We’ve spent weeks tallying, totting up and testing – and here are the winners from the combined expert and reader vote. Every product is here on its own merit, so you can be confident you’re seeing an objective, unbiased pick of the best the beauty world has to offer. We also celebrate ethical companies, eco brilliance, and enterprises that cater for everyone, supporting diversity in women of all ages and races. Enjoy.
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BEST ETHICAL BEAUTY BRAND
Best Brand: Burt’s Bees
You could spend several hours on the Burt’s Bees website, and still not fully absorb the breadth of ethical practice employed by this trailblazing natural brand. On average, its products are 99 per cent natural; more than half are 100 per cent natural. And when preservatives are needed (that lone one per cent) they are non-paraben, and non-formaldehyde releasing.
Burt’s Bees’ operational footprint is impressive – it sends zero waste to landfill, unheard of for a company of its size (350 employees across three sites). It has installed a reverse osmosis system in the main facility, which, since 2010, has enabled it to reuse 700,000 gallons of water. All offices and facilities are fitted with energy-efficient lighting, resource management software, and efficient production equipment – which means Burt’s Bees has used 21 per cent less energy in 2012 than it did in 2011.
The company also set up the non-profit charity, The Greater Good Foundation, in 2007, and has since awarded over $1.2million in grants to grassroots initiatives that go above and beyond in the protection of nature – particularly the humble, but crucial, honeybee. All this, and the brand remains eminently affordable – proving consumers needn’t pay through the nose for products that are both effective and ethical.
BEST BODY-CONFIDENCE PRODUCT
- Winner: La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+ Lipid Replenishing Body Balm, £14. A clear winner in the category, this immediately calming balm helps keep dryness-prone skin happy, all year round.
- Runner-up: NEOM Real Luxury Body Oil, £32. This exquisite blend of 24 pampering oils, including jasmine, rosewood and lavender, leaves skin silky and divinely scented all day long.
Best bath product
- Winner: Balance Me Rose Otto Body Wash, £9. A lovely, clean and comforting daily ritual that is pleasantly affordable, too.
- Runner-up: Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil, £40. With vetivert, camomile and sandalwood is the most potent and powerful bath oil on the market – a must-have in times of stress and sleeplessness.
- Winner: Kiehl’s Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Body Polish, £22.50. What a treat – smells divine and leaves skin gleaming and nourished.
- Runner-up: Therapie Himalayan Detox Salts, £37. When both mind and body are flagging, these detoxifying salts help restore mineral balance to the body – and boost immunity, too.
BEST SPIRIT-LIFTING SCENT
Best classic scent
- Winner: Chanel No5 Eau de Parfum, £68/50ml. Chanel’s original formula remains the signature of scent-lovers the world over.
Best new scent
- Winner: L’Occitane Verbena Eau de Toilette, £42/100ml. A fresh, uplifting, transporting scent, made from Provençal verbena leaves with a rosy base of geranium – which won the category by a mile.
BEST HAPPY HAIR DAY PRODUCT
Best shampoo and conditioner
- Winner: Philip Kingsley Moisture Balancing Shampoo, £16, and Conditioner, £19. A clear winner in this category, these products ensure hair and scalp are always healthy.
- Runner-up: John Frieda Full Repair Hydrate + Rescue Shampoo, £5.99, and Deep Conditioner, £6.99. When hair needs a restorative treat, this combo helps strengthen and smooth.
Best styling product
- Winner: Batiste Dry Shampoo, £2.99. A bestseller for a reason – this adds visible lift to flat roots – a snip at the price.
- Runner-up: L’Oréal Elnett Satin Hairspray, £4.20. Still winning plaudits for its moveable hold, without stickiness.
- Winner: Moroccanoil Treatment, £31.85. A standout product, making damaged, processed and coarse hair instantly silky and smooth.
- Runner-up: Aveda Damage Repair Intensive Restructuring Treatment, £29.50. A beautiful scent and an incredible formula – just one use gets results for damaged locks.
BEST MOOD-BOOSTING MAKE-UP
Best for skin
- Winner: Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer, £28. Popular for its impressive coverage that always looks light and flattering.
- Runner-up: Bareminerals Original SPF15 Foundation, £25. The original tap and buff formula is still popular with readers who like speedy polish.
Best for lips
- Winner: Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm, £5.99. A new launch that’s already a big hit – gorgeous subtle shades in a caring all-natural formula.
- Runner-up: Boots No7 BB Lips Beauty Balm, £9. Lends lips a flattering shot of colour and easy-care gleam.
