the best skincare products of 2021

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[This post is sponsored by Pure Obagi]

Despite my newfound love of collagen supplements, I have to admit I’m still a complete sucker for a new skincare purchase. There’s just something so exciting about skincare products, though, isn’t there? It’s like, they SAY they’re going to change your skin, but it FEELS like they’re actually going to change your entire LIFE … which is why, no matter how many times I end up being disappointed by their claims and promises, I still keep coming back for more.

(Well, that and the cute packaging. Love me some cute packaging.)

With that in mind, here are some of the products I’ve been loving lately…

the best skincare products of 2021

Glossier Bubblewrap Eye & Lip Cream

I bought my first tube of Bubblewrap after a panicked call for recommendation on Instagram, the day I realised my undereye area had started to strongly resemble crepe paper. Quite a few people suggested this double-duty eye and lip cream, and while I don’t quite think it’s The One, it is, nevertheless, the current one, and I do think it’s making a bit of a difference to those lines under the eyes.

Because I’m lazy, and have been trying to streamline my skincare routine a bit, too, I also really like the fact that I can use it on my lips as well as my eyes: it hasn’t made them any plumper, unfortunately, but it has made them feel less dry, so at least that’s something.

The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

Retinol is one of those “miracle” products that actually does make a noticeable difference to my skin, and The Ordinary’s Retinol in Squalane is the cheapest version I’ve found so far, which is why it quickly became my go-to. Quick word of caution here: this product, like many retinols, comes in a few different strengths. You’re advised to start with the lowest concentration (0.2%) and allow your skin to get used to that before gradually working your way up, so, naturally I went straight in with the highest concentration, working on the basis that if 0.2% strength is good, then 1% must be EVEN BETTER, right? And also, it’s only 1%! That’s hardly anything: how bad can it be?

Folks, it can be bad. Like, skin flaking off your cheeks bad. Why, yes, I DO feel stupid, thanks for asking.

In my (albeit meagre) defence, I don’t have what I consider to be sensitive skin, so I figured I’d be OK with this, but, well, leave it to me to learn things the hard way, obviously: it’s the only way I know. Suffice it to say that this is very much a “little goes a long way” kind of product. Not only is it best to start with the lowest concentration and work your way up, it’s also best not to use it every day – don’t ask me how I know.

I do have the 1% version of this as part of my skincare stash, but I’ve found the 0.2% is actually enough to make a visible difference to my skin, so I’m sticking to that for now. I use it a few evenings per week, and find my skin is always smoother and plumper the next morning: who knows, maybe one day I’ll work up to trying the 0.5% version?

Obagi Professional-C Serum

Obagi Professional-C Serum

I’d been reading a lot about the benefits of vitamin C for skin lately, so when Pure Obagi offered to send me a bottle of their Obagi-Professional-C Serum to try, I jumped at the chance. This is a concentrated formula containing L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), and it’s designed to target fine lines and wrinkles, and generally brighten the skin. Like the retinol I talked about above, it comes in three different strengths: unlike my experience with retinol, however, I decided to play it safe with this one (See, I DO learn SOME lessons…), and went for the lowest concentration (10%), which is recommended for dry or sensitive skin.

As I said above, my skin is neither, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to have a reaction to it before upping the strength: thankfully, it’s been absolutely fine, so once I’ve used up this bottle I might move up to the 15% version, to see how I get on with that.

I use this every morning after cleansing, and have noticed that it’s helped even out my complexion (Bye bye weird blotches I never actually got to the bottom of, but which this has helped get rid of…), and I also think it makes me look generally more alive in the mornings. It’s a fairly thick serum, and tingles a bit the first few times you use it (Which you’re warned about in the instruction leaflet), but it absorbs quickly, and you only need a few drops to cover the face and neck, so while it’s not the cheapest product on this list, it is one of the longest-lasting.

