The 50 Best Beauty Products We Loved in 2019

“This was the year of the retinol for me. At 31, I decided it was finally time to jump on the bandwagon. Reducing fine lines, fading acne scars, boosting collagen, improving skin texture—retinol seemed like a godsend. Per my colleague’s recommendation (who looks 15 years younger than she is), I got a prescription for adapalene 0.3% (the generic of Differin). This, it turns out, was a mistake. Everything was fine for a month or so.

“In fact, I saw a very noticeable difference from the product; my skin looked like it was reverse-aging. I introduced the product slowly, but my skin was in tatters after a couple of international flights (the dry air of planes is known to exacerbate the drying effects of retinol). It was flaking off so badly that I looked like I had a true skin disorder. It stayed that way for two weeks despite the fact that I stopped using the product immediately. I know you have to build up a tolerance to retinol, but prescription strength was a bit too aggressive for my skin, and from what I’ve read online, someone my age doesn’t need a product that strong.

“After my skin had recovered, I conveniently got an email from Shani Darden’s team about her newly packaged Retinol Reform. Darden was inspired to create the product as a gentle yet effective alternative to options that too harsh for her clients’ skin. And while I’m not lucky enough to be a client of Darden’s yet (she counts Jessica Alba and Chrissy Teigen as clients), if it’s good enough for her A-listers, I was more than down to try it.

“The first thing I noticed when trying the product was the lovely lotion-like texture that makes it super easy to spread onto your skin and leaves your face feeling truly moisturized. This was the exact opposite of adapalene, a drying gel that left my skin feeling parched and sort of mask-like. Adapalene also had strict rules about not using more than pea size because it’s so potent, and I feel relieved about using a gentler formula that doesn’t have so much potential for disaster. Adapalene also has methylparaben in it, and Retinol Reform is free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and gluten.

“I’ve been using Retinol Reform for about a month so far without any peeling, and I can already see my skin changing for the better—it’s more even tone and just overall more youthful-looking. Our managing editor, Kristen, who used to work at Allure (aka has been exposed to the very best in beauty), has also been a longtime fan. If you’re new to retinol like I am, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Retinol Reform as an effective yet gentle place to start.”