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As a grooming editor, I’m essentially a product-testing lab rat; I try hundreds of products a year all across my body, with the goal of telling you which ones are the best.
Because I test so many products so quickly, the best ones in my book are the ones that make a powerful and effective first impression—so much so that they become the products the become a part of my regular routine on the days I’m not testing something new. They keep my complexion the clearest, or my hair the most cooperative. They help me smell the best, and they often incorporate the best ingredients in the world—sometimes without breaking the bank. Whatever their angle is, I love the best-in-class products that do what they say they’re going to do better than their competitors.
It’s not easy picking the best grooming products of 2021, but it is a joy to share some favorites with you. Here they are, in no particular order.
Aesop Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Serum Intense
One of the year’s saddest moments was when my bottle of Aesop’s Anti-Oxidant Intense Serum finally ran dry. A 2-oz. bottle will deliver a triple threat of benefits to your skin: It hydrates and plumps skin beneath the surface, strengthens the skin’s defensive barrier thanks to a hefty hit of Vitamin E, and deflects pollutants and toxins with a featherlight parsley-powered shield. It’s a jacked-up and remixed spin on Aesop’s popular Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Serum, and one I’ll be sticking with henceforth.
Peace Out Skincare Repairing Moisturizer
Acne-prone and oily-faced individuals will be especially appreciative of this core-regimen launch from the beloved Peace Out Skincare. It’s a lightweight yet heavy-duty hydrator that works year-round (and as an excellent night cream, too). It packs gentle, anti-aging bakuchiol (a natural alternative to retinol), as well as ceramides and squalane to fortify the skin barrier and the moisture it contains. Side note: Blemish-prone folks should buy up everything from this brand.
Supergoop Daily Dose Hydra-Ceramide Boost + SPF 40 Sunscreen Face Oil
I’m a big advocate for SPF-powered moisturizers, but every so often I find one that I love without SPF (like the Peace Out product above), since they work as effectively at bedtime as they do during the day. So, for the daytime dose, I need to add the SPF myself. And Supergoop’s brand new SPF face oil is my current daily means, even at peak winter. A few drops cover my entire face, and absorb instantly, leaving no remnants of oil whatsoever. Plus, there are few names as reliable as Supergoop when it comes to effective sun protection. Just make sure it’s the final layer in your morning regimen, since moisturizers need to be applied prior to any oil in order to work properly.
SLMD Skincare Night Light Retinol Eye Cream
Every time I use SLMD products, I feel like I’m a lucky patient of Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) herself. She’s the queen of the clear complexion, all the way down to her age-targeting products like this new retinol eye cream. Apply it nightly to keep this extremely susceptible area hydrated, firmed, brightened and toned. It’s gentle all the while, too, which is more than can be said for most retinol products.
Reyal Layer 001 Supreme Face Wash
New activewear company Reyal launched five core skincare products: a moisturizer for day and another for night, a serum, body wash and this cleanser. You can buy their complete assortment to save a few bones, but if there’s one product from this excellent new brand I’d recommend most, it’s this gel cleanser. Heavy sweaters (whether from genetics or athletics) will appreciate the refreshing and balancing rinse it gives.
La Prairie Skin Caviar Nighttime Oil
After three years of R&D, legendary Swiss skincare brand La Prairie launched this night oil as part of its Skin Caviar assortment. This is the first oil-based product to utilize La Prairie’s proprietary cellular complex, all while delivering caviar-derived retinol to the skin. The result is a remarkable lifting and firming, one only this brand and these top-shelf ingredients could provide.
Church California Sun Wax Pomade
If your hair is short to medium, this wax is terrific for a high-texture, touchable hold. And like all of Church’s excellent products, it’s all-natural and powered by a ton of active ingredients. (In this case, they include shea butter, aloe, jojoba oil and more.) Few products are as good for your hair and simultaneously do such good things for your hairstyle.
Function of Beauty Custom Co-Wash
Function of Beauty did us all a favor by launching a new product in their custom-care assortment: The co-wash. While many people use their own conditioner to effectively rinse their hair (as a substitute for shampoo on the non-wash days), this product is designed for the task. It gives the slightest “rinse-wash” possible, while keeping the main focus on conditioning nourishment. It’s also designed for you, formulated to your specific hair goals and needs.
Billy Jealousy Hair & Beard Sea Salt Spray for Volume and Texture
If your hair is naturally textured or is medium to long, then a texturizing spray may be all you need to give it extra volume and definition. Billy Jealousy’s range of four sea salt sprays smell incredible and embrace a minimalist, laid-back approach to hairstyling. It’s a cost-effective way to get that touchable, enviable beach-hair texture.
