Favorite Makeup Products in 2021

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 PalettePersona 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 EyeshadowClionadh 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.

MascaraEssence 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.


BlushMAC 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.

HighlighterHatice 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.


FoundationEstée 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.

ConcealerTarte 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 PowderDior 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.


SpongeTati 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 BrushSonia 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 BrushSonia 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!


Bronzers for Dark Skin Tones

While Bronzers are known for adding warmth, radiance, and a healthy glow to the skin, I used to associate it with, “trying to look tan.” For a very long time, I thought of it as a pointless step for me, since I already have dark skin. However, the more brands that came out with deep shades of bronzer and the more NC/NW 45 and deeper beauty gurus who wore them, my opinion began to change. Now, I see bronzer as the finishing touch that elevates a look, especially a glam look. I still skip this step more than half of the time, but I see the benefit it has in a makeup routine for people of all skin tones.

I’ve tried several popular bronzers, thanks to makeup subscription boxes in the past, and none of them were ever deep enough. I either used them as highlighters or gave them to friends. Eventually, even the ones I kept ended up being decluttered shortly after. The bronzers I’m reviewing today are all the ones I currently own, which were purchased within the past year.

Benefit Hoola Bronzer in Toasted

This is the first bronzer I owned that was deep enough to wear. For years, Benefit stuck to their single original Hoola shade until 2019 when they released three new shades: one lighter called Lite, one darker called Caramel, and the darkest being Toasted. All four are matte.

I bought Toasted at half price during Ulta’s 21 days of beauty last year and during the holidays, when it was on sale again, I bought Caramel. However, Caramel is too close to my skin tone to give a bronzing effect. I tried mixing the two shades together, but that didn’t really work, so I sold it.

I still have and love Toasted. I just use a very light hand, and my squirrel hair brushes, to keep the application on the sheerer side. I can easily overdo it if I’m not careful. Though it leans slightly red, this shade has more of a contouring effect on me because of how much darker it is. Applying a sheer layer helps to prevent this, although sometimes I do use it as a contour on just my forehead and under the cheekbones. If I’m going to contour my jaw and nose, I prefer an actual grey/cool-toned contour powder.

The Toasted bronzer goes on so smoothly, and with the right brush, it can look airbrushed. This bronzer is worth the hype, which is why I included it in my 2019 favorites. I still very much like it, though I’ve been giving my newer bronzers more attention lately.

Photo when I first got the Benefit Bronzer.

Nabla Skin Bronzing in Profile

Profile is a lot lighter than it looks in the compact. As Summer has just ended, in MAC terms, my closest shade match right now is NC47 (would be 48 if that existed). If you’re a little darker than me, I don’t think this shade will work very well, despite it being the darkest bronzer Nabla has available.

This bronzer is in Nabla’s baked gelée formula, which means it’s pressed firmer and is harder to pick up. When I do pack it on, it looks extremely natural as if I spent ages blending, when it’s really just due to being a shade or so darker than my skin tone. Despite being an excellent shade match, I don’t know how often I will use this because of the amount of time I have to spend getting it to show up. I either use a goat hair brush (or at most squirrel-goat mix) which is resilient enough to pick up the product, or a dense synthetic brush.

I can see the shimmer in the pan, but it looks matte on my skin. It’s only after I build it up heavily that I can see a little sheen to it in person.

Photo using the Nabla Bronzer.

Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Matte Bronzer in Deep

The packaging called to me. I couldn’t avoid it! I was also attracted to the fact that the compact is refillable. Not that I will ever run out of the product, but I like having that option. The brand just released a highlighter in a silver compact identical in size and design to the bronzer, so someone could theoretically swap them if they prefer the silver over gold or vice versa. However, unlike the bronzer, the highlighter is glued down. You’d have to be very careful depotting it.

This powder is incredibly smooth. It’s the softest, most finely milled of all the bronzers in my collection. It also seems to be the lightest pressed of the bunch because a ton of product comes onto my brush with just a gentle tap into the pan. Even though it’s nearly as dark as Benefit’s Toasted, I don’t worry as much about overapplying. The powder blends into the skin very well, so I don’t have to be as precise or as light-handed with it. Based on photos, I suspect shade 3 is too light for me, but I haven’t seen or tried it in person to know for certain. Shade 4 works very well for me anyway, so I’m not in a rush to investigate further.

