18 Beauty Editors’ Favorite Splurge-Worthy Products
A.K.A. all the lotions and potions that are actually worth your hard-earned cash.
Welcome to our "beauty editor's picks" series, where—you guessed it—our favorite editors shared their top product picks, from holy grail skincare to drugstore scores. Is your wallet ready for this jelly?
Not that this is a revelation, like, at all, but we’ll admit to spending a somewhat obscene amount on beauty products. And we’re guessing we’re not alone in that. Another thing: like our favorite beauty editors (they’ve all made favorite status in our email contacts at this point), we get a fair amount of samples that are, well, a little dear when it comes to actually shelling out for them. Either way, we get to try them. And so do these editors (way more so, in fact). But when it comes to these $$$$ products, once the press sample runs out, which products are Jean Godfrey June, Jane Larkworthy and Phillip Picardi ordering on Violet Grey. So forget that fancy sounding caviar-infused and gold-dusted night cream—here’s what’s actually worth the credit card swipe.
"As a beauty editor, I always tell women to spend money on lots of different products. But, if you had to pin me up against a wall and tell me that I HAD to choose what to spend money on or Beyoncé would lose her voice for eternity, here's what I'd say: No woman should be without a quality foundation, a miracle-creating concealer, a genius serum that targets her exact skin concerns, a hot tool that makes the mornings easier, and a perfume so mind-blowingly intoxicating that it makes her feel like ten million dollars when she walks out the door.
First, investing in foundation is like investing in shoes: You would never have just one option for an important occasion. Get one that has more of a matte to luminous matte finish in a half of a shade darker for summertime (I love Armani Luminous Silk), one that is dewy and fresh and relatively sheer for day-to-day and winter (I love Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture), and one that's longwear, for the days that are inevitably going to turn into evenings (I prefer YSL Le Teint Encre Foundation).
For miracle-creating concealers, I defer to Robin Black, who made me a very recent convert to Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage. It's not crazy expensive, but it gets the job done. I set particularly tricky undereye circles with NARS Radiant Creamy, as well.
As for serums, go nuts. You have to do some research to find the perfect one for you, to be perfectly honest, but I love Sarah Chapman's Overnight and Morning Facial serum oils. They're gorgeous—the ultimate, moisturizer-optional indulgence.
Whatever your hot tool is of choice, be it blowdryer, curling, or flatiron, please choose it wisely. If you wouldn't get your hair done at Supercuts, you shouldn't be shopping for heat styling at a dollar store. Obviously, spend what's in your means, but DO consult with your hairdresser, your best friends, your mother, whoever, to crowd-source what will be best for you. (Just pay attention to the recommender's hair texture—that can make all the difference. Not all tools are created for all women.) The pinnacle of hair luxury is Harry Josh's little mini mint green blowdryer—it gets you out the door, frizz-free, super fast.
As for perfume, you must wear what makes you feel your absolute BADDEST. You know that scene in Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway wears those CHANEL boots for the first time? Your fragrance should make you feel like THAT... like you've GOT IT. Begin a journey with your best friend or significant other and spend an entire day roaming all of the beautiful niche perfume stores you can find. (I recommend you begin with Frédéric Malle.)"
"If spending $55 on eyeliner is wrong... well, I can't even finish that sentence. It's insanity. I KNOW that there are perfectly fine options out there for one-fifth of that price. I've tried them! It's a fact! But there's something about THIS eyeliner that tops them all. Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen in Deeper's brush tip gives you dramatic swoopy wings—like you're one of The Ronettes. The finer end creates a perfect cat-eye EVERY SINGLE TIME. Honest! It's never messy and it stays put all day, even in sweaty conditions. FURTHER, I've had mine for over two years now, and it's only just starting to get a little dry. No other eyeliner pen has ever lasted this long for me. So for $25 and some change per year, it doesn't seem like such a crazy price, does it? (Yeah, it does. But I can't quit it.)"
"My Harry Josh hairdryer is THE reason I'm able to get out the door in the morning: It dries my hair in four minutes flat, I kid you not.
My Frederic Malle En Passant parfum. I totally get behind the idea that every woman needs a signature scent and this one's it for me. Frederic helped me pick it out when I first met him in Paris way back when—and he nailed it. I had it on when I met my husband, I wore in on my wedding day and I wear it (almost) every day. I also love the fact that it was created by a female nose (Olivia Giacobetti)—there are so few of them!"
