We Tested Thousands Of Beauty Products to Find the Best Ones—Here’s How We Did It

2762 products were considered, only 187 made the cut.

Every year, HelloGiggles tests thousands of beauty products to find the best of the best for our annual Beauty Crush Awards. (And yes, I love this part of my job.) In past years, we called products into the office and the team of testers would meet once a week to discuss their favorite and least favorite products. However, this year has been like no other, so we had to switch things up in order to find the best beauty products on the market. It was a long process, but in the end, it was worth it to give our winners our official stamp of approval. Wondering how we got it down? Here, we’ll let you in on our process. 

First up, submission time. 

We e-mailed 682 beauty brands and asked them each to submit information on a maximum of 10 products each (to cut down on waste.) To qualify, products had to have been launched in 2020, and still available in spring 2021. Then, we combed through the thousands of submissions to find the products we believed had the potential to be the best in their categories. 

Then, we called in the loot. 

Of course, with COVID-19 still wildly rampant in New York City where our offices are located, we had to be very careful with how we proceeded. As the Senior Beauty Editor, I was in charge of making sure everything ran smoothly and the team was able to safely test and evaluate products. Each time I went into the office, I filled out a coronavirus questionnaire to keep track of my activities (it asks if I had traveled recently, been exposed to anyone who had COVID, etc.). With only a few other people on the floor, all spread out so much that we could barely hear each other, I proceeded to unpack all the products and decide which testers would get each item. (#Unboxing!)

Testers got customized boxes with customized beauty products. 

Before sending out all the samples across the country, I asked our testers (a mix of HG editors, friends, family, neighbors, and contributors) to tell me what they wanted to test, their skin types, and hair types. Knowing what everybody wanted and would benefit from helped me decide who would be the best tester for each item. (Hey, if you’re going to be testing hundreds of beauty products, they better be fun!) However, while some were fighting for every vitamin C serum, I had to beg others to consider dying their hair at home. Each box contained a mix of skin, hair, body, makeup, nail, and fragrance products, and once testers received their products, the testing started. 

All together, we tested hundreds of beauty products over the course of several months.

We ranked the items on the following factors: 

  • Skincare: ease of application, absorption, how it felt on skin, how it looked on skin, and if it gave us long term #skingoals. 
  • Makeup: how it felt on skin, how it looked on skin, longevity, and texture. 
  • Nail products: ease of application, dry time, shape of brush, longevity, and pigment.
  • Hair products: ease of application, feel, scent, longevity, and results.
  • Fragrance: ease of application and scent.

Thanks to a workforce spread out across the country, our circle of testers expanded in ways we couldn’t have predicted this year. Being at home meant spending a lot more time with our roommates, partners, and family. So instead of testing products on ourselves only, we got to test them with the people we love the most and get their feedback, too. This helped expand our testing pool and provide us with more useful information—and we found people willing to dye their hair at home!

We consulted experts, too. 

Of course, just liking a product wasn’t enough to put it on our winner’s list —we relied on experts to make sure that what we were recommending was backed by some of the smartest brains in the industry. We tapped dermatologists, cosmetic chemists, makeup artists, hair stylists, HG columnists, and beauty editors from our sister brands (InStyle, PEOPLE, Real Simple, and Health). We asked each of them to recommend their favorite beauty launches from the last year and added their picks to our running list of products under consideration.

Then, we double-checked all the facts.  

Once all the reviews and product recommendations were in and our favorites had been narrowed down, we went back and confirmed that all the products met our criteria. Upon doing this second sweep, we looked further into the details of products that were competing. For example, if there were two highly rated concealers but one of them lacked an inclusive shade range, we’d go with the other. For us, picking a product wasn’t just about its efficacy—we needed to be mindful of everything

We also gave brands “extra credit” for good works. For example, does the brand invest in STEM programs for women? Do the products come in sustainable packaging? Are a percentage of sales donated to a good cause? These weren’t the deciding factors, but they did affect winners if it came down to a tie. 

Finally, we wrote and wrote and wrote. 

For each of our 187 Beauty Crush Award winners, we researched the skincare ingredients, innovative technologies, best application tips, and more. We went back to the testers and asked them to describe what it was that they loved so much about the winning products. We scoured clinical trials to back up our statements and spent hours researching how different ingredients worked so that we could accurately communicate everything to you. As consumers ourselves, we know how valuable hard-earned cash is, so if you’re going to spend money on a beauty product from our winner’s list, you should feel damn certain that you’re going to like it. 

The end…

Or, not quite yet. Sure, we each tested hundreds of beauty products, but that certainly doesn’t mean the items are done for. In past years, we’ve donated untouched or lightly used products to charity or donated the proceeds from products to charities. However, since this year it’s trickier to donate lightly used products and we can’t come together and organize a sale, we instead shared our products with our friends, families, and communities. One tester dropped off untouched products to a women’s shelter. Another gave them to her roommate who’s a healthcare worker, and she then gave them away to doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators. After such a crazy year, few things bring us as much joy as seeing the people we love and those in need indulge in self-care and get excited over new, pretty things.

To find out which products made the Beauty Crush Awards and to shop them for yourself, tune back in on Friday, February 26th.