With the amount of beauty products available on the market, shopping for anything from mascara to manicure sets can involve some serious decision making. It seems like every product claims to go on flawlessly, last longer and give you salon-quality results at home, but do these innovations really work? Landcruisers editors put them to the test and picked the most effective ones at the best price.
Lipsticks and stains are known to have staying power, while gloss tends to fade faster. Until now. Thanks to special waxes and polymers formulated to lock in color and help it adhere better, lipgloss has gone from fleeting to fantastic.
Unlike other long-wear formulas that can feel clumpy, NYC New York Color City Proof 8HR Lip Gloss ($3.49, at drugstores) "went on smoothly" and never had to be reapplied.
The "vibrancy" and stain-like finish of Maybelline New York SuperStay 10HR Stain Gloss ($8.99, at drugstores) seriously impressed one tester. The formula lasted a solid 8 hours, "even after lunch and an afternoon snack."
At-home kits have evolved beyond foil and messy applicator bottles and brushes. These days, you can use your flat iron to create highlights in less than 10 minutes or wash them away after one night.
Spritz Marc Anthony Easy-Lites Instant Highlighting Spray ($8.99, at drugstores) onto the areas you want to highlight, then run your flat iron over them. "Be sure to do a few practice sprays to ensure the nozzle deposits the solution evenly," said one tester.
Alterna 1 Night Highlights ($29; Beauty.com) is "a fun change for a special occasion." Comb the mousse onto dry hair, wait 5 minutes and—voilà—lighter streaks. A note from the tester: "Have a friend help you apply to prevent any mistakes."
Superstar ingredients typically found only in salon keratin treatments—Moroccan and avocado oils—now appear in products at your local drugstore for a fraction of the cost. They claim to keep hair smooth and shiny for up to a week, but not all are as effective as they promise. Above, two that truly deliver.
Organix Ever Straight Brazilian Keratin Therapy 14 Day Smoothing Treatment ($7.99, at Target stores) is "simple to apply": Spray onto 80% dry hair and expect "smoothness for 10 days." One tester warns against oversaturation, since it weighed her hair down.
A drop of Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Moroccan Sleek Oil Treatment ($5.99, at drugstores) left our user's hair "feeling soft" and frizz-free "for more than three weeks." But if you have thin or fine hair, she warns, "A little goes a long way."
The strengthening peptides found in lash-boosting serums aim to give you longer, plumper lashes—and now you can find them in mascara too. Another enhancer: primer, which helps mascara adhere better so lashes look fuller. Landcruisers tested both and loved two.
Mary Kay Lash Primer ($15; MaryKay.com) "glides on easily" but left the tester wondering, Is this just an unnecessary step in my morning makeup routine? Once she put on her mascara, though, she was sold. "My eyelashes look lusher than they ever have with mascara alone."
Just one coat of Rimmel London Lash Accelerator Mascara ($9.99, at drugstores) noticeably enhanced the tester's lashes and the brush's shape "made lashes in the hard-to-reach inner corners easier to get to." But any real growth is "subtle at best."
Known for their durability (think two weeks or more without chipping), gel manicures are the newest nail craze. At the salon, a gel will run you $50 to $75, but now DIY kits and polishes are popping up for much less. Typically sold with an LED light (to "set" your manicure) or an adhesive base coat, at-home gels promise to last the standard 14 days and save you money in the long run. Here are two standouts to try:
Unlike most salon gel manis, Nutra Nail Gel Perfect ($11.99, at Rite Aid stores) uses an activator base coat instead of an LED light to help create a shiny, solid finish. Though this gel "dried within 5 minutes," one user reported that "it didn't last as long as a salon gel" (only eight days). But the "convenience of doing your nails at home is worth the slightly shortened life span."
The LED lamp included with the SensatioNail By Nailene Invincible Gel Polish Starter Kit ($60, at Walmart stores) explains the hefty price tag. While the starter polish is good for 10 manicures, you can buy larger bottles separately. The tester's verdict: "I've had gels done at the salon before and this one lasted just as long—13 days straight!"
The cost of in-office whitening ranges from $500 to $1,000—enough to give you a permanent frown in spite of your pearly whites. At-home counterparts are less expensive, but have been tricky to use and took a long time to work. Some brands now promise results in as little as 2 hours and offer strips that dissolve, rather than bunch up, in your mouth.
Extra-adhesive Crest 3D White Intensive Professional Effects Whitestrips ($59.99, at drugstores) never slipped, whitened better than other products the tester had used and caused no sensitivity. One drawback: having to wear them "2 hours a day for seven days straight."
Rembrandt Intense Stain Dissolving Strips ($24.99, at Walmart) melt after 10 minutes in your mouth—a huge plus for testers. "I loved that I didn't have to wait to remove them," one said. And after using them for two weeks, the tester reported a brighter, whiter smile.