The best beauty splurges: 12 skincare, hair and makeup products that are worth the investment
Consider us your official advisers on where to wisely spend your beauty dollars (and time).
There are two groups of people that complain most about snarled hair: toddlers and models. And while most parents aren’t likely to shell out $100+ for a Mason Pearson boar-and-nylon-bristle brush for their discerning tot, there’s a reason why you rarely see a hairstylist without one, whether backstage or in a salon. “They last forever,” says New York hairstylist Nunzio Saviano, whose clients include Anjelica Huston. “And the bristles stimulate your scalp and the growth of your hair.”
The cost: $120
The return: Less overall damage and fewer split ends, which equals less time in the salon.
Mason Pearson Handy Mixture Boar & Nylon Bristle Brush (geebeauty.com) is a classic.
Even if you’re one of those people who get a thrill out of seeing pore gunk dislodged during a facial, a better option is to reduce the amount of gunk to begin with. “A Clarisonic can extend the time between facials,” says Graf. “It’s good for acne patients, because it won’t irritate the skin. You just have to use it properly—not too much pressure, and don’t use it like a scrub.” Clarisonic’s newest brush head addresses acne and large pores with three brush rings (versus the standard two) that move in opposite directions for a deeper clean.
The cost: $200
The return: Fewer blackheads and less post-extraction redness.
Clarisonic Deep Pore Detoxifying Solution kit (clarisonic.ca) comes with a detoxifying cleanser and mask.
Pairing a facial oil with your day or night cream provides intense hydration, which can result in decreased fine lines and wrinkles—especially if it contains algae. “It’s a soothing anti-inflammatory antioxidant and a composite of a lot of different vitamins,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf. Anti-aging benefits won’t happen overnight, but “it seals moisture into the skin, which has an immediate benefit.”
The cost: $94
The return: Fewer moments of panic at discovering a new wrinkle.
Algenist Advanced Anti-Aging Repairing Oil (sephora.ca) contains a blend of microalgae oil extracts and ceramides and manages to be both lightweight and non-greasy.
Retinoic acid has been the gold standard in anti-aging since the late 1980s for one simple reason: “It works,” says Toronto dermatologist Dr. Paul Cohen. “Retinol is one of the best wrinkle creams you can get, aside from sunscreen.” He suggests using it to treat crows’ feet around the eyes, and if you dilute it with a bit of moisturizer, you can use it under the eyes and even on the lids. It also works on cell turnover, which can help with acne. PSA: Regardless of what type of retinoid you use, allow a few weeks for your skin to get used to it.
The cost: $82
The return: A postponed date with the needle.
Miracle 10 Retinol Treatment (miracle10.com) comes in two strengths: 30 (a.k.a. 0.3 per cent, for first-time users) and 60 (0.6 per cent, for a more intense result).
LASH & BROW SERUM
For years, Latisse was the only option for non-Kardashians wanting mascara ad-style lashes and full brows. “Latisse is pricey, but we know it works; there are a lot of clinical studies behind it,” says Cohen, who adds that many of his clients use it on sparse brows. The downside: Potential side-effects include a change in iris colour, redness and irritation or a darkening of the skin around the eye. Now, cosmetics companies are launching serums with similar claims that are free of prostaglandins (the lipids responsible for the change in iris and skin pigmentation). But, just like Latisse, the results only last as long as you’re using the product.
The cost: $115
The return: Cara Delevingne-level brows.
Prevage Clinical Lash + Brow Enhancing Serum (at drug and department stores) contains conditioners to improve the hair’s health and strength.
Why spend up for mascara when the drugstore offers a plethora of inexpensive options? “Brushes, combs and unique applicators are usually designed, patented and marketed at the luxury level first,” says Surratt. “Luxury formulas often contain anti-microbial ingredients that give them a longer shelf life, which means that they won’t dry out as fast.” Yves Saint Laurent’s Baby Doll mascara was developed using research by Nobel Prize-winning scientists.
The cost: $36
The return: Friends wondering whether your lashes are real.
