DRMTLGY Broad Spectrum SPF45

When it comes to sunscreens and my overly sensitive skin, the phrase “No good deed goes unpunished” tends to jump to mind. Even my once-coveted Supergoop is starting to cause my skin to break out. So, there I went, on the hunt for the latest and greatest bottle of SPF.

DRMTLGY’s SPF 45 boasted the following on their website:

and there weren’t any drying alcohols in this product, how could I not pick this up for $22?

I will say I am a sucker for good packaging, and this certain has it. The bottle is simplistic, clean, sturdy, and has a shiny gold ring right under the cap. The bottle is seems misleadingly large for only having 2oz in it, but, I digress. It’s still a substantial amount, considering a little bit of the product will spread easily over the skin.

And it is fragrance free, lightweight, and absolutely clear. This melts right down into your skin, and there’s no trace of white-cast at any point during the day (even at the end of the day when you go to wash your face, and realize, “ah, I guess there was a little white-cast, after all!”)

But hypoallergenic? No. If a even particle of this comes into contact with your waterline somehow, your eyes will be burning for hours. Chemical sunscreens, such as this one, are not known for their sensitivity toward eyes, but this bottle pushed my level of pain tolerance for certain cosmetics. Although I will give it points for not causing “itchy” skin that often occurs with both mineral and physical sunscreens.

Non-comedogenic? Nope, again! My trial period of this sunscreen was at or around three weeks, and the minute I removed it from my regimen, my skin cleared back up. Otherwise, new break outs had been appearing at the end of each day, and the only thing that had changed in my routine at that time was the sunscreen.

I know that Dr. Dray has reviewed this before and was generally positive about it, particularly for the brand attempting to provide medical grade products, and that this was a much cheaper dupe of Elta MD’s UV Clear. Which, in retrospect, I didn’t do so well with the Elta MD sunscreen either, so everyone else’s mileage may vary.

I wish I loved this, but I’ve never had a sunscreen irritate my eyes as much as this one did. It held up incredibly well under makeup, and was compliant with all of my other moisturizers — but at the cost of ruining my skin. I suppose my hunt for the perfect sunscreen continues! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 4.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No!

Hair Chemist Brassiness Hair Oil with Lavender Oil

Hello friends! I apologize for my hiatus over the past few months. Unfortunately all the uncertainty surrounding COVID did a number on my productivity. Not to mention, I haven’t purchased new skin care or hair care products lately; I’ve been sticking to my tried-and-true holy grails!

In a desperate bid to stop myself from using Wella’s T-18 on my hair to cancel out the brassiness, I picked up a few products from Hair Chemist. One of those products was their Brassiness Hair Mask, which despite a few drawbacks worked fantastically well. I also grabbed the pictured brassiness hair oil, that didn’t cost more than $3. There were rave reviews on Sally’s website for this product.

The product itself a standard oil with an incredibly enticing lavender smell. The oil isn’t too heavy or too light, so it’s easy to work with and work through the hair. One of the first things I noticed, though, was that the “lavender” color leans more to the blue side than the purple, which suggests it might be better for orange-brass rather than yellow-brass.

I’ve trial-and-errored this product a few different ways. The first was to apply a light layer over my brassiest spots of blonde after toweling my hair dry, and pulled it through all the way to the ends with a comb and let it dry. I’ve also tried sleeping with this product in overnight, and washing it out in the morning. Regardless of application, the end result was generally the same.

The orange spots were neutralized, but it didn’t really turn brown or dark-blonde as I would have expected — it turned… grey. I wasn’t a fan. As for the level 10 pieces of blonde, they turned light blue. Again, this means the yellow was also technically neutralized, and the light blue did eventually fade into white, but was dang hard to get it to wash out! It took several days before I stopped seeing the blue-tinted hues in my hair.

For me personally, the oil was a bit too heavy and I didn’t like how my hair felt after any of the applications. It didn’t feel moisturized or healthy — just greasy, and overly-dry at the spots where the oil didn’t absorb. I wonder if it would be a better product for more coarse or curly hair. It might work more effectively for level 8 or 9 hair as well, or anyone who is looking for their neutralized effect to skew more gray/silver/dark brown than bright white.

Though brassiness hair oil did not work for me, I would totally consider buying a lighter, colorless version of this oil just for the smell… ~A

Perceived efficacy: For bright white hair, 2/5. For neutralizing orange, 3.75/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 1.5/5

Soap and Glory The Righteous Butter Body Lotion

The real skincare MVP is egw.org/skindeep. If you want a more scientific approach to figuring out which cosmetics are right for you, this is the place to go. Not that bloggers such as myself don’t have valid opinions, but this is the website that really lays out the good and bad as far as cosmetic ingredients go. That said, even if EGW gives it a “bad” score, it doesn’t mean it’s not right for you, but you should definitely review the ingredient listing to make sure that nothing conflicts with your personal sensitivities or skin type.

I really enjoy good-smelling lotions that do a good job of actually moisturizing the skin. I was always a sucker for Bath and Body Works, Pink, or Victoria Secret lotions. A few months ago I was in the market to replace one of my used-up VS lotions. But when I went online to look, I realized there was not a ingredient listing to be found.

Um, where are the ingredients listed on this website? I could have used the old bottle for reference, but had the ingredient formulation changed in the past year-and-a-half that I’d owned it (which cosmetic companies are incredibly apt to do), I would not have known. I proceeded to check Bath and Body Works and Pink, and found that this was largely the case with most of their online listings as well.

Fragranced lotions are tricky to begin with. The fragrance itself isn’t a “safe” ingredient, because it can trigger allergies. Dyes like yellow 5 are also allergens. Soap and Glory’s lotion have both of the aforementioned ingredients. However, VS has a habit of sneaking in parabens, diazolidinyl urea, BHT and benzoyl alcohol, which to me, personally, are bigger issues for sensitive skin and carcinogenic effects. With all that said, Soap and Glory’s product did not win out in safety over Victoria Secret’s lotions, according to EGW. But the fact that Soap and Glory actually listed the ingredients on their own website won me over as a consumer.

The actual review of Righteous Butter Body Lotion is going to be short and sweet. The peach and sandalwood scent is amazing, albeit a bit too powerful in the first few minutes. But you’ll smell like you’ve hopped out of the shower for the better part of the day, and that’s never a bad thing. It is a good moisturizer as well, without being too light or too heavy, and it doesn’t take too much effort to apply to the skin. I definitely needed to re-apply at the end of the day, past the ten hour mark, but that was to be expected.

Occasionally when I try new lotions, my skin will break out into a minor rash, but I did not experience that with this lotion, so I’d say it’s most likely safe for sensitive skin users to use — just, not on their face! As EGW suggested, the scent is pretty strong so if fragrance causes you headaches, you may want to skip this one.

For $10, this is a nice buy if you’re looking for something that smells good and will keep you hydrated during the day. It’s sad to have to say this, but to Soap and Glory, thank you for making your ingredient listings transparent online, especially when most of us are still stuck at home and shopping online! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 4.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

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!