By  on February 25, 2011

Call it beauty’s ultimate swag bag. Since 1996, Allure’s Best of Beauty Awards has sent several hundred attendees — including cosmetics and fashion executives, models, top photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists — home with a hard-sided suitcase stuffed with products. The 450 attendees in October came away with a snappy metallic plum and silver suitcase with $2,300 in loot — everything from a 3.4-oz. Calvin Klein Euphoria eau de parfum to a Cover Girl Smoky ShadowBlast in plum.

Still, determining which of beauty’s heavy hitters will walk out with a prize — even though there are 232 awards on average given at each event — is no easy feat, said Allure editor in chief Linda Wells during an interview.

“We started out doing the Best of Beauty Awards and feeling maybe that this could be a dangerous operation because — what — we’re going to decide one mascara is the best mascara? Where does that leave everybody else? It was a real challenge when we started out, but we realized that we were really careful about how we report on it. We really try everything, and we argue about it and we put it through tests. We have a panel of experts — doctors, cosmetic chemists, makeup artists, hairstylists — who don’t have a financial interest in any company, which is harder and harder to find these days. They help us analyze claims and make sure that the products are living up to [them].

“So we really combine all those things together and then sometimes we just treat them the way that any kind of consumer would,” said Wells. “We use them, and we see how we look in the morning and how we look at the end of the day and after an exercise class or after cocktails. We try products every single day of the year. We’re not just doing it for the October issue and then not looking at it again.” And neither are the winners: Over the last year, 80 of them have used the Allure Best of Beauty seal on their packaging, and, according to an Allure study, the seal helps sell 85 million items a year.

Even those who aren’t selected for an award clamor to include their products in the event’s suitcase, said Allure spokeswoman Liz Bliss. “We accept requests to donate from all brands, [whether they are] mass, prestige or indie — it’s not just exclusive to advertisers or nominated companies,” she said. “The bag is highly coveted — to be in and receive. It is a great opportunity for all brands to get their products into the hands of the most influential people in the beauty industry.”

This year’s edition is scheduled for Sept. 14 at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Start pumping iron now so you won’t throw out your back picking up the swag.

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