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By Diane Hardin
We owe something to extravagance, for thrift and adventure seldom go hand in hand. -- Jenny Jerome Churchill

A Baker's Dozen of Top Cosmetic Choices
From the Drugstore

I have found a place where thrift and adventure can go hand in hand -- my friendly neighborhood drugstore! Have you noticed lately that some of the best, most innovative cosmetic formulations can now be found at the corner drugstore?

I have recently become much less interested in some department store lines, because many of the items I can find at my grocery store or pharmacy are equal or superior in quality. Mass market cosmetics companies like L'Oreal, Maybelline, Revlon and others now offer some excellent alternatives to department store lines. New cosmetics from established skincare companies (Oil of Olay and Neutrogena) are adding even more variety.

Drugstores are mimicking department stores in other ways, too -- you may notice that the prices are increasing. In some cases, the drugstore cosmetics are as expensive as the less expensive department store lines. In order to justify the increased cost, services have expanded: at many drug and grocery stores, cosmetics can now be returned for a refund or exchange, with no questions asked. More testers are available. Foundation colors are greatly improved, available in a wide range of colors, and the formulations rival the best available. New innovations can be found in all types of makeup and skincare -- long-wearing foundation and lipstick formulas that also treat skin, foundations that cover flaws superbly, yet seem disappear into the skin to create a perfect finish, superior sunscreen ingredients, beautiful neutral and unusual glamorous colors, and excellent quality. One major advantage of drugstores is the convenience of being able to zip down to the store almost any hour of the day and choose from a gorgeous cornucopia of makeup with prices and ingredients clearly posted! I still believe that department store makeup lines have a lot to offer -- personalized service, gifts with purchase, beautiful packaging, and a few truly unique products. But the drugstore has become a serious contender for basic staples. Here are some of my favorite items:

1. Revlon New Complexion Even Out Foundation

An excellent summer foundation! Contains a non-chemical SPF 20, and no animal, mineral or vegetable oil. Even Out comes in a nice range of colors and feels wonderful on the skin. It goes on very sheer, with just enough coverage to make my skin look better. This foundation stays in place very well for a non-colorstay type and doesn't cause breakouts. Ivory Beige is a nice match for my pale skin. Revlon offers a sample of three shades of this foundation for about $2.00, and is available in light, medium or dark shades. The sample also includes a $2.00 off coupon, so it's a great way to get the perfect shade, if you can find the sample pack.

2. Revlon Colorstay Compact Foundation

Another sheer foundation, this contains a non-chemical SPF 25! In my opinion, this is the sheerest formulation of long-wearing foundation available -- just a bit more coverage than the Even Out. It wears incredibly well, looking fresh all day without breaking down even in the hottest, most humid weather. Be sure to blend this foundation very well when applying (you have about a minute to work until it "sets"), or you could be stuck with long-wearing streaks! I found it easier to apply with my fingers -- the sponge that's included is useless and just soaks up too much of the makeup. The colors run a bit darker than Even Out -- Ivory is just a tiny bit dark on me, but sheer enough to work.

3. Maybelline Express Finish Stick Foundation

Maybelline is now a sister company to L'Oreal (having been purchased by the L'Oreal Groupe), and is coming out with some fantastic new products. This foundation stick is very easy to use, and gives a smooth, creamy finish that blends beautifully. The coverage is easily adjustable, so it can be used as a concealer as well. It travels well, so it's great to toss in your purse for touch-ups or a vacation. Unfortunately, no SPF is listed. It's a bit creamier than L'Oreal's new stick foundation, and is great for normal to dry skins. The colors look nice, but there is only one tester color available, so getting a good match can be tricky. Ivory is a good match for me, but is just a bit on the pink side.

4. Bonne Bell Lip Smackers

Does anyone else remember these beauties from junior high? They are fantastic flavored lip balms available in many flavors. Lunar Lime can be used to give a hint of sheer shimmer (and tastes wonderful), and the Dr. Pepper flavor adds a touch of natural color. Other flavors, like Pink Lemonade, are just plain delicious. A variety called Sun Smackers even have SPF 24. There are over 40 flavors available -- go to to check them out. Viva Bonne Bell!

5. Maybelline HydraTime Lipsticks

These are very moisturizing, but not particularly long-wearing. What's wonderful, though, is that they come in the most interesting and wearable color range I've seen in a drugstore brand lipstick. They have no particular flavor, which is nice, since I don't like to wear perfume on my lips! There seems to be a smaller amount of product than regular size lipsticks, which would make them similar in price to MAC. But I prefer the Maybelline formula! I currently have Tempt, Purrr, Adoring and Fearless, and will probably own most of them soon.

