Allure’s 50 Must-Buy Beauty Products – My Thoughts + Dupes

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A few years ago (August of 2012 to be exact), Allure Magazine published an article online describing the Top 50 Beauty Products You Have to Try before You Die (ominous title, right?). It was and continues to be a very popular article. It continues to resurface periodically on various social media platforms. It recently showed up again on my Facebook feed republished by Allure, so I reread the article to see where I measure up in terms of having tried the 50 products and to see whether I agree with the list.

As a beauty blogger, I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve only tried 22 of these so-called 50 “must try” products. There was a time when I would rush right out and immediately buy the remaining 28 products. But, I’ve grown up a little, gotten married and adjusted to our single-income budget. So I’m less likely to run right out and buy the latest or (purportedly) greatest products. I may have become a teensy bit cynical too, after having tried and been disappointed by so many supposedly magical products over the years.

Of the products I’ve tried my opinion is that some are deserving of the hype and some aren’t. I’m listing the products I’ve tried below as well as my impressions of each and whether or not I believe them to be “must try.” Have you seen this article? If you’re a beauty product aficionado (like me), then I’d love to hear your comments on those products you’ve tried and if you concur with Allure Magazine that these are musts for any beauty fan.

1. Chanel N°5 EDT: This was the first, classic fragrance I ever purchased for myself. My mother is a big fragrance fan as well and she taught me from a young age the value of classic, high-end scents. When I was about 12, Mom schooled me on classics like Joy, Shalimar, Diorissimo and Chanel N°5. Diorissimo and Joy were too flowery for my young tastes, and Shalimar was too strong (though I respect everything Guerlain creates).

N°5 became my goal because I’ve been a Marilyn Monroe fan since forever. When I read that Chanel N°5 was her favorite, I decided I HAD to have this fragrance too! With my babysitting money in tow, I trotted down to our local Dillard’s Department Store and purchased a great big atomizer of this without even testing it. I still remember the box and the shiny black lacquered bottle. Alas, the fragrance itself never won me over (again, probably too flowery) so I gave it away. But I’ll always have a sentimental fondness for this one…It was Marilyn’s favorite, after all.

2. L’Oreal Elnett Satin Hairspray: I tried this one about 5 years ago because I’d read an article calling it the best hairspray ever. Honestly, this one didn’t blow me away. The scent is just…wow! It’s just really strong! And frankly, I was then and am still far more impressed with Sebastian’s Shaper Plus (pictured below) and the generic Shaper Plus alternatives now readily available at drugstores and Wal-Mart) which out-perform Elnett without the overpowering smell. If you love this hairspray but (like me) don’t enjoy the fragrance, you’re in luck because L’Oreal has released an unscented version.
3. La Mer Creme De La Mer: I’m sucker for a celebrity endorsement. I once read that Jennifer Lopez slathered her whole body in this uber expensive night cream before she went to sleep each night. And who doesn’t wanna have their own JLo glow? So, I did and purchased a 1 oz. pot of this purported miracle cream. I liked it. It’s an effective moisturizer; although I now know that most of the effective anti-aging ingredients will be rendered ineffective due to the jar packaging. But I cannot justify the price anymore; nor can I ignore the fact that most of the active anti-aging ingredients in this product lose their efficacy due to the jar packaging. For more on that, check out this review from

Fortunately, there are other, more reasonably priced face and body creams available. I personally love these 3 fantastic options from Paula’s Choice, each contain a number of potent anti-agers and each one is thoughtfully packaged in a way that preserves the efficacy of those ingredients.

A Trifecta of Effective PAULA'S CHOICE Anti-Aging Moisturizers

A Trifecta of Effective PAULA’S CHOICE Anti-Aging Moisturizers

4. NARS Orgasm Blush: I had this one a few years ago as well, and it was also a blind purchase (this time from Sephora’s website). Honestly, I disagree with the reputation this has for being “perfect for every skin tone.” It’s not perfect for mine. I actually like their other brighter pink blushes better on me (my current favs are “Desire” and “Gaity“). I cannot argue with the excellent pigmentation of all NARS’ blush products. They’re fantastically pigmented and one compact will last you a looong time!

