Leaving them high or dry

Our first challenge for the new N&O Beauty Panel was to assess the moisturizing abilities of five products designed to tackle dry skin and hair after a long, dry winter.

Only one product was soothing enough to win most of their votes: Curel's deep penetrating foot cream. At less than $5 a bottle, you can't beat the price for softer feet.

See what other products won their approval, on Page 3D.

St. Ives Whipped Silk Moisturizing Body Wash, 13.5 ounces, $4.79, drugstores

Sarah Brady: This body wash worked pretty well, as it seemed to moisturize without being greasy, and the texture was right. However, it smelled absolutely horrible: somewhere between old flowers and oatmeal. And the gray-green color wasn't too attractive either. For five bucks, I'd rather spend my money on something that works and is appealing.

Cindy Donovan: I wanted to love this product. It definitely left my skin feeling more moisturized than if I had used regular soap. It lathered well and felt quite creamy. But the smell; it wasn't awful. There was definitely a faint, light fragrance. Unfortunately it was overpowered by another scent, which reminded me of cooking oil. Maybe it was the sunflower seed oil that was in it. But both my husband and I agreed that we weren't fond of the fragrance. It didn't prevent me from using it, but I wouldn't run out for another bottle.

Marilyn Hartman: St. Ives worked as well as any of the body washes I've used over the years. A little goes a long way, too, and it makes lovely suds. Its delicate scent is that of old-fashion soap. No sandalwood, orange blossoms or sperm whale fat. Just soap. This body wash is a winner.

Patty Honeycutt: I was so disappointed in this product. I use St. Ives Whipped Silk body lotion all the time, and I love it. I thought I would enjoy the body wash. It lathers nicely, and it rinses off well. It just smells so … plain. I want my soaps to be invigorating and lovely to smell. The scent of this body wash is just a washout; no oomph. I would not purchase this.

Carrie Johnston: I don't really recall an indulgent lather, but the product does leave my skin soft and moisturized. The fragrance is a bit perfume-y, but personally, all body washes are, it seems. For $4.79, I would definitely buy this over the more expensive drugstore brands, such as Oil of Olay, Johnson & Johnson or Dove. The St. Ives version didn't feel as heavy or greasy on the skin, and most important to me, did not leave that oil slick on the shower floor!

Bella Il Fiore Genie in a Jar Body Gloss

8 ounces, $14,

Sarah Brady: This product came in a wide-mouth jar, and the texture of the gloss made me feel like I was dipping into a tub of Crisco. It left my skin feeling oily, and the scent made me think of medicine. All in all, my least favorite product of the five.

Cindy Donovan: Cute packaging. Nice fragrance (although my husband thought it smelled like medicine). Creamy? Not so much. More like greasy. It felt like I was rubbing Vaseline all over myself. Oh wait, with petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly) as the second ingredient, I essentially was. I like my creams and lotions to absorb into my skin, not make me feel like I have on a protective oily coating.

Marilyn Hartman: "Seals in moisture" is probably accurate. But while other lotions and creams soak into my skin, this just slithers on top and stays there -- for a long time. I'm not sure that "radiant glow" is how I'd describe its shine, either. Not my kind of genie.

Patty Honeycutt: The first time I used this product, I wished I had not. The scent was a bit too flowery for my taste, and the texture was too greasy. Twelve hours later, however, my legs felt so soft that I changed my mind. The rosewater smell was gone, and the effects of the moisturizer won me over. I learned to ignore the initial slimy sensation and grew to love how soft it left my skin.

Carrie Johnston: My first thoughts were creamy Vaseline, to be honest, but I found the scent to be pleasant and intoxicating. I initially felt the consistency and my thoughts were confirmed. It is basically Vaseline, but I gave it a try. My skin made it through an entire day without becoming itchy or ashen. I was concerned that as heavy as it is (you don't rub it in as much as you glide it on your skin) that I would be sticky all day, but it really sinks into skin after a while. It does provide a glow that is not as oily as baby oil, so it is a nice product to have when you need to look shiny and radiant. Would I pay $14 for this jar? Maybe if I bought it at the beginning of winter. A little goes a long way with this product! I do not see myself using it in the summer though, and I could easily get by with regular Vaseline and a few drops of rose oil or my favorite perfume for much less than $10.

Curel Targeted Therapy Deep Penetrating foot cream, 3.5 ounces, $4.23, drugstores

Sarah Brady: I run track and play soccer, so my feet are prone to dryness and calluses (and just being gross in general). This cream worked exceptionally well. I used it at night, then put socks on to sleep in, and when I woke up, my feet felt 10 times softer. I definitely plan on continuing to use this, as it's cheap and effective (and it smells good, which is unusual for foot cream).

Cindy Donovan: Finally! A foot cream that works! My heels are normally dry and cracked despite my daily efforts with a pumice stone. But after just two nights (actually, I even noticed a difference after the first night), my feet were infinitely softer and smoother than they have ever been, even better than after a fabulous pedicure. Plus, it smells nice to boot. I am hooked!

Marilyn Hartman: I tried Curel on just one foot for a week, for a comparison test, and so did my husband. Neither of us saw that it made much difference.

