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Growing up, I was loyal to a beauty brand that reminded me “I’m worth it.” As I gained confidence with age and thorough knowledge of the beauty industry as my career coincided with skincare and cosmetics launches, I found the self-worth directive from my youth less of an antiquated mantra and more a way of life. We all deserve to be empowered - no matter what brands we use – and spend at will to take our beauty into our own hands. But this “more is more” approach requires a discerning eye; Not every high-priced item touting healing power is worth the splurge. Crème de la Mer may still be commanding $345 for 2 ounces, twenty-seven years post-launch, but there are better options. Case in point, the list below.
Disregarding my personal obsession for a moment, legendary beauty editor (now spearheading beauty at Goop) Jean Godfrey June doesn’t refer to Vintner’s Daughter Serum as “the little black bottle that shook the industry” for nothing. I took the purchase plunge in 2019 as I was turning 50 and have never looked back. Clean beauty is its least interesting quality, as the serum is rich with twenty-two active organic botanicals that are mixed with powerful essential oils. Its phytonutrients and minerals help balance my skin, while the phytoceramides, nourishing fatty acids, and antioxidants brighten my complexion. I love the resulting glowing smooth skin possibly as much as I adore the scent – which might be worth the price alone. Despite the price I don’t use it sparingly, ensuring it sinks into my hands and neck (key indicators of aging). And I wrap mine in cellophane and bubble wrap (not one drop spills!) for traveling as I can’t go one day without it. Believe me, I’ve tried.
Francisco Costa may have made his name replacing famed designer Calvin Klein, constructing exquisite Collections for thirteen years while dressing celebrities and winning awards (Womenswear Designer of the Year for one), but it’s his recent foray into beauty that feels so meaningful. Given an adoration of his birthplace Brazil, Francisco’s vision for his namesake beauty brand stemmed from its lush offerings. The rainforest-sourced products tap into abundant rare plant species ripe with precious oils and extracts that not only smell incredible but deliver results. While the line isn’t ingredient-driven, like scientific competitors, the main elements of the lightweight oil – Breu, Cacay and Kaya – thoroughly soothe and nourish skin to a silky touch. And the packaging? Leave it to the minimalist maestro to design stunning sustainable packaging while partnering with Forest Stewardship Council (promoters of eco-friendly paper products). Beauty abounds.
While the term “clean beauty” has become ubiquitous, there is one category that still struggles with formulas that deliver – mascara. Clean mascaras I have tried often flake, resist staying power, or simply lack the “oomph” we need to bat eyelashes. Gucci Westman has changed all of this with her Atelier supercharged lash maker. Healthy from the root lashes, thanks to the purest of lash conditioning and hydrating ingredients, without sacrificing all-day volumizing. More than worth it.
If you didn’t already love Jenna Lyons from her J.Crew persona as “the woman who dresses America,” her foray into beauty will have you swooning. Alongside her makeup artist Troi Ollivierre, she created false eyelashes (which we’ve also reviewed here) that I feel are an investment in myself. I purchased the Jenna Pack, which includes the Iris, Cate and Noor styles, in order to flaunt and flutter my eyelashes at an upcoming party and any random Tuesday – because investing in your beauty should not wait for a special occasion.
Skincare tools are among my favorite investments, as they can bring the spa experience home, but it wasn’t until I began using WTHN’s Face Cupping Kit that I felt I was reaping skincare benefits as much as relaxation.
A traditional Chinese medicine technique, facial cupping can lift, sculpt and ease puffiness of your visage. I keep my WTHN Face Cupping suction handy for spontaneous use, as I crave its ability to promote oxygen-rich blood circulation, which strengthens skin and its connective tissues - and gives me a rosy glow. It feels like a massage, which is oft my favorite part of a facial, which also helps with tissue generation. And motherhood.
TONING MIST, $50 and EYE OIL, $76
This brand has taken my beauty cabinet by storm with its multi-taskers. While hybrid products are not unprecedented, the simplicity and cooling effect of these clean beauties feels inimitable.
As eye cream is so often re-purposed with face cream in a smaller jar (and at a higher price!), I rarely find eye treatments that satisfy my standards. Aside from the incredibly concentrated blend of antioxidant, mineral and vitamin-rich eye oil, it’s F. Miller’s cooling stainless steel roller ball that hooked me. And I don’t stop at my eyes, using this botanical gem on lips, cuticles and any dry patch of skin that needs soothing.
But the F. Miller holy grail is the Toning Mist. While I hadn’t used a toner since I bathed in Sea Breeze in the 80’s, I spritz this nutrient-dense tonic – thanks to floral hydrosols to plump and soften skin, as probiotic cultures and botanical extracts restore skin’s natural balance and purify pores – multiple times daily. It rehydrates and awakens my skin. And while I would not want to relive my youth, I love the reminiscent scent.
As both products are best refrigerated, I am eyeing the next high-end investment – the beauty fridge. Hear that, Net-A-Porter?
Given the influx of scalp health products in recent years, some say scalp care is the new skincare. But there is more to this than a backlash to dry shampoo – There is a proven correlation between your scalp health and hair health. “It’s like the soil in which the plant — or, in this case, your hair — grows,” according to Benjamin Paul, MD, a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and surgeon director at HairCareMD in NYC. And the scalp has it tough with denser skin (than facial skin), more oil glands and nearly 100,000 hair follicles to manage. Scalp shampoo feels like a necessary investment, and I look forward to my weekly washes with the whipped G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo.
Just like a weekly facial exfoliator, this scrub shampoo – froth with mineral-rich (and exfoliating) Himalayan pink salt, cold-pressed moringa oil, and pure unfiltered rosehip oil – cleans out the grime deposited all week from shampoo and product buildup to environmental dirt and dead skin cells. But lest we think this is all about smelling nice (which G. Tox does in spades) and having bouncing and behaving hair, studies have shown poor scalp health can lead to hair loss. So maybe this is priceless?
THE EASTWEST® WAY LUSH LOCKS, $46.99/month
While the price point feels reasonable, the notion of taking a pill to grow out the lob you succumbed to last Fall is more of a luxury. Understandably hair growth serums are trending, but none of them feel as rooted in functional medicine as EastWest’s Lush Locks. Developed by renowned wellness expert and holistic medicine practitioner, Dr. Taz (who I have been seeing for years), the supplements combine alma, foti, B-vitamins, magnesium, folate, biotin, L-Cystine, iron and organically-sourced herbs to help support hair regrowth and prevent any further hair loss (an issue that rears its head while aging), all of which ensures beautiful locks while maintaining gut – and immunity – health (her specialty). The opportunity cost here is how often I require haircuts, but as studies show hair loss accompanies aging, so again totally worth it.
No matter what makes your list of ‘can’t live without’ products, remember you are worth the investment in clean beauty that makes you not only gorgeous on the outside, but shine from the inside. And never forget beauty does not start and stop at your face. Here are the head-to-toe brands above you may want to explore further: