Notorious NYCK
Earth Shattering Beauty, Style and Health News from a Neurotic New Yorker

Beauty Superstars and Stinkers of 2012

by Notorious NYCK January 12

Another year, another 2000 or so points on my Sephora VIB rewards card. Product junkie that I am, I just cannot resist the lure of new products and their seductive claims. So yes, I buy a lot of them. You would think that after years of trying everything under the sun, I would be skeptical or at least circumspect about the capabilities of any given lotion, potion or makeup palette. But hope still springs eternal. I am, still, somehow convinced that every new product I try is going to be the one that makes me richer, smarter, prettier, taller, thinner and younger looking. With these incredibly lofty expectations, you can understand the massive disappointment that usually ensues. But all things considered, there were some pretty great product introductions last year. And while they may not have changed my life, they did go far in making it a little more glamorous. So, here, my 2012 favorites:

The Superstars:
AmLactin Moisturizing Lotion
($11.99), drugstore.com
If you have keratosis pilaris (those red bumps that cluster on the backs of the arms and fronts of your legs), you may have tried OTC and prescription remedies, like Lac-Hydrin, that feature ammonium lactate, a combination of exfoliating lactic acid and ammonium hydroxide, an ammonia derivative that adjusts the pH of skin to facilitate the penetration of the lactic acid. Not to mince words, but these lotions smell like hell and feel just as bad; they sit on top of skin imparting a slimy residue. AmLactin, however, is the exception to the rule. While it does feature ammonium lactate, this lotion is mercifully odorless, absorbs beautifully, tackles the bumps and leaves skin looking and feeling just lovely.

Lancôme Génifique Eye Light-Pearl Eye-Illuminating Youth Activating Concentrate ($68), sephora.com
I have always have been skeptical of eye products with “cooling wands” and “massaging balls.” Did I really just use those two phrases consecutively in print? Crazy. But truly, I find products that feature them beyond flummoxing. First off, the hot puffiness (it is inflammation after all) under my eyes heats them up in a New York minute, so their “cooling” benefits, if there are such things, are rendered null and void almost instantly. Secondly, these products require several extra minutes every morning (on top of all my other myriad beauty rituals) to massage, roll, knead, and pummel my puffs into submission. And what’s to prevent all of that trapped fluid from re-collecting later in the day? Absolutely nothing, it seems. Because by noon I’m pretty much back to ground zero from a bags standpoint even, after all of that work.

But this product is brilliant. While it does involve several minutes with one of those applicators, the massage roller administers a truly effective bag-shrinking, caffeine-based, light-diffusing serum. The wand/serum combo actually do make my eyes look lighter, brighter, fresher and perhaps even a bit younger looking. It even improves the look of my now just-starting-to-sag (heaven help me) upper lids, and the results seem to last throughout the day.

Clarins UV Plus HP Day Screen High Protection Tint SPF 40 ($40), sephora.com
As I’ve written before
, this is an absolutely fabulous tinted moisturizer. It’s like liquid silk—blurring my imperfections, easing dryness, providing a high SPF and giving my sallow complexion a healthy shot of color.

Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid & Retinol Brightening Solution ($85) and Dr. Dennis Gross Active Vitamin D Serum Oil ($65), dgskincare.com
I am writing about these two products together since I started using them at the same time.
Both of them contain retinol and ferulic acid to help combat sun damage, including lines, wrinkles and loss of radiance. But they also serve separate functions. The Serum Oil also improves firmness with vitamin D and essential oils, plus boosts moisture with hyaluronic acid. The Brightening Solution tackles enlarged pores with salicylic acid and evens out redness and pigmentation issues with Azelaic Amino Acid and Bearberry.

In the morning, after cleansing, I apply the Brightening Solution followed by just 2-3 drops of the Serum-Oil. It’s pretty rich stuff, so it’s better to err on the side of having to add more than trying to blot the excess away. I wait several minutes for it to soak in, and then I follow up with a moisturizer with sunscreen. This probably sounds like a really high-maintenance routine for someone who is loathe to take a few extra minutes to massage in eye serum with a wand applicator. But the compliments on my “fresh, radiant complexion” from random strangers on the street, sales women in stores and the women who work in my dentist’s office have proven to me that the results I am getting from these products is worth the additional effort of using them. I also dab on the oil by itself at night if I choose to go out without makeup, or pat a tiny amount over my foundation for an added glow if I am going somewhere fancy.

The Stinkers:
Amazingly, there were relatively few casualties in terms of my beauty product purchases in 2012. TRESemme FreshStart Waterless Foam Shampoo, For Dry/Curly to Normal Hair was pretty bad. But I expected as much. Dry shampoo and curly hair don’t really mix. The only way to evenly distribute a foaming, waterless shampoo is to comb it completely through hair. But combing curly hair when it’s dry is a recipe for frizz, flyaways and separated curls. Not an attractive look by any stretch of the imagination. And not combing dry shampoo completely through hair is a recipe for flakes, clumps and random bits of things sticking to it. You see the dilemma. So I’m not really all that mad at this product because it was doomed from its inception.

But one purchase really, really disappointed me. I know it’s partly my fault because my expectations were so high. But still. Here it is. The Notorious NYCK 2012 Stinker of the Year Award goes to:

John Paul Mitchell The Truth About Curls
I cannot tell you how excited I was about this line after I read about it in umpteen magazines. The range, which includes a detangling shampoo, leave-in conditioner, styling cream/gel and wave texturizer, promises smooth, frizz-free, bouncy and defined curls—claims that held me in utter thrall. But there were absolutely no signs of the range here in the Bay Area, which seems to get new products practically a year behind markets on the East Coast. Spoiled Beauty Editor and New Yorker that I am, I’m used to trying everything first. So it frustrated me beyond the pale that I could not, for the life of me, procure these products. They finally rolled their way into San Francisco when I was about to abandon all hope of ever seeing them, so I eagerly shelled out $60+ for the shampoo, conditioner and styling gel/cream. But let me just tell you, John Paul Mitchell should be ashamed of himself. The products left my fine, curly hair flat, greasy and beyond listless. I now use the shampoo to hand-wash my sweaters and the conditioner as a pinch hitter for shaving cream in the shower. And as for the cream/gel, does anyone have Medusa’s mailing address? I hear she wants her styling product back.

Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.


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