Welcome to the annual BEST OF NATURAL BEAUTY! Every year, I take a minute to look back and call out some of my absolute favorite discoveries from the past 12 months. Lesssgo!
By: Lisa Fennessy
I don’t know about you, but 2023 was filled with a lot of personal and professional ups and downs. At 45, I find myself raising two young boys (10 and 11) while also trying to make sense of how it feels to have older parents who both have very serious health diagnoses.
My heart is often in two places at the same time. It makes it hard to spend time with my family because I feel pulled to be with my parents. And it’s hard to spend time with my parents because it means being away from my boys. Anyways, I know they don’t call it “the sandwich generation” for nothing—and I’m living that so hard right now.
Along with several external challenges that 2023 gifted me, I’ve been working really hard on rewiring some neural pathways that were SET DEEP from my childhood. I’m doing this work with my therapist and as I continue to get moments of clarity there are many times I have literally thought to myself this past year, “Am I bonafide crazy??!!” How have I lived like this my entire life?! This work is really hard but I have never felt more like I am on the precipice of something bigger so I am sticking to it.
Lastly, I’ve chosen the word “uncomfortable” for 2024. I don’t want to be scared to get uncomfortable personally and professionally. That’s where the growth happens and I want growth in my life. Personally, my husband and I are thinking about taking a stand up comedy class. (That scares the living shit out of me). And professionally, this year we are launching a project we’ve been working on for over 2 years now and I’m absolutely terrified and thrilled as the date nears.
Those are big ways to get uncomfortable but I also want to work this into the nuance of daily life too. Like to be the one to make plans instead of waiting to get invited out. To put my feelings into words. To read a book outside my wheelhouse. To publish something I normally wouldn’t publish…to order brazil nut milk in my coffee instead of almond milk (lol, jk on that last one).
On the other side of the coin, one of the highlights of 2023 (as it is with most years) was getting to discover some of the best of the best when it comes to clean beauty. I love writing this post because it’s a way to look at the past year as a whole and highlight some products that really stood out to me.
To keep this from turning into a best of all time post, I’m narrowing down these picks to new releases in 2023 OR products that I tried for the first time in 2023.
Per usue, aside from touting healthy ingredients, I also really wanted to hone in on EFFECTIVE products. Products you could essentially use for a very short period of time and see a difference.
I also want to take a moment and say goodbye and thank you to some brands that closed their doors this past year like ĀTHR, Earthwise Beauty and MŪN. It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know you and you will be sorely missed. 🤍
Top clean beauty products of 2023
The latest from Maya Chia blew me away this year. The AERC isn’t just an eye cream, it’s a mega hydrator with ingredients that actually work to do the two main things I want an eye cream to do: depuff (!!!) and reduce the appearance of dark circles (!!!). Plus, it has a very gentle amount of very real retinol in it which I personally love. All of this had me sold but when I saw a difference in the skin around my eyes in just 30 days, I pledged my allegiance lol.
I feel #blessed to have been introduced to LA FERVANCE this past year via a collab we did with local-ish clean beauty store Lala & Elm. Their Gommage Extraordinaire is an exfoliator and cleanser like no other and this dark, rich, creamy, thick, textured mask has me coming back when I need a skin reboot. Why? This gritty formula features exfoliating agents like macadamia seed powder, French quartz sand powder, seawater from the Bretonnes coasts, and organic sugar, while the rest of the team (including vegetable bamboo charcoal, Australian fruit complex, and French red algae extract) helps to moisturize, nourish and even skin tone.
My skin feels so soft and super clean without feeling dried out after this which is rare for a deep cleaning / detox-esque type of treatment. Also love that it’s (gold standard) COSMOS approved.
Iris&Romeo The Reset | $45
Holy shamolie. Haven’t had a mist knock me off my feet in a while and this one did it. Iris&Romeo calls this a 3-in-1 hybrid mist / serum that delivers instant results (and it does). Check it out:
- This is a mist and a serum in one
- Can be used as a makeup primer
- Or as a layer under your moisturizer
- Or as a glow boost on bare skin
- Has 4 molecular weights of hyaluronic acid to help hydrate
- Clinically proven to increase cell hydration by 85% (you can feel this!)
