Best Buys of 2018 (Makeup, Hair, Skincare + More)

For several years now (since 2015), I’ve done a big recap of my best buys of the year (all unsponsored!) to update you guys on my very favorite products of the year. These are some of my favorite posts to write, but they are looooong! So grab your coffee – or maybe two lol – and let’s get started on the best makeup products I bought all year.


I’ve tested a bunch of different primers over the years, but this one is always in my makeup bag, and it’s the one I reach for every single time before I have a photoshoot! It really fills in your pores and smooths your skin out before you apply foundation. I have some larger pores between my eyebrows (which I absolutely can’t stand) however this product really helps disguise them!


I discovered the Natural Radiant Longwear foundation by NARS this year and love it (I use a couple different shades depending on whether or not it’s winter or summer!). This is NARS’ first 16-hour foundation and it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever tried – it’s lightweight, radiant and delivers high coverage that looks incredibly natural, too. I wear this on all of my trips, especially tropical ones, since it’s sweat-resistant too!


I’m still using this mascara primer and it’s the absolute best!! One tube will last you several months, and it makes your lashes look so much thicker and longer when you put mascara on top. I’ve been using this for YEARS now and I don’t know if I’ll ever stop.


I found two really great mascaras this year. The first is Lancome’s Monsieur Big Mascara, which replaced last year’s favorite – I used it for most of the year! It makes your lashes full and thick but never clumpy, and I’ll definitely repurchase it again. I also recently started using this NARS mascara and surprisingly love it – the formula is really nice and it’s very black, which gives your lashes kind of a bold look. I use both of them on top of this mascara primer!


I fell in LOVE with Drunk Elephant products this year – all of their beauty products are really clean, so they’re formulated without parabens, sulfates, etc. This lip balm is hands down THE BEST! Not only is it really hydrating and softening (it feels like butter on your lips), but the fact that it’s made of such clean ingredients really matters since you are literally putting it right on your mouth! The formula is spiked with an exotic blend of avocado, mongogo, cranberry and marula oils and is loaded with antioxidant-rich green tea leaf. It’s really saved my lips this winter, I can’t go to sleep without applying it first!


Your makeup just isn’t complete without good brows, and Anastasia Beverly Hills brow pomade is the be-all-end-all of brow products. I use shade medium-brown! I use this dual-sided brow brush to apply it, and it helps to fill in and shape my brows.


My favorite for several years now: Benefit’s Hoola Bronzer. The brush it comes with is really convenient, I use it for contouring my cheekbones, around my forehead and nose. It’s the PERFECT bronzer for contouring! I’ve tried other bronzers and I keep coming back to this one simply for the perfect color and convenient contouring brush.


I tried out lots of blushes this year, but NARS “orgasm” was a clear favorite, as I used it all year long. This is a cult favorite and it’s clear why! It’s flattering for every skin tone, and looks good no matter what season it is: spring, summer, fall or winter.


I think It Cosmetics makeup brushes are some of the best on the market – plus they carry them at Ulta, which is close by my house, and it’s easy to swing by and pick up more whenever I need them. I particularly love this foundation brush – it seriously makes liquid foundation look airbrushed!


Believe it or not, I’m still using my exact same tub of Laura Mercier’s translucent setting powder from last year – it has lasted me that long! I first discovered it last year when I realized that my previous setting powder wasn’t working very well during a trip to Aspen – my face was shiny in all of the wrong places, even after applying multiple rounds of powder. So I switched over to Laura Mercier’s and never looked back. The finish is smooth, matte and easy to apply and the best part is that my face no longer gets shiny (even on a recent trip to Hawaii).

Best Skincare Products

Best Facial Oil

I use an oil as a moisturizer around 2 to 3 times per week, and this virgin marula oil from Drunk Elephant works wonders. It’s high in critical antioxidants (which protects your skin against environmental stressors and free radicals!), deeply moisturizing, and Drunk Elephant touts it’s ability to reverse the signs of aging. I know one thing, I always wake up glowing in the morning whenever I use this!

