Full disclosure: Monsters & Critics received free samples of the products mentioned in this article for review. However, the opinions expressed are independent and our own.
In our final beauty products round-up of 2017, we have culled the best and most affordable finds for the holiday season — to use as gifts or to try out for yourself.
The selection is tight and bright as we continue to celebrate the beauty companies who choose to be cruelty, sulfate, and paraben free and use natural botanicals and pure certified essential oils for safety.
We also like the unisex aspect of all of these newer skincare items too.
As we do monthly, we tested product samples of the latest and greatest skincare and beauty items and found a tight list of products you need to check out that run the gamut from incredible bargain values to luxurious and a total splurge.
Time to stuff some stockings…
Super cool at-home spa award goes to:
MegRhythm Eye Mask ($10.99 for a pack of 7 at Amazon)
For anyone who needs to reset the beauty button or soothe weary eyes from travel or too much work. MegRhythm self-heating eye mask is a hydrating soft and cuddly way to smooth out eyes and the surrounding skin.
It has advanced self-heating technology that mimics the soothing sensation of steam heat. Made in natural scents of Lavender, Citrus and also completely Unscented
Smart, portable and makes your eyes happy and bright.
All skin types top picks:
TwinMedix Pro:Essentials X Smart Exfoliator Spray Bottle (2 ounces)
Having a bad skin day? Hate the uneven texture of your skin? Need a really fast and deep exfoliator? Bingo! TwinMedix Pro:Essentials X is a genius skincare company with very precise and powerful remedies for any skin emergency and situation. This product blew us away, as you feel your face dissolve (in a good, healthy and wow factor way) as the product grabs the dead stuff and pills it up and falls off.
The secret weapon? Dead Sea Salt. This natural salt renews and refines as it makes you radiant. Add Antioxidant Kumaru with 82% Aloe Vera as a base and other powerful botanical extracts, you have yourself a fantastic new item. It is paraben and synthetic fragrance-free.
TwinMedix Professional E5 with pure vitamin E antioxidants and 5% Tocopherol
This pricier serum is another unisex find, as Twinmedix Pro Essentials E5 is scientifically formulated with 5% Tocopherol (pure Vitamin E) and powerful antioxidants that feels weightless, and absorbs quickly. It fights oxidation and free radical damage and strengthens and seals the lipid (fat) barrier which makes skin feel supple and young. Redness is also zapped with their patented Microsponge Technology which delivers pharmaceutical-grade ingredients to make you the glowing one at the next holiday party. Paraben-Free, Fragrance-Free and Cruelty-Free
Ao Skincare #6 Rewind – Retinal Boosted Vitamin A
Nighttime use only. This unisex all-star is a deep resurfacing and repairing gel serum in a hygienic pump. Award-winning retinoid antioxidant boosters obliterate spots and hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. Their Retinal complex includes Bakuchiol (a botanical Vitamin A substitute with no deleterious retinol effects) Free from parabens, sulfates, PEGS, TEA, DEA, mineral oils, petrochemicals, and artificial fragrance. Fantastic, and also a bit more pricey but use sparingly, worth the splurge!
Best hair gifts and hacks:
SuperPlump Holiday Kit – Shiny & Bright Volume by ColorProof
Such a great combination from one of our all-time favorite haircare companies. ColorProof’s Plump up the volume Holiday trio does just that with amazing scents and natural botanicals. You get a Volumizing Shampoo infused with Neroli Essence for extra body.
An ultra-light Volumizing Conditioner infused with Madagascar Vanilla Essence and TextureCharge for texture, shine and volume, made with Grapefruit Essence. All ColorProof products are made for chemical and color-treated hair and have heat protection properties.
Kit includes 1 SuperPlump Volumizing Shampoo 10.1 oz, 1 SuperPlump Volumizing Conditioner 8.5 oz and 1 Texture Charge Color Protect Texture & Finishing spray 6.7 oz. Fantastic box set and a great gift.
Macadamia Professional New York Texturizing Salt Spray 4.2 ounce
Who loves big hair? We all do. Even guys looking for a solution from icky waxy pomades. This is incredible. There, we can all go home. Wait! Macadamia Professional is another genius haircare line that gives me the feels.
Texturizing Salt Spray is made as a unisex item with a natural scent that doesn’t clash with anything. A natural sea salt-infused styling spray for volume, texture, and in lieu of hairspray…some light hold. You want that hair. It’s addictive.
Macadamia Professional Flex Hold Shaping Spray (10 oz.)
Best hairspray of the year award! Gluten-Free, Sulfate-Free, Paraben-Free. Lightweight with a powerful hold, but leaves hair swingable, touchable, loveable. Brush, touch and set your hairstyle with Macadamia Professional Flex Hold Shaping Hairspray.
The flexible hairspray can even be brushed out or layered to create the exact look in a more intricate hairdo. Boasts Pro Oil complex, which is macadamia and argan oils with a light coconut scented spray for hair perfection. THE BEST.
ECRU New York Luxe Treatment Travel & Trial Set
Best traveler award for TSA friendly, portable sizes of great haircare goes to: ECRU New York Luxe Treatment Shampoo, Protective Silk Conditioner, and Sunlight Finishing Spray MAX all packaged in a nifty travel bag, so your hair does not suffer the indignities of hotel miniatures filled with a generic one size fits all potion. This is a quality traveler and smells incredible.
