Estee Lauder

Estee Lauder At-A-Glance

Strengths: Some of the most state-of-the-art moisturizers and serums around; excellent sunscreens; some good cleansers, toners, and makeup removers; several categories of makeup excel, including some extraordinary foundations (that include shades for darker skin tones), concealers, powders, blush, and eyeshadows; a mostly good selection of eye, brow, and lip pencils; their long-wearing lip color and some of the lipsticks are supremely good.

Weaknesses: Several items are highly fragranced; incomplete and/or problematic products for anyone battling blemishes; no effective AHA or BHA products; many of the Re-Nutriv products are priced too high given similar, less-expensive options from Lauder; some of the sunscreens and foundations with sunscreen lack sufficient UVA protection; the mascaras; the brushes aren't on par with those from other Lauder-owned lines, such as Bobbi Brown or M.A.C.; some superfluous specialty products and problem pencils; jar packaging.

From its humble but attention-getting beginning in 1946, Estee Lauder has grown to become a multibillion-dollar company whose products are sold all over the world and advertised in just about every fashion and women's lifestyle magazine you can think of. Their product assortment is mind-boggling and would be much more frustrating to wade through if their tester units weren't so well-organized and their salespeople so well-trained. (Although most of what they talk about is claim-driven and not worth paying much attention to, they do know their way around the huge assembly of products.)

We suppose the biggest compliment We can pay to the venerable Estee Lauder line is that their state-of-the-art moisturizers and serums have had a hand in redefining how we evaluate products. They (and some Lauder-owned companies, notably Clinique) are so far ahead of their department-store competition in these two areas that they alone have been consistently raising the bar as new research comes to light. In fact, we are confident telling anyone who asks me where to find the best moisturizers in the department store to sail right past Lancome, Chanel, Clarins, Shiseido, and Elizabeth Arden (among others) and park themselves in front of the Lauder counter (or a Lauder-owned line specializing in skin care such as Clinique—definitely not Origins, but you have to read about Origins to see why). We don't agree with most of the claims Lauder makes for their products and the fragrance is often intrusive, but when it comes to formulary excellence culminating in products that give skin what it needs to function optimally, they are tough to beat.

Despite Lauder's formulary innovations, they're not immune to problem products. Some of their cleansers contain irritating ingredients, jar packaging is prevalent, and their sole product for acne isn't going to help anyone's blemishes improve (actually, Estee Lauder is not the line to shop if managing acne is your concern). The company has also taken a somewhat "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach, much like the many skin-care companies with cosmetic products targeted at women considering cosmetic corrective procedures. Some of the claims (and statistics) about what their skin-care alternatives (to these procedures) can accomplish still stretch the boundaries of what's possible, but most of them have impressive ingredients that benefit skin. They just can't change skin in the same effective way a cosmetic corrective procedure can.

There are more reasons than ever to consider Estee Lauder. Their products (surprisingly) don't address every skin-care need or concern, but few lines in this book received so many Paula's Pick ratings, and congratulations are due for developing products that, claims aside, keep Lauder on the cutting edge of a very competitive industry. And, by the way, all of this praise is coming from the standpoint that Lauder was resolutely unhelpful in sending us any information for this book.

For more information about Estee Lauder, call (877) 311-3883 or visit www.esteelauder.com.

Estee Lauder Makeup

Although Estee Lauder has made some impressive strides with its skin-care formulations, their makeup collection has become a frustrating mixed bag. We were genuinely surprised at how many average makeup items have recently appeared. Of course, there have also been some improvements, most notably in the foundation, eyeshadow, and lipstick categories. But for such an established, worldwide brand to not have more to extol is almost embarrassing. That attitude of bigger and better things is there in the descriptions, but the products tell a different story.

The most frustrating element by far is the number of foundations with sunscreen that either lack essential UVA-protecting ingredients or carry an SPF rating that is below standard. In contrast, the sunscreens in Lauder's skin-care lineup are almost all top-notch. Even more perplexing is that Lauder's sister company Clinique really has its act together when it comes to foundations with UVA-protecting ingredients, and they feature a lower price point for superior products.

Despite the shortcomings, many women will continue to shop for makeup at their local Lauder counter, and there is still reason to do that—just not with the same blanket sense of confidence you may have had in the past. This is an exhaustive makeup line, with seemingly endless choices. We like that Lauder's makeup tester units are much more user-friendly, particularly for foundations, powders, and concealers. Their sales staff is more enthusiastic and present (often to the point of hovering) than the staff of many competing lines, but also quite helpful and up-to-date on product comings and goings. We feel strongly that you won't be disappointed with any of the Lauder makeup rated Paula's Picks below. Without question, those products are shining examples that prove Lauder has the capability to elevate the current state-of-the-art, raising the bar for their competitors. If only such innovation were evident in the entire line, there would be few reasons to shop elsewhere, save for the prices. As is, and more than ever, it pays to be a savvy consumer when you're about to navigate the cosmetics department.

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