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    7 Things I Actually Tried In January Before Telling You How Great They Are

    A device that literally eliminated my breakouts, designer shoes, drugstore makeup, and other things that caught my attention in a sea of products.

    Hey friends! It's Essence, Sr. Beauty Editor at BuzzFeed, again. I love that I get to try a bunch of cool skin, makeup and hair products, so when I come across ones that "spark joy," in the words of Marie Kondo, I like to share them. And then I leave you with a thought, epiphany, or experience I had because on the inside, I'm an 83-year-old southern woman who sits on the porch and tells fables to anyone who'll listen.

    Essence Gant

    1. The Clarisonic Mia Smart literally stopped my breakouts and I think I'm in love with an inanimate object.

    Essence Gant

    I started using the Clarisonic about a year ago. Long story short, I went to a dermatologist because I'd started getting random breakouts and wanted to get to the bottom of it. The doctor said it was because I wasn't exfoliating deep enough and prescribed a medication to clear my pores. I thought medication was a drastic measure, especially because the breakouts were like a random pimple here and there, so before taking any medicine, I decided to try Clarisonic since the cleansing brush claims to have a deeper reach than cleansing with your hands. The results were life-changing, and I feel like that's an understatement.

    The spinning brush feature penetrated my cleanser deeper into my pores for a more thorough exfoliation and clean, ridding the oil, dirt, and lingering makeup from my skin. I've had little to no breakouts since using it. A year later and I'm still using the device, but I recently upgraded to the Mia Smart model. In addition to the spinning brush, the Smart has two modes, daily cleanse and gentle, plus a smart mode that lets you pair the device with the Clarisonic app and sync custom routines via bluetooth. There's also a white built-in time strip that turns red when it's time for you to replace the brush head, and the device is compatible with all Clarisonic attachments.

    I especially love this product because it's not just another gadget that overpromises and under delivers. It has literally improved my skin, basically eliminating breakouts and leaving my skin softer and more vibrant. I personally only use it about three times a week because I've found that's enough for me to still reap the benefits. Everyone's skin is different, though, so it's worth experimenting with how often you use it to see what's right for you. It's one of those products I'm genuinely excited to share with people because I know it actually works and it's worth every single penny.

    P.S. I don't use the Clarisonic cleansers; just the device.

    Get it from Amazon for $199 or Sephora for $199.

    2. I used to just walk around with bags under my eyes and then I got right with God and found Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Concealer.

    Essence Gant

    I used to never wear concealer, except for the rare occasions a pro makeup artist beat my face. I don't know why but I was so imitated by it and was afraid to learn how to apply it myself. But then one fateful day, my mother Robyn Rihanna Fenty who's miraculously one year younger than me, launched 50 shades as part of her Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Concealer collection and I saw the light.

    Fenty Beauty's global makeup artist Hector Espinal came by the BuzzFeed office to show me the new product and how to use it, and I've been using it ever since. I found it so easy to apply. The concealer shades correlate with the foundation shades, so if you're a 430 in Pro Filt'r Foundation, you're a 430 in Pro Filt'r Concealer — and you can go up or down depending on what kind of coverage you want. I really love this because part of my concealer fear was picking the wrong shade. Also, the applicator is a doe foot so it gives you full control of how much you apply. And obviously I love it because it legit works! You can see in this pic how my under eye area looks so much smoother on the left where I applied the concealer, and you can see all my tiredness on the right where I didn't apply concealer. If I need max coverage, I apply a triangle under each eye and blend, but if I just need a little sprucing up I only dot a little under each eye and blend. Either way, though, I always set it with Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Setting Powder to eliminate creasing. (This too is a good product that I've even worn allover for light coverage, instead of foundation.) Anywho, I say all this to say that I'm officially a concealer convert and Rihanna is truly the gift that keeps on giving!

    Get it from Sephora for $26.

