In 2021, I made “shopping my stash” a little more of a priority and got to know, enjoy, and rediscover some older favorites. However, I didn’t get to know as much of my collection as I wanted, to the point that I considered skipping doing a “Best of Makeup” post for the second year in a row. By now, this far into 2022, I’ve concluded some of the things I used last year and still love today deserve a spotlight, even if I don’t have a favorite in every category. So, rather than just sticking to products launched in 2021, I’ll be discussing the beauty products I loved that year, regardless of the release date.
Also, I’d like to note that I put the finishing touches of this post together very quickly while I was on vacation. I currently have six drafts that are all missing either a few more pictures or one more test in order to finish the reviews and I did not bring the necessary items with me, so it was either post this early or not release a post at all this week. If there are any grammatical errors I missed, I apologize.
Eyeshadow Palette – Persona Identity Two
Given my deep love of eyeshadows, this should have been the toughest category to choose from but there weren’t many well rounded exciting palettes for me in 2021, so I chose the one that would have been named my favorite in 2020 and is still a love. The mattes are so smooth, blendable, and pigmented (but not overly so). The shimmers are easy to use and creamy. I love the tones of these shadows. There’s enough depth to do complete looks without having to dip into other palettes. I’ve made actual dents in the pans from use, which is rare for me. I’ve taken it traveling and I even loved it so much that I bought the original repackaged Identity palette in the hopes that it was the same formula in order to expand on what I already have. The only aspect missing for me is the lack of colorful mattes. They’re all very neutral which I guess matches the brand’s aesthetic. Of course, the Hindash Beautopsy palette is my star product of 2021, but because I tend to only use a shade or two in my eyeshadow looks, I didn’t want to put it in the Eyeshadow Palette Category.
Single Eyeshadow – Clionadh Cosmetics Stained Glass Collection
I absolutely could not get through a favorites post without including the eyeshadows that I’ve been flat out obsessed these past few years. These shadows brought me so much joy and helped me amp up any eyeshadow look I created. I don’t want to spend too much time gushing about them since I do that enough already, but these are just phenomenal. In my opinion, their multichrome formula is the pinnacle. It doesn’t get better than these.
Devinah Cosmetics Multichromes are an honorable mention, as they also create beautiful shadows that are the closest to Clionadh’s quality that I have found between them, JD Glow, Terra Moons, Sydney Grace, etc. They have some fun and interesting shades that Clionadh hasn’t released yet, and although they don’t have Clionadh’s mirror finish, their metallic finish is still very enjoyable to use and look at.
Eyeliner – Stila Stay All Day Liquid Liner
This is a rediscovered favorite. I’ve used this for many years, took a small break from it, and began loving it again this year. The tip makes it easy to draw a very pigmented and precise line. Once dry, it’s pretty much waterproof, though my regular makeup wipes are enough to remove it.
It leaves a shiny finish, which is something to consider if you’re looking for a matte liner. The caution I have is when using this over Nyx Glitter primer. If too much of the primer gets on the tip, it clogs the porous spots and makes it very difficult to get the product out from then on. This means I have to be very careful when using it over a multichrome. A pencil liner, gel or cream pot liner, or liquid liner with a brush are better in those instances. Stila liners typically last me 6 months to a year, depending on how well the tip stays clean and if I’m using it alongside other liners.
Mascara – Essence Volume Stylist 18hr Lash Extension Mascara
If the formula is good, I tend to really like mascaras with lengthening fibers like what is in the Essence Mascara. It makes my lashes look longer and voluminous. There are times when I’ve felt my eye looks weren’t pretty enough without false lashes. I don’t get that feeling as much as I used to with this mascara. In addition, this is one of the rare mascaras that makes my lower eyelashes look good. My lower eyelashes are so fine that other mascaras don’t latch onto the hairs properly. They just glide right over, leaving the most minuscule layer that can’t be seen without making at least ten passes with the brush. By then, the lower lashes will get a random mascara clump or turn spidery towards the ends but look like there’s nothing closer to the roots because I couldn’t get the applicator close enough to the roots in enough layers before the tips clumped. With this Essence mascara, I can finally and easily have visible lower lashes! I also love that this is so affordable. I previously bought backups at even lower than the $5 retail price!
Another favorite is the Sally Beauty The Works Wow Effect All-in-One Mascara COL-LAB. This is another one that keeps me from missing false lashes. I can get nice length and volume with this, although the formula is a little on the thick side and will definitely not give the lashes a curl on its own. My lashes can stick straight up if I apply too much to the ends.
I like the brush applicator which has a standard bristle side that I use to get the product on the lashes and a flared side that sticks out, like the L’oreal Butterfly mascara, which I use to comb out the lashes for length and making them clump-free. The wet formula being a bit thicker means I can use fewer coats to quickly get the amount of product I want, but it also means there’s more product to remove. It takes a bit of time to make sure the mascara is fully off my lashes, but I still like it enough that I would have bought several more if I didn’t prefer the Essence Mascara.
