I’ve been a beauty editor for about six years now, and in that time, I have tried a lot of beauty products. The gig is perfect for me, a beauty addict who is self-taught (Seventeen magazine in the ’80s got me started) and who has had a religious skin care routine since the age of 14. (I once, as a 16-year-old, asked the woman at the Estée Lauder counter for a recommendation for eye cream; she sneered and told me to just use my moisturizer.) At this point in my career, I think I’ve actually purchased maybe a dozen beauty products in the last five years — I receive and have to test so many products, I don’t have room (or real estate on my face) to go out and purchase something new. Ultimately, what I’ve found is that often, products in a specific category (say, antioxidant serums) are interchangeable; in other words, one brand works reasonably as well as another, and it’s just a matter of personal preference (scent, packaging, price, etc.). There are, however, some things — things that are met with a raised-eyebrow “wow” — for which there are no replacement and that I definitely have to buy again. Herewith, some of those hero products.
Maybelline New York Waterproof Ultra Liner
Another delight of growing older is sagging eyelids. And if you’re of East Asian descent with a single fold or a small double fold, and you like eyeliner, you know that the bane of our makeup existence is raccoon eyes at the end of a long day, as that perfect line you drew in the a.m. migrates on your skin to create something akin to a smoky eye attempt by a first grader.
I’ve tried many, many eyeliners — pencil, gel, cream, liquid, cream gel, gel pencil — you name it. And while I’ve found a couple of pencil liners I really like (more on that later) while working on a beauty story recently, the gold standard, for me, is Maybelline’s Ultra Liner ($8). I’ve probably been using it for 10 years or so — it’s a must for pairing with false eyelashes and I’ve even worn it swimming (without goggles). But most importantly, at the end of a long day at work, my liner looks as it did when I applied it in the morning. Even more amazing — it comes off easily with my next must-buy beauty product …
These luxurious cotton makeup remover cloths (the cotton’s certified organic in Japan) take off even waterproof makeup like I’ve never seen, and perhaps most importantly, with minimal tugging and wiping, which is key for skin that is losing elasticity. Just press the cloth on eyes for five to 10 seconds, and gently wipe. What amazes me is that I can even clean my waterline (I line the waterline on my upper lid — it opens up the eye, key now that my eyelids are sagging, and makes my thinning lashes look thicker) without any stinging whatsoever. The cloth ($39) is infused with the mineral-rich waters from the Yumura hot springs in Izumo, Japan, as well as white birch sap, rosemary and lavender to soothe skin.
Clinique Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel
It’s completely unfair that I’m 45, everything is sagging and creasing, and I’m still fighting hormonal breakouts. I had the rare blemish as a teen and college student (and even then, I now guffaw at how insignificant they were), but starting in law school, I’ve been fighting monthly pimples that are deep, painful and take forever to go away. So in addition to all the anti-aging tubs, tubes and bottles weighing down my vanity, I also need a whole arsenal of blemish banishers. Clinique’s Clearing Gel ($25), a salicylic acid treatment, is lightweight and gets deep into pores to clear out the gunk that is prime nesting ground for pimples. The best part about it is it doesn’t dry out my skin (another mature skin woe — dry, flaky skin), and I can even use it around my lips, the most sensitive part of my face.
Yes, it’s not cheap at $80, but to me, this is more than a serum. Originally created for its Asian customer and her obsession with the V-line shape of the face, this serum is a mini facial-meets-mediation in a pump, forcing you to stop, take a breath and breathe. You apply using Clarins’ Manual Auto-Lifting Method, pressing your hands on key areas of your face, to stimulate lymphatic drainage of buildup and puffiness caused by a fatty, high-sugar, high-salt diet. It takes a little over a minute to do, and not only do I feel like I’ve done my part to give my face a little lift and contour for the day but it also brings some calm into a hectic morning.
Lalicious Cleansing Shower Oil
There’s no doubt that 99 percent of my skin care focus is on my face and my myriad woes (wrinkles, pimples, melasma, sagging). But when I first tried this body wash — because despite the fancy name, that’s essentially what it is — I was wow’d. First, it smells amazing. They have a bunch of different scents (my favorite is sugar tiare flower) that smell good — not sickly, not sweet. Just fresh and refreshing. Second, this cleansing oil has no sodium laureth sulfates (and of course, no parabens, phthalates or mineral oil) and yet it lathers into an amazingly rich foam that just does not quit. I’m generally an indifferent shower person — get in, get out. This has turned my shower into an experience. Lalicious Cleansing Shower Oil ($24).