    3. Covergirl's new Melting Pout Vinyl Vow liquid lips feel like butter, my favorite food, and the pigment is everything.

    Essence Gant

    I've been obsessed with Covergirl ever since the 90s when R&B singer Brandy was a face and used to sing the theme song in commercials. It was one of the first mainstream brands I remember that actually made women of color, dark-skinned women in particular, so visible in their branding. Now at 32 years old, I'm still attached to the brand and I get super excited for every launch. They're still leaders in representation, and their product still delivers! I recently received the new Melting Pout Vinyl Vow liquid lip shades (and a Crosley vinyl player so whoever's doing PR packages over there needs a raise!) and they're so goooood!

    In this pic I'm wearing the shade Below Deck, which is a really pigmented blue. There are 12 shades: three definite nudes for a range of skin tones, classic reds and pinks, and a few statement colors, like this one and a vibrant pink. I appreciate that there are nudes and classics for everyone, and that even the bolder choices work on all skin tones. I can't tell you how many times I've tried blue's and lilac's that weren't formulated with richer complexions in mind. It makes me sooo happy that brands like Covergirl are thinking about underserved beauty consumers, and that they're putting real quality into the products. The Melting Pout Vinyl Vow legit glides onto my lips, and the pigment is there after just one swipe. The glossy finish is perfect because it's not sticky and it makes your lips look extra juicy, which is a big win for me bc I'll practically bathe in anything that makes my lips look fuller. Obviously the best part is that it's cruelty-free and only $12.93.

    Get it from Amazon for $12.93.

    4. If you're a natural girl who sometimes feels like life has forsaken you, this African Pride Moisture Miracle Aloe & Coconut Water Detangle & Condition Pre-Shampoo is for you, sis.

    Essence Gant

    This pre-shampoo by African Pride is what black girl hopes and dreams are made of. It's times like this that I'm further convinced God is a black woman because only a divine being in black woman form would give whatever chemist the very specific knowledge to create a product that significantly improves wash day and detangles your hair before it's washed, no matter the length, thickness or curl pattern.

    To keep it 100 with you, I haven't tried African Pride products since too long ago to remember. But after the best intern ever SWORE by the Aloe & Coconut Water collection, I figured I'd give the pre-poo a go. You can probably tell by the pics in this story, and definitely by my Instagram, that I have extremely thick hair. It's long (when straightened), exceptionally thick, and the curls are a mix of 4a's through c's. I love my hair and I'm so proud of how very black it is (y'all did that, ancestors!), but it takes a lot of work to maintain. Just to shampoo my hair I have to separate it into two Afro puffs and wash each section one at a time to make sure I get through all of the hair and reach my scalp. Ideally, there'd be a pre-shampoo product that could detangle my hair before I wash it, so that cleansing it would be even easier and more efficient.

    And just like that, this jar of miracles came to be and changed the game. With low expectations, I parted off a front section of my dry hair and applied the gel-like formula, pulling it from ends to roots. The slip factor was out of this world and I finger-detangled the section — something I was NEVER able to do before — and two-strand twisted it. Shook but still skeptical, I tried a piece in the crown, as that's where my tighter than tight curls live (like y'all don't already know). That was the ultimate test that would determine if I was a real believer, and SIIIIIIIIIIS!!! The hair in my crown detangled like it was nothing; like it was under witness protection to cooperate with the government; like it was on a date with Lance Gross; like it was being promoted and back paid for all its workplace improvements that nobody acknowledged bc it was black and female. I finger detangled the tighter sections and then reinforced with a wide-tooth comb before twisting it. When I was done detangling my hair, I kept in the twists and shampooed it in the shower. My scalp was more exposed this way and it really made for a thorough, deep clean. To be sure I got all the pre-poo and shampoo out, I unraveled a few twists at a time to rinse out all the product and then twisted them back to stay detangled. When I was done, I applied some leave-in to each section and went about my life as usual. My time was literally cut in half and when I got out of the shower I was done-done — no detangling or any of that.

    I'm such a fan of this product and now that I've had it, I can't see another wash day without it. Also, it's only $4.48 and this is proof that black girls shall reap all the goodness they've sown.

