We’re not sure about you, but in recent years, it feels as though shopping for beauty products has become more difficult than ever before. Not because of the fact we don’t find ourselves shopping IRL much, and not because of the rather daunting amount to choose from (although these things don’t help), but rather because what we want from our
beauty products has changed exponentially. After spending many years of our lives buying every beauty product that came our way, nowadays we want to buy less and buy smarter.
At Who What Wear UK, we have found ourselves prepared to spend more money on our beauty products, but we want them to
work. Think easy-to-use, fuss-free products that deliver tangible results. We’re talking face creams that deliver instant glow, 10-minute hair masks that boost shine tenfold and fragrances that turn heads rather than noses.
It’s because of this that we feel more passionately than ever about making sure no one gets led down the garden path when it comes to the false claims some beauty brands are notorious for. And we know just how influential online hype can be. So, in a bid to determine which beauty products are
actually worth our hard-earned cash in 2023, we embarked on a great journey.
We analysed data from some of our go-to retailers (like
John Lewis & Partners, Net-a-Porter, Harvey Nichols, Lookfantastic, Space NK and more), as well as information from beauty index Cosmetify, and trending Google search data over the past 12 months to compile a list of the UK’s 23 best-selling and most in-demand beauty products. And because we love a challenge, we got our black book of Who What Wear UK editors, friends and beauty contributors to test them out. Keep scrolling for our honest reviews of the best-selling beauty products in the UK (in no particular order).
“This product has its reputation for being the best for a reason. Yes, it’s insanely expensive, but in my opinion, if you’re going to spend on anything in your beauty routine, it’s a good moisturiser and this one does it all. Hydrating, plumping and smoothing—so much so that I couldn’t stop stroking my face after just the first use. I’m yet to feel the long-term effects, but for now, I love that it’s super light for wearing under makeup in the day yet still feels like it’s actually working too.”—Emily Dawes, Who What Wear UK Affiliate Editor
I am not one for TikTok hype products—trust me. And I’ll admit that I have put off trying this product because of the success it had on TikTok. (I’m a snob, so sue me.) The premise is that this green-tinted moisturiser will turn a beige colour once applied to help even out skin tone and signs of redness. Plus, the skin-soothing ingredient, cica, works to nourish and calm irritation. First of all, I would like to say that I was truly blown away by its blurring qualities—it really does take down redness and give the appearance of a more even tone and complexion. That being said, as someone that doesn’t wear foundation or even a tinted moisturiser every day, I will admit this is too much for me. It’s more of a makeup product than a skincare one. I found it transferred onto my phone, much like a foundation would and feels makeup-like on the skin. At first, it also washed me out a little bit, but after half an hour or so, I have to admit my skin did look pretty damn good.
“In my decade working in magazines and fashion websites, I have been lucky enough to sit next to a lot of beauty editors who have given me incredible products to try. One I’ve never been able to try, however, is La Mer (beauty editors don’t give this product away easily). It is deemed to be one of the very best moisturisers around, thanks to the brand’s glow-boosting secret ingredient, Miracle Broth. And yes, it’s just a moisturiser, but it gave my skin an instant glow, and I’m suddenly wondering how I’ll part from this £200-something cream when the tub is empty. The key to this moisturiser is the application (or the ‘ritual’ as La Mer calls it). You need to put a small amount in your hands and warm it so it becomes translucent, and then gently pat it across your face.”—Emma Spedding
“It’s fair to say that no one feels their best in January: Christmas excess plus a lack of vitamin D—oh, and a good dose of COVID-driven insomnia—isn’t exactly a recipe for glowing Cover Girl skin. In the bleak mid-winter, souped-up serums become my BFF, and Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair really is the cream of the crop. Typically, I find that rich creams make me break out, so ANR’s light-yet-moisturising formula (hello, hyaluronic acid) is ideal for my needs. I know lots of people use it morning and night, but as a daytime vitamin C serum convert, I personally prefer to use ANR just at night by itself or, occasionally, under my usual night cream if I need an extra boost. It has certainly won itself enough awards over the years, but this is one cult buy I can safely say is worth the investment.”—Joy Montgomery
“I’d heard such great things about this bargain product but was too scared to use it for so long thanks to the vampire-like look it has when applied. After just a couple of applications though (spaced out over a week), my skin definitely feels much smoother. I found there was a little redness afterwards, so [it’s] probably best to use at night and test it on a small patch of skin first if you’re particularly sensitive. But in general, I’m a big fan of an AHA/BHA exfoliator and for under £10 this is one of the most effective I’ve ever tried.”—Emily
I have been a big fan of this simple cleanser for years. In fact, from the minute the brand launched in the UK, it became a go-to. Its hydrating sister cleanser is a favourite amongst beauty editors, but this slightly deeper-cleansing, foaming formula lends itself to my oily skin. If you have dry skin, you might find it a little too much, but if you want to tackle oil control and minimise the appearance of enlarged pores (hi, niacinamide, how are ya?), I promise you won’t be disappointed. In fact, it’s probably my favourite cleanser ever. Oh, and it’s less than a tenner.
