The Best Cream-Based Makeup Products and Why I Love Them
They’re light-weight, glowy and perfect for summer.
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I’ve been writing about beauty for some of the biggest magazines in the country for over five years, so it’s safe to say I’ve tried my fair share of beauty products. From makeup and skincare to haircare and body products, the assortment that spans across my medicine cabinet, bathroom storage, office, and dedicated beauty closet is vast. And though a huge perk of my job is that I get to try new products when they come out, at heart, I’m still a creature of habit.
I love getting to experiment and find new beauty products, but there are a handful that I always have on hand because I love them that much. These are the ones I can rely on when my skin is acting up, when I’m not feeling super experimental with my makeup, or I just want to return “home” to a routine that feels comfortable. Here are the beauty products I always restock (and even have backups for when I run out).
Tatcha’s Dewy Skin Cream is my absolute holy grail moisturizer and I recommend it to everyone who asks — and even the people who don’t. I prefer my moisturizers to have a heavier, emollient texture that doesn’t require reapplication throughout the day, and this one checks all those boxes.
Japanese purple rice works as a powerful antioxidant to protect the skin, Okinawa algae and hyaluronic acid help the skin retain moisture, and the botanical extract blend helps retain and release moisture as you wear it. I can use this both day and night (though I prefer the dewy finish for daytime), and I even use it over makeup on long days when my skin needs a bit of a refresh. It’s truly a can’t-live-without product.
I have eczema and sensitive skin, so harsher acids, exfoliants, and brighteners tend to aggravate it. Enter this Mara’s vitamin C serum, which is formulated as an oil for the most gentle application. It contains 15% THD ascorbate, which is an ultra-stable format of vitamin C, as well as chlorella algae and reishi fungus to brighten and firm the skin as well as protect it from environmental stressors. I can use this every day without any irritation and I notice that my skin is visibly brighter when I have it in my routine. Even though the price point is quite high, I happily restock this product every time I run out.
One question I’m asked often is what essence actually does, if anything. While not all essences are created equal and some don’t produce visible results, this one from Peach & Lily is one I constantly praise. Essence is meant to work as an initial layer of hydration — an absolute must for my dry, eczema-ridden skin — and to help with the absorption and efficacy of the subsequent products in my routine, and this does just that.
Made with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, probiotics, adenosine, and lotus, radish seed, and bamboo extracts, this essence has the consistency of thick water and works as the perfect first step for both my morning and evening skincare routines. Every time I try a different essence or go without, my skin looks significantly duller and less bouncy, so I’m a firm believer in replenishing my supply of it whenever I’ve depleted my stash.
Finding a nude lipstick for my medium-tan, golden/olive-undertoned skin has been one of the most laborious parts of my beauty journey. Luckily, Filipino makeup brand Sunnies Face had Filipinas like me in mind when they created their Fluffmatte line of lipsticks. The shade Nudist is the perfect pinky-brown nude that I can wear every day. While the finish is matte, the formula is super comfortable and never feels dry on the lips. I wear it alone on days when I’m keeping my makeup simple, or pair it with lip liner and a gloss for more glam looks. It’s a staple lip product in my purse and makeup kit and I know I’ll be using it for years to come.
As someone with ultra-fine lashes that stick straight out, finding the right mascara that both thickens and curls my lashes has been challenging. When I tested this one for the first time back in 2018, I knew there was no turning back. The brush is fluffy and comfortable (no irritated lash lines here), and the Blackest Black shade is the perfect compliment to my hair color. The mascara evenly coats my lashes, making them look thicker and longer, and the waterproof version is the ultimate companion to my lash curler. I compare every new mascara I try to this one, and few stack up — but at a drugstore price point, I know I’ll never have a reason to replace this in my makeup regimen.
I hate the feeling of dry lips, and for that reason, have lip balms placed strategically all around my house and in every single purse so it never gets left behind. Since it launched in 2021, this one from Summer Fridays has become my go-to. It has the thick, silky texture of a lip mask, with all the wearability of a lip gloss, but without the stickiness. It’s made with shea and murumuru seed butters for ultimate hydration, while the vegan waxes give it that signature glossy finish. Plus, the light vanilla flavor is a pleasant touch. I use the clear version when I’m doing my skincare, but the tinted versions are beautiful for no-makeup days or to layer on top of a nude lipstick.
As a beauty enthusiast, one thing that I follow religiously is my sunscreen application, and few are better than Glow Screen. I love the texture of this product because it feels like an additional layer of skincare rather than a sticky sunblock reminiscent of family trips to the beach. It disappears into my skin, leaving a beautiful pearlescent sheen that works as a base on no-makeup days or as a primer under makeup. I use it every single day so I always have a tube on deck for when I run out.
My hair is naturally dark, so a powder dry shampoo seems counterintuitive, but this one from R+Co is my ultimate holy grail. While the powder applies white, a quick zhuzh at my roots makes it disappear — and with it, all remaining oils and excess product. It contains diatomaceous earth to absorb oil and give my hair a bit of texture, while jojoba seed oil conditions the hair and adds shine; it also contains burdock root extract to help encourage scalp health. On an average cycle, this dry shampoo can get me through five or six days between washes and helps prolong the length of my DIY blowouts. It’s also perfect for traveling since it doesn’t come in an aerosol can.
Similarly to my facial moisturizers, I like my body lotions to be highly emollient and deeply nourishing, and this whipped body cream from Fenty Skin is my absolute favorite. This thick formula is packed with seven different oils, shea butter, cherry extract, and glycerin to condition, nourish, and replenish my skin barrier, making it perfect for a post-shave treatment or on days when my skin is feeling particularly dry. Even the lightest layer makes my skin look luminous and glowy, so I love using it before a special occasion for a little extra pop. Plus, the packaging is refillable so every time I restock I can just grab a replacement tub rather than buying a whole new component.