Best Vitamin-C serum

This vitamin-C serum is great for uneven skin tone or dullness and uneven texture. It’s packed with a potent antioxidant complex of 15 percent l-ascorbic acid, one-half percent ferulic acid, and one percent vitamin E, and other formula-supportive enzymes that help neutralize pollution, environmental stressors, and the damaging effects of free radicals over time. I use it a couple of times per week in the morning, especially if I don’t plan to wear makeup that day.

Best facial

This product is a facial in a bottle! Like I said before, I fell hard for Drunk Elephant products this year and this one is no exception. This is an at-home “facial” that effectively yet gently exfoliates the pore lining and resurfaces by getting rid of built-up dead skin cells. I love that it’s called “Babyfacial,” because it really does make your skin feel like a baby’s: more even, radiant, and baby-soft.

Best retinal

My dermatologist recommended Avenue’s RetrinAl 0.1 Intensive Cream and I’ve been using it ever since (for the past three years). If you don’t know much about retinoids, read this article or just do a simple google search on them. My dermatologist said that she recommends it for all women in their late 20s – it’s the one product that all dermatologists use themselves and it TRULY helps with the aging process. I use the RetrinAl every single night.

Best acne treatment

I struggled with acne a little bit this year after starting birth control before my wedding – I tried a bunch of different products, but it was really frustrating trying to beat it! I remembered how well Proactiv worked from my high school days, so I ordered this pore targeting treatment to apply at night after washing my face. It was kind of a last-resort, but I’m happy to report that it WORKED! My acne instantly dried up. It does dry out my skin a little on nights that I use it, so I have to be really consistent with my moisturizer.

best bath salts

I have re-ordered this so many times on Amazon this year. These Epsoak sleep formula epsom salts are absolutely amazing. I love taking hot baths (with a cup of tea!) at night before bed. These epsom salts are infused with lavender essential oils that will instantly make you feel calm and sleepy. Epsom salts are also great for healing sore muscles, so I’ll specifically use these if I’ve had a strenuous workout that day. I SWEAR that they actually work!

Best moisturizer

This Sunday Riley water cream has been my go-to moisturizer this year. It’s called “water cream” for its ability to increase hydration instantly – it feels really light and refreshing on my skin, plus I always wake up with skin that looks plump and moisturized. A bonus is that it’s also supposed to help with hyperpigmentation over time!

best cleanser

I tried out a couple of different cleansers this year, but somehow always keep coming back to this one. Although it may feel counterintuitive to wash your face with oil, it’s actually really great for your skin and basically dissolves all your makeup away.

Best bubble bath

This lavender bubble bath is without a doubt the best bubble bath product I’ve ever used in my life. It makes your whole bathroom smell wonderful like a spa, and it bubbles up really nicely! The best thing about it, though, would be that the scent lasts for a while afterward so you continue to smell the nice lavender scent throughout the day, like a subtle perfume.


This body wash was a new discovery this year and I LOVE that it’s all-natural. This is one of the highest rated natural/organic body wash on Amazon, and I can see why. Not only does it smell heavenly, but it doesn’t have any harsh chemicals: no triclosan, sulfates, formaldehyde, salicylates, parabens, phosphates, MEA, DEA, TEA, petroleum-based ingredients, animal by-products, perfumes, dyes or caustics.

Best body lotion

I purchase a jumbo Creme de Corps every summer and it lasts for a full year. It’s the only body lotion that I’ve ever religiously used – it doesn’t have a strong scent, it moisturizes really well and it’s not oily at ALL – I hate feeling oily and sometimes strongly scented body lotion can give me headaches. I love this one so much that I carry around mini bottles in my handbag! My husband even started using it this year because his skin was really dry this winter – he loves how it doesn’t have a girly scent and really moisturizes his skin.

