As a beauty editor, I get sent a lot of free products to review (tough job, I know). But there are some gems I’ve found over the years that are worth every penny—even if that means spending my own money on them. I asked my fellow Time Inc. (Real Simple’s parent company) beauty editors to share their most beloved beauty products and why they’re so great.
Herban Essentials Essential Oil Towelettes
“I love playing with and testing products (hello, I’m a beauty editor!) but it’s very rare that I find a brand or product that I honestly can’t live without. But these essential oil wipes are it for me. I use the peppermint ones on long road trips to fight car sickness, lavender to chill me out when I’m stressed at work, and lemon to disinfect an unsightly taxi cab. I go through them in about a minute.” — Amanda Elser Murray, Senior Beauty Editor at Stylewatch
To buy: $16 for 20, herbanessentials.com.
Batiste Dry Shampoo
“I would pay for this dry shampoo. But luckily, it’s only $8. It helps me get in a couple of extra days of not washing my hair and the tinted formula never leaves behind streaks in my brunette strands.” — Sheryl George, Beauty Editor at InStyle
To buy: $8, ulta.com.
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
“My fellow beauty editors have been raving about this serum for years, but I held off on trying it because my medicine cabinet is already overflowing with ‘life-changing’ products and I honestly didn’t think it would be that incredible to justify a place in the queue. P.S. This is the same reason I still haven’t watched The Wire. But when I found out that I was pregnant, I Marie Kondo’ed my beauty stash in favor of gentle, yet effective, non-toxic formulas and this glycolic gel fit the bill. It tackles dullness, breakouts and uneven skintone and is now the superstar of my skincare regimen.” — Andrea Lavinthal, Style and Beauty Director at People
To buy: $90, sephora.com.
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads
“I’d be lost without my First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads. I love the way these glycolic acid-laced wipes slough off dead cells—and in turn, leave my skin glowy and supple—without the least bit of irritation. On the rare occasion I forget to use one at night, I can tell the difference in my skin the moment I wake up. Yep, they’re just that good.” — Dianna Mazzone, Assistant Beauty editor at InStyle
To buy: $30, sephora.com.
Tata Harper Restorative Eye Cream
“I’m not particular when it comes to natural vs. non-natural products, making this eye cream a real standout in my book because it’s green and I've still chosen it over the heavier duty ones. Its creamy consistency is unrivaled by other formulas that I’ve tried (and I consider myself an eye cream connoisseur,) plus I really do see a difference after I use it—my eyes de-puff shortly after swiping it on and I just look more awake.” — Lisa DeSantis, Assistant Beauty Editor at Health
To buy: $95, sephora.com.
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
“I also would pay up for Elta MD sunscreen—it’s tough to find a sunscreen that isn’t sticky or heavy and can blend well on dark skin. This lotion does all of the above and it contains antioxidants, making it a win in my book. After all, sunscreen is the best anti-aging product you can buy so $32 is definitely worth preventing lines and wrinkles down the road.” — Sheryl George, Beauty Editor at InStyle
To buy: $32, dermstore.com.
“Yes, it’s expensive and time-consuming—you lay on a bed with your eyes taped shut while a technician glues individual eyelashes to your own. But, after seeing the results and what an impact it made on my face—I feel pulled together and pretty without a stitch of makeup—and realizing how much it sped up my morning routine—I no longer need to curl my lashes, coat on layers of mascara, I was hooked. It’s one of those investments that’s a lot of maintenance on the front end, but it saves me time and energy everyday for a month or more after application, helping to justify it’s hefty price tag. It’s a great treat before a vacation or a big event, like a wedding. Just be sure to find a technician you trust, who puts lash health first so you never have to worry about hurting your own.” — Heather Muir, Beauty Director at Real Simple
To buy: $140 for a starter set, enviouslashes.com.
Cane + Austin Miracle Pads
“Dark spots and blotchiness are the bane of my skin’s existence. Of all the clearing, brightening and alleged breakout banishing products I’ve tried, these pads have completely changed the game for my skin.” — Nykia Spradley, Beauty Editor at Essence
To buy: $88, sephora.com.
CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion
“I learned about CeraVe when I was on Accutane (a really intense acne medication that makes skin peel like a snake), and haven’t looked back since. This moisturizer was the only one that would quench my scaly skin’s thirst all day without having to re-apply. I also use their hydrating cleanser and moisturizing cream—basically, I love everything!” — Chelsea Burns, Associate Beauty Editor at Real Simple
To buy: $9, target.com.
Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in Poppy
“This tinted lip balm is a game changer for me. On those days when I want to let my skin breathe and go makeup-free, but crave some sort of boost of color, this vibrant raspberry shade gives me what I need. Every time I wear it, I get compliments and asked if I’ve done something different, in a good way…but nope, just my trusty balm working its magic.” — Lisa DeSantis, Assistant Beauty Editor at Health
To buy: $24, fresh.com.