6. Prestige Sheer Lipsticks

These lipsticks are very sheer and wearable, and come in a beautiful range of colors. I like all the colors, but the Sheer Grape is my favorite, and is very similar to Clinique Black Honey. The price is great! If you dislike scented lipsticks, be sure to smell these before you buy, as some of them are faintly scented -- I couldn't tell you which ones, since it seems to be almost random. The case is awful -- the top breaks almost instantaneously unless you're very careful with it. But their low price and gorgeous color makes them a great bargain.

7. Oil of Olay Lipsticks

These come in cute little cases, are very long-wearing and somewhat moisturizing. They have no noticeable scent. The range of shades is heavily weighted towards orange or pink, so choose your color carefully. Autumn Leaves is one of my favorite lipsticks, and I also like Fresh Plum.

8. Jane Browbeaters

What a fantastically practical product -- a mascara-like applicator that contains a sheer tinted gel to groom and set eyebrows. How have I lived without this? The product is different from mascara in that it's water based and translucent. It makes your brows look perfectly groomed and slightly glossy. Naturally Brunette and Ebony are my picks for darker brows, and Blonde is great for lighter brows.

9. Revlon Streetwear Eye Gleams

These are extremely long wearing tiny tubes of creamy colored shimmer that are safe for the eye area. They absolutely do not crease, nor do they wear off midday. The colors are beautiful -- Angelic (warm pink) and Halo (pale yellow-gold) are my choices.

10. L'Oreal Quick Stick Face and Body Blush

This stick blush is a form of cream blush that is transportable and very easy to use. Just draw some dots or little stripes on your face and blend! The colors are very nice, especially Iced Plum, which looks great on most skin tones. These sticks come in a cool brushed aluminum tube, and can be found displayed with the Elements collection.

11. Jane Sweet Cheeks Blush

An extremely blendable cream blush that comes in a great container -- the twist/flip top stays attached, so it's easy to flip up and use without having to find a place to set down the lid. Also, the container is clear, so you can easily see the product color. The color range is mostly an assortment of easy-to-wear warm colors (Best Bud is especially versatile); Berry Good is the only cool-toned (blue-based) color. These colors look intense, but go on light, smooth, and so translucent that my freckles show through!

12. Oil of Olay Daily Renewal Cleanser

Until I tried this, I was using a very nice but expensive product to wash my face. Now I prefer this lovely cleanser -- it leaves my skin clean, but not tight or uncomfortable at all. It contains salicylic acid, which provides the perfect amount of controllable exfoliation, and doesn't leave my face flaky like glycolic acids can. With regular use, it has made my skin smooth and soft, and has minimized breakouts. I really love it.

13. Baby Magic Creamy Moisturizing Baby Bath with Aloe

A mild cleanser with a clean, fresh fragrance. It is great for summer bubble baths -- cleans and refreshes, and leaves my skin soft. I never get tired of this delightful scent, and have all the products (lotion, creamy baby oil, powder, etc.) in the "with Aloe" line. I don't like the regular scent as well as this one. This cleanser also works as a mild, non-color-stripping shampoo.

And now...A Real-Life Test of John Frieda's Frizz-Ease Line, Part 1.

There was a little girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead,
And when she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Here's a description not only of the little girl, but the behavior of curly hair as well. It can look fabulous, and people with flat, straight hair are often jealous of those lustrous curls, running to get permanent waves to emulate them. However, those of us who have lived with naturally curly (or even permed) hair know that it can be disastrous to manage. Bad hair days are indeed horrid.

My mother used to recite this poem to me when I was a little girl with naturally curly hair. As I advanced to my teen years, I grew to dislike my curls -- they seemed to make my hair so unmanageable. I even tried permanently straightening it once with a drugstore relaxer -- it worked, but it damaged my hair so much that I vowed never to use it again. I've since grown out of my tight curls, and now have manageable waves, but my adolecence would have been much less traumatic if the John Frieda Frizz-Ease line had existed back then.

I had many helpful and forgiving participants in the trials for this line:

1.  Meryl, my 9-year-old niece with waist length curly blond hair.
2.  Kristin, 30, who has chin-length, fine, wavy colored hair.
3.  Jennifer, 26, who has naturally curly shoulder-length colored hair.
4.  Dana, 34, with somewhat wavy long thick hair.
5.  Joel, 29, who has short, dense, thick, coarse and curly hair.

