Maybe it's Maybelline?
June 18, 2011 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Which high-quality beauty products are actually worth the money?

I understand that this is a bit of a princess question, but I'd still like to ask:

I finally, FINALLY have a job with a real salary. As a result, I want to start taking better care of myself. I have normal to oily skin, which is generally pretty clear. Currently, I use drugstore facewash and Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer. And that's it.

I'm looking for some top-quality skincare/body items that are worth the investment. Which products do you love to splurge on and/or where can I find a list of top-quality products? Looking for recommendations for skin, hair and makeup.
posted by brynna to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You don't have to look far to find about a million raves for Clarisonic.
posted by contessa at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: How's your diet? What you put in yourself is considerably more valuable than what you're putting on your skin and your hair, largely because a good diet can help you save money on expensive products by helping your body heal and regulate itself from the inside, thereby limiting the number of external resources needed to help you feel like you look your best. Stock up on good fruits, fresh veggies, and drink plenty of water and lemon or green tea, and you may find that your body will start to rejuvenate in ways that render expensive products from Nordstroms and other places moot.

For me, the biggest and most expensive thing in my arsenal is my shampoo. I'm allergic to florals and sulfates, so I invested in a variety of Pureology products that I can rotate depending on what my hair needs and whether or not my hormones are effing with how oily or awkward my hair looks. Pureology products are sulfate-free and very nourishing to your hair, but they're very expensive (though oh-so-worth-it!).

For my mom, eye cream is a big deal. She buys the expensive stuff because it doesn't leave her eye area feeling greasy, and because it's helped her protect the sensitive skin around her eyes for years. She spends maybe $60 a pop on this stuff and it lasts a good long while.

It's really up to you. What are your goals? Do you want to help your skin be healthy? Eat well, hydrate, and get plenty of sleep. Do you want to stave off wrinkles and age spots? Moisturize properly at night and make sure your make up has SPF in it. You may find all you really need is one or two products, and that's rewarding in and of itself.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: i understand where you're coming from. now that i have a job with a real salary, i am able to use products i wouldn't normally have tried in the past because of their pricetag.

for the first little while, while you're figuring out what works for your skin/hair/whatever, it's a good idea to ask for samples or try friends' favourite beauty products. though you may have more money to spend on better quality products, it would suck to drop $70 on a good moisturizer, only to have it make your skin feel weird or grimy. (if you're like me, it would take you a while to remember to take it back, and by then, you'd probably not be able to get any money back.)

personally, i love Lush's products. i find that they have something for every skin or hair type, and their staff are very helpful and knowledgeable. if you like natural products, Lush might be the way to go, because they have some high quality stuff. i find some things a little pricey ($20 for a very small tin of moisturizer, for example) but i'd rather buy good stuff and use it than keep buying crappy drugstore brands that don't help at all. a huge bonus: they'll give you samples so you can try everything out first!
posted by gursky at 1:44 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Our house swears by Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. A little dab'l do ya.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:45 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This question actually stems from some positive Clarisonic reviews I'd seem recently. I wondered which other awesome, life-changing products I was missing.

These Birds, you make great points about diet, thank you!
posted by brynna at 1:46 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: Makeup brushes: I have found that a really good brush has made a difference for me. BUT I am also really really pleased with £1 ELF brushes. A teeny bit more for their studio line which is also good.

Eyelash curler: it doesn't have to be expensive but now that you can afford one, I'd encourage you get one, makes a huge difference. Follow it up with a drugstore mascara.

Foundation: for me at least. I'm Asian and I have sensitive skin so I need to go to the department store or Sephora for a good match. But if you're happy with the tinted moisturiser I'd stick with that.

Skincare: Boots no7 Protect and Perfect Beauty Serum. I don't hold much regard for 'miracle' skin products but I swear to god this works. After nightly use on just a few ares of my face, some of my deeper wrinkles (like my worry line between my brows) have reduced. Honest! Pricey side of things but it is a Holy Grail item for me.

If what you are using is working for it, don't upgrade just cause you can! you're lucky you even found those essentials that work for you.

Check out Makeup Alley!
posted by like_neon at 1:46 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Check out the beauty gurus on YouTube. They usually have videos dedicated specifically to their favorite products (and they usually use the fancy, expensive stuff). Here's one of my favorites.
posted by litnerd at 1:50 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: We're not exactly swimming in cash, but my wife still swears by her Shu Uemura product and her Kiehl's stuff. Plus, she's super-cute, so I assume it's working.
posted by Gilbert at 1:52 PM on June 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Save your money on expensive moisturizers and spend it on things like regular glycolic peels and prescription tretinoin cream! Visit a dermatologist!

