Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream

Aaand we’re back! It’s been awhile since I’ve updated!

Winter is coming back around again, and for me, that means I need to revert back to my heavier moisturizers. I decided to splurge a little bit on Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream after reading a few good reviews about it’s moisture retention. I didn’t love the $30 price tag on a 1.7 fl. oz bottle, but I definitely got my money’s worth, even if the cream didn’t do exactly what I was hoping it would do.

Despite advertising as lightweight, this white cream is pretty thick when it’s straight out of the bottle, and it’s not the easiest to spread out over your skin. This is a good thing in terms of longevity, usually, although sometimes the heavier creams tend to make me itchy after the fourth or fifth hour. Not so with Kiehl’s though. It certainly lives up to it’s “lightweight” expectation in the end: it doesn’t feel heavy at all once absorbed, it’s not itchy, nor does it lose it’s ability to retain moisture. Bonus points, it doesn’t leave any sort of white cast behind on your skin, despite the fact that it is a cream.

It’s rare that I feel that a moisturizer has actually improved my skin texture in the long run, but because of the staying power of this cream — and I dare say it might be close to 24 hours — I think it did play a part in preventing from my skin from drying out, thus giving it less of a chance for irritation. It doesn’t clog pores, my breakouts decreased, and my skin texture felt overall better over the course of a few months.

The ingredient list has a couple of different oils in it, mixed with glycerin, both of which helps to keep the skin moisturized for a long period of time. Most notable is probably the squalane oil, which is meant to mimic your own skin’s natural oils. There’s also a trace amount of Salicyclic acid in the moisturizer, which I think is an… interesting addition, give that this is meant to be a moisturizer, but it doesn’t decrease the efficacy of the overall product. The only thing I didn’t love was that BHT, a known carcinogen, was slipped in at the end — hopefully in tiny quantities, but I still wish Kiehl’s had left it out.

This cream is definitely worth the $30. Despite the small product size, it takes quite a while to get through the bottle, and I’m still hanging onto at least half after three months of daily use. If you have sensitive skin or acne, I’d recommend giving this cream a chance in your daily regimen. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.8/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes!

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

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!

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