Top 25 2021: Cheap Thrills

THE ZIPLOC

There’s a triangle whose rule governs skincare: embossed on each point respectively, the words “sustainable”, “affordable,” and “life-changing.” Most of the time, you get to pick just two. But the loophole has its own loopholes—one for each ear! This reusable silicone face mask is the first and only product from Experiment, a brand founded by two beauty chemists fed up with settling. It keeps moisture from evaporating, actives snuggled up close, money in your wallet, and trash from piling up. Got a product you already love? Underneath Avant Guard, you’ll love it even more.

THE ANSWER


Differin Acne Treatment Gel

Retinoids were so close to being easy. They’re some of the simplest skincare ingredients, since they treat nearly every complaint in the book. (Acne? Fine lines? Bumpy texture, dullness, uneven skin tone? Retinoid and done.) But too many people get caught in retinoid quicksand. There are so many types! Here’s the simplest breakdown: Differin is the closest you can get to a prescription retinoid without a prescription; it’s the OG adapalene treatment, and likely the only retinoid you’ll ever need. Use it every night if you can kick it, or every other night (over moisturizer) if you can’t. Simple, people! That’s really it!

THE 14K


Stratia Liquid Gold

The Dress. RompHims. Chronic anxiety. The internet has blessed us with many things, but Liquid Gold is one of the good ones. It’s your favorite heavy-duty moisturizer dressed up in a lightweight formula. A mix of ceramides, oils (Rosehip! Sea buckthorn!) vitamin E, niacinamide, and squalene come together to make this moisturizer razzle dazzle without feeling heavy on your skin. It’s so perfect and adaptable that you can use it year-round, or at the very least, as your go-to nighttime hydrator.

THE IMPORT


Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen


So you don’t like sunscreen. What, do you not like vegetables either? Get over it! And get yourself to an Asian drugstore, where the sunscreens feel like serums and never leave a white cast. Approval for new UV filters takes a long time in the US, but the process is quicker in Japan and Korea and it shows. There are so many amazing Asian sunscreens, but Aqua Rich is a standout that’s pretty easy to get stateside. (Also one of the cheapest in a decent-sized bottle.) Go on, pack on this hyaluronic acid-rich gel—you won’t feel a thing! It’s also acne-safe, SPF 50, and both water and complaint-proof.

THE CONCEALER


Bausch + Lomb Lumify Eye Drops

Glaucoma is the unexpected beauty gift that keeps on giving, with both Latisse and now Lumify accidentally discovered while treating the optic nerve. It turns out that Brimonidine Tartrate, a glaucoma medication, used at 1/8th the medicinal dose just makes eyes really, really white. The overall brightening effect is so strong that it rivals makeup, effectively camouflaging emotional breakdowns, late night emails, and even woking smeed. Lumify takes one minute to work, lasts eight hours, and unlike other redness-relief drops, doesn’t leave you with more redness later. Ahh, liquid privacy.

THE TRANSFORMER


Lashify Whisper Light Dual-Sided Bond

An inconvenient truth: all this time, you thought false lashes were hard to use. Really, it’s the glue! Lashify innovated the glue delivery system, and it makes applying falsies as easy as mascara. (Seriously.) The brush end deposits an undetectable black glue from root to tip; the other is for creating little anchoring dots along the waterline. Then, pop lashes underneath your natural ones, and they seem to snap into place with magnetic precision. Miraculously, we found that the $28 Whisper Light is totally usable with any lashes, and even makes a $4 drugstore pack look as good as extensions.

THE SHINE


Hanahana Beauty Shea Body Butter

Scented body butter, like cartilage piercings and star stickers, is not one of those things you expected to take into adulthood. And yet, here we are—it’s not just nostalgia, Hanahana’s shea is really, really good. It’s better at moisturizing than regular shea because it’s whipped up with oils, which sink in to moisturize long after the cream rubs off. But the butters make it more nourishing than straight up oils, and a dollop melts easily into a bath in their stead. That sounds grown up and sexy, right? Even hotter is the sheen it leaves on skin, which glows like highlighter and feels silky smooth.

