Allure’s Best of Beauty Virtual Celebration Was Exactly What We Needed Right Now

I have been at Allure for about 10 years, which means that I’ve swatched and swiped and tested products for 10 Best of Beauty Awards, but this year was unlike any other. We tested thousands of beauty products from home (one editor compared her living room to a Sephora pop-up shop) and debated moisturizers and lipsticks over Zooms (so many Zooms). It had its challenges but our new virtual world also had some major bright spots — like, for the first time, we were able to connect with you live to celebrate our 353 winners… and the beauty rituals that bring us all such joy.

The Best of Beauty Virtual Celebration brought world-famous beauty experts – and their top makeup, hair, and skin care advice – to your kitchen tables and living room couches. Beauty lovers from around the world tuned in and had the chance to become beauty reporters, asking questions of some of the most sought-after celebrities, makeup artists, hairstylists, and cosmetic medical professionals in the beauty industry (not to mention the Allure editors who live and breathe beauty every day). We held six events, some free and some ticketed, with proceeds supporting organizations close to the hearts of the participating talent. We kicked off the week with The Culture of Black Hair: A Conversation with Taraji P. Henson, and closed with An Insider’s Look at K-Beauty: A Roundtable with Dermatologist Claire Chung and Soko Glam Cofounder Charlotte Cho. In the midst of a tough year, the week was a warm and celebratory mix of laughter, candid moments, and solid beauty advice. Some of our favorite highlights:

Taraji P. Henson showed us her closetful of wigs, told us about the dye incident that left her hair red instead of maroon, and explained how she created the first iteration of her Best of Beauty winning product (TPH by Taraji Master Cleanse A Targeted Scalp Wash) in her kitchen sink as a way to take care of her hair underneath her weave. But she didn’t just talk about hair. “She really gave wisdom about the importance of mental health in the Black community,” says Jessica Cruel, features director at Allure, who co-hosted the event along with beauty editor Jihan Forbes. “And the proceeds from the event went to the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, the nonprofit she founded and named for her father, who faced mental health challenges after returning from Vietnam.”

In Behind the Cover Look: Q&A with Hung Vanngo, the makeup artist revealed how photo shoots happen in 2020—starting with a video recording of him coaching Selena Gomez as she applied her own makeup for our October cover shoot. Vanngo then talked viewers through Gomez’s Allure looks, including her perfect crimson lips (created using her own Rare Beauty Lip Souffle Matte Lip Cream in Inspire) and glowing skin (try applying a blush like Rare Beauty Liquid Blush in Grace using upward strokes). Some of the guests also asked Vanngo about how he got his start and rose to the top of his field. “Hung spoke beautifully about how he escaped Vietnam as a child — his mom put him and his siblings on a boat alone. They lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for several years, before finally being taken in by Canada,” says Jenny Bailly, executive beauty director at Allure, who co-hosted the event alongside senior writer Brennan Kilbane. “And I had no idea that he had been a very successful hairstylist in Canada before he decided his true passion was makeup and gave it all up to move to New York City.” But he is still very connected to where he came from: All the ticket proceeds from this event went to the Huong Duong Home, a center for physically and mentally challenged orphans located near the village in Vietnam where Vanngo was born.

At dermatologist Shari Marchbein’s event, Poring Over Skin (sponsored by Unilever), the topic that got the most play was retinol. “The listeners had a lot of questions about how to use retinol, especially if you’re sensitive. Dr. Marchbein suggested using the ‘sandwich method’ – applying a thin layer of moisturizer, then your retinol, then another thin layer of moisturizer,” says Dianna Mazzone, senior beauty editor at Allure. Adds her co-host Sarah Kinonen, associate digital beauty director, “one of the biggest takeaways for me was that retinol is very unstable, so you have to make sure you’re always storing it with the cap fully on, otherwise you could be using a formula that’s ineffective.”

“We love this kind of hair!” exclaimed an attendee from Rio at Zoom Worthy Hair How Tos: Live Tutorials with Justine Marjan and Lacy Redway (our second Unilever-sponsored event). The hairstylists answered guests’ questions while also showing us how to do fishtail milkmaid braids and voluminous loose waves using Nexxus and Tresemmé products. I had the pleasure of co-hosting the event with beauty editor Paige Stables, was inspired by the tutorials, and made a mental note to remember Redway’s wavy-hair tip: When curling your hair, take sections that are about as wide as the iron you’re using, she said. Redway also had advice for anyone trying to break into the industry: Be nice to everyone, and people are going to want to work with you.

At Above the Mask Makeup: A Private Lesson with Priscilla Ono, the makeup artist’s tutorial for bronze-y purple-y sexy smokey eyes featured Fenty products, including the Best of Beauty-winning Filt’r Instant Retouch Setting Powder (Ono is Fenty’s global makeup artist), and celebrity anecdotes. “She said her go-to makeup look on Rihanna when she's in a rush is a brown smokey eye and red lip,” says Kathleen Suico, co-host and assistant beauty editor at Allure. “Ono also said that she likes to play up her own round face shape by putting blush on the apples of her cheeks for a more youthful look. If you want a more lifted look, she said to apply it on an upward angle towards the temples.”

The week ended with a lively discussion of K-Beauty on An Insider’s Look at K-Beauty: A Roundtable with Dermatologist Claire Chang and Soko Glam Cofounder Charlotte Cho. Chang practices in both Seoul and New York City, and Cho is always on the hunt for the best Korean beauty products to sell on her site. Allure has long reported on and shared our love of K-Beauty products (our editors have interviewed Cho for lots of stories!), but this year, for the time ever, we had the thrill of actually testing products for Allure Korea’s own Best of Beauty Awards (which are also revealed in October every year). During this event, “we were all very into double cleansing and fans of Then I Met You’s cleansing balm,” says Devon Abelman, digital beauty editor at Allure. We learned that ingredients like cica and mugwort have serious science behind them. And some common misconceptions were dispelled: “We talked a lot about how K-Beauty routines aren’t always 10 steps every single day,” says Abelman. “There are base steps: Double cleansing, toner, serum, moisturizer, SPF. And then you add more products depending on your skin concerns for the day, i.e. dryness or dullness would call for exfoliating and/or a sheet mask.”

We put so much work into our Best of Beauty Awards every year, and being able to celebrate them with you in this new and special way was the best payoff we could ask for. We loved hearing your questions, and bringing you direct access to the celebrities and beauty experts we’re lucky enough to work with at Allure. Thank you for making our Best of Beauty Virtual Celebration a success, and stay tuned for news on future events!

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