Why did I mention that they were forgiving? Because straightening curly hair requires great patience on the part of the participant. Good products are only half of the solution -- for curly hair to become straight, it must be blow-dried from soaking wet (not even towel-dried!) to bone dry, while it is constantly brushed and pulled straight. This is not a quick process, but the results can be amazing. The Frizz-Ease products can  be used   with or without blow-drying. They tame the frizz and add lots of shine.

The Frizz-Ease line consists of shampoo, conditioner, serum, serum spray, blow-dry lotion, hot oil treatment, hairspray, secret weapon styling creme, gel and mousse. I'll review the first five products this month, and the remaining five in July.

Hair Serum
This is the cornerstone product in the Frizz-Ease line. It's revolutionary! A truly amazing product -- it tames frizzy hair and controls flyaways, split ends, and so forth. This serum can give you the shiny, straight "model" hair you've always wanted, if you follow the directions exactly. This is thicker than any other serum I've used -- about the consistency of egg whites. It has no scent, but contains octyl methoxycinnamate as a sunscreen, which is a nice addition. Hair Serum leaves hair shiny and silky, full of body, not flat. You must put it in hair immediately after wringing out excess water! It helps detangle wet hair. For a smooth, yet curly result, just comb the serum through, then leave hair to dry. It doesn't get much easier than this. However, the really stunning results come from using the serum to straighten frizzy hair. To do this, you must blow dry the hair from dripping wet to bone dry, which takes some time. Meryl didn't really enjoy the process! But she was thrilled with the results. It was worth the effort -- there was an enormous difference in her curly hair. It was straighter, but not stick-straight, and very shiny and silky. She felt quite glamouous. The serum did not weigh down Kristin's fine hair; it still had body and bounce. I saw the biggest difference in Joel's hair, which was transformed into shiny, manageable waves. However, Joel wasn't really fond of it, because it was so different from his usual style! Jennifer didn't get great results when straightening her hair herself, but liked letting the serum dry in her hair naturally, which gave her soft, shiny curls.

The serum seems thick and sticky when you first apply it, but it soaks right in. I'm definitely buying some of this for my niece (who was thrilled to have straight hair for the first time in her life!) and for me -- this is an invaluable tool for styling many different kinds of curly and wavy hair. I honestly don't know how I've made do without it.

Corrective Shampoo and Shiner
Comparable to a regular salon-type shampoo, except that this one seems to strip semi-permanent color. It has a pearly white color, and a somewhat strong "clean" scent. It does contain silicones and sunscreen, but doesn't seem to possess any special qualities for taming the frizzies. I also don't believe that sunscreen in a shampoo would really provide any tangible benefit, since all of the product is rinsed off and goes down the drain.

Glistening Creme Conditioner
The conditioner comes in a nice-looking metal container with a slightly inconvenient pump dispenser -- it takes about 4 to 5 pumps at least to get a decent amount of conditioner in your hand. It has the same scent as the shampoo. This is a fairly ordinary conditioner with silicones for shine. In my opinion, neither the shampoo nor the conditioner are necessary for using the serum or other Frizz-Ease styling products.

5-Minute Manager Blow-Dry Lotion
The blow-dry comes in a spray form, and is alcohol-free. As with many of the other products, the lotion also contains sunscreen. This product really does seem to protect Dana's hair during blow drying -- her hair was in better condition than usual afterwards -- less dry, very shiny and soft. A protective blow-dry lotion makes a lot of sense in this line, since the serum is often used in conjunction with a lot of potentially damaging blow-drying. The rose scent is not fantastic, perhaps a bit too feminine, but not too strong. This is another product that I will purchase.

Instant Touch-Up Serum Spray
A pleasant silicone spray, rose-scented like the Blow-Dry Lotion. This serum spray does what they all do -- it gives hair instant shine and seals against humidity -- but this product does it better. It never seemed to give hair an "oily" effect, which is a problem I've run into with other serum sprays. Instant Touch-Up contains alcohol, in addition to silicones and a sunscreen. It works well as a sealant after blowing hair straight with the serum, to protect against humidity.

My overall impression of this line is very good so far. It is well-designed, and some products in particular stand out -- the serum, the blow-drying spray, and the Instant Touch-up. The Frizz-Ease line contains some of the first silicone-based anti-frizz products on the market, and I think they're the best ones available -- better than the salon brands I've tried. John Frieda has forever changed the styling of curly, frizzy hair for the better.

Remember:  On July 1st: Frizz-Ease Part 2 -- Secret Weapon, hot oil treatment, and more!

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