It’s no secret that lockdown has had a major impact on many of our beauty routines, with the closure of salons prompting an increase in sales of DIY treatments for everything from teeth whitening and manicures to buzz cuts and balayage.
Despite having very little reason to put on a full face, it seems as though our appetite for beauty has not waned during the pandemic, but the way we access it has.
Read more: We put ghd’s new max styler to the test
With more time on our hands and less in-person interactions taking place, social media has become the go-to destination for discovering new products, with one platform in particular reigning supreme when it comes to recommendations for beauty buys that will keep our complexions glowing and our hair shiny until we’re back in the safe hands of professionals.
We are, of course, talking about TikTok. Not just the place to go for learning viral dance moves or pasta recipes, the app has quickly morphed into a one-stop shop for the make-up and skincare products you never knew you needed. In fact, its influence has been so strong that the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has racked up more than 1.5 billion views and probably just as many pounds in sales.
The platform allows creators to share their thoughts on products while also offering up clear evidence in the form of videos, which last just long enough to convince you to add said gamechanging item to your online shopping basket.
But, with so many clips to sift through it can be hard to know what’s really worth snapping up. Luckily, we’ve done all the hard work for you by putting them to the test to deliver our round-up of the TikTok-approved beauty buys that will revolutionise your routine.
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.
Paula’s Choice skin perfecting 2% BHA liquid exfoliant: £28, Feelunique.com
This international bestseller is also a TikTok favourite, with beauty influencers such as @skincarebyhyram constantly raving about its ability to dissolve built-up dead skin cells and unclog pores to deliver a dramatic improvement in the skin's appearance and texture. So, naturally, we had to put it to the test.
A leave-on exfoliant designed for congested, oily and combination skin, this gentle formula stars BHA (beta hydroxy acid) salicylic acid as its powerhouse ingredient, which is a clinically proven blemish buster. It also contains methylpropanediol, which enhances absorption so you can get the most out of each and every ingredient while simultaneously boosting hydration levels, and a green tea extract delivers a hefty dose of antioxidants to leave the complexion bright and clear.
With a fluid, toner-like consistency, we applied the product over their entire face using a cotton pad, starting by adding it to their routines just two or three times a week. Instantly after the first use, our skin had an unbelievable shine to it and while we did experience some tingling, it quickly subsided. With normal to dry skin, our face felt tight at first but we found that following up with a super-hydrating moisturiser helped. We also experienced some slight flakiness on our cheeks, prompting us to focus the product on just our T-zone.
After a few weeks of use, we really began to see a difference in the appearance of our skin, with stubborn pores starting to fade and a reduction in breakouts and blackheads. While we preferred to use this product at night, you can use it in the daytime too – just make sure to follow with SPF.
CeraVe SA smoothing cleanser with salicylic acid: £12, Boots.com
Whether you need a protective SPF or your dry skin needs a super-hydrating moisturiser, CeraVe's got you covered. But there’s one product in particular that’s proven a hit with TikTokers: the SA smoothing cleanser with salicylic acid.
An affordable drugstore product, the cleanser has been hailed on the app for helping to soothe acne-prone skin. It is infused with salicylic acid, a hero ingredient for oily skin that gently exfoliates, unclogs pores and reduces inflammation and redness, while also reinforcing the skin’s natural barrier with hyaluronic acid. But, does it really work?
In our review of the best-selling cleanser, our tester noted that the non-scented gel formula has a runny consistency that offers a slight lather, and added that although it does not feel like the most luxurious cleansing experience, it does deliver on its claims.
“After just one use during particularly bad breakouts, redness is reduced and my skin feels smoother, and after just two weeks of using the cleanser twice daily, my acne significantly cleared up and breakouts have been kept at bay ever since,” they said. “This no-frills product helps me manage my skin during a flare-up, improving the texture of my scarring and banishing any inflammation. At just £12 a bottle, I honestly can’t see myself using anything else for the time being, which is a big statement to make given how much I love trying new formulas. While it doesn’t offer the same experience as a more luxe, creamy cleanser, I’d take the results of CeraVe’s offering any day.”
Maybelline lash sensational sky high mascara: £9.99, Boots.com
With many of us mourning the loss of eyelash treatments during lockdown, Maybelline came to the rescue with a mascara designed to give you long and luscious lashes.
The lash sensational sky high mascara is TikTok’s latest viral sensation with more than 124 million views on the hashtag #skyhighmascara. It proved so popular in the US that its UK launch was brought forward three months and it is constantly in and out of stock across retailers. But is it really as good as the internet will have you believe? In short: absolutely.
Housed in a metallic baby pink tube, the wand, which the brand calls its “flex tower” is made of plastic and extremely flexible, with tiny, spiky bristles that grip and reach for every lash, even the little ones.
We started by applying just one layer and found that the formula delivered some lengthening, but not the kind we’ve seen all over TikTok, so we went back in to build some more layers. While doing this with some mascaras can lead to clumpy, spider-like lashes, sky high didn’t make ours stick together and instead somehow magically made them appear longer and fuller than they naturally are. This, Maybelline says, is because the formula has been infused with bamboo extract and fibres.
When it comes to staying power, we didn’t experience any smudging, which is something our oily eyelids are particularly prone to. Despite this, we found that it wasn’t difficult to remove at the end of the day. We simply massaged our normal cleansing balm onto our lashes and viola. Say hello to another affordable beauty product you need to add to your make-up collection.
