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Two new local stores to hit with the girls The new e.l.f. (eyes, lips, face) flagship store beckoned me from blocks away. Upon entering the space, outfitted with makeup artists, shiny display cases, and makeover stations, I thought that, surely, I was seeing things. Mascara for $2? Must be a misprint. However, as my eyes flickered over all of the other products, I saw similar prices: $1, $2, $4. I've pretty much lived in Sephora since age 12, and could not believe what I was seeing. "We're able to offer affordable prices because we don't build in celebrity endorsements or exuberant advertising budgets," said Creative Director Achelle Dunaway, a makeup artist by trade. "We also buy ingredients in larger quantities." The company, which has been around for nearly a decade, opened their first store at 741 Broadway a few months ago, and had previously been carried only at Target, Walgreens, and Urban Outfitters. There's no pressure to buy anything after having your makeup done, but, seriously, when most products go for $3-5 bucks, why wouldn't you? Nifty original products include a special wand that shields your cheeks and brows from eyeshadow and mascara mishaps, an HD Crème Blush which, even in an intimidating hot pink, gave me a surprisingly subtle, rosy glow, and brushes like their Stipple brush which gives your makeup an airbrushed look ($3). Best picks for summer include an SPF 45 Mineral Powder ($6) Shine Eraser Sheets made with green tea extract ($1), SPF Studio Lip Balm that's sheer but actually visibly tinted ($3), and Mineral Personal Blend Foundation that allows you to custom blend four different shades into your perfect summer hue - that one will cost you more, but seriously, $8 is still a steal. e.l.f. is, essentially, the Forever 21 of makeup. Even if you only get a few uses out of their trend products and even trendier colors, the makeup pretty much pays for itself. --- Later I made my way down to 156 Prince Street to the new Le Palais des Thes store.( To be fair, anyone who hands me a glass of floral-tasting iced tea in the middle of a heat wave is already on my good side. As I looked around the shop, my attention was directed to a photo of co-founderFrancois-Xavier Delmas, a tea farmer in Darjeeling. His neice Aurelie and her husband Cy Bessiere run theU.S. branch of Palais des Thes. The pair spends half of their year travelling in search of the finest teas that Africa, Asia, India, and even South Korea (where tea is rare) have to offer. Their teas and "Les Creations" (special blends) from Paris are perfect for summer because they can be brewed at room temperature for about 30 minutes. No boiling, just add ice, and voila! Most of Le Palais des Thes's loose and boxed teas are reasonably priced. Their popular The du Hammam (green tea, roses, dates, berries, and orange flower water) runs $15 for 3.5oz, about 35 cups' worth. The gift sets and prepackaged canisters are on the pricier side, and so are teas like their Perles de Jasmin, tiny tea leaves hand-rolled into pearl shaped pieces. That one goes for $12.85 per ounce (about 10 cups), which actually isn't even all that steep (pun intended) for something so special. People use their teas in all sorts of funky recipes, too, for steamed chicken, fish, and duck - last week, a pastry chef made a cake with their Toffee blend. If you're new to the tea scene, they'll walk you through the whole thing. There's something here for everyone, guaran-tea-d.

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