2011 gift guide: grace’s face must-haves

Early on during our 10 weeks on the road this fall, Amy and I started joking about starting a beauty blog. We both became obsessive about eye creams and face masks on the book tour in an attempt to cover up our lack of sleep and over-consumption of caffeine and sugar. Sadly this was nothing new to me, as I’ve been something of a skin-care lunatic ever since my first roommate in Brooklyn turned me on to the cheap student facials at Aveda in Manhattan. Since then I’ve managed to turn my quest for better skin into a full-fledged obsession and I’m always trying to find new ways to get rid of the years of damage I did to myself working at a tanning salon in high school (I know, yikes).

Image above (makeup), clockwise from top left: Nars Arabian Nights eyeshadow trio $45, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer (with SPF 20) $42, Ooh La Lift under eye concealer $22, Ilia Lipstick (in Arabian Nights, Shellshock and Bang Bang) aka- the best lipstick in the entire world, Susanne Lang Midnight Orchid perfume $50, Fresh lip balms in Sugar Rose and Sugar Plum $22.50 each, Nars creme blush in Cactus Flower $27

To say I’m a perfectionist is something of an understatement (I’m working on that…constantly), so when I fully commit to a face product, it’s the highest stamp of approval I can give. I sometimes mention my skincare obsession online and I got a decent chunk of emails this year asking if I’d include a roundup of skincare-based gifts in this year’s guides. So I decided to take a break from my normal online window shopping and include an honest look at the products that I save up and invest in on a daily, weekly or yearly basis. I put these on my face every day of my life (except for the makeup, which I only wear under duress) and can vouch that they are worth every penny. If you have someone in your life that is into beauty products, I hope these can help supplement other gifts, act as stocking stuffers or be just the ticket if you’re looking for something a little splurgy. Thanks again to Amy for putting up with my constant face-mask applying on the road. She never once made a joke about me looking like a green alien. xo, grace

*I couldn’t resist using ‘Grace’ and ‘face’ together in this post title because it always reminds me of this cartoon. It made me feel terrible about the way I looked when I was younger and people used to tease me with the ‘My name is Grace and my face is disgraceful!’ line all the time. Thankfully my crazy skincare regime makes me feel better now- no teasing this Grace anymore.

Image above (skincare), clockwise from top left: Farmaesthetics Complexion Oil $48, Farmaesthetics Lavender face cleanser $36, Exfolikate (worth the cost) $19-$175, Ina’s Restoratives Sleep Tincture $14, Bliss Oxygen Facial set (I love this) $75, 100% Pure Coffee Bean eye cream $19, Farmaesthetics Face Toner $28, Sonia Dakar Enzyme Peeling cream $85 (also totally worth it), Kiehl’s Hand Salve $13-$20, Mario Badescu Azulene Calming Mask (best mask in the world) $18, Clarisonic Face Cleaner $149-$225 (depending on style)

  1. name (required) says:

    Beauty products — my kryptonite! I’ve been hearing more and more about Ilia… unfortunately it’s not sold near me and they don’t provide samples online yet, so, talk to me! What makes these so good? How long do they wear? What are the colors like? Are they scented? Details, please!

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      they are the best lipsticks around, period. i can’t say enough about them. as soft and nourishing as my beloved blistex (i’m a utilitarian kinda girl when it comes to makeup) and leaves a soft stain behind so even when it’s “off” you still have some color left. they’re not really scented (which i like). i get at least 4 -5 hours out of a coat of lipstick from these. i would apply before a book signing and even 5 hours later when i went home, exhausted from smiling all night, i still had some stain left. it’s awesome. my fav colors are “bang bang” and “arabian nights”. worth every penny, seriously.


  2. Ok, THIS list just made my season. Can’t wait to try the Ilia Lipsticks — I’m a lip tint junkie and I haven’t tried anything fun in awhile. It seems like the Farmaesthetics line is also something I’m going to have to try — My skin doesn’t tolerate traditional moisturizers well, I usually moisturize with squalene oil, so I’m excited to give that Complexion Oil a whirl!

    Great, great list. Thank you! And Happy Holidays!

  3. LeeLee says:

    Great choices. The Laura Mercier tinted Moisturizer is my favorite product. Oil control and SPF? Hello perfection.

