Jergens Brilliance Flawless Effects

Once upon a time, there was a BB cream lotion product by Jergens. I loved it dearly for the no-hassle very faint tan it produced on my skin, and I kept buying it until even the close-out stores stopped carrying it. It looks like Flaweless Effects was meant to replace it, given the near exact ingredient listing both of them appear to tout.

This isn’t meant to be a self-tanner specifically, even though the shea butter makes it smell like one, but more of a color corrector. The color of the lotion is an iridescent purple-grey-brown color (is there a word for that kind of color?!), but once absorbed, is colorless. Well, I shouldn’t say colorless, since the pigments in the lotion are meant to cancel out any unwanted tones in your skin, such as age spots or blemishes.

The color payout on the Brilliance product is actually quite apparent a few hours after application. It creates a very light brown pigment over the skin. Compared to the older version which created more of a yellow tint, I like this coloration much better. But the Brilliance lotion is much “dryer” than the BB cream. It dries quickly, therefore is harder to spread around evenly. Rest assured, you won’t experience any “streakiness” a self tanner would give you, but you’ll need to be mindful when applying this product in areas of thinner or thicker skin.

The color is by no means a deep color that is meant to last for days, but rather, maintain your skin tone at a consistent, slightly darker color over the period of a few days. That color can actually last through a few showers.

Though I loved the CC Cream and I think I like this product as well, I’m not sure what the need for a re-formulation was. The ingredient listing looks the exact same, and still contains a few questionable parabens that they could have omitted the second time around. The CC Cream felt more luxurious and plush (ie: actually moisturizing!), while the Brilliance lotion is difficult to work with. It leaves a film behind, which makes me feel oily as opposed to moisturized.

The Brilliance lotion is still a good buy at $10 if you’re looking for subtle color to color correct throughout your body. Like most body lotions, I would not recommend this for the face. But I’m quite impressed with color for this just being a correction cream! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 3.75/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Sensitive skin users might want to patch test. Avoid using this on your face.

Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water (Pink Cap)

Generally speaking when I see the brand “Garnier”, alarm bells go off in my head and I try to avoid the product. Hair products like Fructis and Smoothing Treat that have isopropyl alcohol pumped into their ingredient listing? CC Creams with alcohol denat listed third? No thanks. Their Micellar Water might just be their one outstanding product, and grabs a Holy Grail status on reddit for good reason. (spoiler alert: it doesn’t have drying alcohols!)

This fragrance-free micellar water works great with after a modest few drops on a cotton pad, applied directly to the face. I’ve never seen my makeup be removed so quickly and so efficiently, that I didn’t really feel the need to go over my face again with another pad to find the excess. Because it works so well at oil and makeup removal, there’s less chance the remnants will remain in your pores to create acne later on. I also felt like this water didn’t absorb “too quickly”, so I wouldn’t have to return to the bottle to get more product more than once or twice.

The pink cap version of this micellar water is specially formulated for sensitive skin, and I cannot speak to the blue cap version. However, I can confirm from my own experience that this product has worked nicely with my own sensitive skin type. I didn’t break out, nor did I encounter my skin drying out after use (unlike LRP’s Micellar Water, which was… somehow… horrendously drying). Of course, it goes without saying that applying any kind of paper product to your skin is going to be just a bit irritating no matter what, so I usually follow up after cleansing with some sort of moisturizer.

Although there isn’t too much to say or describe about micellar water in general (and hence my short review), I do feel as though this product has overall improved my skin condition after switching off of other toners or micellar waters. It is phenomenal at deep-cleansing of the skin, without being drying or leaving a film. I’ve also never seen the 13.5 fl oz bottles retail for more than $9, and they can be bought at almost every grocery store.

All in all, this is a great, cheap buy for users with sensitive skin, especially if you’re a beginner at skin care. It’s both effective and foolproof. Heavy makeup users should also take note as well — if you want something to remove your foundation in just a single swipe, this water might also end up being your go-to! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.75/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 4.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Tanologist Express Tan Water

My purchase of self-tanners seems to increase tenfold right about this time of year, when I’m starting to get real sick of winter. My goal this year was to look for self-tanners that contained no isopropyl alcohol or alcohol denat, which turned out to be a much harder feat than I would have expected. These types of alcohol ensure that the self-tanner will dry down into your skin immediately, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they’re big-time skin irritants!

