Advertisement information: this post does not discuss gifted items however I have / have had a brand relationship with  Deciem / the Ordinary, CosRX, Skin Library, Hello Sunday, SkinCeuticals, Zelens, Monday Muse and Facetheory (gifting) and Tonic 15 (affiliate code and link below) and Medik8, Space NK and the Inkey List (paid content). My blog has Skimlinks and RewardStyle installed to automatically monetise purchases of products I link on my blog, therefore my content may contain affiliate links. All opinions remain my own and please refer to my Disclosure Page  for further detail -

Today it's time to reveal your favourites, fails, hits and misses of the past 12 months in beauty! 

The winner of the £50 Cult Beauty voucher is Keylani Deepani, who has been contacted via email and thanks to everyone for taking part! Now, on to the results...

Image via: vogue.co.uk

The Inkey List was voted your favourite affordable skincare brand by quite a margin. They're definitely in the 'single ingredient active' category but they do a lot of education around how to use their products, what the ingredients do and how they do it but they also have a number of more complex formulas that combine different actives. This is the first year of this poll that the Ordinary haven't won!

Check out my reviews of the Inkey List here.

What I think...

I got really into the Inkey List back at the end of 2019 to the start of 2020, and they definitely would've been my favourite this time last year, but more recently I discovered Facetheory. They're a little more expensive but there's usually a discount code floating around (I have one, actually: JASMINETALKSBEAUTY25 for 25% off (not affiliate)) and I think it's worth it for their more complex blended actives. They're like an elevated version of the single-active brands, combining different ingredients for a multi-pronged attack on your skin concerns.

Check out my brand review of Facetheory here.

Image via: sephora.com

I'm not surprised this was voted your most annoying trend of 2021: you guys are a smart bunch and see right through the scare-mongering and vague promises of 'clean beauty' and its random demonisation of innocuous ingredients that have been used in cosmetics safely for decades (apparently retinyl palmitate is 'bad' now?!) I'm really glad that my audience have a science-based approach to skincare and assess the benefits and drawbacks of using or not using an ingredient with the evidence we have, cutting right through the marketing nonsense. Close runners up in the vote were exaggerated product claims and celebrity beauty brands so you're all clearly critical thinkers!

What I think...

I agree with you all on this one. Every time a brand makes a bit performance about their 'non-toxic' formulas, I'm like: 'sorry, are we still doing this?' It's so ridiculous and exhausting, and completely unscientific. I think we need to just realise that, no: cosmetic formulators are not trying to kill you. If there's an ingredient you personally don't get along with then you can avoid it and that's what the INCI List is for, but this wooly undefined 'clean' category is not helpful in getting people to actually think about and research what's in their skincare, it tries to just give people 'good' ingredients and 'bad' ingredients without backing up their claims with studies done in the context of skincare formulation.

Image via: yesstyle.com

You guys voted for CosRX as your favourite K-beauty brand by a mile. Which totally makes sense, as it's become way more accessible here in the UK in the past year or so. Their sunscreen passed its independent testing, they were key in bringing the hydrating benefits of snail mucin to a Western audience and they have some great gentle actives in their line too.

Check out my reviews of CosRX here.

What I think...

It has to be I'm From, for me, I think! I discovered this brand last year through working with Tonic 15 as an affiliate (sidebar: you can get 15% off full-sized products with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY) but I've just found myself reaching for their products so much this year. Each mini-line is themed around a different fruit or plant extract and the products are just great. It's more of a mid-range option for K-beauty, but I do think it's worth it for the luxurious formulas! I've also been loving the gentle actives of Axis-Y this year; they really do get the balance right between effective skincare and being kind to the moisture barrier.

Check out my reviews of I'm From here.

Check out my review of Axis-Y here (sponsored).

Image via: bodynseoul.com

This was the clear winner and I'm not surprised! It started with 3rd party testing showing Purito's beloved Centella Green SPF 50 had come back at an SPF 19. It was then put through further testing with some suggesting an SPF value in the 20s, but the situation remained: it was repeatedly demonstrated to offer far less protection than it purported to. Then the Korean drug testing authority tested all of the sunscreens manufactured by the same factory and more broadly, with other formulas being pulled from the market. It wasn't limited to Korean brands either, with many Western formulas failing to meet their SPF claims by a significant margin. The skincare community was shook and we were left wondering if we could trust any sunscreen on the market.

What I think...

I totally agree with you all, but I think it was weirdly a great opportunity to learn more about sunscreen testing, how it's carried out, what the results mean and so on. The number you see on the packaging is not this infallible measure, but we can help ourselves by choosing brands with solid testing where that information is shared with consumers. I think it also made me appreciate that sunscreen isn't this impenetrable armour. Yes, we should be wearing it every day and when it comes to sweat resistance and staying on the skin, I have a handful of brands I trust completely, but really: sun-protective clothing and staying out of direct sunlight all form part of your arsenal against sun damage too.

My thoughts on all of this are here.

Images via: hellosundayspf.com

Despite everything I just said: we clearly still have hope because new UK affordable / mid-range sunscreen brand Hello Sunday was your favourite launch of 2021. I really appreciate their 'every single day' philosophy and the fact they make formulas that sit beautifully under makeup.

Check out my review of Hello Sunday here.

What I think...

