Best skincare releases of 2021

We haven’t counted, but the number of beauty products that come across our desks in a year would likely number in the hundreds – over half of them skincare. 

It didn’t use to be the case. Lipsticks and eyeshadows were considered more desirable than a tub of moisturiser, but the number of skincare offerings have increased significantly, particularly in the last two years, with formulation developments also leaping ahead. 

Has it been a wider, more accessible and effective range of options available to us, or has it been our lifestyle changes – some thrust upon us thanks to the pandemic – that has seen an increased interest drive the market?

Likely a bit of both but either way there is no denying the industry is on the up with Euromonitor International recently estimating global sales in the category set to hit US $181bn by 2025.

So picking the best of them? It’s a big ask, and definitely subjective, but we’ve rounded up some of our favourite releases of the year for you. Whether they offer something completely new or an upgrade on everyday essentials, these are items that have made it into our ongoing routine.

They also represent some of the latest trending approaches when it comes to how we achieve and maintain beautiful, healthy skin, from managing new challenges like the effects of wearing masks to old bugbears like breakouts and wrinkles. They also signpost the way for what we’ll be using next year and beyond.

Kiehl’s Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum
Micro-dosing is a skincare term you’re about to hear more about. It’s a response to the highly active ingredients that can incite skin transformation but also have the potential to leave skin sensitised. Here the approach is less-is-more, a slow and steady approach to the benefits of retinol that improves lines and wrinkles, rough texture and tone without discomfort.

Paula’s Choice ​​Hyaluronic Acid + Peptide Lip Booster
A lip balm that treats your lips with the care we usually only lavish on the rest of our face, this high achiever has moisture-attracting hyaluronic acid, firming peptides and hydrating squalane for a fuller, less-lined lip appearance. Lips feel soft without the need for constant reapplication.

Mara Algae + Zinc Sea Kale Sunscreen Sérum SPF 30
Rather than a boring staple, SPF has finally reinvented itself as a skincare hero (deservedly so) that fits into every routine without complaint. Part is thanks to new formulations like this oil-based facial serum that contains mineral Zinc sun protection and moringa oil, rich in vitamin C with a dewy finish.

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Line Erasing Eye Cream
Putting a line under the ‘is eye cream worth it?’ debate, this gentle yet efficacious formula uses retinol (tricky to formulate for the eye area) that is microencapsulated to penetrate deeper and is paired with ceramides and peptides to soothe and plump, improve dark circles, puffiness and fine lines.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Serum
Dealing with breakouts concurrently with lines and wrinkles seems like cruel irony but more brands are addressing the fact many of us have both thanks to hormones and environmental impacts. This formulation unclogs pores, smoothes texture and minimises fine lines.


Dermalogica Daily Glycolic Cleanser
AHA treatments are everywhere these days, most often in treatment serums or liquid toners. However here it’s in a simple gel cleanser so you don’t need the faff of an extra step but still get the benefits of its smoothing, brightening and skin refining abilities. Calendula extract and nourishing Jojoba Seed Oil help condition and replenish skin while maintaining the skin’s lipid barrier so you don’t strip the protective elements of your skin in the process.

Pure Fiji Kakadu Super C Brightening Eye Creme
We love an eye cream that sinks in seamlessly, plumps out fine lines with hydration and has an overall brightening effect thanks to Vitamin C and that’s this in a nutshell. Pure Vitamin C, Bakuchiol, and Sea Asparagus stimulate collagen and minimize the appearance of fine lines, puffiness, wrinkles, and dark circles, while Hyaluronic Acid and Ngi Grass work in synergy to increase hydration and moisture-holding power.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Pink Dream Body Cream
Okay yes, it’s a body product, but this nourishing body cream loaded with AHAs, vitamin-rich watermelon seed butter, hyaluronic acid and antioxidants is formulated as well as facial skincare, leading the way for a host of new souped-up body options arriving in 2022. It’s a delicious-smelling dream to use.

Volition Beauty Apple Cider Vinegar Resurfacing Peel Pads
Real beauty concerns are turned into actual products through Volition’s democratic platform that takes beauty enthusiasts ideas voted on by fellow members and works with formulators to bring them to life. These everyday pre-soaked peel pads, powered by apple cider vinegar, resurface, balance, and brighten skin – and they are compostable.

Medik8 Oxy-R Peptides Serum
Known for its advanced skin science, here Medik8 has stablised Oxyresveratrol (Oxy-R) a tyrosinase inhibitor that blocks over production of melanin. Stored within the lid of the vial it combines with other brightening peptides when activated, to treat hyperpigmentation, post acne marks and uneven skin tone.

Lovely by skin institute ​​Everyday Hydration Moisturiser
Created with input from Skin Institute’s top dermatologists, there’s a lot of love about Lovely By Skin’s in-house skincare line. Loaded with all the best and latest ingredients in straightforward products that do what they say they will. This daily moisturiser is one of those hard-working must-haves.

L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Filler 1.5% HA Anti-Wrinkle Serum
Affordable skin-wins quickly become the talk of the town, here demonstrated by the sell-out status of L’Oreal’s fantantastic hyaluronic acid serum. Two forms of pure Hyaluronic Acid help with deep hydration that increases skin’s ability to hold on to water, leading to a smooth, healthy look.

