This story is part of the Road to Best of Beauty series, which shares a behind-the-scenes look at the meticulous testing process for Allure’s 2022 Best of Beauty Awards.
Best of Beauty debuted in 1996, and in its 26-year run, it’s crowned some truly innovative breakthroughs, recognized leaders in skin-care technology, and inducted so many products that are now mainstays in millions of routines that it’s easy to forget how much time and effort goes into the process.
Allure’s deputy digital director Kara McGrath has been swiping, priming, and spritzing for three Best of Beauty Awards seasons, making her a consummate pro at deciphering what makes an award-winner just that. This year, she was on the nail polish beat — meaning no fingers were left unpolished for the entire summer. Here’s an inside peek at how she tested — and ultimately crowned — her Best of Beauty nail polish winner.
The Evolution of the Testing Process
“My first season testing it was 2020, so it was the first time Allure had ever done remote testing. I also was in an apartment in New York — a tiny space — and both me and my partner were working from home. We got through it. Year two, again, I was working remotely, this time from New Hampshire, but things were much more organized. This year — year three — I tested 34 different categories, but it was smooth sailing.”
Everyone Is a Tester
“We open submissions in February for products that launched within the past year, then editors pick which categories they want to test. And it’s not just the beauty editors [that test], it’s everyone who touches Allure: Our research director, our photo editor, everyone who touches Allure in [a meaningful] way. We make sure there’s a nice mix of skin tones, hair colors, and hair textures that test each category as it’s relevant, so we get a really wide birth of opinions.”
The Testing System
“We have huge spreadsheets and I put all my notes in there. For long-wear nail polish, I put one polish on each fingernail and then I go throughout my business for a week taking notes on which ones chipped first, and which ones have lasted.
I test [ten nail polishes at a time by putting one formula] on each finger, then I rotate the fingers so none are at a disadvantage. For example, I’m right-handed and I use my thumb for everything, so that’s the ultimate test. It gets beat up way more than my left hand.”