  4. Thank you, from one product junkie to another.

  5. colleen says:

    I’m a complete beauty/skin junkie too. I balk at spending $30 on a shirt but I have no qualms dropping cash on cosmetics. Lots of favorites here, but haven’t gotten up the courage to plunk down on a Clarisonic yet. Inching closer now..

  6. Vanessa says:

    Are you a Clarisonic owner? I have been hearing so much about the brush that I am tempted to buy in. As a young twenty-something, I am trying my best to start taking care of my skin now rather than regretting I had when I’m a 40-something.

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      yep- i own all these products. and love them. :)


  7. Molly P-H says:

    I KNEW we had more in common than a love of design! Can’t wait to chk out some of these. “Grace’s Face” made me smile. Molly

  8. Abby says:

    Thanks for these recommendations, Grace! I’m finally learning that good skincare products are worth their money and it’s nice to get recommendations instead of wading through tons of products.

  9. Alix says:

    Re: Ilia
    Thanks, Grace! You’ve now officially rationalized my purchase…

    (I swear I typed my name in last name… guess not!)

  10. Sam V. says:

    Oh darn! You had to post something like this right before Christmas! I “need” all of this now! ; )

  11. Jody says:

    Lavendar! Must try. Great list!

  12. Cobb says:

    In the spirit of DIY, I’ve been making my own face cleansing oil and have been loving the results (not to mention the money I save). For a normal/combination complexion mix two parts castor oil, one part extra virgin olive oil, one part apricot oil, a couple dashes of lavender essential oil and store it in an airtight glass bottle. (for oily skin increase castor oil, for dry increase evoo). It’s so lush I seldom need a moisturizer, and surprisingly, have no breakouts.

  13. Stephanie says:

    I am so excited to try out some of your suggestions here! I have been searching for the perfect natural/organic facial cleanser, and Farmaesthetics sounds like just what I’ve been looking for.

  14. Debbie C says:

    Thanks for this! I need to take better care of my skin, esp. now that I’ve had a baby. Looking forward to trying some of these! Can I ask you what skin type you have? I have combo skin (oily t-zone and super dry cheeks), are the skin care items good for my type?

  15. Noëlle says:

    Wow, what great suggestions! Especially the mask! Thank you!

  16. MABSOOTA says:

    I think Cobb made an excellent point. Why not expand on this at some point and feature DIY skin care recipes? I know a lot of people who have gotten great products out of experimenting with natural, homemade exfoliants, moisturizers and such.

  17. nell says:

    i’m really trying to eliminate all the toxic junk from my skin care and makeup routine and as trendy as it is, have gone the organic route. been really happy with skin care from nahla http://www.nahlabeauty.com (amazing!) which i saw here on DS last year and makeup from alima http://www.alimapure.com/ and vapour http://www.vapourbeauty.com/. also deodorant from weleda. the sage one is awesome and can be had on amazon or local natural food stores for under ten bucks.

  18. Kate says:

    I am quite intrigued by the Clarisonic brush, too. I really like my sonicare toothbrush, so maybe this is the thing for me. Have you noticed a difference in how clean your skin feels when you use it?

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      yep, it’s pretty awesome. i use it a few times a week :)


  19. kristina says:

    I like Aesop products for skin care + pet care!

  20. Quiana says:

    Funny you mention that cartoon! I hadn’t seen that since I was a kid and it freaked me out. LOL! I miss classic Nickelodeon.

  21. LindseyBee says:

    I JUST ordered that farmeasthetics tone complexion from terrain & got it in the mail yesterday–I’m anxious to use it, & curious how well it works, & how to use it ha:) It made me feel better to see it made the cut on your list, or “stamp of approval” I should say!

  22. D says:

    Grace, I adore you and also have a weakness for skincare, but I am pretty surprised by these recommendations. Where do you research products?

    I am a firm believer in to each her own, so if these work for you, by all means, keep going!

    But Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer does not contain broad spectrum SPF, some of these use jar and/or clear packaging that promotes germs and hurts unstable ingredients like antioxidants, and many are insanely priced and DIY friendly (witch hazel and glycerin for $36?), so I’m confused…

    Trust me, I am not trying to rain on this parade, but as an avid ingredient researcher myself, I would not have settled on most of these items and am just curious what led you to use them. I suppose (as always with your articles!) I just want MORE insight into your head.


