Allure Best of Beauty Interview With Amy Keller Laird

The Beauty Bug is back, and it feels good! She’s excited to share her 4th annual Best of Beauty interview with Allure Beauty Director, Amy Keller Laird. Tried, tested and true, the editors slathered, swatched, and sprayed until they uncovered the 193 best products available. Some sported uneven, multi-colored tans, while another borrowed a SUV just to be able to manage and stockpile the product load. From an instant whitening toothpaste with a blue tinge, to an advanced skin lightening system that she is “especially stoked about”, here’s what Amy had to say about this year’s Best of Beauty Awards.

BB: Can you talk about the awards in general this year (how/if they were different from years past, how many products you received, if there were any surprises, new categories, etc.)?

AKL: This year was especially exciting because it is the 15th anniversary of the Best of Beauty awards-not to mention we had Karlie Kloss, the hottest model of the moment, as the star of the photos in the magazine (have you seen her on the runway? For lack of a better word, she is so fierce). We received thousands of nominations, but we also take into consideration products that haven’t been submitted but that we’ve tested throughout the year. Every year we reevaluate our categories in case we need to add something timely or omit something that’s no longer relevant. This year, we did add a number of new categories:

* For skin, we added “Instant Brightener.” This went to Clarins Beauty Flash Balm because so many of us (along with models backstage) use it to refresh the look of the skin immediately.

* For Eye Cream , we added “Moisturizing” as a category. Previously we’d had “Dark Circles,” “Anti-Wrinkle,” and “Depuffing,” and we thought, well, a lot of women simply want to add moisture to dry undereyes. It was one of those “duh, we-need-this” categories.

* For Foundation, we added “Best Shade Range.”

* For Shampoo and Conditioner, we added “Frizzy and/or Curly Hair” as a category, because it’s a question we get a lot from friends and readers-what do I do in the shower for my frizzy hair, my curly hair?

* In the Straightener category under Hair Styling Products, we awarded two products: one temporary, traditional straightener, and then the John Frieda Frizz-Ease 3-Day Straight Semi-Permanent Styling Spray. We wanted to reflect this new type of product that’s hit the market-hair products
that claim to keep your hair perfectly straight for several days without a salon blowout. In our experience, the John Frieda one actually lasts four days.

* For Scent, we brought back “Room Fragrance.” We decide every year whether we want to include this category-it really depends if there’s a standout product that warrants it. And the Cire Trudon Room Spray in Abd el Kader that won this year certainly does-the ribbed, old-world, atomizer bottle is absolutely gorgeous and special, as is the fresh scent inside.

* For Body Bronzer, we added a “Temporary” category to go along with traditional and gradual self-tanners.

* We also tweaked a few category names to make it easier for women to know if they fit into that category. For example, “oil-free foundation” became “for oily or acne-prone skin.”

BB: When it comes to the Big Breakthroughs, the issue always takes one product to the next level. A few years ago it was No Frizz. What do you think that product will be this year? Which product impressed you the most?

AKL: My vote is for the Elure Advanced Skin Lightening line. In the past, products that fought dark spots and discoloration did so by blocking the production of melanin deep within the skin-a process that takes 12 to 16 weeks to see results. What the Elure products do is attack melanin right on the surface of the skin by breaking it down into small, colorless molecules that are removed with normal exfoliation. A top dermatologist told us her patients have been seeing their hyperpigmentation fade within four weeks using Elure. The company has great science and good clinical studies, so it stands up on a professional level. On a personal level, I have a bigger issue with dark patches than wrinkles, so I’m especially stoked about using this.

BB:  Grady (Amy’s husband) is always testing products with you. Any shared favorites this year that you’ll be fighting over?

AKL: Um, he may not want me sharing this with the public but here goes anyway: He loves the Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pads, which won for “Facial Self-tanner.” These towelettes exfoliate as they deposit a subtle bronze color. By the time I can even get to the box to use one, he’s already emptied it!

BB: What’s the max number of products you had in your bathroom and shower at once?

AKL: I didn’t do an exact count this year, but my guess is somewhere in the 50s or 60s. If you added in the makeup on my vanity, that’s another 20 or so products. And if you also counted the products sitting in bags in my living room waiting to be tested, that’s another 20 to 40 products at any given time during the testing process.

BB: Top Splurges – if someone wanted to spring for just one, what would you recommend?

AKL: The Clarisonic-it’s $195 but truly worth it. Tons of Allure editors swear by it for keeping their skin glowing and soft, and dermatologists are also big fans-they recommend it all the time.

BB: If The Beauty Bug’s memory serves her right, you’re a big fan of Giorgio Armani foundation, but that didn’t make the cut this year. The foundation buck has been passed on to MAC and Chanel.  How do the newly crowned foundations measure up?

AKL: Good memory! I do love Armani’s foundations-that hasn’t changed-but every year we have new favorites that come into play. For example, the Chanel foundation that won in the “Light Coverage” category is really a game-changer: It’s a completely different type of formula. It’s in a shaker bottle-the formula is very thin and fluid, but it’s not streaky and somehow still manages to cover flaws but feel invisible. The M.A.C. Studio Sculpt Foundation that won the “Medium to Full Coverage” category has a nice satin finish and simply does not budge-it’s used a lot backstage at fashion shows for these reasons.

BB: Any behind-the-scenes stories you can share? Editors going to extreme  lengths to lobby for their favorites?  Stories of Twit pics of bathrooms being overtaken by products? Stories of testing gone bad?

AKL: A few times a week for a couple months I took pictures of the row of products I planned to try that day and posted them on Twitter-it was always a mix of hair, skin, and body products plus makeup. People would tweet back in support of their favorite brands they saw in the photos. There were so many products to test, one editor drove a friend’s SUV into the city, packed it with products, then unloaded everything into her apartment. Another filled her tub with bags of products that she went through systematically. There were  days we wore different mascaras on each eye, and more than one root volumizer in our hair-in different places-so we could compare the results. And one editor was four different degrees of tan at one point since she’d tried four formulas on her arms, legs, and chest. As for testing-gone-bad, my assistant now has a scar on the back of her leg from trying a too-sharp razor, which she considers a proud “battle
wound” from Best of Beauty!

BB: Any new or indie brands that you’ve discovered through the awards?

AKL: I’d heard of the line Jouer before and tried a couple of their products, but I wasn’t familiar with their tinted moisturizer until Best of Beauty testing this year. Wow-it is fabulous. It’s really hydrating, doesn’t collect around your nose or mouth, and gives you a soft glow without being greasy.

BB: When does testing begin for the 2012 awards?

AKA: February 2012

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