“This wonder cream from La Roche-Posay is one of my go-to SPFs to use, and I recommend it because it suits everybody, from dark to light complexions with no cast to be seen, fuss-free to highly irritable skin types and kids to adults. When you apply it, it doesn’t sit on the skin either, so you can layer on your makeup without risk of pilling. It’s the SPF that made me actually wear SPF everyday.”—Keeks Reid, Freelance Beauty Editor and Who What Wear UK Beauty Contributor
“As someone who isn’t a massive makeup fanatic, I’ve always found removing it to be a very tedious task. As a teenager and early 20-something, I was very much part of the face wipe brigade, which invariably resulted in spending most evenings tugging at my poor eyelashes to remove mascara and, probably, never actually removing all traces of face makeup. There’s also the fact that using one disposable face wipe every day wasn’t exactly good for the environment. “Once I saw the error of my ways, I embarked on a journey to find the ultimate cleanser. I had heard good things about Elemis’s cleansing balm, but being a bit of a beauty cynic, I reserved my judgement until I could try it myself. Of course, it did not disappoint IRL. With a rich balm texture and glorious scent, it’s just what I want to use before bed as a way to wind down. I’m a big fan of facial massage, and the thick texture is perfect for that. I will say that, on days where my skin is feeling more sensitive, I might tag in my trusty The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Butter, but for the rest of the time it really delivers and never fails to leave my skin feeling super soft.”—Joy
I really rate Dr. Barbara Sturm products. Seriously, I think they are some of the best around. This hyaluronic acid serum is truly wonderful. It’s plumping, hydrating and glow-boosting—all of the things a hyaluronic acid serum should be. That being said, this price tag for hyaluronic acid really does seem totally absurd to me. Is it my favourite hyaluronic acid serum out there? Of course it is. Would I recommend anyone forgo food or rent for it? Absolutely not.
“Well, I have to admit I wasn’t so impressed by these straighteners. GHD are very well known for their great hair tools, but I think this particular one lacks the wow factor. I just wasn’t able to achieve the silky smooth results that I’m used to and this is probably down to the fact that it can only heat up to 185 degrees. Having type-4 natural hair, I find that I need just a bit more heat to really get my hair strands straight. I was also surprised to find that from a full charge you can only get about 20 mins of use each time, so I was left with half my hair undone after it first turned off and had to wait another 1 1/2 hours to use it again on the rest of my hair. I found this very time-consuming and straightening my hair is already a very long process as it is! “I can’t say that I would recommend this if you’re looking for a solid pair of straighteners that will get the job done seamlessly (especially as it is expensive), but I can see the appeal for those who just need something quick to freshen up their look on the go. They do feel nice and compact in the hand too.”—Remi Afolabi, Who What Wear UK Video Content Creator
“Despite writing about beauty for my job, I have no qualms about admitting that I’m just not that into haircare. So it may come as something of a surprise that one of my favourite launches of the last year comes in the form of this innovative treatment from L’Oréal Paris. Its launch was seriously hyped—almost every beauty editor I know raved about the way this product left their hair feeling soft, sleek and shiny—but I have to say that it really does live up to the hype. “My hair is naturally wavy-curly, dry and prone to frizz (and never, ever looks glossy) but just eight seconds spent with this lamellar water wonder product leaves my usually unruly strands feeling sleek, manageable and pleasingly sheeny. You apply it post-shampoo and pre-conditioner (although I find the results so brilliant that I tend to forget conditioner altogether) and although the watery texture means that application can be tricky to get used to, once you’ve got it nailed you really won’t look back. I’ve gone through countless bottles and can’t imagine this not remaining a staple in my hair wash routine for years to come.”—Mica Ricketts, Freelance Beauty Editor and Who What Wear UK Contributor
