Lightning Awards for Best Skincare 2019 ⚡️

Best Serum: Sulwahsoo’s First Care Activating Serum 

Hands down, the best serum on the market – we can stand behind that sentiment. The world now knows Korean beauty as synonymous with cutesy packaging, inexpensive products, jam-packed with efficacious ingredients. What most don’t know is how the country also develops the most innovative beauty products well, ever. Like Sulwahsoo’s First Care Activating Serum, which is formulated with traditional Korean medicinal herbs. Not only does it absorb quickly into the skin, it replenishes moisture loss and provides nutrients. That all means that you’ll get your best glow, well, ever.

BUY HERE: Sulwahsoo First Care Activating Serum, $84

Best Toner: AHC Face Toner

This toner is game-changing and complexion-altering. There, we said it. AHC’s toner isn’t only the best on the market, it’ll transform your skin from the inside out. Thanks to its lightweight formula filled with a triple blend of hyaluronic acids, ceramides, French Seawater, seaweed and more, it’ll drench into your every pore and give it life.

BUY HERE: AHC Face Toner, $26.99 

Best Mask: Mediheal

How many times do you sit a little ~too~ long with a sheet mask, or the opposite, remove it too soon? With Mediheal’s offering, you won’t have to second guess as a magical “Mediheal” symbol will appear when it’s ready to peel off. The mask leaves your face looking as if you had a facial and you’ll go throughout the day (or into the night!) with plump, baby-soft skin.

BUY HERE: Mediheal 5-pack, $9.99 

Best Exfoliator: AMOREPACIFIC Treatment Enzyme Peel Cleansing Powder, $60

This powerful formula starts off as powder and instantly turns into an exfoliating foam. With plant-derived enzymes, it removes dead skin cells, purifies the face, removes dirt, while moisturizing in the process. With green tea-derived probiotic and papaya enzymes, together, it leaves your face radiant and perfectly cleansed.

BUY HERE: AMOREPACIFIC Treatment Enzyme Peel Cleansing Powder, $60

Best Sleep Mask: Dr. Jart Water Fuse Sleep Mask

We’ve written about Dr. Jart’s innovative Water Fuse Sleep Mask. Not only does it do the hard work for you as you snooze, it’ll repair your moisture barrier for you. With Himalayan Pink Salt to strengthen the skin’s metabolism, Belgium Hot Spring Water to help sooth the pore, and Oligo-HA, promoting intense hydration, this sleep mask isn’t something to well, sleep on. Get this immediately.

BUY HERE: Dr. Jart Water Fuse Sleep Mask, $34

Best Oil Cleanser: Then I Met You’s Living Cleansing Balm, $38

Charlotte Cho did an amazing job with her brand Soko Glam, the first (and best!) e-commerce site offering Korean beauty products. Last year, she introduced her own brand, Then I Met You, a curated brand of beauty products with thoughtful ingredients. We named Then I Met You’s Living Cleansing Balm as the best oil cleanser last year and we’re naming it as a winner a second year in a row for good reason. Its velvety smooth sorbet-like texture melts into your pores, cleanses it completely, and leaves it better than ever. With powerful ingredients like sea buckthorn oil, persimmon extract, Vitamin E, and more, this will nurture your skin to health while cleansing it like nothing else on the market.

BUY HERE: Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm, $38

Best SPF for Deeper Skintone: M-61 Hydroboost, $68

Like spotting a unicorn in the wild, discovering a daily, untinted SPF that truly works for dark complexions is a one-in-a-million experience. Meet your new leader: M-61, whose Hydraboost Moisturizer goes on invisible and rich, absorbing quickly with no ashy residue. Amazing!

BUY HERE: M-61 Hydroboost, $68

Best Tinted SPF: Elta MD, $31

No surprise that the best tinted SPF comes from our favorite sunscreen ever, Elta MD. This lightly tinted SPF 40 formula gives you a slightly airbrushed look. It’s lightweight, oil-free and gives you that all day glow.

EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 protects against damaging UVA and UVB rays to help combat the visible signs of aging. The lightly tinted formula evens tone, creating a smooth, flawless-looking complexion. It infuses your skin with lightweight moisture for a healthy look and comfortable wear.

Best Mist: Bathing Culture Neroli & Rose Mist, $24

When we first received a curious package from Bathing Culture, a new sustainable soap brand from San Francisco, we were a bit skeptical. After all, most brands that have the word “sustainable” with “beauty” are either ineffective, or underwhelming. Bathing Culture’s Neroli & Rose mist is neither. Its hydrating rose water mixed with neroli, an essential oil, drenches your skin intensely with moisture. So much so, that misting throughout the day won’t become a chore, rather, well, addictive. Be warned.

BUY HERE: Bathing Culture Neroli & Rose Mist, $24

Best Oil: Supernal Cosmic Glow Oil, $108

First of all, this oil from Supernal looks like the Wicked Witch of the West – in the best way, of course. The black dropper sits on top of a glass container full of emerald green oil. We have to admit, it’s absolutely, bewitchingly beautiful. But the oil isn’t just for your #shelfies or Instagram Stories. This is the real deal. The non-sticky, silky formula has Vitamin C, Omegas 3, 6, and 9 to give your skin that transfixing, other-worldly glow.

