Test-Driving Cult & Classic Beauty Products, Part I
Illustration by Meghann Stephenson

Test-Driving Cult & Classic Beauty Products, Part I

Our make-up bags don't know what hit 'em.

As anyone worth their weight in back issues of Allure and YouTube beauty tutorials can attest, cult beauty products have a funny way of establishing their universality in a major, impossible-to-ignore way. After all: we all have one (or one dozen) essentials that we swear by and regularly tout the  potentially transformative powers of. You know: the highlighter your esthetician promises will make you look like Gisele if you just gave it a try, the danky self-tanner your college roommate doused herself in every Thursday night, the inky black liner that takes you from Destiny's Child-era-Beyoncé to driver-roll-up-the-partition-please-Yoncé in one stroke.

As sentimental as it sounds, those products invariably become integral to your routine—and your life. Fast forward to exactly how our curiosity got the best of us and how we wound up recruiting all of TC HQ to become collective guinea pigs and tackle a laundry list of beauty products of tried-and-true (by other beauty junkies, that is) holy grail products. Our makeup bags don't know what hit them.

Illustrations by Meghann Stephenson.

Erin F.

Days tested/used: Tuesday-Friday

Daily beauty regime: Currently, I’m switching it up between Pur Minerals ‘Big Blink’ mascara for daytime and CHANEL’s Le Volume de CHANEL at night. Truthfully, I’m not really loving the Pur Minerals, but hey, my aunt bought it for me because she likes to test drive products on me. The things we do for family, right?

Experience: It’s a great daytime mascara. It gets all my lashes and makes them dark. But I’m also the kind of girl who loves big thick lashes, because I rarely ever wear anything other than a little CC cream, lip conditioner and mascara. So the bigger the lashes, the better. But I would like to say, this is one of the first mascaras I bought back in high school (I was a major tomboy, you guys), so it did kind of open me up to the beauty world. And for that, I thank them.

Would you use again? I’ll finish the bottle, but I wouldn’t purchase it again. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Rating: 3/5 – gets the (daytime) job done but I’m hardly floored.


Days tested/used: 5

Daily beauty regime: Prior to this, I've always rotated between L'Oreal Voluminous (the king of all drugstore mascaras, as far as I'm concerned) and Diorshow. A high-low mix, I guess? Cringing over that sentence.

Experience: I really didn't want to like this mascara. Let me explain: as someone who grew up hoarding issues of YM, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, and virtually every other early 2000s glossy that ever waxed poetic on Chad Michael Murray's abs; I grew up revering Great Lash as the holy grail of mascaras. You can imagine the anti-climactic dissatisfaction that I felt, then, when after finally purchasing and procuring my first-ever tube, I was greeted by a set of eyelashes that fell flat—at least in my then pre-pre-teen mind. Fast forward a decade later, and I was pleasantly surprised (and irrationally annoyed) as my lashes grew increasingly feathery and defined.

Would you use again? Reluctantly, yes.

Rating: Four!


Days tested/used: Countless

Daily beauty regime: Mascara was probably the first beauty product I ever used with any regularity—my mom used it, so middle school me used it. I’ve been a loyalist to certain brands at different times in my life—DiorShow in high school, Lancôme Hypnôse in university—but since I’ve started working as an editor, I’ve tried a little bit of everything, including the mascara in question. Recently, however, for the first time in my adult life, I’ve stopped wearing mascara everyday. Out of admiration for bear-faced beauties like Vanessa Traina, I’ve decided to only wear mascara when necessary—on days with meeting out of the office or out at night. It’s been kind of freeing, in a superficial, now-I-can-rub-my-eyes-without-thinking-about-it kind of way.

Experience: I kind of love Maybelline Great Lash, especially transitioning from my current no-mascara state. I think the brush is one of the best out there—I love how small and easy it is to use it is—and I love how there isn’t a ton of mascara on my lashes right away, so it can be super subtle or I can build it up to be more dramatic.

Would you use it again? Definitely. This might just become my new go-to. But only on mascara-necessary days, of course.

Rating: 5 lipstick emojis

Erin F.

Days tested/used: Tuesday - Friday

Daily beauty regime: As of right now, I’m usually using the Caudalie Vinosource S.O.S. Morning Eye Rescue cream—and to be honest, I’m not really loving it. It was gifted to me (it’s a hard life, you guys), and I’m truthfully seeking out a substitute.

Experience: Noticed an immediate difference with this one. It was calming, a little cooling and made my eyes feel like a baby’s bottom (if that’s a thing). It’s too soon to tell how much of an actual difference it’s making, but I’m loving it so far. That has to be a good sign, right?

Would you use again? Totes. I would even shell out the (likely) ridiculous price tag for it.