Dr Jart+ cicapair tiger grass colour correcting treatment: £13, Cultbeauty.com
TikTok users have been wowed by the immediate effect of the cicapair skincare line by K-Beauty brand Dr Jart+, with the app reporting a 1,000 per cent increase in clicks, while search interest on Google has spiked ever since it landed on TikTok, with a growth of 809 per cent in the last two weeks of October 2020 alone.
Available in the reformulated 15ml or the original 50ml, the cicapair tiger grass colour correcting treatment is designed to even tone and perfect your complexion by neutralising redness and blurring imperfections for a healthy-looking, dewy finish. The formula contains a lengthy list of ingredients, including houttuynia cordata, yarrow plant extracts and panthenol to soothe skin and hydrate as well as raspberry leaf extract to cover up inflammation.
In our review of the popular cream, our tester commented on its thick texture, explaining that you only need a small amount to cover a large surface area. “We dabbed a few small dots over our whole face, after moisturising, and blended in with a densely packed foundation brush. After a few seconds, the green cream became whiter, before transforming into a subtle beige tint that perfectly matched our fair skin tone,” they said.
Our tester found that the treatment helped to even out all areas of discolouration and redness and left their skin looking clear and glowy, but as if they weren’t wearing anything at all. “The smallest amount made a huge difference and we were instantly impressed,” they explained. “It won’t fully conceal large spots or fading acne scars, but it does give your skin a luminous boost that neutralises redness, particularly on the cheeks and around the nose. With one application, it left our skin looking better than it has during the whole of lockdown.”
Nyx shine loud high pigment lip shine lip gloss: £11, Boots.com
A long-wear, no-transfer lip colour with a hyper glossy finish, Nyx says this product allows you to “kiss, drink, hair flip, and wear under a mask with no worries”. Many TikTokers have been attesting to its ability to do so, by sharing videos of themselves kissing their hands to demonstrate that there is, indeed, no transfer. But does it sound too good to be true?
The lipstick is basically a two-step, dual-sided product. First, you apply the colour side, which is a matte liquid lipstick and then, once that layer has dried, you apply the clear gloss on top to seal it in. When we applied the colour lipstick, the formula was extremely pigmented and while it originally felt smooth with a slight shine at first, after a matter of seconds it dried to become super-matte and tacky – so much so that we couldn’t close our lips without them sticking together.
Luckily, the glossy topcoat changed that. Clear and slightly dense, the gloss applied seamlessly with no colour transfer from the liquid lipstick and we found that our lips felt moisturised immediately after application. After about 10 minutes, we tested the transfer-proof claims by pressing our fingers to our lips and found that, while no colour came off, the gloss remained tacky, meaning there was some transfer. That being said, the gloss endured mask-wearing, eating and drinking throughout the day and, although our lips eventually lost their sheen, the colour underneath did not budge. In fact, we found the lipstick was so transfer-proof that they even had trouble removing it at the end of the day.
Revlon pro collection one step dryer and volumizer: £59.99, Boots.com
Skincare and make-up aren’t the only beauty products receiving praise on TikTok – haircare tools are making waves too. Case in point: Revlon’s one step hair dryer and volumiser hot air brush, which has prompted a flurry of joy from app users with the hashtag #revlonhairdryerbrush currently boasting 83.4 million views.
The tool, which is essentially a hairbrush and hairdryer in one that allows you to create effortless loose waves and add instant volume, won best buy in our round-up of the best hot air brushes. The reviewer said that at first glance the brush, which comes in a pink and black colourway, looks quite big, but that its heat and styling is spot on.
“The brush’s power is apparent as soon as you turn it on, with hot air flowing right to the root, thanks to its ionic technology that helps dry, detangle and style your locks. The settings are simple too, with one click to start and a second click for more power,” they said. “The brush is designed specifically for mid to short hair, but we found it worked great on long hair too. Overall, we loved the fuzz-free and bouncy blow-dry result that we were left with.”
Carbon Theory facial cleansing bar: £6, Beautybay.com
There once was a time when, if someone told you they washed their face with soap, you would gasp in horror. After all, soap is notorious for stripping the skin of its natural oils, leaving it feeling dry and sensitive. However, there's now a new wave of solid cleansing bars that promise gentle yet effective cleansing and one of them has gone viral on TikTok – with good reason.
A UK-based beauty brand, Carbon Theory launched in 2018 and has since found fame for its facial cleansing bar, which is made using organic tea tree oil. While an oil sounds like the last thing you’d want to add to an oily complexion, tea tree actually serves as a natural antiseptic, which helps to deeply cleanse skin and purify your pores. In this cleanser, it’s paired with activated charcoal, which is known to gently draw out bacteria, toxins and excess oil, creating a winning combination.
In our review of the cleansing bar, our tester said they found the best way to apply it was to run the product under warm water and rubbed it until it lathers. After massaging the product into wet skin, they said their skin felt instantly fresh and thoroughly cleaned. “My main concern with the combination of tea tree and charcoal was that together they’d be too harsh. However, as they’re balanced out by shea butter, skin actually felt softer afterwards than it did at the start,” the tester said.
Using the cleansing bar both morning and night, our reviewer added that they did experience some purging along their jawline but that it only lasted three days before the results started. “Not only did my hormonal flare-ups grind to a halt, but texture from my old scarring started to even out and the worst of my hyperpigmentation began to fade after just 10 days. Reversing acne scars is a long journey, but it’s off to a very good start,” they said.
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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.