BUY HERE: Supernal Cosmic Glow Oil, $108

Best New Serums: Dr. Jart, Peptidin Serum $33

This new serum line from Dr. Jart has eight different peptide complexes, including peach flower extract, and helps treat dull, tired complexions. The result: recharged skin that brightens with use over time.

PREORDER HERE: Dr. Jart Peptidin Serum, $33

Best Moisturizer: Augustinus Bader The Cream, $170

Can a moisturizer have too much hype to fail? Sure. But that’s not the case for Augustinus Bader’s The Cream, a formula that’s revolutionized the beauty industry since it launched in the past few years. The intensively, super hydrating formula rejuvenates your complexion and gives it a much needed boost. With argan, avocado, omega 6 fatty acids, and more, this is complete magic in a bottle.

BUY HERE: Augustinus Bader The Cream, $170

Best Multi-Purpose Balm: Charlotte Tilbury’s Multi-Miracle Glow Balm, $60

Is there a perfect consistency when it comes to beauty products? Yes, we found it. For a second year in a row, we’re naming Charlotte Tilbury’s Multi-Miracle Glow Balm as the best balm ever. The velvety, jelly-like formula has nourishing Vitamins A, C, and E as well as amazing camellia and rose hip moils to soften your face. Use it as a moisturizer, a face mask, or a treatment for deeply dry, cracked skin. One of the best products you’ll come across your beauty journey – guaranteed.

BUY HERE: Charlotte Tilbury Multi-Miracle Glow Balm, $60

Best Gel Cleanser: L’Occitane Cleansing Gel-to-Foam, $24

This L’Occitane cleanser is the freshest cleanser on the market. Not only does it have a beautiful fragrance, its gel-to-foam formula provides your skin looking its dewiest finish, ever. Rich with zinc, this cucumber-infused product removes all impurities, makeup while being super gentle to your pores.

BUY HERE:  L’Occitane Cleansing Gel-to-Foam, $24

Best Oil to Liquid Cleanser: Mamonde, Petal Spa Oil to Foam Cleanser, $21

Mamonde’s Petal Spa Oil-to-Foam cleanser does all the work so you don’t have to. Think of it as a double cleanse in a single bottle. The innovative formula contains soapberry extracts, rose oils, and more for a thorough cleanse that’ll remove all makeup, sunscreen, or oil residue throughout the day. Call it a miracle in a bottle.

BUY HERE: Mamonde Petal Spa Oil to Foam Cleanser, $21

Very Good Light Lightning Awards

Best Vegan Cleanser: Indie Lee, $34

There are some skeptics out there who think because a product is vegan it’s not as effective. To that, we say this: Lies! This vegan cleanser from Indie Lee isn’t only powerful, it’s clean as well. With strawberry seed oil, tomato extracts, wheat protein, this formula leaves your skin squeaky clean with a silky, luminous finish.

BUY HERE: Indie Lee, $34

Best Under Eye Cream: AMOREPACIFIC Time Reserve Eye Reserve Cream, $260

Yes, this eye cream is bougie. Yes, it’ll be one you’ll need to save for. Yes, it’s worth it. The buttery formula quickly absorbs around your eyes and immediately hydrates, softens and almost irons out any and all wrinkles. With concentrated green tea, a powerful antioxidant, this will leave you eyes looking the best it ever has.

BUY HERE: AMOREPACIFIC Time Reserve Eye Reserve Cream, $260

Best Lip Mask: InnisFree Green Tea Hydrating Lip Sleeping Mask, $16

We’ve come across so many lip masks over the years. Some are way too sticky for its own good. Others leave your lips hydrated but not soft. This no-fuss lip mask from InnisFree isn’t only 99.99% natural, it packed with green tea antioxidants as well as green tea seed oil from Korea’s own Jeju island. The formula will leave your lips kissably smooth and perfect for the New Year’s countdown.

BUY HERE: InnisFree Green Tea Hydrating Lip Sleeping Mask, $16

Best Acne Spot Treatment: AcneFree Terminator 10 Spot Treatment, $5

How much would you pay to zap away cystic bumps? Thousands? Hundreds? How about just $5. This spot treatment from AcneFree does exactly what it says it will – terminates any inflamed, angry red bumps. It’s the best and possibly most affordable option when it comes to destroying those pesky cysts.

BUY HERE: AcneFree Terminator 10 Spot Treatment, $5

Best Hyaluronic Acid: Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, $300

Okay, this isn’t for the faint of heart – or wallet. For $300 a serum better do its job and go above and beyond. This hyaluronic serum goes above and beyond. Not only do the small hyaluronic acid molecules seep into your skin, they do so, so effectively, you’ll have an all-day glow. More importantly, the formula also has purslane, a potent antioxidant that stimulates the rejuvenation of skin. AKA yes, your skin will thank you over, and over, and over again.

BUY HERE: Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, $300

Lip Balm: Olio E Osso, $28

For the second year in a row, we’ve named the best balm to Oilo E Osso. And it’s for pretty obvious reasons. The balm is so buttery and velvety smooth, it soothes your lips and gives you instant hydration. The formula is as effective as it is simple with beeswax, shea nut oil, olive fruit oils as well as eucalyptus, it’s a perfect combination for your softest lips ever.

