The end stretch of winter is a mix of late snow, lots of rain, windy storms and the realization you will be baring a lot more skin very soon. Not a time to panic, but preparing yourself for the more revealing fashions is crucial.
Get your game plan ready for this spring by investing in some tried and true skincare and hair products that do the job.
This is the time of year to change up your routines in grooming so you look gorgeous for spring and summer.
We did some heavy lifting and tried out a warehouse full of product and have put together a tight little list of items you need to check out. Of course, Monsters and Critics always loves companies that use organic ingredients and that stay far away from all animals.
Criteria for our picks in the best of beauty category differ from many mainstream beauty magazines and blogs, in that we look for items that fit the bill for the following checklist: They must really do the job. The grooming products must be paraben-free, cruelty free, preferably American-made and unique in concept and packaging, and they must be reasonably priced.
We also love female entrepreneurs and companies started by moms and women who create items that address smart, useful design and function.
Like regular exercise, keep your beauty habits on a schedule, planning one day a week to pay extra care to feet, hair and nails. A little elbow grease makes last minute party plans stress free, so your fingers, toes, hair and complexion are camera ready for a last-minute invite out on the town.
Monsters and Critics has put these products to the test, and we have come up with our picks for April 2011
Best of Beauty for products that range from peel-off face masks to a hot new makeup line designed for black women that features items white girls can enjoy too. All the products listed below we found to be outstanding in performance and are recommended to be included in your beauty repertoire (for the applicable skin type)
Tried and true, these clever products deliver what they promise and will not let you down. Take us shopping with you for the best of beauty April 2011:
Gadgets and Tools
Zeno Line Rewind
The Zeno people make three interesting little hand held skin gadgets. Tried were the Hot Spot, a silver bullet-tipped gadget the size of an old school cigarette lighter that cooks a zit, killing the bacteria and reducing swelling. It does what is says, but the downside for me was the disposable nature of this clever idea. It has an 80x usage life, regardless of fresh batteries being put in. It needs to be more like their other items, which I liked very much.
The Zeno Line Rewind comes with a special serum, but I used this over my own nighttime treatment, and my overall skintone improved greatly. Caveat: Once you tap it "on," let it run its 3+ minute course as you "iron" the red light (Light Emitted Diode) heated end all over your face, paying attention to nasal/labial folds, around eye cage area and forehead.
It is very sensitive so when it clicks "off" by itself, make sure you don't touch the center again or it will kick into another cycle. The combined heat, vibration and red light technology really brings an immediate effect - lessening the look of all lines and wrinkles and even helping with mild Rosacea. Very happy with this item. The wrinkle reduction serum -a paraben-free, peptide complex, Hyaluronic acid and antioxidant Resveratrol formula-is to be used sparingly, just a thin layer of the serum all over the face and follow with the device for real results. Unlike the Hot Spot, this Zeno gadget you can keep pumping batteries into without having to chuck the actual device. Wish Zeno would make this with a charging adapter so the battery waste is eliminated. It's an effective, reasonably priced product.
Sleep Masks by Earth Therapeutics
The buttery soft side of these sleeping masks is on the outside, the smooth satin side directly on the face; polyester fleece makes them hand-washable, and useful for plane trips, office power naps, hotel travel and for those who are extremely light sensitive.
For me, I cannot wear these every night but for those aforementioned moments when you really need to shut out the world, this works well. I put a few drops of lavender oil on the mask to facilitate the soothing sleep qualities. The mask has velcro fasteners that make it easy to put on, off.
My only complaint: I love Earth Naturals line of products; they are a fine New York company. I wish they could find another American business to partner with and make these masks here, not in China.
Jerdon's First Class 5X JGL9W Deluxe Lighted Makeup Mirror
My very first makeup mirror was an old classic Clairol model with a mirror that spun normal to magnified, and was used extensively when I was a teen. Then for some reason, life, time constraints, not sure, I stopped using a makeup mirror for daily application.
Now I really need the 5X feature that the new Jerson makeup mirror offers, especially for brow maintenance. This mirror folds up like a book, with a panoramic three mirror presentation that lets you see everything, with four light settings that go from office light to evening. It has a handy outlet on the front to allow you to plug in a curling iron, or whatever you need to get ready. The mirror is 10 inches by 12 inches, and folds up to store under a sink or in a closet easily.
Why do I love this mirror? The quality of the glass and the 5X side for the least amount of distortion and clarity makes this one of the nicest makeup mirrors I have used. Reasonably priced too.
