The Viva Team Reviews May’s Best Beauty Buys, From Makeup To Haircare

By Ashleigh Cometti
We tried, before you buy. Keep reading for the new release beauty products that are worth the hype (and those that aren't). Collage / Ashleigh Cometti

Our editors share their honest thoughts on every new beauty product to land on our desks in May.

It’s been a big month in beauty land, with so much movement in the industry both locally and abroad, not to mention the flurry of new products that have launched

As editors, we’re lucky enough to be sent a handful of beauty goodies to try before the rest of the public, and this month we were treated to everything from blurring primers and perfecting skin tints to detoxifying scalp oils and fresh scents to spritz.

While some were worthy of a permanent spot in our makeup/skincare/hair care/body care rotations, others left us wanting.

Read on for the Viva team’s picks of new beauty products worth trying this month.


“This wasn’t to my taste, unfortunately. Gel creme formulas are usually my preference; I use the often sold-out BareMinerals Complexion Rescue so am receptive to alternatives, but Kosas BB Burst felt too greasy and it was hard to blend (I have dry skin). The shade goes on much lighter than it looks in the bottle and didn’t ever really adjust to my skin tone. Try before you buy this one.” — Emma Gleason, deputy editor lifestyle audience

“I often skip primer in my everyday makeup routine, instead prepping my base with a moisturiser and sunscreen. The primers I have trialled haven’t really worked for me, producing unpleasant sticky textures or hindering the smooth application of my foundation. I was pleasantly surprised with this Shisheido iteration. The formula is relatively light but its application is still creamy. It felt like an extra level of moisturiser — ideal for my dry skin — and it didn’t seem to affect the application of my makeup at all. Throughout the day, I didn’t notice a huge difference in the staying power of my makeup (which I don’t have a real problem with — makeup will always shift and move throughout its wear). Though I did enjoy the formulation, I wouldn’t necessarily reach for this on an everyday basis, mostly due to my distinct demand to maintain a short and sharp (and earth-friendly) routine. For me, it’s going to be best suited for special occasion wear, in harsh drier climates (Auckland’s encroaching winter will do nicely).” — Madeleine Crutchley, multimedia journalist lifestyle premium

*Editor’s note: Available on counter from July 1.

“This honey-infused lip oil is like if a gummy bear had been melted down and made into a lip gloss, and I quite liked it. The texture is thick but spreadable (very shiny!), and tasted like artificial fruit (in a good way), owing to its mango passion punch flavouring — like I was consuming lollies all afternoon, except that I wasn’t. It transfers easily (it won’t last long beyond one drink), but for anyone after a glossy, glassy pout, it’ll do the trick.” — Julia Gessler, multimedia journalist lifestyle premium

“Foundation sticks are usually a product I’m a bit sceptical of. I can be prone to breakouts — especially if I’ve been touching my face a lot during the day or using makeup brushes in need of a wash — so smearing a stick of product directly on to my skin has felt too risky to trial. The application instructions for this skin tint by Anastasia affirm this application straight on to clean skin, so I was careful to avoid any active breakouts upon application. The product is really easy to blend out and super sheer, which is in line with my preference for coverage. Surprisingly, I loved the convenience of the stick. It’s a foundation I will pack while travelling. It would be a relief not to worry about disastrous suitcase spills (I lost a full bottle of Nars foundation and a couple of tops on a domestic flight to Wellington a few years ago). It probably won’t replace anything in my everyday routine but it’s nice to have a backup for rushed mornings and jetlagged adventures.” — Madeleine Crutchley, multimedia journalist lifestyle premium


“Applying eye cream makes me feel so virtuous, like I’m really participating in self care. This Derm Phyto Nature Lifting Eye Cream is fragrance-free and has quite a thick texture that requires warming between your fingers before applying under the eye and to the eyelid. After three days it’s too soon to tell if I’ve experienced any lift but this is a product I’m keen to keep using for its calming and hydrating properties. I also found the application of the cream around the orbital bone, as per the instructions (the set of bones that surround your eye. I had to Google that too) quite soothing, like a mini facial, which would probably cost less than this product to be fair.” — Johanna Thornton, deputy editor lifestyle premium

“My philosophy when trialling beauty products is to always finish one bottle before opening another, so when I emptied my vitamin A-based face oil recently, I was excited to reach for Dr Dennis Gross’ latest offering. Soaked in a 0.2 per cent concentration of pure liquid retinol, these skincare swipeys slotted into my nighttime skincare routine after cleansing but before applying serum (the instructions say to apply on clean, dry skin). Anyone who’s familiar with Dr Dennis Gross’ formulations will know that they all smell terrible and this one is no exception. Even after applying other skincare on top (I opted for an ultra-gentle copper peptide serum and a glycerin-based moisturiser) I could still smell the remnants of this formula on my face. I’m often nervous when trialling a new vitamin A-based product as my skin can be quite sensitive in certain areas, so I was grateful to spy squalane and hyaluronic acid on its ingredients list both known for their soothing and hydrating benefits. I concentrated my swiping efforts to my T-zone and my cheeks (areas where I felt the retinol would perform its best on my uneven skin texture, congestion and enlarged pores), making two passes over my face before turning the swipey over and concentrating on my neck and decolletage. I always take a ‘slowly slowly’ approach when trialling anything new, so will wait to open a fresh swipey next week rather than go hard, too soon. No one likes an impaired skin barrier!” — Ashleigh Cometti, beauty editor