    1. Grace Bonney says:


      i think we’ll have to agree to disagree. the mercier moisturizer has an SPF 20 included in it (written on the outside of the packaging) and i tried all these products because i like them, they work, and- for me- aren’t overpriced because they do what they claim to do.

      of course you could try to make a lot of these yourself, but we don’t all have the time or interest in making these.


  23. lynne says:

    thanks grace, this is so timely for me (50!) and my daughter (12) who’s just starting to get blackheads all over her nose. I don’t want her to go through all the sad, ill-informed mistakes I made when I was a teenager and did no service to my skin.

    I have been debating a Clarisonic for two weeks, I’m going go order one today.

  24. Oh, Dang! I was hoping you’d tell me the Clarisonic brush I’d been lusting agter was not worth it. So far, everyone who writes about them loves them, which makes my wallet weep a little. Have you heard of any more affordable versions, Grace? ♥

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      i think they’re worth the investment because they’re dramatically effective, but i’d keep an eye out for post holiday sales. though they do make a smaller version that’s cheaper. the ones i’ve tried by olay and neutrogena don’t work as well at all.


  25. D says:

    Agree to disagree it is!

    I guess I just assumed that there is so much DIY spirit around this site, beauty supplies might follow suit. ;) And to clarify my earlier comment: Mercier might have general SPF, but no UVA-blocking ingredients, so just be careful out there if that’s your only sun protection and you’re concerned about blocking the full spectrum of rays…

    Thanks again for the round-up – cheers!

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      i’ve already provided DIY skincare ideas for the holiday season- please see my earlier post on “no buy” gift ideas. it’s the way i started the gift guide season off – with DIY ideas.

      i don’t think i claimed the mercier had UVA ingredients, did i? i only mentioned the SPF, which is what it does indeed have.


  26. Janice M. says:

    Thanks for sharing, Grace! As a fellow beauty and skincare junkie, I’m always curious to hear other people’s recommendations. Exfolikate is also one of my holy grails! But def interested in hearing more about the Sonia Dakar and Mario Badescu products you mentioned. Would you mind sharing some more info on how you integrate these products into your routine? Thanks again!

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      sure thing. i use the dakar peel once a week and i use the mario badescu mask up to 4 times a week depending on redness and irritation. i have the bad habit of poking at my skin a lot and i find it calms down any redness like a charm.


  27. Barbara says:

    Love your choices! My favorites would definitely be the Nars blush and the Ilia lipsticks!

  28. Great selection- I am a total makeup/ beauty junkie. I really love buying quality products- I think they’re totally worth it!

  29. rozinchina says:

    great! a face mask made by a fellow romanian chemist and i just found out about it. thanks :)

  30. Liz says:


    terrain is already sold out of isa’s sleep well formula & the complexion conserve! :( I have a hard-working friend who travels a lot, so this post is perfect! I’ll have to keep looking for them. Thanks for sharing this!


  31. danielle says:

    thank you for the suggestions! i’m tempted to try out this coffee eye cream, as i’ve been looking high and low for a product that will help reduce the darkness under my eyes. did you notice anything like this?

  32. I have the clairsonic and absolutely love it. Also, the sugar rose lip balm is the ONLY thing I use… give the perfect I-just-came-inside-from-the-cold flushed look :)

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      You nailed it! It is that flushed look :)


  33. Cynthia says:

    This is wonderful, Grace, Thank YOU! Just a note: might be worth mentioning your skin type. I, too, am a huge fan of the Laura Mercier tint (obsessed is more like it) but not oil-free. My skin runs sensitive to dry – your skin care choices lead me to believe you run more oily to acne? Love to have some insight since some products are too harsh for us sensitive-prone…thank you.
    And can’t wait to try the lipstick!!

  34. Oh my… I would have no idea what to do with 90% of this stuff, but this does inspire me to give my skin a boost this winter. And some of these come in the most appealing packaging!

    I would be interested to know your skin type, too, Grace. Mine is so sensitive that I mostly use California Baby, plant-based oils, Burt’s Bees and occasionally Aquaphor… not very glamorous!)

