14 back-to-school beauty essentials that'll make your life easier
For those rushed mornings or quick breaks between classes
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Back to school season means swapping sandy beach days for all-day study sessions and chilled glasses of lemonade for warm pumpkin spiced lattes. When it comes to your beauty regimen, changes are inevitable, and the season marks the perfect time to revamp your routine. For example, the oil-controlling complexion products you were bound to in the summer get replaced with thirst-quenching skincare that hydrates dry skin. The haircare revivers that brought life back into chlorine-damaged strands in the summer get swapped with products that can extend the life of your school hairstyle.
Needless to say, it's common to switch things up as the seasons shift and routines change. The problem? It’s difficult to know where to start. That’s why we've rounded up helpful back-to-school beauty finds to help you conquer every snoozed morning, all-nighter, and after-school activity you’ll encounter this school season.
1. This dry shampoo from Dove to extend your hairstyle
When you've hit the snooze button one too many times, the last thing on your mind is washing your hair, making dry shampoo a staple in a routine for long locks. Not only does it work to absorb any excess oil in your hair, but it'll let you squeeze an extra day or two out of those tousled curls you worked so hard to achieve.
This dry shampoo from Dove won our Best Overall spot for its ability to give strands a shampoo-like clean feel without weighing them down. It also has a clean, fresh scent and comes at a wallet-friendly price tag—perfect for college students in a bind.
One Amazon reviewer writes: "This is seriously the best dry shampoo I’ve tried and I’ve tried many different brands. It’s very light and doesn’t leave the gross residue feeling when you run your hands through your hair that other brands normally do. I have very oily hair and have never been able to go more than two days without washing it. Ever since I started using this dry shampoo I am able to wash my hair every four days and even on the fourth day my hair still feels/looks pretty great."
2. This lightweight BB Cream from Erborian for quick mornings
Rushed mornings call for lightweight complexion products that even out your skin tone. This option from Erborian takes things one step further by offering buildable coverage, minimizing the look of pores, and protecting with SPF 20. Think of it primarily like a moisturizing cream, but with a tint to even out your complexion.
One Ulta reviewer writes: "I have combination skin prone to acne and this BB cream helps even out my skin tone, adds a beautiful luminosity to the skin without looking oily and it honestly stays put throughout the work day. Best part is that it is the only thing I can use on my acne without it flaring up or looking terrible. [...] The coverage is light but it does enough to make the skin look airbrushed without [looking] cakey like heavier creams and foundations."
3. These under-eye masks from Wander Beauty to fake sleep
Incorporating depuffing products into your routine is a must if you frequently pull all-nighters. Cue these individually-packaged gold foil under-eye masks from Wander Beauty, which promise to brighten dark circles, wake up tired eyes, and hydrate the skin. Peptides help to improve dull skin tone while hyaluronic acid works to plump fine lines and wrinkles. While other eye masks slip and slide all over the place, these ones contain an elastic middle layer to help keep them in place. Wear them for 10 to 15 minutes and then massage the serum into your skin—no rinsing necessary.
One Sephora reviewer writes: "This product has worked for me and I have re-purchased it a couple of times. For how much you get (six patches), it’s a good deal. The serum is lightweight and absorbs quickly. I use these as emergency patches for when I didn’t get enough sleep and have puffiness and bags under my eyes. This product reduces the bags and puffiness, and helps decrease the look of tiredness. I use a good concealer afterwards and it really helps me look more awake." Get the Wander Beauty Baggage Claim Eye Masks from Sephora for $25
4. These acne patches from Avarelle Cosmetics to treat breakouts
If starting a new school year is a stressor, it may cause a few unfriendly visitors to make an appearance on your skin. These acne patches from Avarelle Cosmetics help speed up the healing process of your breakout thanks to tea tree oil, calendula oil, and cica. One pack comes with 40 patches, and you'll get the best results if they're left on for six to eight hours or overnight. Plus, they're discreet enough to wear to class and small enough to slip into the pocket of your backpack.
One Amazon reviewer writes: "Not only do these patches work amazingly, but they also work so quickly! I had a huge painful pimple on my forehead, I put one of these on in the morning and it was gone by lunch! I also like that the pack I got had the larger full-size patches that you could cut to whatever shape and size you need."