Enter the Tanologist Express Tan Water, with none of the aforementioned ingredients. It also lays claim to being “odorless and transfer-free” (it also gets bonus points for a vegan formulation!). I got this in the “light” formulation, since I’m not ready to commit to an extremely dark fake tan just yet, so going into this I wasn’t expecting too big of a color payout.

Conceptually I like that you can spray this self-tanner onto your skin and rub it in with a mitt. Lotion can be difficult to spread evenly, and it’s just plain old messy to work with, whereas “water” cuts out the a lot of the manual labor since your skin absorbs it on it’s own. But since the water has no color to it, and there’s no sense of “guide” that tells you where you still need to apply (or not apply) the product. It’s EXTREMELY easy to create a blotchy or inconsistent self-tan with this water on the legs, arms or neck area.

Blotchy results aside, the color payout was phenomenal after four hours of set time, even with the light product. I didn’t feel that the color skewed orange whatsoever, and the product, where applied evenly, looked extremely consistent. For it being the light option, it was pretty dang dark. Sadly the color didn’t quite live past my second shower, but again, that may have been because I purchased the lightest in the line.

The stand-out feature of this product for me personally is the non-comedogenic formulation. I have never broken out from using this on my face. It doesn’t leave that overly-drying sensation over your skin either, which also potentially gives way to break outs. As long as you remove any over-saturated areas of spray, the color is not blotchy when contained in a smaller area, so I generally spray once on each side of my face. The color may only last a day or two, but the re-application is easy to begin with.

I will say the only thing about this product I felt was false advertisement is the claim that the product did not smell like self-tanner. This is true maybe in the first two hours of application, but like all self-tanners, it quickly degraded into the usual, highly potent smell of DHA.

For $15, I think this is a phenomenal option for face self-tanners. For the rest of my body I think I’d probably still err on the side of messy but effective lotions, since the color guide is crucial to not having a blotchy tan. But for the face, this tanning water is essentially foolproof, and it’s customizable to different shades if you prefer a darker color. Sensitive skin users, this is the one to try! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes!

Cerave Moisturizing Cream (Cerave in a Tub)

Woooof. Cerave in a tub was the holy grail of all holy grails on r/skincareaddiction at one point. I used this cream a lot when my acne was bad, because I convinced myself that my breakouts were because of a weakened moisture barrier. Even those four or five years ago, I never thought the cream was phenomenal. Even though I was only using it at night, I had major issues with the product pilling on application, faint burning, and being too chalky when I woke up the next morning, so it was difficult to wash off.

But the brand Cerave, at the time, was a huge step up in my skincare game compared to my former late-teens mainstay Clean and Clear. Just push through it! I told myself. Spoiler alert: my skin condition did not improve.

Cerave’s been doing a huge advertising push lately, and I’ve seen good ol’ “Cerave in a Tub” being advertised just about everywhere. It seems like the emphasis is more on it being a body cream, but it can still be used on your face. The advertising won me over to try it again in 2020. Whoops.

I washed my face before bed with water. I didn’t use exfoliants, in order to get the “full” Cerave in a tub experience. This thick white cream is pretty difficult to spread around and does not absorb well into the skin. Fair enough, it is a cream, and not a gel, after all. I had a fair bit of whitecast left over even a good amount of time getting it to sink in — not that it matters when all you’re doing is heading to bed, but still!

Five minutes pass. The faint, familiar burning returns. This persists for another twenty minutes until I decide to partake in the difficult task of rinsing it off. In the spirit of “maybe I’m just not used to it yet!”, I tried this two more nights during the week, but to no avail: I had the same results. Worst yet, I woke up the next morning with a few spots.

There are a few morals to this story. First of all, if it’s a moisturizer, I am fairly certain there should be no, or a very short, break-in period where your skin is getting used to it. Also, a moisturizer shouldn’t burn! Even if you think the ingredient listing is tame, if your skin starts burning, just stop using it! And last, apparently a tiger never changes its stripes. Or, well, in the case of Cerave PM moisturizer, it occasionally does change it’s stripes (ingredients), but then the product ends up worse for wear.

I tried putting this cream on my knees and elbows since it’s being touted as a body cream too — it was still a little bit too heavy and chalky to feel hydrating. If you still want to try it out, $15 for a pretty substantial tub of product will go a long way and keep you covered for a few months — but only if your skin can tolerate it! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 0/5 (ouch!)