“If there’s one buzz word that’s remained firmly at the top of most people’s foundation wish lists over the past few years, it’s glow. In fact, our quest for dewy skin means that full coverage, matte foundations have fallen firmly out of favour with sheer, luminous, skin tints leading the charge when it comes to covetable makeup these days. So I’m as bemused as anyone to find that it’s precisely a matte, full coverage foundation that I’ve grown to adore so much. But the YSL All Hours Foundation is nothing like the high coverage foundations that I used to know. “Available in 40 shades, this one meshes seamlessly with skin to leave a natural, velvety finish; it looks like my skin certainly, but as an acne-prone person I have to admit that I love how it subtly diffuses the appearance of pores and blues away blemishes without a hint of cakiness. I always get compliments on how healthy I look when I wear this. Oh, and it withstands mask-wearing like a dream.”—Mica
“You know how blurred, just-kissed lips started to become a thing a couple of years back? Well, what if I were to tell you there’s a product that’s been delivering these results for over 50 years? Enter Clinique’s Black Honey Almost Lipstick—a lip product I’ve been obsessed with ever since my mum let me borrow hers for a school disco when I was 11. “Unlike other lipsticks, the goal of Black Honey isn’t to change the colour of your lips but to enhance their natural shade. Boasting a balm-like consistency that feels super nourishing without being tacky or sticky, one slick will give you a sheer, rose-tinted glossy veil. You can build it up easily for a more powerful colour payoff or blur around the edges of your lips to create an effortless finish. There’s a distinguishable pattern in that, each time I wear it, I always receive compliments, or I’m asked which lipstick I’m wearing—to which many people raise an eyebrow when I answer, “It’s Clinique Black Honey”. Although it’s a cult buy in beauty circles, I’m always shocked that more people don’t know and use this wonder product.”—Maxine
“I have two ride-or-die beauty productions in my life: the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm and the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter. On days when I’m tired and it shows in my skin, I literally slather my face in the stuff and it is truly transformative. In 2019, after months of eavesdropping beauty editors talking about this instant glow in a bottle, I finally bought into it and I’ve worn it every day since. I have been wearing it under my foundation, and it’s particularly helped brighten my complexion on days when I look a little ashen or half awake, and I also love that you can wear it on its own for a more natural look.”—Emma
“I love, love a glossy lip, but don’t like a sticky over-the-top look. This Dior lip oil is my perfect gloss. Just the right amount of shiny, it’s not sticky at all. It feels incredible on the lips and looks amazing on its own or applied over any colour.”—Zeynab Mohamed, Freelance Journalist and Who What Wear UK Beauty Contributor
“I really, really wanted to like this mascara; I’m a big Charlotte Tilbury fan (who isn’t?), but this didn’t live up to my expectations. You’ve set the bar high, CT! “It’s worth noting that mascaras are, perhaps, one of the most divisive beauty products out there, and we all want different things from them. Initially, I found the consistency of this formula a little too wet—even after scraping the wand of the excess product (contrary to the instructions on the tube, which advise you to apply it liberally and then separate), I still found it cakey. I wore it every day for five days, and each time it was slightly crumbly and prone to smudging—but then incredibly difficult to remove with my usual cleanser. Wand-wise, I prefer my mascara brushes to have fat, fluffy bristles—this one, however, has a thin plastic comb. Which might be what you like, of course—it’s worth noting either way. “One thing I was impressed by, however, was its ability to make the most out of each individual lash—the length and definition were undoubtedly there. Personally, however, I like my mascara to be an all-rounder; to curl and add volume but still be featherlight. I might revisit it once the product has dried out a little, but as someone who is a sweep-and-go kinda girl, this just wasn’t it for me”—Maxine
