My Best Beauty Buys of 2011

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2011 was a year where I reclaimed myself. Emerson was born at the beginning of 2009, and that year was a fog of sleepless nights, pumping milk, and I think a case of mild PPD. 2010 I started getting regular sleep and got back into the swing of things with my blog, my job, and my body. I began Weight Watchers, and started finding my personal style. And 2011 is when it all clicked again. I am not the same woman I was in 2008 – I don’t have the same exact personal style, don’t have the same body, and surely don’t have the same lifestyle. Instead of missing what I had, I created a new Alison.

In 2011 I focused on taking care of myself, be it with clothing that fit and flattered this new figure, choosing smart when eating, and also taking better care of my skin and hair. Below is a list of products I started using in 2011 that made a major difference with my hair or skin. Products that transformed, simplified, and are worthy of a re-purchase.

3D White Vivid Toothpaste

Crest 3D White Vivid Toothpaste. I love coffee, red wine, and the occasional Diet Coke. Thing is, these are some of the worst things for teeth. Over the past couple of years my teeth have yellowed to the point that I started a fund to get my teeth professional bleached. I tried a couple at-home bleaching systems and either they were ineffective, or caused major sensitivity. A couple months ago, Crest 3D was on sale and my husband bought a tube. I couldn’t believe it would be more effective than any other whitening toothpaste I have used.

My husband and I have seen a drastic difference in our teeth since using Crest 3D White Vivid. We don’t have blinding white teeth, but it has bleached our teeth enough that we no longer think about our teeth looking yellow, and I forgot about my teeth bleaching fund. Not only is it effective, but neither of us experience any sensitivity from it. We just got home from Target where they are selling 2-packs of the toothpaste for $5.00 – we bought two packs. I was always a Colgate girl, but Crest 3D White Vivid has made me a Crest convert.

aaa loreal youth code serum

L’Oreal Youth Code Serum. I wrote about this here, and I have to continue with the rave reviews. I use this every morning before my SPF moisturizer and every night over my retinol and under my night cream. I still don’t know what it does, but it makes my skin look better and yes, younger.

philosophy turbo c booster

Philosophy Turbo Booster C Powder. A month or so ago I had a professional facial. When I asked the esthetician what I should change about my skincare regimen, she suggested adding a Vitamin C serum for daytime to fight free radicals and even skintone. Doing a bit of research, I chose the Philosophy Turbo Booster C Powder. I put ½ to 1 scoopful into two pumps of the L’Oreal Youth Code Serum and apply each morning before my SPF moisturizer. It doesn’t irritate, it smells delish, a little goes a long way, and I think in just a month it has lightened some of my freckles and age spots.

clarisonic mia pink

Clarisonic Mia. I bought myself this gadget for my birthday back in January and have felt pretty meh about it. A couple months ago Une Femme D'un Certain Age mentioned how she uses the Clarisonic sans cleanser just to exfoliate. Since then, I keep it in my shower and exfoliate with it if my skin is already clean, or use it with cleanser if my face is dirty. This means it gets used on my face about 4x/week. I think it does a better job at exfoliating when not used with cleanser, and since using it consistently I think my pores look smaller and I no longer have the tiny white bumps on my chin.

cerave cleanser

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. I have written about this before. It’s awesome. This cleanser is super gentle, rinses clean, but doesn’t leave my skin feeling taut or dry. No irritation, no redness, and no greasy feeling that I felt with Cetaphil. It also works great with the Clarisonic Mia.

neutrogena makeup remover cleansing towelettes

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes. I have been against these wipes because I hate the idea of all this waste. Then I thought about how I end up using cotton pads or toilet paper to apply makeup remover, and then use face wash to remove the greasy residue. By using these wipes when I wear liquid liner or other difficult makeup, I reduce steps, and I only need to use one product.

I bought them for Bonnaroo and became a convert. They don’t irritate my contacts-wearing eyes, I don’t have to rinse afterwards, and they really get my skin very clean without being dry or taut. I cut the wipes in half – saves money and reduces trash. I don’t buy the fancy container, I get the refill packs and just use that.

