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BEAUTY : HOPE OR HYPE

Rating all-in-one salves

October 26, 2008|Melissa Magsaysay

Beauty aisles and counters are flooded with "technologically advanced" hydrating creams with fancy names like Firming Emulsion, Neuropeptide Moisturizer and Megadose Skin Fortifier -- all of which come with fancy price tags to match their packages and promises.

But what about the old-fashioned salves -- those all-in-one remedies that tackle everything from cracked heels to craggy cuticles? With colder weather coming -- and an economy that calls for getting the most bang for your buck -- there's no better time to revisit multipurpose wonder balms. We tried several of these miracle salves, including Bliss' new Problem Salved stick that claims 20 different uses, and the tried-and-true Smith's Rosebud Salve, to see if they truly deliver hope, or just hype.

Bliss Problem Salved

($18, Sephora)

A product offshoot from the popular chain of Bliss spas, this 0.45-ounce, TSA regulation-size stick resembles a baby-blue glue stick. Active ingredients include mango butter with vitamin E, kukui nut oil with vitamins A, C and E and tea tree oil. THE PROMISE

Can be applied head to toe (but not on the lips) to tame flyaway hairs, hydrate dry skin and soothe itchy bug bites, burns and chafing.

THE TEST DRIVE

Worked wonders on a nose rubbed raw from blowing, and flattened flyaway hairs without the weight of a pomade. But it stuck on hangnails in little blue clumps.

OUR VERDICT

****

Addresses most problems that can happen during a day (ashy elbows, dry legs, flyaways) and is compact and easy to carry. But it's not a lip balm. If it were, it might be our winner.

--

Egyptian Magic

($36, Whole Foods)

On the market since 1991, this product has a beeswax, honey and royal jelly extract formula that was "used in ancient Egypt as an anti-aging skin cream," or so the label says.

THE PROMISE

Label doesn't list any specific uses, but there's that vague suggestion of "magic."

THE TEST DRIVE

Best cuticle oil of all of the products, rubs into the skin the fastest and has an easy-to-control consistency. Too heavy for the hair; it left our locks looking greasy.

OUR VERDICT

***

Good for especially dry patches and cuticles, but not as face-friendly as the Eight Hour Cream or as hair-friendly as Problem Salved. Loses major points in the convenience contest. The 4-ounce jar makes it too big to tote around or carry on a plane.

--

Smith's Rosebud Salve

($6, Sephora)

This pink, rose-scented balm of cotton seed oil in a petroleum base was first prepared by a druggist in the late 1800s and later sold through the Rosebud Perfume Co., owned by George F. Smith.

THE PROMISE

Relieves chapped skin, diaper rash, rough cuticles and hands.

THE TEST DRIVE

Ideal size for toting as a lip balm and works well as a base for lipstick. But not rich enough to hold down hair or really moisturize rough spots.

OUR VERDICT

**

The best smelling of the bunch but really only good for lips. And it melts in an L.A. minute.

--

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream

($17, www.elizabetharden.com)

The cosmetics pioneer developed this cream more than 70 years ago. With 56.8% petroleum, it's like a less-sticky Vaseline.

THE PROMISE

Soothes chapping, peeling or flaking skin.

THE TEST DRIVE

We put it all over our face at night and it left our skin moisturized but not greasy. During the day, we used it as a highlighter on our cheekbones for a dewy look. Mixed with powder blush or eye shadow, it formed a lip gloss. Worked as an intense hydrator for cuticles, hands and elbows.

OUR VERDICT

*****

The most versatile and effective from head to toe.

BOTTOM LINE

The winner and all-around champion: At $17 for 1.7 ounces, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream is the savviest multiuse salve around.

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