Photo using the Charlotte Tilbury Bronzer.

Kosas The Sun Show Moisturizing Baked Bronzer in Deep

This bronzer has the perfect amount of shimmer as to not be overwhelming and gives the skin a healthy glow. If you know your shade match in the Kosas foundation, they suggest the Light shade of bronzer for foundation matches 1-4, Medium for 5-7.5, and Dark for 8-10.
Most brands use the term “Dark” to refer to a lighter shade of brown and “Deep” to signify the darkest shades. Kosas does the opposite. So, by naming this bronzer “Deep,” but putting “Dark” on the suggestion portion, it makes me wonder whether they had plans to make a darker bronzer suitable for the last four foundation shades but scrapped it.

I have a sample of shade 7.5, and I can get away with using it, but 8.0 is a better match for me during Spring-Summer. As the lightest fit for the Deep bronzer, I should expect this to be very dark on me. However, Deep is almost a perfect match and that makes me question how this could possibly work for all six shades in the 8-10 range. The shade gap between 8 and 10 is so much wider than the others.

That being said, Deep works so well for me. Since buying it, I keep reaching for this Kosas bronzer the most out of all the ones in my collection. There’s just something special about it that I can’t explain. It has the strongest warm/red tone out of all my bronzers, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

I do have to bring up the smell, because I know it can be very off-putting for some people, enough to possibly not want to buy.
It smells like leftover frying oil. I don’t think the smell is too bad in the pan, but for whatever reason, when I actually dip my brush in the powder, it somehow intensifies the smell. Perhaps it disperses the powder into the air and actually gets in my nostrils? I don’t know, but I definitely smell it until I’ve finished blending it into my face. I even have a designated brush for this bronzer alone because the smell lingers in the bristles. I find it tolerable because I’d prefer this over a flowery perfume scent.

Photo using the Kosas Bronzer.

Too Faced Chocolate Gold Soleil Bronzer

Near the beginning of the year, Too Faced had a set that included the Original Chocolate Bar palette I wanted (along with this bronzer and other items) for $25, so I couldn’t pass up on the deal!

The bronzer has the same chocolatey scent that Too Faced is known for, and the packaging is so pretty! The shimmer makes it too light to bronze my skin, but it does make for a decent highlighter, which is why I’ve kept it.

Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer Palette

Physicians Formula is another brand, like Benefit, which left a bad taste in my mouth with how long they took to make bronzers for anyone darker than medium. Even after their initial expansion, the bronzers still weren’t suitable to those much darker than tan, and it took them a while to add another.

I’ve heard that there is a Walmart exclusive shade that’s deeper than Endless Summer, but that it’s more of a contour powder. This palette was on sale for $9, and though the other two shades would obviously not work for me, I thought perhaps I could use one or both as highlighters. Unlike Benefit’s bronzer, which lived up to the hype, this one does not. There is an absurd amount of shimmer. The Kosas bronzer looks like it has the same, if not more shimmer in swatches, but on the skin, the Kosas one blends in and imparts a glowy sheen. The Butter bronzer, though, looks like I put a glittery highlighter on my forehead and under the cheekbone. It’s not a cute look. Now that I’ve tried it, I really don’t understand why the Butter bronzers are so beloved in the beauty community.

Also, Endless Summer is too light for me as a bronzer but still too dark to use as a highlighter. Some positives I can say are that the powder feels soft (it’s not hard-pressed) and it has a pleasant scent. Though I feel like this one was a waste of money, I’m glad I at least had my curiosity satisfied.

I Heart Revolution Tasty Coffee Bronzer

It wasn’t until I was nearly finished working on this blog post that I decided to try out this bronzer in the shade Mocha, the darkest of the four released (only three are available at Ulta). This shade leans more on the yellow side and is the closest match to my skin tone, but I learned that a close match doesn’t guarantee it will be a better bronzer shade.

