She SAID: Haute Mess

Shahada Karim

We all know that more expensive doesn’t automatically mean better. But that doesn’t stop millions of people from collectively shelling out billions of dollars in hopes of capturing the ultimate ‘haute’ experience in skin care and makeup. From serums to finishing powder, it’s easy to get taken by the fancy packaging and life-changing claims. But in the end, a high price tag does not guarantee a high-end experience. In fact, alternative brands are doing more with less, and easily deserve to be at the head of their collective class.

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence

Actress Cate Blanchett (she of the flawless skin) made this brand uber-famous. But honestly, it just doesn’t live up to its claims of boosting the skin’s renewal process. The idea of pressing a fermented sake derivative into your skin sounds great, but the results aren’t nearly enough to justify the price. With the smallest bottle going for $100 and largest demanding a whopping $290, it simply needs to perform better.

ALTERNATIVE: May Coop Raw Sauce

Sunday Riley Start Over Active Eye Cream

There is no reason on earth that an eye cream should burn. None. I don’t care what miracle ingredients are in the formula, if it burns then it should be discarded. This is such a fundamental requirement that I remain baffled that Sunday Riley has not reformulated this eye cream. It smells fantastic, and it feels amazing going on. But within minutes the burn kicks in. The ingredient list offers no clues about why, but something is definitely funky in the formulation.

ALTERNATIVE: Tata Harper Restorative Eye Cream

Glycelene Lip Remedy

This little pot of balm claims to moisturize and renew the lips upon application. But the first thing it actually does upon application is turn your lips white. Plus, the long term effects mean more peeling than healing. No one likes peeling lips. No one.

ALTERNATIVE: By Terry Baume de Rose

La Prairie Skin Caviar Foundation & Concealer

La Prairie is known for making the most out of this world claims about their skin care, and this product is no different. At a whopping $215 a jar, you’d think that it would do more than maximize pores, sink into fine  lines and wrinkles and (in my case) trigger a horrifying bout of cystic acne. But there it is for the world to see, and you don’t even need a magnifying mirror for proof. On the up(?) side, the concealer is excellent, if a bit ‘flat’ (I wonder if they missed the memo about undertones) in color. They’d do better to market the concealer separate, and go back to the drawing board with the foundation.


ALTERNATIVE CONCEALER: Charlotte Tilbury Retoucher

NARS Audacious Mascara

I don’t even know where to start. Is is possible to demand the person responsible for this fiasco seek employment elsewhere? The obnoxious red brush assaults the lashline with its plastic prickly texture. The formula requires about 10 coats just to look like there ‘might’ be something on your lashes. In the end, your run of the mill drugstore mascara is head and shoulders above this one. NARS has never done mascara particularly well, but the Audacious variety might be their worst yet.

Honorable Mention goes to Chantecaille’s Faux Cils Longest Lash Mascara. The formula is lovely, but certainly not life changing. And the biggest crime is, it dries out very quickly. The formula begins to thicken and clump within weeks of purchase, making it even more expensive to keep than its initial $70 purchase price.

ALTERNATIVE: Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara

YSL Rouge Pur Couture Kiss & Love Lipstick

We’ve come too far in the land of lipsticks to have a  highly pigmented matte that feathers within minutes… MINUTES of application. I cannot imagine what they did to this lipstick to make it so subpar. It is possible to get a creamy matte finish that doesn’t dry the heck out of the lips;  MAC releases some version of their mattes every five minutes and that formulation is much better (and much cheaper). Bottom line: it can be done. This latest offering from YSL simply doesn’t make the grade.

ALTERNATIVE: Burberry Lip Velvet Lipstick


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