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My Holy Grail Beauty Products

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Many moons ago, I was a regular on Makeup Alley. There, members would often talk about their HG, or Holy Grail products. That mascara that dreams were made of, the moisturizer that truly did transform, the hair product that finally made tresses manageable. Many moons ago, I spent a ton of money at Sephora, CVS, and Nordstrom looking for my own personal HGs but rarely gave any product the time needed to truly get to know it. As I have aged, I’ve stopped with the manic shopping for perfection. Lack of time, lack of funds, and lack of thinking such items will be so life-changing. But with that, I’ve used products until I “hit pan” or emptied the tube, I’ve repurchased items if they have served me well, and given products time to really prove if they’re good for me. I’ve also learned that Holy Grail doesn’t mean a product that will change my life, but products that fit me, my lifestyle, my budget, and my personal style.

The other day as I was doing my face, I realized I do have plenty of Holy Grail beauty products. I have a pretty set skincare routine and makeup face, one that gets the job done, feels good, looks good. My HG beauty products:

My Holy Grail Skincare Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Beauty Products for Skincare

  • DHC Deep Cleansing Oil – This stuff isn’t cheap, but I have yet to find a cheaper alternative that works quite as well. Garnier is fine, but when I splurge and buy DHC (or get a sample from the BlogHer conference, thank you Rakuten!) I realize there is no comparison. This product gets my skin clean, takes off all makeup (even that kohl that seems to reappear five minutes after cleansing and then again in the morning), leaves my skin feeling softer than before cleansing, never causes breakouts, and when I use it, the next morning my skin looks phenomenal – hydrated, plump, soft, even, dare I say younger? I’ve used off and on for five years and have wasted so much money trying to find a cheaper alternative.
  • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser – I keep this in the shower as cleansing oil doesn’t work well in such a situation. This also does a great job of removing everything from my face without stripping it, though I sometimes need to do a second wash if I wore any primers or setting sprays. I like using this with my Clarisonic. It’s cheap, it doesn’t dry me out, no breakouts, not too harsh but effective. However, if I only use this and don’t switch every so often my skin does start to dry a bit. The best combination is me using DHC most nights and a wash with CeraVe and my Clarisonic in the shower 2-3 times a week.
  • Clarisonic Mia – I’ve gone through periods where I don’t use this, and times when I’ve used it daily. Over time I have found that my skin benefits from using it, but not too often. I like it best in the shower; I’ll do a quick wash with CeraVe especially if I’ve used primers and setting sprays, then do a second cleansing with CeraVe and the Clarisonic. It makes my pores appear to be smaller, makes my skin glow (and true glow, not scratched irritated red), and really gives me a deep clean. I buy replacement brush heads on eBay from well-rated sellers and always make sure to have an extra one in the linen closet for replacement.
  • L’Oreal Youth Code Serum Intense – I’ve now purchased this product six times, I love it that much. I have tried other serums, and they don’t compare – too greasy, ineffective, irritating. I still don’t know exactly what Youth Code does to improve my skin, but when I use it, my skin is happy. It’s a very light serum that absorbs quickly and plays nice with moisturizers. It makes my skin glow a bit, pores seem reduced, skin feels hydrated but never greasy. I use it morning and night under my moisturizer.
  • Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel – I’ve used this for over a decade and nothing else compares. I don’t wash my face in the morning, I just wipe it with this witch hazel. It smells nice, it leaves my skin feeling clean yet soft, and the price is very nice. Also feels good on a sweaty gross day; I’ll wipe down my neck, cleavage, behind my ears and feel refreshed.
  • Reusable Cotton Rounds – I am still using the same set I featured in this post, and they only get softer and more absorbent with washings. I store the rounds in an oversized mason jar (so hipster… well actually it fits nicely in my medicine cabinet), and I have a mesh bag hanging off the bathroom door and put the used rounds in there. Zip it up when I’m down to just a few clean rounds and throw in the next load of laundry. Wash and dry in the bag, and shove back in the mason jar. I use these for anything that needs a cotton round or ball except polish remover. Better for the environment, and better for your wallet!

