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The newest trend in cosmetics? Multitaskers

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A friend went on a trip to the Greek islands recently, packing just a single suitcase – and a toiletries kit every bit as streamlined.

In the latter was her toothbrush, a bottle of tinted Skinceuticals sunscreen that she also used as a foundation and Philosophy's Cinnamon Buns, a yummily scented body wash, shampoo and conditioner that doubled – or is that quadrupled? – as a bubble bath.

Why so, er, Spartan?

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"A foreign vacation isn't cheap," my friend said, tossing her curls. "I saved a bundle buying products that do more for less."

Her efficiency – or desire for it – happens to be a growing trend. According to a recent Ipsos survey sponsored by P&G Beauty and Grooming, 77 per cent of English-Canadian and 69 per cent of French-Canadian women want their skin-care concerns addressed with a single product. Given the turbulent economic climate of the past few years, such demands are probably as financially motivated as they are a matter of convenience. And beauty companies are responding, increasingly putting their energies into multitaskers like the ones my friend swears by.

"People are demanding products that do more than one thing," Toronto dermatologist Vince Bertucci says. "Skin care should be easy, not complicated. For the person on the go, two in one products are a great option. They're safe, efficient and cost-effective."

In the past, a multitasking beauty product might have involved a lipstick that doubled as a moisturizer or a day cream with an SPF. Today, though, multipurpose products run the gamut from a body wash/shampoo that is also a shaving lotion (the new Dial for Men Triple Action) to mascara loaded with vitamins (Maybelline's Full 'N' Soft waterproof mascara with vitamin E).

The goal, many industry reps say, is to make grooming regimens easier on personal budgets, less of a time commitment every day and more attractive in their new simplicity.

"Everything we create is meant to touch and improve our customers' lives in some way, based on what they tell us they need and desire," says Rolanda Johnson Wilkerson, senior scientist for P&G, which markets such products as Olay's Total Effects 7-in-1 anti-aging line. "Through our research, we have found that many women are expecting more from their beauty products."

To be sure, all-in-ones promising numerous skin-care functions at once are appealing in theory, but do they deliver?

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Benjamin Barankin, medical director of the Toronto Dermatology Centre, believes that simplicity is important as far as getting people to commit to a skin-care program goes, but he cautions that ease doesn't always translate into effectiveness.

"While some skin-care products effectively combine two active ingredients, such as the glycolic and salicylic acids in Alyria's Acne Exfoliating Solution, I don't believe that products [combining many more] will have sufficient concentrations of active ingredients to make sense," he says. "Too many active ingredients will actually start to cancel each other's benefits out."

Linda Stephenson, who grew so tired of her multipronged skin-care regime that, four years ago, she applied her advanced degrees in botany and chemistry to the creation of her own beauty line, Toronto-based Mèreadesso, doesn't entirely agree. "Technology," she says, "has advanced to the point where women today can get all their beauty needs in one product. It [has been] a remarkable breakthrough."

Besides skin care, this push toward simplification is also making tracks in the field of makeup products. Among those promising the widest benefits is Stila's One Step Correct, a primer, colour corrector, brightener and antiaging serum that is rated highly by beauty bloggers tracking the latest trends. Also popular are skin perfectors that double as foundation, such as CARGO Cosmetics' Tinted Moisturizer and Vichy's Neovadiol Lumière BB Cream, a blemish treatment promising flawless all-over coverage. Mistura's Canadianmade 6-in-1 Beauty Solution, meanwhile, is a hypoallergenic brush-on powder that selfadjusts to all skin tones, providing blemish control, medium coverage and a warm blush in a single application.

Based in Ottawa, Mistura has adopted a motto that neatly encapsulates what the industry as a whole is actively pursuing right now: "One product, one shade, one fabulous result."

Moreover, it should come as no surprise in this era of all-in-one or nothing that both consumers and beauty professionals are finding their own inventive ways to expand the function of their skin products, even those that weren't devised as multitaskers.

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"It's about getting bang for your buck," says Gucci Westman, the internationally acclaimed makeup artist and global artistic director for Revlon, who uses the brand's ColorBurst Lip Butter – a lipstick and lip-balm hybrid – as a blush, highlighter and eyeshadow.

"Why buy five items when one more than easily does the trick?"

When I attempted to share Westman's tip with my friend, the bare-bones traveller, she was well ahead of me, having already adopted it. She is also planning her next, cosmetically unencumbered trip.

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