Brilliant blushes

Brilliant blushes

5. Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush: These blushes are great! I should qualify that statement. If you enjoy cream, cream-to-powder or gel blushes; if your skin is on the drier, more sensitive side, you’ll probably love this blush! It really is great. The pigmentation is great. There’s an excellent shade range from pale candy pink to bright red, coral and a phenomenal bronze shade that’s terrific and works for a number applications. When I took stock of my makeup inventory for this article, I discovered I currently own 4 Dream Bouncy Blushes (in Pink Frosting, Fresh Pink, Hot Tamale, and Coffee Cake). As with the NARS shades, I tend to favor the lighter pinks, but I adore the bronzer (Coffee Cake) which works well on my skin tone as a cream contour.

6. Dove White Beauty Bar (soap): This is another throwback product I remember using during my teen years. These days, I steer clear of bar soaps save for Drunk Elephant’s amazing bar soaps.

7. Crest 3D Professional Whitening Strips: I used these a couple years ago to brighten my smile. They worked okay but the sensitivity I experienced during treatment scared me off trying these strips again.

8. Yves Saint Laurent Touche ÉClat: I sampled this product the day the Gainesville (FL) Sephora opened in 2008. It was suggested to me by the guest makeup artist attending the event as a possible coverup for the purple Botox shiners I was sporting at the time. It did not cover up those bruises, and I’m not convinced this product is a great concealer (it doesn’t cover my bluish underage circles either). However, it is an effective and elegant click-pen highlighter that basically started the trend. These days, I actually prefer Maybelline’s DREAM LUMI® Touch Highlighting Concealer to YSL’s version. It’s worth noting that both YSL cosmetics and Maybelline are owned by the mega-company L’Oreal. Those major cosmetics conglomerates often share researchers, product testing and formulations.

9. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+: I started using Clinique’s famous 3-step protocol at age 13, after several of my little girlfriends mentioned their mothers had introduced them to the line’s famous protocol. I still remember dragging my mother to nearest Clinique counter and insisting that she buy me the soap (the scent of which was so recognizable that it still conjures up powerful middle school memories), the clarifying lotion and the unmistakable yellow cream. Fast forward 27 years later and there’s still a bottle of Dramatically Different in both my bathroom and my mother’s. It’s not the highest-tech, most sophisticated night cream on the market. But this product has undeniable staying power and its simplistic formulation makes it suitable for virtually all skin types, even the most sensitive. Side note, if you’re looking for an effective and gentle moisturizer that provides proven anti-agers, check out this widely available and reasonably priced lotion from Cerave. It contains 3 different types of ceramides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. It melts into the skin quickly and gives my skin an immediately plumped appearance.
10. The Original beautyblender®: This super sponge revolutionized makeup application and spawned an army of knock-offs. Sponging is my preferred way to apply foundation, and this tool outperforms nearly every other sponge on the market, especially for a smooth, fuller coverage foundation finish. I find that it doesn’t work the best around my eyes, and I’ve yet to try the beautyblender micro.minis mostly because I find the idea of paying $18 for 2 such itty bitty sponges. Most days, I only wear a BB cream, so I tend to use this sponge from Real Techniques. But when I have a special occasion or event I’m going all out for, I still swear by the original beauty blender when I need a flawless full-coverage result.
11. Lip Smackers: All hail Bonne Bell Lip Smackers! These waxy flavored chapstick-style treats are a right of passage for tweens around the world. This is (yet) another product that I’ve long since set aside in favor of more grown-up lip balms, but I still have a soft spot for for these soda or candy-scented sticks.

