These are my picks for products that absolutely slayed the game in 2016. As always, the usual disclaimer applies: what works for me may not work for you. It is okay if we disagree—that’s life! The products in this post may not necessarily be ones that were launched in 2016, they are just the ones I enjoyed the most this past year.
Winner — Clarins Total Cleansing Oil
Let’s face it—the first cleanse is the boring cleanse. I will never understand why people waste gorgeous cleansing balms, non-emulsifying oils, and rich creams to remove makeup and/or sunscreen. I’ve always seen this step as a joyless, necessary evil. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You’re literally just removing makeup. Take it off and move on. I’m giving it up to the Clarins Total Cleansing Oil here because it has a weightless and water-like texture, it is actually very economical given its usage, it removes everything, it emulsifies the second water hits it, it rinses completely clean, and it doesn’t strip the skin.
Honourable Mention: MAC Cosmetics Cleanse Off Oil
Winner — Sarah Chapman Skinesis Ultimate Cleanse
Oh, my first—and well-deserved—Hall Of Fame product. *swoons* As much as I love my jarred balms, it’s a nice change of pace to see a cleansing balm housed in an airless pump dispenser. The smell of this soufflé-textured cleanser is intoxicating. It melts into the skin just enough to provide the perfect amount of slip needed for a facial massage (battering, knuckling). Removed with one of Sarah Chapman’s cleansing mitts, it leaves your skin hydrated and glowing. It is the best cleansing balm I’ve used to date, and trust me, I’ve tried more than I care to remember.
Honourable Mention: Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm
Winner — Biologique Recherche Lait VIP O2*
I never would have found this product had it not been for my friend Fiona (@orchidsandpeonies on Instagram) offering to send it to me after having a bad experience with it. This fragrance-free cleansing milk contains whacky ingredients like amniotic fluid, yeast, vinegar, embryo extract (?!), hydrolyzed gelatin, and onion bulb. One might imagine this to smell vile, but it actually doesn’t have a discernible smell at all (not that I would know what amniotic fluid and embryos smell like, mind you…). Familiar superstar ingredients like niacinamide, lactic acid, salicylic acid, witch hazel, hyaluronic acid, and papain make this an incredible glow-boosting and plumping cleanser for the morning.
Honourable Mention: Sarah Chapman Skinesis Rapid Radiance Cleanser
Winner — Josh Rosebrook Active Enzyme Exfoliator
After admiring my glowing, smooth, even complexion in the mirror just moments after using this product, I knew I had to create a dedicated Instagram post to sing its praises. This exfoliator is no joke—it isn’t for the faint of heart. I had previously drafted a Hall Of Fame post for my Honourable Mention product below, but I came to the conclusion that this one is better. If you need your skin to look great for something, this product should be your first port of call because it just works, plain and simple.
Honourable Mention: Omorovicza Refining Facial Polisher
Winner — Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 1970*
The mother of all toners. I had the privilege of trying out the elusive and contraband 1970 formulation of Lotion P50 (pronounced loh-see-o(n) pay sa(n)-kon(t), thank you very much. Don’t try and get fancy with the pronunciation of Biologique Recherche and then say “low-shun pee fiff-tee”. *cringes* And while we’re on this topic, the French word “de” IS NOT PRONOUNCED ‘DAY’! STOP DOING THAT IMMEDIATELY, PLEASE. *pulls out butcher knife from kitchen drawer*) this year thanks to a swap I did with my darling friend Annie (@nourished_beauty on Instagram). People complain about the smell of this product, but I’m slightly addicted to it. It smells like burning wood and cotton candy to me, which is fantastic! Well, anything is fantastic compared to the non-1970 formula, which is a vinegar-bomb. The vinegar-bomb still works (not as good as 1970), but it makes your face smell like a fish and chip joint. The 1970 formula kicks your skin square in the arse—it exfoliates, tones, refines texture, corrects pigmentation issues, and NUMBS… oh, boy, does it numb. Follow the BR directions on how to apply this (dab it on from the cotton pad, do not rub/swipe—trust me, it makes a difference). And make sure to do your lips. It’s orgasmic.
Honourable Mention: ClarinsMen Fresh Moisture Toner with Apple Vinegar
Winner — Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic
I’m itching to get my hands on this product again, but it seems like Liz Earle is uninterested in organizing Canadian stockists. The last order I placed from the Liz Earle U.S. website got slapped with the biggest customs/duties charge I’ve ever experienced (and an unfair one at that, as the country of origin and dollar value were misrepresented on the commercial invoice), and it’s turned me off of even attempting a repurchase. And that is a shame, because this gorgeous botanical toner really was one of my 2016 standouts. Until Liz Earle sort themselves out, I am happy to purchase the Clarins Toning Lotion with Camomile (I’ve been having a love affair with this—cheating on my beloved Toning Lotion with Iris, gasp!) instead.
