An Honest Review of Merit Beauty Products 2023


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If you’re a habitual no makeup-makeup wearer like me, then you’re probably familiar with beauty brand Merit Beauty. And if you haven’t tried the minimalist makeup brand’s holy grail products before, you’re in for an absolute treat. Because in the over-saturated (and often overwhelming) world of beauty, Merit’s carefully considered 10-product catalog is a breath of fresh air—like a capsule wardrobe for your makeup bag.

In This Article

With Merit you get user-friendliness, skin-loving ingredients (more on this later), luxe packaging, and the perfect amount of pigment—all of which explains why its products are beloved by makeup wearers everywhere. Even Cameron Diaz, Whitney Port, Mandy Moore and Jenna Dewan have sung the brand’s praises. Though I’d like to think that if there were a Merit Beauty fan club, I’d be a leading member.

Merit Beauty has monopolized my makeup bag for years and I can now proudly say I’ve tried every single one of its products—from its ‘better than Botox’ skin serum to the lip gelées and tubing mascara—and I have thoughts. So if you’re new to Merit and want to know what’s worth trying first, you’ve come to the right place! Read on for the full review.

Photo: Author

More about Merit Beauty

Founded in January 2021 by Katherine Power, the force behind the affordable skin-care brand Versed (another W+G fave), Avaline Wine and Who What Wear, Merit Beauty was inspired by Power’s desire for a simple and speedy makeup routine. And after a video of her five-minute face went viral on Instagram, Power learned she wasn’t alone.

“I realized there were many people just like me—busy individuals who want to look polished and pulled together in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee,” she said in an interview with Forbes. “I am not a makeup artist. I haven’t spent hours consuming beauty how-tos on YouTube, but I like makeup, and I want to enjoy it through a ‘less is more’ approach.” Fast forward to today, and Merit’s quick and easy offerings make a five-minute morning more attainable than ever (it even sells a set of its core products with the same name). The products apply in a flash, from your vanity and on-the-go (think products you can slap on during your commute), and you’ll even get the  velvety Merit Beauty bag free with your first purchase.

What’s more, Merit’s formulas are truly *chefs kiss*. Developed in partnership with Hollywood facialist Biba de Sousa, Merit products are rife with good-for-skin ingredients like squalane and antioxidants, and are free of de Sousa’s hard no-list of over 73 acne-causing ingredients (which includes coconut oil)—so every skin type can use Merit with confidence.

My Honest Merit Beauty Review

author wearing the merit beauty shade slick gelee

Merit Beauty, Shade Slick Gelée — $24.00

A twist on the original Merit lip oil formula, the Shade Slick Gelée has an ultra-sheer, moisturizing formula that gives lips a subtle tint of pH-adjusting color and a natural shine—without the stickiness. Note that if you’re looking for bold pigment, the gelées aren’t it. But you can count on the gelée formula to give you a sheer, “your-lips-but-better” pink tint and a glossy shine without the goopy heaviness of a traditional lip gloss. My favorite of Merit’s lip offerings, I find myself reapplying the Shade Slick Gelées constantly because they feel like a dream going on, and leave my lips feeling juicy and hydrated for hours.

  • Shiny but not stick
  • Moisturizes dry lips
  • pH adjusting
  • Soft, cushiony formula
  • Sheer pink tint
  • Might be too sheer for some
  • Not a ton of variation between shades

author wearing merit beauty great skin serum

Merit Beauty, Great Skin Serum — $38.00

The Merit Beauty Great Skin Serum blurs the line between makeup and skin-care—it contains four types of hyaluronic acid, niacinamide for brightening and skin-smoothing benefits, and cacao seed extract (a natural source of caffeine) to energize skin. What’s more, the bi-phase formula is oil-free and has a fast-absorbing, watery feel—just be sure to pump it out gingerly, though, because the product tends to shoot out fast.

Most importantly, Great Skin leaves my face feeling super hydrated, becoming the perfect canvas for makeup. I never have to worry about my makeup looking cake-y when I wear it, and the glow-y (but not greasy) effect it gives has made it a favorite on no-makeup days too! I can’t say that it boosts the longevity of my makeup per se, but it definitely enhances the finish—it’s the ideal skin-prep step.