Horst Rechelbacher Harmonic Shampoo & Conditioner
Harmonic Shampoo and Conditioner is a new line of non-toxic, daily cleansing and conditioning products. A totally safe, plant-based ingredient deck that is free of gluten, sulfates, parabens, silicones, ethoxylates, PEG, phthalates and synthetic fragrances. Eco-conscious beauty brand Intelligent Nutrients all created by Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher. His Harmonic shampoo and conditioner are both infused with natural oils from pumpkin seed, cranberry, peppermint, cinnamon bark, raspberry and have a natural peppermint scent that’s fresh and clean, the feel is invigorating, cooling and it leaves your hair looking beautiful, shiny. Color safe and ideal for use on every hair type. Cruelty free.
Hugo Naturals Volumizing Shampoo & Conditioner
We tried the Vanilla Sweet Orange formulation of this combo, designed to add volume to hair. Caveat: The shampoo is nice and does the job well, but is thinner than average shampoo and comes quickly out of the bottle. The conditioner is quite rich and thick. Cruelty free, both Vegan items are loaded with olive fruit oil and an array of beneficial ingredients for beautiful, healthier hair, without using harsh chemicals, sulfates, parabens, petroleum products, animal fats or artificial fragrances and colors. The scent is natural and very subtle. Curly hair types and people with fragile thinning hair and who might have sensitivites to chemicals will like this effective natural item very much.
Neova DNA Total Repair
Unfussy packaging, perfect pump dispenser (my favortite hygienic delivery system) this unscented creme gel is quickly absorbed and meant to be the first thing applied after cleansing the skin, before any night moisture.
The product delivers real results. I love the effect it has on normalizing and improving mild Rosacea and making my overall skintone improve dramatically. DNA Repair is a redness and ruddy skin killer. It makes a discernible difference in the skin in once usage, and after a few weeks my skin has never looked better. The lightweight product is loaded with encapsulated Photolyase, derived from Plankton, that undoes damage to DNA in cells and prevents cell death caused by UV rays. Endosomes is an encapsulated extract from the marine microbe that intensifies the skin's ability to repair sun damage. Evodia Fruit reduces inflammation and soothes the skin. My new best friend, totally.
Thinning lashes and brows are filled in RapidLash, an affordable, easy to find serum that helps to promote hair growth. The website shows before and after photos for fuller eyebrows and only one for eyelashes, and you must commit to use this at least 2 months before seeing real results. Ophthalmologist-tested and loaded with hair loving B Vitamins like Biotin, Panthenol, B-6 and Cucurbita Pepo Seed Extract to encourage hair regrowth. Also, this product will not discolor your irises as some of these lash serums can do. So far this product is working well for me, filling in one brow that was more sparse than the other. Under $50.
Kinerase Extreme Face Lift and Eye Lift
I was dubious at the claims on the packaging that this could rewind my face 10 years in 5 minutes, until I actually tried the serum on bare clean skin. You will look fresher and younger, though 10 years is stretching it a bit. I would describe this Kinerase item as "Face Spanx." This firms up those contours and sweeps of your face without feeling like you have an egg white mask on. There is a complemetary eye serum too that is made by Kinerase that accompanies this. If you are over 35, try it. A professional makeup artist first told me about these two items. He was an over-50 gent who looked like he was 37, and not in a creepy overly Botoxed, puffy, too much face filler kind of way. He looked great and swore by these items, especially for 5 AM calls for actors who had to be in the makeup trailer. I also found I needed to apply a more moisturizing eyecream a little bit after the eye lift serum and on the face too. Does it give you a face lift? No. It does help reduce the A.M. puffies that make applying makeup a nightmare at times? Yes.
Scar Away Scar Diminishing Serum
Rollerball delivery of a silicone gel serum that flattens and fades scars from surgery and accidents. This is a boon for any facial plastic surgery people and those recovering from accidents that damaged their faces, neck or hands. The Scar Away clicker pen is made with a three ball head, and is perfect for these areas that are tricky. Can be used easily on any scar lines like a C-section incisions or around areolas for breast augmentation too. My skateboarder son uses it for his latest scar left behind from taking a header on some concrete, splitting open his forehead, it has made a dramatic improvement in what was an angry red raised scar. You can even use Scar Away Diminishing Serum pen on insect bites and acne scars. It works.
Earth Therapeutics Recover-E Cucumber Eye Pads
Love these botanically infused eye pads that make a spa treatment portable. Full of the good stuff like green tea, Aloe, Chamomile and Cucumber; these pads can be stored in the fridge too. Wear 10-30 minutes for a peaceful beauty break. Unlike other eye pads, these are individually sealed by the pair so you can take with you anywhere. Inexpensive. Only complaint I have is that they are made in Korea. Why can't you manufacture these awesome pads in the USA, Earth Therapuetics?
Beautisol Need Glow More and Beautisol Excrub Me face exfoliant
Normally I avoid self tanners for the face the way I do ironing or making pie crust from scratch. Like, always.
