A Sensitive Subject: Skin Care Line vBeauté Launches in Houston

The first thing you notice about Julie Macklowe is her face; specifically, her skin. It's kind of eerie how phenomenal it looks when you are up close and personal. You wonder, "Is she wearing makeup? Or does her skin care line work that well?" Whatever she's using, you want it -- buckets of it.

At this week's launch of Macklowe's vBeauté skin care line (you can find it in Houston at Therapy Hair Studio on Westheimer), we got the skinny on how Julie -- a former hedge fund manager and current New York City fashion plate/It girl/investor/entrepreneur -- got started in skin care. "My stuff got confiscated by TSA on a trip to France. "Luckily I was in Paris, so I bought replacements there, and four days later I was covered in hives. I swore this would never happen to me, or to anyone else."

Thus began a journey to find allergen-free, sensitive skin-friendly botanical ingredients to fashion into a luxury skincare line, a journey that led Macklowe to Swiss labs and ultimately the line she named vBeauté. Macklowe was quick to note, "But there are enough fake French names for skincare out there -- these are American! So we gave the products simple names, with a few cool double entendres in there." Eye Never eye cream, Buying Time everyday cream and Undercover Agent serum are fun without being too precious.

The star of the show isn't contained in one product but in the "It Kit" Macklowe created using the French toiletry confiscation/breakout nightmare that inspired the line in the first place. (The name, we imagine, is a cheeky nod to her status as the 2008 Vogue "It Girl.") A sleek, TSA-friendly case contains five travel-size products, everything you'll need to keep your skin looking great when traveling: the anti-wrinkle serum, "Rub-Off" exfoliator, Evidence Eraser cleanser, the everyday cream and the eye cream.

In addition to being fragrance- and paraben-free, all of the products in the vBeauté line are oat-, nut- and gluten-free. "When I was doing research, I wanted my products to be free of the most common allergens, which include oats, nuts and gluten," said Macklowe after we asked about topical gluten intolerance. "We can't take the place of a good dermatologist, but we can keep the focus on finding the most effective natural botanicals and leaving out allergens and irritants."

The botanical component that gets the most love is the Alpine Rose, a flowering plant which replenishes itself; plant stem cell technology features prominently in the nuts and bolts of the product pitch, but what we really wanted to know was how these products feel and what the results are. ("I'm not wearing anything but a little eye makeup and lipstick," Julie confided.)

Julie gave us a demonstration of her products, using the backs of our hands to test her serums and creams; she tested the eye cream on our knuckles -- brilliant idea. Each product proved to be truly fragrance-free. "Some companies say they are fragrance-free, but then add essential oils in. We do not. Our products are completely free of fragrance."

Another goal was to deliver luxury products at an affordable price. Though your definition of affordable may vary, price-by-price comparisons to other products at Bergdorf Goodman -- the first retailer to carry vBeauté -- bear out the claim. The It Kit retails for $165, while individual products range from $48 (cleanser and exfoliator) to $150 (brightening treatment). Replacement products for the It Kit start at $18 and go up to $42. A new product was also introduced at last night's party: Lip Spread Anti-Age Tinting lip gloss goes on clear and then takes on a tint that intensifies your natural lip color; the result is a pretty, mistake-free pout, though this is the one product your boyfriend or husband may not want to borrow.

Intrigued? The complete vBeauté line is available online through their Web site or locally at Therapy Hair Studio.