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 0/5 (ouch again!)

Recommended for sensitive skin: NO!

SECRET KEY Starting Treatment Essence

Happy 2021 everyone, fingers crossed that this year will be much better than the last!

I’m starting things out right for my wallet this year with a budget-friendly “dupe” of SK-II. If you’re not familiar with SK-II, it’s an upscale skincare line that has been linked to many celebrities, including but not limited to Cate Blanchett, Chloe Moretz, and Behati Prinsloo. SK-II’s facial treatment essence is the most heavily marketed, but perhaps the price range is a little more suitable for celebrities only, coming in at a cool $100 for a 2.5 oz bottle. Secret Key, by comparison, is $16.

Behati holding onto a bottle of liquid money for dear life.

Right off the bat, I’m impressed by Secret Key’s packaging of their essence. I daresay the glass bottle is just as sturdy and aesthetically pleasing, if not moreso, than SK-II. A drop-check was also inadvertently completed: this has also fallen from my medicine cabinet to my floor without shattering the bottle.

But for as beautiful as the bottle is, the product inside is absolutely miserable to work with. Secret Key’s essence is basically… water. By the time you’ve dropped enough onto your cotton round or your hand, a lot of it will have absorbed leaving you shaking the bottle again for another dousing of product. The dropper is a shake dropper instead of a squeeze dropper, so it’s equally as difficult applying this directly to your face.

So with this being essentially… water… it absorbs really quickly, and you’ll need to shake the product out a few times to get an adequate covering. Now, granted, essences are generally the first step in a skincare regime, so it is not intended to be your primary moisturizer and thickness should be of no concern. But many essences I’ve tried — including SK-II itself — are of a little bit thicker substance, and are easier to spread around (keeping in mind that SK-II contains more chemically-based filler ingredients, whereas Secret Key doesn’t have as many, which may contribute to SK-II’s heavier weight. Pick your poison!).

Since it is so thin, this won’t affect the rest of your routine, or weigh you down as the day wears on. However, I am convinced that something within the product dries my pores out faster throughout the day, regardless of what I’m wearing over it. My skin tends to feel itchy more often than not when this essence is in my routine.

Though I did feel that this essence made my skin brighter within the first few hours of use, the dryness that inevitably ensued made my skin more inflamed by the end of the day, so any positive benefits would likely have been cancelled out. What I did discover was that this product is effective as a night-time makeup remover and toner — it’s gentler than most micellar waters or witch hazel toners I’ve tried.

If you’re not ready to drop the big bucks on SK-II, I would still recommend giving this a try, despite my lackluster experience. For a different skin type, I think Secret Key essence could be a great product, since I did notice subtle brightening. Also the ingredient listing is extract-based and free of sulfates and alcohol, so it’s also a good bet for those with acne-prone skin. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 3/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Sensitive skin, yes — dry skin, no!

Mistine Milk Tea Body Lotion

A friend gifted me this within the past year and sadly I am more than halfway through the bottle. I love it! But, buyer beware: you must be a fan of bubble tea in order to purchase this, because it really, REALLY smells like it’s name. Bubble tea is amazing, BTW, and if you’ve never tried it before I highly recommend it!

Conceptually this lotion is a tad bit gimmick-y, since it not only smells like milk tea, but it also contains milk tea. Fortunately, black tea (and tea in general) boasts anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing properties, and milk is said to be conducive to maintain skin moisture.

I will say this is not a good product for eczema sufferers or those with chronically dry skin. Not that you can’t use it, but consider mixing a heavier lotion in with it, such as Aquaphor or Eucerin. The milk tea lotion’s consistency is overall quite thin, so while a little goes a long way, it won’t be leaving a thick film behind.

Mistine also managed to sneak in a hint of lactic acid into the ingredient listing. For me personally, this is a huge selling point, because it implies that some light skin exfoliation will be accomplished while maintaining a layer of hydration. But, just as they would any other acid-containing product, sensitive skin users may want to be wary.

Overall, this is just a really fun lotion to try out with, and while it’s not the most hydrating lotion of them all, it does leave your skin smooth, with a hint of a glow. It’s not sold locally anywhere in the US, and Mistine is based in Thailand, so the price tag to order internationally can run a little high at $24. If you can find it cheaper than that, I’d recommend checking it out! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.75/5

Longevity: 3.75/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: for extremely dry skin, no. otherwise, patch test first, and then proceed!