BUY HERE: Olio E Osso, $28

Skinnovation Award: Apostrophe

There are DTC brands that prescribe creams. But then there’s Apostrophe, a skincare focused brand that prescribes medications over the Internet. The process is simple and in no time, a dermatologist sends over RX to help your skin with problem areas like acne. Along with a cream, the two will give you ~real~ results along with around-the-clock responses from professionals.

CHECK OUT HERE: Apostrophe.com

Photos by: Chad Chisholm, Custom Creations Photography @chadjchis

2019 Lightning Award Winner Judges

The Lightning Award 2019 Winners for Best Body and Facial Hair Products

Best Body products 2019

BODY

Best Body Wash: goop Glacial Marine Clay Body Cleanser

There’s nothing like a rich, real lather in the shower, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s bubbly, fresh-scented goodness does not disappoint. And, because it’s Paltrow-produced, you know there’s a whole bunch of fancy stuff inside that makes it oh, so effective. The star of the show is the glacial marine clay infused with essential minerals, which is then mixed with an eye-popping combo of oils: organic safflower, cold-pressed moringa, helichrysum, rosemary, grapefruit and peppermint. 

BUY HERE: goop Glacial Marine Clay Body Cleanser, $30

SEE ALL WINNERS: 

Best Cosmetics!

Best Hair!

Best Exfoliating Body Wash: Kora Organics

If you’re a member of the Eczema Empire, you’re probably looking for products that are simultaneously gentle and can pack a punch in the moisturizing department. Kora Organics gets it just right with its Body Exfoliator that sloughs off just enough without irritating inflamed skin thanks to a blend of aloe vera, bamboo stem extract, lemongrass essential oil and diatomaceous earth, which is basically ground-up fossilized plankton skeletons. Yes, seriously. 

BUY HERE: Kora Organics Body Exfoliator, $40

Best Bar Soap: Dove Purely Pampering Coconut Milk Beauty Bar

There’s a reason that Dove is the GOAT of drugstore brands: unmatched quality. This seemingly simple little bar actually has lots going on, from mega moisture to luscious lather to a sumptuous scent. You’d be hard pressed to find spa day-level (and paraben-free) pampering for just a few bucks anywhere else. 

BUY HERE: Dove Purely Pampering Coconut Milk Beauty Bar, $6-9

Best Deodorant: by Humankind

Like streaming TV, natural deodorant is in the midst of an innovation and marketing boom that can make the number of options seem, honestly, maddeningly overwhelming. This Lightning Awards season alone, we tested 15+ deodorants (a sometimes smelly process) to find the best of the best for you! by Humankind’s eucalyptus-scented winner works like an antiperspirant without harmful aluminum or parabens. Instead, its blend of natural ingredients are plant and mineral-based, and the deodorant is so pure, in fact, the brand claims you could eat it. We’ll skip the knife and fork, but our pits sure are happy to have found a new hard-working friend. 

BUY HERE: by Humankind | Eucalyptus refillable deodorant, $12 

Vichy

Best Body Lotions: Vichy Ideal Body Balm / MUTHA 

Maybe we’re high-maintenance, or maybe we’re just suckers for deep moisturizing, but this year, we couldn’t choose just one “Best Body Lotion” winner for the Lightning Awards. By day, Vichy’s Ideal Body Balm certainly lives up to its name, offering the ideal weight, fragrance and sheen via a combination of hyaluronic acid and 10 essential oils, including jojoba, sunflower, rose hip and apricot kernel.

For post-shower, overnight moisture, we’ve been turning to MUTHA, our rich, luxurious new obsession. The brand’s self-described “whipped trifecta of shea, cocoa, and mango butters, vitamins, fatty acids, and pure seed extracts” is elevated by a subtle citrus scent that lingers in the most pleasant way. Bonus fact: a portion of MUTHA’s profits go to midwife and nurse education programs in areas with the highest maternal mortality rates.

BUY HERE: Day lotion: Vichy Ideal Body Balm, $27.50

BUY HERE: MUTHA Body Butter, $95

Best Direct-to-Consumer Fragrance Brand: Hawthorne “Work” and “Play”

Sometimes, you just need options. Enter: Hawthorne’s delightful duo, “Work” and “Play,” essential everyday scents that are attention-grabbing without being overwhelming. “Work” is described as “a fresh and intricate marine sandalwood,” while “Play” is a “modern gourmande fouger”” with notes of lavender, bergamot, tonka, vanilla and cedarwood. Whatever’s in it, they both smell much more expensive and luxe than the $100 price tag.  

BUY HERE: Hawthorne “Work” and “Play” cologne duo, $100

Best fragrances 2019

Best Fragrance: Burkelman T.H.V.F. 

When we first received samples of Burkelman’s T.H.V.F. (That Hudson Valley Fragrance) we were a little skeptical. After all, the notes described were “fire, tobacco leaves and moss.” Not the most winning of combinations. What, did we want to smell like we just got back from camping? But we were wrong – oh so wrong. THYF not only has a warm base, it’s also sweet, complex and rich with flavor. Not only do you feel as if you’re trekking through a luxurious forest, it’ll make you rethink smokey notes and how beautiful it can be.