Best Hair Products


This detangling brush is perfect for using on wet hair – I use it after a shower to get any tangles out, and then I use it in combination with a blow dryer to air dry my hair.


I bought this honey-infused hair oil this year and love it. I apply it to the ends of my hair while it’s still wet to reduce frizz – and it really works. I also apply it while my hair is dry and it creates shine. I still like this one – it’s a longtime favorite and I have the travel-size so I always take it on trips with me!


This year I upgraded my dryer to the T3 Cura Ionic Dryer and it is AMAZING. This dryer works really fast and makes my hair feel softer. I’ve talked about it a ton on my blog before so you guys probably already know all about it!


Another thing I talk your ear off about – my T3 curling wand. I use the 1″ straight barrel on my hair in pretty much every single blog post – the curls last for DAYS. Just a warning, it does get very hot! One of my friends in Winston-Salem bought it and loved it, but it accidentally burned through a plastic toilet seat!! (lol) So be careful!


This detox and deflect shampoo and conditioner is LIFE-CHANGING. At the end of the year, my hair was feeling really weighed down with product build-up (my hair would barely even hold a curl!). The first time I used this shampoo and conditioner, my hair felt NEW again – it is so weird I don’t even know how to describe it, haha! My hair had body, was full of life, and when I curled it, it stayed curled for an entire week straight. The shampoo is made with activated charcoal which helps to draw out impurities, but it is black in color which is a little unnerving. If you feel like you’re hair needs a detox, though, then you need this!


This comb is certainly kind of expensive for a comb, haha, but it’s the highest quality one you’ll ever own! I use it in the shower to detangle my hair (I actually comb my hair out when the conditioner is still in it – it’s way easier on your hair).


I’ve been using this thermal round brush from Sally’s Beauty Supply for several years… it makes blow-drying my hair so much easier! I use it with my hair dryer at least once a week and the bristles do not melt. If you have long hair, you don’t have to worry about your hair getting tangled around this one! I’ve had mine for so long now that I really need to purchase another one.

Random Favorites…

This section is a little random, so I titled it “random favorites” haha. These are some purchases I made this year that were my favorites, and I will definitely be repurchasing again!


I had a couple of favorite pairs of workout leggings this year that I thought I would share with you! These Alo Goddess ribbed leggings are PERFECT for pure barre classes – the bottom part is ribbed, and it’s made a little longer specifically to hook over your heel. I love them so much that I’ve now accumulated them in five different colors 😀 Another favorite this year was these leopard print leggings (which were just restocked, btw!). I loooove how fun the leopard print is, they always receive compliments when I wear them out! Plus the quality is really high – they are sooo soft!


This may seem like a really random one hahah but you guys HAVE to try this coconut peanut butter. I first discovered this peanut butter from watching Romee Strijd’s vlogs. The only ingredients are peanuts and coconut, and it’s made in Hawaii! The first time my mom tasted it she said it made her feel like she was on a tropical beach somewhere – instant bliss. Since then, both my parents and I have become addicted to it. I eat it almost every single day, either in my oatmeal, smoothies, on a rice cake or I just eat it by the spoonful! I’ve re-ordered it so many times this year for both me and my parents!


This one might seem kind of weird, but I recently purchased this water boiler for my kitchen and I’m creepily obsessed with it. I started drinking a lot of tea this year, but I was heating the water up by putting it in the microwave (which really isn’t good for you). I bought this water boiler as an alternative to using the microwave – the water boils within a MINUTE and makes it so so easy to make my oatmeal and tea in the morning. It has been a game-changer!

Whew! Sorry that was such a long post you guys! I’d love to hear if you found any life-changing products this year. Leave them in the comments so that we can all learn from each other!

Leave a Comment


  1. Janet Oloyede

    Ohhhh, I need to try the Nars foundation & bc of you I never wear mascara without a primer lol!! Thank you for all your picks! I’m definitely going to try the Drunk Elephant products. <3
    Xoxo Janet

  2. Annika

    I love drunk elephant. Super excited they’re one of the Sephora birthday gifts this year!!

