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!


INDIE BRAND SPOTLIGHT: Persona Cosmetics Review

I’d like to begin this post by noting the Georgia Blush, Del Mar Highlighter, and 24Hr Eyeliner were gifted to me by Persona Cosmetics for the purpose of customer satisfaction and not for blog/reviewing purposes. I will go more into detail on that in the Terracotta Blush section.

Prior to January 5th, I only had the eyeshadow palettes. The Identity Two palette specifically had become the closest thing I had to an everyday palette. I loved it so much that I bought the older one, the original Identity Palette afterwards to see how they compared. Ulta briefly listed it for half price and I figured if it had the same formula as the Identity Two, I did not want to miss out, even though the color story isn’t my usual go-to.

Persona Identity Palette

I’m not sure if the formula was changed or updated when Persona updated the packaging of this palette from cardboard to plastic, but I do find these shadows to be a tiny bit on the drier side. The shadows still perform nicely despite being slightly less pigmented (excluding Fearless). I was also surprised to see how grey Maverick looked on me considering how brown it looks in the pan. The overall color story is a little more cool-toned than I expected, but I like having some of these shades anyway. Ironically, I still have to mix Humble and Charming together to highlight under my brows (to avoid looking ashy) like I do with Kind and Loyal. Goddess is a brighter alternative I wanted alongside Resilient. Goal Digger is the more traditional gold shade I wanted alongside Unique. Audacious is the kind of shade I love to have in the crease, so I’m very happy to have that one. It leans more orange than than the shade Passionate which leans more pink. One of the things I really wanted from the Identity Two palette, after using the pink leaning white shade called Honest, was a white leaning gold. When I saw Sassy, I was hopeful this might be it, but it’s more of a silver shade. If Persona ever makes an Identity Three, I hope that pale gold will be in there, though I can still use Goal Digger for the purpose I envisioned.

Persona Identity Two Palette

I raved in-depth about this palette in my 2020 Eyeshadow Tag. If I had to declare a favorite premade eyeshadow palette from 2020, it would definitely be this one. It was one of my favorite palettes to pair with my beloved Clionadh Cosmetics multichromes. Everything I mentioned about the formula of this being creamy, pigmented, blendable, being worth the full retail price, something I can take traveling (which I have by now) and being versatile enough to create simple or complex looks and go neutral or colorful holds true. What I forgot to mention is that Limitless makes an excellent powder eyeliner.

I have additional looks with the Identity Two Palette in the 2020 Eyeshadow Tag post.

Now that I’ve compared both, I can say that the Identity Palette is great, but the Identity Two is the version that suits my preferences specifically: creamier, slightly more colorful, more pigmented, and warmer. If an Identity Three palette is ever released, I will probably purchase it on launch day. The palette would most likely still be neutral, as the owner and brand’s overall aesthetic favors everyday/natural glam.

Persona Superblush in Terracotta

Terracotta is the newest addition to the Super Blush range. As I went completely bananas for blushes last year, I naturally had my eye on them for a very long time. It was difficult to find anyone with a deep complexion wearing Georgia or Carmel via Instagram, Youtube, Persona’s website, or Ulta’s site. There was only one woman I could find, who was darker than me, and I could hardly see the colors on her cheek so I thought perhaps these shades just weren’t meant for me. When Terracotta was released, I had an even harder time trying to figure out if this shade would work for me or not, especially as even the color in the pan looks vastly different depending on the lighting. I watched one of Sona’s videos (owner of Persona) and it looked pretty light on her, but she mentioned that this blush gets much deeper the more it is layered. The website also listed Terracotta specifically as being suitable for medium to dark skin tones. My foundation shade among inclusive ranges like Make Up For Ever, Nars, Fenty, etc tends to be in the beginnings of the dark category and often called medium-dark, sometimes even the tail end of the tan category. So, I figured this should give a subtle color to my cheeks at the very least. Considering how often MAC’s paler shades surprisingly worked for me, I decided to give it a try and purchased the Georgia and Terracotta duo (with the intent to give Georgia to a friend for Christmas).

