Welcome to Our Favorite Products, a monthly feature in which ITG’s editors discuss our favorite products. They’re the best things we’ve tried all month long, reviewed, photographed, and anthropomorphized before we have the opportunity to get sick of them and move on to something new. To close out a true horror show of a year, we’re treading lightly. Nourishing formulas, low-tech tools, and familiar fragrances kept up the status quo while we laid low at home. Sound as boring as a Christmas Eve spent binging Bridgerton? OK, fine! It was just a half truth. The fact of the matter is that most of the product testing we did this month was in service of something… else. You’ll learn what that is next week—for now, here are the staples that got ITG’s editors through December.
“After yo-yoing all year, my skin’s in a good place right now. And because I’m not actively trying to get anything done (my breakouts are soothed, dark spots mostly healed, dryness at bay) I’ve totally simplified my routine. I love when I can do that. One of just a few things I couldn’t streamline out of the rotation is a good cleanser, and the one I’ve been reaching for lately is Jordan Samuel’s Skin The After Show. Its gel-to-oil formula caught my eye, and before I tried it I thought it might be a similar texture to my all time favorite Wonder Valley cleanser. Reader, it is not. It feels less like honey and a lot more like Vaseline, and breaks down dirt, sunscreen, and makeup better and more gently than actual makeup remover. I also love that it’s in a squeeze bottle and not a tub I have to stick my fingers in. When I add water to emulsify it and then rinse it off, my skin feels clean but not tight at all—the cleanser leaves behind a sheer film almost like a nourishing face oil. It’s perfect for those times I want to wash my face without immediately following with a whole routine. (PS, they also make a version without fruit acids for those with sensitivities.)” —Ali Oshinsky
“For some reason, it takes so long after the seasons change for my routine to catch up with my skin. This month I endured an onslaught of stress, a rollercoaster of cold-hot-cold temperatures in my brownstone apartment, and some good ol’ fashioned hormonal acne. I edited down my routine to resemble a saltine diet, but it wasn’t until I started using Moon Juice’s Cosmic Cream that my skin finally felt comfortable. (I had still been using the lightweight Cerave moisturizer that held me down for the better part of fall.) When I first apply the cream, it instantly melts into buttery goodness and my skin feels refreshed and cool—I’m positive its glass jar helps keep it chilled. Inside are oils that won’t mess up my skin barrier like jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, and shea butter. A few dollops and my skin is happy for the day.” —Utibe Mbagwu
“A piece of advice about skincare advice: always, always take it from Danuta Mieloch. You never get frou frou empty logic, just helpful solutions supported by science and her intimate knowledge of skin. Results are visible after one of her facials, and also in her own skin (honestly, photos hardly get across the smooth-but-not-unnaturally-smooth canvas that is her face). So when Danuta says she uses Valmont’s Prime Renewing Pack on the regular, I too must use it all the time. It’s like an instant facial for your skin. The glowy, skin-refresh effect comes from the cream’s healthy supply of peptides, which signal your body to produce more skin-firming collagen. I know this all sounds a bit abstract, but it truly does work. I love to use it this time of year, when my skin tends to look especially worse for wear because it’s so dry, too. You can use it as a once-in-a-while mask or, like I do, as an everyday cream (if you apply a thin layer). The catch is the price. A full jar costs a whopping $230, but here’s my advice about that: every so often it’s sold in a smaller set size for around $100. That smaller jar, which is pictured above, lasts me all winter, and then I don’t have to worry about it spoiling during the warmer months when I’m less likely to put it to use. It’s my annual treat to my skin, and to me, too.” —Ashley Weatherford
“There are so many different ways to exfoliate your body, and everyone here at ITG has their own preferred method. But mine, as of the past few months, is dry brushing. It is simply so easy: right before I hop in the shower and as I wait for it to warm up, I quickly go over my whole body with Wilding’s Aura Sweeper brush. I like this one in particular over the long-handled dry brushes I’ve tried in the past because its ergonomic shape becomes like an extension of my hand. I make quick but long strokes up my legs, arms, and stomach, and then down towards my heart on my neck and shoulders to aid in lymphatic drainage. Then I shower like normal, douse my patted dry body in oil, and enjoy incredibly smooth skin. Placing dry brushing squarely within my daily routine (before a shower) helps me stay consistent, so I have been. And I keep the brush out on my sink for easy access—though it’s comparable in price to other similar dry brushes, this one is exponentially more beautiful.” —AO
“Sadly, one of my favorite special occasion candles reached the end of its wick this month. It was a beautiful candle objet in a glass jar that doubled as a statement piece on my coffee table. Its cozy, savory, grassy, woody fig fragrance made it irresistible. I lit it on birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, in the company of close friends and roommates, and on days that I just needed a little extra joy. If this description feels like a eulogy, you should know I’m keeping my chin up: the Takamichi Beauty Room is still open in Gramercy Park, so I’ll stop by whenever I venture out of Brooklyn (hopefully soon!) to pick up another.” —UM
“If your 20s are about asking why you even need an eye cream, then your 30s, I think, are about realizing the answer. The self-sufficient machinery that has kept your skin relatively balanced for 20-plus years starts to slow down, and you notice it first around your eyes. Not wrinkles per se—more like general dryness—and I think one of the best insurance policies around is Amarte’s Eyeconic Eye Cream. I can’t get enough of this stuff. It’s got 3.8% retinol inside (not retinyl palmitate or some other weaker form) in addition to humectants and oils galore, so not only does it moisturize, but it strengthens skin while doing so. The airless pump keeps the ingredients fresh and plentiful, and peptides plump that delicate skin. I’ll admit I’m not the best at keeping up with this nightly ritual, but when I do (as I have the past two months), that extra step pays dividends. Just ask the concealer I haven’t touched since November.” —AW
Photos via ITG