Sisley-Paris Soothing Rebalancing Cure with Intense Rebalancing Complex
This scalp treatment from Sisley-pairs delivers Pro-Vitamin B5 straight to the dome, along with hair-fortifying and scalp-balancing extracts. After a few months of use, you’ll notice visibly healthier, shinier, stronger hair sprouting—and far fewer flaky or head-scratchy days.
Lazarus Douvos Rose 1845 Hair Oil
This scented hair oil provides defense against hair dryers, as well as all-day radiance and minimal frizz. It fortifies the strands that it helps protect, and makes your hair smell incredible, no less. This indie luxury brand was a happy discovery for 2021—a matching shampoo and conditioner round out its launch assortment.
Prose RootSource Custom Hair and Scalp Supplements
Custom hair-care brand Prose knows that hair health starts at the roots: These supplements target scalp health and follicle growth to ensure that you have plenty of perfect hair days in the months ahead.
British M Kombucha Shampoo
On the twice-weekly occasion that I dare wash my hair, I now entrust British M with the task. The company’s kombucha-fueled shampoo has sub-acidic pH levels that preserve the hair and scalp’s harmony, meaning they don’t get thrown out of whack by a simple 30-second rinse. That also means I shampoo with far less reticence than before, all thanks to a little fermentation.
R+Co Bleu Sleep Masque Night Repair Serum
The best guarantee for a great hair day starts the night before. Comb R+Co Bleu’s Night Repair Serum into your hair before bed, and then sleep on it. A morning rinse should reveal the softest, strongest, shiniest hair you’ve known, thanks to the powers of green caviar extract. This is a life-changing product for people with dry, damaged or fine hair.
Le Labo Thé Matcha 26 EDP
Thé Matcha isn’t the loudest scent in the room. And that’s by design: Le Labo made it to center the wearer. It is an invitation inside one’s own mind. This blend of matcha, fig, vetiver and cedar has secondhand soothing powers for those in its radius, too—making it as inviting to others as it is for oneself. Only those close to you will feel its warmth, and they’ll be grateful for it.
You know that inimitable aroma of a lover’s skin? No, not their B.O.—this is the stuff of pheromones, of electrifying nostalgia. Somehow Arquiste has successfully imitated it with Peau, allowing you to cast that spell as its wearer. Peau is a marriage of salt and musk freshly emanating from the skin, but in this case, masculine components like wood, clary sage, white pepper and ambergris accompany it.
Hermès H24 EDT
H24 is the luxury brand’s first pillar scent for men since the iconic Terre d’Hermès launched 15 years ago. And it’s an instant classic itself: the dynamic trio of metallic-earthy-woody notes celebrates the contemporary man and his ties to both nature and technology. It’s still new enough, too, that wearers will enjoy “I had it first” status; years from now it’ll be as ubiquitous as Chanel Bleu or Dior Sauvage—that’s how confident I am in H24’s performance.
BODY + SHAVING
Claus Porto Alface Green Leaf Bar Soap
Not only does Claus Porto’s new green-scented Alface assortment make a terrific gift for your mother-in-law, but it is also one of the best scents from the best body care brand. I suggest you stock up on this soap for whenever you have houseguests, or to keep a hand-nourishing bar by the kitchen sink. (It’ll last you months at the slow rate it dissolves.) Ditto for the body wash and lotion duo. This is the stuff of 5-star hotel bathrooms.
Protéger Dermal Serum
This full-body serum packs stabilized Vitamin C for an all-over glow, hyaluronic acid for moisture retention, coffee extract to boost circulation and nutrient delivery to the skin, Vitamin E to nourish and fortify, as well as aloe to soothe and calm. You can save it for your face if you want it to last half the year, or spread the love if you want head-to-toe benefits. I love that they include a travel-friendly vial, too, since one gripe I have about large-sized products, no matter how big, is that they aren’t inherently packable for weekends away. Protéger has you covered, literally.
Panasonic Body Groomer ER-GK80-S
An upgrade on Panasonic’s previous V-nozzled body trimmer, this all-over hair tamer was designed to get into the most awkward crevices and angles without so much as a pinch. It’s waterproof and holds a 50-minute charge, and doesn’t take up a ton of space. There’s no reason to use your beard trimmer anywhere below your chin anymore. (Was there ever?)
Goodline Grooming Co. Shave Assortment
Goodline launched one of the most expansive beard and shave assortments with CVS this year, all at extremely accessible prices. You can round out your entire regimen, from a beard outliner to a touch-up blade to a safety razor, seen above—or create a set to help —or at the very least, their mega-soothing aloe-, eucalyptus-, and peppermint-tinged shave cream.