Advise a tomboy about some skincare essentials.
January 17, 2008 12:10 AM   Subscribe

I received a $75 gift certificate to a fancy-schmancy LA beauty shop for Christmas, and could use some help to get the most bang for my gifted buck.

As part of a Secret Santa ritual, I was lucky enough to win a $75 gift certificate to Larchmont Beauty, which is a well-stocked and somewhat pricey shop selling a big range of skin care, bath supplies, hair goo, candles, etc. The girly girls among you would know exactly what to do with this, but me, I don't know from product. I wash my face with soap and water, occasionally slap on a mudpack from the drug store. I pat on some powder. That's it.

I'd like to feel confident breezing in and picking a few high quality items that will last a while, do my skin some good, and be a pleasure to use. I don't need anything for hair, I get all that at the salon.

So I reckon I'm looking for your favorite facial moisterisers, scrubs, cleansing lotions, decadent hand creams. I tend to like unscented things or very pure but not cloying floral, citrus and herbal scents. Old fashioned products appeal, concoctions that have been made the same way for decades and are solidly reliable rather than trendy.

I'm thinking of splurging on a tube of Dr. Hauschka's rose day cream just because I had a sample once and thought it smelled and felt great... but I am counting on you to talk me out of this and suggest something more suitable, because I have normal-to-oily skin, not the dry skin it favors, and because it costs more than gold.

What's a clueless dame to do? My gift certificate, and future lack of chapping, is in your hands.
posted by Scram to Shopping (9 answers total)
I got Dr Hauschka's rose day cream. Had to give it away to my mother because, for my slightly dry and sensitive skin, it was too heavy. It is lovely stuff though. If you fancy something Hauschka (and it sounds like they do fit your taste), they have a Moisturising Day Cream, which is much lighter (in a pump). They also do little assortment sets, which might be a good start for the uninitiated. They also have a light version of the rose day cream.

Do you know what brands they have apart from Hauschka? Their website is lame! Also, one of the benefits of swanky cosmetics stores is that - sometimes - they have helpful, well informed staff, who can point you in the right direction. I always find the success of my purchases is directly related to the quality of the vibe from the staff - if they're friendly, know their products, and take a minute to have a good look at your skin, they can really help out. Otherwise, they're just hawking you expensive mistakes.
posted by tiny crocodile at 4:36 AM on January 17, 2008

I agree with tiny crocodile - it's a good idea to see what they suggest in terms of your skin type and what might be suitable for it, but do be careful - the hard sell and the upsell can be quite hard to fend off! You can always try a few things out and come back another day when you have made your decision about what has worked best. Some products may feel good in store, but not so good a few hours later. Also, it's always worth asking for a sample or testers.

I had a look at their website as well and noticed they have Diptyque candles. Only go for these if you REALLY love the smell, otherwise they are very expensive for what they are.

I think some skincare like a good quality moisturiser (rather than cleanser or toner) is probably your best bet. There's rarely much to choose between high end and more value brands when it comes to cosmetics, especially things like eye make up and mascara. You don't want to spend your precious voucher on paying for the marketing budget of an upmarket cosmetic brand which is using the same technology as Maybelline, so instead I would go for something where the quality comes from higher value ingredients, which is more likely in skincare.
Good luck!
posted by Marzipan at 5:30 AM on January 17, 2008

The holy trinity of a good, anti-aging skincare routine is 1. photostable sunscreen 2. retinol moisturizer and 3. anti-oxident serum (like Vitamin C)

I'd suggest putting your gift card toward #3; there are effective, relatively inexpensive versions of #1 and #2 available at your drugstore, but anti-oxidents lose their potency quickly if not formulated and packaged properly. A good serum will run you close to $100, but it will retain its effectiveness and boost the benefits of using #1 and #2. The folks at like Skinceuticals Vitamin C serum for its stability and potency.
posted by junkbox at 6:15 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mentally prepare for a two trip purchase experience:

Trip 1 - Salesperson advice and sample pick-up. Tell the salesperson that you have the gift certificate and you want to try products for a few days before you make a purchase. Any good beauty store will work with you on this. Don't let them bully you into buying with the "You can return it" line. Samples give you the opportunity to try a range of products and select the best ones for you.

Trip 2 - Purchase.

As to products we need some more info. What's your age, 20's, 30's, 40's? Where you spend your money changes as you age. Is there anything about your skin you don't like? Are you using sunscreen?
posted by 26.2 at 8:20 AM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the suggestions!

I'm 40, spend very little time outdoors, don't wear sunscreen daily, am comfortable with my skin. I think I look fairly youthful, which I would like to maintain, but I am not the sort of person to get involved with an elaborate skin care routine.

An anti-oxidant serum sounds like a good use of the gift certificate, since I'd be unlikely to buy anything like that otherwise. Heck, I didn't know such a thing existed! But do these products make you hypersensitive to the sun? I'd also like to check out some Dr. Hauschka products suited to my skin type. I don't live close to the shop, but could try some samples and hang around the neighborhood for a while.

Anyway, according to Yelp reviews I searched, the shop carries the following lines: Keihls, Alba naturals, Dr. Hauschka, Guinot, Decleor, Yon-Ka, Dermalogica, PT Roth, Fresh, Epicuren, Jurlique, Shiseido, Bumble and Bumble, Pureology, Dirty Girl. Also according to Yelp reviews, some people do not find the staff friendly and don't trust their advice. So I definitely need some virtual advice!
posted by Scram at 11:45 AM on January 17, 2008

Out of the products you listed, the only one I've tried is Yon-Ka, but I really liked it. They also makes samples for every one of their products, so I'd recommend asking! The thing with samples, though, is that you can't really just apply, walk around for a bit, and then choose one. I definitely second 26.2's suggestion that you make two trips if at all possible.

I'd suggest calling ahead to ask if they have an aesthetician on site who can give a consult. I worked at a salon for a while, and our aestheticians did this happily, and gave much better recommendations than sales staff ever could.

You might want to visit some websites to get a feel for what each line includes before you head to the shop, and maybe draft up a list of possibilities. I know that Yon-Ka's line, specifically, is pretty daunting.
posted by drycleanonly at 2:04 PM on January 17, 2008

Oooh you might like Kiehl's - like Dr Haushka they have an apothecary-shop type feel to their products. They do an amazing body cream - this is it. It's terribly expensive, but if I had money to burn this is how I would do it. It makes your elbows soft, honestly, and it smells gorgeous. Also, stockists of Kiehl's always seem to have lots of little sachet samples ready to go.

I've heard good things about Dermalogica but never used it. Bumble & Bumble is a hair-care line so that's out. Shiseido is nice but it's more high-tech and synthetic than some of the other brands. Not overly scented though.

FWIW I wouldn't go down the serum route just because they are kind of dull to use, and also tend to form part of an overall campaign that you probably won't be waging.
posted by tiny crocodile at 2:05 PM on January 17, 2008

Yeah, if you're not wearing sunscreen daily, then I'd change my advice and point you towards Shiseido (a Japanese brand) for excellent non-greasy, non-smelly, photostable sunscreen. The thing about the sunscreen-retinol-serum trinity is that it is dull to use, but it's a great outline for a skincare routine. If you're just looking for a one-time fun and girly splurge, then grab whatever kind of moisturizer smells best and makes you happiest.
posted by junkbox at 4:57 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wait, they make sunscreen that doesn't stink and slop all over the place? I'd use something like that! Dull is fine if it's going to equal good skincare, which is something I'm long overdue in learning.
posted by Scram at 7:41 PM on January 17, 2008

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