Honourable Mention: Clarins Toning Lotion with Camomile
Winner — Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator
Again with Josh. His products are winners, that’s all there is to it. This was another instance I had to stop and make everyone aware of my newfound love. The mist dispenses in the most perfect airy cloud. The sweet fragrance of this product calms the mind and the virtually endless role call of botanical extracts and hydrosols that saturate its ingredients list provide immediate hydration and comfort to the skin. As I’ve expressed before, I wish the bottle was glass!
Honourable Mention: May Lindstrom Skin The Jasmine Garden
Winner — Shiseido Benefiance WrinkleResist24 Balancing Softener
I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is this product does for my skin, but I definitely notice a difference when I’m not using it. This was the first essence-style product I ever used, and it is still the best one I’ve used to date. I will keep trying them as my interest has been piqued for a long time, but I haven’t found one that’s as good as this. But I want to. And I will. The search continues.
Honourable Mention: Nature Republic Rose Real Nature Ampoule
Winner — Clarins HydraQuench Intensive Serum Bi-Phase
Most of you already know that I’m generally not one for serums as they tend to do bugger-all. Maybe it’s because my face is in pretty good nick that I simply fail to see the results. But I’m not going to damage my skin so I can reap the benefits of a corrective serum. I just see better results with creams and oils. Sorry, y’all. That being said, this serum by Clarins is beautiful… and I might be a bit biased in saying that as I’m partial to an oil, and this one happens to be bi-phasic. Everything about it is on-point. And being a sufferer of dehydrated skin, this product (and the Kate Somerville product below) does my favourite thing—immediately relieves dehydration. You can see and feel that your skin has changed in terms of hydration after applying it. Locking it in with a cream or an oil or both prolongs the effects for several hours. P.S., Apparently the HydraQuench range has been discontinued and rebranded as Hydra-Essentiel. That’s fine with me (nicer packaging), as long as the formulas have not changed.
Honourable Mention: Kate Somerville DermalQuench Liquid Lift
Winner — Clarins Super Restorative Total Eye Concentrate
Yay, eye cream! (Were you able to contain your laughter?) Eye creams are a joke. They don’t do anything that a normal facial moisturizer can’t. You don’t need one. Unless the skin around your eyes is vastly different than the skin on the rest of your face (e.g., you have extremely oily skin but your eyelids and under-eye areas are drier than a popcorn fart), take everything around the eye area. Yes, I know your facial moisturizer says avoid the eye area. That’s because the brand wants you to buy their eye cream! Biggest scam of the industry. And after all that, here I am saying that I actually enjoy the Clarins Super Restorative Total Eye Concentrate… I would never buy it in the full-size, but you better believe I’m going to be using it if it comes as a GWP. It’s a lightweight lotion-cream that does not cause milia or puffiness and *hallelujah* IT DOES NOT BALL UP!
Honourable Mention: Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream
Winner — Tata Harper Beautifying Face Oil*
The most underrated Tata Harper product. In my humble opinion, it is better than the Vintner’s Daughter oil-serum that everyone and their dog quacks on about. Sorry, VD. Hah. I said VD. Moving on. This medium-weight oil smells like flowers plucked straight out of a cow patty. It smooths over the skin beautifully, it heals blemishes fast, and it imparts one hell of a glow. I’m allowing it to trump my beloved Clarins Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil this year for these qualities only. The only downside is that you can only buy this from Tata Harper’s website (to my knowledge), so my stateside friend Annie, previously mentioned, was kind enough to send this to me when we did our swap.
Honourable Mention: Clarins Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil
Winner — Sarah Chapman Skinesis Overnight Facial
Another winner from Sarah Chapman. This oil-serum was created to mimic the effects of Sarah’s award-winning Skinesis facial. It has vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, Co-Q10, peptides, alpha lipoid acid, anti-inflammatory omegas, and it smells beautifully of woods, fresh roses, and earthy jasmine. Every time I use this product I wake up with better skin. I love that it’s a sure-thing.
