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Top-Shelf Status: High-Design Beauty

We’ve rounded up some of the best-looking beauty products on the market.

By Rachel Gallaher

While we all know that the most important aspect of a beauty or skincare item is how well it works, here at GRAY we’re also interested in how it looks. From mascaras to eyeshadow palettes, much of the contemporary beauty counter inventory is bright and poppy—neon hues, punchy text, themed collaborations—it catches the eye but isn’t our first choice aesthetics-wise, and most often the items end up tucked away in a bin or drawer. Here, we’ve rounded up a mélange of beauty and skincare products and accessories that are beautiful, well-designed, and effective. In other words, they deserve center stage on the counter.

The Triumphant Trio

Part of the AW2020 launch from legendary French fashion house Hermès, the Rouge Hermès Limited Edition collection captures the transition of seasons, paying homage the calm beauty of the still life and domestic landscape paintings by John Register and Arduino Cantàfora, and the abstract compositions of Jean Hélion. Available in three shades of pink with matte and satin finishes, the lipsticks come in gorgeous, tri-color tubes that beg to put on display. Très sophistiqué.

Feeling Textual

Who doesn’t love a little dirty humor now and then? Over at Heretic Parfum, the cheeky labels might skew naughty (count Flower Porn, Midnight Toker, and Naked Rose among the masses), but their formulas are clean. Working with 100% naturally derived ingredients, Heretic Parfum blends up non-gendered fragrances that are free from synthetics, vegan, and never tested on animals. Dirty Violet features notes of leather and patchouli counterbalanced with hints of violet leaf, and its smoky-toned geometric bottle pops against white bathroom tile.

The Gold Standard

The world is complicated right now. Your beauty routine doesn’t have to be. Manage all the tangles with a touch of luxe by picking up these gold combs from Aerin. An elevated version of the classic barbershop or drugstore comb, these made-in-Italy counterparts are crafted with acetate galvanized with 24-karat-gold. Available in large (above left) and travel (above right) sizes, so you can make a statement, even while on the go.

First-Class Upgrade

Speaking of being on the go, if you’re still shoving your makeup and shampoo into a Ziploc bag every time you travel, it might be time for an upgrade. For the ultimate cosmetics carry-all, look no further than Santa Maria Novella, the storied Italian apothecary that opened in Florence in 1612, and is still in business today. Known for its rich fragrances, soaps, and candles, the luxury pharmacy also offers healthcare items and accessories such as this leather beauty case, which is handmade by Florentine artisans and way too chic to be shoved in the closet after every trip.

Apply the Rainbow

Originally launched in Seattle (go home team!), Herbivore Botanicals is dedicated to clean beauty. It’s pure, highly concentrated, and effective original formulas contain no fillers and are organic, high quality, and made with food-grade ingredients. That means safe to put on your face. An added bonus? The colors! Each serum or oil is easily identifiable by its vivid color, which also makes them a pretty addition to any makeup tray or countertop. From left: Emerald CBD Oil soothes stressed-out skin, relieving redness and irritation; Lapis Blue Tansy Face Oil moisturizes dry skin and is formulated for oily or acne-prone complexions; Prism 12% AHA + 3% BHA Exfoliating Glow Serum leaves skin exfoliated, smooth, and glowing.

The Shaving Sophisticate

Ditch the pink plastic razor and treat yourself to the world’s first single-edge safety razor designed especially for women (although, of course, anyone can use it). Launched in 2015, Oui the People offers razors handcrafted in Germany with a weighted handle and a special non-aggressive 30-degree angle so there’s no need to apply pressure—one of the main causes of razor burn and ingrown hairs. Over the summer, the company released its newest colors: matte rose gold and matte gold, but the razor is also available in black. We say ‘oui’ to displaying this beauty on the side of the tub.

Get the Light Right

Okay, so candles aren’t technically ‘beauty items,’ but one could argue that a high-quality candle is a must-have in any bathroom, whether to add visual texture or set the mood for a relaxing bath. The newest release from centuries-old French candlemakers Maison Trudon, The Alabasters, is more than just a candle, it’s truly a sculptural art object. Reminiscent of its name, each one-of-a-kind candle takes on the look fine-grained, translucent gypsum in a creamy white shade that blends well with any style.

Beauty Bon Bons

Brighten things up sink-side with these gems from Claus Porto. Known for its luxury soaps and eye-catching packaging, the Portuguese company offers these mini soaps in an array of color schemes (Iris Guest Soap Box seen here) that can be mixed and matched to complement your décor. Pro tip: these sets also make amazing hostess gifts.

Chain Reaction

Is it any surprise that K Beauty made it on the list? We’re obsessed with the minimal packaging and chic gold chain on this Nude H.And Cream 000 from South Korean beauty company Tamburins. The signature scent brings bergamot and sandalwood to the forefront, while skin-friendly vegetable oil ingredients strengthen the skin barrier. Leave out on the counter or hang on a wall hook for easy access and a touch of luxe.

Mirror, Mirror

New from Vancouver-based designer Calen Knauf, the Roli mirror takes a simple, everyday object and elevates it through thoughtful design. With a bamboo frame available in two colors (natural and sage green), the Roli mirror has a curved handle that allows for handheld use, or two different angles of table or countertop use. Sleek and streamlined, this piece is striking, but easily blends with most décor, in the bathroom, or elswhere. We recommend perching it on the nightstand to make the before-bed skincare routine that much easier.

Blushing Beauty

As part of its holiday beauty launch, Chanel presents Les Chaînes de Chanel, a limited-edition illuminating blush powder that gives the skin a warm, luminous glow with a bronzy-rose shimmer. Although the outer packaging comes in Chanel’s standard black, it’s the powder itself that has us ‘oohing and ahhing.’ Created by Lucia Pica, Chanel’s global creative makeup and color designer, the powder is embossed with a design inspired by the signature Chanel chain interlaced with black leather. It’s almost too pretty to use.

Paris, Please

It’s official, we want everything from Buly 1803. Opened more than two centuries ago on Paris’s rue Saint-Honoré, the apothecary launched specializing in perfumes and scented vinegars. Today, Buly 1803 still focuses on innovative cosmetic techniques and on the virtues of natural ingredients, offering everything from silk-bristled toothbrushes in handsome tortoiseshell acetate (above left), the most beautiful bottle of mouthwash in the world (above middle), and a plethora of artisan soaps (above right). With packaging featuring vintage graphics and historic bottle shapes, you can travel back to glamorous 1920s Paris every day—or at least while brushing your teeth.

Natural Beauty

If your style is more on the subdued earthy side, then Nature of Things—a natural beauty line that believes in the restorative importance of relaxation—might become your next go-to. The company’s Restorative Floral Bath is as soothing to look at as it is to use. Made with seawater, cannabidiol, and green tea oil, a large pour in the bath will help revitalize and energize, while the elemental jar can take pride of place in your shower rack.

Get a Glam Glow

Much like its clothing line, Givenchy’s couture beauty always has a glam edge. Take the cult-favorite Prisme Libre powder, seen here in a special-edition silver case with a feminine black lace top emboldened with Hubert de Givenchy’s signature. The color-correcting loose powder features four shades that tailor to the skin for a smooth, matte finish. Much like Givenchy himself, it's a tried-and-true classic.

A Shapely Shave

In collaboration with British designer Tom Dixon, Harry’s—the popular men’s grooming and shaving supply company—has just released its newest limited-edition handle collection. Originally designed as a concept for an experiential build-your-own-razor pop-up for 2019’s London Design Festival, the handles, which Dixon says are inspired by the vintage handles of the old safety razors, come in two designs and two colors: silver and black.


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