  • Skin-care grade ingredients
  • Moisturizes, plumps and smooths skin
  • Absorbs quickly
  • Not sticky
  • Oil-free
  • Doesn’t prolong the wear of your makeup
  • The pump is a little finicky

author wearing the merit beauty clean lash mascara

Merit Beauty, Clean Lash Mascara — $26.00

One of my favorite tubing mascaras, the Clean Lash Mascara ticks all of my boxes. It lengthens, it’s buildable (but not clumpy), and it has lash-boosting ingredients like fatty acids and olive oil esters. The fluffy brush lifts and separates my lashes, giving them a natural looking fullness that I can layer for added impact. Plus, it wears all day long without smudging. I mean, it really doesn’t budge. Most tubing mascaras require only warm water and gentle massaging to remove, but Merit’s Clean Lash requires multiple washes to get off—a pro and a con depending on how you look at it. For me, I love knowing that I can count on it to stay put during long nights and sweaty summers.

  • Lengthens lashes
  • Buildable but not clumpy
  • Contains lash conditioning ingredients
  • Fluffy brush catches every lash
  • Doesn’t smudge or flake

Merit Beauty the minimalist on the left, and the author wearing the product on the right

Merit Beauty, The Minimalist — $38.00

The Minimalist is Merit’s answer to a foundation and concealer—touting light to medium coverage that can be layered for added coverage, in a handy stick formula that can be drawn on with ease. I swipe the Minimalist everywhere I would a concealer: under my eyes, around my nose, and on any spots or blemishes on the rise. And the impressive part is that the Minimalist’s creamy texture seamlessly blends on all of them.

When I’m rushing to get ready in the mornings, the Minimalist gets me Zoom-ready in record time, concealing the look of last night’s dark circles and covering up dark spots, while still feeling lightweight on my skin. What you get is buildable coverage that’s creamy and comfortable, with a satin, natural finish. It feels—and looks—imperceptible on my skin, which is exactly what I’m going for.

  • Creamy formula
  • Satin, natural finish
  • Easy to blend
  • Light to medium coverage
  • Lightweight feel
  • Pricey
  • Might lack hydration for some

merit beauty flush balms on the left and the author wearing one on the right

Merit Beauty, Flush Balm — $30.00

With over 3,000 reviews, the Flush Balms are easily one of Merit’s most-loved products—and for good reason. The domed cream blushes glide onto skin without dragging, and give my cheeks radiant, natural flush without any stickiness. Sheer but buildable, the Flush Balms are a joy to apply and totally fail-proof (clown cheeks are an impossibility). Plus, they’re quick and easy to blend—I can use my fingers when I’m in a hurry, a sponge, or Merit’s Blending Brush (which we’ll talk more about in a second). What’s more, the shade offerings are unmatched, there’s a blush shade for everyone—from tawny nudes to rich berries. My personal favorite? Aprés, a berry shade that gives me a fresh-faced, ‘I’m cold’ look.

  • Sheer but buildable
  • Easy to blend
  • Great color range
  • Radiant finish
  • Lightweight feel

Merit Beauty bronze balm on the left and the author wearing it on her face on the right

Merit Beauty, Bronze Balm — $30.00

Speaking of fail-proof products: Merit Bronze Balm is exactly that. Like the brand’s beloved cream blushes, the Bronze Balm has a sheer, buildable formula that’s virtually impossible to screw up. Every swipe gives you a gorgeous, natural warmth that’s neither too warm or too cool in tone, for a look that’s subtly sun-kissed and sculpted. And the balmy, gel-like texture truly feels weightless on your skin, blending out with minimal effort without clinging to dry patches. The result is a subtle, super natural bronze, that really just looks like your skin—but warmer and more defined (where you want it). While I might reach for something a little more pigmented for special events, the Merit Beauty bronzer’s sheer, natural finish is the easiest option for everyday wear.