"When beauty editors get really excited about products and bust them out on airplanes, you can tell it's gonna be major. A colleague sitting next to me en route to L.A. raved about Biologique Recherche Creme Masque Vernix, which can be applied thinly as an all-day or night moisturizer or thickly as a 10-minute mask. I will let the (somewhat confusing? but compelling!) company's description speak for itself: 'by the protective layer on baby’s skin at birth, this cream-mask mimics the original composition of vernix thanks to a selection of active ingredients rich in lipids, proteins and antioxidant peptides.' Basically, newborn skin. Yes please!
But if the thought of newborn skin creeps you out, La Mer Soft Creme, the light in texture version of the original is amazeballs too.
The only way to get your hands on the insanely divine, smoky sweet incense-smelling Giorgio Armani Prive Shampooing Douches, the shampoo and shower gel-in-one with a funny-to-Americans name, is to stay at the Armani Hotel in Milan and steal a bottle from your room. Now that's extravagant.
Everyone probably says this, but SK-II Facial Treatment Masks are really worth the splurge. I have no shame about wearing this mask, which makes you look like Hannibal Lector, on a plane. It's so saturated with silky slurpy moisturizer that even the most dehydrated mug looks milkmaid-fresh and dewy after you use it.
My friend and I joke that Skinceuticals CE Ferulic smells like hot dogs, but crazy potent, insta glow-inducing antioxidants are no laughing matter.
Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, this gently exfoliating rice-based powder cleanser, is my beauty MVP. During periods when I haven't used it, I've noticed a huge difference.
Cold-pressed superfood seed oils and vitamins may inspire you to eat Juno face oil by Sunday Riley, but don't. Just put it on your face, now.
If you buy only one styling product ever, it's got to be Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray. It basically gives perfectly imperfect model off-duty hair.
Tom Ford everything: The fragrances. The lipsticks. All of it."
"SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is one of the life-changing products where I saw a dramatic difference in my skin after I began using it. In my early 20s, I had combination skin that just always looked kinda blotchy. After about a month of using this essence—which is like a toner; you press a few drops into your skin twice a day right after cleansing—my complexion became balanced, the blotchiness disappeared for good, and for the first time ever, people started complimenting me on my skin. That was over 10 years ago, and I still get compliments. I like to buy the big 7.2 oz bottle: yes, it's over $200, but since you only need a couple of drops each time you use it, the bottle lasts me a good 7 to 8 months.
And I swear by Fresh Crème Ancienne Eye Cream. It's the thickest eye cream ever—it's really more of a balm—so I only use it at night, but it's so fantastically nourishing on my delicate eye skin. Amazingly, it doesn't leave you puffy the next morning, which some thick eye creams can do. And because it's so rich, you only need the teensiest dab. I've had the same jar for almost a year now and I'm only about two-thirds of the way though, so for $110, it really does last you forever."
“I swear by Orlane B21 Extraordinaire Youth Reset—it's like a B12 shot for your face! The scientists claim it infuses skin with 21 amino acids, which help cells function at ‘younger,’ more optimal levels. During my recent maternity leave, it's the only thing I'd put on my face before guests came over. I had no time and needed something to make my sleep-deprived skin look halfway decent. This plumped my fine lines, gave me a glow and its silky-soft texture and fresh scent is like being at the brand's Parisian spa. Now it's the first thing I put on my face before makeup every morning. And I must say, my skin doesn't look like it's gone through three months of sleep-deprived warfare!”
“You're only supposed to use Fresh Black Tea Firming Overnight Mask once a week, but I use it way more often. I apply it on my skin at night in an upwards motion, and in the morning, my skin has the most gorgeous J. Lo glow, and it looks so plump. Obsessed!!”
"At the higher end, when people ask me if certain products are worth it, I always weigh my answers carefully because I'm aware of the fact that beauty can be a really big investment. But for Clé de Peau concealer, the answer is always yes. I am a concealer fanatic, and I find that most of them just don’t work at all. I tried one on yesterday that somehow made my dark circles look worse. So when you find something that gets the job done, covering and brightening without making it look like you’re wearing anything, it’s worth it. I think I just replaced one that I had for two years. Other products I would forego groceries for include By Terry Cellularose Blush Glace, Biologique Recherche P50, Sisley Black Rose Oil and AmorePacific Future Response SPF 30 cream."
"Shelling out $70 for the teeny-tiny pot of Darphin Organic Aromatic Purifying Balm may seem insane... until you've tried it. There is hands down no better blemish buster on the planet. A little dab will do it, and without any of the drying, red side effects of your usual pimple cream. I bought this even was I was unemployed and eating ramen... that's how good it is.