Rating: 4/5 (losing a star because it retails for 200$+.)


Days tested/used: 5

Daily beauty regime: While I’m a moisturizer freak and literally can’t live without it (there’s nothing I find more uncomfortable or aggravating than dry skin), I’ve never really gotten in on the eye cream game, despite being told by beauty editors and makeup artists alike that it’s absolutely necessary. Then again, I have chronically-dark under-eye circles that typically require half a tube of concealer to hide. My eyes are also almost always puffy when I wake up. The fact that I haven’t consistently been using eye cream is more out of laziness and having to add another step to my routine than that I don’t need it. I do…

Experience: La Mer is the best, right? A fellow Cov editor tells me that scientists perfected this formula for 12 years, so it can’t not be good. And while I don’t think I can fully judge after only a few days, I can say that the greenish/greyish cream is a kind of slip-thin, but buttery texture, and feels soothing morning and night when I apply is after my moisturizer. And soothing is a good thing for puffy eyes.

Would you use it again? Until this teeny-weeny container runs out, I’m all in. Check with me when it’s all gone though, ‘cause seeing as it’s more than $200 for a half ounce, I’ll only be buying if the results are truly miraculous.

Rating: 3 lipstick emojis. But if miracles really do happen, than 5.


Days tested/used: 4

Daily Beauty Regime: Eye cream is foreign territory to me. It has never crossed my mind to even consider using it. Oops? I guess I’m a simpleton of sorts when it comes to my beauty regime. A little Kiehl’s Face Wash, a no-name shampoo, Vitamin E cream, deodorant, neutral shades on my eyes, and a touch of perfume before I’m out the door.

Experience: I put a dab of this under and around my eyes and on my forehead before I went to sleep. I think it made some difference—my under eyes didn't seem to be quite as dark in the morning, but I'm not entirely sure.

Would you use again: To be determined!

Rating: no lip emoji's for this girl. Just 3 quizzical minions.


Days tested/used: Monday – Friday (AM&PM)

Daily beauty regime: I was previously using Laura Mercier Repair Eye Crème. Before that I was using La Mer ‘The Eye Concentrate’ which I loved, but the price point is a bit expensive.

Experience: You know a product is good when you have convinced your colleague that you got botox over the weekend, but seriously this product took 12 years to make – 12 years!!! If a product doesn’t work after 12 years and 6000 experiments than I recommend you consult your dermatologist for a little zip and a little zap. What I really like about the cream is the texture – not too thick or greasy. I also really enjoy the little tingling feeling it leaves when I dab it on, that’s how I know the Miracle Broth is really working it’s magic on my fine lines. I get that it’s only been, like, a hot minute since I’ve started using this product, but I swear my crows feet are turning into a crows foot (get it?!) and seriously guys, when has La Mer ever let you down?

Would you use again? Totally!

Rating: 4.5/5 *still need more time with it

Erin F.

Days tested/used: Monday - Friday

Daily beauty regime: Every morning, I make a point of putting on lip balm after being scorned a year ago by a beauty intern on my constantly-cracked lips. Currently, I’m using Aerin’s Rose Lip Conditioner and a (don’t hate me) Lipsmackers branded balm. Hey, I’m trying to use up all these freebies I get!

Experience: I thought I had found salvation in the Aerin Rose Lip Conditioner until now. Everyone I have ever talked to about Fresh’s Sugar Lip Treatment raves about it. I honestly think my lips are way smoother and pretty impervious to being cracked now.

Would you use again? 1,000,000% Is this EVEN a question?

Rating: 5/5 lipstick emojis (bonus points because it also comes in multiple colors if you don’t want the clear kind).


Days tested/used: Monday – Friday (AM&PM)

Daily beauty regime: Usually any lip balm that’s in the bottom of my purse.

Experience: Okay, so I am obsessed with this and any product that will help me achieve Lana Del Rey bee stung lips minus the injections. I’ve been using the lip treatment after I exfoliate my lips with the Fresh Brown Sugar Lip Scrub, which is a really luxe combo (highly recommend). I prefer a thicker balm, so my one con about this product is that it is a little serum-y. I might as well start a kissing booth because my lips feel that good….

Would you use again? Totally!

Rating: 4/5


Days tested/used: Forever-ever

Daily beauty regime: Occasionally smearing on balm before bed and at my desk.

Experience: Disclaimer: I'm decidedly not a lip balm girl. You know, the obsessive sort whose hands seem perennially conjoined to a tube of Chapstic that they're constantly whipping out of their back pocket to apply. That said, Fresh is one of the few that's made the cut into my regular rotation (please read that with visions of beauty products auditioning and vying for my pennies, X-Factor style, in your head). Rather than waxy, this stuff actually feels hydrating and, well, balm-like.