This was a bit of a sneaky one but since Zelens relaunched, it's easily been one of my most-used brands of the year. Yes, it's a bit more on the luxury side but it just works for my skin personally. The line has some powerful actives that are all formulated with ingredients to promote overall skin health. The formulas are complex in a good way; just all the ingredient I want to see in a product to calm and hydrate the skin + a star active. In terms of new-new, it has to be Monday Muse for me, which launched during the latter half of 2020. It's a really capsule line of products: just a cleanser, serum and oil, but they've all been fantastic for my skin as all-rounders I can always trust on my skin.

Check out my reviews of Zelens here.

Check out my review of Monday Muse here.

Image via: stylist.co.uk

When it comes to trends we actually liked: skin barrier support as part of your everyday skincare routine came top, though focus on sunscreen, gentle actives and multi-active serums all came in as close runners up. I feel like there were several years of brands releasing higher and higher % actives even where studies didn't support them being more effective but did indicate an increased chance of irritation. A lot of people kind of ruined their skin barrier during that period of time, so it makes total sense that they wanted products to get things back into equilibrium and also to prevent this from happening again. I feel like a lot of brands launched formulas that combined these restorative ingredients with more intense actives like retinol + ceramides and acids + squalane and I'm all for that. Really, we don't want to be causing this kind of damage to our skin through products we're using to begin with, so bearing the health of your lipid barrier in mind throughout your routine is so important. 

What I think...

There was actually a really interesting suggestion from one of you that I thought was great and worth mentioning: focus on skin of colour. It was honestly only a few years ago when a lot of white estheticians weren't comfortable doing peels on skin of colour or you were told there were no suitable lasers for your skin tone available on the market. Since then, I think there's been lots of new technology and also awareness and training has increased over the past couple of years. Whilst I definitely think there are some people on the internet who take things to an extreme and want you to avoid literally everything, for me it's more about having information out there: letting people know that they should look for visible light protection in their sunscreen if they have hyperpigmentation, being aware of over-exfoliation, the fact you're more likely to have dry skin and it's worth looking out for ceramides in your skincare and so on. For me, it's not about a list of hardline rules if you feel your routine is working for you, it's about having an awareness of how hyperpigmentation forms and the things that can exacerbate it, so that if you're having real issues treating discolouration, you can consider both ingredients that will help clear it but also you're aware of skin habits that might be hindering your progress. 

Image via: medik8.com

Medik8 was crowned your winner with Paula's Choice coming in as a close second. I personally love this brand for a number of reasons: firstly, their products have been some of the most transformative I've used on my skin personally, secondly, because with the technology behind these formulas: they're pretty well-priced and thirdly, because we have very similar skincare philosophies, centreing C (Vitamin C), S (sunscreen) and A (Vitamin A, AKA retinoids) within a routine. 

Check out my reviews of Medik8 here.

Check out my reviews of Paula's Choice here.

What I think...

I have to agree with you on this: my go-to actives are the retinoids and exfoliants from Medik8 and the Vitamin C from Skinceuticals, so they have 3 of the 2 essential actives in my routine! They also make some fantastic sunscreen products that are pleasant to use and engineered to give you not only fantastic UVB protection but also to protect your skin against UVA and visible light, which are critical if you're building a well-ageing skincare routine.

Image via: byrdie.com

Honestly, Dr Barbara Sturm wins this category every year and the only other brand that came close this time was Drunk Elephant. Beloved by celebrities and often seen in Harper's Bazaar and Vogue videos, the line contains zingers like a £235 hyaluronic acid and a £243 night serum.

What I think...

Ok, I get it: celebrities are probably send these products or buy them if they're recommended by spas they frequent and enjoy them. They can afford these prices so have little reason to research and find products that are just as nice but less expensive. I think that's what it comes down to, really. I've tried a couple of products from the line (that I was gifted by one of their retailers), and they were nice, but I test hyaluronic acid, sunscreens and moisturisers from £5 a pop to £200+ and everything in-between: this line is nothing special in terms of formulation, ingredients or application. Ultimately, I would never replace them with my own money and would've been pretty disappointed if I had purchased them myself, which is why I can't recommend them. You could get a couple of areas of botox for that price which will be more effective and last about as long as a 30ml serum. Buy tret. Buy anything other than this if you have any sort of limit on what you want to spend or any sense of pricing vs. results...

Image via: redonline.co.uk

You guys voted in huge numbers for Caroline Hirons, who has been a skincare community staple for many years through her blog, appearances on This Morning, YouTube Channel, Instagram and now her curated skincare kits. She was focused on skincare far before it was 'in'! You also loved James Welsh (who came in 2nd) and Lisa Eldridge (who came in 3rd, no mean feat for a makeup artist in a skincare-led poll).

What I think...

I'm not surprised at all that Caroline has been crowned your favourite creator for the second year in a row. I feel like it's only really in the past 2 years that we've had this focus on skincare within the beauty world and Caroline was always known as an authority on the topic. I also feel like the kits and her Instagram Lives were a really big part of the staying home / lockdown experience for those of us who love skincare. I think additionally, people also appreciate the straightforward way in which she communicates skincare information so it's more accessible (with her book - launched last year and relaunched this year - being a great jumping-off point for beginners). I think also the fact she's not 21 and has this huge back-catalogue of product knowledge and hands-on experience is also something people really appreciate.

Let me know: what do you think of the winners? Are there any surprises in there for you?

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Read more posts from this series here!

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