April 02, 2022 at 06:30AM
beauty editor who spends every waking minute reading about beauty products, I have always felt pretty confident in my breadth of knowledge. It is very rare that a beauty product comes my way and I know nothing about it. In fact, I’d say I’ve always been a little cocky about it. But a few months ago, something started happening that made my doubt myself. For you to understand this doubt, you’ll have to bear with me while I lay some groundwork.
Throughout my working days, I spend a lot of my time with my nose deep in beauty content—I want to know what
everyone is talking about. Sure, the beauty content I consume in my spare time is mostly UK-based (it’s what I relate most to, after all), but when I’m in the Who What Wear office, I spend a great deal of time admiring the words of team Who What Wear U.S., too.
And while I know that a big chunk of the beauty products team U.S. wax lyrical about aren’t available on UK shores, it’s my job to know
what’s trending in different corners of the world. Whenever a product crops up that I know isn’t available in the UK, I pop it into Google to see what it has to say for itself. I scroll through U.S. beauty sites to read reviews, check their retailers, and dissect their ingredients lists for any up-and-coming ingredients trends.
But imagine my surprise when not once, not twice, but
three times in the past month I have Googled a U.S.-adored beauty product to discover that actually it is available in the UK—I’ve just never heard of it. It got me thinking about all of the brilliant beauty products that simply don’t get any air time.
I sat down and had a serious think about what the reasons for this could be. Differing tastes? Perhaps. Less corporate budget being spent on UK promotion? Very likely. Stiff competition in a nation that is inherently stuck in its beauty ways? Most certainly. The reasons that these U.S.-favourite beauty products haven’t received equal levels of hype in the UK, I decided, are probably down to boring business decisions, not because the products aren’t any good.
So, to help lift the lid on some beauty products that U.S. beauty editors adore, I had a cracking idea. First, I reached out to one of my favourite people in beauty, Who What Wear’s Senior Beauty Editor in the U.S.,
Erin Jahns, to see if she thought my idea had any legs. When she agreed there seems to be a big disparity in our go-to recommendations, we decided it was time to do something about it. I sent her a list of all of the products I think U.S. beauty editors deem to be the best in the business in various categories (based off my research) along with their cult UK counterpart and asked her to confirm or deny.
I then made it my mission to get my hands on every U.S.-favourite product I could so that I could test it out against our UK go-tos. And I’ll warn you now, things got competitive…
Erin says: “Supergoop! really is one of, if not the holy-grail sunscreen brand in the U.S., and Unseen is probably the most popular of the bunch. (That said, if you have a weakness for lit-from-within skin, you have to try their Glowscreen formula!) I’m personally an Unseen stan because I love that it pulls double-duty as a primer and a SPF. It’s rich in skin-boosting antioxidants, it feels completely weightless on top of your skin, and it’s absolutely dreamy underneath makeup.” My verdict: I have seen a lot of people talk about this product, and I have to admit it’s every bit as good as they say it is. It is totally clear, so doesn’t leave dark skin looking ashy or grey. For days when I’m wearing makeup, this stuff will make for the ultimate primer. However, I have two gripes with it. First of all, it is very silicone-y, which makes it great for makeup application but not so good for my oily, breakout-prone skin. Secondly, I prefer to use an SPF50+ in the morning for maximum protection.
In the UK, it’s this stuff that comes out on top. Beauty editors love its lightweight nature. I have my own favourites, but after trying this for a couple of weeks I’m happy to announce this has become one of them. It’s invisible on the skin and delivers hydration and glow without making skin feel greasy. It serves a different purpose to the Supergoop! formula, and I’ve found great joy in switching between the two.
Erin says: "I actually struggle to find natural, ultra-clean cleansing formulas that don’t inflame or break out my skin. Not only does Indie Lee’s cult-classic formula actually do what it says it will (ahem, brighten the eff out of a dull complexion), but it plays really nicely with sensitive or easily aggravated skin despite its exfoliating benefits. Did I mention it smells like strawberry and can double as a face mask? So heavenly, and you’re basically getting two products for the price of one.“ My verdict: I had never tried this cleanser before but regularly see U.S. beauty editors rave about it. The brand doesn’t have a huge presence in the UK and can be a little trickier to come by. However, my oily skin loves this stuff. It makes for a totally divine second cleanse. I’m such a fan that I’ve made an order for more Indie Lee products.
