Not Your Basic Beauty Awards

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If we told you that picking the winners in this year’s Beauty Innovator Awards was a monumental task, would you believe us or whip out your tiny violins? We know, we know: There are plenty of jobs that are a whole lot tougher and less enjoyable than swiping on mascara. But in the realm of beauty, sifting through 25 categories with 100-plus hair, skin, makeup, and nail offerings is just about as arduous as it comes, save for Fraxel — because that ish HURTS.

But our nine fearless judges selflessly sacrificed their faces and free time to try each and every last product and determine which one deserves to be called the champion. There were plenty of, shall we say, passionate feelings, but in the end a winner for each category was crowned. Without further ado, we present to you the well-deserved winners of the Refinery29 Beauty Innovator Awards.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY NADYA WASYLKO; GIFS BY SAM CANNON; STYLED BY BETHIE GIRMAI; HAIR BY ELOISE CHEUNG USING JOHN MASTERS ORGANICS; MAKEUP BY MISUZU MIYAKE @ ARTMIX CREATIVE USING CHANEL LES BEIGES; MANICURE BY HOLLY FALCONE USING FLOSS GLOSS; MODELED BY CACIA ZOO; MODELED BY CLEMENTINE DESSEAUX AT MUSE NYC; MODELED BY ITCHEL COKER; MODELED BY MARGIE ASHCROFT; MODELED BY GABBY RICHARDSON; MODELED BY JERZA MATTHEWS.

Hair

Dry Shampoo That Will Hide Your Too-Hungover-To-Take-A-Shower Hair

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo

The product is called Perfect Hair Day, and it has 100% earned that moniker. The R29 beauty team was already enamored with it (“It makes your hair look clean, adds volume, and actually smells good,” said McIntyre), and after a few sprays, the rest of our judging panel was, too. Its high-tech formula absorbs oil and sweat — something most dry shampoos don’t. A fancy-sounding molecule then helps remove the oil-and-sweat-soaked powder, so that when you shake out your hair, all that gunk goes with it and you are left with the closest thing to clean hair you can get outside of a shower.

As Ess said, “Some dry shampoos end up making your hair feel dirtier. This won't do that, and it lasts all day.”

Living Proof
Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo, $22, available at Birchbox.
Styling Product That Can Conquer A Traumatic Bad-Hair Day

Ouai Texturizing Hair Spray

The Kardashians’ go-to stylist Jen Atkin is more than a one-Kim pony. She also happens to have one of the most buzzed-about new lines of 2016: Ouai. This hybrid spray is described as what would happen if a dry shampoo and a hairspray had a baby. That offspring would be a featherweight hairspray that also volumizes hair and adds texture and a hint of grit. Polymers give it its flexibility, while volcanic ash is the secret oil sucker-upper.

Said Marshall, “This creates the perfect slept-in, model-off-duty texture.” Sold.

Ouai Texturizing Hair Spray, $26, available at Birchbox.
Crunch-Free Hairspray To Lock In Your ‘Do

R+Co Vicious Strong Hold Flexible Hairspray

Strong-hold and flexible don’t seem like they belong in the same sentence, especially when you’re talking about a hairspray. And yet, here we are. Besides having one of the most visually arresting packages on the market (Who wouldn’t want that peeking out of their hair stash?), it’s also one of the most advanced products of its kind. It has a polymer blend that provides control and heat-protection, pro vitamin B5 for conditioning and volume-building, and a high-tech holding complex that cements everything in place but still leaves hair touchable, brushable, and moldable.

Ess was so smitten with it, she had to come up with a new word to describe how she felt: “lovesessed.” “It’s hard to find long-lasting, strong hold, and flexibility all in one.” Echoed Czuleger, “It has good hold, but doesn't make your hair feel too crunchy. You can comb through the product, and it is workable.”

R+Co Vicious Strong Hold Flexible Hairspray, $29, available at Birchbox.
Best Under-$20 Hair Buy

Carol’s Daughter Almond Milk Restoring Conditioner

While our judges were wooed by the delicious smell of this rich conditioner, it was the soft, shiny hair it imparted that really sealed the deal. Vitamins, proteins, and, yes, almond milk, soften and repair tortured hair. Because as much as you may try to deny it, that flat iron (or bleach addiction, or quarterly relaxer session) is not doing your mane any favors, no matter how good it looks after.

“I love Carol’s Daughter,” said Halle. “It [has] really nice, natural ingredients and keeps my hair looking nice.” Mars was impressed with its curl-defining properties, while Ess gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up. “It’s a great, budget-friendly option for restoring moisture to even the driest hair,” Ess said.

Carol’s Daughter Almond Milk Restoring Conditioner, $12, available at Carol's Daughter.