12. Aquaphor’s Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment: Maybe the ultimate beauty multi-tasker, in my opinion this stuff definitely deserves a spot among the 50 must-try products. It’s the ultimate multi-tasker! I have used this as an intensive but gentle moisturizer post-procedure (e.g. post microderm or fractional laser treatments), as a heavy-duty balm for cracked and peeling lips, to keep my brows in place, as a cuticle tamer, and to soothe my feet after a long workday wearing 5″ heels (mercifully I don’t wear those heels very often now). I also used it daily on my pregnant belly to prevent stretch marks. I’m not sure if it was the Aquaphor or genetics, but I am very fortunate to have escaped pregnancy with zero stretch marks. This stuff stuff was also recommended by our pediatrician as a gentle but effective post-bath moisturizer for our daughter’s sensitive skin. Works like a charm!

13. Clarisonic Classic Sonic Skin Cleansing System: I purchased a pink Clarisonic Mia (1st generation) maybe 3 years ago now. I like it and used it consistently for about a year, replacing the cleansing brushes every 2-3 months. I even convinced Hubs to try it (quite a fete since I’d selected a pink one!). He liked it (he likes almost all techy toys) . We both used it for a while, until we tired of purchasing new brush heads for that one (which we had to do even more frequently when we were both using it). About that time, Foreo released their LUNA sonic cleanser.
I quickly succumbed to the LUNA hype and purchased it with my 20% Platinum ULTA coupon. Once I got the Foreo Luna, I put the Clarisonic away; though I still have it. In writing this article, I got the Clarisonic out, recharged it and used it along with the Luna for comparison. I found that the Luna is a bit gentler than the Clarisonic which is important for my sensitive skin. Plus, the charge on the LUNA lasts at least 10 X longer than the Clarisonic. That, along with the cost savings of no longer having to purchase replacement brush heads, seals the deal for me.

14. Dior Diorshow Buildable Volume Mascara: Here is an almost $30 mascara with a big rep for creating huge, separated, clump-free lashes. I purchased it in 2008. It is a good mascara. I enjoyed using it. It was particularly effective since, at the time that I purchased Diorshow I’d been using Latisse for about 6 months. So this mascara produced great volume without much need to lengthen my lashes. I’ve never purchased it again, because I just never felt – based on my experience – that it was worth the price tag.

Benefit's They're Real Mascara Mini

Benefit’s They’re Real Mascara Mini

Keep in mind that Dior is a subsidiary of LVMH – the giant conglomerate which owns Sephora stores and brand cosmetics, Benefit Cosmetics, MAKEUP FOREVER, Givenchy and Guerlain, Kat Von D makeup and several other beauty brands. I personally think that Benefit’s “They’re Real” mascara is a great dupe for Diorshow. Whereas Diorshow costs $28.50; They’re Real costs only $24. Hey every $4.50 saved is money you can spend on buying (what else?) more makeup! Also, Benefit offers a travel size option for just $12, available at both Sephora and ULTA stores and online shops. If you’ve struggled with (full-size) mascara tubes drying out and turning clumpy, I’d  recommend you try a travel-sized version for your next mascara purchase.

15. Guerlain Meteorites Pearls: Another product I (incredibly) was able to convince my mother to buy me, a then 15 year-old. I remember circling the Guerlain counter multiple times and asking the poor sales person to allow me to test this product. My mother finally succumbed to the pressure. If memory serves, this one was part of a birthday present, and I remember being over the moon to receive it and open the elegant packaging. I guess this was my first highlighter which is really its main purpose. It’s nearly impossible to use individual colors for color-correcting.

16. Cnd Shellac: Big fail for me. No idea what happened but this stuff just peeled right off my nails after just 2 days. Worked great on my toes, but like almost all polishes (even those professionally applied) this one tended to peel off my nails. Side note, back in the day (i.e. the 90s) when I wore (sigh) acrylic nails, even falsies lifted and peeled right off my nails. So these days, when I need a long-wearing manicure, I prefer to use the Red Carpet Manicure brand gel polish set. It’s cheaper than a salon mani/pedi, and I can touch it up at home if (when) I need to.
17. OPI Nail Lacquer in Lincoln Park After Dark: I like OPI polishes a whole lot! And this one deserves its legendary status. It’s a lovely deep plum shade that’s neither to warm or too cool. The color is sophisticated and chic. Appropriate for women of all ages, it’s edgy enough to feel youthful but understated enough to work for more mature women.