  • Sheer but buildable
  • Easy to blend
  • Not too warm or too cool in tone
  • Doubles as contour
  • Natural, satin-finish
  • Might be too sheer for some

merit beauty day glow highlighter on the left and the author wearing it on the right

Merit Beauty, Day Glow Highlighting Balm — $32.00

I have to admit, I’m not a huge highlighter person, but Merit’s Day Glow is one of the few that I reach for on repeat. It’s dewy (but not sticky), and glow-y (but not glittery), and moisturizing (but not greasy)—and what more could you want in a highlighter? Instead of chunky shimmer, Day Glow uses micro-fine pearls to catch the light and add a luminous glow wherever you want it. It even contains plant-based squalane, olive oil and amino acids to nourish skin and support a healthy moisture barrier. What’s more, the featherlight formula blends out in only a few taps of your fingers or a brush. If lit-from-within radiance is what you’re after, Day Glow is a must.

  • Dewy, radiant finish
  • Not sticky
  • Not glittery
  • Barrier-boosting ingredients
  • Easy to blend
  • Might be too subtle for some

merit beauty lipstick on the author and on its own

Merit Beauty, Signature Lip — $26.00

Promising a hydrating, buildable formula and sheer-satin finish, Merit’s Signature Lips have been on my wishlist since they launched last February. The draw being the sheer finish that can be layered for rich pigment, and the moisturizing ingredients—like plant-derived squalane and sunflower seed oil—that keep dryness at bay. “Baby,” which Merit describes as a neutral pink, is my ideal nudey-pink, a my-lips-but-better shade. The formula feels soft and moisturizing on my lips, and it feels so comfortable that I’ll often forget I’m even wearing lipstick, which is always a good sign. While it’s not my favorite of Merit’s lip offerings, it’s definitely worth trying out if you’re a lipstick lover!

  • Moisturizing feel
  • Sheer-satin finish
  • Buildable
  • Lightweight

Merit beauty brow 1980 product on the left and author wearing it on the right

Merit Beauty, Brow 1980 — $24.00

I’m going to come right out and say it, this Merit brow pomade is criminally underrated. It shapes and fills in my brows in only a few swipes, and holds my brow hairs in place throughout the day without feeling stiff or crunchy. Even better, the formula is enriched with vitamin B5 to nourish and strengthen brow hairs and support growth. My favorite thing about it, however, has to be the brush. Most other brow gels either go too big or too small with theirs, but the Brow 1980 is just large enough to effectively coat every last brow hair with precision. Plus, I love that it has a longer handle, which I’m convinced makes application 10x easier. It’s comfortable to hold, and I’m able to achieve my fluffy, ‘80s brow dreams in only a few seconds. No additional product required!

  • Shapes, tints and volumizes brows
  • Delivers lasting hold
  • Not crunchy
  • Precise brush applicator
  • Enriched with conditioning ingredients

merit beauty shade slick on the left and author wearing it on the right

Merit Beauty, Shade Slick Tinted Lip Oil — $24.00

While Merit’s recently launched Lip Gelées deliver a barely-there tint, the original Shade Slick Lip Oils have a more saturated, buildable color payoff and an even glossier shine. “Pink Beet” (pictured above) is described as a cool pink shade but pulls more rosy IRL. One swipe gives me a soft, pink gloss while 2-3 offer a more intense rosy mauve color. Beyond the gorgeous color selections, are the Shade Slick’s ultra-nourishing ingredient lineup. Rosehip oil moisturizes and supports your lip’s moisture barrier, while shea butter and grapeseed bring the slip and conditioning softness.

  • Moisturizing formula
  • Not sticky
  • Sheer but buildable pigment
  • Glossy finish
  • Not as long-wearing as a traditional gloss

Merit beauty blending brush

Merit Beauty, Brush No.1 Blending Brush — $32.00

The only tool in Merit’s lineup, the No.1 Blending Brush really is the only brush your minimalist makeup bag needs. It makes blending out any of Merit’s cheek and complexion products an absolute breeze for a super seamless look. It’s made with plush, vegan bristles that are densely packed to help buff product into the skin, and the recycled aluminum handle gives you that luxe, slightly weighted feel that’s oh-so satisfying to hold. What’s more, the brush is compact enough to be chucked into your makeup bag, clutch or tote for touch-ups while on-the-go. The brush has become my go-to blending out cream products, and has held up surprisingly well after numerous washes!

  • Effortlessly blends out cream products
  • Soft vegan bristles
  • Compact size
  • Recyclable aluminum handle
  • Holds up well after washing

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.



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