I break out easily and I am not a fan of the Snooki burnt meatball in Ragu color on the face, (yes I'm a bit bitter that Rutgers paid her $35K to speak there). Having said that, my friend urged me to try this oil-free self tanner designed for acne prone skintypes and those like me who are afraid of the orange.
The color is normal and real looking and not too dark. It didn't leave any residue or sticky oily feeling on my face. Ingredients such as Montmorillonite Clay, Lilac Cell Culture Extract and Niancine help absorb oil, improve acne, reduce inflammation and purify the skin. What's really cool is the immediate bronzing effect allows you to see where you applied the product and where you missed.
Paraben-free, propylene glycol-free, and cruelty-free (PETA certified). Full of antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients help nourish and hydrate the skin. The accompanying face exfoliant called Excrub Me is nice and the right texture, not too harsh a scrub, just enough to give a nice clean slate to your face before you apply the self-tanner, so it is even. The scrub worked great on my skateboarder son who is acne prone too. Beautisol makes a self-tanning face formula for the drier skins too. Highly recommended, especially heading to the warmer months.
Lily B. Hydrating Red Tea Serum
This lightweight serum is fabulous for super humid climates, and for younger women who are starting to take real care of their skin. Absolutely no fragrance and never tested on animals.
Pure red tea is a super antioxidant because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it even repairs skin from UV damage, reducing the signs of skin irritation, and helping to improve the skin's tone, texture, and clarity. Loaded with hyaluronic acid, a natural substance found in the skin, this ingredient attracts and retains moisture in the skin without weight, so the easy to break out people (me) get the benefits of the serum without pimples. The serum is fast-absorbing and super gentle and can be used up near the eye area (under eye cream) and over the lips. For me, this product is a Godsend when I travel back East to Florida to see my parents. I use it from the neck up.
USANA Sensé Skincare line
Sensé packaging is easy breezy for the traveling people. TSA-size friendly and portable, it's a great line for both men and women to check out. Their Night Renewal Creme is an overnight lightweight but effective moisture treatment. Sensé night renewal creme has no added chemical preservatives and is made with emollient-rich shea butter. It’s great over a night serum. I love USANA products and we have positively reviewed their personalized nutritional supplements extensively on M&C in the past.
It makes sense that they came up with a skincare line that incorporates great skin loving ingredients to accompany their oral supplements. Stand out players in this smartly designed (day and night formulations are in two different colored tubes), packable line are the Eye Nourisher, a fast absorbing eye cream for men and women, Daytime Protective Emulsion -also for everyone- and Perfecting Essence, a day and night serum to be applied after toning and before moisture that is a skin corrector and refiner, gentle enough for sensitive skins, works mini-miracles for the sun damaged and Rosacea afflicted people. Excellent non-fussy skincare line that is unisex and effective. Made in the U.S.A.
Boscia Luminizing Black Mask
For combination, oily skins. This trippy, all black peel-off mask will make your skin pop with luminosity and health in one application. Boscia is one of my favorite skincare lines, with natural paraben-free targeted product that delivers the goods. Please apply this mask THICKLY, do not skimp! Wait about 15 minutes, try to chill out and not move around if you can. It is fragrance-free. Caveat: Do not get in or too near your brows, and put this all over clean skin in a THICK even layer, you will not be able to peel it off right if you smear it thin, so please listen to me!
Results are healthy and even and clear skin that is ready for a serum, moisture and makeup if you are going out. Do what I say and you will love the results.
Zensation Healing and Soothing Mask, Collagen Rose Facial Toner
Old school Swiss beauty is still representing in this day and age of techno-complicated glycolic "burn baby burn" skincare. Feminine and perfect for sensitive drier skins, this kinder, gentler botanical concoction of rose water, Aloe and Collagen is a lovely toner to follow any cleansing. I keep all my toners and face mists in the fridge (I have a special shelf spot just for these organic face potions) the product is suitable for sensitive, and dry and combination skins.
Zensation's Healing & Soothing Mask is a rich and creamy beauty escape to pile on clean skin, and sit back and relax with on those days you need a tall, drink of water for the face. Full of plant extracts and essential oils, it is best removed with a clean washcloth that has been saturated with super warm water followed by the Collagen Rose Toner.
Comfort Zone Glorious Skin Visible Lifting mask
Cooling, soothing and lifting all in one. Great to use after a long day or before a special event. The company has a lifting-hexapeptide complex of ingredients that acts on the wrinkles, which mimics the action of botulin, the lifting-hexapeptide effectively relaxes the features of the face, wheat protein helps fill fine lines.
You apply this directly to a clean face, neck and décolleté and leave to process for 10 minutes. Rinse with tepid water. The mask can be absorbed by the skin, only use water to remove what is left after you are done.
My FaceWorks I Need A Quickie
My Face Works “I Need A Quickie” Facial, is 6 individual masks in a box.
