquid foundation I've EVER found. The light coverage is gorgeous, and it's made with natural ingredients—no pore-clogging silicones. Note: The brand recently reformulated (they added argan oil, which I don't love), but there's no difference in colour or performance. I wear the shade Leisha. See my review here. If you need higher coverage, there's now Sappho New Paradigm Liquid Foundation, which is also lovely.
bareMinerals Bare Skin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation: The third foundation in my rotation is this new liquid, which I was amazed to discover is silicone-free, oil-free and fragrance-free. It gives buildable light coverage; you just have to shake it before using. I wear the shade Bare Porcelain 1. Review coming soon!
Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer: I've been using this opaque, full-coverage concealer on blemishes and discolourations for years. It doesn't require setting, won't budge throughout the day, and comes in a huge range of shades. I wear Light Beige 3.
Japonesque Retractable Lip Brush: Although technically a lip brush, this is what I use to apply the Full Cover Concealer. Since it's so tiny, you can get really precise. (The technique is called "pinpoint concealing," because you go as sheer as possible on your all-over skin coverage, and only use the heavier coverage where you really need it.)
Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade: I don't actually put this product on my brows... it's for fake freckles! Just a few, scattered over your nose and cheeks, tricks people into thinking you're not wearing that much foundation. I use the shade Taupe. (Don't get Blonde; it's too red!)
Real Techniques Silicone Eyeliner Brush: This is what I use to draw on the freckles. It has a tiny pointed tip to make the perfect small dots. Just smudge 'em a bit with a fingertip.
RMS Beauty Living Luminizer: I can't live without this highlighter, which I always dab at the inner corners of my eyes, along the top of my cheeks, down my nose and above the Cupid's bow. Nothing else makes your skin look so naturally glowy!
RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek: If you couldn't tell already, I am obsessed with this brand. These all-natural cream colours work as both blush and lipstick, and I use the shade Curious most often—it's an amazing orange. Most days, I don't want to use anything else! But I also like Smile as a coral-pink blush, and Modest as a berry lipstick.
Gabriel Blush: When I want to use powder blush, this one is my go-to. The ingredients are the best I've seen, and the shade Petal is a great, subtle neutral. (Try Apricot if you want something brighter.)
RMS Beauty Contour Bronze: I don't like most traditional bronzers, and I would never contour my face. But this cream works great across my nose and cheeks in the summertime to create the look of sunburnt skin (without actually being sunburnt).
RMS Beauty Eye Polish: With my hooded eyes, I usually just wear a light, sparkly eyeshadow all over my lids for daytime. I find this cream formula easy to apply with my fingers, and the natural ingredients won't cause future eye wrinkles! My favourite shade is Myth (a taupe), followed by Lunar (a champagne pearl).
Sappho Eyeshadow in Stainless Compact: I rely on these natural powder shadows when I want to do a smokier eye at nighttime. My favourite shades are Chloe, a pewter, and Jono, a cool-toned medium brown.
Make Up For Ever Aqua XL Eye Pencil Waterproof Eyeliner and Smashbox Always Sharp Waterproof Kôhl Liner: I don't wear eyeliner every day, but when I do, it's one of these. I always choose waterproof formulas, and I find brown (shades Aqua XL D-62 and Sumatra, respectively) look softer on me than black.
Estée Lauder Double Wear Zero-Smudge Lengthening Mascara: I only use tubing mascaras now, since I find the coconut oil in "Un" Cover-Up tends to cause regular formulas to smudge. This formula is my favourite because it's actually volumizing. I've just re-purchased!
Maybelline Brow Drama: My makeup is never complete without running this tinted brow mascara through my arches. It coats the individual hairs so they are more defined, and holds them in place for a more groomed look. I wear the shade Blonde. See my review and application tips here.
Dior Addict Lip Glow: I'm not really loyal to any lip colour except this one! It is a balm that reacts with the chemistry of your lips; I wear the shade Coral and I've re-purchased it several times. I love how moisturizing it is, and the peachy tint is so flattering.
Schmidt's Natural Deodorant: I haven't used mainstream antiperspirants or deodorants in years. This brand's formula (a blend of arrowroot, coconut oil, baking soda and shea butter) works for me! See my review here.
Enfleurage Organics Shea Butter: This pure shea butter is what I use for body lotion, foot cream and hand cream. I love how well it moisturizes, and it has a great, thick texture (unlike the annoying, crumbly Now Foods Shea Butter, which I made the mistake of buying first).
Nature Clean All Natural Liquid Soap: This natural liquid cleanser works as both a hand soap and body wash. The price is right, and the ingredients list couldn't be more minimal.
Philips Satinelle Advanced Wet & Dry Epilator: When I have the time, epilation is my hair removal method of choice. I recently upgraded to this device, which is cordless and gentle (I think?). I've been epilating for so long that I don't find it painful anymore!
Schaf Ultimate Comfort Shave Cream: This is the only shaving cream I've come across with all-natural ingredients. The whipped texture is fantastic.
Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Sonic Electric Toothbrush: Of all the electric toothbrushes I've had, this one is my favourite. It cleans effectively and I love that it charges in a cup instead of a stand.
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda and Life Brand Spray-On Hydrogen Peroxide: I stopped using regular toothpaste this year, and instead mix these together as my "toothpaste." They truly work—I just had a dental check-up after not going for several years, and was told my hygiene is excellent! The "scotch and soda" method was advocated by Dr. Paul Keyes.