5. These oil-blotting sheets from Clean & Clear for midday touch-ups
If your face feels like an oil slick come second period, blotting sheets will become your backpack must-have. The Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Facial Sheets promise to soak up excess oil and shine in between classes without wrecking your makeup. It features portable packaging that's easy to take on the go, and it won't leave behind a powdery residue like some other blotting sheets. Gently dab a sheet around your nose and T-zone for a shine-free complexion.
One Walmart reviewer writes: "I have used these things for many years now and are the one product I can count on to reduce oil and shine on my face. Powders can get cakey and other products have a tendency to irritate my sensitive, acne-prone skin. These sheets suck up the oil without adding any product or residue. The package is small and convenient, easy to keep in a pocket, purse or even a wallet [...]." Get the Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Facial Sheets from Walmart for $5.58
6. This oat cleanser from Aveeno to calm sensitive skin
With dipping temps and drier air, the fall season can make even the most resilient of skin types more sensitive. Swap your oil-stripping cleanser for a gentle one that contains calming ingredients to soothe your parched skin.
The star ingredient in this cleanser from Aveeno is oat, which leaves dry skin feeling hydrated and soft. The formula is hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic (meaning it won't clog pores), and has a milky, creamy consistency that's oh-so-refreshing for early mornings.
One Amazon reviewer writes: "This is such an amazing cleanser! I have very dry and sensitive skin—this feels like heaven on it. The consistency is thick and creamy which is such a relief on my skin. I noticed a significant improvement in my skin in just a week of use. No more irritation and my skin is much smoother. If you have dry, irritated skin, this is a must-try for you!”
7. This hydrating hand sanitizer mist from Touchland
Gone are the days of boring, sticky, foul-smelling hand sanitizers. Meet your backpack's newest essential: the Touchland Power Mist Hydrating Hand Sanitizer Mist. It promises over 500 spritzes and eliminates 99.9% of harmful germs without drying out your hands (or leaving behind a tacky residue). Plus, the formula includes ingredients like aloe vera and essential oils to moisturize your hands.
One Touchland reviewer writes: "I was not a big fan of hand sanitizer but this is a game-changer! The scent of the watermelon one is one of the best and I find myself using it more often and the scent smells almost as good as perfume! It doesn't dry out my hands which I love! It's the most chic and effective hand sanitizer on the market in my opinion and has me coming back for more and more!"
8. This do-it-all makeup sponge from Real Techniques
Make up for lost "getting ready" minutes after hitting snooze with a beauty sponge that can literally do it all: apply your moisturizer, blend out your foundation, smooth out your concealer, and apply your cream complexion products. The Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge is just that, and comes with antimicrobial foam technology that claims to fend off pore-clogging dirt, old makeup, and dead skin cells.
The precision tip works well to blend out concealer in the inner corners of your eyes while the flat edge gives you control if the day calls for a contour. Plus, it's versatile—you can use it damp for a dewy glow, dry for a full-coverage look, and for pressing in your creams, liquids, and powders.
One Amazon reviewer writes: “These are so great for blending foundation and concealer. I always dampen the sponge before applying foundation and I get seamless coverage. The sponges are super easy to clean and last quite a long time, even with regular use.”
9. This 2-in-1 dryer and styler from Revlon
Back to school season means you're often strapped for time, which also means spending 45 minutes blow-drying your mane is probably out of the question. That being said, if you're still wanting your hair to look blowout ready, Revlon's One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer will be a game-changer. It's an all-in-one hair tool that dries and styles your hair, using an oval-shaped brush with round edges to get the job done.
As we found during testing, the benefits of this hot tool are twofold—not only does it save you time (and arm strength), but it minimizes your hair’s exposure to high heat. Plus, it leaves your hair feeling soft, smooth, and like you spent more time on it than you actually did.
One Amazon reviewer writes: "I waited until I had used this for a month to review... still as in love with it as day one. My hair is naturally wavy and I let it air dry halfway before using the dryer/straightener. It does a perfect job and leaves my hair super soft/silky. I 100% say ‘buy!’ if you are at all on the fence. This thing is fantastic and has cut my time getting ready in half!"
