When people talk about "cult" products, they often mention bestsellers or classic beauty products that people have been buying for ages. I've tried a lot of different beauty products in my time (seriously, a lot), but whenever it comes down to arbitrarily defined "cult" products, I've always been a little bit in the dark.
What makes a product a fan favorite? Why do some people wax rhapsodic over some products specifically? Is it marketing and a hive mindset, or are these products really as awesome as they are purported to be? In order to get to the bottom of the phenomenon, I asked 30 of my female friends to tell me what their favorite cult products are, and why.
Answers ranged from the innocuous — "great shades, long lasting, moisturizing, and always get compliments when I wear it for some reason," — to the intense: "if the ever stop making those or that seashell eye shadow my life will be over." But, at the end of the day, I had a list of 11 products that were recommended by multiple people and that had been summarily agreed upon as "cult" favorites. Some of them I had used before, but in the interest of journalism, I decided to try them all at once. Yes, you're welcome.
I've actually loved this product since I was very, very little (Clinique is my mom's weapon of choice), so it was no surprise that I liked using it. It made my face soft but not greasy, and quenched my thirsty skin after getting out of the shower.
This product is pricey, but honestly, I think it is worth it. It was cited by two of my friends as one of their cult faves, and as you can see below, when I use it around my eyes it manages to disguise my dark circles and brighten my whole face, all in one quick application.
I also used it as a highlighter/concealer hybrid on my cupids bow. It definitely is more of a highlighter than a concealer however, so if you're looking for a lot of coverage, this may not be the pricey product for you.
I've raved about NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer before, but one of my friends stated that she would "die without it," so I knew I had to include it again. I dabbed it on a few blemishes that had popped up on my face (what's good, PMS? How are you doing today?), and blended for a soft concealing effect.
The product is so weightless and light, and the buildable coverage makes concealing anything from zits to dark circles easy (which is a plus for lazy girls like me).
This product is something that I've personally been obsessed with since I discovered it in college.
I know it's basically just silica powder, but I've never been able to find another setting powder that leaves the smooth, oil-free, and positively satiny finish that this one does. You can't even really see much of a difference after I've applied it, but it makes me feel awesome and isn't that all that matters?
This was mentioned as another pricey fave by a few of my friends. It is definitely smooth and hydrating, but after the application and taking photos, I'm not sure it fully lives up to the hype. It might be great for intensive overnight hydration, but I don't think it makes my lips look any better than good old Aquaphor in this instance.
People LOVE these little metal treasures. I personally think that the design and packaging is their most distinguishing feature (they are so easy to find in your purse and they feel so solid in your hands!). However the soft lip treatment does apply a nice tint of color while hydrating your lips.
Anastasia Beverly Hills is usually a fan favorite, but although this brow pen was fantastically easy to use, I'm not sure I loved the way it looked after application—I prefer a brow powder to fill in my sparse brows. However, I can see why this was recommended, as it is simple and fast with a lot of color intensity in each stroke.
My beautiful and tan friend Julia actually recommended Benefit's Hoola Bronzer, but that was way too dark on my skin (sorry Julia, the perils of being translucent are real!). I tried the other cult fave Dandelion instead, which I've actually never tried in all of my years (I know, what?). I was totally obsessed with this. It actually showed up rosier on my actual skin, which was a welcome surprise given how light it looked in the box. My whole face was brightened up, which made me feel lovely and sunny.
This is a classic cult favorite and known as a red that "looks good on everyone"—my friends seem to agree, I got this recommended by three people. I love MAC lipstick so much, they offer more colors than the rainbow (cool idiom Kathleen), and their matte shades are some of the best I've ever worn. However, I actually don't think Ruby Woo looks that good on me (don't kill me). I can completely see how it might be a great shade for a lot of people, but for me it just doesn't seem to work that well. Sound off in the comments if you hate me, but that's my hot take.
My friends Sam and Karin (both of whom have epic makeup game) both said their number one product obsession was Diorshow Mascara. And, confession, when I lived with Karin in college she used to let me use hers sometimes (ew I know so bad we were 19 don't judge us). Sam also raved, writing, "my eyelashes honestly wont curl with anything else! They stay long looking and thick throughout the day....even if I sleep in it, I wake up and they look great! It doesn't smudge or smear."
I tried Diorshow again for the first time since college, and though I thought it was a little clumpier than my usual faves, I had to agree with Sam on the curling factor.
This was possibly my favorite product recommendation, as my friend Nicole said that she "bought like 50 of them for fear they will stop making it." I was immediately into how highlighted and glow-y the eyeshadow made my eyes, and I actually think, with my light af skintone, this could be used as a great brow bone highlighter in a pinch.