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The Most Innovative Beauty Products Of Summer 2021

We don't need to tell you that 2020 was the year our beauty routines fell to the wayside... nor do we need to explain why. But with vaccination rates on the up and up, mask mandates loosening, and makeup sales numbers rising, the message is clear: Beauty is back, and it feels good.
There's no time like the summer to embrace all things new, fresh, and exciting, so we tasked Refinery29 editors with handpicking this season's most innovative must-haves in three essential categories. Ahead, the tinted lip balms, nail products, and sunscreens we've deemed the very best of summer 2021.
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Photographed by Tonje Thilesen
Tinted Lip Balm
Photographed by Tonje Thilesen.
After well over a year hidden behind masks, it's high time for our lips to get a little attention. Comfortable but colorful, a lightweight tinted balm is ideal for hot weather and swiping on without a mirror — in other words, the only lip product you really need this summer. If pigment is a priority for you, reach for one of the nine shades of Glossier Ultralip, which somehow imparts the juicy sheen of a gloss, the luxe feel of a balm, and an impressive color payoff that can be layered on for opacity. The buttery ILIA Balmy Tint Hydrating Lip Balm, which comes in eight looks-good-on-everybody shades, gives a wash of color with one coat and a more intense tint with three.
Photographed by Tonje Thilesen.
If sheer is more your speed, The Lip Bar Tinted Shimmer Balm lends just the right amount of subtle color, and a hit of peppermint that will make you want to reapply over and over again. If you can't get enough of gloss but want a little more staying power, Merit Shade Slick Tinted Lip Oil goes on slick, shiny, and moisturizing, then leaves behind a believable tint that lasts all day.
Cinq à Sept Top; Cinq à Sept Skirt; Justine Clenquet Sidney Choker, $179, available at justineclenquet.com; I’m Many Reborn White Daisy Organza Necklace, $192, available at immany.co.uk; Verameat Bling Ring, $198, available at verameat.com; Physical Affection Inlay Ring, $40, available at physical-affection.com
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Photographed by Tonje Thilesen.
Versace Tresor de la Mer Cropped Shirt, $995, available at versace.com; Versace Tresor de la Mer Print Ruffled Skirt, $1850, available at versace.com; Versace Medusa Aeternitas Choker Necklace, $625 $312, available at versace.com; Versace Tresor de la Mer Starfish Earrings, $450 $225, available at versace.com.
Photographed by Tonje Thilesen
Nail Product
Photographed by Tonje Thilesen.
Raise your well-manicured hand if you mastered the art of the DIY mani over the past year (or at least attempted to — that has to count for something, too). Fortunately for both the at-home nail art enthusiast and those of us who seek out the salon experience but still like to BYOB, the nail-color offerings on the market have never been better. The next best thing to getting your nails done professionally, the Essie Museum Muse Collection, out this month, features an array of summer-ready shades in the beloved Gel Couture formula that promises up to two weeks of lasting power.
Photographed by Tonje Thilesen.
For bright, happy color that goes on shiny and smooth, the brand-new OPI Malibu Collection has everything you'd want in a shade range inspired by the sand and surf of Southern California, including a not-quite-pastel blue we can't get enough of. The pale gray-green Piedra from the JinSoon x Suzie Kondi collaboration is one of the most unique shades we've ever seen, and Tomato Zero Irritant Nail Polish debuts an innovative water-based formula made for hypersensitive skin (and actually performs).
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Emily: Collina Strada Bikini Top; Sorelle NYC Alyssa Earrings, $130, available at sorellenyc.com; Alison Lou Coil Enamel Band, $1015, available at alisonlou.com; Alison Lou Pear-Shaped Cocktail Ring, $1485, available at alisonlou.com. Ashley: Trina Turk Nazare Twist Bandeau, $102 $70, available at trinaturk.com; Rachel Antonoff Matthew Jumpsuit, $265, available at rachelantonoff.com; Justine Clenquet Alabama Choker, $269 $179, available at justineclenquet.com; Verameat Queen Signet, $240, available at verameat.com; Verameat Magic Moth Ring, $140, available at verameat.com. Naushin: Chanel Bikini; Dauphinette Korean Pear Blossom Chain Bracelet, $95, available at dauphinette.com; Alison Lou Heart Stack Ring, $1375, available at alisonlou.com; Eva Segoura Got Karats Ring, $54, available at beaconscloset.com.
Photographed by Tonje Thilesen
Sun Protection
Photographed by Tonje Thilesen.
If you still think of sunscreen as an unsexy yet necessary evil, where have you been? Chalky, annoying-to-apply formulas have gone the way of HBO Now to make room for a whole new generation of prestige sun protection that looks and feels so good, you'll actually want to put it on. (No, really.)
Photographed by Tonje Thilesen.
The '80s-inspired packaging of Vacation SPF 30 Classic Lotion might look retro, but the thoroughly modern formula that smells like the Platonic ideal of summer and sinks into skin like a dream. SkinCeuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 30 is more than sunscreen; it's proper skin care, with a silky, slightly blurring finish that evens skin tone over time with ingredients like niacinamide and tranexamic acid. If you like a side of instant glow with your SPF, the dewy, hydrating EltaMD UV Glow Broad-Spectrum SPF 36 will be your new go-to, plus Supergoop! Glowscreen Body SPF 40 for everything below the neck.
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Ashley, Left: Trina Turk Bijou Solids V Plunge One-Piece Swimsuit, $164 $130, available at trinaturk.com; Gucci 64MM Round Sunglasses, $505, available at saksfifthavenue.com; Serendipitous Project Lettie Earrings, $175, serendipitous-project.com; Verameat Thick Link Up Necklace, $360, available at verameat.com. Naushin, Right: Chanel Bikini Top; Chanel Bike Shorts; Sorelle Caitlin Earrings, $115, available at sorellenyc.com; Sorelle Karen Necklace, $100, available at sorellenyc.com; Eva Segoura Fish Kiss Necklace, $80, available at beaconscloset.com.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
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