15 beauty products I always recommend to friends

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Lauren Caruso is an In The Know shopping contributor. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for more.

After spending more than a decade in the fashion and beauty industry, I’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a good product. In fact, I’ve probably tried more than 10,000 beauty products — half of those during my time at Allure magazine. I can tell almost instantly when something is worth the price, and my friends and family have come to depend on me for recommendations; that means I have an almost categorical knowledge of the best skin care, hair and makeup products on the market. 

Still, as someone in her mid-thirties (gah) with naturally flat, lifeless hair and an affinity for dewy skin, I’ve come to rely on the same dozen or so beauty products that I always keep stocked. For skin care, I’m always on the hunt for products that won’t irritate my sensitive, breakout-prone skin but will instead keep it bright and glowing. I’m also fairly simple when it comes to makeup: The products that stay in my rotation lend a dewy (but never shiny) finish to my skin and can all be used without the help of a makeup brush. Since the pandemic started, I’ve completely abandoned my heat tools in favor of air-drying, and I’ve adjusted my routine to include a ton of smoothing and shine serums that bring out my natural wave. 

Ahead, the 15 beauty products I always recommend to friends, as well as why I love them so much.


Shop: Oribe Shampoo for Magnificent Volume, $46

Credit: Dermstore

Some volumizing shampoos tend to strip the hair of all moisture, but this one from Oribe — which smells amazing, too — gives my hair weightless volume with a soft finish.

Shop: OSiS Dust It Powder, $9.99

Credit: Amazon

This is absolutely my desert-island product; it’s completely transformed my flat, lifeless hair. The first thing I do after I towel-dry is give my crown a few puffs of OSiS’s Dust It volumizing powder, which also gives my roots a bit of grip. When my hair starts feeling flat, I just flip my head over and run my fingers through my crown to give it new life.

Shop: IGK Good Behavior Spirulina Protein Anti-Frizz Smoothing  Balm, $33

Credit: Sephora

I’ve mostly abandoned all my heat tools, but I still find myself reaching for this smoothing balm every day. My hair can get a touch frizzy on the ends, especially when I’m overdue for a haircut, but IGK’s spirulina protein-infused balm works wonders at calming flyaways and concealing dead ends. 

Shop: NatureLab Tokyo Shine Oil Mist, $16

Credit: Ulta

Most oils are made for thick hair that can soak it up, but this mist works wonders for thinner hair, too. I spray it onto my hands and work it through my ends instead of spraying directly onto my hair — it lends a ton of shine with none of the grease. When I’m in a rush, I combine it with the IGK balm and apply it all at once.

Shop: Ouai Wave Spray, $22

Credit: Sephora

After years of using salt sprays that gave my hair an unmistakable crunch, I switched to Ouai’s Wave Spray back in 2018, and I’ve never looked back. As my last step, I spritz this on my wet hair, give it a few tousles and let it do its magic. 


Shop: Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, $29.50

Credit: Paula’s Choice

This exfoliating liquid from Paula’s Choice is a cult-favorite for a reason: It minimizes pores, clears out blackheads and lends a radiance to your skin that seems almost impossible in the dead of winter. 

Shop: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, $15

Credit: Dermologica

Some physical exfoliants can be really rough on your skin (especially the ones that have apricot shell matter), but this one from Dermalogica is rice-based — and totally gentle on even the most sensitive complexions. It polishes away dead skin cells for a brighter face in no time.

Shop: Simple Micellar Water, $6.29

Credit: Target

I’ve tried dozens of micellar waters, including the *really* expensive ones, but I keep coming back to this one. It gets all my makeup off in one fell swoop and doesn’t leave a weird greasy cast on my skin.

Shop: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench SPF 45 Hyaluronic Cloud Moisturizer, $52

Credit: Dermstore

This aptly named moisturizer, which boasts the right amount of SPF for everyday wear, truly sinks right in. It gives my skin a dewy, non-greasy finish. 

Shop: Caudalie Beauty Elixir, $49

Credit: Caudalie

Lest you believe a grape water mist is a waste of money, know that Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir helps reduce the appearance of pores, helps your skin care sink in better and is overall one of my favorite mid-day refreshers. It smells like heaven, too. 


Shop: Yves Saint Laurent Touché Éclat All-Over Brightening Concealer Pen, $38

Credit: Sephora

There’s a reason everyone who tries YSL’s Touche Eclat ends up swearing by it. Not only does it brighten truly dark circles, but it also gives your eyes a lit-from-within glow without creasing or caking. One pen usually lasts me three months.

Shop: Maybelline Brow Ultra Slim Defining Eyebrow Pencil, $7.99

Credit: Ulta

This dual-ended brow pencil is great for faking hairs, as well as filling in less dense areas. I use the Dark Brown.

Shop: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, $30

Credit: Sephora

There’s no better formula for breakouts, blemishes or dark spots than NARS’ Creamy Concealer. It doesn’t slip or cake, and with 60 shades available, it’s easy to get a true match. (Mine’s Nougatine.)

Shop: Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint, $46

Credit: Dermstore

I’m not big on the way foundation often mattifies my complexion, but this liquid skin tint from Ilia — which boasts niacinamide, squalane and hyaluronic acid — offers the perfect amount of coverage with a dewy finish. 

Shop: Glossier Cherry Balm Dot Com, $12

Credit: Glossier

I know this isn’t technically blush, but I swipe it on my lips and the apples of my cheeks for a very convincing flush.

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