BUY HERE: Burkelman THVF, $112

Best Home Fragrance: P.F. Candle Co. Sunset Incense Collection 

P.F. Candle Co. is best known for its collection of richly fragranced waxed creations, but the brand’s first incense cone collection is one helluva debut. It’s rare enough to find an entire suite of scents that you love from start to finish. Even more special is the fact its cones burns clean, long and can fill an entire room. “Moonrise” (yuzu, Indian jasmine, smoked cedarwood); “Dusk” (clary sage, iris, palo santo); “Swell” (black currant, tuberose, and sea moss; and “Golden Hour” (bergamot, hay, and golden poppy) are also seriously fantastic. 

BUY HERE: P.F. Candle Co. Sunset Incense Collection, $16

Best Body Oil: Olio E Osso Lustero Body Oil 

It’s trickier than you’d think to find a body oil that moisturizes without being too greasy or ruining your clothes and sheets. But, Olio E Osso makes it look easy with their Lustero Body Oil that hits on several key winning factors: consistency, sheen, scent and counter-worthy packaging. Like everything else the brand produces, simple elegance makes for a superior beauty experience.

BUY HERE: Olio E Osso Lustero Body Oil, $60

Best grooming products 2019

Harry's Razor

Facial Hair

Best Shave Cream: Art of Shaving

We’re beyond hooked on this shaving cream. Let us tell you the ways. For one, it’s great for sensitive skin. As a shaving cream connoisseur would know, it’s important you have a shave cream with a ton of “cushion” between your skin and the razor. This shaving cream from Art of Shaving is the perfect amount that gives you protection from your blade, yet a comfortably close shave. The fragrance is mild unlike many of your dad’s shaving creams, which, let’s be real, can be overpowering. Best part of it all: it rinses clean from your skin with a single splash of water. And like ~that~ you have a new face!

BUY HERE: Art of Shaving Shave Cream, $24.99

Best Beard Tool: Beard Field Boar Bristle Beard Brush

Tough enough to get through your beard, but gentle enough on the skin. This brush doesn’t pull, leave marks, or is abrasive. Instead, it gently kisses your face, leaving your hairs in better condition than before you brushed it. Our absolute top beard brush endorsement, if any! 

BUY HERE: Beard Field Boar Bristle Beard Brush, $9

Best Pre-Shave Oil: Elemis Smooth Result Shave and Beard Oil

There are two camps: those who use beard oil, and those who live life on the edge. We definitely go for the former, as beard oils prevents cuts or damage to your pores. This multi-purpose pre-shave and beard oil from Elemis perfectly softens your coarse beard hair before every shave. Keep it in your shower and dab a generous amount wherever you’re shaving – from head to toe – before applying shaving cream for the ultimate comfortable shave.

BUY HERE: Elemis Smooth Result Shave and Beard Oil, $36

Best After Shave: Weleda After Shave Balm

Shave balms are great because they cleanse your face while you shave. But many of them leave a weird, oily film. Weleda as a brand itself utilizes powerful natural ingredients to delivery effective skincare. In its After Shave Balm, Weleda uses the natural antiseptic properties of Myrrh, a natural astringent (and fun fact: favorite ingredient of Egyptian pharaohs!) to give you a squeaky clean feeling. It left our skin beautifully moisturized without a film like many competing balms on the market. 

BUY HERE: Weleda After Shave Balm, $16.99

Best Beard Oil: V76 Beard Oil

Not only does this v76 beard oil soften and give your beard a god-like shine, it also comes in a super practical bottle. For one, the pump is ~amazing~ and is the easiest method of applying to your hands. Pro tip: Apply directly to your beard brush and brush the oil into your beard for maximum effectiveness for the softest, plush, beard, ever.  

BUY HERE: V76 Beard Oil, $18.50

Shea Moisturizer men's

Best Beard Balm: Shea Moisture Men Maracuja Oil and Shea Butter Beard Balm

When your beard becomes a bit longer, a face oil is hardly enough to keep it under control. This, especially when it starts ~really~ growing out. Whether it’s sprouting or fairly long, we chose Shea Moisture Men’s Maracuja Oil and Shea Butter Beard Balm (try saying that three times fast, we dare you!). For as long as its name is, it gets straight to the point. The formula leaves your skin soothed and soft, while instantly transforming your bristly facial hair into an oh-so-soft texture, giving a perfect amount of shape and control, luster and shine. 

BUY HERE: Shea Moisture Men Maracuja Oil and Shea Butter Beard Balm, $9.99

Best Beard Scrub: House 99 Get Groomed Beard Scrub

Want the answer to flake free beards? This beard scrub from House 99 is it. The David Beckham-founded brand launched a beard scrub so effective you can so goodbye to beardruff and ingrown hairs, well, forever.

BUY HERE: House 99 Get Groomed Beard Scrub, $22

Best Beard Wash: Anthony Conditioning Beard Wash

The best antidote to coarse facial hair? A moisturizing beard wash. Some might say using a face wash is all you need but we will beg to differ. For the best, healthiest beard, you need a wash to make everything softer, more manageable without stripping your natural oils. 