10. This eye-opening mascara from Thrive Causemetics
A good mascara can replace a caffeine boost for any exhausted college student, which is why we vouch for the Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara. The formula features flake-free tubing technology to make for smooth, effortless application that's resistant to clumping.
During our testing, we found that lashes looked voluminous and lengthened throughout the day (perfect for midday study sessions), yet the product was still easy to remove when the time came. Apply one coat for a naturally lengthened look and two to three for extra thickness.
One Thrive Causemetics reviewer writes: "Best mascara ever… I love how the product makes my lashes look long and lush. I also love the fact that it encourages my own lashes to grow which I have noticed over the months. I particularly like the fact that it is so easy to remove. Keep up the good work, Thrive!"
11. This 16-hour wear concealer from Tarte
Whether you're using it to hide flare-ups or cover up the evidence of your lack of sleep from the night before, Tarte's Shape Tape Concealer can do it all. It's full coverage and long-wearing, meaning it'll take you through your morning class all the way to your after-school extracurriculars without creasing, budging, or fading. It also comes in 26 shades and comes equipped with a large doe foot applicator to make sure you don't miss any spots. Pro tip: apply a dab onto your eyelids before eyeshadow to keep it from creasing.
One Ulta reviewer writes: "I rarely leave reviews but this concealer is amazing! I have gone through so many tubes and it never disappoints me. It covers so well and blends easily. It's a must-buy! I will always go back to this concealer and I've tried some pretty high-end ones but this one beats them all!”
12. This hydrating lip balm from Florence by Mills for a slight tint
A tinted lip balm can instantly make you look (and feel) a little more put together. While some can be sticky, the Oh Whale! Tinted Lip Balm from Florence by Mills proves otherwise. The balmy texture is a mix of jojoba oil, avocado oil, and shea butter that moisturizes chapped lips and offers a sheer tint of color for “no-makeup” makeup days. The lip balm is available in four shades, including a peach, nude, pink, and clear, and its compact size means it can easily fit in your pencil case. And, reviewers love the bubblegum scent and adorable whale-shaped knob that twists up the balm.
One Ulta reviewer writes: "I am always on the hunt for a hydrating lip balm with some color. Well, this checks all the boxes for me! Beautiful color, not too sheer, not too pigmented either, just right. Super hydrating!”
13. This facial cleansing device from Foreo to refresh skin
The Foreo Luna Mini 3 is sure to yield you compliments as you walk from your dorm room to the communal bathroom—and that's not just because of the gorgeous glow it imparts on the skin. It comes in eye-catching colors, like pink, fuschia, black, mint, and yellow, and will take up no space in your dorm room shower caddy (or gym bag, if you frequent after-school workout sessions). The beauty device promises to cleanse away dirt, oil, and sweat for a squeaky-clean feel.
After testing face cleansing brushes, we liked that this has 12 speed settings to suit your preference and a timer to alert you that it’s time to move to a new section of your face. Though it didn’t win our Best Overall spot, it came in second in our testing and the size of this makes it more portable for a dorm room or gym bag.
One Sephora reviewer writes: "Best skincare tool I have ever used! After every use it makes my skin feel so soft. I love how it has an adjuster so if it is too aggressive, you can simmer it down. [...] If you have been looking for something to apply your cleanser, I would splurge. I have sensitive skin that can be easily agitated and this doesn't bother my skin. It also lasts so long after one charge. I swear by this."
14. This gel-cream blush from Flower Beauty
Still dreaming about your tropical summer vacation? The Blush Bomb Color Drops from Flower Beauty give that luminous “just got back from vacation” glow even in the midst of the dry fall months. It comes in six shades—ranging from peach to berry—that suit an array of skin tones, and reviewers rave about the pigmented and long-wearing formula that can last through a day full of classes.
One Ulta reviewer writes: "This is the easiest product to blend over both liquid and powder. It’s buildable, and gorgeous. I am beyond obsessed with these and use them with and without foundation for a gorgeous effortless look."
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.