My Holy Grail Makeup Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Makeup Beauty Products

  • Revlon ColorStay Makeup – I’ve used both formulas of this product; since turning 40 I switched to the Normal/Dry version (my color is Fresh Beige) and I find it has as much staying power as the oil-free version. The color looks natural on me, it blends well, doesn’t cause breakouts or get weird around my eyes and you can’t beat the price! Best of all… it lasts. It lasts through crying, through humid DC days, through dancing and sweating at a concert, and I can put it on at 6am before heading to the office and still have a set face at 7pm for an after-work event.
  • Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stain in Romantic – This stuff is amazing, and many of you have purchased it after I reviewed it and agree. It’s that perfect soft red that looks good on most every one. It’s not a lipstick, not a balm, not a stain but a combo of them all that can be applied without a mirror, be layered without being sticky or gross, and it has a bit of a menthol feel to soothe dry lips. I feel like Snow White when I wear it.  I have Romantic in my purse, Romantic in my desk, and Romantic in my dressing table at all times.
  • NARS Blush in Orgasm – I’ve been using this blush for over a decade. It has a bit of shimmer, but it’s subtle and only gives my skin a bit of a dewy finish. The coral color looks natural, but isn’t too orange to clash with cool-toned lipcolors and outfits. I have a couple other blushes in my makeup drawer for different looks but I always come back to Orgasm.
  • Maybelline Stiletto Liner in Brownish Black – I have contacts, allergies, and rub my eyes often. Pencil liners always end up a mess on me, and as I have gotten older I’ve found glossy black liquid liner looks too harsh.  I went through a ton of liquid liners from department stores, Sephora, and yes Makeup Alley-highly rated liners and none really wowed me.  I tried Line Stiletto by chance and became a loyal user for many years. It’s a felt tip that is flexible enough adjust the width of the line and get in that tiny area next to the lash line. It holds up through rubbing and sweating and tears and all that jazz, you can reapply over it later in the day if you want a darker or thicker line, yet it washes away easily at the end of the day. I keep one in my purse and one in my dressing table; I replace every three months.
  • e.l.f. Makeup Mist and Set – This is by far the best makeup setting spray I have tried. A combination of this and the Revlon ColorStay and my face can last for 24 hours even in high heat and humidity. Unlike other setting sprays and primers, I never get breakouts or clogged pores from this spray. And it doesn’t hurt that a bottle is under $5.00!

My Holy Grail Haircare Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Haircare Beauty Products

  • Rusk Thick – While I have a lot of hair, it’s relatively thin. A few spritzes of Rusk Thick before blowdrying gives me lift and body without it feeling as though I added anything to my hair. I keep trying different products and they’re always… fine. But Thick gets the job done without making my hair feel gross or look gross on Day 2. I’m on my third bottle in the past few years and I’ve learned to not waste my money on other products and stick with what works.
  • Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray – I raved about it in this post and I still adore it. I like messy rocker hair, and it helps me get that. I sometimes like full loose curls and it helps me get that. And when I am on Day 2 or 3 and want it to look purposeful and not greasy or limp, it helps me get that too.
  • Clairol Natural Instincts in 20 Hazelnut – While my stylist can give me the best color with depth, dimension and multi colors that look more natural and shiny, I’ll use Natural Instincts Hazelnut between sessions to cover gray and when my haircolor fades. It’s a bit darker than my natural brown, but I like that. I also like that this is a cool brown, not auburn or golden. It’s not the best on grays, but it’s a good in-between sessions color that isn’t completely permanent and doesn’t dry out or fry my hair.

My Holy Grail Body Care and Fragrance Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Body Care Fragrance Beauty Products