Merry Christmas, my dear readers! ❤

The Ordinary 5% Lactic Acid – a COVID special

Mask-ne is real, folks. Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% pro-mask. It’s such an easy thing to wear to protect yourself and other people. But boy does it mess with your skin. Brand new breakouts on the lower half of my face, check. Extremely red, itchy and dry skin where the mask is supposed to cover, check.

What does this have to do with lactic acid, you ask, especially when I’ve already posted about it before? I consider lactic acid my official exfoliating powerhouse during this very long mask season. This will help bring acne to the surface and turn the skin cells over. Compared to salicylic acid, glycolic acid and adapalene/benzoyl peroxide combination, I found this to be the pretty clear winner. I started off using this every two days, to daily, and as of this writing, I’m back down to 3 or 4x a week usage.

As with most acids, there’s a purging period that comes with the use of this product. For me, it was a major purge. Even though I keep this product around in my medicine cabinet, I don’t use it every day, so I certainly wasn’t immune to it’s effects when switching to daily use. I felt like I was at pre-spironolactone levels of acne — goes to show how much crud was probably building up in my skin. Heck, I almost threw in the towel. But by week three, most of the acne was gone and my skin was glowing!

Lactic acid will still continue to pull up new acne even after the purging period is done, but there won’t be as much, and it will disappear quickly. In my opinion, it’s worth it for the healthy glow and smooth texture you get from this product.

Since even it’s 5% iteration is pretty strong, you’re going to want to layer up on some emollients afterwards. My favorite to use in this case was The Ordinary’s Rosehip Seed Oil. While the lactic acid is busy at work pushing the dead skin out, rose hip oil does a nice job of clean-sweeping all the grits out of the pores.

Something else that did help my acne decrease was switching from cloth masks to paper/disposable masks. I hate the idea of disposable masks because they’re just so… wasteful. I don’t need more reasons to contribute to landfills! But no matter how vigilantly I was washing my cloth masks, the cloth was a way bigger offender of trapping dirt and oil into my skin.

As with all acids, users who are new to these types of products should start off slow. You really only need two drops of this product to spread throughout your face, and should start by applying only every two days. And wear your sunscreen! Despite all my usual acid product warnings, this is a cheap little fixer-upper for $10 that got my skin back to normal under the mask. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 3/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes, if used carefully!

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench

As I started to write this, I wanted to apologize for veering off the path of “reasonable prices” with this product, but then I did a quick Google search and realized I’ve been grossly overpaying for this product for a year or so. $52 at Ulta — $29 at Walmart. Wow. It’s still expensive, and you’ll have to make sure the seller through Walmart is reputable, but just don’t be an ignoramous like me, and you can save $23!

But since I’ve been through two jars of this, there must be a part of me that believes this is worth $52. This is an incredibly light-weight and easy to work with moisturizer that melts right into your skin. It smells fresh (think Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost scent), it doesn’t pill, and over the long-term, shows proof of visible skin smoothing.

Alongside Dramatically Different, this is what I consider one of the best moisturizers for those with acne-prone skin. It doesn’t cause any sort of congestion or burning sensations. There’s definitely no drying alcohols. There’s no break-in period for the product, either, where you might notice your skin breaking out because it’s getting used to the new product — it works great, right away. In fact, since I’ve started using this my skin has overall felt healthier and “bouncier” (I’m sure the five ceramides listed in the first two lines of ingredients may contribute to this).

Even though I’ve noticed long-term effects, the day-to-day longevity of this product really depends on the weather. Although it’s labeled as a cream and takes significantly longer to dry down to the skin like a gel would, it is not, by any means, a heavy cream. By hour six or seven you may experience some tightness in your skin. This moisturizer also isn’t the best under makeup — it might just be a little too thick, with a tendency to break down any foundation quickly, despite it not pilling during the initial application.

This was my go-to holy grail moisturizer during quarantine, though. Provided you aren’t adding any layers of foundation over it, this was phenomenal for wearing around the house and keeping your skin hydrated. My skin started looking so good, in fact, that I was able to stop wearing foundation altogether! If you can pick this up for less than regular retail price, I highly recommend it. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes!