High quality makeup brushes are definitely worth the investment, and my current favorites are from Hourglass. The dark, weighted metal handles feel so luxurious in your hand, and the PETA-approved bristles are incredibly soft on your face. These brushes make applying makeup almost effortless.
Every time I get compliments on my skin, inevitably I am wearing Revision Intellishade SPF 45 anti-aging tinted moisturizer. $50 for a daily sunscreen is worth it when it makes your skin glow, but never makes it greasy. That's a tough ask from an oily-skinned girl like myself, and this stuff delivers."
"I’ve been a Biologique Recherche P50V Lotion fan for nearly 20 years. It’s great for quashing a threatening blemish, but it also gives skin a zamboni-like smoothness. Finally, it preps skin to allow serum or moisturizer to penetrate more easily.
A Diptyque 4-wick Feu de Bois candle is the next best thing to a roaring fire, and if you’ve got all four wicks burning, you’re pretty darn close to an actual fire!
The risk of using something that doesn’t provide full foundation-like coverage is trumped by how glowing CHANEL CC Cream makes my complexion."
"It’s tough to make a case for why you might want to drop $100 on a BB cream, but I’m sure going to try. Because I feel passionate about 3Lab’s Perfect BB. It gives me the coverage of a heavy-duty foundation—dark spots and redness disappear completely—but it feels light (there’s a gel quality to the texture) and it doesn’t settle into lines or cake up by the end of the day. A couple of dabs are enough to even out my entire face, and when I layer it over other products, which I always do, it has yet to pill (the bane of my beauty existence). It has SPF 40 and contains titanium dioxide, a great broad-spectrum blocker, but because I have to use so little I’m probably getting more like SPF 2. I always wear another sunscreen underneath. Also, plea to 3Lab: expand the shade range! Right now Perfect BB only comes in three shades and the 'dark' really isn’t very."
"I've tried every cleansing oil out there, but always come back to Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil. Gentle but thorough, it rinses away leaving behind zero residue—just healthy, happy and soft skin.
It takes me eons to go through a regular bottle of perfume, but it's dangerously easy to spray my way through a can of Byredo Blanche Hair Perfume in just one week.
Tammy Fender Spontaneous Recovery Creme is a guardian-angel balm that saves the day anytime my skin gets cranky after too much product testing or travel."
"Most people would use a $425 skin treatment sparingly, but I like slathering it on my foot. Hear me out. Last winter I slipped on ice, broke my ankle and needed surgery. After trying every scar cream on the market, I heard that La Mer The Concentrate worked miracles, and it turns out to be true. It quickly smoothed the incisions, reduced redness, and made the skin feel less tight. I don’t know what is in this so-called Miracle Broth, but I will attest to its magician-like abilities."
"I know how to make my friends jealous—by looking as if I receive eight hours of sleep on the reg. La Prairie's Sleep Mask, applied three times a week, will allow your skin to appear as if you drink gallons of water a day, kick back green juice daily and practice the art of facial massage. The act of applying the luxurious cream with the included mini brush is an added bonus, offering legitimately calming vibes. At $300 a jar, however, it's not meant for everyday, but for moments when you need a little Benjamin Button action."
"All of my extravagant beauty picks fall into the skincare category, mainly because that's where I think a higher price point can truly yield better ingredients and results (and also because that's where all my money would go if I wasn't a beauty editor). I can go on forever about my love for Charlotte Tilbury's Multi-Miracle Cleansing Balm—it's rich, indulgent, and makes cleansing your face something you look forward to at the end of each day. I use it as the first step in my double-cleansing regimen, as well as to take off my makeup, and even layer on as an overnight mask when my skin is looking tired. I also recently fell in love with Charlotte's new Goddess Skin Clay Mask. It isn't thick and cake-y like other clay masks, and smells light and pleasant, like the Cleansing Balm. When I wipe it off with a warm towel, my skin looks so much cleaner, clearer and noticeably brighter. In fact, I went completely foundation-free the next day after using the mask, and people actually complimented me on my skin. Worth every penny.
Radical's Sunscreen is another indulgence that's worth every penny—sure, you can pick up at $7 SPF at the drugstore, but does it have anti-aging benefits, the ability to make your skin look Photoshop-smooth and more importantly, won't break you out...ever? Didn't think so. Sisley's new Dark Spot Corrector comes in the most ergonomic package—a rollerball that allows you apply directly to any parts of your face that need brightening. I'm obsessed.
