One of the most glorious perks of working in the beauty industry is that you often get to try out skincare and cosmetics products (1) waaaay before they arrive in stores and (2) for free. After ten years writing about beauty, I'm pretty sure I've tried hundreds—if not thousands—of fancy face creams, hundred-dollar serums, lipsticks and lip glosses priced from $1 to $75, shampoos, conditioners, mousses, gels, polishes, balms, potions, and colorful pots of unidentified pigments.
But, at the end of the day, when play turns to pay, there are only probably about a dozen beauty products that I'm personally willing to shell out my own hard-earned cash on—and most of these are products I've used for years (decades, even!). Here they are.
Danica's 10+ Products I Can't Live Without
Erno Laszlo Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar ($39 at ErnoLaszlo.com): Yes, it's crazy to spend $39 on a face soap, agreed. But I've been using Erno Laszlo's iconic cleansing bar since my early-20s—I'm pretty sure I started after reading somewhere that Madonna and Marilyn Monroe are both Erno Laszlo die-hards—and have tried using other brand cleansing products intermittently over the years. But no other cleanser I've ever used has, as reliably, prevented break-outs, kept my T-zone shine at bay all day, and removed makeup as thoroughly (in one step!) as my trusty bar of Sea Mud Soap. Plus, it lasts for months and doesn't irritate my eczema-prone skin.
Caudalie Vinexpert Broad Spectrum SPF15 Radiance Day Fluid ($75 at Sephora.com): To be honest, I can live without Caudalie's sunscreen lotion—mostly because it's $75 and I can go through a whole tube in about three weeks, so I try not to buy it all the time—but I love it so much, I had to include it on this list. The texture is rich, but not too heavy—somewhere between a lotion and a cream—and the scent is light and fresh. The finish is matte, but still radiant. And its moisturizing effects last all day. Plus, it sits so well under makeup, you won't need a primer.
Hands down, Kiehl's Rosa Arctica (and now, Rosa Arctica Lightweight—each $60 at Kiehls.com) is my most-recommended product for dry skin, and I've only ever heard rave reviews in return. Wear it as a night cream for plump, glowy skin in the morning, and during the day in the dry winters (or any time of the year, really) to lock in moisture all day long.
I'm a die-hard hair-product loyalist, and used the same shampoo (Kiehl's Herbal for Dry Hair) for ten years before they discontinued it (in fact, when I went to L'Oreal HQ earlier this year, I found a deadstock bottle in one of their labs and tried to convince them to give it to me—see here.)
Me and my favorite shampoo at L'Oreal HQ
I've also been using the same conditioner since college—Terax Crema ($39 at Soap.com). The first day I ever used it, way back when I was 19, I walked into the student center on campus and got about a dozen compliments on how shiny my hair looked. Of course, over the years, I have tried other conditioners—and while some of them have been good, none of them have ever come close to matching the silky-shiny-glossy-sleek-soft results that Terax Crema gives me.
When it comes to color cosmetics, in 2012, I've been all about the "natural look"—which, let's be real, involves about a boatload of products. Still, my routine these days is seriously pared down compared to, oh, 2006, when I'd wear three pairs of fake eyelashes and a full face of makeup every single day. See here, circa 2007:
Me and my friend Farrah in early 2007. Note my spider-lashes.
Nowadays, I'm older (not wiser, but maybe lazier) and here's what I put on my face on a daily basis: MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural Powder ($29 at MACCosmetics.com)—or MAC StudioSculpt Concealer (which they've recently discontinued) and MAC StudioFix on particularly bad skin days. I know some people find MAC foundations and powders to be quite heavy, but my skin tends to be drier, so I like that medium-ish texture.
These days, I won't go outside without using Mally Beauty's Shimmer Shape and Glow Face Defining System ($40 at MallyBeauty.com). I actually ordered mine from QVC, but I find things come in the mail faster when you order directly from Mally. The palette features three powders—a blush, a contour powder, and a shimmery highlighter—and comes with two brushes (one has two heads) and super-detailed instructions on how to apply it all. I'm actually obsessed with all of Mally Roncal's beauty products—I love how solutions-oriented the whole line is and I also love how step-by-step guides come with everything!
For the last couple of years, my daily mascara of choice is CoverGirl LashBlast Length ($8 at Drugstore.com)—a clump-free, smudge-free, won't-end-up-under-my-eyes-in-the-afternoon mascara. It gives a great, natural-looking finish, and if I'm looking for something more dramatic, I just layer it under some volumizing stuff—I'm really liking Maybelline's Volum'Express Mega Plush ($7 at Ulta.com) and its bendy brush at the moment.
Last but not least, here's what you'll find in my everyday makeup bag (uh, or just floating around at the bottom of my tote bag, somewhere underneath my laptop): three lip balms, a lip gloss, and a lipstick.
From top: Rosebud Salve ($6 at COBigelow.com) which can be applied everywhere—chapped lips, under eyes, on zits, on cuticles; Korres Lip Butter in "Plum" ($12 at Sephora.com) is a touch of deep color when my complexion is in need of a pick-me-up (also, it looks cute on Skype); Victoria's Secret Shiny Kiss Flavored Gloss in "Strawberry Fizz" ($9 at VictoriasSecret.com) because it smells like delicious children's cough medicine (which I secretly adore); Maybelline Baby Lips in "Grape Vine" ($4 at Ulta.com)—if you haven't tried purple lip balm, please try it now, you'll love it, it doesn't look at all purple, it looks like you just ate a purple fruit that gave you sexy-colored lips; and Dior Addict Lipstick in 612 "Spotlight" ($30 at Sephora.com), the only lipstick I've ever bought repeatedly—I think this one is my fifth or sixth.
Whew. Are you sick of me yet? Well, there it is. All my favorite skincare and makeup products. What are yours? Tell me in the comments section, below!
Tune in all week as StyleBistro editors reveal what they use on a daily basis—and what their 10 Can't-Live-Without beauty products are.