Beauty Products 2021

According to InStyle Readers, 2021 Was All About Age-Defying Retinols and Lash-Lengthening Mascaras

See all 30 of the year’s most popular products
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The last two years have somehow felt like both the longest and the shortest years ever lived. The blur created by the unending pandemic has made the passage of time confusing and circular. But there have been some high points — the Jenniffer Coolidge renaissance, glitter makeup that does not budge, and David Lynch's gleeful daily weather updates. On the aesthetic side of things, The Nap Dress reigned supreme in fashion while the beauty industry honed in on skincare, hair care, and mascara. 

If you spent the last year dealing with thinning hair, looking for the best anti-aging retinol serums, and obsessing over makeup products for the upper half (visible-while-wearing-a-mask) of your face, you're in the majority. In 2021 InStyle covered a lot of beauty, skincare, haircare, makeup, body care — you name it — and some trends and favorite products have emerged according to InStyle readers and their shopping habits. 

In 2021 Retinol was the MVP on the skincare side of things regardless of what formula or target area. When it came to haircare, shoppers were most interested in products that would strengthen and improve the health of their hair. Shopper-loved makeup products were more of a mixed bag, but clean, effective mascaras went unmatched by any other product type.

The following beauty products were the most purchased by InStyle readers. Maybe the list will vindicate your beauty purchases or maybe you'll get turned onto a new emerging hero product: either way it'll be a scenic walk down memory lane. 

The Amazon Top 10 

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Shop now: $18 (Originally $25); amazon.com

This year InStyle readers were way obsessed with Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair Face Oil and with good cause. The retinol infused treatment gets big props for being a staple in Jennifer Garner's skincare routine, but the over 25,000 five-star Amazon ratings also say the oil is effective.  

  • Maple Holistics Biotin Shampoo for Thinning Hair, $10; amazon.com
  • Fleur & Bee Eyes Eyes Baby Anti-Aging Cream, $26; amazon.com
  • Natural Vine Hair Growth Oil, $15 with coupon (Originally $20); amazon.com
  • Acure Brightening Facial Scrub, $9 (Originally $10); amazon.com
  • Health Priority Vitamin E Anti-Aging Serum, $20 (Originally $25); amazon.com
  • Andalou Naturals Hyaluronic Dmae Lift Firm Skin Cream, $19 (Originally $27); amazon.com
  • Pureauty Biotin Hair Growth Serum, $20; amazon.com
  • L'Oreal Paris Revitalift 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $13 (Originally $24); amazon.com
  • TruSkin Vitamin C Serum, $20 (Originally $30); amazon.com

The Top 10 Skincare Products

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Shop now: $28; peaceoutskincare.com

2021 was the year of retinol. The anti-aging, skin-firming, complexion-boosting ingredient was everywhere. But despite its growing omnipresence, retinol is still an intimidating ingredient. Peace Out's Retinol Eye Stick (and more recently the Retinol Face Stick) makes things easy. It's a no-frills encapsulated retinol formula that shoppers say gives way to instant results.

The Top 5 Hair Products

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Shop now: $32; renefurtererusa.com

All of the greatest haircare hits of 2021 had to do with reducing hair loss, promoting hair growth, and strengthening strands. Rene Furterer's Triphasic collection was a huge hit with InStyle readers who bought the shampoo, conditioner, and serum. 

The Top 5 Makeup Products 

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Shop now: $26; kosas.com

A quiet theory I have been testing all year is that all of the best new mascaras are coming from clean beauty brands. In this vein, Kosas' The Big Clean Mascara was hugely popular with InStyle readers. While I can't pinpoint the exact features that made this mascara a hit, my bet is a combination of the intense black pigment and dramatic thickening effect. 

  • Wet n Wild BrowSessive Brow Pencil, $2 (Originally $3); amazon.com
  • Kjaer Weis Im-Possible Mascara, $32; kjaerweis.com
  • Kosas Weightless Lipstick, $28; kosas.com
  • Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara, $11; ulta.com