Remember the first time you heard someone known predominantly as an actor sing, and sing well? For example, I remember driving through Tallahassee in 2000, listening to WNLS (Tallahassee's best mix of the '80s, '90s, and today), when "Cruisin'" came on — not Smokey Robinson's version (obviously, because that would be the best of the '70s), but the cover by Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow, from that movie I still haven't seen and probably never will, Duets.
Gwyneth Olive Oil Paltrow, I thought (I assume that's what GOOP stands for), you can SING! It was such a pleasant surprise. Sure, acting and singing are both performing arts, but being good at one doesn't mean being good at the other — or even making an attempt at the other.
It's similar with beauty brands. Many have a specialty, an area of expertise for which they become known — like how Essie is recognized as a nail polish brand — but some have a seemingly random product in another beauty category that you may not even know about.
You should know about them, though, because these surprise products are no slackers. And that's why I'm gonna tell you about my five favorites.
It's a 10
What it's known for: Hair-care products with multiple benefits.
I was first introduced to the brand while living in Florida a few years ago — specifically its Miracle Leave-In Product, which is awesome not only because it makes hair look and feel healthier, but because the only noun they could agree upon for the name of the product was Product.
The surprise product: Silk Express Miracle Intensive Hand Cream.
This new product (but not, like, Product product) is the only non hair-care product (holy semantic satiation) in their line, which is why the first thing I thought when I received it was, WTF?! Probably an overreaction. But for a brand that knows hair, it sure has come up with something great for hands; it feels amazing on uncomfortably dry skin, and I wouldn't be surprised if hairstylists and colorists use it for their salon-specific hand woes.
What it's known for: Elegant Japanese skin-care formulas, and maybe some makeup, too. (Fun fact: Even though it's a Japanese brand, the name Shiseido is taken from a passage in the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes.)
The surprise product: Adenogen Hair Energizing Formula.
Shiseido has been making skin-care products for over 140 years, so maybe they were just feeling bored when they decided to give a hair product a shot. Not many people know about this "energizing" lotion, but those who've used it say that it has helped their hair grow faster and look fuller, thanks to its ability to boost the scalp's microcirculation. Some retailers sell it as a "men's" product, but Shiseido themselves says anyone can benefit from using it.
What it's known for: Neutral makeup shades in an (almost) entirely pencil-format collection.
Created by a chemical engineer who made her teen daughters the unspeakably gorgeous faces of the brand, NUDESTIX is one of my favorite new brands because they didn't just come up with a gimmick — they came up with a gimmick that actually makes makeup easier, thanks to how flattering and high-quality the products are.
The surprise product: The core of the line is six pencil products, but the brand recently welcomed a Lip Pen into the line.
It's twist-up, brush-on liquid that comes in four glossy colors and four matte ones. Just like the pencils, they're all neutral shades that look freakishly pretty on everyone.
What it's known for: Life-changing hair products.
Seriously, never have I experienced such a huge difference just by switching to a new shampoo and conditioner than when I tried their No Frizz line a few years ago. Did you know an MIT cancer researcher founded the brand? Science, man!
The surprise product: Neotensil, which has been touted as the first shapewear for under-eye bags.
The kind of intimidating directions explain, "After applying a smooth, uniform layer of the Reshaping Base to coat the skin's surface, you will glide the Activating Layer on top to activate the formation of Neotensil over the course of one hour." YOU WILL. A little scary, but people who use it say it's worth it, because look at the results!
It ain't cheap, and you have to get it from a dermatologist, but if you're not happy with your under-eye bags, just know this option exists. (And from a hair-care brand!)
What it's known for: Fancy-shmancy skincare products with proven ingredients.
They make one of my all-time favorite moisturizers, Alpha Lipoic Super Antioxidant Cream, but I can't afford it, which gives me The Sads because it's so good. In addition to containing the two ingredients I've personally found to be the most effective on smoothing out fine lines, alpha-lipoic acid and DMAE, it also smells delicious — some kind of fresh, light, borderline-tropical floral blend.
The surprise product: An aromatherapy candle.
Although the only note it has in common with the cream is bergamot, I love the scent just as much. It's got jasmine, herbal tea, orchid, and white musk, and I've easily zipped right through the 70 promised hours of burn time. Luckily, it's a quarter of the price of the moisturizer, so getting another one is more realistic than getting a refill of the cream.
Can you think of any other beauty brands that make surprisingly off-brand products? What are you favorites?