ELABORE Hair BB 10 in 1

As I may have mentioned before, my hair is blonde again, so I’m back on the hunt for the impossible products that will undo all of the damage I’ve done to it. I received this Hair BB as a sample and was impressed with it, so I bought the whole 3oz bottle for $10. Sadly that optimism was short-lived.

This is a heavy white cream leave-in conditioning/mask hair product, although in my experience, I think it’s a bit too heavy to be a leave-in. I had better luck using it as a hair mask that was rinsed off after some time, but even then, it didn’t seem to live up to most of the products claims.

What it was good at: detangling right out of the shower, softening hair if used as a mask. Also, I’m not usually a fan of peach-scented products, but this stuff smells great all day!

What it was bad at: frizz control, anti-breakage, promoting shine, silkiness, or moisture-trapping.

Now bear in mind that my hair is already really damaged anyway — so some of these things, like breakage, were bound to happen no matter what! But all in all after my hair was dried, this cream just felt far too heavy and greasy, and didn’t really seem to do much in the way of keeping it smooth and frizz-free throughout the day. A day after usage, my hair somehow felt… drier, than it had been before I started.

I also wanted to mention keratin and protein sensitivity for people with processed or damaged hair. A lot of leave-ins and damage control type conditioners will boast keratin and/or protein in their ingredient list. And they do work as intended, if used correctly. Unfortunately the proliferation of these ingredients in many drugstore items creates a scenario in which the consumer ends up putting way too much protein and keratin in their hair over the course of just a few days, causing it to become brittle or break off. And because this product contains keratin, it is no exception to the “use sparingly” rule. Also, protein and keratin tend to cause your hair to darken, which can be problematic for bright blondes.

To me it seems strange that it’s advertised as a daily leave-in that will repair your hair and help to style it as you want without causing more damage. But should the average user really be putting a keratin product in their hair more than once or twice a week? (If even that — I’m lookin’ at you, too, It’s a 10!)

Cute packaging, nice smelling and conceptually hair-healthy, but there are better masks, leave-ins and conditioners for your hair. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1.5/5

Longevity: 4.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 1.5/5

Holy Snails Shark Sauce

I had — have — a lot of bad acne scarring. I didn’t really realize how big of a difference a good niacinamide treatment could make the scars improve. Sure, I’d had a long run with Cerave PM, but within the past year, Cerave has changed their PM formulation, and it’s been rough on my skin since then. The Ordinary’s Niacinamide has a beautiful cast, until it shreds off my face like cheese in a cheese grater. So I bit the bullet and plopped down $30 for a 30 ml bottle of the Reddit-coveted Shark Sauce.

As you may have noticed this serum is a bit on the pricey side, but I can assure you that it will last a long time – one or two drops should be enough to cover your face. The serum comes out of the bottle completely clear, and dries down clear. It does feel a little tacky for the first five minutes of application so you might want to wait to add more products until then. Otherwise, other moisturizers and foundation will layer just fine over this product.

I immediately noticed my skin seemed a little brighter after the first day, which made my pores seem smaller and my pre-existing scars seem less obvious. The sheen isn’t quite as “glassy” as the Ordinary’s serum, but it still has a beautiful, silky finish once dried. And, on my four-month mark today, I can safely say this has either lightened or decreased the size of some of my worst scars.

For anyone with sensitive skin, I would be a little cautious using this product. I did experience some pore congestion and small breakouts in the first two weeks of using this (even though it was simultaneously making my skin quality appear overall better and brighter, somehow). I was somewhat taken aback by this since the formula isn’t particularly abrasive — it doesn’t sting while applying, or even create the “niacinamide flush”. Fortunately for me, the breakouts disappeared after those first few weeks, and haven’t resurfaced since then.

The ingredient list is tame, with no drying alcohols or added fragrances. Included is hyaluronic acid for moisture retention, as well as another brightening agent n-acetylglucosamine. (I am happy to report that the Shark Sauce ingredient listing is very transparent on the Holy Snail’s website, I love a good product listing that doesn’t make you scroll down for five minutes just find the ingredients in teeny-tiny print!). Oh, and, in case you were wondering: no actual sharks were harmed in the making of this product…

I’d say $30 for this niacinamide serum is money well spent. Not only is this serum great in the short-term with skin texture and discoloration, but it’ proves to be around for the long-haul as well in it’s ability to decrease the appearances of scarring. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes, although you may need to push through the first few weeks of use.