“I love a spritz. The instructions on this advise using morning and night, but I’m ignoring that and keeping it on my desk to use throughout the day. Face mists are, in my experience, essential when working in an office with circulated air, reviving and refreshing while helping ward off that husk feeling. The mist radius and velocity is important, and Adashiko’s is just right. This has botanical oils, and though I’m usually a bit sensitive to these, they have proved totally fine so far.” — Emma Gleason, deputy editor lifestyle audience

“As someone who doesn’t use toners that much in my skin routine, this was a welcome product. The thin texture makes it easy to dab and apply without irritating my skin. Alongside that, my skin didn’t feel clogged or oily after use. My biggest positive would be the smell, as the yeast was very subtle (often yeast-based products smell way too yeasty). I’d probably have to use it for longer to warrant a better review.” — Luke McHale, AUT lifestyle intern

“The serum has a medicinal smell, like mint mixed with antiseptic lotion. It’s a light purple colour — it looks a bit like the Scapegrace black gin. It’s rich and hydrating but not easily absorbed on my skin. The saturate cream is super nourishing — great for a night cream but there’s no way I could use this in the morning, as the label suggests. It would be far too heavy for my oily skin. I loved the packaging — sleek black with gold lettering, it looks like something you’d find in a luxury hotel. Waking up the next day after first use, my skin felt beautifully smooth.” — Stephanie Holmes, premium lifestyle and travel editor

“I wanted to like the Veletta Bioactive Illuminating Serum, I did, but for all the touted benefits (hydration, thanks to jojoba oil, avocado oil, squalene, New Zealand-native red seaweed and black fern extracts, and helping ward against hyperpigmentation by ‘decreasing pigment biosynthesis’), it was hard to get past the smell. It’s very strong for such a light product — floral, as if I’d coated my face in potpourri.

The Veletta Revitalise Eye Cream, said to de-puff, brighten and nourish the under-eye area, was nicer, also a light product sans the floral affront. I patted it around the hollow of my eye and up to my temples. It’s a gentle cream (perfect for my sensitive skin) from a brand calibrated for mature skin, and one that sits nicely under moisturiser.” — Julia Gessler, multimedia journalist lifestyle premium

Hair care

“I’m always excited to give a hair mask a whirl. I have long, curly hair and it needs all the moisture it can get. This Joico mask has a nice smell, with a hint of Hi-Chew Grape and a good, thick texture. After applying it to clean, damp hair and letting it sit for the required 2-5 minutes I rinsed to find a lovely silken texture to my hair. I did my usual blowdry routine and my strands felt a bit softer than usual but I wouldn’t say it was any stronger or shinier than usual. I am definitely overdue a haircut though; I’ll try it again when my hair isn’t as haggard.” — Johanna Thornton, deputy editor lifestyle premium

“Our beauty editor Ash knows I like to take care of my scalp, so she’s given me this Act+Acre Cold Processed Scalp Detox to trial which I really found easy to use and not too oily. The 20-minute pre-wash oil is formulated with 1.28 per cent baobab oil that breaks down build-up, sweat, and other impurities. What I loved about it was how it moisturises the scalp, so when you’re done washing your hair, you really feel like you’ve given your entire head a decent spa treatment and my hair is much easier to drag a comb through. It doesn’t have too much of a strong fragrance to it, and the application nozzle is perfect for dispensing just the right amount on to your head. The protective seal was fussy to remove, but otherwise the 89ml bottle and its minimalist design is a chic addition to your bathroom cabinet.” — Dan Ahwa, creative and fashion director, Viva

Body care

“I do love using Malin + Goetz products, the formulas work well with my body. The first thing I noticed about this was the texture — great consistency for a body scrub and easy to apply in the shower, and it lathers to a nice wash. A simple and easy pump nozzle, this is something I’d take to the gym after a workout, too. But it’s the smell of eucalyptus that really makes this a decadent addition to your shower routine — I’d recommend this at the end of the day when you’re needing to wash the day off and breathe in the relaxing effect of the eucalyptus to help enhance and support a good night’s sleep.” — Dan Ahwa, creative and fashion director, Viva

“Cuticles as dry as mine necessitate having as many tubes of hand cream as I do living in my handbag/glove box/atop my bedside table. I was recently sent a tube of the newest scent added to Aesop’s line of cosseting hand care, which has threatened to throw my current favourite off its perch. Its herbaceous aroma is a spicy blend of cedar atlas, patchouli and clove bud, which lingers on skin long after the cream has absorbed. Scent aside, it’s laced with kind-to-skin ingredients like glycerin, shea butter and plant-based oils, making it my top pick of hand creams to smooth on during the cooler months. Plus, it’s packaged up in the prettiest wisteria purple tube which appeals to my propensity for anything remotely girly.” — Ashleigh Cometti, beauty editor


“This fragrance was light, fresh, soapy and maybe a bit too zingy when first sprayed. But nice notes of lemon and subtle spice came though. The atomiser was decent and the bottle was aesthetically pleasing. It’s definitely not the longest-lasting fragrance out there, but it was great as a versatile unisex product.” — Luke McHale, AUT lifestyle intern

More test drives

From niche skincare treatments to budget beauty buys.

Fire and ice facial, review: Would you try cold shock therapy on your face? Viva beauty editor Ashleigh Cometti test drives the newest celebrity-approved treatment.

How to build a low-waste beauty routine. Overwhelmed by plastic piles, Madeleine Crutchley trials a low-waste beauty routine for one week.

The best celebrity beauty buys, according to the Viva team. From a nostalgia-inducing lip gloss to a moisturiser that perfectly primes for makeup, these are our favourite celebrity beauty buys.

After trialling the TriLift By Lumenis Facial Stimulation, our writer tossed out her BB cream. Rebecca Barry Hill discovers a firming skin treatment that delivers a “pillowy glow”.

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