  • Neutrogena Body Oil – I love the smell, I love how it makes my skin look dewey and silky, and I love the ritual of applying it in a steamy bathroom post-shower. I tire of fragrances quickly, but not Neutrogena Body Oil. When I was pregnant it was one of the few scents that didn’t bother me; Karl would use it as a massage oil when my back bothered me and when I feel stressed I’ll take a bath and add some to the water for the aromatherapy as well as the moisturizing properties. Heads up, don't waste your money on drugstore versions; they don't smell the same. At ALLLLLLL.
  • Body Shop Coconut Body Butter – This stuff takes scaly alligator winter skin and makes it soft, silky, and happy. It’s great on sunburned, irritated, or sensitive skin; slather your feet in it before bed and put on socks and wake up with lovely tootsies. I’ve been using it since I worked for the company as a trainer 15 years ago.  I buy the jumbo tubs now and one lasts me almost a year.
  • Burberry London Eau de Parfum – I always wanted a signature fragrance, it seemed so feminine and elegant and stylish. This is not the fragrance I would have thought would be “the one” but for almost a decade it continues to be a scent I love and never tire of.  I wrote more about Burberry London EDP in this post.
  • OPI Nail Color in Big Apple Red – When summer comes I like to switch up and do the occasional fun color (right now wearing OPI’s Stop for Red), but Big Apple Red for two years has been my signature color. I don’t tire of it, it’s the perfect red that’s not too flashy, too mature, doesn’t look bad on my pale skin, and it’s a color that stops strangers on the street to compliment and ask the brand and name.
  • CertainDri – I'm a sweaty gal, and have tried dozens of natural, clinical, men's, women's, unisex, fancy, basic, and all kinds of deodorants but they all miss the boat (and usually leave me smelling like B.O. plus chemicals or B.O. plus baby powder or lavender).  CertainDri continues to be the one product that leaves me smelling just like skin.  If you used in the past and found it drippy and irritating, the formula has been updated and improved.  I swipe it on at night and then in the morning use a regular deodorant (usually Dove because it's gentle, relatively effective, and the smell doesn't make me want to hurl).

Now it’s your turn to share. Do you have any Holy Grail beauty products? Your favorite may be the one thing we’re missing in our lives, let us know what you love in the comments!

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  1. I love Donna Karan cashmere deoderant. Check out reviews-it has a cult following. It is expensive, but worth the splurge. It has a great fragrance which is light enough that it doesn’t interfere with real fragrance. More important, it is highly effective. I’ve tried to go back to drug store brands, but they just don’t get the job done. This is what I would take if I were stranded on a desert island!

  2. Phyllis (your guest columnist) introduced me to Simple Cleansing Water and I can’t go without it now. It is so easy to use and it works better than any makeup remover I’ve ever had! It doesn’t stay on the shelves so apparently others have also discovered it. I had to go to three stores to find it the other day!

    Other than that, I also can’t live without the Clarisonic. I use it about twice a week.

    CeraVe pm moisturizer is so wonderful, too. No fragrance and just the right consistency. It is a new staple in my routine.

  3. I used CertainDri for years to try to combat armpits that sweat NO MATTER WHAT. Glad to hear the formula is easier to apply. Maybe I’ll try it again!

    A few years ago I gave up on antiperspirant/deodorant altogether because (1) I sweat (and stink) anyway and (2) using it made my armpits itchy; I just changed my shirt when it smelled bad and used copious body spray. Then a couple months ago I tried homemade deodorant and *loved* it. An acquaintance who makes it gave me a sample of her most recent batch and I was a convert. I made some myself for the first time recently using http://healthimpactnews.com/2015/a-warm-weather-coconut-oil-deodorant-recipe-that-wont-melt/ as a guide, omitting the beeswax and adding orange oil. I’m fine with the process of having to put it on with my fingers, especially since this is the first time I’ve used a deodorant that really works.

    1. I may have to try this. I tried some homemade via Etsy, a booth at a farmers’ market, and some mass-produced natural cream one via Amazon and I thought the Etsy one was a winner until my husband got honest with me. 🙂 I may try this recipe again once the weather cools!

  4. What a fun post! I’m a little late to the party, but I’m going to leave my comment anyway! If you can’t tell from my pic, Rodan+Fields skincare has been HG for me since 2012. I don’t even wear foundation or concealer anymore, just their mineral peptides. Makeup for me is usually just mascara (Cover Girl green, can’t remember the name), and I will add eyeliner when I want to dress it up a bit. I’m currently using Younique’s liners and like them, but they are a little difficult to remove.

    For hair, Wen is my HG product that I will shout praises for all day long. I purchase from QVC bc I have not found the quality is the same from the Guthy Renker or Amazon versions (which have added fillers). I think I’ve tried almost all the scents, and the almond mint works best for my hair.