Honourable Mention: Guerlain Midnight Secret Late Night Recovery Treatment
Winner — Crème de la Mer The Moisturizing Soft Cream
Ah, this is a rekindled love affair. The price of La Mer products makes my eyes water, but what’s a boy to do when they work? And let me tell you—they work. This moisturizer is like butter. It makes the skin feel plush like velvet. I haven’t found another product that comes close to replicating this effect. It’s just a fabulous cream. Worth the hype. There’s a very good reason why La Mer’s products are legendary.
Honourable Mention: Omorovicza Balancing Moisturizer
Winner — Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Magic Cream SPF 15
I purchased the Gift of Red Carpet Skin set from Charlotte Tilbury at the beginning of last year. Expectations and skepticism were at an all-time high here. The Supermodel Body and Take It All Off Makeup Remover were swiftly re-gifted to my sister (and FYI, she loves them both). I was only interested in the Multi-Miracle Glow Balm (yuck), Goddess Skin Clay Mask (awesome), Wonder Glow (awesome), and of course, Charlotte’s Magic Cream. The first time I used this product I knew it was a winner. Rich, cushiony, comforting moisture, instantaneous reduction in redness, enhanced glow, and sun protection. It is magic, and its magic seduced me into purchasing the full-sized jar. I’m pleased to say it’s my top daytime moisturizer.
Honourable Mention (non-tinted): Avène Hydrance Optimale SPF 25
Honourable Mention (tinted): Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30
CLAY / MUD MASK
Winner — The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask*
I only started using this mask at the end of December as it was a Christmas gift from my grandmother, BUT it is so effing good that it bowled over every other clay mask that had a chance of making this list. It is better than GLAMGLOW’s clay masks. It is better than the Omorovicza Deep Cleansing Mask (which otherwise would have won this category). As it was a gift, my expectations were more or less nonexistent. I still haven’t bothered to dissect its ingredients list. What I will tell you that it is the strongest clay mask I’ve ever used. It is massively tingly, wildly exfoliating, it decongests pores, kills blemishes, retexturizes the surface of the skin, and makes your face look so much clearer overall. I didn’t expect a product like this from The Body Shop of all places. I need to check out their other new face masks to see if they’re as good as this one!
Honourable Mention: Omorovicza Deep Cleansing Mask
EXFOLIATING / RADIANCE-BOOSTING MASK
Winner — Liz Earle Brightening Treatment Mask
Here is another incredible Liz Earle product that I enjoyed in 2016 but that I most likely will never be able to purchase again because of the stockist issue and customs/duties mishap previously mentioned. Even though this pump-dispensed mask is clay-based, I don’t find it behaves like or mimics the effects of typical clay masks. It doesn’t dry to a thick crust like most clay masks do (in fact, it’s probably the easiest-to-remove mask I’ve ever used) and it doesn’t decongest the skin. Instead, it tightens contours and turns dull and lacklustre into radiant and bright. I loved using this mask in the morning if I had some extra time to get ready because it guaranteed a good skin day.
Honourable Mention: CelleClé Omega-Zyme C Enzyme Masque*
HYDRATING / NOURISHING MASK
Winner — May Lindstrom Skin The Honey Mud*
I just scooped the last bit of this chocolatey gem out of the jar I won in a giveaway hosted by Green & Pure, and it’s on my face as I type this. Out of all of May Lindstrom’s products, this is the one I thought I would dislike the most, but it is actually the one that I enjoy the most. I love when that happens. I don’t find The Honey Mud effective as effective when used as a cleanser, so I always use it as a mask, leaving it on for hours and hours to allow my skin to suck up all of its gorgeousness. It emulsifies on contact with water and leaves behind a thin veil of nourishing protection on the skin. If my skin is balanced I can skip moisturizer after removing this product. It’s a winner, and I can’t wait to repurchase it.
Honourable Mention: The Lotus Sleeping Pack with Lotus Leaf Extract*
Winner — Peach & Lily Reset Button (Sooth + Restore)*
Peach & Lily released their own line of sheet masks this year, and the generous folks over there were kind enough to send them to me to test. Their mask line was designed to fill in the gaps where other companies went wrong—they’ve taken out the questionable ingredients most sheet masks contain (alcohol, artificial fragrance) to make more room for the good stuff. These are the best-fitting sheet masks I’ve ever tried and they stick to your face like nobody’s business, allowing you to go about your life without worrying the mask is going to flop off. Out of the three masks, Reset Button was my favourite for its natural gentle scent and soothing and hydrating results.
