I feel like I need to preface this article: For the most part, as in 80% of our lives, my fellow beauty editor Courtney Higgs and I are very calm, cool, and collected human beings. I'm talking cucumber-level composed, folks. However, when it comes to certain beauty products (i.e., really, really fabulous ones) said ultra-chill veneer goes flying out the window with Golden Snitch–fashioned speed—a true testament we found the right career path. Yep, as Courtney likes to say, truly amazing beauty launches are kind of our undoing and only ever lead to completely "unhinged" back-and-forth messages via Slack, Instagram, text… sometimes all three simultaneously.
Thankfully (for our sanity), we have a regular series on Who What Wear Beauty that allows us to share the newest and greatest formulas to hit our laps each month, but since it's the very end of the year and we can actually count on our hands the number of new (2020-launched) products that left a serious mark on our beauty-loving psyches, we thought we'd share. Below are the top 10 best beauty debuts from 2020 that totally blew up the keyboards of our iPhones. Keep scrolling!
Courtney says: There's nothing casual about the complex composition of sweet and woody notes at play here. While I usually gravitate toward scents that are a bit more subtle, this is a decidedly fancy fragrance with depth and staying power that I absolutely adore. It's warm, woody, and somehow both sweet and spicy at the same time. Seriously delicious.
Erin says: Not to get too X-rated on you, but I do believe the first thing Courtney said to me about this perfume was something to the effect of… wear it and things will definitely get, erm, racy AF. The second I got my hands on it and smelled it myself, I immediately knew what she meant. It's warm but sultry, subtly floral but not obviously so. It really transforms into something magnificent and unique once it hits your skin chemistry.
Courtney says: Clean makeup is a relatively new concept for me. Up until the last couple of years, I had all but written off most brands as shade deficient and just too crunchy for my liking. To say my mindset has completely changed is an understatement, and the new Exa foundation is one of the products that helped me turn the corner for good. If you love a dewy, skin-like finish that leaves your face looking lightly filtered, this is a formula you have to try. The shade range is on point, too.
Erin says: I vividly remember the day I had a Zoom meeting with our friends over at Credo about this new foundation launch. There was so much to love and be excited about (color range! price point! clean ingredients! celeb makeup artist approval!) that I practically word-vomited all over Courtney about how amazing I was *hoping* it really would be. Well, fast-forward a couple of weeks, and Courtney and I were not disappointed. The coverage is stellar, the color range is exemplary, the wear is longer than other clean foundations I've tried, and the finish is glowy and supremely dewy. Not only does it make your skin look fantastic, but it's also loaded with beautiful ingredients. You're practically giving yourself a fancy skin treatment while wearing it. (You can check out our entire review here.)
Courtney says: The texts and Slack messages that have been exchanged between Erin and me about this fragrance should probably be examined by a psychologist, but the verdict is in: This is the best fragrance launched this year. It perfectly combines peach, davana, and patchouli to envelope the senses in an aroma reminiscent of a beach vacation. It's so damn good.
Erin says: I know I'm making it seem like we hyperventilate a lot about beauty products, but (A) we kind of do, and (B) this perfume is so freaking good that a few hearty heaves are inevitable. I don't know if you're ready for this. I mean, I still don't know if even I am ready for this, but here goes: Bitter Peach is my favorite fragrance of all time. I have never smelled something so juicy, complex, and all-around addicting. It lingers and melts into your skin for a really warm and beautiful finish, but the mix of peach, davana (an aromatic herb native to India), and patchouli is so unique—I've never smelt anything like it. I can't get over it, and the second I spritzed it, I knew it was over for me and every other perfume I ever claimed to love (with the exception of Dior's Oud Rosewood, of course). I told Courtney about it immediately, and when she got her hands on it and couldn't contain herself either, it was the last sign I needed to know Tom Ford has another truly legendary perfume on its hands. Please, just buy it. It will be the best thing you gift yourself maybe ever. Normally, I say fragrance and perfume are extremely subjective, but this bottle just might be the exception.
Courtney says: I love a good body exfoliation above pretty much anything else, so this exfoliating bar has been a welcome addition to my shower lineup. Not only does it smell insanely good (it's got the signature You scent Glossier is now famous for), but it also works incredibly well. Just wet it and buff the bar straight into the skin, and by the time you rinse, the skin is baby-soft. I also love how long it lasts; I've been using it consistently for a few months and am only about halfway through the bar.
Erin says: This bar has only been out for a few months, but I've already forgotten what life was like B.G.E.B. (before Glossier's Exfoliating Bar). In fact, body scrubs are now obsolete in my apartment because this pretty little bar (which smells like dreamy neroli and orange BTW) is literally the best thing to ever happen to the skin on my body. It's rich and has a satisfying lather, but after working it in circles from head to toe, your skin will reach peak baby-bum softness. Its catchphrase should truly be "no dead cell left behind!" Plus, it's pretty much the only physical body exfoliator I've ever used that doesn't totally tap out my skin's hydration stores or leave me red and scratched up. Oh, and if you're someone like me who self-tans and can't stand that in-between scaly stage, this will be a game changer for you.
Courtney says: Of course, there's a place in most skincare routines for clay masks, but I always thought of them as treatments you only use when you're breaking out or experiencing excess oils that need zapping. I had also classified them as a necessary evil that was likely drawing out way too much oil in the name of detoxification. This is the first clay mask I've ever used that debunked my theories about this particular product category. It gets the detox part right with kaolin clay, but it also infuses moisture into the skin and soothes inflammation with a blend of panthenol, calendula, and cacao.