In contrast to the active U.S.-favourite cleanser, UK beauty editors consider this very basic, but very effective formula to be one of the best around, and I absolutely love it. Is it going to give you instant glowy results? No. But it makes for the ultimate daily cleanse, whatever your skin type. It’s totally fuss-free and no frills, but it’s a surefire way to keep skin looking and feeling healthy.
Erin says: "Honestly, this game-changing retinol formula gets so much hype you’d think it would have to be too good to be true. But, if anything, it’s probably even better and more effective than you think it will be. Shani Darden is a true genius, and this is the retinol to try if you want enviously smooth, even, healthy-looking skin.” My verdict: This retinol serum is truly exceptional. Shani Darden is still a relatively recent brand to have hit the UK, so this understandably doesn’t get as much hype over here as it does in the U.S.—althrough I have a feeling that will change soon. All it takes is a few weeks of use to see noticeably more radiant, youthful-looking skin. In fact, I woke up feeling a whole lot better about my complexion after just one use. The reason that the aforementioned Shani Darden Retinol Reform hasn’t seen such high praise from UK beauty editors is likely because it has this to compete with. It’s not that this stuff is necessarily better, it’s just really well-loved by beauty editors. The results aren’t too dissimilar, but Medik8’s Crystal Retinal range proves a great way to introduce retinol isn’t your routine—start low and work your way up through the different strengths. In formula, Medik8’s offering is a little tackier on the skin, but it’s also nearly half the price.
Erin says: “I was recently influenced into trying the Bear after a fellow beauty editor who works at another publication showed me her before and after photos and waxed poetic about the device for what felt like hours. She did not lie! Of course, it’s all about consistency when you invest in a skin tool like this but the next-level microcurrent technology will 100% lift, tone, and tighten your face while also reducing the look of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also one of the more affordable (yet effective) microcurrent devices out there, so there’s that. Who doesn’t love to save money?!” My verdict: We UK-based beauty lovers are famously low-maintenance. We don’t want to spend hours on our beauty routines to get results. When we’re spending the big bucks on a skincare device, we want it to be luxe and backed by experts. The truth is, this tool is good. Microcurrent devices are adored by skin experts for their lifting abilities. However, the NuFace microcurrent tool seems to get more buzz over here, and it feels a lot more luxurious to use (and costs less).
Like I mentioned, skin tools probably aren’t as popular amongst UK beauty editors as they are our U.S. colleagues. However, this mask has proved itself to be an exception. The LED lights help boost skin’s glow and counteract breakouts to such an extent that the mask has sold out on a number of occasions. The thing I love most about it? You can pop it on and get on with other things, meaning the quest for great skin doesn’t have to eat into your precious time.
Erin says: “Okay. I say this as someone who has been bleaching her hair for way longer than anyone should legally be able to, but somehow only manages to get thicker, longer hair, this stuff is the secret sauce! I’m not going to lie, and I’m also a big fan of Olaplex—I think both can have a spot in your routine—but this leave-in mask can clinically reverse chemical, colour, heat, bleach, or really any other type of third party damage, in just four minutes. Four minutes! Obviously, you can only imagine the effects once you’ve been using it awhile. Just make sure to read the directions and use it correctly—aka on damp hair right after you shampoo in lieu of conditioner. (And don’t rinse it out!)” My verdict: This stuff only launched into the UK last month and all I have to say is wow. My dry, bleach-damaged strands have been calling out for a product just like this. My hair has never felt this good, which is saying something seeing as I haven’t had it cut in nearly a year.
There’s no denying it: Olaplex is untouchable. This bond-restoring hair treatment is considered a staple in virtually every beauty-lover’s wash day routine in the UK. I love it, too. However, I must admit that if I had to choose between Olaplex and the K18 leave-in, I’d probably reach for K18. The reason? It’s a whole lot less effort to use.
Erin says: “Kosas can do no wrong if you ask me, and the brand makes some of my favourite lip products to date, including this all-star gloss. The colours are really freaking juicy and pack a healthy punch in the pigment department, but the shine factor is what really makes me weak at the knees. Unlike other glosses on the market, this one doesn’t feel sticky or like it’s suffocating your lips, and you’ll definitely notice the hydration and plumping benefits courtesy of beautiful ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, and evening primrose oil.” My verdict: I wish Kosas was easier to get your hands on in the UK. I recently picked this up on Cult Beauty and it has pretty much been the only lip product I’ve used since. It’s everything Erin said it would be and then some.
