Years ago, Marie Claire invented a fabulous column called Splurge vs. Steal that showed delicious, drool-worthy designer products paired with their far more realistically priced doppelgangers. And it was genius! Everyone and their brother knocked it off. (Lust vs. Must, anyone?) No one had ever had the balls to say, “There is cheap stuff that looks just like the expensive-as-hell-stuff. And here it is.” Talk about pissing off high-end advertisers. But somehow it worked, and I don’t think there were too many casualties. Some people, though, didn’t get it. I remember one grande dame in the PR industry saying to me, “I think that column is ridiculous, why would anyone buy the expensive version when they can have the cheaper one? They should call the column, Smart vs. Stupid. I mean, no one is that stupid.”
OK--truth time: I am that “stupid.” I not only prefer to make the “stupid” choice, I revel in it. I just happen to like (ok love) designer and expensive. With beauty products (and don’t get me started on shoes and handbags), the packaging is always more gorgeous, the makeup pigment richer, the textures more luscious, the moisturizers more moisturizing, the fragrances finer and the effects more profound. I know these thoughts aren’t rational because there are tons of mass market beauty products that are really, really good—probably, great, even. I just don’t get the same rush slogging my way through poorly-stocked and disarrayed drugstore aisles or even Target (sacrilege I know) as I do blissfully strolling the beauty floor of Bergdorf Goodman. And I have a love/hate relationship with Sephora. Even though it has fabulous products, the place is always a mess, badly-stocked, crowded, noisy and deplorably lit. I feel like I am doing battle every time I go in there, unless I am meeting my star beauty advisor Zoe at the Powell Street store in SF.
But my allegiance to all things expensive is no longer feasible now that the cosmetics companies aren’t sending me all of their latest and greatest products (and my daily staples) for free. So here Notorious NYCK sits—a girl with champagne tastes on a beer budget. But with a little digging and a whole lot of resolve, I’ve found a few reasonably priced versions of my extravagantly-priced addictions. And while they don’t elicit the same passion, these cheaper products do get the job done--and I am only suffering slightly as a result of the substitutions. I know, I know, everyone should have such problems!
Splurge: Clarins Water Comfort One-Step Cleanser with Peach Essential Water : $32.50 (clarins.com)
This is a beautiful cleanser. It’s fast, gentle, thorough and moisturizing. And Its heavenly peach fragrance makes it a pure pleasure to use.
Steal: Sephora Collection Triple Action Cleansing Water: $14
The only drawback to making this switch is missing out on the sublime scent of the Clarins version. This cleanser is every bit as good. Promise.
Splurge: Dior Snow UV Shield SPF 50: $50 (dior.com)
I’d like to pause and just take a moment to worship at the temple of Dior. I am obsessed with its beauty products; they are just beyond gorgeous. This sunscreen is silky, moisturizing, non-irritating, applies like a dream and is completely imperceptible on skin. Plus, its sleek white tube with black accents is perfectly portable and incredibly chic. And while it does contain some chemical sunscreen, Snow UV Shield’s key defensive ingredient is zinc oxide, which is great for sensitive skin. An added bonus is that natural sunscreens like zinc and titanium dioxide provide immediate protection against the sun since, they are physical blocks. With chemical sunscreens, you need to wait at least 30 minutes before their protective powers kick in.
Steal: Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer Pure Screen SPF 50: $11.99 (Neutrogena.com)
The tube is nothing to write home about and the consistency a little less velvety than Dior’s, but this product is a good, daily 100% natural sunscreen with moisturizing properties that blends well and doesn’t leave a preternaturally white sheen on skin like 100% natural sunscreens can.
Splurge: Nars Monoi Body Glow II: $59 (nars.com)
God I love Nars. It is impossibly glamorous. If I could eat it, I would. I first got turned on to the tinted version of this product (Body Glow) by this young gorgeous European couple who used to summer next door to us on Fire Island. Both he and she would frolic in the sand and surf in low SPFs and tiny bathing suits. At the end of the day, they would anoint each other’s sun-kissed skin with this divinely-scented, shimmery cocoa-colored oil. (This act was only a little less pornographic than it sounds.) They looked so golden and gleaming, I had to try this magic elixir myself. What I got for my efforts were brown streaks (I am glow-in-the-dark pale so the color didn’t blend) and stained clothes. I am also impatient and not interested in “drying time.” But I am obsessed with the clear version of this product. It makes skin crazy soft, lends a subtle shimmer and imparts a flowery coconutty scent.
Steal: Monoi Tipanie (tahiti-iti.com, $7.98):
I am pretty darn proud of myself for finding this bargain-priced version. It looks, smells and feels just as good as the Nars product. And while the packaging is less chic, it’s sort of retro and kitschy with a Gauguin-style Tahitian woman on the label, so you can’t help but smile every time you use it. Monoi oil was originally created in Tahiti, BTW. It’s comprised of pure coconut extract macerated with the bud of the tiare flower (Tahitian gardenia), which supposedly infuses the oil with nutrients as well as a delicate, fragrance. The Tahiti-iti (God, don’t you just love that name?) website offers several different scents of Monoi oil, but the one that most closely resembles the Nars product is the Tipanie, or Frangipani variation.
Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.