These eight products — chosen as winners by our panel of 275 readers, 10 dermatologists and chemists and an independent lab — improve the condition of your skin, your lips and even your lashes every time you use them.
VMV Hypoallergenics Skin Bloom Blush
(available in eight shades, $40, vmvhypoallergenics.com)
Cheeks are typically the driest area of your face, and the pigments in many blushes can dehydrate them further, according to judge Ni'Kita Wilson. That's a nonissue with this formula's addition of moisturizing virgin coconut oil. Some other factors that make the powder better than basic blush: no parabens, no fragrance, no phthalates and (in four of the shades) no synthetic dyes. "For people with an allergy to any of those ingredients, this blush would be a good option," says judge Ranella Hirsch, M.D. Beyond the makeup's health advantages, our testers were excited about how great it made them look — and how others noticed too. "I got a compliment on my 'natural glow' and another on the pretty color of my cheeks the day I wore this," one said.
Best lip color
Bite Beauty Lush Lip Tint
(available in six shades, $24, sephora.com)
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With every swipe of this lipstick, the creamy B running through the center of the bullet delivers a dose of resveratrol. "It's an antioxidant that can have a protective effect when applied topically," Dr. Hirsch says. If you ingest some of the color (it happens naturally as you lick your lips or talk), no worries: It doesn't contain synthetic dyes, fragrances, parabens or petrochemicals. What testers liked best, however, were the long-lasting colors and soft texture. "I didn't feel like I was wearing lipstick," one said. "It goes on smooth and light," another said. "It's like a lip balm," Dr. Hirsch notes.
Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus All-Smooth Makeup SPF 15
(available in 12 shades, $32.50, clinique.com)
The more you wear this foundation, the less of it you need. The moisturizing formula evens out skin tone and hides redness (one tester called the coverage "just right — not too light, not too heavy"). Vitamin E and sunscreen protect against damage and discoloration, while a peptide and a botanical extract (Siegesbeckia orientalis, a Southeast Asian herb) help provide a better support system to plump up and fill in lines. "On average, testers using this for 6 weeks had a 10 percent improvement in their skin tone and texture," says judge Jeanine Downie, M.D.
Clinique Even Better Concealer
(available in 12 shades, $19.50, clinique.com)
With 43 new foundations and 30 new concealers entered in our awards, we were impressed when the same brand came out on top in both categories. Testers liked how well this cover-up blended and its ability to work on all types of imperfections. One who used it under her eyes said it made her look "refreshed and more awake," while another praised its ability to hide "spots and the redness around my nose." Dr. Hirsch says that the formula has vitamin C, typically used in skin creams to help fade discoloration. Although our testers didn't have measurable improvements on that front, Dr. Hirsch's thinking is: "Between a regular concealer and one with vitamin C, it's worth trying the vitamin C one."
Best eye makeup
Bare Escentuals BareMinerals Ready Eyeshadow 2.0
(available in 22 shade duos, $20, bareminerals.com)
This solid powder shadow offers the benefits of mineral makeup — pigments derived from natural sources, a formula that's excellent for sensitive skin — as well as amazing color payoff (one swipe delivers the hue you see in the pan). On top of that, it's formulated with anti-inflammatory caffeine, soothing cucumber and cold-pressed borage oil. "Borage oil is a great moisturizing skin conditioner, and it may contribute to this shadow going on so smoothly, with an almost-gel-like consistency," Dr. Hirsch says. One tester with blepharitis (a common condition that causes sensitivity and inflammation around the eyes) said most shadows irritate her eyes, but this one didn't, and she "absolutely loved" it. Another tester with "very oily eyelids" was impressed that the color "lasted for hours without creasing."
Rimmel London Volume Accelerator Mascara
(available in two shades, $9, drugstores)
They lengthen, thicken and darken. But how many mascaras actually prevent age-related lash thinning? This formula does, thanks to Procapil. Although it's not a drug like the ingredient in the prescription lash-growth product Latisse, Procapil "was designed to counteract alopecia [hair loss], and data shows it can help prevent lash loss without side effects," Wilson says. Does it make lashes grow longer? Not exactly, but "the formula also has caffeine, which may stimulate the hair follicle to become more active." Testers who tried it were blown away by the results. "Using this instead of regular mascara was like driving a luxury car after being behind the wheel of a basic middle-of-the-road sedan for so long," one said.
Olay Regenerist Wrinkle Revolution Complex
Ten years ago, primer was something you put on a wall. But a pre-makeup potion has quickly become part of many women's routines because it makes skin look smoother and helps cosmetics last longer. This winning version goes even further. Its blend of moisturizers and microfillers makes pores and lines less noticeable on contact, while "peptides repair collagen, and niacinamide, an antioxidant, helps treat hyperpigmentation and inflammation," says judge Heidi Waldorf, M.D. "The vertical line between my brows improved after a few weeks of using this," one tester reported.
Best makeup remover
La Fresh Eco-Beauty Waterproof Makeup Remover
(24 wipes for $10; lafreshgroup.com)
Dermatologists tell us to take off our makeup at the end of the day, but some removers can be irritating, and anything with abrasives or particulates can't be used near eyes. These gentle wipes got the thumbs-up from judges because they're soaked with a safe-on-eyes solution that has olive, jojoba, grapeseed and sesame oils to leave skin moisturized. Testers were fans of the "easy," "convenient" way the wipes whisked away even waterproof eye makeup in a stroke or two. "I have very sensitive skin, and these don't sting at all," one said.
How we picked the winners
A panel of judges reviewed more than 1,700 products, launched from April 2011 to June 2012, and chose 130 finalists. The makeup, primers and removers were tested by readers for 6 weeks; the foundation was tested under the supervision of a dermatologist who used the Visia Complexion Analysis System by Canfield to measure changes in skin texture and tone.
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