This packable gem is a face-shaped “sheet” mask, convenient for travelers and they are fast on and off. The “I Need A Quickie” sheet offers parched skin instant moisture infusion without piling on the goo, and revitalizes dull skin instantly. Ingredient deck lists Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Extract - Corallina Officinalis Extract (Coral mineral rich algae), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Extract - antioxidants and Algae Extract. Use it on clean skin, this mask is best when used prior to applying makeup. The mask sheet is perfect to wear while you catch up on a TV show or close your eyes for a power nap. Men love this one too!
SUN / Rosacea control
Control Corrective Botanical SPF 30
Botanical Soothing Cream SPF 30 is full of Rosacea calming ingredients like Aloe Vera, vitamin A and E and non-irritating microfine zinc-oxide for full spectrum sunscreen protection. The 2.5 ounce tube travels well and is for anyone who breaks out easily with facial suncreens. Fragrance free and designed for Rosacea prone people, is soothes and calms down flushing and painful inflammation too. I use it from forehead to neck when outdoors. Made in the U.S.A.
Neova Day Therapy SPF 30
Superb hygienic packaging and no fragrance, this powerful sunscreen packs serious skincare and sun protection in one pump. Neova delivers no-nonsense effective skincare for men and women. SPF 30 is an inclusive day moisturizer that is loaded with Copper Peptide Complex and antioxidants, so it repairs with DNA Repair Photolysomes and defends against UVA/UVB damage. No comedogenic, lightweight once absorbed and makes a great neck and décolleté cream to keep that thin skin in check from premature aging as well. This is a pricier skin care line, but well worth it for those with aging skin and sun damage repair concerns.
Borghese B Moisture Advanced Care LipColour
I have been a fan of Borghese since the late 1970s; their distinctive swirl packaging has changed little, and the heft luxury feel of their lipcolors has stayed consistent over time, improving and delivering a new lip formulation that is not too greasy, nor tacky and matte for that awful, shrinking lip feel so many long lasting lipsticks leave you with. I'm a lipstick hoarder, seriously. You can find lipsticks from 20 years ago that I cannot part with because I remember the special event I bought it for. I still have a Principessa Red Borghese lipstick from a wedding I attended in 1983.
Borghese lipstick shades always popped vividly, and this new line offers up some gorgeous new shades like Primale Pink, a true vibrant color so pretty that people ask me what I am wearing everytime I go out. The Acqua di Vita Complex, vitamin E and Ceramide ingredients makes this lipstick feel great and packs an intense, densely pigmented finish. The formula helps lips with line fighting collagen and elastin. Sexy couture colors that rock for the spring and summer include Misto Mandarino and Grappa.
Black Up Sublime Powder
Designed for black women, this new line of makeup has a few utility players that even the light skin lovelies can check out, notably their Sublime Powder, for me in shade PS 02. This silky shimmer finish pressed powder is fabulous to glaze the brow bone and eye contour area after applying your eyeshadow, and bring onto the cheekbones and use on the clavicle and jawline lightly to pop the skin. There are six shades. The color of PS 02 reminds me of a favorite Dior bronzer I had years ago that was discontinued. Nice chic packging and quality pro-designed product.
Butter of London, Nail line
I love everything about this nail care line. Their squared up, easy to store packaging rocks for me. The "3-Free" nail lacquers feature vibrant color and a complete lack of the toxic ingredients as formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP.
The colors available are badass, such as Chancer, a fiery, deep candy apple red with gold undertones. The cuticle oil and the cuticle remover both make home manicures easy and quick. Handbag Holiday Cuticle Oil smells of Coconut and Pineapple and heals and nourishes your cuticles. The oil is a nail cocktail of vitamins and natural oils. Mineral oil free. No formaldehyde, No toluene, no DBP and not animal tested. Men absolutely love the Matte Finish Topcoat too.
Kimmy Makes Scents
My new addiction is the Twilight collection from American company, Kimmy Makes Scents. Four addictive fragrant roller ball oils include Be.lov.ed, inspired by the love between Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Top notes of lilac and undertones of fig make this a romantic scent. Pixie was inspired by the character Alice Cullen. This scent has a sweetness with clean fragrant Pikaki flower mixed with the soothing elements of cucumber. This is a floral scent. Imprint was inspired by Jacob Black and is a lush, green and woodsy scent. The perfect infusion of grassy fern and patchouli, my favorite. This is an Earth scent. Hybrid was inspired by the character Renesme. Blended honeysuckle, pear and a hint of Earthy citrus, this is a fruit scent. No harmful additives, just pure fragrance oils. Love them all.
April MacIntyre is Monsters and Critics' smallscreen and people/celebrity editor who loves to visit and celebrate small American businesses when she can. You can contact her on Twitter