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Best and worst age-defying beauty products

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Celebrities go to extreme lengths to stay youthful and beautiful no matter what their age. And while many resort to plastic surgery and expensive creams and lotions, you don't have to if you do a little research.

Skin care has come a long way during the past 30 years. In the past, the only effective creams were extremely expensive and could only be purchased from top dermatologists.

But with billions of dollars on the line, every major beauty company is vying for a chunk of the lucrative global cosmetics market. This fierce competition has resulted in innovative products that are available at affordable prices.

Best Beauty Products

One of my favorite astringents is witch hazel. Dab it on a cotton ball and glide it across your face to remove makeup or to tone your skin after — or instead of — washing your face with soap and water. Because it contains only 14% alcohol, it's mild and non-drying.

Another impressive performer for smoothing out skin is the Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion & Peel System. This easy-to-use kit left my skin velvety soft and smooth at a fraction of the cost of a professional micro-dermabrasion.

Obviously, a procedure at the dermatologist's office provides more dramatic results, but this kit works wonders for do-it-yourself'ers like me. However, some users have complained of breakouts, so use caution if you have sensitive skin.

Another great over-the-counter age-fighting beauty product is the Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum. This serum is a great daily moisturizer. It contains dimethicone, which provides a barrier to protect the skin against moisture loss and dehydration. And it goes on matte, so your face doesn't look shiny after your put it on.

Mineral makeup is quickly replacing liquid foundation in many women's makeup routines. Because these are available as pressed or loose powders, they look more natural than liquid foundation and don't make you look like you're wearing a mask.

My favorite is Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Face Powder. Because this powder is mineral (and not talc-based) it has a superfine texture and won't look chalky.

Worst Beauty Products

One thing I've learned over the years is that expensive does not mean better. One of the most overrated skin products is Creme de la Mer Moisturizing Cream. This cream retails for $155 per 1-oz. jar. The irony is that it's 44% Vaseline — one of the cheapest moisturizers around!

Having been one of those fools who fell for its hype, I was disappointed that putting this on my face was like spreading on spackle. Plus, this cream is just too rich for most people's complexions, and can cause breakouts.

Another dismal performer is StriVectin SD Cream. This was originally marketed to diminish stretch marks, but some obscure scientist somewhere, no doubt in tandem with a clever ad agency, discovered that StriVectin also fights wrinkles "better than Botox," according to its ads. And so a new holy-grail cream was born.

The only problem is, the stuff doesn't work. I paid $135 for a 6-oz. tube of the cream, which smelled funny and felt like Ben Gay.

So the moral is, while there are some truly effective beauty products out there, a lot of them are merely clever marketing ploys. Remember that cosmetics companies play on our collective insecurities in order to market their overpriced products. Do some research before shelling out big bucks for those "miracle creams."

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