Is there anything quite like stepping into a Sephora? The moment you surround yourself with its distinct scent (a blend of 100 different fragrance samples), its oddly satisfying displays, and its array of head-scratching dance remixes of pop hits from 2015, you feel the warming aura of retail therapy. Nothing gives us a serotonin boost quite like testing 100 different products on our arms, and the rush of adrenaline we get from evading the makeup artist is second to none. Plus, the place really does have it all—from skincare staples to oddly appealing bright-blue lipstick, you’re bound to find something that you can’t help but throw into your eyeshadow-dusted basket. (And, it’s hard to resist those complimentary birthday gifts.)
Maybe you’re a burgeoning TikTok MUA, or maybe you’re just a dude who likes fancy deodorant. But if you simply don’t know where to start—Sephora sells almost 450 moisturizers alone, so we get it—we’re pleased to report that we can help, considering that we’ve collectively spent more hours scouring the shelves of the black-and-white-striped store than we have in higher education. After hours of smoothing, spraying, dousing, massaging, and painting ourselves with Sephora’s products, we’re ready to deliver the ultimate, once-and-for-all list of the best buys from Sephora. Let us be your beauty guides—just sit down, relax, and treat yourself to all the best exfoliating face masks, hydrating creams, serums, cleansers, and more.
The best skincare products from Sephora
The Ordinary Niacinamide Serum
This serum is a holy grail product for many acne sufferers, with its potent vitamin-and mineral-infused formula of 10% pure niacinamide and 1% zinc—plus, gotta love that low price tag (bless you, The Ordinary). “It’s incredible that for 11 bucks, this super-simple serum solved a problem I’d had for literally decades,” Rec Room contributor Angel Kilmister explains, referring to her hormonal cystic acne that magically disappeared when she started using this product. “It also helped with my skin’s blackheads, bumps, and unwanted texture. I’ll use it forever.”
Peter Thomas Roth’s Vital-E Antioxidant Recovery Cream
This antioxidant-rich cream from Peter Thomas Roth reduces redness, irritation, and signs of aging, and even claims to combat the aging effects of pollution and blue light (aka, the grime from city air and the glaring glow of our screens). “This is my favorite everyday moisturizer for so many reasons—it smells light and fresh, has the best creamy, whipped-shea-butter-like texture, and is formulated to protect your skin from environmental bad guys including pollution and blue light,” Rec Room editor Hilary Pollack says. “It absorbs super quickly but makes my skin feel bouncy and soft for hours and hours, like a smooth, happy, moisturized marshmallow.”
The Caudalie Instant Detox Mask
Caudalie is a French cool-girl brand that has loads of popular products, but this mask reigns supreme with our staff. This clay mask deep-cleans the gunk from your beautiful visage, leaving it squeaky clean and radiant, and tightens your pores in as little as 10 minutes. “Use this once a week for glowy skin; it’s the best clay mask for sensitive skin that clears out my nasty discus pores without over-stressing them,” Rec Room writer Mary Frances “Francky” Knapp says. It works best for normal, combination, and oily skin, and it also helps treat dullness and uneven texture.
The INKEY’s List Salicylic Acid Acne + Pore Cleanser
For those who suffer from a monthly cycle of coming-and-going zits and oil, this INKEY cleanser is a lifesaver. It dissolves makeup and dirt to prevent breakouts, and zaps existing ones with a formula of 2% salicylic acid to gently exfoliate pores and sweep away dead skin cells for a clearer complexion. It also helps calm excess oil production—and again, another product with a fab price tag that costs less than a fancy sandwich.
Paula's Choice’s Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Paula is the GOAT, and her Choice is our choice. This daily leave-on exfoliant is formulated to gently clear the dullness off your face, using its exfoliating properties to unclog pores, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and sweep away dead skin cells. “This is the one skincare product I recommend to everyone. My sister saw next-day results when I gave her a bottle at Christmas,” explains Rec Room editor Marshall Bright. “If I had to only buy one active product for my skincare routine, it would be this. It immediately makes my skin look smoother and more even. I use it a few times a week, but for more sensitive skin, one to two times is probably better.”
Brazilian Bum Bum Body Cream
Come for the funny name, stay for the amazing smell and magic skin-firming powers, courtesy of guaraná, which smooths and tightens. Rec Room contributor Angel Kilmister got a sample of Brazilian Bum Bum Cream one time with her Sephora order, then quickly got addicted and bought the big tub, saying, “it’s great for slathering on, yes, your ass, but also works wonders in firming and smoothing your arms, thighs, and décollatege.”
Origins’ Plantscription Youth-Renewing Power Night Cream
This age-correcting moisturizer targets fine lines and is formulated with anogeissus, a powerful ingredient that supports skin's natural production of fibrillin, which improves elasticity. You can spend infinite money on “youth-renewing” products and convince yourself that you need to keep buying more and more, or you can spend a little bit of money—like with this Origins night cream—and rest your weary head knowing that it’s got a clean, plant-powered ingredient list; near-universal praise from happy customers (our contributor Angel Kilmister included); and results that you can see with your own two eyes. Use it before bed to wake up looking hydrated, youthful, and refreshed. “I put this on my face and neck every night and can still feel how happy my face is in the morning,” Kilmister explains. “Seriously, just read the ingredients list: it’s loaded with botanicals and fruit and flower oils.” We may not be able to actually rewind time, but this cream might be the next best thing.