- Packed with ceramides to strengthen moisture barrier and plump
- And niacinamides to calm, reduce redness, smooth texture and minimize pores
- Plus antioxidants to protect
✨Consider this your two-second hack for glowing and dewy skin.✨
P.S. This mist is so hardy, I find it works best when I spray it on and then pat it into the skin. I personally LOVE IT before I apply foundation.
The very first time I tried red light therapy, I could instantly see a difference in my skin. So I was super excited to get my hands on the Current Body LED Face Mask to see if my streak continued to hold.
To put it to the test, I used this mask 1X a day for 30 days and HELLO, it totally delivered. I can see my skin tone has evened out significantly and the fine lines around my eyes appear less pronounced. Can you see that too?
Some things I really liked about this mask (compared to other devices I’ve tried):
1. It only takes 10 minutes.
2. This is a hands free experience and I can veg out or scroll the entire time.
3. It treats my entire face at the same time and I don’t have to take up more time to work in sections.
4. It has a rechargeable battery so it’s easy to travel with (I took it camping!) and you don’t have to be next to a plug to use it.
5. It doubles as a Halloween costume, lol, jkjk.
6. CurrentBody highlights it’s 31% more powerful than any other mask and the most powerful mask on the market (idk about that but it’s certainly the most powerful one I’ve tried).
7. And CurrentBody notes it has the perfect amount of lights with red and near infrared light to treat deep within your skin.
SAVE: THENEWKNEWLED will save you $60 off this mask. (HIGHLY RECOMMEND).
This foundation was a dark horse for me in 2023. I tried it earlier in the year and it didn’t leave an impression—but as I took it back out again to test for our Top 5 Clean Beauty Foundations post I was like….SCUSEME?! Why is this foundation is so perfect? And now it’s my daily go to.
It’s literally called “3 drop” foundation because you really only need 3 drops. (Sometimes I just do two. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone). I honestly don’t know how you can use such little foundation and have it have such good coverage. Also, love that it’s liquid and “looks like skin”. Plus it’s practically weightless and with just 3 drops a day I don’t see how this doesn’t last forever.
OMG this face oil. If you’ve been around for a minute, you know I’m obsessed with plum seed oil. So when I saw that Excel Radiance Oil featured not only plum seed oil but also marula and carrot seed oil? I almost died.
This has everything I love about plum seed oil (consistency, protection, max moisture and scent) but with the added benefit of:
- Carrot seed oil: a maximalist when it comes to vitamin A and collagen-boosting vitamin C
- Marula oil: an antioxidant powerhouse that revives dull skin
- And other big-timers like camellia, papaya, rice bran and golden jojoba
And it’s not just me! Excel Radiance Oil Serum was also a 2022 Beauty Shortlist Editor’s Choice Winner. If you are looking for a new face oil to try in 2024, make it this!
(And if you want to go all-in, combine this with the STELLAR Brilliance Concentrate for skin that is uber moisturized, plump, calm and radiant).
Let me start by saying, I’m a cleanser SNOB. For me, a cleanser has to have the right scent (AKA like, smell good), cleanse well without stripping, I prefer an oil but will go rogue if the texture is right, I also prefer it to rinse clean with water over having something I need to wipe off…see what I’m saying? I’m v. picky when it comes to cleansers.
So when I tried Wildling’s new Starnectar Barrier Protect Marshmallow Jelly Cleanser…and loved it? I was ⚰️.
This cleanser brightens, softens and supports the skin barrier which is great but I’m here for it’s jelly-esque texture, marshmallow-y vanilla scent and mega hydration. (This goes on like a thin jelly and milks up once you add water). This is one of those, you-just-have-to-try-it-to-believe-it types of products.
If you are a True Botanicals Resurfacing Moisture Mask stan (like me), you are going to love their new At Home Facialist Peel. It’s v. similar in nature but a lot stronger. I can feel this one working—so much so that I didn’t feel tempted to leave it on longer than the recommended 15 minutes. Which is probably because it has a concentrated blend of 27.2% AHA, BHA, PHA and THX which True Botanicals has designed “to exfoliate the skin to visibly reveal a smoother, brighter, clearer and more even-toned complexion.”
But this isn’t a mask that will rip your skin off and pat you on the back. It also has a unique electrolyte mineral complex that helps draw moisture in leaving skin hydrated and glowy while aloe juice, rosemary and ilipe butters help protect from redness and irritation.