BUY HERE: Anthony Conditioning Beard Wash, $26

Harry's The Truman Razor

Best Razor: Harry’s The Truman

It’s no wonder Harry’s, the razor company, was recently acquired for over $1 billion by rival, Schick. After all, the brand, which has been around for less than a decade, has been offering a better shaving device than any others around. With a sharp blade, comfortable handle and a shape that contours to every which crevice of your beautiful mug, Harry’s razor is revolutionary in its simplicity. The best part? At $9 this is easily the best investment you’ll make this year.

BUY HERE: Harry’s The Truman Razor, $9

Best Beard Trimmer: Remington All in One Multigroomer 4500

We’ve gone through dozens of beard trimmers throughout the years and this is the one question that remains: Can one have it all? Sadly, no. But this one from Remington is pretty damn close. Not only does it have all the attachments (including nose and ear) but it also gets 90-minutes of runtime on a single charge. While it may not be perfect (what is?!), it goes for 10-11 trims and is one of the most functional, best buys around. 

BUY HERE: Remington All in One Multigroomer 4500, $21

Best Stubble Trimmer: Philips Norelco OneBlade Face + Body Electric Trimmer

This trimmer has won many awards from Very Good Light, and it shows. Because when it comes down to it, what’s not to love? With 4 stubble trimming combs you’re able to consistently keep the perfect five o’clock shadow of your dreams. As a bonus: this doubles as a body trimmer and shaver that you can use wet or dry in places you can – or cannot – see.

BUY HERE: Philips Norelco OneBlade, $24.95

Best Ingrown Hair Treatment: Jack Black Bump Fix

Utilizing the power of the chemical exfoliant AHA, this product helps keep follicles unclogged. This in turn, leads to less ingrown hairs, less bumps, and a LOT less stress. We also love how it doesn’t irritate skin, leaving it softer, smoother, and entirely moisturized because nobody – I mean nobody – got time for bumps.  

BUY HERE: Jack Black Bump Fix, $27

Photos by: Chad Chisholm, Custom Creations Photography @chadjchis

2019 Lightning Award Winner Judges

Here’s why our beauty awards, The 2019 Lightning Awards ⚡️, is still so important

Very Good Light lightning awards

Very Good Light lightning awards

Have we reached peak beauty saturation?

That’s the question I had when going over our third annual Lightning Beauty Awards. (Editor’s note: while typing this out I’m still in awe that Very Good Light has been around for THREE whole years! Wow!) I came to this conclusion while getting my 70th box of skincare products earlier this year and couldn’t help but wonder how really good the beauty industry’s become. According to this report, beauty as an industry is now worth half a trillion dollars. HALF. A. TRILLION! That’s more than the economies of many entire countries.

SEE ALSO: Skincare is the new currency

It’s not a surprise. Beauty is now the new fashion, nothing to really bat your eyelashes at. But what’s really remarkable is how democratic, transparent, accessible – and inclusive – beauty brands have become in the past decade alone. Today, we have a brand that speaks to most people. Whether it’s Glossier and its DTC model that’s changed beauty’s landscape, Milk Makeup and its notions of inclusivity, Huda Beauty, amplified by one of the world’s biggest beauty influencers, to stores like Ulta and Sephora evolving to meet its customer base, it’s easy to see how these brands are really trying.

But I’d argue there’s still so much more to be done. While I, as the editor at Very Good Light, have witnessed the beauty industry evolving, I think we can go further. We still can deepen the coverage of ethnicities and colors in ad campaigns, see even more cultures and underrepresented voices seen, as well as create more space for various gender identities. It’s especially the latter that I feel is lacking. The beauty industry by and large still doesn’t include masculine-identifying people from across the gender spectrum.

It’s still predominantly catered towards femme-presentation, cisgender women, and femininity. Of course, that’s important and empowering. Beauty should uplift women and allow anyone – no matter their gender identity – to feel powerful in their femininity. But what about those who want to present as masc? Gender non-conforming, masc-identifying people who want packaging that doesn’t solely have beautiful cisgender women smiling back at them? What about the average cis guy who just wants to try an eyeshadow but perhaps, doesn’t feel it’s for him because he isn’t represented?

It’s obvious that beauty as an industry, while amazing with its strides for diversity and inclusion, still overlooks men and masculine-presenting people. It’s a shame, as these are the same individuals who are seeking beauty like never before in modern history. It’s why the men’s beauty industry is the fastest growing sector. It’s why magazines like GQ are finally acknowledging that men where makeup (though, hello, they’ve always prescribed to beauty!). It’s why there’s an important beauty awards (this one here!)– the only one of its kind – that judges products not by the gender they are marketed towards, rather than for simply being the best in a specific category.

It’s why Very Good Light is still so important to me. It’s a space where we can come together –in an inclusive space – and feel safe speaking about beauty. And I’m still so proud of what we’ve built here and will continue to do. The Lightning Awards are more important than ever for this very reason. It’s breaking down the gender constructs and seeing beauty products for what they are: lotions, creams, lipsticks, to eyeshadows that empower its users.

And ultimately, that’s what beauty’s about: Empowerment.