Blush – MAC Blushes
In 2020, I would have said the Hourglass At Night Blush was a close second, but the clear winner for 2021 for blushes is MAC. I can’t even name a specific shade because I use and love all of them that I have in different formulas and finishes. I purchased 84 different blushes in 2021, quite a few of those being from MAC, (I’m insane I know) and this is why it was so difficult to decide which one was the best. I still haven’t used 10% of them, only tried some of them a few times, and the rest I enjoyed so much that I couldn’t choose how they ranked over each other without prolonged use. However, I’m always using at least one of my MAC blushes every two weeks. That certainly means something which is why I’ve chosen for them to win the blush category.
Highlighter – Hatice Schmidt Labs Highlighter in Medium
I am rating this as my Highlighter of the Year because it surpassed the Nabla Highlighter that was my previous holy grail product. However, I still have a few highlighters with a formula that I suspect could rise through the ranks if I used them more often. They just tend to be in shades I don’t wear as much. I plan to have a definitive answer on that in 2022’s rankings, but for now I don’t mind honoring this highlighter for its smooth, reflective formula that blends into the skin and adds glow without being too much.
Foundation – Estée Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Foundation in 5N2
I thought for certain the Nars Soft Matte Foundation would win, but in the back half of 2021 up until now, I’ve used the Estée Lauder foundation nonstop. I love the finish, how it spreads, and how it wears. I was beginning to skip wearing foundations until I got my hands on this one. It definitely wins for me, even though they don’t have my perfect shade. 5N2 is the closest match and good enough, especially during Winter since my skintone is a bit lighter now.
Concealer – Tarte Shape Tape in Deep
Again, I thought the Pat Mcgrath concealer would take this spot but I’m back on the original Tarte Shape Tape train. It just gives me the least amount of trouble and wears the best, especially if I use the MILK Hydro Grip eye primer or Becca Under Eye Brightening Corrector with it.
Bronzer – Kosas the Sun Show Moisturizing Baked Bronzer
Kosas wins this category, despite having some stiff competition from new favorites like the Huda Beauty Glowish Bronzer and Danessa Myricks Cream Bronzer. I like the shade, the radiance it imparts on my skin, the depth, the blendability, and smoothness. The only downside is still the awful smell of the product itself which hasn’t faded in all the time I’ve had it. And for those who are into the “Clean” movement, I believe this bronzer is part of that category.
Face Palette – Hindash Beautopsy Palette
These are the shades I use the most in this palette and after nine months the shades haven’t gotten mixed up or messy and it looks barely used! There is so much product in each pan!
Beautopsy is my product of the year and ultimate holy grail makeup item. I’m very happy that Beautylish now carries the brand so that it can be accessible to a lot more people. Other than concealer, which I would always wear to cover dark under eye circles, this is the only other product that I use every single time I put on makeup. For months. Consistently. It’s unheard of for me and I’ve raved about it endlessly on this blog. For my very in-depth initial review, I recommend clicking here. I put this in the Face Palette category, but this was a challenger for best blush, best bronzer, and best contour. The Kills shade is very similar to Nars’ Exhibit A in formula and color. The time it takes to mix the bronzer shade, plus me preferring a slight sheen, is why I didn’t list it as the best bronzer, and I stopped contouring in the latter half of 2021 which is why I kept that category off the list. If there’s anything I wish for everyone to try, it would be this palette.
Finishing Powder – Dior Backstage Face and Body Powder No-Powder
This product threw me for a loop. It took me a while to realize how smoothing, and flattering this made my skin look. My ideal color is somewhere between shades 4 and 5 as 5 worked great for half of the year, but when winter came I needed to repurchase shade 4. It was worth having two because I never want to be without a powder like this again. I nicknamed it “The Fixer” because of its blurring capabilities.
I recently started using the Laura Mercier Candleglow Sheer Perfecting Powder, which is another stunningly beautiful sheen bestowing powder, as well as the powders in Hourglass’ Ambient Lighting III trio, but I haven’t used them enough to decide which ones should be honorable mentions. As of right now, the Dior is still my top powder and has been for the past eight months or so.
Sponge – Tati Beauty Blendiful
RIP to the Tati Beauty brand. What an absolute shame that it had to be closed due to litigation and drama. My Blendiful sponge is super old and perhaps due to the sponge on the inside, I should probably toss it, but I’ve kept the outer cloth material very clean and it’s in amazing condition considering how long I’ve had it. It was said this could be washed via machine, but I always washed it by hand with a random cocktail of various cleansing soap products I own (Beautyblender Solid Soap, Dr. Bronner’s, Neutrogena Facial Cleanser, SigMagic Brushampoo Liquid, etc). There are zero tears in it and while I’ve always had an issue with the $18 price, nothing spreads and blends my foundation quicker or better than this. I saw whispers around the internet that this material is Minky/Minkee fabric, so I may try to make my own version one day. I have other tools to get perfectly blended foundation, but not in fifteen seconds like with this. I have been able to use the Blendiful to apply other types of makeup, but I prefer to use it exclusively for foundation, since my other tools do the other tasks faster and better.