At the same time I received a pack of the wipes from Yes to Cucumbers – they can't compare to Neutrogena in gentleness, and the ability to remove the most stubborn cosmetics.  I would wipe with the Yes to Cucumbers, and then wipe with Neutrogena and remove a ton more makeup.

klorane dry shampoo

Klorane Dry Shampoo. I have tried a half a dozen dry shampoos and each one is… fine. Some good points, and some bad. I feared Klorane because as a brunette I didn’t want the ashy look to my hair. While Klorane goes on hair white, it will actually brush out leaving hair shiny and its natural color. I can’t use it on curly hair because I do need to brush a lot, but Klorane will extend a blow-out, add body, de-grease my roots without a harsh smell, ashy residue, or a weird texture to my hair.

T3 tourmaline evolution hair dryer misikko

T3 Tourmaline Evolution Hair Dryer. You get what you pay for. For years I have been using my red Conair dryer and I felt it was fine. My hair got dry, and isn’t that the point? Then Misikko contacted me and asked me if I would like to try out their T3 Evolution dryer. I would never normally purchase such a costly dryer, but my Conair was getting so old it would burn my hand if I used it too long and would often stop working mid-styling.

The T3 is like a Corvette to my old Yugo dryer; it dries my hair faster, I have fewer split ends, my color lasts longer, and my hair has more shine. Before, I used leave-in conditioners, heat protectants, and shine serums on my hair to make it look and feel less damaged. Now with the T3 I don’t need any of that for healthy hair. While the dryer isn’t cheap, when I think how much I save on products to heal and protect my hair from my old cheapy dryer, it’s worth the money. I no longer fear drying my hair!

thebalm mary lou manzier highlighter

TheBalm Mary-Lou Manzier. Highlighters always make me look like a disco ball or greasy. As I age, my skin is less luminous. I wanted a product that would just make my skin look dewy and healthy, not Studio 54. April, a long-time reader suggested TheBalm Mary-Lou Manzier and I have been using it daily ever since. I apply it to my brow bones, inner corner of my eyes, cheek bones and bow of my lip. If I want it really subtle, I apply it under foundation. Lately I apply it over foundation and under powder and it gives a gorgeous, natural luminous look. This product can also multi-task – I will apply some to lipstick to make it a shimmer, apply it heavy for a shimmery nighttime look, and have even applied it to shoulders and décolleté for glowing skin on a summer night. Even though I have used it daily for months, I have yet to hit pan. One compact of Mary-Lou Manzier will likely last me over a year which makes it a great value.

mary kay ultimate mascara

Mary Kay Ultimate Mascara. BlogHer sent me a tube of this to review back in June and I was highly impressed. I am extremely critical of mascaras and usually another person’s Holy Grail is meh on my lashes. If I could afford it, I would buy a new tube of DiorShow every month. So when I got a tube of Mary Kay Ultimate Mascara I was skeptical. Come to find out, it was one of the best mascaras I have ever tried. I was so thrilled when Mary Kay sent me a second tube a couple months ago, and I liked it just as much as I did this summer.

Mary Kay Ultimate Mascara has one of those spiky brushes, but it seems to work better than the ones I tried by CoverGirl and Maybelline. It coats every lash, building volume and lengthening. It dries fast enough to not smear and it also holds the curl from my lash curler. It doesn’t flake, and doesn’t irritate. It’s not waterproof, but it stays put if I sweat or watch a sappy movie. At $15.00 a tube, it’s far more reasonable than DiorShow (and it doesn’t dry up as quickly as a tube of DiorShow).

What are some of your favorite new (or new to you) beauty products from this past year?

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  1. If you right-click the link you should be able to open it in a different window or tab. 🙂 I need to do it where it clicks auto into a different window/tab but Blogger doesn’t set that up automatically and I always forget to go back and chance the coding! 🙂

  2. Hi Allie! Long time reader/lurker of your website – over the last few years you’ve helped me to define my own personal style and style confidence, and for that I’m truly grateful! 

    One thing, when you’re making your blog posts, can you start setting up the links to open in a new page? Especially when you’ve got reviews I like to click the link while I’m reading and then jump back to your blog, but it takes me off the page to the link address and I have to click backwards, sometimes losing my place on the website. Thanks for all the reviews, can’t wait to try them out!