Supergoop!’s Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
This weightless and scentless gel sunscreen is great for all skin types and helps protect against UVA and UVB lights, as well as blue light from electronic devices. “It's a perfect, everyday sunscreen that goes on invisibly, creating a nice smooth, primer-like base for layering under more skincare or makeup,” Rec Room writer Becca Blasdel says. No wonder it’s got a huge cult following.
Origins’ Original Skin Matte Moisturizer
Need to use moisturizer, but prone to turning into an oil slick? You’re whom matte moisturizers are made for, baby; our editor Hilary Pollack digs this one from Origins, which dries in seconds and still keeps skin pert and plump. It’s infused with willowherb, which helps boost moisture, vibrance, and smoothness in skin. It also minimizes the look of pores and, in our experience, helps combat acne and blackheads.
InnBeauty Project’s Green Machine Vitamin C + Green Superfoods Jelly Serum
Vitamin C is a commonly used brightening agent in loads of skincare products, but we’ve never seen a serum with a formula quite like this one. A little goes a super long way, in fact they recommend using only two to four drops at a time and after just one month for a glowing face and it really helps heal breakouts in action.
The best hair care at Sephora
Ouai’s Fine Hair Conditioner A shampoo or conditioner’s ingredients list and properties are important, but so are the scent that’s gonna cling to your mane—and OUAI is known for having bomb fragrances infused into its haircare products. Add shine, volume, and bounce with this conditioner formulated with biotin and chia seed oil to strengthen, thicken, and volumize for an added dose of oomph. It also leaves behind that bewitching scent thanks to a fragrance profile of rose, Italian lemon, jasmine, and white musk. “I always say my hair is made out of cotton candy, because it’s SO fine and breaks so easily,” Pollack says. “This OUAI conditioner is the best product I’ve ever used for fine hair specifically; it smells like a bouquet of expensive flowers and leaves my hair ultra-shiny, not at all frizzy, and feeling uncharacteristically strong.”
Bumble and Bumble Prêt-à-Powder Dry Shampoo Powder
Greetings, fellow greaseballs who rely on dry shampoo to engage in polite society. If you’re looking for the ultimate in a great-smelling, invisible, instant shower, then Bumble and Bumble’s cult-fave Prêt-à-Powder is waiting for you on a pedestal. A fave of multiple Rec Room staffers, it’s super-effective (a little goes a long way) and won’t leave that crispy, dusty cast in your hair that many spray dry shampoos inadvertently leave behind. Just sprinkle a little in your bangs and use your fingers to spread it through any grease spots, and you’ll come out looking fresh as a daisy.
Ceremonia Mascarilla de Babassu Hydrating Hair Mask We love a whole basket of products from Latinx haircare brand Ceremonia—the scalp massager is truly our jam—but when it comes to taking our manes from “spent a weekend camping” to “hosting the VMAs,” nothing quite hits the spot like this moisture-infusing babassu hair mask. Made with hydrating babassu oil, chia seed oil, and cupuaçu butter, it’s ultra-nourishing, shine-infusing, and ideal for dry or curly hair.
Gisou’s Propolis Infused Heat Protecting Spray
Infused with propolis, which is a compound produced by bees to protect and strengthen their beehives, Gisou’s heat protectant spray is a blowout’s best friend. It’s nutrient-rich and hair-strengthening, and leaves hair soft and shiny: “No shade to my natural hair, but I do love giving myself a good blowout after hair wash day, and this stuff keeps the life in my hair, even after styling,” Rec Room intern Zoe Pelikan says.
The best fragrances at Sephora
19-69 Rainbow Bar
Sephora just recently added gender-less fragrance house 19-69 to its roster of brands, and we’re stoked to see it. 19-69 makes scents inspired by countercultural moments and places of the 20th century, including its dreamy, earthy Rainbow Bar scent, which is an homage to the iconic Rainbow Bar and Grill that was ground zero for the 80s hair metal scene on the Sunset Strip. It’s an ultra-unisex fragrance that combines the cozy wood-paneling aroma of cedarwood with fresh basil, cardamom, and a hint of citrus. Rec Room contributor Angel Kilmister picked up a bottle, and loved it so much she gifted her bestie the candle version for the holidays last year.
Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille
Tom Ford’s scents are known for being exquisitely crafted, evocative, and long-lasting. They are also known for being exorbitant—a large 3.4-oz bottle of his fragrances will run you nearly $400. But, Rec Room writer Becca Blasdel deems them worthwhile. “As someone who has trouble finding nuanced, feminine scents, that won’t give you a toothache or smell like Febreze, I can attest that Tom Ford fragrances are incredibly long-lasting, and quite unique,” says Blasdel. “Tobacco Vanille was one of my first signature scents—with intoxicating notes of tonka bean, tobacco, and a woody undercurrent that will have strangers asking what you’re wearing.”
Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf
“This perfume smells like what I wanted the Victoria’s Secret Sunkissed Body Spray I bought in the ninth grade to smell like,” Rec Room intern Zoe Pelikan says. It’s like a going-out outfit that both shows skin and leaves you wanting more, with sweet and spicy notes of jasmine, orange blossom, and patchouli.
Maison Margiela Replica
Maison Margiela’s subverted fashion sense has made it a staple amongst hot and worldly people, and while we haven’t saved up enough for the brand’s iconic Tabi boots, we can smell like we have after copping this travel-sized trio of its Replica scents, which includes notes of a mahogany bar, mossy forest, and your Dimes Square crush and our favorite sweet ‘n’ smoky unisex scent, Jazz Club.
In the market for a classic ~*~sexy~*~ scent? Givenchy’s L’Interdit is a floral date-night fragrance that was originally created in 1957 for none other than our patron manic-pixie-dream-girl saint Audrey Hepburn, who had exclusive access to it for a year before it was released to the public. Makes sense, since it’s ultra-femme but tirelessly timeless—in case that isn’t obvious from the fact that we’re still enchanted by it 65 years later. Wear it with Crocs to confuse your crush.
The best makeup from Sephora
Clinique’s Black Honey Lipstick
This TikTok-viral, balm-like lipstick offers sheer color that fuses with the natural tone of your lips for a universally flattering shade. “I use this as a blush and on my lips, it’s one of the most natural-looking products,” our writer Francky Knapp explains.
Milk Makeup’s Kush Fiber Eyebrow Gel
A defined brow can make all the difference and is a simple way to feel put-together. Milk Makeup’s tinted eyebrow gel is formulated with hemp-derived cannabis seed oil to condition and subtly fuse fibers to your brows to give the appearance of enhanced fullness without going full 2016 cray-cray. “This brow gel has a great consistency, [it’s] very buildable and not too waxy or hard, and it will definitely keep your brows in place, but makes them easy to shape in a natural way,” our writer Becca Blasdel says. https://www.sephora.com/product/kush-fiber-brow-gel-P43312
ILIA Limitless Lash Lengthening Mascara
We’ve got mad love for drug-store mascara—L’Oreal Voluminous, you’re not going anywhere—but if you wanna see BIG performance and seriously lash-lift-mimicking effects, ILIA’s Limitless mascara is, frankly, magical. “I’ve tried at least three dozen different brands of mascara in my life, and this one wildly impressed me from the moment I tried it,” editorial director Hilary Pollack says. “My lashes are monster-jam magnified. It’s kind of nuts.” The secret is in the super-creamy formula and the unique shape of the 2-in-1 brush, which offers lush coverage from one side and more combed-out, individual-lash-separating strokes from the other.
Tower 28’s Beauty SuperDew Shimmer-Free Highlighter Balm
Get glassy skin and look like a luminous goddess with this highlighting balm. It has no shimmer or glitter, so it provides a more subtle, natural glow than those disco-ball-style highlighters we fell victim to in 2017. Tower 28 is an AAPI- and woman-owned company, and this shimmer-free highlighter is a gel that won’t clog pores. “I put some on my cheekbones and under my brow to catch the light in a no-makeup way,” our writer Francky Knapp says.
Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat
You’ve heard of Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk, and how it’s the ultimate YLBB color (that’s “your lips but better,” n00b). But if you haven’t tried it, we get it if you don’t yet understand just how masterful its powers are. The “cheat” in Lip Cheat is that you get that smooth, plump kisser without a single injection of filler—and the creamy, long-lasting formula just don’t quit. Editorial director Hilary Pollack, one of those freaky people who has worn some form of lipstick every day for 10+ years, says this is one of her desert-island lip liner picks.
Nars Mini Radiant Creamy Concealer
In addition to its beloved gold-flecked pink Orgasm blush, Nars is also lauded for its absolutely top-notch concealer, formulated for strong coverage without creasing, smudging, or making you look cakey. You may have stayed out at Bossa Nova until 3 a.m., but your boss doesn’t need to know that—so just cover up your under-eye circles and go. “Acne, dark spots, whatever—this is the concealer I keep in my purse at all times for covering up anything undesirable,” Rec Room contributor Angel Kilmister says.
Laura Mercier’s concealer powder
“Facialists, dermatologists, my beautiful aunt who has glass-like skin—they’ve all told me the same thing: Laura Mercier is great for people who breakout, want coverage, and don’t want shine,” our writer Francky Knapp gushes about this powder. “My breakouts are nowhere near as bad as they were in my early twenties, but I still find myself using the French skincare brand’s powdered concealer because it goes on light, gives me a natural glow, and has SPF 20.” For those with oily skin, this stuff is life-saving.
Phew—*wipes sweat from brow*—Sephora’s really got it all. From skincare, to haircare, to makeup and fragrances, these are the crème de la crème. Our favorite parts about shopping at Sephora online are as follows: It’s never crowded, you get as much time as you want to choose your free samples, you get to DJ and set the vibes, and you are never tempted by the minis they (conveniently) put right by checkout for you to quickly add to your cart. Stay one step ahead of the man, always, and do it in full-glam, dahlings.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.