My body is 50 shades of brown. I don’t have an even complexion, especially on my face. My forehead is darker than my cheeks, so this shade shows up on my cheeks, but it’s difficult to detect on the perimeter of my forehead. I have to pack it on even more than the Nabla bronzer for it to be seen on camera. This might not be an issue if I try it over a fuller coverage foundation, but I’ve been wearing Nars Sheer Glow almost exclusively in 2020.
I find it a little funny that this doesn’t have a coffee smell. I like that it is unscented, I just wasn’t expecting this to be the product without it, considering how many of my bronzers are scented.

Mocha has shimmer that is visible in the pan, but I don’t see it on my skin when I wear this. I don’t even see a sheen either. To my eyes, it looks matte. While I’m glad I decided to try this bronzer, it isn’t in my top four purely because of the shade match. It’s not as smooth as some of my other powders and it doesn’t have enough red to give me a bronzing effect. The fact that it is my same undertone but darker causes a light contouring effect, even without the addition of grey. For only $7 though, I’m still impressed by the quality and would recommend it if the other bronzers I mentioned are too expensive.

Makeup Revolution Splendour Matte Bronzer

I can’t believe it! A range so deep that my closest match is medium. Medium! Unfortunately, I already made my purchase before realizing that this shade would be too neutral to bronze me. It looked red-toned in the photos and videos I saw. Also, I ran into the same issue of it being visible on my cheeks but next to impossible to show on my forehead. Since I’m trying to avoid getting anymore contouring-bronzers, I can’t even say that picking the Medium-Dark or Dark shades would have been better for me.

The texture is smoother than the Coffee bronzer, but also drier and more powdery. It’s the kind of consistency I expect for an “ultra-matte” bronzer. There is no shimmer in this, so the ultra matte description on the front of the unicarton is accurate. However, I’m confused by the contradictory “Glow Splendour” name on the brand’s website. Ulta doesn’t have “Glow” in the name on their site, but I know it’s the same product because it has “Glow” written on the compact. Without shimmer and without being the right tone to give a bronze look, I don’t think glowing is a good description. I’d also like to note that even though I have dry skin, and ultra-matte products are typically not compatible with my skin type, I didn’t have any issues using it.

I debated whether or not to try a darker shade, but I really don’t need another when I already have the Mocha one. If you have a tan complexion or darker and you’re looking for a contouring-bronzing product, I recommend trying this one out. It’s only $12, you get a lot of product, and the packaging is made of a surprisingly sturdy hard plastic! I’ve seen more expensive bronzers with flimsier packaging. *cough* Benefit Hoola.

My first thought when I opened the compact was that it smells like Piña Colada. I checked the product description on Ulta’s site, and they do mention adding a pineapple and coconut scent.



Besides the Physicians formula and Too Faced Bronzers, other famous bronzer shades touted as “universal” that are more of highlighters on me are Tarte’s Park Ave Princess and Nars’ Laguna.

Hyped bronzers released this year that are dark brown-skin friendly but I have not purchased are from Nars (Quirimba and Punta Cana) and Gucci (05 dark).

Between Kosas, Charlotte Tilbury, Nabla, and Benefit, my collection feels complete. I use the Kosas for the quickest blend and my overall favorite look, Charlotte Tilbury for the quickest airbrushed look, Benefit for a partly contoured look, and so far I’ve just used the Nabla bronzer in conjunction with my other Nabla face products.
Thankfully, I don’t feel as much of a compulsion to buy bronzers the way I do for blushes, eyeshadows, and highlighters!

10/26/20 Update: For anyone wondering about the Fenty Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer in the shade Mocha Mami, I got a great deal on it from Fenty’s site and can say that it is very similar to my Kosas bronzer. They’re both red-toned. Mocha Mami is just a matte and slightly darker version. You can see the color difference in the swatch, but because an actual face application wouldn’t be so heavy-handed, it looks the same when I use it on my face, just without the sheen.

If you like the shade match from Kosas but can’t stand the smell, this is a great alternative. Plus, the Fenty Bronzer retails for $30 whereas the Kosas bronzer is $34. And the way the Fenty bronzer performs reminds me a bit of Charlotte Tilbury’s bronzer, but just a little harder pressed. Charlotte’s is still the softest powder of the lot.

This concludes my post. Thank you for reading!