Also, your tinted moisturizer is good. Drugstore facewash can be good; I vote Cerave cleanser and pm moisturizer (so does my derm!). You should splurge on nice lipstick/stain/gloss, eye makeup, and perfume!
posted by 200burritos at 1:55 PM on June 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum. It's about $80 a bottle but it lasts for ages, just a few drops each night is all you need. It's really the only high-end beauty product that I'd say is worth the money.

I also use drugstore facial wash (Cetaphil) and I make my own day serum, which is as good as Cellex-C (which costs silly money).
posted by essexjan at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: If you live in the US, Sephora is pretty much the place to go for this. They have nice inexpensive sample sizes of things, and if you sign up for their rewards program you can earn free gifts and get free samples of nice stuff (it's free and pretty great). They also have salespeople who aren't tied to a particular brand and who give good advice (and makeovers, if you want).
posted by MadamM at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: I don't know if these are what you'd consider high-quality. But I'm a freelancer with a, shall we say, not real salary, and these are the things I buy, although I can't afford them, because my sensitive skin has demands above its station.

DHC stuff for my face.

Origins body soap and moisturizer.

Clinique eye shadow and liner.

And since my former brow tamer has sadly been discontinued, I've been using Benefit stuff. I don't know that it's better, but it seems like the cheaper brands just don't make it anymore.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:06 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: The two products I can think of that are slightly above my price point but that I buy anyway are Kiehl's Deluxe Hand and Body Lotion and Benefit's Get Even pressed powder.

I've gone through two bottles of the Kiehl's moisturizer, and I will probably get another. It's non-greasy and fast-absorbing, but provides reasonably long-lasting moisture. The scents are light and pleasant. The Benefit pressed powder is the least labour/product-intensive method I've found to minimize my mild rosacea. I moisturize well first (otherwise it's drying) and swipe it quickly over my face with a makeup sponge and I'm done.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:28 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: I've never been disappointed by a Kiehl's product. I am generally happy to mix cheap and high end products, but I always buy nice eye shadow because I definitely notice a difference; the expensive stuff has better pigmentation and stays put even if I get a little greasy over the course of the day. Agreed that a place like Sephora is a good starting point. They are really great about letting you try a bunch of stuff, so you won't be dropping big money on something you realize isn't right for you.
posted by katie at 2:39 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: Skincare is very subjective, and the same applies, by extension, to color cosmetics. Because of this, you should always use the cheapest effective product that you can find.

That might turn out to be an expensive product, of course. But this should only be an issue for staples that you use every day or every week or with similar regularity. If it's just a fun product that you don't really need to use, there's never any reason to spend money on it.

The reason I use Alphosyl and Nizoral instead of a bucketful of supermarket green stuff for 99p, is because they manage my dandruff and don't cause me acne on my scalp. I used to use T-Gel but Alphosyl was much better for the look of my hair and, over time, has left me with zero acne whereas T-Gel used to leave me with a little. In turn, the reason why I started using T-Gel was because, one month, I bought a bucket of 99p supermarket green stuff, and experienced the bliss of a scalp without acne, because it didn't have any of the acne-provoking proteins and silicones that everybody was adding to high-end shampoos at the time. The following month, I happily trotted over to the supermarket for more shampoo, and imagine my dismay at the boast "new and improved!" on the label; they'd added proteins and silicones like everybody else. And so my arduous search began again.

I use mascara quite a lot these days, and the only one I bother with is the L'Oréal double-ended waterproof one. It costs £8 or £9 a time, but it is the best lash-builder and doesn't end up shmeared all the way down to my knees. So I spend the money.

I also special-order Cetaphil, which ironically is one of the cheapest products on the North American shelf, simply because nothing else compares to it in terms of performance. With their Ultra Hydrating lotion, I get almost no dry-lines on my skin, and I haven't found any moisturizer anywhere that can do the same. So that's another product that it's worth the money and hassle to get hold of. But you need to start at the bottom end of the market and work your way up in terms of expense.

Beautypedia is a good place to start gaining an understanding of cosmetic ingredients versus marketing and hype.
posted by tel3path at 2:56 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I adore my Estee Lauder Lucidity pressed powder (been using it for at least 15 years and happily paying the price for it), and I have recently gotten a free sample of Estee Lauder's Double Wear lengthening mascara that I love so much that I will continue to buy when my sample runs out.
posted by Addlepated at 3:50 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: Seconding Lush, their solid bubble bath in particular.

Since no one's mentioned it yet: Urban Decay Primer Potion. It's easy to put on and makes eyeshadow last forever.

For eyeshadow, I love MAC. There's a massive variety of shades to choose from, and even the neutral shades are interesting.

My favorite lipstick of all time is Bésame. The tubes are tiny and pricey, and since the brand is sold in very few stores it can be a gamble to find the right color, but a little goes a long way and the stuff stays put. Their reds are phenomenal.