Erin says: Courtney had told me great things about this new launch from Klur, so my anticipation was running record-level high the first time I tried ita few months back when we reviewed the whole line. Suffice to say, I'm already out—it's just that addictive. Not only are the ingredients as divine as the smell (think chocolate soft serve), but it significantly smooths out any texture issues after just one use and makes your skin sing with glow and hydration. It kind of feels like something Mary Poppins would pull out of her magic carpetbag because it's practically perfect in every way.
Courtney says: I'm in love with Rare Beauty's Magnetic Spirit Eyeshadow Palette. It's just so beautiful. The shadows are soft and easy to apply, but the color payoff is what impresses me most. They can be worn sheer and sparkly or pressed in tighter for a more intense pop of color. I tend to stay pretty neutral with my eye shadow, but these hues are some of my new favorites.
Erin says: I just have to say, I'm not even an eye shadow girl, but both of these palettes from Rare Beauty have single-handedly gotten me to wear green, blue, pink, and even purple eye shadow. And now I can't stop! Some eye shadows look amazing in the pan but are underwhelming once you apply them. Either they're not pigmented enough or they crease or they have too much fallout… you get the picture. Not this one! If anything, and I'm not sure how this is even possible, these shadows look even prettier once you apply them. The color payoff is amazing, especially considering they're shimmering, and they literally do not crease on your lid no matter how long you wear them. (I've tested this as long as 12 hours!) Magic.
Courtney says: Even before at-home manicures were the only manicures, Olive and June's Poppy was one of my favorite tools for getting my polish just right. The brand's seasonal collections are some of the best ever, always including a mix of vibrant pops and trusty neutrals you can wear year-round. Some of my favorites of late have been the tawny brown shade JJ, the deep emerald shade Besties, and JLR, a bright yellow.
Erin says: I recently wrote a complete ode to (and shopping guide for!) Olive and June nail polish, so to save time and space here, I'll let you peruse it separately. In synopsis, I could exclusively wear O&J for the rest of my life with zero qualms. It has the best colors, the best 7-free, long-lasting formula, the best salon-level glossy finish… I could go on forever. Just like Court, the cinnamon-spiked brown hue called JJ from this year's fall collection has been my obsession. In fact, it just might be my favorite polish of all time. I've worn it at least five times since it launched. (That said, every single color from the 2020 summer spread is equally delightful.)
Courtney says: This resurfacing serum is legit. It's acid packed, bringing in lactic, glycolic, citric, malic, and tartaric acids to deeply exfoliate the skin, but it also targets underlying issues: inflammation via ingredients like licorice root extract and hydration via additions like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and sodium PCA. It's just the kind of serum that can have both instantaneous effects on the look of the skin and lasting effects on the health of it.
Erin says: I'm not the type of person who has 20 different serums for 20 different things. I'm always in a hurry when I'm doing my skincare routine, and because I have sensitive and acne-prone skin, I quite honestly can't use the majority of products on the market. This serum, however, turned my world (and my skin!) upside down in the best way possible this year. It has such an "everything but the kitchen sink" vibe, and it's the ultimate multitasker, but somehow, it's still so gentle and easy for my skin to tolerate. I use it every morning religiously, and even though I noticed a difference in my skin after just a week or so, the effects have only gotten better and better. I also just really love how plump and dewy it makes your skin look. It's definitely one of my all-time favorite skincare products. (Read our full review from earlier this year here.)
Courtney says: If you're a fan of cult favorites like The Rich Cream ($170) by Augustinus Bader, then here's another option worth trying out. On the heels of its constantly sold-out Resurfacing Compound ($148), U Beauty came out with the ultra-hydrating, skin-loving moisturizer we could all use heading into winter. It uses the brand's innovative Siren Capsule technology to attract free radicals, almost like a magnet, and deploy antioxidants and several different sizes and weights of hyaluronic acid to protect and plump the skin.
Erin says: Even though this statement might disgruntle some and shake some tables, this new face cream from U Beauty (a brilliant follow-up to its OG Resurfacing Compound, $148) is, in my opinion, better than the Augustinus Bader face creams. It's supremely hydrating and makes my skin look like it's been touched by an Instagram filter IRL. It does have a stickier consistency, but that goes away once you apply it, and even though I was worried it might clog my pores, it hasn't caused any issues. Also… I made the mistake of letting my mom try it, and I have yet to see that bottle again.
Courtney says: Mutha's Body Butter and Oil are both heavily featured in my shower routine, so when the brand made its foray into skincare, I was instantly intrigued. It's impossible to test everything that lands on my porch, but Mutha's Face Oil is one I was happy to try out the second I received it. It's hard to make a face oil stand out among the countless options on the market, but this one does just that. It's a plush mix of tsubaki, watermelon, and jojoba seed oils that sinks into the skin quickly but still leaves it looking and feeling perfectly dewy.
Erin says: Mutha's body products are an investment, but if you treat yourself to anything this year, make it the Body Butter ($95), the Body Oil ($104), and this Face Oil. (The brand also recently launched a vitamin C serum and illuminating eye cream that are both amazing.) But back to this face oil. I'm not going to beat around the bush here—this is the only face oil I'll use. It's carefully composed with only the most luxurious ingredients and oils, none of which are comedogenic. (In other words, you don't have to worry about clogged pores with this oil!) If you already love face oils, congratulations, you just found your soulmate, and if you've been nervous about trying face oils or don't think you like them, I dare you to try this one. If any formula can turn you into a believer, it will be this one!