We curled, blotted, scrubbed, and swiped our way through hundreds of products to share this year’s top picks.

By Patricia Shannon
September 16, 2020
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
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There’s a lot of noise out there. Even walking down the antiaging aisle can feel overwhelming. Is the answer to fewer crow's-feet a cream, serum, gel, or oil? And what about foundation—should you go for the SPF version or apply a dedicated sunscreen instead? As for nail polish with the most staying power, well, you’ve done the work and still can’t pinpoint a top coat worth writing home about. That’s where the Southern Living beauty editors and our knowledgeable team of panelists come in. We’ve tested countless products to bring you the best in beauty, all from the names and brands you’ve loved and trusted for years. From a curling iron that will finally achieve the loose movement you’ve been searching for, to a toothbrush that actually helps you become a better brusher, these are the beauty products you'll wonder how you ever lived without.

Credit: Getty/Anna Efetova

The Best Hair Heroes

Set yourself up for nothing but good hair days with the help of a natural-curl-enhancing, UV-filtering gel that gives humidity the heave-ho; a round brush with crown-boosting benefits; a serum that’s designed to cure split ends; and more.

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

The gold barrel is the secret to quick styling that holds. With settings up to 430 degrees, it can be customized to suit a variety of hair textures and types. 

BUY IT: $39.99; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

This light-as-a-feather oil is the gold standard in breezy shine that’s never weighed down. Use on damp hair before styling for UV and heat protection, or smooth onto dry strands for an impossibly silky finish.

BUY IT: $40; sephora.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Product buildup doesn’t stand a chance with this nourishing and refreshing conditioner that calls on witch hazel, peppermint oil, and tea tree oil to balance and moisturize strands from scalp to ends.

BUY IT: $6.79; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Find a shampoo that leaves hair feeling light, fresh, and moisturized and you’ll know you have a winner. This longtime favorite fits the bill.

BUY IT: $7.76; amazon.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

The water-based formula can be used on wet hair to create lift from the start or after styling as a volume-boosting finishing spray.

BUY IT: $5.99; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Guard every last curl or coil against humidity while locking in moisture and style—all without the crunch and heft. A UV filter arms hair against environmental damage.

BUY IT: $26; ulta.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Say goodbye to split ends with this creamy serum that seals ends and smooths frayed strands for locks that look like they're straight out of the salon chair. Use on wet hair prior to styling or on dry hair to finish.

BUY IT: $40; bluemercury.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

The real secret to mastering the art of the round brush? Finding one that does the hard part for you. The perforated ceramic barrel cuts dry time while adding volume and body to short- to medium-length hair.

BUY IT: $40; sephora.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Use this fast-acting hair mask that’s safe for color-treated hair as a leave-in treatment, a mask, or in place of your standard conditioner for softer, smoother, more moisturized strands.

BUY IT: $6.49; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

The lightweight dry shampoo leaves hair feeling clean and lightly fragrance with neroli—an ingredient often called for in crisp, clean (and not at all powdery) perfumes. 

BUY IT: $36; sephora.com

The Best Makeup Magicians

From a clean mascara that primes, lengthens, and volumizes to a new, highly pigmented blush that will convince you to make the switch, these are the cosmetics we can’t stop talking about.

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

With just a hint of color and formulated with vitamins C and E, botanical oils, and a trio of omegas, ChapStick total Hydration is putting the pretty in lip care. It comes in six shades, including sheer.

BUY IT: $7; ulta.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

We haven’t found another top coat with quite the shine and staying power of Essie’s gel-like formula. The quick-dry finish is designed to seal and protect nails—including that sassy red varnish you just can’t get enough of.

BUY IT: $11.49; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Use the cushioned brush to apply, then gently blend outward. The goji berry- and peptide-powered formula is concentrated to smooth fine lines, correct dark circles, and freshen up tired under eyes.

BUY IT: $7.98; amazon.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

While on the pricier end of budget-friendly mascaras, it comes with a bonus lash primer that builds volume and length before you even swipe on the clump-resistant mascara. You'll be hailing it a game changer after the first use.

BUY IT: $16.99; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Bust the color vs. moisture battle with a bullet that has both locked down. A serum hidden in the center of vibrant color keeps lips hydrated and younger-looking for up to 9 hours.  

BUY IT: $8; walmart.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Whether you’re a reformed acrylic user or simply suffer from breakage or peeling, this strengthener will get your digits in tip-top shape. Apply a pump to fingertips and distribute to nails and cuticles for stronger, more resilient nails.

BUY IT: $4.99; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

This talc-free loose powder sets makeup for a poreless, flawless finish. It comes in three shades, each with just a hint of color.

BUY IT: $34; sephora.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

A wrinkle camouflaging primer that creates the ultimate canvas for makeup takes flawless to new heights. 

BUY IT: $39; ulta.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Smooth-as-butter application, three finishes (matte, shimmer, and satin), and 36 shades make this a winner. Editor's Tip: Go for Blacquer 42.  

BUY IT: $26; sephora.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

You only need one swipe of this high-impact blush. Start at the hairline and work your way in for natural-looking definition.

BUY IT: $7.94; walmart.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

If you want people to think your skin is just naturally luminous and poreless, this foundation is the secret. It’s an oil-free gel with a lightweight finish that doesn’t skimp on coverage.

