When I think of the best beauty products, the ones that most impressed me in 2010, there seem to be three themes: cost effective; plant powered; fun. With economy continuing to sputter, the first is a no brainer. We want our beauty products to work, but we want them to be priced for our times. Meanwhile, it isn’t enough to slap the words organic or natural onto our potions and lotions and expect us to be satisfied with a dusting of green tea. Botanical active ingredients are really coming into their own with plenty of research to back them up and the best products are taking advantage of their antioxidant properties. Fun? Well yes, some of my favorite beauty products of 2010 have a sense of humor and a playfulness that doesn’t undermine their serious intent to make us look better.

One product that sums up all three is Tilvee’s Tilvee’s Acai Pomegranate Rejuvenating Masque ($27 in the TIA shop). Imagine an orchard of exotic fruit, packed with antioxidants and other good things. Wouldn’t you love to just crush it all and rub the goodness into your skin. This face mask has plant power in spades and the powder format means you can have loads of fun mixing it with your favorite toner (my favorite of 2010 was La Vie Celeste’s) or raid your fridge for yogurt, honey and fresh fruit for your own concoction. And as for my first criteria, you can’t quibble at $24. When I returned home from the holidays, this was the first thing in my bathroom that I made a grab for.

New brand SenZen gives playful and whimsical names to its serious skincare products. I like the Double Dose eye cream and the Drenched & Quenched hair serum. But my favorite is the everlasting moisturizer, Infinity ($95 in the TIA shop). Our reader reviewer, Summer, described it as wonderful and I agree. Infinity has a potent blend of peptides (eg caprooyl tetrapeptide-3) and botanicals that include cupuaçu, murumuru, passion fruit and babassu. It is one of the few moisturizers that can do double duty as a neck cream. And with a little going a long way, the $95 price point isn’t at all bad.

Thanks to Fergie, I have good hair days with Sheilo’s antioxidant-rich leave in conditioner. This is the best hair care product I have come across for ages. It has hexapeptide-11, which may be able to help convert young velus hair into mature hair. There are plenty of other good things here including antioxidant white tea, apple, soy and cysteine, an amino acid that helps form the antioxidant glutathione. Plus there is immune system boosting golden seal. At $19.99, the price isn’t at all hair raising.

Most at home versions of salon treatments are a disappointment (I didn’t love the microcurrent systems I tried last year). Exceptions are the Clarisonic Brush (a 2009 best of beauty winner) and my trusty Baby Quasar. I get emails every day asking me what can help sagging jowls and marionette lines. Creams can only do so much, but with a Baby Q we do stand some kind of chance of defying gravity. If you can’t afford the salon versions, or want to top them up, a $400 investment is well worth it.

Another new launch in 2010 was Your Best Face Refresh. Many Truth In Aging readers had called for a lower priced alternative to the Correct eye cream ($150 in the TIA shop) and YBF listened and responded with Refresh ($80). We sent out a few to our VIP readers and the reviews have been very positive. Refresh is packed with antiaging ingredients such as spin trap and, Syn-Tacks and L-carnosine. Although I don’t think of YBF as being big on botanicals, there are some choice plant extracts here including cucumber, turmeric and oakmoss.

You could argue that E’Shee doesn’t fit my criteria. Its products are expensive and light on plant power and the thing that’s funny is how they can charge so much for such teensy amounts. That being said, E’Shee’s Serum Cellular Repair ($179 in the TIA shop) was the best anti-wrinkle product I found in 2010. The standout active is a recombinant human growth factor, FGF1. Growth factors decline in our skin as we age and cosmetic growth factors and proteins considered to be potent wrinkle reducers. I expect to see more growth factors in 2011.

Please leave comments with your own nominations for the best beauty products you tried in 2010.