IndyBest’s best buys of 2020: Our top fashion and beauty picks, from Fenty Beauty to Dyson and All Saints
independent– This year will certainly be one to remember but sadly not for the right reasons.Amid the coronavirus pandemic, our daily lives have changed drastically, as we swapped Saturday nights down the pub for boozy boardgames and baking banana bread.
But there have also been some silver linings to spending so much extra time at home. With our social lives largely put on hold, many of us utilised our time indoors to nail our beauty routines and upgrade our wardrobes.
With salons closed and our faces covered by masks, beauty fans were forced to get inventive, seeking out new ways to get glowing again, while the fashion crowd homed in on purchases that can do it all.
Alongside toilet roll and hand sanitiser, skincare, face masks, luxury loungewear and cosy cashmere jumpers have proven to be some of the must-have purchases in 2020 as the concept of self-care took on a whole new meaning, saving our skin, sartorial reputations and sanity.
But which products did our IndyBest team think were the best and worth buying? From high-tech hair tools to hand creams, feather-trimmed pyjamas and satin slip dresses, these are the best fashion and beauty items our reviewers selected in 2020.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best beauty buys of 2020
Best hair curler: Dyson Airwrap: £399, John Lewis & Partners
ghd’s latest launches – the Creative Curl Wand and Rise – and it beat both to the top spot. Our reviewer declared the Airwrap their favourite device because of the number of styling options it provides. “Eliminating hair drying from our beauty routine is a massive timesaver, not to mention healthier for our hair and scalp. It seems almost too good to be true to replicate salon standards and really is a lazy girl’s dream,” they said.
Best face mask: Charlotte Tilbury, Goddess Skin Clay Mask: £38, John Lewis & Partners
This year, what was once considered a luxury step in our routines has become almost a daily occurrence. After trying many face masks, Charlotte Tilbury’s Goddess Skin Clay Mask was picked as the best buy in our roundup of the best face masks for giving the reviewer “instant results”. Made with a combination of Spanish clay and sweet almond oil, it also contains vitamin C, leaving the skin feeling soft and looking brighter. “It’s not cheap (none of Tilbury’s products are), but it’s worth every penny and lasts longer than you think it will,” the reviewer said.
Best IPL mcahine: SmoothSkin bare+ ultrafast IPL hair removal device: £155, Current Body
No longer reserved for the A-list, laser hair removal has become so mainstream that you can now treat yourself safely and painlessly (almost) from the comfort of your own home. In our roundup of the best IPL hair removal devices, this one from SmoothSkin was selected as the best buy for delivering “impressive results”. The reviewer praised the number of different modes it offers and its ability to target areas such as the underarms and bikini line.
Best primer: Sisley Paris Instant Eclat Glow Primer: £64, Space NK
Is there anything worse then spending time perfecting a make-up look only to have it melt down your face within a matter of hours? We think not. To help you achieve a flawless and long-lasting finish, we put a number of primers to the test with Sisley Paris’ Instant Eclat Glow Primer coming out on top. Our reviewer said it delivered an iridescent finish without any visible glitter particles and praised its clever squeezy packaging which has been designed so you can get out every last drop of product.
Best unisex perfume: DS & Durga Debaser: £148, Harrods
If you’re a fan of unisex fragrances, then you need to try the DS & Durga’s Debaser. This scent was picked as the best buy in our round-up of the best gender-neutral fragrances for its unique combination of creamy tonka bean and coconut milk, bergamot, pear, iris and fig, and a base of moss and wood. “It’s a fragrance that people will always ask after, particularly as it lingered longer on the skin than anything else we tried,” our reviewer said.
Best lightweight foundation: Perricone MD, No Make-up Foundation: £22.50, Perricone MD
More time spent at home meant that many of us were looking for make-up formulas that wouldn’t look or feel too heavy on the skin. One of our reviewers put 10 lightweight foundations to the test and selected Perricone MD’s No Make-up Foundation as their best buy. Described as a real “does what it says on the tin” product, the reviewer said it gave their skin a lowy, moisturising finish and, despite being lightweight, was able to smooth imperfections and mask redness.
Best handcream: Clarins Hand and Nail Treatment Cream: £23, Clarins
Over the course of 2020, we have been using hand sanitiser to keep our hands clean in-between washes to help curb the spread of Covid. But, while doing so can help protect yourself and others from the virus, it can also leave your hands feeling parched. To help keep yours protected and soft , we reviewed a host of hand creams designed to help soothe your skin. The Clarins hand and nail treatment cream, which has been a best-selling product for over 40 years, unsurprisingly won the top spot. “Clarins’ offering is notably one of the richest and most nourishing creams we tried, it also absorbs almost instantly and leaves no greasy residue. There are very few creams that can deliver on nourishment and absorption so effectively,” our reviewer said.
Best root touch-ups: Josh Wood Colour Root Smudger: £7, Josh Wood
Anyone that colours their hair will relate to the “what to do in between my colour appointment” dilemma, and this year many had to go months without a visit to a professional. To help hide your regrowth, we tested some of the best hair retouchers on the market, which are designed to instantly cover root growth and greys. Our favourite was the Josh Wood Colour Root Smudger for its innovative sponge applicator that makes it easy to apply and the fact it can last three washes.