THE BODY


Bathing Culture Mind and Body Wash

You take a shower to get clean, and not to dry out your skin. And yet, so many body washes do just that! Except for Bathing Culture, whose body wash has a minimal relationship with skin-stripping surfactants. The result is the most moisturizing shower of your life—this body wash is so hydrating, even shea butter made the ingredient list. And on top of that, the completely refillable bottle looks objet-like in your shower. An elevated shower experience sounded insane, until now.

THE LACQUER


L'Oréal Elvive 8 Second Water

Everything about this product feels wrong, from its waterweight texture to instructions for use (rinse after just 10 seconds). But 8 Second Water is the real deal, thanks to something called lamellar technology. “Lamellar” means thin layers stacked on top of each other—think of flaky-looking samurai armor—and in this case, allows proteins and amino acids to gloss over strands weightlessly. This stuff is the anti-mask, perfect for those with damage, fine hair, or chronic laziness. And while K-beauty stakes claim to the OGs, this L’Oréal version gives dry hair salon-level shine and costs less than 10 bucks at any drugstore.

THE TREAT


Bread Beauty Supply Hair Mask

This hair mask looks like vanilla frosting, smells like vanilla frosting, even squeezes out of a piping bag like vanilla frosting. A key difference, folks: Betty Crocker is for eating, and a cupcake’s worth of this stuff leaves hair baby soft. Bread’s sugar and silicone-free recipe includes light-but-soothing oils, nourishing shea, moisture-loving glycerin, wheat proteins to rebuild damage, and dash of vitamin C-rich kakadu plum. But don’t call it a guilty pleasure! The environmentally friendly pouch actually holds more product than a typical hair mask tub (even though it’s priced like conditioner), so you can go ahead and indulge.

THE SLING


Hair Bungees

You deserve to build a better pony; let these bungees lead you the way. Unlike regular degular hair elastics, bungees allow you to assume more control in your ponytail-making. You can create the exact amount of tension in your pony that you desire by looping it precisely where you want to—you aren’t limited to one, two or three loops, as you would with standard ties—think of it as making one and a half, two and three quarters loops…whatever you want! And because you have more control over the tension, you are less likely to damage your hair overall. Plus, not to mention: No. More. Bumps.

THE SWIRL


Denman D3 Original 7-Row Styling Brush

The Mason Pearson is pretty, but it’s limiting. The Denman, on the other hand, is a real crowd-pleaser. Use it on wet, dry, straight, or curly hair—it’s going to meet all your detangling, blowdrying, smoothing, styling needs. The bristles are nothing to laugh at either, and can hold up for years no matter how vigorously you brush. Truly, it may be the only 5-in-1 product that will get the ITG seal of approval.

THE BOOKMARK


No Crease Clips

Off duty models wear vintage jeans, cropped white tees, and leather jackets. But the on duty model? She’s wearing these clips, which can always (always, always) be found backstage at fashion shows. They’re basic duckbills, but the addition of a plastic top piece keeps creases from forming. Now you’re free to experiment with the getting ready order of operations: Style your hair before putting on makeup. Pin back curtain bangs and go hard on the facial oil. Let a bouncy blowout set while you run errands. There are various branded versions, but the jumbo pack at the beauty supply is still the best.

THE CLOSE UP


Nemat Fragrance Oil

The Attarwala family has been making attars, which translates to fragrant oils, in Udaipur for over 160 years. And even though they’ve gone global, it’s still family-run with family recipes. The architectural bottle, featuring an arabesque pishtaq label and chhatris-shaped cap that looks like a gilded Hershey’s Kiss, is reason enough to have one of these on your nightstand. But you’re going to want to use it: every oil is concentrated but wears close, the kind of skin scent you notice mid-hug that makes you pull a person in tighter. Sounds expensive, right? Psych! This perfume won’t even set you back 20 bucks.