18. Tigi Bed Head Superstar Queen for a Day Thickening Spray: I have fine hair. So I’m always on the hunt for styling products to make my hair look thicker. I purchased this one from Tigi a few years ago along with several other sprays including Redken’s Guts root thickener spray, and the now legendary Oribe Après Beach Wave and Shine Spray. In all honesty, I prefer Oribe’s version. It’s brilliant and smells amazing! But, it’s quite pricey and only available through Oribe salons or the Oribe website. Bed Head’s Queen for a Day is an effective and more cost-efficient alternative, but it’ll never replace my Après Beach.

19. Tweezerman Slant Tweezer: I’m not ashamed to admit I’m the proud owner of 4 of these terrific tweezers. I keep 2 pair in my bathroom (one on each side of the br, nearest my best makeup mirrors) and the other two are stashed in various handbags. I hate to ever be without one. They really are the best and worth every penny!

Quite simply the best tweezers available!

Quite simply the best tweezers available!

20. St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse: As mentioned above, I have light (sometimes pale) skin. Always have. I think shimmery bronze skin is beautiful, and I believe that having a tan can hide a multitude of flaws, especially any creaping or dimpling on the legs. I used to frequent tanning beds in search of a browner color, but I now realize the error of my ways (and have to sun spots to remind me) so I stay as far away from those places as possible. This self-tanning mousse is the truly the best I’ve tried. It doesn’t smell awful. It’s thick but still easy to apply. And the consistency is smooth enough to offer a little extra “play time” during application to prevent major speaking or random clumps of brown stain. A close, if not-quite-a-dupe product is Jergen’s Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse (I use Deep Bronze shade). Jergen’s tanner also has no offensive odor. It has an almost identical texture and applies evenly without streaking. Plus, the deep bronze shade is very close to St. Tropez’s Classic Mousse color. But the Jergens option costs just $13 (for 6 oz.); while the St. Tropez version costs $42 (for 6.7 oz.).
21. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick (Black Cherry): I LOVE Revlon lipsticks. Always have. My earliest makeup memory involved me (at around 4 years old) rooting through my mother’s purse and discovering a bright purple lipstick shade from Revlon. I remember being mesmerized by the color and taking (AKA stealing) it to play with. About 10 years later, I got Black Cherry. I finished that tube and now keep at least 4 other Revlon Super Lustrous shades on hand at all times.

22. Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage: This product is one of the many, many (probably over 50) concealers I’ve purchased to cover my genetically-bestowed under-eye bags. This product contains two shades that can be used separately, combined to create a custom shade or layered for color-correcting purposes. Because the skin around my eyes is always super dry, this one didn’t work very well. Both shades are very pigmented. And this is one concealer Wayne Goss recommends for his “lift the eye” concealer trick (described in the video below). Sadly, for me it creased and settled in my fine lines. But I think it works brilliantly for others without my particular constellation of under-eye “issues.”

Side rant: I once loved LM products and swore my allegiance to her foundations thanks to a couple of her foundations that were perfect matches for my skin. Sadly, both my Laura Mercier HG foundations (the first generation Moisturizing Foundation and the original Silk Creme Foundation) have since been discontinued and/or reformulated. I wish cosmetics companies would listen to their consumers and stop messing with successful products! Thankfully, the LM Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF20, remains unchanged.

Wisdom for the Day:
Commit your path to the Eternal; let Him direct you. Put your confidence in Him, and He will follow through with you. ~Psalm 37:5 (The Voice)
Read more here.

Beauty Resource of the Day:
Do you need a lift around your eyes? I sure do! In this video Wayne Goss describes his quick (and very easy) technique for giving your eyes a nice lift WITHOUT the need for medical interventions:

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