What makes a beauty product a cult classic? Before beauty blogs took off (and before I became a beauty editor), I would read these lists in magazines, totally fall for the media hype and then become obsessed with hunting the products down. This was before we had Sephora, and before Shoppers Drug Mart carried every beauty brand known to woman, so there was also a thrill of the chase element at play. The fact that you couldn’t find them just anywhere only added to the cachet.
Now? I’m a lot more objective. Having worked in the beauty industry for so long and tested a gazillion jillion products over the years, I’ve got a much better idea of what I’d fork over money for… and what is essentially just an everyday mascara or whatever in famously recognizable packaging. (You probably know who I’m talkin’ about here, but more on that in a bit.)
So here’s my list of the cult buys that are still worth it—and the ones that you’d be better off leaving for a 2012 upgrade.
10 cult-classic beauty products that are totally worth it
1. Mason Pearson Brush
This is the exact brush I’ve had for, I don’t now, 10 years now? These babies last a lifetime, so they’re definitely worth the investment. I’ve used other high-end brushes but none come close—the MP never pulls or snags, and I even use it to comb out my hair after a shower! The best. The end.
2. Tweezerman Slant Tweezers
Have you ever tried using a cheap-ass pair of tweezers? Yeah, it’s not fun… sorry, Revlon. While I don’t really endorse going crazy with the DIY brow-shaping, everyone still needs a pair of these in her kit for those times when you’ve gotta pluck out a wayward eyebrow hair. (For other areas of your face, run—do not pass go—and buy this handy tool. It’s not a cult classic, but maybe someday it will be.)
3. NARS Blush in Orgasm
Yeah, yeah, you knew this was going to be here. But seriously—it’s true that this shade looks good on just about everyone. I always end up coming back to this blush, and it’s especially on trend right now because I’ve been feeling more peachy than pinky with my cheek tones lately. I do wish they’d come out with a sparkle-free version… maybe someday.
4. L’Oréal Paris Elnett Hairspray
This only made its way to Canada a few years ago—it used to be that you’d have to smuggle it from overseas. What makes it so great? It’s super-light, brushes out clean and doesn’t flake or leave hair sticky. (Although I could live with the slightly old-lady smell.) One year, when I was having my hair done by Sally Hershberger’s manservants, they busted this out—instead of Hershberger’s own products—to set my hairstyle. Doesn’t that say something?
5. YSL Touche Éclat
As long as you get that this is NOT a concealer—it’s an illuminating pen—you’ll understand the cult of Touche Éclat. (Although I’m fully aware that many folks, who probably aren’t plagued by terrible dark circles, do use this as an under-eye concealer.) Like Carmindy, I’m a huge fan of strategic brightening. Here’s a guide to the upside-down triangle technique.
6. Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler
I have the same philosophy for eyelash curlers as I do with tweezers: don’t cheap out. Shu’s has never failed me—it gets close to the roots of my lashes without making me feel like I’m going to rip them out. I don’t think they sell separate replacement pads, which is a little annoying/wasteful… but you should be able to get in at least a couple of years before you have to repurchase.
7. Essie Nail Polish in Mademoiselle
I don’t care what the nail trend of the day is—I say everyone needs at least one classic sheer shade in their nail polish wardrobe. It’s no secret that Essie’s forte is in these pale, ballerina, bridal-type colours… and none is more classic than Mademoiselle. Glossy pale pink but not in-your-face, it goes with every skin tone. (I also love Hi Maintanence, BTW, but that’s a newcomer…)
8. Urban Decay Primer Potion
It’s the original eye primer, and dare I say it… the best? Give this a whirl and see if it doesn’t tame your oily eyelids into submission. It’ll also help colours stay more true. (I admit that I’m a lazy b*tch, so I tend to wear my one-step, built-in waterproof sparkly nude creams more often than not… but once in a blue moon, when I want to go smoky, I do the prep.)
9. Smith’s Rosebud Salve
I seriously love these old-fashioned tins, don’t you? The fact that the company is over 100 years old, family-owned and produces these lip balms in the good old US of A just makes me happy. They’re not expensive and work great as a lip balm, cuticle moisturizer and more.
10. Kiehl’s Creme de Corps
You know what? If you’re going to splurge on a body lotion, this is a damned good one to pick. It’s been around since the ’70s and is amazingly rich and hydrating without being greasy like, um, that horrible category called “body butters” (sorry). I also love that you can pair it with any scent and it won’t clash.
And with that, now it’s time for the products I suggest you skip…
5 cult beauty products that don’t live up to the hype
1. Maybelline New York Great Lash Mascara
Maybelline makes a lot of excellent things, but for me, this is not one of them. For me, this is the most over-hyped beauty product of all time—I just don’t get it. There are far superior mascara formulas out there… I mean, it’s 2012 now! Come on.
2. OPI Nail Polish in I’m Not Really a Waitress
This was a big deal about a decade ago, with everyone claiming that it was the best, most universally flattering red. I don’t know if I ever liked it or just wore it because I was told to. Now? It just feels really dated. I like my reds bright and clear and strong.
3. La Mer Crème de la Mer Moisturizing Cream
Some people still love this stuff. Okay, fine. Just know that it’s really expensive for what it is—which is moisturizing, sure (with mineral oil!) and not really any anti-aging ingredients. I think you can get a far better bang for your buck by upgrading to one of the more technologically advanced offerings on the market, like Prevage, StriVectin, etc.
4. Benefit Benetint Rose-Tinted Lip & Cheek Stain
I used to be into this stuff big time for my cheeks. And the legend of how it was created is pretty cool—apparently the Benefit sisters made it for some exotic dancer to tint her nipples (!). I used it for quite some time, but then it dawned on me that I could do better—it was going on overly bright and streaky (because it’s next to impossible to blend quickly enough), left me with stained fingertips and always made me nervous that it was going to spill. Better to go with a cream or powder blush that you can blend for a more natural, flushed-from-within look. Or just save this for your lips.
5. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream
Here’s one that every model apparently “swears by.” The word cream is not really accurate, as it’s more of a thick, Vaseline-like gel than anything. And it’s supposed to be one of those multi-purpose salves that you can use anywhere, for anything. But I just can’t get over the medicinal quality and goopy texture… there’s nowhere on my body that I want to put this.
Now, over to you guys:
Do you agree with my picks of what’s worth it and what’s not?
Which of these prodz have you tried?
What are YOUR best—and worst—cult beauty picks?