It's The Final Countdown: Hannah's 2011 Best Of Beauty Round-Up

The awesome beauty products, new and old, that helped me survive the drudgeries of this weird-ass year.

Dec 30, 2011 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

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2011 has been weird. It's been full of crazy-wonderful ups and some brutal downs and general MADNESS.  It was really just plain odd

Don't get me wrong, a lot of good came out of 2011. I started this job, for one. Which has been amazing! I feel so blessed to be working, even if mostly from afar, with an amazing crew of talented, funny, diverse, sweet and lovely writers and staff members, all headed up by a personal idol of mine. xoJane.com is definitely going one of the UPs.

However, with the downs and the lows, there comes my personal methods of coping. I've divulged some of my secrets here and there, and a lot of the time it comes back to beauty. That's why I write about it and its wonderful transformative effects.

When you're extra, super-duper low (OK, I know sometimes you can get so low you don't even want to think about bathing or hairbrushes and all that), but when you're starting to feel better, beauty gives you that extra nudge. And beauty has been there for me this year.

I've been so lucky to have the opportunity to try products from different brands from all over the world, from luxury good-stuffs to awesome drugstore finds and everything in between. 

Yes, sometimes it feels like I'm bombarded with products. But I love to play with them and try them out, and when I find the really good stuff, that is what I write about. I don't want to B.S. you guys and write about things because I feel obligated to, that would be stupid.

When I notice myself using and re-using a product over and over again, that's when I know it's a keeper, and that's when I won't shut up about it.

So now that the year is coming to an end, it's time for me to reflect on the events (and products) that have changed my life. Here, in no particular order, a compilation of some of the best make-up, skincare, hair and perfume goods that became permanent fixtures in my collection.

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1. Anastasia's Brow Wiz Pencil ($20, sephora.com)

I sung the praises of this pencil earlier in the year, and rightly so. Its super-fine tip draws on precise faux brow "hairs" to fill in any sparse areas and give you exactly the brow shape you want. As I'm slowly letting my reddish hair go back to my natural colour, the Brunette shade suits me perfectly.

2. Becca's Compact Concealer ($38, beccacosmetics.com)

The shade selection for this British beauty line is incredible, and the coverage in this little concealer compact is just as amazing. One side provides a thick, creamy extra-covering formula for stubborn dark spots or rings under the eyes, the other side offers a medium-coverage formula for evening out skintone. This is always in my bag, and mine is severely beaten up and product is starting to run low. In my opinion, it's the best.

3. L'Oreal's EverSleek Smoothing Deep Conditioner ($8.99, drugstores)

My hair went through a lot this year. It was bleached, it was dyed, it was straightened and curled at such high temperatures that sometimes smoke rose from it. And yet somehow, it manages to look decent. I owe that in part to this conditioner. I used a LOT of different conditioners this year, and yet I always kept coming back to this one. It left my hair feeling light and smoothed down, it smells nice, it made my tangles slide right out. I cover my hair in it from scalp to root, leave it on under a towel for half an hour and then rinse out to amazingly smooth results. I'm hooked. 

4. Taylor Swift's Wonderstruck Perfume ($18-$59.50, sephora.com) and 5. A Beautiful Life Brand's I Heart Unicorns Perfume ($52, abeautifullife.com)

I love perfume. A lot. My collection keeps growing and spawning at such a speedy rate that I should probably start worrying and yet I keep spritzing and collecting, completely carefree. With Taylor Swift's perfume, I was surprised. I don't usually "do" celebrity perfumes. I tend to find them tacky. (No offense, celebrities, I'm sure your perfumes are nice and all but come on, stick to what you're good at). Well, then I smelled Taylor's and I found myself enamored. Wonderstruck is a surprisingly grown-up perfume. It's heady and sweet without being cloying. I suddenly found myself constantly applying the rollerball every few hours, needing my fix.

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Then there was A Beautiful Life Brand's I Heart Unicorns Perfume. Another sweet scent, completely on another level. It's nostalgic but modern. It smells like Sweet Tarts and freshly squeezed lemons, but then a bit of incense too, like being young and in love, with all of the crazy rebelliousness that comes with it. I loved this perfume so much I teamed up with ABL to give away a few bottles to you, the beautiful readers of xoJane.com. And you loved it too!

5. Kate Spade's Supercalifragilipstick! ($24, katespade.com)

I'm a sucker for packaging, and Kate Spade knew what they were doing (and they got me good) when they released these mouthful-of-a-title, gold-encased gorgeously creamy, matte but still-slightly-sheer lipsticks this Fall. Need another addition to your arsenal of fancy beauty? These pop-up lipsticks fit right in. I've been wearing the springy Pop Art Pink and Fuchsia Fete in an attempt to brighten up the dreary dregs of Winter.

6. Just about everything from Mario Badescu (various prices, mariobadescu.com)

I love make-up, it's fun and expressive and transformative and the colours are all so wildly beautiful. But I don't think any of it is worth a damn if you don't have a decent  canvas to start with, and so I am equally obsessed with skincare. With the ups and downs of the year, my skin went with it, culminating in a mad-crazy stress break-out this Summer that could only be saved by products from my beloved Mario Badescu.

I love MB because it works, and it's not just a one-size-fits-all brand. They have something for everyone, whether you're oily skinned, dried out, or somewhere in between. Or, if you're an allergy-prone, dry-skinned, rosacea sufferer who deals with the occasional hormonal break-out, they'll help you too. With great online customer service and a gorgeous, friendly-staffed spa in Manhattan, this brand is so well-rounded and that's probably why they're loved by so many beauty writers and fans alike.

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The stand-out products for me? The Drying Lotion ($17), their cult pink salicylic & sulfur cream that sucks the life out of zits overnight; the Azulene Calming Mask ($18), which tones down redness when sensitive skin has an episode; the Oil-Free Moisturizer (SPF-30) ($26), a must for protecting my pale skin day after day; and the Healing Cream ($17, all products at mariobadescu.com), a super-soothing lotion I apply to zits when I've been a little "picky." It heals them up nicely and lessens the appearance of scars.

7. Joe Fresh's Cream Blush ($8, Joe Fresh stores)

I introduced you to Joe Fresh earlier this year, and in the Fall it made its debut in New York City, bringing its wonderful Canadian stylishness across the border. The Beauty line, with its simplistic packaging and easy-to-use, awesome quality products, released a cream blush in the Spring. The Melon shade, a bright, almost-neon peachy-pink brightened up my cheeks and continues to do so (I wear it every single day. Literally.) Oh, Canada. You make me proud!

Now tell me, what products did you love so much that you used them up like a crack addict and then went out and bought a new one? I want to know how beauty made your year better.