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Photographs by: Lisa Shin

The Best of Artisan Cosmetics

All-natural, artisanally made cosmetics put to the test.

If you wouldn't eat your bath and body products, you're using the wrong stuff, says Teporah Bilezikian, owner of the makeup company Monavé: "Cosmetics are like fresh batches of pudding — they shouldn't last six months." All-natural and handcrafted small-batch skin- and hair-care products used to be less accessible, but these days, there are more than ever. We tested a selection of products for both men and women. Here's what we found.

Ladies, put down your Pantene. (1) Red Leaf's shampoo bar ($11, etsy.com/shop/shopredleaf), created with ingredients sourced from the Seattle area, produces a surprising amount of suds and left my hair feeling cleaner than my usual shampoo. Next, my face: Of the cleansers and toners I tested, my favorite was (2) Angel Face Botanicals' Rose Crystal Toner ($32, angelfacebotanicals.com), which claims to contain a magic elixir, extracted from rose-quartz gems, that aids moisture absorption and reduces wrinkles. Whether it was the quartz or pixie dust, my face felt refreshed — and ready for makeup. (3) Craftiness's pink dymondwood and sable kabuki-style brush ($17, etsy.com/shop/craftiness) is ultrasoft (and ultra-girly). With it, I dusted on (4) Monavé's silk garnet blush ($14, monave.com), a mineral makeup that gives better coverage than a typical drugstore powder. Finally, I tested 13 scents. One, Theme Fragrance's Paisley Too, was a reminder of the tricky alchemy of perfumery; it was cloying, as if chocolate Lip Smacker lip balm had been liquefied. But (5) Theme's Lotus Lake ($15, themefragrance.com) shows what happens when it's done right. The subtle sandalwood-and-tea mix — a top seller for creator Elizabeth Morrison — is light, delicate, and deceptively simple. — Stephanie Schomer

You never see razor burn in old photographs. For all our modern tools — lubricating gels, moisturizing balms with SPF — an apothecary-style morning ritual combining today's knowledge with old-time techniques may be a better way. I started with a (1) Semogue shaving brush, handmade in Portugal by a small family business. The stiff boar bristles of the 1520 brush ($21, fendrihan.com) felt so great while exfoliating my skin that I may start brushing my face for fun. I used it with (2) GentlemEns Refinery's Black Ice shave cream ($28, thegr.com), developed by Las Vegas master barber Perry Gastis. Its light pink hue and whiff of anise (an anti-inflammatory) shocked me at first, but it builds a rich, not-too-thick lather. I finished off my face like my old man did, with an aftershave splash; (3) Portland General Store's whiskey aftershave ($12, etsy.com/shop/portlandgeneralstore), an alcohol- and sting-free Depression-era recipe made in small batches in Maine, tightens pores. To complete the nostalgic regimen, I dabbed on a little (4) Madame Scodioli Gray Skies solid scent ($7, etsy.com/shop/scodioli), a warm, strong sandalwood-like fragrance made by hand by a mysterious bearded woman in Kansas. The air is redolent with stories I've heard and characters I've met — and I never even left my bathroom sink. — David Lidsky

Photographs by: Lisa Shin

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  • Jacquelyn Mitchard

    I've used Beth's Theme Fragrance for seven years -- particularly the artisan scent that uses calla lily, as well as Bows and Eros, Seashell and Sarong. I've given it as a gift to movie stars, mother-in-laws, famous authors, talk show hosts including she-who-needs-no-last name and have never received a comment except, "THIS is enthralling! Where can I get some?" I will never wear anything else and I scoff at designer fragrances that ask me for $90 a bottle.