  3. I love your beauty product posts, Allie! They’re always full of great information.

    My favourite product of the year is one I started using quite recently, but it’s already made a huge difference in my skin: Burt’s Bees Naturally Ageless serum. I actually got it due to an online review that it would help the eczema breakout on my eyelid – and not only did it clear it up completely within a couple of weeks, but it has also made my skin softer, brighter, more toned and even, and dramatically reduced the fine lines that were starting to crop up. It is a little pricey (I paid $31.99 CDN), but I use probably 2-3 drops for my entire face, so I expect it will last awhile.  

  4. Long time reader, first time poster. Allie, I really enjoy your site and your recommendations. As for this post, I will definitely try the Balm and I’m looking into the hair dryer.
    Let me preface my list of favourite cosmetics with a bit of a description. I live in Canada, in an area that can be bitterly cold in the winter (today it is -15°C / 5 ºF) and extremely humid in the summer. I have very sensitive skin, with a mild case of rosacea. I have extremely fine, stick straight hair that is prone to cow licks in awkward areas (by my temples, my bangs). I love talking cosmetics, so here is a list of my favourites –
    Lip balm: CO Bigelow’s Cinnamint Mentha Lip Shine (N# 1190)-I’ve been using it for over 4 years, and have not had dry lips since. I get tons of compliments on the shine, and the smell is delicious – as the title says cinnamon and mint. I get my lip balm through Bath and Body Works, and the price is pretty cheap ($7.50 CA), often BBW will have a buy 2 get the 3rd for free.
    Shampoo/condition: Suave Professional Sleek Look-I’ve been using this for the last 5 months, daily. Usually when I use a shampoo/conditioner for a couple of days in a row, I have to change because it leaves my hair greasy or heavy looking. Not the case with the Suave’s Sleek line. Also, it is gentle on my colour and it does not leave behind a heavy feeling. I have noticed that my hair is quite shiny, and the cow licks are less apparent. My hair feels fresh and light, and the scent is not overly strong – just clean.
    Styling Product: Aveda Confixor Liquid Gel-I’ve been using this daily since the summer. I apply a dime sized amount, rub in my hands, and then cover my hair. My hair feels thicker, shiny, but not heavy. The scent is great, very clean. It’s a bit pricey, but the bottle lasts a long time (I’m still on the one I bought this summer).
    Facial products: La Mer-I usually avoid telling people that I use the La Mer products because most people associate the line with $$ signs. I agree, it is a bit pricey, but have to mention that for most of the items in the line, you only need to apply a small amount so the products ends up lasting a long time. Case in point, I just finished the regular size bottle of Crème de la Mer (I had it for 9 months, using it daily). I use The Cleansing Fluid to start, which has an almond oil consistency to it. This is the only cleanser I have ever used that does not leave my skin feeling tight and sensitive. I then use The Tonic as my toner, and The Concentrate as my base serum. I’ve noticed that The Concentrate has helped-slightly-to lighten the rosacea on my cheeks. The rosacea has not disappeared, but is less apparent. I then finish with the Crème de la Mer, which is a last punch of moisturizer for my extremely dry skin. This is the only line that does not leave my skin dry, flaking and tight. I don’t think it heals rosacea; it just helps me with the sensitivity. The moisturizing effects of the items in the line is definitely enough for me to want to continue buying it, even if it is $$. Prior to La Mer, I used items in Darphin’s Intral Redness relief line. The scent is lovely, but it left my skin dry and tight. Not worth the price for me.
    Hand cream: Gold Bond Ultimate-Hands down best hand cream. Within 1 day of using, I noticed a difference. My hands are soft, dry patches are gone. With this -15°C / / 5 ºF weather, and harsh hand soap, this really does make a difference.
    Like Allie, I also use Crest 3D white toothpaste, and find it works extremely well. I have not noticed any tooth sensitivity, and have not had to use the Crest white stripes since I started using the 3D white toothpaste.
    Well, that was fun! Hope this provides some good suggestions for people and I can’t wait to post comments again.