Yves Saint Laurent Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils Baby Doll (at department stores) has rows of “teeth” that rake the carbon black formula evenly through lashes for intense definition and length with zero clumps.
Like finding the perfect jeans, finding the perfect red lipstick takes trial, error and a lot of time in front of the mirror, with perfect lighting and all the stars in alignment. “Red lipstick is a modern makeup essential,” says makeup artist Beau Nelson. “A department store is a great place to find your red, because, unlike at the drugstore, you can actually try one on.”
The cost: $30
The return: A red that stays put through an entire meal and doesn’t migrate into the lines around your lips.
Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil (narscosmetics.com) in “Mysterious Red.” “Nars has so many reds and so many textures, but this one is really beautiful,” says Nelson.
Most concealers do an adequate job of softening this or diffusing that, but there’s one that actually does the word “conceal” justice: Clé de Peau Beauté’s. “I use it all the time,” says makeup artist Troy Surratt, who works with Adele, Zooey Deschanel and the Olsen sisters. “It hides darkness and discolouration anywhere on the eyes and face, and it stays put with little need for touch-ups throughout the day.” It is in the “Are you kidding me?” price range, and its shade range is limited (four). But a single tube can last up to two years of daily use—without drying out or separating.
The cost: $85
The return: The liberation of your makeup bag—and your undereye bags—from tube after tube of cakey, dried-up concealers.
Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer (at Holt Renfrew) in “Beige” has staying power.
According to perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, there are many things to consider when shopping for a signature scent: How do you feel when you wear it? Does it emotionally surpass other fragrances? Who will regularly smell it on you? In short, it’s a lot more involved than sniffing a few blotters at your local fragrance counter. Regardless of where you find your scent, it has to make you feel something. “The best perfume in the world is the one that gives you emotions that no other can give you,” says Kurkdjian. “It is that simple.”
The cost: $245
The return: Unquantifiable.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Vitae (neimanmarcus.com) is one of your countless life-scent options.
Gel manicures are popular for a reason: The high-shine finish can last for weeks longer than the standard manicure. But you have to really like the colour, because you’re stuck with it for a while, and the removal process is arduous (so much acetone). The new Vinylux polish range—from the makers of Shellac—offers the glossy look of gel polish without the commitment. CND co-founder Jan Arnold explains it contains “a network of cross-linked polymers that increases resistance to chipping.” No base coat is required, and you can remove it at home with regular polish remover.
The cost: $12
The return: We’ve experienced up to eight days of glossy, chip-free nails.
CND Vinylux weekly polish (at salons) in “Gilded Pleasure” harnesses natural light to boost staying power.
You could spend $40+ at the blow-dry bar every week (and purchase dry shampoo in bulk to make that blowout last), or you could take matters into your own hands, literally, and throw down for a serious blow-dryer. Look for one with a high-speed motor—it will dry your hair faster, which means less heat damage—and an on-off ion switch. “If you have medium to thick hair, or are prone to frizz, ions help keep your hair smooth and sleek,” says Harry Josh, the man behind Gisele’s bombshell blowouts. “However, that can flatten hair for fine-haired girls. If you turn off the ions, you’ll get more volume.”
The cost: $300
The return: Unlimited blowouts, no appointment necessary.
Harry Josh Pro Tools Pro Dryer 2000 (hairenvy.com) has that magic ion switch and blasts out air at up to 80 mph, cutting drying time nearly in half.
Whether you have a standing colour appointment or treat yourself to highlights a few times a year, you need a hair mask that contains colour-prolonging UVA and UVB protection. It will res-tore damaged strands to a healthier (shinier) state, and, unlike a leave-in conditioner, it rinses out easily and leaves behind no residue. “It can help bring hair back to life, almost to where it was before you started colouring,” says New York hairstylist Anthony Campbell.
The cost: $66
The return: Adoring strangers admiring your gorgeous natural hair colour.
Oribe Masque for Beautiful Color (donato.ca). Campbell recommends using it weekly for maximum results.