Between you and me, the Resurfacing Moisture Mask has been on sale for a while now and I’m wondering if this is it’s replacement. It should be. It’s bigger, better and stronger. An at home staple IMO!
SAVE: TNK10 will save you 10% at True Botanicals.
As you may or may not know, we are on a YEARS LONG JOURNEY of testing all the clean beauty retinols to see which one(s) we like best—with the ultimate goal of being able to wholeheartedly recommend one to YOU. Which is neither here nor there BUT what I can tell you is that when Nicolle, Claire and I put Leahlani’s Aqua A Retinoid Renewing Serum to the test earlier this year, we sounded like we were a cascading symphony of Owen Wilson memes echoing each other like, “Wow, WOW, wow….WOW…” . 😂
What stood out to us the most is we love that this formula is formulated with low-irritation HPR retinoids so it’s super gentle while still delivering results. But not only that, it also has plumping ceramides to strengthen the skin barrier and improve elasticity, plus botanical antioxidants and marine superfoods to revitalize, tone and protect. And obviously, in true Leahlani fashion, the packaging and scent profile are both on point. File this one under “a true pleasure to use.”
SAVE: Code TNK10 to save 10% at Leahlani.
Soooooooo excited about this biodegradable eye mask trend, aren’t you?! This past year we’ve seen biodegradable eye masks launched by both three ships and Clean Circle. I’ve been obsessed with eye masks forever because they reduce puffiness and under eye circles almost instantly—but I personally hate all the packaging and one-time-usage-ness of it all. UNTIL NOW!
Made possible by red algae extract, a potent antioxidant and hydrating ingredient that allows the masks to adhere to your skin and break down when you’re done using them. We found the breakdown process a little cumbersome but trust that the small leftover bits being washed down the drain will break down on their own.
The other huge benefit is you get a ton of eye masks. Typically these types of under eye masks are sold individually ($7 each!) or in packs (5 for $30) but here we are served up a stack of 30 for $32 which is just about $1 each. File this find under “a girl’s best friend”.
Oway Hmelt Mask | $42
Back to my hair journey. I’m nothing without a purple hair product and now that I have gray hair, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs looks like breathing, food, water, shelter…purple shampoo. (To all my gray-haired ladies, youknowwhati’msayin’???).
Loving this purple hair mask by Oway. The purple tint is not too strong so you could use it daily if you wanted too. It’s also the perfect blend of mega conditioning without teetering on being too heavy or greasy. After I shampoo, I leave this in for however long I feel like it and not only does it keep my grays bright and brilliant, it also works to protect and moisturize. My hair feels so soft and sleek after drying it. Every. Single. Time.
Some people love ‘em, some people hate ‘em…and some people love to hate em but regardless of what category you fit into the phenomenon of celebrity beauty lines are not going anywhere anytime soon.
I’m in the camp of, if you are just going in for a cash grab, take a hike but if you are going to make something that knocks my socks off GET TO IT. Like how about Michelle Pfeiffer’s line of EWG Verified fragrances that actually smell good, look cute and not only rival but OUT SHINE conventional? YES GIRL YASSSSSS. But I digress.
Jennifer Aniston put out her haircare line in 2021 and to be honest, I didn’t even blink twice. I mean there is no way JENNIFER ANISTON is going to get me a second time. She already got me once in 7th grade with The Rachel cut I had to have.
But Credo happened to send me her line this past year and I’m telling you I’m over here
eating crow, I mean, eating my words (I see you PETA).
Jennifer Aniston really made a clean hair care line. 👏…👏…👏 (slow clap). I’ve tried the entire line and my top pick is her Perfecting Leave In. It’s super creamy and one pump is all I need. But applied to wet hair and then dried? My hair is shiny, sleek and tamed.
But it’s not just me, I said this to Claire the other day and she was like RIGHT????!!! More people need to know! And it’s not just the two of us either, in clinicals this product has shown to reduce frizz by 80% for up to 72 hours, protect against heat damage and reduce breakage by 70% and it’s been recognized by the following:
Allure Best of Beauty 2022
Harper“™s Bazaar Hair Awards 2022
NYLON Beauty Hit List Winner 2023
So… what is your favorite product of 2023?
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