Notions of gendered beauty products are dead. Beauty isn’t for girls and grooming isn’t for boys. An eyeshadow wasn’t created solely for women nor were razors just for guys. It’s time we move beyond the beauty binary. And whether you’re in the beauty industry or a Very Good Light reader reading this, it’s pertinent to know that we still have a ways to go. Let’s keep pushing! Let’s keep challenging the status quo.

Let’s keep brands accountable by letting them know that inclusivity means ALL people.

Very Good Light Lightning Awards

Without further ado, we’re officially launching our beauty awards, with our new logo (see above!). It’s of Apollo, the god of, ahem, very good light. Every day, we’re publishing the best of in five categories: Cosmetics, Facial Hair, Hair, Skincare, and Body. Check back every day this week for new category winners. Together with Apollo, we’ve gathered a group of the most esteemed beauty insiders in the industry, who helped judge this year’s awards. Check them out, below!

David Lopez, Celebrity Hairstylist

David Lopez, Hairstylist

Amber Kallor, beauty editor

Amber Kallor

Arienne Thompson Plourde, journalism professor and PR professional

Arienne Thompson Plourde

Garrett Munce, beauty writer

Garrett Munce

David Yi, Very Good Light’s editor

David Yi

These are the best makeup products for 2018 ⚡️

Whether it’s that subtle no-makeup makeup look, or a statement-making face beat, there’s no question that makeup enhances what you already love about your face.

After all, makeup is all about empowerment – and one product can say so much. For instance, a lipstick shade can be an utter act of defiance or an eyeshadow can be used as a weapon to subtly seduce. Whatever the case, makeup makes any wear feel their best. And ultimately, your best is completely powerful.

Below, we’ve compiled the best of the best makeup products for you. We beat, we blended, we baked for five entire months and ultimately came up with ONE single winner. And it goes without saying that none of these awards were based on advertisers, monetary compensations or favors.

SEE ALSO: The second-annual Lightning Awards 2018 is finally here!

men's beauty awards lightning awards

(And the Lightning Award for Best Beauty goes to… Photo by David Yi/Very Good Light)

We were completely objective in our opinion and strongly stand behind these choices for you. <3

BEST EYESHADOW: & Other Stories Eyeshadow Palette

Within every bulky eyeshadow palette packed with a rainbow of options, there are always four you to hit pan on first. & Other Stories eliminated the excess and focused solely on the shades you’ll actually use with their well-edited quads. Intensely pigmented and silky, these satin finish shadows blend like a dream and are all you need to create countless looks for day and night. Our favorite colorway: Bisous Marron. The combination of red, plum, bronze, and gold lend lids a sexy sheen sans chunky glitter.

BUY HERE, $19

BEST SPONGE: The Original BeautyBlender

Why mess with perfection? Launched in 2007, this teardrop-shaped sponge changed the way the world blends, contours, stipples, and so much more. While it’s now available in a myriad of colors, the edgeless design and groundbreaking, latex-free material remains the same. Best used damp, this tool doesn’t absorb and waste product—instead, it buffs liquids, creams, and powders seamlessly over skin for an even, airbrushed finish.

BUY HERE, $20

BEST EYEBROW PENCIL: Naturally by Stevi Christine Detailed Eyebrow Definer

The small sleek pencil not only fits in a pocket without bulge, it’s also bougie to put on with the gold packaging. This has fastly become a favorite day bag beauty hack. It’s long wearing, water resistant, sulfate and gluten free, no GMOs and comes in two shades (light and dark).

BUY HERE, $26

BEST LIP TINT: By Rosie Jane Cheek and Lip

You’ll realize this dewy tint was created by a makeup artist the second you swathe it across lips and cheeks. The shimmer-free formula never feels sticky and leaves skin with the perfect kiss of lit-from-within color. Moisturizing and made with organic shea butter, rose hip oil, and skin-calming white tea, you’ll feel good about reapplying this formula containing ingredients you can actually pronounce.

BUY HERE, $22

BEST LIQUID EYELINER: L’Oréal Paris Infallible Paints Eyeliner

You won’t find many liners outside of the department store that boasts this level of intense, quick-drying pigment in such vivid colors. Sure, there’s your standard black within the range, but what we really love is the sky blue, shocking cobalt, and stark white. Unlike some formulas that dry down and look dull or chalky, this liquid sets to same glossy, high-impact finish you swipe on with the precise, .1 millimeter felt tip.

BUY HERE, $10

BEST BLUSH: Benefit Cosmetics GALifornia Powder Blush

As Snoop Dogg and Katy Perry taught us, California girls are unforgettable—and apparently, so is their blush. This golden peach shade gives skin that warm, fresh-from-vacation flush with a hint of shimmer that still looks natural. Daisy dukes and highlighter are entirely optional, as this formula never fails to leave you looking fine, fresh, and fierce.

BUY HERE, $30

BEST CONTOUR: Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate

Sticker shock is a common side effect associated with this compact, but once you get over the price tag, you won’t contour using anything else. There’s a good reason many makeup pros decide to repurchase this silky cream formula for their kits and it’s because the darker shade delivers depth without streaking. Plus, the highlighter photographs like a dream and isn’t overly sparkly. Snap a selfie after using this dynamic duo to fully understand the hype.