Dr Tung's Smart Floss: I love this dental floss because it's waxed with vegetable wax and beeswax, not petrochemicals. It has a great natural cardamom flavour, and it gets off up to 55 percent more plaque than other flosses!
Thorne Research Vitamin K2 Liquid: I've been ingesting this supplement orally for about a year now. You know that smooth feeling you get just after a dental cleaning? This makes your teeth feel like that all the time. For me, upping my K2 nutrition has eliminated virtually ALL plaque.
Mason Pearson Brush: One of the longest relationships in my life has been with this hair brush! They last for life and are one of the best beauty investments you'll ever make. Shown here is actually the Children's model, but I also own the classic Popular Mixture and a Pocket Mixture for my purse. See my review here.
World Clean Hair and Skin Cleanser: I wash my fine hair daily or every other day, and I'm dedicated to using sulfate-free shampoos for these reasons. This one is salon-quality and made with natural ingredients. See my review here.
Nature Clean Pure Body Shampoo: I also include this drugstore natural shampoo in my rotation. It lathers a bit more easily, and is very affordable.
World Repair Deep Conditioner: To keep tangles and dryness at bay, I apply this silicone-free whipped masque as my daily conditioner. When I was using silicone products, I was always told my ends were dry whenever I'd get my hair washed. Now, they comment that my hair feels much healthier. True story!
Desert Essence Coconut Hair Defrizzer & Heat Protector: This is a silicone-free conditioning mist that I use whenever my ends need extra smoothing, or to prevent damage from hot tools.
T3 PROi Professional Hair Dryer: I've always loved T3's dryers, and was fortunate enough to receive their top-of-the-line model this year. It is amazing. I know the Dyson is getting all the hype right now, but I trust T3 more since they have years of experience in hair. This dries my hair quickly and quietly without frying it.
Drybar Tress Press Digital Styling Iron: I used to swear by the Chi, but now this is my favourite flat iron. It heats up fast, never leaves dents in my hair, and takes less than a minute to smooth my bangs and ends into place. (Keep in mind, I have straight hair to start with.)
World Up Natural Holding Spray: I find this sugar-based hairspray holds as well as chemical versions. Usually, I mist it near my part to keep down any flyaways.
World Buzz Hair and Body Polish: This is a hydrating, beeswax-based pomade. I don't use it every day, but it's helpful to keep on hand when you need to tame frizz, smooth dry bits or add soft hold.
Lafe's Natural Dry Shampoo: I don't use dry shampoo as often as I used to, but when I do, I stick to this natural one now. I like it because the nozzle is more targeted, so it's not messy; it also comes in an array of tints to match your hair colour. I use Blonde.
Sephora Collection Ribbon Hair Ties: Now that I'm using these soft ribbon ties instead of elastics, my hair is getting far less breakage.
RMS Beauty Nail Polish: I'm into a pearly white look for my nails (also because it doesn't show mistakes or chips as much!). My favourite polish, from my favourite brand, is Luminizer—the nail version of the cult-favourite highlighter.
Formula X Sheer Strength Treatment Nail Polish: I love this line for quickie polish jobs, as you don't need top or base coats, and the shades are sheer and easy to apply. They also have strengthening properties! My favourite shade is Cloud, but I am slightly alarmed that it looks like they might be discontinuing them...!!!
Formula X The System: The top and base coats in this set were my go-tos this year, but they appear to be on their way out as well... noooooo!
Dior Crème Abricot: It's super-gooey, but I just love this luxe cuticle cream.
Phia Lab Balance: Not sure why I haven't written about this one, but I think it's my favourite scent EVER. It was sent to the office during my ELLE Canada days (and isn't even packaged like this anymore!), but I can't get enough of the vanilla, honey and vetiver scent.
Lavanila Vanilla Grapefruit Fragrance: I've worn this fruity vanilla fragrance for years. It doesn't smell cloying like the majority of mainstream scents, and it's made with healthier ingredients.
Rich Hippie Organic Perfume: These little vials of organic fragrance are crazy expensive—but you'll love them if, like me, you're into botanical scents. I wear Rich Hippie (ylang-ylang, rose and lavender) the most often, but I also like Bliss (rose and citrus) and Flower Child (rose, geranium and lavender).
Circadia by Dr. Pugliese PherAdore: This is actually a bottle of mood-boosting pheromones, but it has an amazing ylang-ylang scent as well. I swear that it makes me more chatty!
Tata Harper Aromatic Stress Treatment and Tata Harper Aromatic Irritability Treatment: Technically, these are aromatherapy products, but I wear them as fragrances, too. They smell really fresh and green.
Province Apothecary Parfum Botanique No. 19: Based on the notes alone—geranium and lavender—I'd never have picked this up! But I fell in love as soon as I tried it. Surprisingly feminine and pretty.
Are you still with me? Good! This post was a novel, but now you're all up to date on the products I truly love, use and would re-purchase.
The foundation of this routine is really all about skincare. Without it, I wouldn't be able to go so minimal with my makeup coverage. I've even stopped getting these pricey dermatologist treatments!
If you're keen to know more, I have a FREE email course, Better Skin in 7, that teaches my most important tips for glowing, healthy-looking skin. You can sign up right here to get the lessons in your inbox:
I hope you've found the minutiae of my beauty routine somewhat enlightening and educational. I'd love to hear about the products that are working for YOU!
Have you tried any of the products in my routine?
Which products are you loving lately?