Beauty Pie Japanfusion Genius Lift Elixir

A couple of months ago, I caved and signed up to Beauty Pie, which is a member’s only beauty site, which bills itself as being a bit like a Costco for beauty products. This subject probably warrants an entire post in itself, to be honest, because it’s just a little bit confusing at first, but, for now, all I’ll say is that the first thing I bought was the Japanfusion Genius Lift Elixir, and, yes, I DID buy it almost entirely because of the words ‘genius’ ‘lift’ and ‘elixir’ in the name. I mean, they basically made it sound like the elixir of YOUTH, didn’t they, and who am I to resist THAT kind of claim, I ask you?

(They also describe it as “an instant shot of skin magic”. Oh, STOP IT, Beauty Pie, I’m begging you here…)

OK, so the bad news is that, no, this is not an elixir of youth, and nor did it magically transform my face, as it apparently did for some of the Beauty Pie reviewers. The good news, however, is that it’s a lovely, silky serum, which smooths out the skin, and makes me want to try the rest of the Japanfusion range. And I probably will.

Skincare reviews for pale-skinned redheadsAnd finally…

Beauty Pie Featherlight UVA / UVB SPF50 Sunscreen + Primer

Years ago, I used to buy a Chanel sunscreen, which cost me £50 per bottle. Which is ridiculous. But, to be honest, worth it. But still ridiculous. This, by contrast, costs just £10.33 (Plus my Beauty Pie membership), and is virtually identical to the Chanel product in all but packaging. No, I’m not joking: it’s as light as a feather (hence the name), feels more like a moisturiser than a sunscreen, doesn’t leave a thick white residue on my skin, and is a wonderful base for my foundation.

(Oh, and it also has a light-absorbing DNA SHIELD. No, I have absolutely NO IDEA what a light-absorbing DNA SHIELD is. Do YOU know? Whatever it is, though, I like it.) I love it, and, because my pale skin requires me to wear SPF every day (Particularly important when you’ve been using retinol, kids…) this is the one product I really couldn’t be without. (Yes, even in Scotland, where we get no sun…)

In closing this post, I should probably just quickly point out that these aren’t the ONLY products I use, obviously, and I don’t use them all at the same time (It’s worth noting that retinol, for instance, shouldn’t be used with some other ingredients, so please do read the instructions thoroughly before trying any of these…), so this post is intended as a list of current ‘likes’ as opposed to a comprehensive skincare routine. With that said, if you have any favourites of your own to recommend, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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  • Brenda


    I did the exact same thing as you with The Ordinary’s retinol!! I used the 0.2% in squalane for about six months, a few nights a week and really loved it. The next time I purchased the 1.0% and whoa. After one try and a peeling face, I decided to switch back to the 0.2% strength. Lol!! I have always used sunscreen on my face also, but after using retinol, I am obsessive about it. I’m curious about Beauty Pie, I have never heard of them. I’ll have to see if they exist in the Canadian market.

    May 7, 2021
  • Danielle


    I am going to have to try out some of these items!

    Danielle |

    May 8, 2021
  • Miss Kitty


    I have used retinol in skincare for a while, and have built up my skin tolerance to the point where I use the strongest formula I can find every night. I sometimes wonder whether I really need it that strong, and feel a bit like a junkie! I really like Skinceuticals 2% formula, although I definitely would not try that straight off if you have not used retinols before. I did actually start with quite a high concentration when I first used retinols and didn’t find much of a reaction, maybe my skin just does tolerate it better. I need to use the higher dosage formulas to see a result, but they really do work. I also really like the Paula’s Choice 1% retinol.

    May 10, 2021
  • Donna m Paetzold


    I tried the ordinary retinol serum and its fantastic! Thank you for your honest reviews of products. You are always spot on.

    June 2, 2021
  • Jessica


    Versed the fix eye mask got rid of my crepey-ness.

    September 1, 2021
  • Shelley Romein


    Hey, just stumbled upon this blog when I was looking up reviews on skin products, and was pleasantly surprised! Love your chatty tone and down to earth advice. Very helpful, and enjoyable too. Keep it going, girl!
    Ps I picked up that you’re in Scotland– me too. I strongly advise taking a vitamin D supplement over the winter, as apparently we’re all D-ficient up here lol. Random advice, I know. But there ya go. ☺️

    September 29, 2021