Face Brush – Sonia G Cheek Pro
This wins as the overall favorite face brush because it’s the one I’ve used the most this year. Of all my fude, blush brushes are what I have the most of and the fact that this stands out among them speaks volumes. This is what it looks like after 16 months of use, which is pretty good considering how much I’ve put this brush through. I’ve always been tempted to buy a backup and the Lotus Cheek wasn’t close enough. I still want another, not out of fear of ruining this one but purely in case the price ever goes up, it ever gets discontinued, or I somehow lose it. I am trying to hold off though for a special edition handle in the future.
Eye Brush – Sonia G Builder Three
I chose the Cheek Pro as the winner because I used it the most, not necessarily as my number one favorite face brush (though it is one of my favorites). When it comes to the eye brush winner, this is the brush I used the most in 2021, but it’s also my absolute favorite eye brush in my collection. I definitely put this brush through a lot these past two years and in December I caved and bought myself a duplicate even though the Lotus Builder was supposed to be my backup. I have realized I prefer Sonia G’s dyed Saikoho Goat hair bristles over the undyed.
Anyway, those were all my favorites in 2021. Thank you for reading!
The Persona palette is so pretty! I wanted to try the Dior powder when it came out but I avoid products with fragrance. Does it have a strong scent to it?
On another note, I hope your flight went smoothly 🙂
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Thank you! I’m at my sister’s place still until tomorrow. The flight was decent but I had issues at the airport when I landed. I’m managing though, thank you! As for the Dior Powder, there’s a soap/perfume-like scent but it’s not very strong. Definitely noticeable if I put my nose near the powder, and it sometimes transfers the scent onto my brushes, but I don’t smell it when it’s on my face. Perhaps it would be something you’d have to smell in store though to see since some fragrances that don’t bother me might still be too strong for you.
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Thanks for the info. You’re probably right though, I should check it out the next time I’m at the store.
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Of course! No problem. I usually don’t attempt to go in-store because my nearest Sephora usually doesn’t have what I want, but because I like this powder so much that’s the only reason I recommend trying in store for this one in case there’s a chance the fragrance in it won’t be too much. I’m hopeful it would be a powder you’d really like too!
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I’m glad you posted your list of favorites. I actually purchased the Persona Identity II palette off of your recommendation and I love it as well. The formula and color story is chef’s kiss. I have the tendency of buying Fude only to keep them on display and occasional petting purposes lol. I need to use them more often. I have the Cheek Pro and Builder three but need to use them more often. How do you use your Builder three? I thought I would find it more useful but for some reason I haven’t figured out what it’s best for. I find the cheap natural hair versions of the Elf flat shader brushes just as effective if not more. Perhaps my expectations of it were too high. I love the Beautopsy palette too!
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I’m glad you love the palette too! It’s fun to be able to share in the joy and discovery of a great product, especially something that isn’t hyped up and I wish more people knew about it. The Beautopsy palette gets raved about too from a small group of people but I feel like it’s underrated as well.
Also, I got a chuckle reading that you pet your brushes because that’s something I do as well. Whenever I get a new brush, it takes me quite a while before I actually start using it because I want to be able to keep feeling it! And especially the squirrel ones I find myself viewing as precious and not using enough either. As for how I use the builder three, I pretty much use it for everything. Although it’s intended to pack on the eyeshadow, I like to use it most for tucking a deepening color right into the crease fold of my eyelid. It fits perfectly there without going too high up covering up the transition work I’ve done. I also tend to use it in the outer corner and outer v when I wanted a smokier effect. When I want the color payoff but not applied concentrated to the spot like a pencil brush would or dispersed too widely like large blending brushes can. When I apply the color, I wipe the brush and use it to blend shadows that are a bit too pigmented and needs something more forceful than a fluffy blending brush to create that gradient. Then of course I use it the way it was intended and lay down the first layer of shimmer to my eyelid before switching to apply the second layer of shimmer with my finger. Using my finger alone is too imprecise near my inner corner, so I like to use the builder three to get that first more precise layer down before building the rest up with my finger. What makes it a special brush for me (because just as you said, it’s a very common shape of a brush and there are a ton of alternatives) is the softness level, the particular width fitting to my eye shape, and ability to both apply the shadow and also still use it to blend the edges. The other brushes I had that were similar I only liked to lay down the color but I couldn’t blend with them.
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My daughter use to make fun of me for petting my brushes. I think she has since realized I’m not the only one who does lol! I’m going to try your technique with the Builder Three. It’s definitely softer than my other brushes with a similar shape. Thank you for all your wonderful tips!
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You’re welcome! Anytime! ❤
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