BUY NOW, $85

BEST CONCEALER: Diorskin Forever Undercover Concealer

Creamy. Comfortable. Crease-proof. This highly pigmented concealer covers everything from redness to dark circles to breakouts without caking on multiple layers. On good skin days, we like using this featherweight formula in lieu of foundation under eyes and around the corners of the nose for I-woke-up-like-this results.

BUY NOW, $34

BEST NAIL POLISH: Essie Gel Couture in Fairy Tailor

Everyone loves a gel manicure because it lasts—but ain’t nobody got time to soak that sh*t off. This long-wear formula provides chip-resistant color in the perfect shade of sheer pink that looks like your natural nails but better. Apply one coat for a clean finish or add an extra layer for slightly more opaque coverage.

BUY NOW, $12

BEST LIQUID FOUNDATION: ILIA True Skin Foundation

Whoever said false skin was the new true skin was seriously disturbed! True Skin Foundation is a light-to-medium buildable coverage formula packed with botanical actives that make this foundation feel like skincare. The result is somewhere between effortlessly covered and glassy glowing skin.

BUY HERE $54

BEST PRIMER: Honest Beauty Everything Primer Matte

Unlike many primers that feel like an impermeable mask, this weightless formula prevents oil slicks and creates a filtered effect via breathable, micronized bamboo powder that doesn’t dry out skin. Even better: It can be used over makeup to cancel shine on the spot.

BUY NOW, $22

BEST MULTITASKER: Shiseido Aura Dew Face, Eyes, Lips

Unlike chalky highlighters or mess-making glitters, this weightless formula doesn’t budge for 12 hours. Use your fingertip to wash this clear based infused with Japanese pearls across lids, cheekbones, and your cupid’s bow for an otherworldly glow. For an unexpected hit of expensive-looking sparkle, dust Aura Dew on top of mascara or tap it over any lip product.

BUY NOW, $25

BEST GEL EYELINER: MARC JACOBS BEAUTY Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner

Shimmer AND glitter finishes. Need I say more. 40 shades with smooth application. Note that they do dry out pretty fast, however that doesn’t mean they lose any of the appeal. You just have to adjust your application. Who else is ordering Violet Femme 82?

BUY HERE, $25

Lightning Awards

BEST CUSHION: Maybelline New York Dream Cushion Liquid Foundation

Bye bye redness, hello dreamy skin post workout. One of the best uses for a cushion compact is carrying it in your bag for touch ups or post gym sweat. This gives the results of a liquid foundation with the simplicity of a pressed powder.

BUY HERE, $15

BEST HIGHLIGHTER: Flesh Touch Flesh Highlighting Balm

This is for the LIT from within look. Subtle, natural and easy to put in your bag. Try using this stand alone on days you don’t feel like wearing foundation or concealer. It’s a game changer! Sold exclusively at ULTA.

BUY HERE $18

BEST MASCARA: e.l.f. Keep Your Curl Mascara

Changing your mascara every 3 months helps prevent bacteria from growing and causing inflection. Personally I wear mascara sporadically making the drug store price even more appealing. The applicator focuses on hugging the lash and curling it without applying too much product. Hence… no clumping!

BUY HERE, $5

BEST SETTING MIST: Caulalie Beauty Elixir

Doubles as aftershave. Sets and refreshes makeup. Tightens pores. And MORE. It’s a too-many-uses-to-count-in-one product that is good for all skin types (even sensitive!) The scent mix of mint, rose and rosemary is next level delicious for the skin.

BUY HERE, $18

BEST MAKEUP REMOVER: Bioderma Sensibio H20

Countless brands have released micellar water products yet this one holds true. PLEASE do not rub at your eyes to remove makeup and dirt. Use Bioderma to gently dissolve product and effortlessly sweep the debris from your face.

BUY HERE, $15

BEST UNDEREYE CONCEALER: Garnier SkinActive Clearly Brighter Anti-Dark Circle Eye Roller

By no means is this product new on the market, however it’s a tried + true favorite I’ve used on and off since 8th grade (that’s over 12 years). The roll applicator makes it very easy to dispense while offering a cooling mini massage for the eye area. If you use everyday the product lasts approximately 4-6 months. There’s so much value with the amount of product it starts to feel like a magic makeup fairy keeps coming to refill the same container. Use for dark circles and light coverage on other face blemishes.

BUY HERE $13

CREDITS: Photographed by Melissa Chu; Creative directed by David Yi; Styled by Garrett Munce and David Yi; Hair by Patrick Kyle; Makeup by Eric Vosburg; Assisted by Kai Procshan

The Lightning Awards 2018 are finally here! ⚡️

What if we could redefine what a beauty award could look like?

So instead of categorizing products by gender, an accolade could be given based solely on the product itself and how great it actually is.

It’s pretty silly to even think that in 2018 products even have a gender. Like, why is it that traditional men’s and women’s publications have, for so long, separated products into a very limited binary where cosmetics (re: anything millennial pink!) were for the girls and grooming (re: beards!) were for the boys? Beauty based on the binary? How very 2000’s of you.

After all, in 2018, men can wear lipstick as beautifully as women, can be as dewy with their skin as much as anyone else, and can beat their faces until their eyeshadow turns blue.