Unfortunately, Terracotta doesn’t work on me. At the time, I felt duped by the ‘suitable for dark skin tones’ label considering the shade isn’t just faint, it disappears entirely. It’s too close to my skin tone. I have four heavy layers of blush in the photo above, though it looks like nothing. I tried to leave a comment on their website to warn other shoppers about the description inaccuracy, but my comment was never made public. So, I wanted to at least warn those who followed me on Instagram about it. I had no idea Persona Cosmetics would see my post (or I expected it would be ignored by them if they did come across it). Their response was beyond anything I expected. Not only did they change the description from “medium to dark” to “medium to tanned skin tones,” which was the best case scenario outcome I could have hoped for, they also refunded the amount I paid specifically for Terracotta, sent me Georgia (since I had already given mine to my friend) because they were confident that shade could work for me, and sent the eyeliner and highlighter as extra surprises. It became very clear to me that customer feedback is important to them and they didn’t glaze over the situation like plenty of other brands would. It restored my confidence in the brand. It was especially poignant considering a short week later, Hourglass tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes with their release of the Ambient Lighting Palette Volume II, promoting it with a photo where the model and palette looked edited to appear deeper. The shades in the trio palette were repromoted ones (two of which I have) and that darkest shade which is considered a bronzer is what I literally use as a highlighter. The response from Hourglass was to simply remove the photo from Instagram and ignore the problem entirely. The different responses between these two companies are night and day, and I have even more respect for Persona Cosmetics when the situations are compared. This is the reason I felt it was important to share this story. If I’ve had a customer service issue in the past that was rectified, I would normally delete my original post since it was resolved. This time I kept my post on Instagram and am talking about it here because I think it’s really important to show the growth and integrity that was shown to me by Persona’s response, and also to present this as an example for how brands should handle things.

The last point I wanted to make is that I’ve tried to use Terracotta many times on my cheeks (and it actually makes a decent under eye setting powder). There was one time that I had it on and a slight tinge of color actually showed on my cheek by the end of the night. I don’t remember what foundation I was using at the time, but it led me to believe that if this shade is applied on foundation that oxidizes or will allow my natural oils to come through, it could potentially show on my skin. I have since tried to recreate that same scenario and have been unable to get the color to show visibly enough on camera (hence the hours later photo in the gallery above). So, I still stand with the fact that this won’t work on someone with my same skin tone. In the best case scenario situation it’s barely a whisper of color.

Persona Superblush in Georgia

Persona was correct. This shade does work for me! Honestly, I was pretty shocked considering my friend who I gave my original one to said it’s perfect for her and she is much lighter than me (though still in the caramel family). It gives a very light flush of pink as if I’ve been out in the cold. If I really layer it on, it’s the type of shade that I think of when anime characters blush, which is super cute!

Persona Del Mar Cali Glow Highlighter

As seen in the Georgia section, the Del Mar Highlighter is perfect for me! It’s close enough to my skin tone to blend in very well, it can be as subtle or as shimmery as I want, and there are no chunky glitter particles! Although I am wearing the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter under my foundation on the high points of my cheek, this highlighter looks just as great without it. I need to use it a bit longer to see how often I reach for it, but it could potentially knock Nabla’s Skin Glazing in Amnesia from the top spot on my list of favorite highlighters!

Persona 24HR Waterproof Eyeliner in Black

I’m going through this pencil very quickly as I feel like I lose a lot of product when I try to get the tip sharp enough with my Nars sharpener, which I need to sharpen every 1-2 uses. This formula is very creamy and easily glides across the skin. That softness does make it difficult to sharpen as I previously tried to use it with the sharpener that came with my MILK Makeup Gel Eyeliner, but that did nothing but instantly break off the tip. I like that when this dries it becomes smudge-proof and when I use it at an angle I can make lines in varying thicknesses. I can make a very precise thin line across my lid, but creating a sharp tail has proven immensely difficult due to that blunt tip. So, I just draw a line as well as I can and then use concealer to clean up the outer corner. The fact that this stays so well in the waterline makes this pencil worth it to me and I’m curious to see how long this pencil will last at the rate I currently use it. For the precision issue, I usually have to use a brush with my MILK eyeliner pencil, so the fact that this is nearly as black and budge-proof as that, while still being easy to remove with Bioderma (and the creaminess makes it easier to spread with a brush), makes the potential for me continuing to like and use this very high. I’m glad I have it, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend it in this current form. If Persona comes out with a retractable/twist up version, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

That’s everything! I will continue to keep my eye on new products from this brand as I am more excited about them than ever. They recently launched lipliners and colored balms, but I’m on a lip product no buy. I’ll keep my eye out for the next new release from them!

Thank you for reading!