From a standout cleanser to the perfect lip balm, here are the top five beauty products that won me over in 2013. What would you recommend?
Christmas is for giving and all that jazz – I get that, truly I do. But when everyone else is suitably taken care of in the present department, who deserves that final gift of the festive season bestowed on them? You, that's who. Time seems to get shorter, life is getting tougher and luxuries are all but cast aside. Which is why I implore you to congratulate yourself for making it through the year by treating yourself to something lovely. Here are the beauty products that truly stood out for me this year.
1. Shiseido Ibuki Purifying Cleanser, £29, feelunique.com
This deep-cleansing wash lathers up into the softest, richest foam I've ever encountered. A tiny blob covers your entire face. The Ibuki range (I'm an unashamed convert, I use it all) is aimed at keeping your skin in its happy state by warding off UV rays, pollution and stress, which can trigger breakouts and skin damage. Essentially, it's the best cleanser I've tried. That's not a judgement I make lightly.
2. Argentum Apothecary La Potion Infinie, £147, argentumapothecary.co.uk
This is a costly buy – I realise that – and a big, big investment. But having stumbled across this 99.5% naturally derived face cream from this niche brand, I really have to extoll its virtues. It uses silver hydrosol, an antibacterial that quells any build-up of bacteria. Its plumping effects are apparent immediately, and it leaves your skin petal-soft and balanced from its first use. It is definitely one for the skincare obsessives, but for a slightly cheaper option try Shiseido's Ibuki Refining Moisturiser, £42 (from the range above), which is similarly brilliant.
3. Bobbi Brown Old Hollywood Eye Palette, £59, bobbibrown.co.uk
Eye palettes can be a bit of a write-off when it comes to darker skins. We plough through the browns and blacks leaving the paler, silvery shades barely touched. This limited-edition eye palette from Bobbi Brown – the queen of flattering nudes – contains nine shades that I guarantee you'll use. It has the perfect colours for smokey eyes, a contoured 1940s look and a nude eye. The matte ivory shade is ideal for highlighting under the brow bone, and it gives a more modern finish rather than a pearly or metallic shade. Buy this, and your quest for the ultimate palette is over. (Also, I've dropped it twice and mine still hasn't shattered – huge win.) For cheaper palettes that suit darker skins, try Sleek's Au Naturel I-Divine Palette, £7.99, superdrug.com. (This will break if you drop it – I speak from experience.)
4. & other Stories Face Contour Cream, £10, stories.com
So few of us with darker skins are one single skin tone – we have a variety of subtle nuances of colour. That's why, when we apply foundation (especially long-wear or matte foundations), the colour can look a little flat and one-dimensional. This dark-brown translucent cream (which suits all skin tones, but works especially well on darker ones) can be applied just below the cheekbones starting at the hairline, or just under the apples of the cheeks and blended in well to create depth to the cheeks and face. If you've tried to contour before – which is no easy task – then this is your new best friend.
5. Clinique Chubby Stick Intense Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm, £17, clinique.co.uk
Of all the pointless, ineffective beauty products I loathe the most, tinted lip balm ranks as one of the highest. It's a personal thing; I adore thick ultra-matte lipsticks, but anything that's "barely there" just feels defunct. Then, I tried this little guy and my preconceptions were shattered. The texture is perfect; somewhere between a satin lipstick and a waxy balm. The giant pencil shape makes it easy to apply to lips, cheeks and eyes (that's how I use it post-gym with no other makeup. Try it, it works.) And this light pink-mauve shade is perfect; it's the ideal "natural" pink that suits darker lips. It has become a handbag staple – I never thought I'd say that.
• I'd love you to share your best beauty products for darker skin in the comment section below.
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