This Friday, ITG launches its edit of the best 25 products of the decade. But as the nature of “best of” lists go, cuts had to be made, leaving more than a few favorites on the cutting room floor. They’re off the list but not forgotten—here, they get a moment to shine. With Top 5, ITG editors make the case for their personal favorite products of the year. These are the game-changers that made the biggest difference in our daily routines from this past January to right now. Time will tell whether they’re the decade’s best. Until then, let’s get started.
This time last year, I was ending an internship that had completely changed the course of my career. I always wanted to be a writer, and I always liked beauty, but I hadn’t really ever considered writing about beauty. I still remember the exact day when, frustrated and confused about my lack of direction, I asked myself a very specific question: If I could work anywhere, where would that be? The answer was obvious, so I sent my resumé to ITG. And after a crash-course in beauty that lasted 12 months, I enrolled in esthetics school to learn even more about the intricacies of skin. I mean, what? Before I got this internship, I thought I’d move to Iowa and write a book. I often cried to my high school biology teacher, and hated chemistry more than any other class I ever took. The fact that all I needed was the right material, the thing to spark my interest, and I’d start to geek out on molecule size and PubMed? That skincare would be the reason I parlayed my liberal arts degree into beauty school? That was not in the five-year plan. So, 2019 was a weird year. But actually kind of great. And it came with a lot of great products—here are some of my favorites.
Save two massive, above-the-shoulder chops (2006 and 2015, respectively) my hair has always been long. It’s important to me that you know this, because if you’ve ever experienced hair long enough to incite a flurry of self-flagellation at the most gentle breeze—just the idea of a breeze, even!—you’ll know that long hair and lip gloss don’t mix. With my historically long hair, I have, historically, stayed away from lip gloss. And then I found these. They’re lip oils, so they have all the shine and none of the goop of a traditional gloss. But that’s not the only technological development of these glosses 2.0. Another: instead of a doe foot applicator, the squeezy tube and hard plastic top allows the oil to go on thick and smooth for extra juicy lips. And one more: the clear is perfect, but the tinted shades leave a flattering, forgiving stain that lingers far longer than any gloss would. Maybe because they’re from Kiehl’s, or maybe because the tubes look like honey sticks, or maybe because ‘love oil’ sounds like something you’d find at Babeland, my recommendations of these are often met with skepticism. But just, please trust me on this one. The best lip gloss ever isn’t even lip gloss at all.
There’s a story to this perfume—I wanted it for a very long time. I don’t know when it popped up in the ITG beauty closet, but I do know that once it did, the entire ITG, marketing, and comms teams became obsessed with it. We’d spray it every time we entered the closet in lieu of lighting a candle. We’d spray it all over ourselves before heading out for the night. We’d spray it and just stand in the sheer, sparkling mist, taking it all in. It was a mix of neroli and musk, which gave it a warm, skin-scent quality different from other neroli fragrances I loved. And the bottle was luxe, and the branding was interesting—a sustainable production model that empowered women, and a formula that was natural-ish while humbly ceding that, sometimes, synthetics are just better for you and the environment. When my internship with ITG ended last winter (and I wasn’t sure if I’d return) Emily Ferber let me take whatever I wanted from our beauty closet. Sure, I stuffed a tote bag with enough La Mer and expensive serums to last at least a year. But what I really wanted was Berber Blonde. After promising to call it Ferber Blonde, I was granted permission to take it home, and have worn it most days since.
It seems like everyone is either looking for a) an eye cream that turns back the cruel hands of time, or b) a hyperpigmentation solution that works. The latter is my specialty. Between post-acne dark marks and sun spots that were cute until they weren’t, I know hyperpigmentation well. I’m constantly fighting it. A lot of the most effective treatments are prohibitively expensive, like the face-burning Fraxel treatments I’m balls deep in right now. And another class of surefire solutions are incredibly harsh, and don’t work across skin tones. Which puts a beauty editor in a pickle when, inevitably, the question comes up: What should I get to treat hyperpigmentation? This year, The Inkey List answered my prayers for a hyperpigmentation solution I actually felt good about recommending. It’s cheap ($12) and effective, and is elegantly formulated to not be aggressive, or crude, or smelly. It plays well with others. I use it on my dark marks with reckless abandon. And—incredibly—they lighten faster when I use it. Get this.
Is it just me, or did 2019 feel like the year of the scalp? A compelling case was made: take care of the skin underneath your hair to treat oily strands (oil comes from the scalp, after all) and flakiness (ditto). Like all hair things in theory, it would probably change my life. But I had already ~edited~ my shower haircare routine down to, uh, just shampoo, and introducing another product that wouldn’t make any real visible difference on my fine, straight hair would be a miss. So I took home lots of scalp treatments, hopeful that one of them would turn me on to something great. There were the scrubby ones (Christophe Robin), the rinse out ones (Act + Acre), and the ones that came with a salon price tag (Biologique Recherche). But this Oribe Serene Scalp has the best parts of all of those: the chemical exfoliating action of P50 Capillaire, the physical gratification of salt scrubs, and a targeted applicator to actually get under hair and directly onto the scalp. It smells like a salon, it looks so pretty in my shower, and—most importantly—it feels like an extra step that’s worth it, because I can go longer in between washes. Consider me a girl who takes care of her hair in 2020.
Let’s be very clear: I’m not here to make the claim that these Starface pimple patches work better than any other pimple patches on the market. Honestly, I think they all work equally well for the most part—hydrocolloid dressing is hydrocolloid dressing is hydrocolloid dressing. But the Hydro-stars are my favorites, and they’ve completely changed how I feel about my breakouts. Whether you choose to conceal a zit with flesh-toned goop or a tiny flesh-toned disc, you’re still fundamentally concealing a zit. Starface pimple patches are yellow, they’re shaped like stars, and instead of deflecting attention from your breakouts they’ll make them more obvious. But then this magical thing happens. Since I’ve had a steady supply on hand, I don’t dread getting a zit—instead, when one inevitably pops up, I get kind of excited to use a Hydro-star. Isn’t that weird? It’s like they’ve totally reprogrammed my brain to think gold star sticker = good therefore pimple = good, instead of pimple = pus and shame = bad. I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely breakout free, but I’m OK with it. Or at least the closest I’ve ever been to being OK.
Curious what did make the cut? Here's this year's Top 25.
Photo via ITG