We’ve purchased plenty of pick-me-up beauty products this year – and we wondered what you’ve been buying, too. So we asked four of Australia’s leading retailers – Sephora, Mecca, Adore Beauty and Priceline – to tell us their five bestselling products, and then we put them to the test. Here’s our (actually very useful) end-of-year beauty round-up.
Sephora’s five top-sellers, pictured above, tested by PRIMER co-founder Anna Saunders
Olaplex No 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo and No 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner, $50 each: Olaplex is one of those brands that every beauty editor seems to be familiar with, but that I’d never heard of until this year. Its USP? It uses “unique patented chemistry” to strengthen bonds within your hair. What this means IRL is that using Olaplex shampoo and conditioner somehow makes your hair feel simultaneously thicker and stronger, as well as silkier. This is genuinely one of the best shampoos and conditioners I’ve ever used.
Benefit Brow Microfilling Pen, $45: This is the perfect tool for anyone who craves thicker brows but is terrified at the prospect of ending up with the dreaded “Instagram brows” – those thick, dark brows that look painted on. This is a two-in-one brow tool, with a spoolie at one end, and an ultra-fine pencil on the other, which allows you to fill your brows in, stroke by stroke, in an incredibly natural way. What I really liked about this pen was that it comes in four shades so there’s no risk of too-dark, severe results.
Ouai Hair Oil, $48: Another cult beauty brand, this time from celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin (who looks after the manes of the Kardashian-Jenner clan), Ouai promises to smooth frizz and heal split ends. As someone who still suffers from baby hairs at the not-so-baby-like age of 40, I was excited to try this hair oil – and when I opened the bottle I instantly understood why it’s so popular. Ouai just smells like summer. It’s a great hair oil, too (though my fine, baby hair only needed one pump, not two, to do the job). A tiny dab of this oil and your hair will not only boast a post-salon silkiness, but you’ll smell like summer holidays and frangipani, too.
Youth To The People Superfood Cleanser, $50: Of all the products I tried, this is the one I was least excited about, as I generally avoid foaming cleansers as they trend to strip my skin. However, although this cleanser, which is billed as a “daily green juice cleanse for your skin”, did make my face feel squeakily clean, it didn’t dry out my skin. With its glass bottle and botanical scent, it also makes a luxe addition to my bathroom.
Ultra Violette Queen Screen Luminising Sun Serum SPF50+, $47: There’s a reason this product has been a runaway success: not only does it take a necessary but utilitarian product like sunscreen and make it glamorous and fun, but it has a serum-like consistency that means it’s perfect under make-up (and doesn’t leave white marks). Screen Queen does have a fragrance – which might not suit everyone – but this is SPF is so fun you’ll want to wear it every day (rather than feel you should).
Priceline’s top-sellers, tested by PRIMER co-founder Felicity Robinson
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, $9.90: A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide is recommended for the treatment of wrinkles, blemishes, pigmentation – basically, all the issues I deal with. So I pinned a lot of hope to this small, glass bottle from cult brand The Ordinary – and it didn’t disappoint. The clear serum felt slightly sticky on application but absorbed after a few seconds, and sat nicely under my usual moisturiser. I used it on my face and shoulders, where I had a couple of scattered spots that simply disappeared after about a week. This excellent serum is now part of my everyday routine.
Fudge Clean Blonde Violet Toning Shampoo, $23.99: When I squeezed a dollop of this shampoo onto my hand, I was slightly alarmed by the colour: It is violently violet, and as I’d just had my hair highlighted after four months in lockdown, the last thing I wanted was a colour change. (Over-zealous use of violet shampoo has turned my hair platinum in the past.) So, I left it on for two minutes instead of the recommended five, and I’ve used it every other wash in the three weeks since, along with the Clean Blonde conditioner. My blonde has maintained its pale blonde highlights and hasn’t developed any brassiness, so it’s a keeper.
Revlon Face Defuzzer, $9.95: It took about a week of prevarication and a couple of emails to our beauty writer, Sherine, for me to summon the courage to use this razor. I’m lucky enough to have very little facial hair and poor eyesight, so I don’t really notice the peach fuzz that these razors are designed to remove. Mainly, I worried about the hair growing back thicker (it doesn’t) or nicking my face (I just had to be careful). Eventually, after watching a YouTube video, I used small downward motions to remove hair, starting from my ear and moving inwards. The results were… fine? My skin felt smoother and foundation went on nicely, but it’s definitely a higher-maintenance product or one for women with darker hair.
Sally Hansen Advanced Hard As Nails Strengthening Top Coat, $14.95: Sally Hansen made her reputation and fortune with her Hard As Nails strengtheners and polishes, and I used to use them frequently when I did my own nails, pre-kids. Now, I barely wear polish – or I get my nails done at a salon – so it felt like a treat to paint them and add this top coat for shine. I also popped the top coat straight onto my nails one week, to see if it would harden them up, and it did.
Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles, $19.95: This concealer feels a bit gimmicky – as it involves twisting the tube to release liquid through a sponge at the top – but I quite liked the speed with which I could dab it around my face. It was great for covering red areas around my nose, but settled a little in the fine lines round my eyes, which meant I needed to make sure that area was properly moisturised before application. My verdict? Better for younger skin; my tired, dry skin needs more moisture.
Mecca’s top five bestsellers, tested by beauty editor Lucy Adams
Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream, $109: I’d heard that this magic pot of goodness transforms skin texture to that of ‘a freshly steamed dumping’, and it did not disappoint. My blah skin was reincarnated to look and feel pillowy soft and dewy. It makes for the perfect base for make-up and keeps skin hydrated from day to night.
Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara, $42: If pushed to choose, mascara would be my desert island beauty must-have. So, I expect a lot from it. If you’re slightly put off by the ‘shouty’ packaging (like me) then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the streamlined pale pink tube inside. The ‘hourglass’ shaped brush is AMAZING – making application a cinch while delivering defined, glossy lashes. But if you’re after a dramatic effect you’ll need three-to-four coats.
Living Proof Perfect Hair Days In-Shower Styler, $42: This sounded like the hair styling product of my dreams – easy to apply and minimal effort (or skill) required for expert results. While my hair smelled and felt great, I did not reap the instant hair styling gratification I was expecting.
NuFACE Mini, $319: If an effortless, non-invasive lifting facial from the comfort of your couch appeals to you, read on… Thanks to ‘microcurrent’ technology this compact device helps stimulate collagen and elastin production in your skin. Does it work? It’s so simple and easy to use that, being the beauty sceptic I am, I wasn’t expecting any results, but after a week I did notice a subtle tightening on my forehead and neck.
Mario Badescu AHA Botanical Body Soap, $13: As a fan of the Romanian skin guru’s fuss-free spot eliminating range, I knew I would like this affordable body wash, too. From the soft fruity scent to the body smoothing results it makes for a perfect daily wash or an easy fake tan prep.
Adore Beauty’s bestselling products, tested by Sherine Youssef
asap super B complex, $105: The “B” in the name refers to niacinamide (vitamin B3), and in addition to this, there’s a healthy dose of hyaluronic acid for a moisture kick, plus glycolic and lactic acids to clear dead skin cells, and liquorice to amp up radiance. I appreciated the gel-like, rapidly absorbed texture, and I found it was especially helpful for those times when I’ve gone a little too hard on the exfoliation and my skin gets flaky.
SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic Serum, $218: What can I say about this that I haven’t said before? It’s expensive, it stinks – but it works. And seeing it’s a bestseller means you all agree with me (I love when that happens). To recap: the vitamin C brightens and evens out skin tone, boosts collagen for firmer skin, and helps neutralise the free radical damage that comes with environmental exposure, while the vitamin E is anti-inflammatory, moisturising and helps shore up your skin barrier. Winner.
Dyson Air Wrap, $799: As with all Dyson products, the technology is impressive: the exact air speed and pressure creates a vortex of air around the curling barrel, which then attracts a section of hair, wraps it around the barrel, and curls it. There are two different barrels you need to use for either side of the head, and while I consider myself a fairly capable person, it took some mental energy to figure that part out. Also, if you have anything other than straight hair, you will need to straighten hair at the crown of your head before using this tool, otherwise you’ll end up with fuzzy roots and beautiful waves. I get more use out of the MANY attachments that come in the kit, like the volumising brush.
It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream SPF50, $63: While this bills itself as an alphabet cream, it’s definitely a foundation. And a full-coverage one at that – pigmentation and uneven skin tone have nothing on the super blendable, skincare-meets-makeup formula (it’s got hyaluronic acid and peptides), and it covers imperfections very well. Almost too well, if I’m being honest. I find using the suggested one-to-two pumps gives a finish that’s too heavy for me. If, however, I sheer it out by applying with a damp makeup sponge, I get the elusive my-skin-but-better, poreless result I crave.
Salt by Hendrix Rose Quartz Face Roller, $39.95: Face rollers are said to encourage blood circulation and lymphatic drainage, which minimise under-eye puffiness and water retention, and aid in the absorption of face serums and oils. There is a specific technique (upward, against gravity), and you can switch between the larger and smaller ends for different parts of the face (forehead, eyes, cheekbones, jaw, neck). I’m not prone to puffy eyes nor do I believe in the love-attracting or healing powers of rose quartz or jade (the other stone commonly used to make these rollers), but the feeling of the cool stone rolling over my face, under my jaw and down my neck, was enough to justify spending the extra two minutes every night. And isn’t feeling good half the beauty battle?