Best bronzer: Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer: £25, Harvey Nichols
If you’re the kind of person that likes to maintain a glow all-year-long, a bronzer is likely to be a staple in your make-up kit. But, finding the right one is no mean feat; get the wrong shade or formula and your skin can appear ashy or orange. To help you avoid any mishaps, we tested a number of cream and powder bronzers to find the best one out there, which our reviewer said was Fenty Beauty’s Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer. The product was praised for its warm hue and staying pigmented all day.
The best fashion buys of 2020
Best loungewear: Sleeper, Party Feather-Trim Woven Pyjama Set: £255, Selfridges
This year, home has been where it’s at, prompting many of us to invest in cosy loungewear we can wear while still looking stylish. For a set like no other, the best buy in our roundup of the best loungewear pieces was Sleeper’s feather-trimmed PJs, which are most likely dominating an Instagram feed near you. While it is an investment, the set can be worn almost anywhere, from lounging at home to cocktails at a bar when teamed with your favourite pair of heeled mules. “This ensemble is anything but dowdy, it feels decadent, chic and sparks so much joy,” our reviewer said.
Best high-waisted jeans: Monki Yoko Jeans: £40, Asos
While many of us have upped our collection of cosy joggers, the humble jean still reigns supreme for those times you need to look a little more put together. But that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice on comfort. One of our reviewers tested a range of styles to to find the comfiest, best fitting, top quality pair around and chose Monki’s Yoko jeans as their best buy. Described as “fun, fresh and versatile”, this style is great if you’re after an investment pair at a high street price point. They also come in many colours, but we think black is a wintery everyday staple.
Best Christmas Day outfits: Black Satin Juliette Midi Dress, £19, Nobody’s Child
While most festivities have been put on hold this year, many of us have still been looking for excuses to put on our glad rags, be it as a wedding guest, Christmas day or a Friday night sat on the sofa. If you’re looking to get dressed up, we recommend this slip dress from Nobody’s Child, which is equal parts dressy an understated. It features an open back and tie so you can adjust it to fit your perfectly and a super-flattering waist-accentuating silhouette. You could wear this on its own with a pair of heels by night or layered over a turtleneck jumper and boots for the day.
Best women’s ankle boots: Kurt Geiger Tiami Boot: £69, Kurt Geiger
Ankle boots are one of those items that you can wear rain or shine, so it’s worth investing in a pair that will last. After putting several pairs to the test, our reviewer picked Kurt Geiger’s Tiami boot for the number one spot, and it’s not hard to see why. Made from cream leather, they’re a great transitional style that you can wear with everything from floral summer dresses to straight-leg jeans. Our reviewer also commented on how comfortable they were to wear, saying: “With a heel just under 3 inches, it elongates the legs while still remaining comfortable all day.”
Best leather jackets: All Saints Dalby Leather Biker Jacket, £298, All Saints
Just like an LBD or a white tee, a leather jacket is one of those timeless pieces that, if you get right, can last you a lifetime. For this reason, and many others, we picked All Saints’ Dalby jacket as our best buy. Our reviewer said it has all the features you’ll need in a leather jacket and praised its various pockets which are deep enough to fit an iPhone 11, AirPods and a face covering, so you can forgo a handbag.
Best jewellery gifts under £100: Lucy Williams Square Malachite Gold Necklace, £95, Missoma
If there was ever a year to treat yourself to something sparkly, this is it, but knowing what pieces are worth investing in can be tricky. To take all the hassle out of upgrading your jewellery box, we rounded up our best jewellery picks, from statement to understated styles. The standout here was the Lucy Williams Square Malachite Gold Necklace, which forms part of the blogger’s ongoing collaboration with Missoma. The gold chain necklace comes adorned with a deep green malachite stone, which our reviewer says will stand the test of time.
Best vegan bags: Kwonn Coated Black Tote: £449.46, Kwon
With the majority of our social activities taking place outside these days, a handbag that can store our ever-growing list of daily essentials has become vital. For a carryall that’s stylish, sizeable and good for the plant, we recommend investing in this option from Kwonn. Completely free of toxins and PVC, it is made from super-soft Japanese vegan suede and is big enough to fit a small laptop. If you’re accident prone, fear not, because the outer surface has been coated to feel smooth and leather-like, meaning it easily wipes clean.
Best cashmere jumper: Whitles Dalmation Print Cashmere Jumper, £119, John Lewis & Partners
A fabric that is almost synonymous with luxury, cashmere can be expensive but if you look after it well, it can last you many years. For a statement piece that’s perfect for layering, our reviewer picked this Whistles version as the best buy in our round-up of the best cashmere jumpers. “This is certainly not your grandma’s cashmere,” they said. “If you’re looking to move on from leopard print but aren’t quite ready to let animal prints go, this is the jumper for you. We loved it not only because of its trend-proof print, but also because it’s grungy grey makes it a perfect for transitioning from crisp autumn days to chilly winter nights.”
For more fashion and beauty inspiration, check out our round-up of the best women’s joggers and make-up sponges to deliver a flawless finish
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.