Celebrity skincare (and haircare) for this matter has in 2012 been dominated by some particularly extravagant and not always convincing choices. But as the rest of us have a fiscal cliff to consider, I am contemplating the end of the year with some alternatives to Gwyneth, Jen and Glenn’s (as well as a few others) that really work and don’t require you to cash in royalties from your last blockbuster.

This year saw Jennifer Aniston fronting frizz-fighting haircare line Living Proof. The basic No Frizz Styling Cream worked OK for me, but I have never graduated to a repeat buyer. Furthermore, the formula is a rather nasty concoction of chemicals. The No Frizz Shampoo is simply ghastly. And over the years I have found myself trying to find better alternatives. I’ve put together some finds in a collection called the Curly Hair Tamer, which includes Yarok, Dr. Alkaitis and Shielo. Yarok does a Styling Whip ($24) that’s all natural and puts Living’s No Frizz Styling Cream to shame.

Meryl Streep likes Tracie Martyn’s Enzyme Exfoliant ($90). This is a mask and like all Tracie’s products (there’s a serum, cleanser and body lotion) it is based on natural ingredients. It exfoliates using pineapple enzymes and brightens with kojic acid. It is a nice enough product, but I found that it didn’t do much for me. My favorite exfoliating mask of all time is La Vie Celeste’s Restorative Exfoliating Mask ($60 in the shop). For something that is closer to the pineapple enzyme exfoliation, there’s PureCeuticals Multi-Enzyme Pumpkin Peel ($40) or 100% Pure’s Pineapple Enzyme Peel ($18).

Glenn Close uses Chanel Sublimage La Crème Texture Supreme. Of course she does. After all, at $390, it’s in the Hollywood superstar price bracket. And it is as pared down as the austere beauty of Ms. Close, with only one active ingredient responsible for, as Chanel puts it, boosting a woman’s beauty and self-confidence. Plain vanilla. There could be something to this. A study claims to “conclusively... demonstrate” that natural vanilla extract, the kind typically used as a flavorant “possesses antioxidant activity.” Now that you know vanilla is worth pursuing, I can save you about $350 by putting you on to some excellent serums that both feature vanilla. Me & The Girls Moon Beauty Serum ($38), 100% Pure Sun Damage Corrective Cream ($35), and Tilvee’s Argan & Sea Buckthorn Age Defying Serum ($35)

Gwyneth Paltrow’s favorite is facial oil Rodin Olio Russo. It is slim, minimalist chic and golden (just like Ms Paltrow). It looks so much like bottled sunshine that even my inner cynic was silenced. At $140, it is a little on the pricey side for 11 botanical oils, plus it doesn’t absorb all that well. For a less expensive but much more powerful antioxidant oil, I use Your Best Face Private Reserve ($75 in the shop) or the super absorbent and nourishing Kahina Serum ($90). While RMS Beauty’s Beauty Oil packs its golden liquid with organic ingredients for $74.

Nicole and Elle’s sunscreen secret is Invisible Zinc. The name alone captures the Holy Grail notion of a mineral sunscreen that doesn’t give you a chalky mask that a celebrity wouldn’t be seen dead in.  The problem with Invisible Zinc is that also invisible is anything that might do the skin good, the exception being fumitory, a botanical that is used to treat irritated skin. Despite the endorsement of Aussie beauties Nicole Kidman and Elle Macpherson, I’ll be sticking with Mukti’s Tinted Moisturizer with Sunscreen ($50), my almost invisible Snowberry Everyday SPF ($36) and antioxidant rich Suntegrity ($45 in the shop).

Helen Mirren is said to use 3Lab H Serum ($220). Michele Obama is also said to be a fan of 3Lab. When you get past the solvents and bulking agents, the best thing going for 3Lab is its signature oligopeptides. These peptides seem (there isn’t research) to be skin whiteners. There is in fact an ingredient based on oligopeptides called B-White and you can find it the reasonably priced MAD skincare range aimed at treating hyperpigmentation, such as MAD Illuminating Daily Moisturizer ($50) and  MAD’s Spot On hyperpigmentation serum ($38). And for the oligopeptide serum to end them all, look for Bioeffect ($110-$210), all the way from Iceland with its sh-oligopeptide-1 growth factor. Oh yes, and Martha Stewart loves it.