The 6 Products Our Beauty Columnist Emptied Out in December

Photo: Rio Viera-Newton

There’s no more convincing testament to a beauty product than using it to the very end of the tube or bottle or tub. To find out about the products that are worth excavating (as well as the satisfaction of snooping inside someone else’s bathroom cupboard), we occasionally invite friends of the Strategist to tell us about their empties for the month. In this installment, Strategist beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton tells us what she used to the last drop in December.

The truth is, there’s nothing especially crazy about the formula of this product — like a lot of excellent moisturisers out there, it uses shea butter, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and peptides. But there’s something about the texture of this particular cream that I just can’t get enough of — it’s deeply skin-quenching without being too heavy, and leaves my skin looking super-glowy. Plus, it has the added benefits of SPF 15, so you’re giving your skin some low-level protection against the sun, making it a perfect cream to reach for during the winter months (though I personally do like to apply an additional sunscreen on top, to be safe). And, of course, seeing as it’s a Charlotte Tilbury product, it’s one of the best moisturisers I’ve ever used for prepping my skin for makeup — foundation and blushers just glide onto the skin without ever pilling or getting patchy. This is probably my fourth jar of the stuff — I’ve used all different sizes, but this one is the 150 ml — and I reckon I’ll purchase another one soon.

Full disclosure: This product was kindly gifted to me by the brand in a PR package, but I’d long been curious about the über-luxurious, extremely pricey Vintner’s Daughter products. Of all the indie, “clean beauty” brands on the market, Vintner’s Daughter is arguably one of the most cult-y — Gwyneth Paltrow, Hailey Bieber, and Tracee Ellis Ross are among some of its most faithful customers. But as a beauty writer, I’ve tried and tested so many face oils and essences in my day, I couldn’t imagine these could be all that different or even remotely warrant the steep price tag. But here’s the thing: After a few weeks of using the essence and face oil religiously, my skin was the best it’s looked in months. This essence formula uses a cocktail of lactic acid (for gentle exfoliation), green tea (for calming redness or irritation), apple cider vinegar (for reducing inflammation), oat (for soothing and conditioning), and niacinamide (for refining texture), among several other gold-star ingredients. Together, these ingredients work to deeply hydrate the skin, smooth textural issues, and shrink breakouts, while also brightening up any dullness or hyperpigmentation. This bottle lasted me about six months: I pat three or so drops into my skin, every other evening, right after cleansing. It’s certainly expensive, but if this happens to be in your budget — and I’m jealous if it is — it’s worth it. It’s also a really excellent, fancy gift for anyone who loves skin care.

You can find Glossier’s beloved Balm Dotcom in the handbags of most millennials and Gen-Zers alike for a reason: It’s adorable, it does a solid job at hydrating dry or cracked lips, and all of the flavours taste great. I think I have at some point owned just about every flavour Balm Dotcom available, but the Mango formula is my most recent one to make it down to the final drop. The product has a very slight peachy tint that’s perfect for very subtle, barely there, no-makeup makeup days, and its tropical flavor feels like a little vacation in a bottle, which is particularly nice during the wretched winter months.

When it was still baking hot outside, I found myself sleuthing beauty stores and sub-Reddits for a new everyday sunscreen. In order to really love a sunscreen, I need it to be hydrating and completely white-cast free, and to leave a beautiful dewy glow behind — I want it to be something I’m actually excited to put on my skin daily. So I stopped by my favourite store in New York for all things Asian beauty — oo35mm in Chinatown, which is a must-visit if you find yourself in the States — and the wonderful staff there immediately recommended this SPF from Japanese brand Omi. This fragrance-free, alcohol-free, chemical-free sunscreen has a really moisturising formula, which I really appreciate in the wintertime, as it not only adds another layer of hydration to my skin-care routine but also leaves behind a really nice glow. And in addition, the formula includes some of my favourite skin-care ingredients of all time, like green tea, glycerin, and aloe vera, which has anti-inflammatory, soothing, and moisturising properties; as someone with dry and acne-prone skin, it helps a lot with general day-to-day redness. This sunscreen uses the Japanese filters octinoxate, Uvinul A Plus, Tinosorb S, and octocrylene, which provide broad-spectrum protection without leaving any kind of white cast behind. It’s also incredibly affordable! Sadly, the store in NYC where I originally picked this up doesn’t ship internationally, but Stylevana does — and it’s a great place to shop for Asian beauty products.

Vitamin C is a wonderful antioxidant-rich ingredient for brightening hyperpigmentation marks and delivering radiance to your complexion. But it often comes with one big caveat: L-ascorbic acid, the most common vitamin C derivative used in skin-care products, oxidises quickly. Many times in the past I’ve purchased a fancy vitamin C serum — namely the incredibly efficacious, pricey one from Skinceuticals — only to find that it had turned dark orange and expired after a month or two. This is why I was so excited when I heard about Holifrog’s Sacred C Powder Wash — an L-ascorbic-acid powder that, when mixed with a bit of water, activates and turns into a creamy, lightweight, vitamin-C-rich cleanser. The liquid-free powder formula makes it perfect for travelling and also ensures for a much longer shelf life. I’ve had this powder in my medicine cabinet for over a year and only just finished it up recently.

As someone with eczema, I have always appreciated the products from Tatcha’s Indigo line, which are all fragrance-free and suitable for ultra-sensitive, dry-skin types. While this cream is relatively lightweight in texture, it seriously packs a punch — it uses ceramides and anti-inflammatory and calming indigo, as well as skin-balancing mondo root extract, which work together to deeply moisturise the skin and protect your skin’s natural barrier, which is what helps keep moisture and lipids in our skin. I’ve used this on freezing, windy days and always come home to soft, hydrated skin — never chapped or flaky. Even though it’s intended for nighttime use, my skin is so dry that I find myself reaching for it on cold mornings as well, which is probably why I finished it up in about three months.

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The 6 Products Our Beauty Columnist Emptied Out in December