Honourable Mention: Reme+G Aqua Home Peeling 3-Step Kit*
Winner — Bag Balm
The best lip balm and skin-soothing hybrid on the market. I whack a thick layer of this on my lips every night before I go to bed and never experience any dryness or chapping. Bag Balm is a lanolin and petroleum mix (sorry if you’re averse to this) that contains the antiseptic compound 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate, making it great to heal rashes, cuts, and even blemishes. My only qualm is the packaging—I wish they would put this in something other than a tin. I do like the tin, though, because it’s cute and green and has cows and roses on it, but it forces me to use a cosmetic spatula or a sterile cotton bud to remove the product so I don’t muddy it up with finger germs.
Honourable Mention: fresh Sugar Lip Treatment Balm
Winner — COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch
This year I discovered the wonders of hydrocolloid technology to heal blemishes in a rapid way that doesn’t leave scars and doesn’t dry the shit out of your skin. On a clean, dry face, before putting on any treatment products, stick one of the patches over your blemish (they come in different sizes, so pick the appropriate one depending on how big the blemish is), and carry on with the rest of your routine. Allow a couple hours for the patch to suck all of the gunk out of the blemish (I leave them over night if I can). You can tell that it’s worked because you’ll see a white dot within the patch where the exudate has been drawn. Once the patch is removed, you’re left with a flat surface and a bit of residual redness that can easily be colour-corrected and concealed. No poking, squeezing, dryness, nothing. The leftover inflammation goes away on its own. No scarring. Brilliant. I can’t recommend these enough. COSRX needs to make a sheet mask of this.
Honourable Mention: Clinique Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel
Winner — DHC Silky Cotton
These cotton pads are like soft little pillows for the face. They are the best cotton pads on the market. I’ve been using them for years now and still recommend them to everybody. I buy mine off of FeelUnique.
Honourable Mention: Bog-standard terrycloth flannel (ol’ faithful)
RAPID-FIRE HAIR + BODY FAVOURITES OF 2016
SHAMPOO: Oribe Signature Shampoo
CONDITIONER: Oribe Signature Conditioner
HAIR SPRAY: Oribe Superfine Hair Spray
BODY WASH: Caudalie Thé Des Vignes Shower Gel
BODY LOTION: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream
BODY EXFOLIANT: The Body Shop Coconut Body Scrub
BODY OIL: Rachel’s Plan Bee x kimberlyloc Jasmine Body Oil
SHAVING CREAM: Face Skin Care Ultimate Comfort Shaving Cream
DEODORANT: Clarins Gentle Care Roll-On Deodorant
HAND CREAM: Clarins Hand and Nail Treatment Cream (Fig Leaf Scented)
MOST DISAPPOINTING PRODUCTS OF 2016
– May Coop Raw Sauce (does nothing)
– Kypris Moonlight Catalyst (does nothing; brand is daft when it comes to customer service)
– Sunday Riley Blue Moon Cleansing Balm (gritty texture; plasticky scent; clogs pores)
– indeed Laboratories Eysilix Total Eye Rescuer (balls up and peels off almost immediately)
– Cura Complexion Catalyst Crème (odd chalky texture; doesn’t absorb; balls up and peels off)
– Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder, Dim Light (oxidizes to bright orange)
– NIOD Superoxide Dismutaste Saccharide Mist (sticky; does nothing; dehydrates skin)
– NIOD Sanskrit Saponins (sticky; smells vile; does not [and cannot] cleanse the skin)
– NIOD Copper Amino Isolate Serum 1% (does nothing; dehydrates skin)
– NIOD Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex (hydrates only marginally for an “advanced” formula)
– The Ordinary (useless products; inelegant textures; novice formulas that focus on single ingredients)
– Pixi Glow Tonic (does nothing; smells absolutely horrendous [mouldy flowers])
– Ursa Major Essential Face Tonic (poor packaging [leaky cap]; smells like Pine-Sol; does nothing)
– Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser (loved this initially but grew to despise it; fussy; packaging issues; exorbitant price tag not merited by any stretch)
– Cremorlab Aqua Tank Hydro Plus Water-Full Mask (gel sections don’t adhere to face; does nothing)
– Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Cream (sticky; does not absorb)
– Charlotte Tilbury Multi-Miracle Glow (sticky; clogs pores)
Here’s to putting 2016 behind us! Thank you to everyone who has stuck by me and has been so kind and patient over this past year. Your support and friendship means the world to me. Any product in this post that has been marked with an asterisk is one that I did not purchase with my own money. Either these products were gifted to me by friends or family, have been won by me through a giveaway, or were sent to me for PR consideration.
Let me know what your guys’ favourite products of 2016 were in the comments if you have the time! x