    Get it from Walmart for $4.48.

    5. I have extremely long and narrow feet and investing in these classic Manolo Blahnik BB Pumps is the best style purchase I've ever made. Did I mention EVER?

    Anisha Sisodia / BuzzFeed

    After the last pair of black pumps by a consumer-friendly brand I won't name set my poor feet and toes on fire from excruciating pain, and had the NERVE to lose their heel tips after ONE wear, and kept flopping off my boney feet, I swore that the next pair of pumps I bought would be designer, comfortable and built to last through the years. I researched/Googled "best designer pumps" and "most comfortable designer heels," among other things, and decided that Manolo Blahnik was the brand for me. I went to Barney's and still tried on several other designers just to be sure, but ultimately decided that my research and gut were the way to go.

    That saying you get what you pay for has never rang more true than in this case. I got the Manolo Blahnik BB Pumps and I danced in them on a stage at my company holiday party non-stop for about two-hours, and not an ache or pain — not even the next day. The tips are also still in place, and I've had them about three months now. They fit my feet perfectly, which is a huuuuge win because you don't know annoying until you've tried to wear a strapless heel and it flaps as much as a flip-flop. I know $625 may seem like a lot for shoes, but I'm 32-years-old now and I'm at a place in my life and career where I want to invest more in quality pieces that I'm not replacing every two to three months. Gone are the days where I'm just looking for an affordable option to go with my bodycon for girl's night out. I have adult events, meetings, weddings, and other life happenings that call for a more polished and refined look. Speaking of refined, I've actually gotten compliments on how sleek these shoes are. Never in my life has anybody complimented my classic black pumps until now. The difference in appearance from my lower-end heels is subtle but noticeable in the tiny details, like how they hug my foot and have the most precise pointy toe.

    What I'm super thrilled about, though, is I'm saving money in the long-run. By the time I've replaced more affordable black pumps, which still run anywhere between $75-$100, once or twice a year, I could've just put those coins toward a pair that will last at least 10 years, if not longer. Style staples worth the investment are different for different people. For me it's shoes because of the size and narrowness of my feet, and the stage of life I'm in. For someone else it could be jeans because of their derriere and waist ratio, or a sports jacket because of their line of work. Whatever it is, though, it's totally worth it and you should absolutely, positively invest in it when you're able to.

    Get them from Barney's for $625.

    6. Huda Beauty Power Bullet Metallic Lipstick got me out here feeling like a whole party by myself.

    Essence Gant

    I'm admittedly a big fan of Huda Kattan. She's a genius and certified boss, so I intentionally go out of my way to support her brand. That being said, even if I wasn't such a fan of her as a person, I'd still buy Huda Beauty because her makeup is out of this world. I've had the Power Bullet Metallic Lipstick collection over a month, but it wasn't until a recent TV appearance that I actually gave it a whirl and GURL! First of all, it's all kinds of poppin' in this pic and this still doesn't even do it justice. I'm wearing the shade After Party, a glittery purple, and it's nothing short of stunning.

    I'm always cautious with glittery lipsticks because they can get cakey and dry, but this formula is perfect. My lips don't feel dry, and the specks of shimmer reflect the light beautifully. It's such a good party look, or just another day at work look if you believe in living a fabulous life. It also has good staying power, which is hard to achieve with shimmery formulas. My favorite part about it, though, is the color and how it can instantly up your look. I know it may sound corny or shallow, but with all that's happening in the world right now, I sometimes need a super fun and bold lipstick to make me excited about the day. Makeup doesn't solve the world's problems, but it can help you feel like your best self as you navigate everything that's going on. This lipstick makes me feel beautiful, no matter how ugly things are around me.

    Get it from Sephora for $21.

    7. I made it three-fourths through my no alcohol-January and I'm fully okay with my failure.

    Keep up with me on Instagram @TheEssenceOf_ to talk about lipstick, highlight, potato chips, bad dates, and literally whatever else.