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Good beauty products are a dime a dozen. (After all, we spend most of our time testing and writing about the latest and greatest). But every once in a while, you come across something that goes way beyond.
Maybe it’s the blow dryer that finally enabled you to give yourself a frizz-free blowout. Maybe it’s the face cream that took away your embarrassing redness for good. Maybe it’s the serum that renewed your confidence after years of battling with acne.
From brow pencils to beauty waters, read on as real women (including a few beauty gurus who have tried just about everything) share some of the next-level, too-good-to-be-true, problem-solving products that have made the biggest difference in their lives, some for as low as $4.
Small Japanese facial razors
“I grew up with thick, blonde hair on my face. It wasn't your normal peach fuzz. I felt like Santa Claus, and tried everything to help hide the fact that this long hair was present. I threaded and waxed, which left me covered in bumps. I even bleached my upper lip thinking that would be a solve. (It wasn't.) I tried laser hair removal, but it caused hyperpigmentation, and the hair eventually grew back. It wasn't until I started shaving my face that I was not self-conscious when in close quarters with another person. I use a single-blade razor that's meant for your eyebrows. You can buy the Tinkle on Amazon, or, if you want a professional-grade dermaplaning option, I also love Stacked Skincare's razor.” –Kirbie Johnson, Host, Senior trend producer and reporter at Popsugar
A gentle, daily exfoliant
“I have dry skin so I constantly feel the need to exfoliate my face. This product is gentle enough that I can use it every day. It balances my skin out, not only when it comes to my dryness but also tone, and makes my face feel super fresh all day. Seriously, Sephora keeps selling out of it and it hurts my whole life.” –Lindsay Morris
A toner that works overtime
“I'm constantly searching for the next best thing, but nothing has changed my skin more than Son & Park Beauty Water. I have very oily and acne-prone skin, and this toner/cleansing water has made my routine a lot easier. I was skeptical to purchase it at first for its price tag, but now I can't live without it. I like that it's technically a toner, but it also removes makeup. I love to use it right in the morning when I wake up — it's very lightweight and refreshing. I also use it at night after I wash my face, and it picks up any leftover makeup. There are a lot of natural ingredients, such as rose flower water, orange fruit extract and lavender water, which make it especially great for sensitive/acne prone skin. My acne isn't as bad, and my face looks so much brighter and toned. I didn't notice how dull my complexion was until I started using this product!” –Lexington Hartman, 21, Beauty YouTuber/Influencer
A hardworking acne treatment
“I have hormonal acne on my chin that I could NEVER get to go away no matter what product I used. And I'm in my mid-30s — I shouldn't have any acne at this point! Pore Therapy is the first thing that has completely changed my skin. It's finally clear! And when I do see a potential breakout coming, using this before bedtime can squash those blemishes before they even appear. It's pretty amazing!” –Melea Johnson, savings expert/founder of The Melea Show
"I’ve tried just about everything for the persistent acne on my cheeks — prescription ointments, natural salves, OTC creams. Everything either dried out my skin (making things worse) or did absolutely nothing. I was *this* close to popping Spironolactone when I decided to give this gel a shot. Within two months, it cleared up my acne without causing any dryness at all. (And it’s so light, you can wear it under makeup.) You can’t put a price on clear skin — but $13 is pretty freaking good." -Cat Quinn, Beauty director at Refinery29.com
A moisturizing curl cream
“I've been a devoted user of Devachan's curly-hair products for a long time now, but DevaCurl's Styling Cream completely changed the game. No more too-tight, too-crunchy curls — these give me exactly the kind of soft, touchable hair I've always dreamed about, while still giving my curls all the moisture and structure they need.” –Kate Winick
An easy-to-use eyebrow pencil
“I’m obsessed with grooming my brows, but even though I have a pretty full shape, they’re super sparse. Therefore, I’m constantly testing products to help fill in the gaps. I've tried everything from dying them to waxes, shadows and all types of pencils, but it wasn’t until I tried this pencil from IT Cosmetics that I finally felt they looked their best. It’s unlike any other I’ve ever used. It’s so thin that it allows me to create strokes that look like my actual brow hairs. Plus it’s waterproof.” –Jeannine Morris, Beauty and wellness expert
“As someone with brown hair and blonde eyebrows (I know, WHAT?!), I need to fill in my eyebrows every darn day as to not look like an alien. This pencil is easy to use and makes my brows look natural!” -Kourtney Sokmen
A skin-enhancing tinted moisturizer
“I found this product a few years ago and will never switch again — it's the one staple in my beauty routine that covers my skin imperfections without making me look orange — just like a better version of myself.” -Angela Pessolano
A cream that relieves redness
“My cheeks get flushed in the wintertime after I shower. I started using Clinique Redness Solutions cream (the Daily Protective Base Broad Spectrum SPF 15) and it keeps my skin color in check, plus provides some sun protection. Now I'm not as self-conscious when the cold weather has a stronger affect on my skin!” -Katie Killary
A fancy deodorant
“This is truly the best deodorant I've ever used! I don't consider myself to have bad body odor but, living in New York in the summer, I felt the need for something that was strong without a prominent fragrance. This is perfect. It goes on so smoothly, has a very subtle scent, and is so effective! Plus, I only have to apply it once a day.” –Mallory Hauser
A powerful, shine-enhancing blow dryer
“I had always failed at blow drying my thick, coarse, wavy hair at home (it would look so frizzy after), but this dryer changed everything. For starters, it has significantly cut down on my drying time (it takes me 15 minutes tops now, while it used to take 30 to 40 minutes). My hair looks smooth after blow-drying it and I don't even have to run through it with a straightener after. It's also really lightweight and doesn't hurt my arm when I hold it.” –Christina Heiser, Editor and writer in New York City
A sunscreen that's great for dark skin tones
“As a woman of color, it can be extremely difficult to find a physical sunscreen that has no white cast. I know because I spent years searching. When I finally discovered Nutrient Day Cream, it was love at first application — the clean ingredients and transparent finish meant that I could finally wear sunblock on a daily basis without questioning the product or how it makes me look.” –Namosha Boykin, Attorney and founder of ChidiBeauty.com
This article was originally published in September 2017 on TODAY.com.