Best for eyes
- Winner: Benefit They’re Real! Mascara, £19.50. The bestselling mascara in the UK for a reason – it creates big lashes instantly, that don’t flake or clump.
- Runner-up: Bareminerals 5-in-1 Advanced Performance Eyeshadow, £17. A skincare-based shadow that goes on smoothly and has great long-lasting wear.
Best for cheeks
- Winner: MAC Blush, £18. For the range of shades alone – in highly pigmented formulas that don’t fade on first smile – they’re a winner.
- Runner-up: Nars Blush, £21.50. Wonderful shades in a silky, sophisticated formula.
BEST SKIN-CONFIDENCE PRODUCT
- Winner: Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, £39.50. A buttery treat that emulsifies with water to leave skin nourished.
- Runner-up: Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, £14.75. This cult classic is as popular as ever – suitable for all skin types, and ideal for a thorough, skin-reviving cleanse.
- Winner: Weleda Wild Rose Smoothing Day Cream, £15.95. Hugely popular with our readers, this affordable face cream soothes and cossets sensitised skin.
- Runner-up: Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 Day Moisturiser, £14.99. This science-backed moisturiser is protective and perfecting.
Best eye product
- Winner: Decléor Aroma Lisse 2-in-1 Dark Circle & Eye Wrinkle Eraser, £32 This subtly shimmery cream works immediately, and over time, to improve dark shadows.
- Runner-up: Elemis Pro-collagen Advanced Eye Treatment, £39. A comprehensive treatment cream that targets lines and discolouration.
- Joint winner: Clarins Double Serum Complete Age Control Concentrate, £55. Our readers love this bestselling serum’s lightweight texture and visible radiance-boosting effects.
- Joint winner: Origins Plantscription Anti-Aging Power Serum, £47. This powerful but non-irritating firming serum took five years to develop. You’ll see visible rejuvenation in as little as a month.
- Runner-up: Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II, from £48. This improved formula works hard to combat daily damage with a school of antioxidants and skin-perfectors.
Best facial oil
- Winner: Annee De Mamiel Seasonal Facial Oil, £65. Combining high-quality oils and flower essences, this helps skin combat seasonal upset.
Best body product
- Winner: L’Occitane 100% Shea Butter, £28. Adored by our readers and expert panel alike, this multi-tasking butter can be used to soothe sore patches anywhere.
BEST BRAND FOR BLACK AND ASIAN WOMEN
Best Skincare: Antonia Burrell
As one of very few black women behind British skincare brands, Antonia Burrell brings a wealth of personal, and professional, prowess to this results-driven line. Her knowledge of skin rivals a dermatologist. This, alongside her many years as a product formulator, BABTAC-trained therapist and aromatherapist (an associate lecturer in the chemistry of aromatherapy at the London College of Fashion), meant that when the time came for her to develop her own skincare line, she was uniquely placed to understand what women of all colours required from their skincare. Antonia Burrell Skincare works holistically, on several levels, addressing scarring, uneven skin tone, dark spots, lack of radiance, poor clarity and stubborn pigmentation (common in black and Asian skins, post-blemish, thanks to the higher levels of melanin in the skin). Her Radiant Light Facial Serum, £58.80, is a cult product, addressing all of the above, while also restoring balance and skin health in all races and ages.
Best Make-Up: MAC
What is there to say about the inimitable MAC? From the very beginning, the brand’s mission statement has been: ‘All ages, all races, all sexes.’ MAC has focused on providing an exhaustive range of colour products for women of every skin tone. Rich pigment levels and a vast variety of textures have been one of the keys to its success, but it’s the inclusive approach that speaks volumes too – with past MAC pin-ups including non-conformist icons RuPaul and Missy Elliott. Its products enhance the darkest skins, rather than masking them, and according to Estée Lauder Companies (which owns MAC) half the sales of high-end make-up to black American women are of MAC products – such a volume of loyal consumers speaks, well, volumes, too.
Best Hair: Aveda
Aveda’s professional-standard botanical-based products drip-feed goodness into all hair – there’s not a hair type or texture that Aveda won’t transform and treat, be it chemically-frazzled or virgin afro hair. The products are a joy to use, premium in feel and smell, and efficacy often surpasses expectation (if you’ve never tried the Dry Remedy Daily Moisturizing Oil, £19.50, prepare to be wowed). With Aveda, you’re able to mix and match a myriad of treatment, cleansing, conditioning and styling products to get the best results, be it taming curls or rejuvenating damaged over-processed and styled tresses, and it’s this breadth of product choice that has made Aveda a go-to for black and Asian women all over the world.
