Product Reviews: Five Beauty Essentials

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I’m a beauty-product junkie with three major concerns: coarse, curly, color-treated hair; sensitive combination skin (seriously, nose, I’m 44; stop breaking out); and an aversion to perfume.  Although I prefer unscented products – Almay fragrance-free gel deodorant for life! — a few of the scented ones are so good I buy them over and over.  Here are a few of the things I can stand to smell like, if only briefly.

Pravana Vivids hair dye


Photo: Pravana Facebook

If you consider your natural hair color to be blue, pink, or fire-engine red, you no doubt started your dyeing journey with Manic Panic.  That’s all well and good if you’re 16 and shop at Hot Topic, but when you no longer have time to dye once a week and scrub your shower for an afternoon, do yourself a favor and make the move from semi-permanent to demi-permanent dyes.  Pravana is the BMW to Manic Panic’s Ford Fiesta (except that in this case, the BMW is actually cheaper).  Their red dye is especially good, and if you mix in a teaspoon of violet, your hair will remain the color of red wine until it’s time to dye your roots again.  The only downside is that it smells a bit like a funeral home.

Curls Crème Brule

Hey curlies, listen up: if you’re not browsing the natural-hair section of Target, you’re missing out on the yummiest-smelling frizz tamer ever.  The entire Curls line is good – their coconut-scented cleansing and rinse-out conditioners make combing a breeze – but the Crème Brule is the product that really stands out.  Not only does it smell exactly like a vanilla cupcake, it does double duty as a styling cream and leave-in conditioner.  Apply it to soaking-wet hair in the shower before wrapping your head in a towel (or a t-shirt, if you really want to fight the frizz.)

Shiseido Ultimune

This is hands-down my favorite sample ever to appear in a Birchbox.  It’s one of those rare products that’s actually worth the exorbitant cost, so try not to feel too guilty about forking over the price of a college education and eating ramen for a week. It’s an ultra-lightweight liquid, which makes it great for summer, and even though it’s scented, the smell fades fast.  After coconut oil, which is the one beauty product I’d take if I were going to be on Survivor or something, Ultimune is the best moisturizer I’ve ever found.  If you have oily or combination skin, but still need a moisturizer on occasion, look no further.

LUSH Rock Star soap

If I had to smell like one scented product for the rest of my life, it would be this soap.  I have to restrain myself from licking Rock Star (that’s what she said).  It smells exactly like a Strawberry Shortcake doll and is great for washing your hands after getting something sticky on them.  The only downside is that it melts quickly, so keep a bamboo soap dish outside your shower and let the bar air-dry after use.  The minute LUSH makes Rock Star body lotion and conditioner, I will immediately move into a cardboard box to afford them.

burts bees colors

For a bright, classic (though sheer) red, try Cherry.

Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer
Anyone who’s ever used Burt’s Bees lip balm knows that others pale in comparison, and yes, I do feel fairly confident about  speaking for all of humanity when I say that.  The tinted version is perfect for those who want a hint of color plus the tingling peppermint awesomeness of the original.   For a bright, classic (though sheer) red, try Cherry. I’m still mourning the discontinuation of my favorite shade, Merlot, but Fig is a close second.