If you like perfumes, the expensive ones are often worth the splurge. Pricey fragrances aren't universally better than cheap ones, but there's a lot more variety and complexity in higher-end lines. I really like L'Artisan, Diptyque, and Frédéric Malle, and I've heard good things about Jo Malone.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:28 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: You might want to try Birchbox - for $10 per month, they send out samples of high-end beauty items in a little monthly box. I am not a member, but I have a bunch of friends who are and they rave about it every single month.
posted by kerning at 4:57 PM on June 18, 2011 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Bliss Youth moisturizer. One of my few splurges.
posted by dogmom at 5:23 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: Seconding L'Artisan Parfumeur perfume: I used to hate department store perfumes (smelled too "fake" for my taste), and thus nearly every perfume, before smelling La Haie Fleurie du Hameau at their store in Paris.
Also seconding the eyelash curler.

One luxury makeup item that I will always use no matter how I'm broke (I'm a student....and I'm in the arts field, so that's that eh :) ), and that I will always recommend to my broke friends: Dior Diorshow mascara. You can never go back.

Personally, for skin care I really like Lush and Weleda. I have normal to combo-oily skin that's pretty sensitive in that it's prone to redness and recently I've been using Lush Aqua Marina cleanser, Grease lighting on spots if I have any and Eau Roma toner with Weleda's Baby calendula face cream (seriously, that thing is great, takes of bit of time to sink in the skin but it's like FOOD for your skin, almost only almond oil in it, which is the oil the closest to your natural body oil) and I think it's one of the best combos I've tried so far. All of these last pretty long too.

also, another thing you can do for your skin: try to know your ayurveda type and follow nutrition tips according to that. Ayurveda is an Indian holistic health system that seeks to restore balance in your body, mind and soul (you might know one of the physical practices issued from it... yoga :P ). The nutrition recommendations are generally not only good for improving digestion, controlling your weight or mood, but, also, in the end, improving your skin and body by eating in a more balanced way according to your body and lifestyle. You can find a lot of quizzes on the net just by googling for it.
posted by kitsuloukos at 9:58 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: If you watch any Lisa Eldridge videos, you're guaranteed to find a million products you're dying to try. I never knew I could love makeup so much until I started watching her videos. I learned how to put it on, and how to get a natural look so that my skin looks "radiant" (I can't believe I just typed that.

Some products I think are fantastic:
Laura Mercier Eyeshadow Base (better than Urban Decay)
Smashbox Photofinish primer
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector
ELF Studio Brushes
NARS blush
MAC lipstick
posted by annabellee at 9:59 PM on June 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Whee! Thank you everyone! I'm very excited to try at least some of these products and hopefully develop a can't-live-without-it routine.
posted by brynna at 11:17 PM on June 18, 2011

Best answer: chanel eyeshadow is amazing. so is shu uemura. nars and bobby brown for blush. i've never had a bad experience with anything from l'occitane.
posted by raw sugar at 3:05 PM on June 20, 2011

Best answer: Dermalogica Active Moist is the best moisturizer I have used. It works year-round on my combination skin and doesn't irritate it at all.

My aesthetician told me about it--I got a few facials in preparation for my wedding and it was totally worth it. If you have the money to spend, I would definitely spend money on a facial by a licensed aesthetician (mine works in a dermatologist's office). I don't get them as frequently anymore, but when I do I can tell how someone who gets them on a regular basis would have beautiful skin.

Also, for an every day natural look, I like the Clinique Chubby Stick for lips, basically a moisturizing tinted balm.
posted by luckyveronica at 7:52 PM on June 21, 2011

Best answer: weleda. nothing but pure natural ingredients
posted by dougiedd at 2:16 PM on June 24, 2011

Best answer: After donating many drug store hair dryers and curling irons to Goodwill, I realized that it is really worth it to buy the fancy, performance oriented stuff like T3 that have tourmaline in them. My hair has never looked better and it has actually cut down on my dry time.

Depending on your hair type, a Mason Pearson brush just might be the brush you've been looking for your whole life. The one I use is sort of like a magic wand that tames my hair with just a few swipes.

Also, due to a busy schedule, I realized I was waiting too long between hair cuts and I realized that booking more frequent appts made me feel a lot happier about the way I looked. I book an eyebrow threading appt with my hair cuts. Then I upkeep with my Tweezerman tweezers.

I love Korean and Japanese body scrubbing towels, which are great for exfoliation. You can find them in asian groceries and also on Amazon. The biggest brand is Salux. They sort of resemble a crinkly scratchy scarf which sounds funny but is great shape for washing your back with.

There is a great foot pumice bar that I love called Mr. Pumice Purple Pumi Bar. It is pretty cheap and totally works. I have tried many and this is the winner! While I am in the shower waiting for my hair conditioner to soak in, I give my heels a little scrub with Mr. Pumice and it is great daily upkeep. I use Aveda Brilliant shampoo/conditioner and I loooooooove the smell.

