Shopping Obsession: Kiehl's Galleria

Disclaimer: I am not a dermatologist, nor an esthetician. I am merely an obsessed, 35-year-old beauty fan whose skin has been in a constant state of flux since I moved to Texas. See a doctor for diagnosis and treatment -- see me for shopping advice.

Once upon a time I had lovely skin. Technically, I probably still do, and someone with real skin problems would take issue with my newfound mid-thirties angst. Part of my problem is more frequent flare-ups of sebaceous dermatitis -- an unholy combination of oily and dry, scaly skin (DO NOT GOOGLE IT), which I have battled for the better part of eight years. The other part is my constant testing of new products -- cosmetics, and skin care -- on my poor little face.

Yet it was neither of these things that drove me to the Galleria-area Kiehl's store. No, it was some patchy sun damage at my hairline that prompted me to seek out a spot corrector. Damn you, Texas, and your relentless sunshine! It's almost enough to make me miss my translucent Alaskan pallor...

Another disclaimer: A big reason I wanted to check out Kiehl's -- aside from the rave reviews on their Web site for the Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution -- is that they are known for their generous policy of handing out product samples. And you know how much I love sample and travel sizes. There is nothing worse than investing in expensive skin care only to find in a week, or two or three, that it stops working, or doesn't complement another product I use, or just irritates my skin. Then my expensive face cream becomes an expensive foot cream. That does not make me happy.

But shopping at Kiehl's does make me happy, and I'll give you a list of just a few reasons why:

• Their aforementioned generous policy of handing out all the samples you want. • My favorite sales associate, Justin, who knows every product in the store backward and forward. • I've converted my husband to the products. To the point where he likes going there to shop, and -- even more impressive -- that his final instruction to me before leaving on his most recent business trip was, "Don't forget to go to Kiehl's and get my soap!" • In addition to a generous sample policy, they have a generous return policy. Every time I shop I hear, "If you don't like it after a couple of weeks, just bring it back!" • The apothecary-style packaging and labels feel at once vintage and luxurious. I think the packaging should make you feel at least as good as the product inside.

Kiehl's is certainly more expensive than drugstore brands like Neutrogena, but less expensive (by various degrees, depending on the line) than Chanel, Estée Lauder or Lancôme; it's positively affordable compared to heavy hitters La Prairie and Clé de Peau. After about three weeks of continuous use, the results of the Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution are remarkable, and I have been testing other products with great success as well. I'm a huge fan of the Midnight Recovery and the Rosa Arctica Eye Creams, which both retail for less than $50. My husband is addicted to the Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap -- as am I -- which comes in at a hefty $15 but lasts forever, and unlike most exfoliating soaps, actually works. Oh, and their classic musk moisturizer? An absolute must, and perfect under Chanel No. 5.

Very rarely do I come across a brand that delivers so much, across the board. The products are wonderful, especially for the price. The staff (I seriously love Justin) is friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about their own products. Their e-mail newsletters contain useful information as well as good online promotions; their Twitter is responsive and friendly as well. Let's face it -- literally: Our skin is our number one accessory. When my skin is happy, I'm happy -- and lately my skin has been very, very happy.

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