Patty Honeycutt: I love this product. Dry feet have plagued me my entire adult life. Short of getting constant pedicures, I despaired of ever having soft feet. This cream has eliminated the dry, cracked skin on my heels. My husband is thrilled -- no more raggedy feet dragging across his legs at night. I will definitely purchase this reasonably priced cream in the future.

Carrie Johnston: By far, my initial favorite product. I am very hard on my feet, particularly in the winter. The first night I put this on, my feet felt less scratchy. It doesn't seem to have long-lasting effects (if you skip a day, you're back to where you started), but I liked that it wasn't too heavy. It went on nicely and absorbed quickly and didn't leave my feet feeling greasy. I would definitely buy this again.

Skin Milk Body cream,

16 ounces, $6.29, drugstores, Ulta

Sarah Brady: I absolutely loved this product. It smelled like vanilla, but not overwhelmingly, and it sunk in and moisturized well without leaving a greasy residue. The only problem was the texture: The cream is closer to a liquid than a solid, and I invariably ended up spilling some each time I used it. Also, it's in a pretty big wide-mouth jar, so it's not what you could call convenient.

Cindy Donovan: An understated tub of cream that when I opened it up reminded me of a jar of marshmallow fluff; it even smelled sweet like it. I was eager to slather it on, because the airy white cream felt so silky. It did take a little elbow grease to get the white lotion to absorb. And then I noticed it -- a slight after-smell ...Play-Doh? Yes, I said it, Play-Doh. Like I was just eating some marshmallow fluff after playing with Play-Doh. It wasn't strong and it went away after a few minutes. But I definitely smelled it. It didn't preclude me from using it, although the cream left my skin tacky afterward, which I did not like. It isn't bad, but this isn't a cream I will be reaching for regularly.

Marilyn Hartman: This was really effective and easy to use. It's thick but not greasy. Its mild fragrance is a plus. This is a keeper.

Patty Honeycutt: This cream smells like Play-Doh. It goes on smoothly, and a little goes a long way. Hours later my skin still felt soft, and I didn't notice the smell quite as strongly. My daughter told me I smelled like a baby after I applied the cream. Maybe it was the Play-Doh scent. Though more reasonably priced than Genie in a Jar, I probably would not purchase this in the future, mainly because of the smell.

Carrie Johnston: I kind of liked this one. The aroma was very pleasing, and I loved the consistency, at first. The only downside is it takes a while to absorb into your skin if you're fresh out of the shower. I used this for three consecutive days and noticed that my skin was softer and less itchy and not nearly as ashy as it usually is during the winter. It did have an odd effect on the texture of my skin. It almost felt as though there was a thin plastic shield on it rather than it feeling soft and supple. I would use this again, and the price point is nice for the size jar that you get. The jars are cumbersome to travel with, but I feel like I can get every ounce out of a jar as opposed to a bottle or tube.

CIBU Miso Knotty

Leave-in Detangler,

8.45 ounces, $13, salons,

Sarah Brady: My hair doesn't generally tangle, so I gave this to my sister to try. It seemed to work well; she would spritz her hair and comb the detangler through and have much easier-to-manage hair. However, it smelled musky; definitely not feminine. Though I wouldn't use this regularly, I do plan on taking it to the beach and the pool, where my hair tends to tangle more.

Cindy Donovan: I thought this name was genius -- "Me so knotty, therefore I need Miso Knotty." Truth be told, my hair is straight and fine. Tangles aren't really a problem for me. But I thought, it's a leave-in conditioner, so at the very least it will leave my hair soft and silky. Wrong! I dutifully spritzed it into my hair after shampooing and blew it dry. My hair felt a little sticky, my ends looked dry, and my hair was … knotty! I repeated this for several days with the same results. I then tried using less product (only a couple of spritzes) but still, my hair was less silky and less smooth than if I hadn't used anything. Also, the scent was rather masculine ... woodsy and musky. Neither my husband nor I liked the way it smelled in my hair.

Marilyn Hartman: I gave the Miso Knotty detangler to my curly-haired friend, Leah, and she loves it. She found it easy to apply, and effective when styling her hair after it dried. No lingering fragrance, either. She's won over and is using it now instead of conditioner

Patty Honeycutt: This leave-in conditioner is very light, and it didn't weigh my hair down like some leave-ins do. It has a pleasant scent while not being overbearing. While it didn't weigh my hair down, it didn't really help my fine, straight hair have any extra body either. I will not be buying this product in the future, only because there are other products that work better for my hair type.

Carrie Johnston: I liked the scent of this and it seems to work pretty well. I have relaxed hair, but I still suffer from tangling when it's wet. Miso Knotty allowed me to comb through it a bit easier with both wide-tooth and narrow-tooth combs, so I am pleased. It's a bit of a bummer that I'd have to purchase in a salon (I don't have a regular stylist in the area) so this would be difficult for me to come by. If I could pick this up at Ulta, I would be sold! Most of my hair-care products are on this end of the price spectrum, and I usually see very good results, so the $13 bottle is not an issue for me.