It’s this very expansive purview on beauty that inspired us to launch last year’s Lightning Awards in its first-ever iteration. We wanted to create a beauty award that wasn’t restricted by anything or anyone. For one, that means we have no advertisers to please, which is completely liberating.

After 5 months, hundreds of hours, many breakouts (I think I counted 21!), 7 judges, 5 categories (hair, body, skincare, makeup and facial hair) and hundreds of products later, we’re so happy and excited (giddy, even!) to announce our winners.

This entire week, we’ll go through all winners in all categories. This wasn’t easy. At all. There are so many beautiful brands – from big beauty conglomerates to indie ones – and new products popping up every single day. But we somehow came to a final decision and we’re super confident to stand behind each of our category winners.

Lightning Awards

Throughout the week, check back to see category wins, including:

  • Body
  • Skincare
  • Shaving
  • Hair
  • Makeup

In the meantime, meet our 2018 judges – and the one item they cannot live without – below!

Judges

Arienne Thompson Plourde, Very Good Light editor-at-large

(Photo by Kaveh Rezaei)

Arienne is a veteran entertainment journalist, having spent a decade at USA Today writing about Hollywood, fashion and beauty, pop culture and race. She also has extensive on-camera experience, appearing as an entertainment expert on Good Morning America, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, TVOne, Fox News, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, and for two years as a regular Today Show contributor. Arienne is Very Good Light‘s editor-at-large, covering entertainment, natural hair and diversity and inclusion and has never met a Charlotte Tilbury lipstick she didn’t love. #BirkinBrownForLife

“I always, always need a deeply hydrating body lotion – and lip balm.”

Garrett Munce, Very Good Light editor-at-large

Garrett Munce

(Photo by Ian Michael Crumm/Very Good Light)

In addition to being Editor-at-Large for Very Good Light, Garrett is a freelance editor and writer focused on men’s style and grooming. He’s the former Senior Fashion Editor and Grooming Director of GQ and my work can also be found in Esquire, Men’s Health, Spotlyte, Askmen and New York. His job is literally trying products, so most of his time is spent in his bathroom or in an aesthetician’s chair. You can follow his skincare obsession on my Instagram @garrettmunce.
“I have an aversion to letting my hair dry, not only because it looks crazy when it does, but I’ve also convinced myself that I will get sick if I leave my apartment with wet hair. They Dyson Supersonic hair dryer changed my life. I have no idea how it works, but it’s the quietest, fastest hair dryer I’ve ever used and I can’t imagine what I would do without it.”

Ian Michael Crumm, Influencer

(Photo by Melissa Chu)

Ian is an OG menswear blogger turned Instagramer turned creative consultant. A former contributor to Racked, Modern Luxury and DETAILS Syndicate (R.I.P.), he has worked with fashion and lifestyle brands including Cartier, Gemfields, Ralph Lauren Fragrance, National Geographic and Mastercard, among others. When he’s not posting on his own social media channels (@ianmcrumm) he works with other brands and personalities developing digital stories including celebrity hairstylist and men’s groomer, Kristan Serafino. Ian is a Very Good Light social media contributor and gives thanks every day for his luscious curls to his mother as well as Color Wow’s Dream Coat Curly spray.

Amber Kallor, beauty director

Amber Kallor is a journalist and editor residing in Los Angeles. After spending over a decade in the beauty industry, she’s worked for publications such as GlamourShape, Style.com, and FashionUnfiltered.com. As a freelancer, she contributes to Allure.com, Vogue.com, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and many others. Amber strongly believes in the transformative powers of a red lip and the stress-relieving effects of an at-home manicure.

“One product I can’t live without … This is SO hard, but: MAC Lipstick in Lady Danger.”

David Lopez, celebrity hairstylist


Celebrity hairstylist and beauty expert, David Lopez shares his unique perspective and expertise on all things beauty from skin and hair to lifestyle and fashion on social media. Some of his clients include: Chrissy Teigen, Hailey Bieber, Ashley Graham, among others. In the current world of Influencer Marketing, David believes in transparency, striving to keep his reach personalized, authentic and knowledgeable. His audience has come to trust his advice and expertise no matter their background or lifestyle.

“Product I can’t live without? Lab Series Matte Renewal Lotion.”

Dan Michel, editorial director

Dan Michel is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Men’s HealthMen’s JournalBloomberg PursuitsRolling Stone, and OUT. He’s currently editorial director at UNTUCKit.

I can’t choose just one so I picked two! Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes I use one on my face and hands every day—especially after a grimy subway ride. Beautycounter Baby Daily Protective Balm This is the only thing that heals my dry, cracked nail beds in winter!”

David Yi, editor-in-chief, Very Good Light

(Photo by Lisa Woods)

David Yi is the founder and editor-in-chief of Very Good Light. The publication has been featured in the New York Times, LA Times, CNN, Forbes, Teen Vogue, among others. Prior to VGL, David launched fashion and beauty at Mashable, was the men’s reporter at WWD, and was the fashion editor at the New York Daily News. In his free time, he likes watching 90 Day Fiance while eating Hot Cheetos.

“I cannot live without AMOREPACIFIC’s Time Response Eye Cream, which is worth more than my entire existence, but it really does work and I’m shaken, shook and completely taken aback by just how efficacious it is! Ugh.”