Would you use again? Yes

Rating: 5


Days tested/used: One day, three coats!

Daily beauty regime: I'm a diehard shellac gal. It's a bi-monthly office tradition to head over to the local salon for a good stitch and bitch, only without the stitch, duh. I'm a nail biter so anything that isn't chemically bonded to my nails forever by a questionably safe UV light gives me great anxiety.

Experience: In the name of science, I gave myself what I’ve come to call a OG mani (read: no base coat, no top coat). The verdict? The polish went on super smoothly, the brush was easy to use, and my whole mani stayed picture perfect for the first two days before chipping like your grandma's porcelain in a tornado. Full disclosure though: that probably had more to do with me chewing my nails than the actual formula.

Would you use again? Yes, when my nails need a little shellac break.

Rating: 3 lipstick emojis out of 5 (or 3 Lana del Rey Claws outta' 5).


Days tested/used: 4

Daily Beauty Regime: First of all, I’m not the biggest nail polish wearer. I find when I do wear it my nails feel heavy, if that makes sense—seriously, heavy fingernails are not a fun feeling! However, my toenails? A different story. I feel naked without it!

Experience: The shade I chose was a hot pink—the exact color of the Barbie Corvette that I had as a kid (it was a hand-me-down and needed a new bumper, a far cry from CHANEL). So for someone who feels like an alien wearing nail polish, this was a bold move for my phalanges. I ran out of top coat, so only two of my nails were lucky enough to receive that treatment. The polish surprisingly kept pretty well without it's protector and shockingly, I loved the color!

Would you use again: probably yes

Rating: 4


Days tested/used: 5!

Daily beauty regime: For my face: Cetaphil Non-Comedogenic Moisturizer when I'm feeling low-pro, Clinique when I'm feeling lavish. Oh, and I steal my co-worker's Aveeno Baby Eczema Care for my hands on a daily basis.

Experience: I'd like to sit down with the lady at Elizabeth Arden who decided to call this a cream because it's absolutely not. It's more of a weird, sticky pink balm. It's great for cuticles, lips and the back of hands. I kid you not, I put a dab on my belly button sunburn (it's a thing!) and voila—sunburn no more! That said, I wouldn't go rubbing this all over your face and palms for fear of becoming a sticky hot mess.

Would you use again? 3000%

Rating: 5 lipstick emojis!


Days tested/used: 5

Daily beauty regime: I’ve already admitted to my addiction to moisturizer. My skin is quite erratic, though, where my face tends to be oily, while my body is super, super dry, especially my hands. Seriously though, no matter the season, my hands constantly resemble crocodile skin. In the winter I actually coat my hands with an inch of cream and just let it dry in an effort to get some moisture in there. I’m one of those people who carries hand cream in every single bag so that I’m never without. So, I usually use oil-free moisturizer on my face, and then heavy body butters of liquid lotions on my body and hands, depending on the season.

Experience: Despite my dryness issues, I’ve never tried the legendary 8 Hour Cream—mostly because it seemed so old school and visions of hair-rollered ‘50s housewives dance in my head whenever it comes up, but also because I’ve heard that it’s absurdly thick and oily. But I’ll honestly try anything. My hands are in their usual impossibly dry state, so before bed I rub some just on the tops (not the palms. They’re extremely greasy and shiny as a result, my boyfriend looks kind of grossed out and I feel like I have to keep my hands as far away from my face as possible. But anything in the name of moisture. The next day is revelatory. My hands are soft all day long and don’t have to apply cream ten times. That night I try a tiny dab on my slightly peeling burnt nose—the next day, the dead skin is completely gone. WHAT?! I’m shocked. No word yet on whether my nose will break out into a million tiny zits, but otherwise, this stuff is seriously miraculous.

Would you use it again? A million times, yes. Forever and ever and ever.

Rating: 10 thousand lipstick emojis


Days tested/used: 4

Daily Beauty Regime: I mentioned previously that the only face cream I regularly use is Vitamin E. It may go on thick, but it does wonders for my dry skin, which made me wonder if this would do the same.

Experience: Given that this stuff has been dubbed a kind of ‘dream cream’, I smeared it all over my entire body: face, arms, legs, hands. Yes, really. On my first day, I had jumped out of the shower only to be welcomed by a serious case of dry skin all over my entire face especially my chin, so I was admittedly intrigued to see how the balm would take it on. Lets just say that by Day 4, I was applying it all over my face before bed, only to be greeted by a clear, smooth complexion. You go, Eight Hour Cream!

Would you use again: Hell yes.

Rating: 5

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