Lip glosses really fell off the UK’s beauty radar in the late noughties and haven’t really made a huge comeback since. We find ourselves reaching for lipsticks far more than we do glosses. This lipstick, in particular, has proved to be one of the most adored beauty launches of the past couple of years by UK-based beauty editors. The lipsticks don’t just feel luxe to use, but the creamy formula helps to nourish dry lips and delivers impressive pigment. I love these lipsticks, but I love the Kosas Lip Oil Gloss, too.
Erin says: “I was convinced I hated anything that wasn’t a medium to full coverage foundation until this product launched. And, the second I tried it before it was actually available to the masses, I knew pandemonium would ensue. I wasn’t wrong!! This stuff is just a jack of all trades. It gives skin the prettiest dewy finish, and it provides a decent amount of coverage that actually seems to get better and look more natural as the day wears on. (Basically, it Benjamin Buttons right in front of you and looks fresher and more photogenic the longer it’s on your face.) The fact that it has SPF protection and skin-improving ingredients like niacinamide, squalane, and HA is just the icing on the cake. Prepare to be obsessed.” My verdict: Whew—getting my hands on this product was not easy. It’s stocked on Net-a-Porter but is kind of difficult to shop. What makes that even more annoying is that the product is absolutely dreamy. In fact, it could just be the best skin tint I’ve ever used. It also has quite an impressive shade range for what is mostly considered a niche product over here.
While praise of Ilia falls silent in the UK, this product gets all of the hype. It’s the latest foundation from Charlotte Tilbury and sits somewhere between a foundation and a tinted moisturiser. It’s hydrating, dewy, and also contains skincare benefits, but since trying Ilia’s lightweight Skin Tint, I can’t help but feel as though this feels too heavy on my skin.
Erin says: “I personally happen to prefer the Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush, but the Melting Blush is the one that’s *really* taken off on social media, and I get it! Like the name suggests, this stuff really just melts into the skin for a kiss of colour that looks insanely natural. Honestly, the reason I like Soft Pinch over this one is that I am just a blush girl through and through and crave a little more colour payoff than this one delivers. I’m also actually a huge fan of the UK’s go-to Baby Cheeks Blush Stick from Westman Atelier—it’s one of my all-time favourites, and I don’t think any other brand makes a spectrum of colours that are so on point. (Poppet for-eva.)” My verdict: Again, this product is slowly building hype here in the UK following its recent launch. Like Erin, I too am a girl that loves blush, but of the two on offer from Rare Beauty, this stuff is my favourite. I adore the watercolour-like finish and the juicy, plump glow it gives to skin. I find pigmented blushers a little too tricky to work with (I possess zero makeup skills), so I like that this one is foolproof.
The price point of this product means you don’t see a whole lot of people walking around with it in their makeup bags. However, every single UK beauty editor I know agrees that this is probably one of (if not the) best blusher ever created. Like Erin says, the natural-looking shade selection is pristine, and the way it melts into the skin is absolutely delicious. Is it a better product than the Rare Beauty Melting Blush? I wholeheartedly believe so, but the price has to be taken into consideration.
Erin says: “If you’re a fragrance person, you truly haven’t lived until you’ve gotten your hands on one of Ellis Brooklyn’s best-selling scents. It’s impossible to choose a favourite, but Salt is truly special—that quintessential, ‘I just woke up smelling this amazing’ type of vibe because it’s natural and light and the antithesis of try-hardy. Think a creamy, salty skin essence of ylang-ylang, Tahitian tiare, and ambergris. Essentially, you’ll smell like a tropical mermaid, and just expect to be showered with compliments—you’ve been warned!” My verdict: I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the U.S. Who What Wear team rave about this perfume in their stories. Again, it wasn’t an easy one to get my hands on, but when I walked past Liberty last week and saw it sitting front and centre in their windows, I knew it must be good. It’s a subtle, sea-like scent that leaves you smelling like you’ve spent the day sunning yourself at the beach. A few minutes after the first spritz, I couldn’t smell it on myself anymore, but everyone I saw couldn’t stop telling me how I great I smelled.
While Ellis Brooklyn fragrances are yet to hit the big-time on UK shores, Byredo continues to reign supreme in the perfume world. Sure, Gypsy Water and Mojave Ghost are cult favourites, but it’s actually Velvet Haze that has proved to be most popular amongst beauty editors. In fact, I can count at least seven of my beauty-editor pals that all consider Velvet Haze to be one of the most exceptional perfumes around. It’s warm, smoky, a little bit sweet, and indescribably delectable. Next up, these are the only beauty tips that matter, according to our beauty-editor DMs.
Author Shannon Lawlor |
Selected by CWC