  3. This is such a great list! Some of the Drunk Elephants products haven’t worked for me, but I agree with Marula Oil! Would like to try the Vitamin C serum!


  4. I loved this post! We get so many recommendations from bloggers that a round-up of favorites from an entire year is super helpful! I especially loved the makeup favorites section, I am so intrigued by the Laura Mercier setting powder and the Nars foundation and that Smashbox primer have been on my to-try list for a while now. Think I will add the ABH prow pomade to that one too haha!
    Really appreciate the work you put into this post, thank you!
    xx Janine

  5. Olivia Schueller

    love these picks, deff going to try some out!

  6. Kristina

    Wow! I can’t wait to try some of these products- esp. the shampoo! I’ve had the same problem with buildup and can’t wait to try it! Btw- one of my favorite facial cleansers is the “Milk Jelly Cleanser” I use it about 4 times per week & it makes my skin feel like I just got out of a facial! Anyway love this post:))))

  7. Daniah Khan

    I love Drunk Elephant! I can’t wait to try out NARS. I was curious about sunscreen. Do you have a sunscreen recommendation? Thanks!

  8. I’ve heard soooo many great things about that Loreal primer!


  9. Thank you so much for sharing and to keep your point in post.
    It was awesome sharing!!

  10. I love reading lists like this, as it’s a great way to discover new products! By the way that peanut butter sounds heavenly!

  11. For acne I’d also look into Eradikate if you ever need a cheaper alternative. It also dries out your acne and works almost completely overnight!

    Naima |

  12. I NEED to try the Drunk Elephant Lip Balm! Love their stuff and obsessed with keeping my lips hydrated!

  13. GREAT post, Caitlin! I feel you on Drunk Elephant products! I fell hardcore for them this year and can attest to that. My favorite is their marula oil too! I ran out on Monday night so I’m tipping the bottle to get every last drop, haha!

    I have to check out the other products you’ve mentioned, especially that peanut butter! x

    She Sweats Diamonds

  14. Yes yes yes to this post Caitlin! Skincare & makeup posts are so long to write, but it’s so worth it because I loved seeing the roundup of your favorite products from this year. I use that same setting powder and love it. I tried to mix it up this year and it was just not as good. I also didn’t realize Drunk Elephant had a lip balm sounds amazing as well as their other products. I’m so happy you mentioned them because I’ve been wanting to try their products but just didn’t know where to start or what was right for me. I also have been wanting a retinoid so I’m happy you linked one and shared some insight from your dermatologist, so helpful!

    I don’t know if you tried it, but I really recommend the Marc Jacobs Tan-Trific bronzer, so good and the Dr. Brandt Luminizing primer.

    Happy Wednesday Caitlin!

  15. Charlotte

    An awesome dup for the Smashbox Primer is a chafing product you can find at Target. A decent sized tube runs around $6 and probably has 2-3 times the product you’d find in Smashbox. Here’s where it gets kind of weird. It’s a Monistat product and you’d find it in the aisle with female products/creams. It is not a product to treat infections, it is specifically for chafing! You will find it to be identical to Smashbox! I’ve been using it for years and highly recommend it. If I can save in one area, so I can splurge in others, it’s a no brainer!

  16. Lexi

    I love this post! I like that Nars mascara a lot too, I should try the mascara primer! I also think I need that tea kettle. You should share monthly favorites 🙂

  17. Nina PALMARINI

    Hi! I just bought the Kendra shampoo and conditioner! How often do you use ? I only wash my hair twice a week but wasn’t sure if I should use it like once a week or not? I have color treated hair ! Thanks !

  18. This post is fantastic! NARS orgasim blush has been in my makeup bag on repeat for years. Do you have a recommendation for a good facial exfoliator? Love your blog!