  5. Phytodensium shampoo, Phytojoba conditioner…my hairdresser recommended these to maintain haircolor and they have been game changers! Philosophy basic cleanser and moisturizer products…I kept hearing people call into QVC saying it helped rosacea and I gave it a try as the prescription stuff hadn’t helped…I hardly ever have a problem anymore! Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter in Pink Truffe…great everyday shade that lasts well.

  6. I like the Youth Code Serum. It’s a bit pricey for a drug store product but I like the weight of the product. I had a Target brand serum and it was more gelatinous. The L’Oreal product is moisturizing without being oily.

    Looking at your Amazon link I’m thinking it may be discontinued because I definitely paid more than $8 for it. It may be time to stock up.

    1. Youth Code isn’t discontinued, I saw it on the L’Oreal site (spoiler alert, have an upcoming post where I got a chance to review a few pieces from their RevitaLift line). I do find often that Amazon has cheaper prices than drugstores. Sometimes more, but for things like skincare I often find it’s cheaper online.

  7. Totally agree about the DHC oil. I also tried the Garnier and there was no comparison. I could not wait until I finished that bottle so I could go back to the good stuff. (It’s funny that you mention OPI Big Apple Red. That is totally my pedicure right now!)

  8. Eyeliner – I, too, used Stiletto for years but recently switched to Maybelline Ultra Liner because it’s waterproof. I was finding that when my eyes teared due to allergies or whatever, Stiletto smudged. Ultra liner stays put.

    Foundation – Big fan of Revlon ColorStay, too. Love, love, love.

    Concealer – You didn’t mention concealer but I have to give 5 stars to Maybelline Fit Me concealer. I’ve spent a bus load of cash trying to find a concealer that covers my dark eye bags that also does not melt my mascara into black spots under my eyes and who knew the answer would be a drugstore brand?

    Hair – Biolage Matrix Hydrating shampoo and companion Conditioning balm conditioner. Ouidad Botanical Boost and Tress Effects styling products (for curly hair). Been using all of these for 10 or more years.

    Mascara – Lancome Hypnose Doll Lashes, because it makes my lashes crazy long.

      1. Thx from me too for the concealer rec. I think I need to start wearing it. For now mascara is the only make-up I wear and I’m guessing from this comment, Allie, that you haven’t found one of those to recommend, either? I think I’m using Almay right now.

        1. I ALMOST included Kevyn Aucoin’s The Volume mascara; I’ve used it off and on over the years and recently finished a tube and it’s near awesome… but it too has its faults. I find it needs to be used a couple weeks before it gets really good, the tube often falls apart, there’s little product. I have no HG mascara. Some good, but nothing spectacular.

  9. Herbal Essence Hello Hydration Shampoo and Conditioner is all I use now. Years of tossing money away to find something and this works well and is relatively cheap. I’m also partial to Urban Decay’s setting spray. My makeup lasts until I take it off. I never achieved that before!

  10. Great post! I also LOVE Big Apple Red as a signature, classic nail color. I’ve been wearing Revlon Colorstay Overtime in Endless Spice lipstick for about a decade; it’s a great neutral that lasts ALL day.

    Does anyone have a recommendation for the perfect long-lasting red lipstick? I am going to try to aforementioned Romantic, but I want a daily red that I can always count on to stay put. Thank you in advance!

    1. I also really like L’Oreal Infallible Le Rouge for long-wear red lipsticks. They’re not as permanent as the paint-on kind, but I prefer a tube long-wear and these have a nice, creamy feel. I’m currently wearing Ravishing Red; it’s a nice bright cool red for summer. I also have Refined Ruby; it’s more of a deep winter red.

  11. Maybelline Great Lash Mascara in the green and pink tube. I’ve tried a lot of different mascaras but I always go back to it. On me, it doesn’t clump or smear and makes my lashes look thicker and longer. It’s inexpensive and it works.

    Almay liquid eyeliner, dark brown.


  12. I love, love, love when you do these sort of posts; but what about dry shampoos? I’m on my 6th and like three different ones for different reasons (Big Sexy Hair for special occasion superior volume but it feels gritty; L’Oreal for regular use; Bumble and Bumble powder for travel) but I’m curious what you are using these days.

  13. I keep coming back to Clinque’s All About Eyes. I started using it when I was 16, and while I’ve tried lots of others over the last 20 years (eek!), it’s still my HG of eye creams.

