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8 Beauty Products We Don't Get For Free And Actually Buy A Lot Of

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Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

It wasn't that long ago (actually, only, right before we launched Racked National this February) that we sweated days away in the hallowed halls of print journalism, slavishly reporting out trend stories and testing the heaps of new beauty products that arrived shopping bags-ful, unsolicited, free, at our desks every day.

Sounds torturous, no? Ha ha. We're kidding. Seriously, it was awesome.

Now we find ourselves in new media, which we love even more (mostly because we love you, dear readers!). But somehow the free beauty products no longer find their way to our desk—we totally get why, because it's true that most brands and publicists still value a print editorial placement far more than online press.

So, being all cut-off and stuff from what was previously a never-ending supply of face creams, hair conditioners, high-tech lip glosses, and $40 tubes of mascara, we've been thrust into the beauty world as a consumer, forced to re-evaluate how much, exactly, that Dior mascara is really worth, and whether we truly need Caudalie serum and Frederic Fekkai hairspray and Urban Decay primer and MAC gloss.

After seven years in the industry, using thousands of products, cluttering up bathroom ledges, and overflowing medicine cabinets, here are the 8 beauty products we actually spend our pocket money on all the time. These are the things we wouldn't want to get by without:

1. Terax Crema ultra-moisturizing daily conditioner, $48 for 16.9 oz. at Sephora: This conditioner will, no joke, change the texture of problem hair. We've been avid daily users of Terax Crema for more than 10 years, and though the formula and fragrance seem to have changed sometime in the early-2000s, the smoothing, glossing, and softening effects are the same.

Price break: If you live in New York City near a Metro Drugs, the 16.9 oz. Crema is only $39.99 there! That's nearly $10 off the everywhere-else price.

2. MAC Studio Fix, $26 at We've tried nearly every high-end foundation/powder combination out there, often with disastrous results—too dry, too oily, gets blotchy in the middle of the day, streaks, turns orange, you name it, it's happened to us. There's no other one-step foundation-powder compact that's anywhere near as photogenic as Studio Fix. It covers well, stays put, and goes on in 30-seconds flat in the morning when we're trying to get out the door. In summer months, try MAC's Mineralize SkinFinish for a lighter, but similar effect with less coverage.

3. Clarins HydraQuench Rich Cream for very dry skin or cold climates, $48 at $1,000 face creams, gold creams, fish egg creams, chemical creams, blue creams, pink creams, we've tried them all and nothing has come close. (Okay, the La Prairie cellular radiance cream we once had a small sample of was pretty amazing, but it's $580...) In our book, there are a few characteristics that make a good face cream: good all-day moisturizing properties, won't irritate our skin or eyes, doesn't get oily during the day, works well under makeup, and makes us look better even when we're not wearing any. The first time we used Clarins' HydraQuench overnight, we woke up after a paltry five hours' sleep and looked like new. That's the mark of a good skin cream, we think—it should yield a visible, tangible difference straight away.

4. Kiehl's protein concentrate shampoo for normal to dry hair, $11.50 at Our ten-year on-again-off-again relationship with Kiehl's protein shampoo is entirely our fault. We should never be off-again. Every time we're tempted away by a fancy fragrance or a pretty new bottle, we sheepishly return a month later, dull hair and split ends in hand. Nothing leaves our hair cleaner, stronger, shinier, and glossier than this rosemary-infused concoction—bonus: rosemary is scalp-toning, helpful for anyone who suffers from itchy scalp between seasons or even light dandruff problems.

5. Donna Karan Cashmere Mist deodorant and antiperspirant, $18 at This is a recent discovery for us—a company insider recently told us that this is the most requested item from the beauty closet. Beauty editors from all over the country, from all the top magazines, cannot get enough of the Cashmere Mist deodorant—not just because it's discreet and elegantly packaged, but because it rivals the most "clinical strength" OTC deodorants and antiperspirants on the market in terms of efficacy.

6. Stila Stay All Day waterproof liquid eyeliner, $20 at Stila: Lately, we're really into brown eyeliner, but for evenings out and the perfect cat-eye liquid line, Stila's waterproof liner is the hands-down best. It's the blackest-black (don't you hate when black liners turn out all muddy and grey?) and won't shift or flake or peel (like other, ahem, brands) all day. The marker-pen tip is also super-easy to negotiate, and the liner is easily removed with a dollop of eye makeup remover or face oil. And speaking of face oil...

7. Shu Uemura brightening cleansing oil, $75 at Its $75 for something that just gets washed down the drain, but it's worth it. First of all, it's a huge bottle, and lasts months and months and months. It super-easily removes all makeup—including waterproof eye goop—and totally cleanses the face without drying or scary chemicals. Don't worry, oil-phobics, cleansing oil won't leave your skin all slick and shiny—in fact, just the opposite: soft, matte, and clean. We've used other brands of cleansing oil that just don't compare—there's something about the Shu oil that leaves our skin glowing. We're sad that Shu Uemura is leaving its store locations in the USA, but at least we know the products will still be available online.

8. Dior Addict high shine lipstick in #612 Chestnut Chic, $26 at Sephora: When Maybelline discontinued Wet Shine Diamonds lip gloss in "Pink Diamonds," hands-down the most photogenic lip gloss ever made, we spent years floundering in the pigment wilderness, without a go-to lip color to call our own. (Thankfully, we'd trawled eBay as soon as Pink Diamonds was discontinued and bought 42 tubes of the stuff. That helped tide us over.) Then along came Dior Addict's high-shine lipstick range and we never turned back. Chestnut Chic is, for us, the perfect just-darker-than-natural lipstick, but really any of the slightly-sparkly ultra-moisturizing lipsticks in this collection are gorgeous. They're long-wearing, but not oppressively so, and pigmented, but not overwhelmingly. Chestnut Chic gives off that is-she-wearing-lipstick-or-not perfect sheen.

· All Beauty Coverage [Racked]