BUY IT $78; nordstrom.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

For a natural, perfectly polished look, swipe on this clear brow gel. Long and short bristles ensure every last hair is perfectly shaped and held in place for up to 24 hours.

BUY IT: $24; sephora.com

The Best Antiaging All-Stars

What do a retinol cream that’s gentle enough for the neck and décolletage, a pollutant-blocking vitamin C serum, and an SPF that plays nice with makeup all have in common? Each one is designed to forgive those years when you didn’t quite heed Mama’s skin-care advice.

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Bottled up sunshine comes in the form of Beautycounter’s new vitamin-C powered serum. It brightens and reduces discoloration with two different types of vitamin C and antioxidant powerhouse turmeric.

BUY IT: $79; sephora.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Forget fanning your face to get serums to soak in before putting on your makeup, this eye cream absorbs on the double and leaves skin hydrated for 12 hours. Apply it twice a day to get around-the-clock benefits. 

BUY IT: $36; marykay.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

A gentle yet effective facial oil is a moisturizing superhero for sensitive, overstressed skin. This one packs in the nutrients without a hint of fragrance. Use it with a retinol regimen or as a wintertime treat to keep skin fully hydrated and glowing all season long.

BUY IT: $72; sephora.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

This retinol-powered cream is gentle enough for the delicate neck area, while packing enough power to minimize hard-to-shake wrinkles and lines. If this is your first time using a retinol on your neck, start by applying every other night, or even twice a week. Gradually work your way up to nightly use. 

BUY IT: $120; SkinCeuticals.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

When you’re in need of a skin refresh, fast, this is the ticket. It pairs concentrated hyaluronic acid with antioxidants to hydrate and soothe on contact while defending against environmental aggressors.

BUY IT: $80; esteelauder.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Hyaluronic acid is like a magnet for moisture, drawing it in and locking it down. This fragrance-free moisturizer delivers all the hyaluronic power without clogging up pores or leaving a hint of stickiness.

BUY IT: $16.99; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

It is possible to find a sunscreen that plays nice with makeup, and EltaMD’s daily SPF is it. The lightweight formula hydrates while it protects, doesn’t pill, and is gentle enough for the most sensitive skin.

BUY IT: $29.50; dermstore.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Apply twice daily to wrinkles, lines, and creases for targeted antiaging results in as little as a week. For all-over benefits, mix a drop or two with moisturizer.

BUY IT: $41.99; ulta.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Make your Monday morning facial dreams a reality with this gentle exfoliating formula that works with your shower’s steam to unclog pores and brighten skin.

BUY IT: $7; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

This brand-new release made the cut for its budget-friendly price point and gentle retinol formula that's bolstered with hydrating ingredients to offset dryness and irritation.

Available starting in October at walmart.com

The Best Skin-Care and Oral-Care Savers

Ten necessities that go beyond the basics, like one-and-done mini toothbrushes designed for freshening up on the fly and a budget-friendly in-shower body mask that sloughs off tired cells to uncover head-to-toe baby-soft skin.

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

A quarter of the formula is dedicated to moisturizing ingredients that help maintain a healthy skin barrier, the secret to sealing in hydration.

BUY IT: $6.39 for four; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

It's possible to use a whitening toothpaste on sensitive teeth without cringing, and Arm & Hammer proves it. Enamel-eroding acids are neutralized with the baking soda bolstered formula to help whiten and gently clean teeth, all while promoting gum health.

BUY IT: $3.48; walmart.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Hydration has never been easier with this unique, water-activated formula. Slick it on wet skin, then towel off to unveil soft, smooth, and moisturized skin.

BUY IT: $10.99; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Mix with water straight in the container to create a paste for applying directly to dry skin, focusing on problem areas like elbows, legs, or any patches in need of extra moisture. Let it sit for five minutes or until dry, then peel off and rinse.

BUY IT: $7.99; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

The next generation of rechargeable toothbrushes has arrived. Bluetooth technology enables the Genius X to connect to your phone where it coaches you through how to maximize your brush time based on your individual brushing behaviors. Now that’s smart.

BUY IT: $219; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

This luxurious, non-drying hand soap calls on essential oils, olive oil, and a gentle citrus scent to cleanse and refresh hands while leaving behind a deep-breath-inducing fragrance.

BUY IT: $3.99; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

For hands in serious need of some R&R, this fast-acting cream formulated with phospholipids, shea butter, and glycine repairs the moisture barrier, arms skin with essential nutrients, and smooths and reduces the appearance of discoloration, crepiness, and wrinkles.

BUY IT: $29; ulta.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Double the sweat protection, zero white marks, and all the clean, dry feel.

BUY IT: $11.99; target.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Sure, you can keep a spare toothbrush in your purse, but why would you when a pack of these disposable mini brushers are just a grocery run away? The minty flavor bead freshens breath while the bristles gently clean teeth and gums.

BUY IT: $4.22; walmart.com

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Even before you slip into the warm salt soak, the soothing fragrance is already doing work to relieve stress and calm senses. Two cupfuls in a tub of warm water for 20 minutes softens skin, reduce aches, and helps achieve total relaxation—well, mostly.

BUY IT: $4.87; walmart.com