And then there are two products with... less-traditional ingredients that I think are worth the hefty price tag. First, Hourglass' Equilibrium Serum, which is made with a plant-derived ingredient inspired by amniotic fluid, of all things. It feels more like super-light lotion, rather than a viscous serum, and I like that it sinks in immediately and in the morning, my skin looks clearer, brighter, and healthier. Another product is a cult moisturizer, called Argentum. It comes in a mysterious-looking black pot and contains silver hydrosol and 'DNA HP,' a.k.a. salmon sperm. It smells peppery, and gives an immediate tightening and smoothing effect when you put it on. It's actually kind of crazy.
And lastly, there's just something about La Prairie products that makes me want to empty my wallet and scream 'TAKE MY MONEY.' Their Skin Caviar Luxe Mask is the ultimate indulgence and I love that it comes with its own brush for applying. On freezing, blustery LA nights (just kidding; don't hate me), it's my favorite way to treat myself, and I get the added bonus of waking up to princess skin that's super-soft and glowy."
"I go through bottles of Philip B Forever Shine with MegaBounce shampoo and conditioner as if they contained water, not zillion-dollar-but-totally-worth-it shampoo and conditioner. I don't do much to my hair in the way of styling, so my shampoo and conditioner has to do everything! The Philip B creates volume and bounce without flyaways, gives my wavy hair the perfect texture, leaves incredible shine and a faint scent that people always compliment me on, and I swear even brings out my highlights. A good hair day, cliché though it sounds, is SO. WORTH. IT."
"I try a lot of skincare products and the last thing I want to have to do is peer at my crow’s feet through a magnifying glass to see if something’s working for me. So, I always fall back on the ones that make a noticeable difference—SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum is one of them. All the good stuff is in there—peptides, antioxidants and a patented growth factor that soften my lines, fade my spots and make my skin just…better.
A recent discovery is La Prairie’s Anti-Aging Rapid Response Booster. Again, special peptides are delivered deep into skin to boost collagen and elastin production. The texture is amazing and it spreads beautifully so a little goes a long way—a good thing since it doesn’t hit stores for a few more months and I need to make mine last.
I always use a retinol (my skin can handle one nightly) and I’m a total snob about them. I won’t go near anything that can’t verify it’s got at least 1% retinol in it—that’s the amount that’s been researched to be as effective as prescription creams. Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0 is a great option. You only need to use a tiny amount so sixty-three bucks is practically a bargain."
"I started to jot down my splurge beauty selects and realized that pretty much everything on my vanity table and in my studio falls into that category—I adore luxury beauty products and am constantly testing new ones...
Tom Ford Matte Lipstick is not only gorgeous, but wears beautifully. Unlike many mattes that tend to dry out your lips, this formula looks and feels great for hours. I am currently hooked on Flame, a bright orange-red, but Mr. Ford's pinky nudes are also lovely for spring.
Women seldom talk about décolletage and bust skincare, but the delicate skin around the bust is prone to sun damage as well as a loss of elasticity as we age which causes creasing, texture and, of course, the dreaded sagging. And while gravity is inevitable, I plan on fighting it as long as possible. So with that mission in mind, I apply Clarins Beauty Extra-Lift Gel each morning and Clarins Bust Beauty Firming Lotion at night.
I really can't emphasize enough the importance of upping your skincare game as you age. There are so many excellent products on the market that really do make a visible difference and I could easily name at least ten that are always stocked on my personal vanity table. However, for the sake of brevity, I will just mention a few of my latest finds... Chantecaille Rose de Mai Oil not only smells incredible but its calming ingredients are perfect for helping your skin transition between seasons. Sisley just launched a new product called Sisleya Essential Skin Care Lotion. The lotion product category is a popular one in Japan but is just catching on here in the States. It feels similar to a toner but provides serious skin care benefits as well as increased radiance.
So, my hair and I have a difficult relationship. I recently stripped a decades worth of black dye out of my short bob and reverted to my natural shade (which, to my surprise, is about four shades lighter than I remember). Needless to say, removing years of black dye ruins the condition of your hair. My savior as I slowly (and painfully) grow out the damage has been Shu Uemura's Color Lustre Brilliant Glaze Conditioner. It leaves my hair soft, shiny and smooth without flattening out my natural wavy texture. The shampoo and mask have also earned a permanent home in my shower."