  35. hyzen says:

    I am a newbie to this skincare stuff, and love this roundup for all the ideas based on your hard won experience. However, I am confused at how/when one would use all of these products, and I would loooove a little more detail on how these all fit together. Maybe it’s obvious to most, but as someone whose current skincare regime includes a wash with cleanser in the morning shower, followed by an SPF moisturizer, and that’s it for the day–I’m a bit overwhelmed by the various products.

  36. Shoko says:

    I LOVE this! Totally a sucker for a good beauty round-up – thanks for posting it!

  37. ashleyj says:

    Hi Grace. I’m interested in the 100% Pure brand – the eye cream & some of the other products on their website look neat too. Do you order online or is there a place to buy them in NYC? I’m visiting the city for the weekend & am planning some shopping trips. Thanks!

  38. malisams says:

    i am a HUGE fan of the mario badescu line in general, but haven’t tried the mask yet. it’s definitely next on my list. :) my only complaint with some of their products is that they contain parabens, but my skin responds so well to the line that i haven’t stopped using their products.

    i use the laura mercier under eye concealer and LET ME TELL YOU, as a girl with some dark, dark magic going on under her eyes most of the time (damn you, allergies!), this stuff is phenomenal. it also doubles as a cover up sometimes if i’ve got a red spot or discoloration. love it.

    QUESTION: do you use anything for reducing the appearance of sun spots or blemish scars? i’m halfway through a bottle of something that feels nice, but isn’t really doing the trick. wondering if you (or anyone out there) has had luck with something…?

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      im afraid i don’t have anything i love for spots :(


  39. Elizabeth says:

    Sugar Rose is amazing! I use it every day. It would make for a great gift or stocking stuffer, even if the recipient isn’t a huge beauty buff. I hate reapplying lipstick and love the look of lip stain, so this stuff solves the application and drying problems of those respective products. (If you’re vampire pale like me, consider the Pomegranate instead of the Plum for a darker flush.)

  40. reeve says:

    As a 40-something who wishes she could rewind and undo my own skin damage, the best is advice is trite but true: Wear sunscreen, especially on your neck, which seems to wrinkle and sag first. There are so many different brands now you can get a luxurious one and make it feel like part of your beauty routine. Many of them also offer treatments along with SPF. Honestly, nothing you can do when you’re 40 will be as effective as wearing sunscreen in your 20s. Invest in a good self-tanner and/or bronzer if you want deeper color on your face.

  41. Andrea V says:

    Ilia Beauty is AMAZING! The Canadian brand has an ethical-sustainable approach and is almost entirely natural, and packaged in recycled aluminium cases. Highly recommend! Nice one Grace!

  42. ashley s says:

    I would love to know your favorite beauty blogs!

  43. Jordan says:

    Proud owner of quite a few on the list :) midnight orchid by S. Lang…sigh. Nostalgic and fresh!

  44. Hailey says:

    I’d been researching for awhile what products to try and so many reviews were in conflict with one another. Your design picks always become my favorite eye candy to follow, so I decided to take a leap and ordered both Exfolikate and a Clarisonic Mia. I’ve been using both for several weeks and my usually clogged skin feels amazingly smooth. I’m a cheapo, but the Exfolikate was worth the price 10x over. Thanks so much for this post. (Oh and thanks to Kate too! As a craft store employee, your DIY posts are always a good reason for me to feed my addiction to DIY and put my store discount to use!)

  45. suhagra says:

    How wonderful that you can find such useful posts

  46. Erica says:

    Leaving a comment to confirm that ExfloiKate is amazing. It is completely worth the price. I also have a Mia that I love and recommend to everyone I know. I also purchased the Farmaesthetics Complexion Conserve. This too is wonderful. They sent a sample of the Tonic with my purchase, and I was sorry I didn’t buy that too after using for a week. GREAT recommendations.

  47. Susan says:

    Emily, My daughter (age 17) and her friends all HAD to have the Clarisonic last year. Maybe it’s their age, but it really made their skin worse and they have all quit using it. I think it’s important to use it only a couple times a week. Our dermatologist said it brings oils to the surface and can actually increase breakouts. That’s what happened to my daughter, especially on her cheeks. Again, perhaps it is her age, ten years when they are prone to breakouts.


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