“This foundation has been one of many I’ve been wanting to try out lately. Pros would be that it gives the most flawless finish with superb coverage but still feels weightless on the skin. It is a very matte finish, which I don’t mind, but I do tend to go for foundations that have a slightly dewier finish, as my skin can get quite dry at times these days. “That being said, I do see myself using this on nights out where I want to be looking good for as long as possible!”—Remi
“As someone that has always lusted after lash extensions but has always been too phobic of the process, I go to lengths to make the most of my natural lashes and with the help of lash serums, I was happy with their length. In fact, I was sure I had taken them as far as they could be taken until I tried the Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara. The lift and stretch this mascara gives you lashes is insane, plus it holds all day and doesn’t flake. Honestly, if I look up and furrow my brows my lashes skims my eyelids, it looks strange but that’s goals.”—Keeks
“I typically dislike foundation unless it’s a tinted-moisturizer type, but I love how quickly and seamlessly the Nars Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation applies onto the skin, leaving you with a skin-like glowing finish, which I’m all about.”—Zeynab
Few beauty products get me as excited as a great hand wash and Aesop’s are without a doubt the best. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of the gritty Reverence Hand Wash, but it’s the better-known Resurrection Aromatique that is topping bestsellers lists. Resurrection Aromatique is a foaming gel wash that smells spa-like with hits of zingy orange, calming lavender and earthy rosemary. It does the job, leaves hands soft, smells absolutely sublime and looks great on the side of the sink—what’s not to love?!
“Curious to know what TikTok is blowing up about, I was really excited to try this perfume. There’s no other way of framing it: it truly is a great scent. While beautiful fragrance may be in the nose of the beholder, its perfect balance of amber, cedar, jasmine and spice make it a perfume panacea—it could appeal to anyone. Though I did really enjoy the perfume, I tend to like my perfumes on the spicier side, so I won’t be joining the extensive list of celebs who call Baccarat Rouge 540 their favourite. Additionally, I am usually reluctant to part with £70 for a perfume, so £215 just isn’t feasible for me. “However, this perfume really does have staying power. I usually find if I douse myself in four to five sprays, the scent is gone after a few hours. But with just two sprays of Baccarat Rouge 540, I could still smell the fragrance throughout dinner at an Italian restaurant (yes, even over the garlic!), and my husband even commented how I smelled nice the next morning before my shower.”—Abbey Jones, Who What Wear UK Contributor
“I have a real weakness for Jo Malone— the first thing people usually comment on when they have a tour of my flat is, ‘How many Jo Malone perfumes do you have?!’ It all started with Lime, Basil and Mandarin. I vividly remember when my Mum had her first bottle, and it is a really nostalgic scent for me. It’s the brand’s signature scent which was launched in 1999 and has mandarin as the top note, basil as the heart note and amber wood as the base note. This is also Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s favourite fragrance, as her mother and grandmother always wear it, so it reminds her of London. She said, ‘It really has a kind of elegant, fresh, modern scent to it—all the things I’d describe my mum and grandmother as. This is the perfume that evokes some of the most special memories to me.'”—Emma . “Our scents are elegantly simple with an unexpected twist, pure and beautiful ingredients that are allowed to shine put together with something that shouldn’t work but does,” says Emma South, Jo Malone London’s fragrance and lifestyle expert. “It all started with the basil in Lime Basil & Mandarin; basil as an ingredient was extremely unusual at the time, one that was normally associated with cooking, and a real surprise in a scent.”
“I’ve heard a lot of great things about this fragrance so I was intrigued to know why! It has strong fruity and woody notes at first spray and is very much a masculine scent (it is marketed mostly towards men), which I don’t typically go for in perfumes. I have to say it has a very long-lasting smell that I can still a get a whiff of after a couple of days which is impressive.”—Remi
This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Next Up: I Try Hundreds of Skincare Products a Year, But These 15 Are My Holy Grails