  14. I have been using Noxema to clean my skin since I was 12 and I still feel like it works (30 years later, ha ha boo hoo). I still use Oil of Olay as my moisturizer (started at age 21) only now it’s the “sensitive” version because that’s the only one with SPF 30. I have a Subscribe-and-Save set up via Amazon.com.

    Like you, Allie, I am loyal to the Body Shop body butters and have since a boyfriend got me the mango body butter for Christmas in 1993: I love the vitamin E one for its very light, clean scent and ability to soften skin, but I always stash the satsuma, passionfruit, papaya and cranberry ones when they’re on special because I love that sweet-tart zingy smell.

    And like you, I have “my” OPI color. I love Dulce de Leche for a nude look, but my go-to is Black Cherry Chutney. Essie’s Buy Me A Cameo is my go-to for holiday manicures or pedicures; I like the pinky-champagne color for dressing up without getting cliche.

    My Holy Grail Heartache: When a company stops making the products you love. I’m looking at you, Bobbi Brown, for discontinuing the lip tint in Tea (they’ve killed the whole line). And at you, Aveda, for deep-sixing the Cherry Almond Bark conditioner and the Hair Detoxifier. At least they haven’t quit on the Purefume Brilliant anti-humectant pomade yet. That was such a game-changing product in 1996; I’ve been using it since.

    1. I know what you mean about HGH! Mine is Elizabeth Arden Millenium night cream. Why oh why did they stop making it? That was my one justifiable splurge. Occasionally I come across jars at closeout places, like Marshall’s, and I wonder if it’s OK to buy something that’s clearly not recently manufactured.

  15. Urban Decay Naked1and Naked3 palettes, Revlon Colorstay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick (discontinued, but can be found on Amazon) in Perfect Peony and Premium Pink, Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream, Anastasia tinted brow gel, Guerlain Meteorites powder, Nars smudge proof eyeshadow base, Urban Decay eyeshadow primer potion, Bare Minerals Locked &Coated waterproof lash topcoat, YSL Touche Eclat concealer, Makeup Forever metal eyelash comb and brush combo, Simple facial cleansing wipes, Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Moisturizer in Day and Night versions.

  16. You turned me on to Colorstay Whipped, and I am on my third jar. Cotz for Faces is the perfect sunscreen + primer, although I need CeraVe underneath in winter. The Cotz is totally sweatproof. The Cotz makes a great eyelid primer, too. Smashbox Always Sharp Eyeliner Pencil in 3D Sparks really makes my hazel eyes sparkle and lasts forever, and is easy to soften before it sets. Clinique Superbalm Moisturizing Gloss is perfect–no irritating fragrance, lasts a good while, wears off evenly and is the perfect moistness. CeraVe cream is perfect for my sensitive skin, but I have switched to the Paula’s Choice cream cleanser b/c it takes off the superduper makeup better. Paula’s Choice Resist BHA 9 Treatment is the only thing that keeps my sebaceous hyperplasia under control. I agree on the Nars Orgasm blush.

    1. Thanks so much for introducing me to Cotz! I really prefer to use mineral sunscreen but find it is so white on the skin and often too thick. I used Clarins for years… it was just the perfect blend and then they discontinued their line of it. I got some Cotz today and love it! I really do want to thank you for this!!

      1. If your skin gets drier in winter, just layer some moisturizer underneath–the Cotz stays in place over it once everything sets! The stuff is magic!

        1. I’m so grateful to know about it. It is half the price I was paying for the Clarins that is now discontinued. I’ve tried CeraVe’s zinc sunscreen and Neutrogena’s and they were both awful, in my opinion. Just really thick and white and yuck. Cotz is just what I wanted! 🙂

  17. Oooh, love some of these products. I really need to get a brush for my clarisonic. I also really love body shops, body butters, i’m using the pink grapefruit right now and It’s so amazing.

  18. THe only HG product I can think of off the top of my head is L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Creme. Keeps the Hands soft, but I can still turn a doorknob after I’ve applied it.

    1. The Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners hand therapy cream is the same! Smells like a garden just after the rain, amazingly moisturising but doesn’t make your hands slimy. Not sure if it’s just a UK thing though…

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