  5. Thank you for posting about Crest. I’ve been wanting to try OTC teeth whitening product, but the range in prices and products is overwhelming. I had a horrible experience couple of years so I’m a bit weary. 

    This year I started to use Sebastian hair products, the hair spray is amazing and available at stores like Target. Just a little goes a long way and it lasts most of the day. It’s the pretty much the only product that keeps my curl in my thin hair.

  6. I LOVE Crest 3D white!  I’ve been using it for a few months and can say I’ve noticed a difference.  I’m a huge coffee drinker too so it’s a godsend.

  7. Hmm, I’ll have to try the Crest 3D! This coffee lover and ex-smoker needs it. :-/

    We LOVE MK mascara! (Shh…my mom loves it, and sells Avon!) I got her some for Christmas, even.

  8. I use the regular CeraVe lotion for my body — and my kids’ bodies — and love it, too.  I have to check out their cleanser.  I also love the Senna Cosmetics eyebrow stencils.  My youngest tore the one I use the most, so I may check out some I saw at Ulta (I read the Anastasia one are a bit on the big side, and my face has small bones, so I’m sure they’d overwhelm.)  CO Bigelow makes this great, great little clear lip gloss in a green tube (I’ve found it at Bath and Body Works) and it smells minty, lasts a good bit of time, and for some reason is less goopy than other glosses.  Since I rarely wear makeup, it’s nice to have a gloss like this around (I have it in my diaper backpack, my camera bag, and in my makeup drawer and I buy in bulk.)

  9. As a lover of coffee and tea, I’ll definitely try that Crest tooth paste!  The best beauty product for me this year would be virgin coconut oil which I use on my hair year round and as a moisturizer in the summer. 

  10. Thanks for the beauty reviews 🙂  I’m definitely going to check out The Balm highlighter you mention. Gossmakeupartist loves it, too!  For removing makeup, I use the 7th Generation Baby Wipes. I usually use them to remove makeup before freshening up, in the later afternoon / evening. You can apply makeup right after using the baby wipes, as there is no residue. Have you ever tried them? How do they compare to the Neutrogena wipes that you use?

  11. I clipped a coupon for Youth Code the other day based on seeing you pin it – definitely need to get some soon!  Also, I received a T3 dryer last year for Christmas and while I gasped at the price when I looked it up I am a true believer too.  Who would have thought there could be such a diff in dryers, but yes, yes, yes there is!  Thanks for sharing!!

  12. Thanks for all the tips. As a curly, I haven’t found a great dry shampoo yet, so that’s one of my holy grails for next year. I switch mascaras like crazy, so I am going to try the MK.

    It’s wonderful to read about how you are re-discovering and re-defining yourself each year. The journey is the destination  : >

  13. I second you on those Neutrogena wipes…the best of all wipes I have tried with truly removing EVERYTHING. Based on the wipes, I started using the Neutrogena oil-free eye makeup remover this year, which is great for truly stubborn waterproof makeup and doesn’t coat my contact. I also “rediscovered” Loreal Color Riche lipstick recently and love the Sunwashed and Divine Wine colors. Great texture…not too glossy or goopy.

  14. After reading this post, I realized that I have to spend 2012 reclaiming myself. It has really been a tough year, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to recover! I’m sick more often, I can no longer wake up early on weekends, and I got a rash all over my skin in the past 2 weeks.  Thank you for reminding me to take care of myself!

    I also like the Neutrogena wipes, but like you, I don’t really like the waste. I use makeup remover and then head straight to the shower (I shower at night), so I’m not using tissues or cotton pads. However, they are really nice to have around on the nights when I stay out too late. I’ve found that even if they dry out, I can dampen them with some water in a spray bottle, and they will still work well!

  15. After you recommended it, I tried CeraVe, and I love it! Exactly for the same reasons you gave here – definitely my go-to wintertime dry skin cleanser. And I am a convert to Mary Kay, that Ultimate mascara is perfect for highlighting my lashes from behind my glasses. I’m also a fan of the TreSemme dry shampoos – particularly the mousse version for curly hair, I put a small dollop in, and scrunch my hair with a towel and it brings it back from the brink. 

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