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The Best in Budget Beauty Awards: 2009

2009 is drawing to a close and it's time for my annual beauty awards! Everything here is budget friendly, well under $20 (under $10 in most cases) and really is great!

I begin with the best overall product of 2009 and it may surprise you:

BEST OVERALL PRODUCT OF 2009: Vinegar--I use vinegar all the time. Twice a week, I use apple cider vinegar diluted with water to remove styling buildup and add bounce and sheen to my hair. It doesn't have to be organic, although it really is better. You can get away with what you find at the grocery store.

Dryer sheets? Not here. I add distilled white vinegar to my rinse cycle and it softens my clothes, sheets, and towels while removing static.

I also use diluted white vinegar to clean the house--from countertops to bathroom tile to mirrors and windows...Apple cider vinegar, when it's diluted works well on wood floors, especially with a bit of essential oil added (I add orange and lavender, usually).

It can be used as a skin toner for oily skin--when diluted, of course.

Vinegar, when infused with herbs and properly diluted, can be made into a wonderful 100% natural aftershave for men.

BEST FACIAL CLEANSER: Aunt Nancy's Rose Clay Facial Bar is what I use. Since I stopped making cleansers, I have told all my customers about this as well. It is fantastic. I use it morning and night. It's so, so gentle and really just an exceptional product!

BEST EYE PRODUCT: An old favorite...Burt's Bees Royal Jelly Eye Creme is a balm, actually, and I used it for years before I created my line of skin care. It is really a lovely product.

BEST FACIAL MOISTURIZER: Nature's Gate Have a Vine Day Chardonnay Hydrator--I am very critical when I evaluate facial products. This one is a nice product. It's by Nature's Gate and can be found right in most Wegman's stores. It's available over the internet as well for $15-20. This one is chock full of natural oils and antioxidants, too.

BEST DRUGSTORE FACIAL SERUM: DermaE DMAE Alpha Lipoic C-Ester Serum is a really nice choice.

BEST SHAMPOO: Burt's Bees Color Keeper Green Tea & Fennel Seed Shampoo. By far the best out there, this smells fabulous, works like a dream, and is gentle. I recently bought this again and have to say that after comparing it to my other favorites, this one is my clear favorite. At $8 for a 12 ounce bottle, it's also the most economical of my favorites.

RUNNER UP: Get Lathered (formerly In a Lather) Solid Shampoo Bars. The Burt's is more wholesome and contains fewer chemicals, but this is the best handmade one on the market.

BEST OVERALL CONDITIONER: Burt's Bees More Moisture Raspberry Brazil Nut Conditioner--Again, this works like a charm. I actually like all of their conditioners, but love how this makes my hair feel after swimming. It smells comforting and warm--like a bakery treat. Again, at $8 for a large 12 ounce bottle, you cannot beat the price.

RUNNER UP: Get Lathered Conditioner That Rolls is a great solid conditioner and pairs well with the Get Lathered Shampoo That Rocks.

BEST OVERALL SUNSCREEN: Jason Natural SPF 15 Hand & Body Lotion: Sunscreen is one of the trickiest areas to find a truly natural AND effective AND non-greasy product. I have honestly not tried one I loved. Not yet...

I typically mix zinc oxide or a cocktail of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in my own facial cream. I have tried several "natural" sunscreens, though. The one I probably like best is marketed for hands and body (so it's a large bottle, unlike ones marketed as a facial SPF). I used this on my face successfully and without greasiness. I keep buying and trying, hoping to find a perfect one...

BEST CHILDREN'S SUNSCREEN: Jason Natural Sunbrellas Kids Waterproof Sunblock SPF 46--Again, it is not perfect. This is the best I have used on my boys, though. It's thick and smells worked like a charm all summer long.

BEST BAR OF SOAP: I have yet to find a decent drugstore or other commericial soap without palm oil. Even my favorite Burt's Bees is so disappointing with their palm oil usage... Never fear! The best soap on earth is still by my friend Nan Goodwin of Aunt Nancy's Handmade Soaps! No others are are good, and that's a promise!

RUNNER UP: Alchemic Muse is completely palm oil free and her soaps are gorgeous works of art.