The best thing I ever did for my skin was to find a good professional aesthetician (Five stars on Yelp!) and book regular facials with her (about once a month). She hand picked a new cleanser and moisturizer for me from a line called Bioelements and Osmosis. Also, I got a tinted moisturizer with SPF by Jame Iredale. That is what my skin likes and she totally nailed it on the first try. I look way better now and these products are way cheaper than the Shiseido stuff I was using before that made my skin break out. Also, just wearing a real sunscreen every day has drastically improved my skin. I use one my aesthetician carries called Epicuren.

She also helped me solve my mascara raccoon eyes problem. I had tried them all and none of them could hold up to my oily lids. She recommended Blinc which works in a different way than other mascaras and which totally works for me.

Also, if you wear glasses, invest in a nice brand at a real opticians office instead of settling for the brands you normally find at your eye doctor's office. I went to a boutique called Society of the Spectacle in LA and found glasses there that looked and felt 10X better than what I had previously thought were good brands from other places. The Salt brand glasses I got felt better, lasted longer and looked so much better than any glasses I'd ever had before. They cost a bit more but upgrading your specs is one simple way to really boost your appearance.

I also agree that Sephora is a great place to buy things from but with a caveat!

What is not great about Sephora is that you can easily get sucked into trying many samples of products when what you skin needs is one or two key products picked for you by a professional aesthetician. Trying too many different things made my skin grumpy.

The reviews on Sephora's website are not always helpful since you really know nothing about the reviewers' skin type. They also sell a lot of junk there mixed in with great products too.

What is great about Sephora is that they will let you return pretty much anything, even if you've used some of it or don't have all the packaging. One time I bought perfume there, used it a few times and decided the smell was horrible. I returned it weeks later with no questions asked. They really want you to be happy with what you buy there and in return they embolden me to try many things I wouldn't have otherwise.

One easy way to look a little better all the time is to wear lip gloss. Sephora often does a "lip favorites" sample set that is like $20 for a box of 10 or so half size glosses from different makers. This has been great for me because 1) I actually get to use the whole gloss before it is time to chuck it and 2) I can keep gloss in every place that is handy so I am never without. Also, I always keep an EOS round lip balm on my desk and by my bed. The unique shape means I always find it easily.

Overall, just getting on a regular schedule for cutting hair, eyebrows, pedicure and facials has been a great experience. I am really not a girly girl and I don't actually like spending time on this kind of stuff. I have found that automating some of my "beauty upkeep" has had positive results that I like and that doesn't take too much effort once you are on a schedule. Trusting highly rated professionals has helped me be more adventurous too. Yelp has been helpful for me for choosing those professionals.

Lastly, I have been taking pre-natal vitamins at the suggestion of my hair dresser. The folic acid in the vitamins has boosted my hair growth. I buy a brand from Whole Foods that I think is called Sunlight. Warning: the hair growth boost has also boosted growth in other places like my eyebrows and lady moustache but it is worth it to reach my goal of long hair by my impending wedding date.

BTW, I have really been loving the beauty blog entries of Jane Feltes (a producer of the rad radio show This American Life) on The Hairpin. Totally upping my game with some of her cute tutorials.
posted by dottiechang at 2:23 AM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer:

Many expensive products are no better than cheap products, some are worse! if you're going for the luxury/branding, at least know that that's what you're doing.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:47 AM on June 25, 2011

No matter what you do, make sure you wear sunscreen on your face every. day. Otherwise, you'll just be wasting your money when you spend a fortune on the fancy stuff. There is no better product you can put on your skin. The sunscreen built in to foundation really isn't enough, either -- unless you're applying the foundation as you would a sunscreen, and most people aren't doing that. You really should use a dedicated sunscreen.

I also suggest checking out beautypedia, especially for skincare. When it comes to regular makeup recommendations I'm happy with Sephora reviews, but the woman who runs beautypedia actually tests products to see if they stand up to their claims and if they're really any good for your skin, so I usually check that before I make a skin care purchase. Salamandrous is right that a lot of the expensive stuff really is frequeantly no better than the cheap stuff. Definitely don't buy an expensive cleanser -- it's on your skin for a minute and washes down the drain.

Stuff worth splurging on are night time moisturizers and foundations. I like buying fancy lipsticks/glosses sometimes because it makes me happy, and everyone above is right about the higher quality of expensive eye shadows, though I wear eye shadow so rarely that I just have one or two cheapies on hand. I like Smashbox and Make Up Forever for eyeliners -- they stay put more than the cheap stuff will. I would recommend not buying an expensive daily sunscreen, because the high price may make you want to skimp on the amount you use, which is no good. This is the product you will be replacing most often, so I wouldn't go top shelf.
posted by imalaowai at 1:46 AM on July 17, 2011

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