Little tools that make us shiny and bright:
Blend Baby – Makeup Sponge w/ Silicone Applicator (2-pack)
Don’t go there. I know what it looks like. But its ergonomic (stop laughing) design actually works way better than the ubiquitous pointy Beauty Blender sponge and you are able to easily get an even coverage.
The Blend Baby Dual Sponge is my favorite pick for a blending tool that allows you to get a flawless, complexion without wasting any precious product. Its dual-sided design silicone sponge has a makeup puff so you can flip and apply and blend in one step with one item. Smart.
Nifty traveler award:
Spa to Go Superfood Skin Treatment by Daily Concepts Travel Kit
What a thoughtful presentation of skin loving quality ingredients for an at-home or travel spa! Spa To Go thought of everything you could need.
We love the Cleansing Wash, Hydrating Lotion, Renewal Oil, Exfoliating Scrub, Purifying Mask, made with Peruvian Sacha Inchi, Quinoa, and anti-inflammatory ingredient Lucuma.
To help exfoliate and prep skin to soak in all the nutrients they have graciousluy added a useful Stretch Wash Cloth. Fantastic stocking stuffer!
Super affordable hardcore perennials
Queen Helene Cocoa Butter and Queen Helene Shea Butter
Around as long as I have been alive, Queen Helene is a beauty supply and “masstige” (upscale pharmacy retailer like Target or CVS) staple.
They say you can use this as a facial moisturizer for day or night use, however, I am not putting this on my face. You can, but for body moisture and intensive treatments for feet, elbows, knees, and hands — the bomb!
I loved the Shea Butter for daily hand treats. The Cocoa Butter is a secret weapon for swelling belly skin during pregnancy too.
As rich as it is, it absorbs for a non-greasy feel. Does contain lanolin for those who are avoiding that ingredient. Super inexpensive. Found in retailers all over.
Kneipp Sensual Seduction Fig Milk and Argan Oil Body Cream (200 ML/6.76 ounces)
High-quality fig milk extract and argan oil moisturize and nourish the skin in an addictive and edible scent. This is a superior body cream that feels like upscale cosmetic line Laura Mercier’s $60 fig cream but at a fraction of the cost!
Incredible value and feel. It is not vegan. This product is made without animal testing, parabens, silicone oils, and preservatives. Such a fantastic find. Try this one.
Make sure you try their wonderfully aromatic (natural) complimentary skincare items like Kneipp Lavender Aromatherapy Bubble Bath in ‘Relaxing’ made with loads of essential lavender oil, another incredible find from Kneipp. This line is affordable high quality skin and body care. Check them out.
Nifty must-have gadgets award goes to:
Sharper Image – Cordless LED Tri-View Mirror Beauty Station – Black with USB Charging Port with a 10X and 5X mirror accessory
The most wonderful portable versatile mirror I have found. Travels nicely and lays flat, plus it can be cordless! This is a streamlined 8×11 inches non-magnified mirror with spot mirror that is 5X and 10X. You need those guys for detail work.
Cordless Operation made for on-the-go travel with 4 AA Batteries plus a tray for makeup or phone attached. It has battery-operated LED lights for amazing illumination, and the USB charging port on its back lets you charge your device while getting ready.
Derma Brilliance Cosmetic Skin Resurfacing System with jewel Resurfacing Cream, Cleanser
DermaBrilliance Wand is a fun to use and lightweight, rechargeable and waterproof exfoliator that is NOT a spinning brush.
Unisex, it has two sides and multiple heads to cleanse and exfoliate skin in the shower or at the vanity and comes with Apple Stem Cell Cleanser and Jewel Resurfacing Cream loaded with the good stuff, botanicals, and antioxidants.
Ideal for all skin types. You can use this every day too. Prices vary all over the internet, we saw some that cost half of what one major website was charging so shop around for this fun must-have skin exfoliator!
Makeup all-star is:
Gállány Foundation Second Skin Light Diffusing Serum Foundation
Hands down a winner. Eight amazing shades with a velvety full coverage and a truly weightless feel and texture, plus it’s a pump delivery, my favorite! Gállány’s color correction technology melts into the skin, giving you a natural, polished finished look.
Works beautifully with fingers, a brush or a sponge. Caveat: Runs a bit darker than most foundation lines, their lightest is really a light-medium tone. Like all Gállány products, the packaging is exquisite too.
Best new lippies and lashies award goes to:
ECRU New York Velvet Air Lipstick
Hating the blue lipstick trend? Yes, we feel you. Meet ECRU New York Velvet Air Lipstick. Stunning colors that glide on like velvet, so aptly named! These ten new lip colors wear like a champ.
ECRU New York has knocked lip color out of the park with this line of sexy shades that won’t make you look like Cruella de Ville or a Goth girl. A matte finish velvet lip color that glides on weightlessly, the neutral tones are beautiful as are the more jeweled tones, take your pick, they all look chic and on point. Classic colors.
ECRU New York Runway Lash
Intense, black, skinny precision brush delivers big fat long lashes. For real. Actual runway lashes. Only made more amazing by Argan Oil infused ingredient deck that conditions your lashes as you wear it.
The brush is aces, and you will love how it separates and defines each lash. Curved, skinny and made to grab every last one of your eyelashes. Amazing new mascara.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Monsters and Critics received free samples of the above products for testing.