BEST BODY WASH: Queen Helene Certified Organic Fair Trade Cocoa Butter Body Wash--A true bargain, too. I get this for $5.92 for a 16 ounce bottle at Lucky Vitamin! Nourishes, lathers nicely, and smells soft and comforting. No SLS or harsh chemicals. A real find!

RUNNER UP: Dr. Bronner's Shikakai Baby Soap was very close behind. Use it in your hair, on your face, as a handsoap, liquid body wash, etc...wonderful!

BEST BODY CREAM OR BODY BUTTER: Queen Helene Cocoa Butter Creme--Again, under $6 for this gem. It's a thick, emollient cream which is perfect for elbows, knees and feet. I use this when I want something other than straight coconut oil or shea butter. Smells fabulous! Nothing else I have tried in 2009 compares, so there isn't a runner up.

BEST BODY LOTION: JR Watkins Vanilla Hand & Body Lotion is divine and smells true. This is a neutral, realistic vanilla bean scent. This is a stellar alternative to the popular Avon Naturals (which is anything but) Body Lotion, which is known for its wonderful vanilla aroma. Best place to buy? Try it for $6.50 for 11 ounces from Enviroproducts World.

This one comes in several scents, all of which are wonderful and true! Try others such as lemon cream, lavender, green tea, and more.

BEST CONCEALER: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Fast Fix Concealer easily wins this competition. I first tried it a few weeks back and can tell you it works well. If you like Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage, but don't like the chemicals in it or the price tag, try this. It's a wonderful product--truly high end caliber at a low price.

RUNNER UP: Not nearly as good as the winner, Hard Candy Nobody's Perfect Concealer Palette is an affordably priced and quite decent product. (now at Walmart).

BEST LIQUID MAKEUP: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Your Skin Makeup. It gives you a soft and sheer, yet buildable finish. It's luminous without being greasy. It lasts all day, too!

RUNNER UP: Ulta Fabulous Face SPF 15 Foundation -- I am not usually an ULTA brand fan. This one is stellar and paraben free. Try it if you cannot find the Carmindy in your shade.

BEST MINERAL POWDER FOUNDATION: Physicians Formula Organic Wear Loose Powder-- Some people buy this and think it's a finishing powder. It's actually a loose powder foundation. This is high-end caliber makeup found in the aisles of Target, Walmart, and the grocery store. This is a gem. Retails for $14, but with coupons from the Sunday paper and weekly drugstore sales, you'll find it all the time for $9 or so.

RUNNER UP: Everyday Minerals Intensive Foundation is a worthy contender with so many colors from which to choose that you cannot go wrong.

BEST FINISHING POWDER: Physicians Formula 100% Natural Pressed Powder wins this one. This is a GREAT powder. It last all day without looking chalky and the colors are natural. The one negative? The packaging on the paperboard compact is very flimsy and breaks easily, so be careful. Application tip: use a fluffy kabuki brush to apply. The brush included is not of the best quality.

RUNNER UP: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Truly Translucent Loose Powder is also a worthy choice.

BEST EYESHADOW: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Instant Definition Eye Shadow Palette. Run over to Ulta and pick up one of these. Silky soft with beautiful blendability, these are divine. My favorite color trio is called The Mountain, a palette of everyday neutrals.

RUNNER UP: Almay Pure Blends Eye Shadow was a very close second.

RUNNER UP: 100% Pure Lip Gloss--While not technically a drugstore find, this, until recently, was really the ONLY affordable and natural lip product worth writing about. Too many "natural" lip products contain a host of polymers and carmine as a colorant. This is a good pick. $13

BEST MASCARA: Physicians Formula Organic Wear. This replaced Tarte Lash Hugger as my all-time favorite mascara last year. Paraben free AND effective! Who could ask for more?

This used to be very hard to find, but I see it on nearly every visit to Ulta and most Target store these days.

RUNNER UP: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Lift & Define Mascara

BEST BLUSH: Sheerest Cream Blush by Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy.
I have this in both Beaming and Bloom and they are just absolutely wonderful. Second to none.

RUNNERS UP: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Powder Blush and Almay Pure Blends Blush.

Here are my picks for the very best in beauty and skin care products for 2009. While some stellar products are only available online, the rest can be found right in your local Target, Walmart, or grocery stores.