BEST BRAND FOR OLDER WOMEN
Best Skin: L’Oréal
As L’Oréal was founded by a chemist in 1907, it’s not surprising that the company possesses unrivalled research and innovation facilities, and is behind some of the biggest beauty breakthroughs of our time – including Ceramide R (which strengthens hair) and Mexoryl SX, for sun protection. L’Oréal is also fuelling the ‘masstige’ movement – products with prestige science, effects and clout, at mass-market prices. Its omnipresence makes its products affordable, and it is a market leader for a reason. With older faces such as Andie MacDowell, Jane Fonda and Julianne Moore on the roster too, L’Oréal caters in a mainstream and affordable way for women over 40 (something a lot of brands have yet to do) – so perhaps it’s no surprise that the trailblazing Age Perfect Cell Renew was one of its biggest sellers for 2013.
Best Make-Up: Bobbi Brown
‘Today it seems more than ever that it’s not OK to age. I hate that,’ says Bobbi Brown. And we salute her for it. Her products come in a range of textures, consistencies and age-flattering colours (focusing on enhancement, rather than concealment), all of which provide myriad easy and beautiful options for women of all ages. Counter staff (all of whom are professional make-up artists), are also trained to understand what works best on older skin, allowing women to explore, play and have fun with make-up at an age when many other brands can be daunting and alienating.
Best Hair: Pureology
This lovely sulphate-free and vegan brand is building a loyal following among those who regularly colour their hair. As we age, our hair loses keratin, so it can become more brittle, coarse and porous, while also being more prone to breakage – this means colour may not take the way that it used to, and may fade faster, too. The Nano Works line is specifically for ageing and colour-treated hair, ensuring hair is more resilient, while visibly shinier, smoother and more vibrant. If you want to enhance natural white or silver tones, we give a serious nod to Philip Kingsley Silver Shampoo, £16, too – it was raved about by our expert panel and greying colleagues alike.
2014 POSITIVE BEAUTY ICON
A true pioneer and a visionary, a man of ideals… Rechelbacher was born in Austria in 1941, to a herbalist mother and shoemaker father. He became a hairdresser and founded his first salon, Horst & Friends, in the US. In 1970 he attended a seminar on Ayurveda and his passion was ignited. He went on to launch Aveda in 1978, at a time when botanical-based brands did not exist, and coined the term ‘aromachology’ – the effect that scent can have on our minds. Sit in an Aveda salon chair today, and the aromatherapeutic neck and shoulder massage is Rechelbacher’s holistic signature, treating you both physically and psychologically. Rechelbacher’s belief that planet- and people-friendly technologies could be implemented in the making of cosmetics led to the launch of Intelligent Nutrients in 2011 which is non profit-making; all profits are ploughed into medical research and organic and sustainable foundations. Rechelbacher died in February this year, leaving quite a legacy – based on a simple ideal that ‘everything we put in and on our bodies must be nutritious and safe’.
BEST GREEN & ECO BEAUTY BRAND
Best Skincare: The Organic Pharmacy
The Organic Pharmacy takes the latest research into clinically proven organic actives, and produces formulas that are safe, free of nasties and transparently pure. There are the best-selling ‘basics’ – such as Carrot Butter Cleanser, £39.95, plus anti-ageing skincare, fuelled with advances in both science and natural actives – such as the Gene Expression Serum, £190. There is also great suncare, self-tan and a mother-and-baby line. Products are pricey, but they last longer (a little goes a long way when you’re not using fillers or additives). Add this superb skincare to the indulgent, but results-driven facials on offer, market-leading health and homeopathic services (plus quality supplements), and you have a company that has propelled green into the future – making it as desirable as it is trustworthy.
We were hard-pushed to choose between these two exquisite make-up brands – both of which feature heavily in our make-up bags. The RMS Beauty Living Luminizer, £30, puts other silicon-laden products to shame – a creamy, subtle highlighter that cares for skin, and can be used anywhere – across lids for a dewy gleam, cheekbones for gloss, and on lips for chic shimmer; while Un-Cover-Up, £28, is a coconut oil and beeswax-based mineral concealer and foundation that melts seamlessly into skin. ILIA won our hearts thanks to its seriously cool lipsticks, £22, and lip crayons, £20 – butter-soft, nourishing but with rich pigment and staying power. Latest products include the wonderful Mascara, £22 (with only natural preservatives) and feather-fine finishing powder, Fade Into You, £30.
Best Hair: Tara Smith
A true pioneer in the natural hair-care field – the tag for this vegan line is ‘tested on film stars, not on animals’ – and Leicester-born Smith’s clients include Marisa Tomei and Demi Moore, giving this line strong performance credentials, too. All 11 products are cruelty- and chemical-free, and produced in the UK (also stocked exclusively at Marks & Spencer). Oh, and did we mention the fully recyclable packaging’s vivid exotic birds’ design? Bright, fun and a joy to use.