La Mer The Hydrating Infused Emulsion
This new release is like thick and rich Creme De La Mer has been transformed into a highly modern formulation, that better meets our texture desires in 2021. This milky emulsion quickly hydrates skin with La Mer’s famous nutrient-rich sea kelp and antioxidants and leaves skin feeling plump and fresh, perfect in summer.

Unconditional Skincare Co. Live Probiotic Hydration Serum
‘Rewilding’ is a buzz word that refers to products that seek to return that balance by introducing beneficial microorganisms, and the nutrients that sustain them, now known to be fundamental to happy, healthy and radiant skin. This probiotic-skincare serum works with your skin to actively balance your microbiome.

Glow Lab Sensitive Cleansing Oil
The advantages of using an oil cleanser can be overlooked, but they remove makeup quickly without the need for rubbing and scrubbing that can leave sensitive skin feeling raw and prickly. This fragrance free version leaves skin soft, not stripped and deals with even waterproof makeup.

Clinique Moisture Surge 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator
Gel texture moisturisers have exploded in popularity this year, their light and cooling feel and ability to sink quickly into skin without disturbing makeup largely summing up their appeal. Clinique’s Moisture surge moisturiser still tops the lot, its previous formula this year improved yet again for 100 hours of hydration.

Synergie Skin Lumi Balance Multi-Active Facial Oil
Bakuchiol and prickly pear seed oil are two banner ingredients continuing to lead the clean beauty charge into 2022. The former is a plant-derived alternative to retinol, while the later has antioxidant properties, calms skin and prevents water loss. Here the oil blend restores skin’s resilience and glow.

Fenty Skin Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum
Celebrity beauty lines continue to appear at astounding pace but Rihanna’s skin and makeup lines (now worth US$2.8bn according to Forbes) have bucked the trend of falling by the wayside – probably because their formulations are very good. Ignore the confusing name – use this as hydrating and refining serum before moisturiser.

Environ Focus Care Youth+ Seriènce Night Serum
Stress and the hormone it triggers, cortisol, will be a major focus for formulators in 2022, as the effects it has on skin becomes clearer thanks to research. This gel serum that calls on potent antioxidants to counteract those effects on skin’s barrier, improving luminosity and fine lines and wrinkles.

Sothys Soothing SOS Serum
Though they’ll be with us a while yet and we’re happy to wear face masks for the greater good, we’re less happy about the annoying skin afflictions they can sometimes cause. This serum helps calm reactive skin and inflammation where masks have rubbed and damaged your protective skin barrier.

Peace Out Skincare Acne Healing Dots
The new gen approach to pimple treatments, these clear, sticky hydrocolloid patches are flecked with salicylic acid, aloe vera and Vitamin A and go on spots overnight to soothe inflammation, absorb excess oil and gunk and protect from picking, and transferring bacteria.


Beauty How To: Get Adele’s Look

Along with her smash-hit albums full of emotive soul ballads, superstar Adele is also known for her distinctive beauty look, one that she has remained steadfastly devoted to over the years.

With her recent album release and return to the spotlight, her makeup approach has softened slightly, however there are a number of key elements that remain the same and contribute to her iconic look. Among them, a full set of false lashes paired with bold liquid liner, often elongated into 60s-style cat-eye flicks.

Kiwi-born, LA-based makeup artist Michael Ashton has regularly worked with the superstar over the years and gives us some tips on perfecting a similar look.

What is the secret to creating perfect winged eyeliner?

Product cocktailing is key to achieving the intensity and opaqueness of the eyeliner. Start by outlining the shape of the liner, working from the inner to outer corner of the eye with a black gel liner. Then work the product right into the root of the lashes and then build thickness gradually. Once finished creating the desired shape, use a waterproof liquid liner with a precision tip to intensify and refine the line, finishing by winging the end of the liner last.

I’ve got five minutes to do my hair and make-up in the morning. What should I do?

Prepare skin by cleansing with a micellar water and apply nourishing moisturiser with SPF protection, brush brows into place using a clear brow gel and curl lashes root to tip before applying mascara. Create a flawless base using a lightweight foundation and spot conceal where needed on any blemishes and under the eye area. Using a cream blush and your fingers, apply a fresh flush to the apple of the cheeks before a quick slick of lip balm. Brush hair before working through a serum mid-lengths to ends to smooth and protect, then depending on hair length either use a blowdryer and round brush to quickly style or work a hot tong through random pieces framing your face to add an effortless texture.



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Brow powder or brow pencil? Can you share a quick tip on how to create the perfect brows?

A combination of both! I recommend brushing clear brow gel through first before filling in the shape using very fine strokes with an eyebrow pencil and then setting with an eyeshadow and flat brush to give a groomed finish to the brows without them looking too overdone.

What’s the trick to applying false lashes?

The key element to applying lashes is the type of glue that you use. I’m a huge fan of the “Duo Adhesive” in black, which dries matte and gives a completely seamless finish. Apply glue to the lash using a small cotton tip or the end of an eyeshadow brush and leave it for a moment so it becomes slightly tacky to the touch. Place the false lash right into the base of your natural lashes starting in the middle first, then the outer part of the lash and finally the inner corner. If the false lash isn’t quite as close as you would like, take a cotton tip and gently press the top of the lash base until you are happy with its placement.

We don’t always have time for false lashes. Can you name a couple of mascaras that are great for a false-lash effect?

Diorshow Mascara, Estée Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Mascara and Tom Ford Extreme Mascara.

Image (top): @MichaelAshton