Best Body: Ila
Ila inspires real passion in its users; products are not just good, they’re transformative. As founder Denise Leicester puts it, this is ‘beyond organic’ – Ila only uses the finest natural plant and mineral ingredients, which are wild-harvested in remote regions by artisan producers who value traditional, sustainable practices. Its methodology also claims to preserve the vibrational energy of each ingredient because of Ila’s impeccable ethical standards. Leicester believes that if you want to heal, you need to do things with care and love – and that’s what Ila passes on through its products. Try them, and see. The Body Oil for Inner Peace, £49, is a great place to start.
THE POSITIVE BEAUTY PANEL 2014
To ensure objectivity, we discounted votes from those experts who were eligible to win in that category
- Abigail James, intuitive facialist. James’ holistic methods combined with science knowhow offer a 360°-approach to treating skin.
- Ahmed Zambarakji, health and grooming editor and wellbeing expert. Award-winning journalist and founder of male grooming guide theexfoliator.com, he has been an active commentator for the past two decades.
- Anastasia Achilleos, anti-ageing facialist. Renowned for her fusion techniques and ‘touch’, Achilleos’ ability to sense where the facial structures hold tension help her to create treatments that restore not just the skin, but a feeling of wellbeing and calm.
- Anna Gardner, blogger. Having launched Vivianna Does Makeup in 2010, Gardner has made it her mission to be frank about what’s worth buying.
- Anna-Marie Solowij, co-founder of BeautyMART. An award-winning former beauty director of Vogue and co-founder of online beauty site BeautyMART, where only the best products make the cut.
- Antonia Burrell, facialist & founder of Antonia Burrell Holistic Skincare. Burrell has a wealth of botany, chemistry and aromatherapy knowledge, and extensive dermatological experience.
- Arabella Preston, make-up artist. This artist takes a holistic approach towards beauty and is passionate about using the most natural and life-enhancing products possible in her work.
- Caroline Hirons, facialist and skincare specialist. A beauty industry veteran, Hirons has developed bespoke facials and trained teams around the world. She now works as a consultant to brands and retailers and edits carolinehirons.com, too.
- Catherine Turner, wellbeing journalist & yoga instructor. Former Condé Nast beauty and health director, Turner now splits her time between teaching yoga and writing.
- Debbie Thomas, advanced skincare and laser expert. Built on her medical aesthetic training, Thomas launched the Advanced Beauty Therapy Room within Harvey Nichols, and also offers beauty treatments via the Debbie Thomas Collective.
- Georgia Louise, facialist. A comprehensive and unique approach to natural skincare and non-invasive treatments has made New York-based Louise a sought-after facialist.
- Imelda Burke, founder of Content Beauty & Wellbeing. A hand-picked selection of the most advanced, cult, natural and organic brands from around the world are chosen by Burke and sold online or in Content’s London store.
- Katey Denno, make-up artist. A former social worker, Denno’s intrinsic artistic skills and her commitment to sustainable and organic beauty have quickly established her as a burgeoning talent in the industry.
- Kenneth Soh, make-up artist. Even after 20 years, Soh still has an insatiable curiosity for discovering new beauty products, making him the ideal beauty trends forecaster and artist.
- Millie Kendall MBE, co-founder of BeautyMART and director of Mary Greenwell Fragrances. Beauty brand creator Kendall has been instrumental in the success of many cult brands as co-founder of retailer BeautyMART
- Ree, beauty blogger. Ree is passionate about make-up and skincare and has been blogging at reallyree.com since 2010.
- Ruby Hammer, make-up artist. Ruby Hammer has worked in the beauty industry for over 25 years and has an MBE for her long-standing contribution. She blogs at rubyhammer.com
- Sharron Holder-Culver, aesthetician and skin specialist. With 17 years’ experience, Holder-Culver combines aromatherapy and herbal medicine in her unique treatments.
- Su-Man, facialist. Dancer, Shiatsu master, Pilates practitioner and leading celebrity facialist-turned-skincare pioneer.
- Suzanne Duckett, beauty & wellbeing editor and consultant. Duckett is a widely respected beauty and wellness journalist with more than 20 years’ experience. She is also the founder of thisistheantidote.com
- Dr Terry Loong, cosmetic doctor and hormone expert. Medical director of award-winning Skin Energy Clinic, Loong is a well-established aesthetic doctor and hormone expert with 11 years’ experience.