Castor Oil

Castor oil has recently been a hot topic in the skincare community since the big eyebrow trend is still hanging around, albeit evolving. Everyone wants fuller eyebrows! Castor oil is like the 2020 version of biotin, except it’s a topical oil instead of an ingestable supplement. It claims to make your hair grow faster and will help to moisturizer your skin, so I tried it out for two months to see if it lived up to the hype.

Isn’t Castor Oil Toxic? Unless you’re allergic to castor oil, the answer is no, on two fronts. Growing up I remember hearing the reference to castor oil as being used as a laxative. Yup, gross. But there is a distinction between food-grade castor oil and skincare castor oil, so if your bottle says “not safe for consumption” then… you probably shouldn’t consume it. But that’s not because of the ricin! Yep, another unpleasant word to throw into a paragraph. Ricin is not contained in the actual oil itself. Ricin is the result of the seeds being mashed together after the oil has been extracted. Long story short, your skincare castor oil isn’t poisonous, but if you’re looking for a laxative, you should probably go find yourself a food-grade bottle!

Does it make your eyebrows or eyelashes grow faster? In my experience, no. I can see where it would give the appearance of your eyebrows seeming darker since the oil clumps all the hairs together, but if you’re missing certain patches of your eyebrow, this oil will not help to stimulate skin cells in helping the hair grow. Ditto for the eyelashes. It’s kind of a daunting task to Q-tip this in the eyelash area to begin with, but again, besides the oil making them darker, I didn’t feel that my eyelashes grew any faster or more voluminously.

I will say, however, one of my nervous tics is to pull my eyebrows when I’m stressed out, and putting castor oil almost completely put an end to this habit, solely because that oil is so… unruly, to deal with. Turns out, not pulling your eyebrows out lets them grow! Who would have thought… For anyone who suffers trichotillomania, I highly recommend you pick up a bottle and give it a try. You can even use it for your hair. Which brings me to…

Does it make your hair grow faster? Again, no. But it is, in small doses, it is a good “mask” to help keep some moisture in. Since castor oil is so sticky, I would recommend that anyone with fine hair use this as a day-mask or wash it out before you go to bed.

Also, for all you bleach blondes out there, have you ever had the burning desire to speed up the shedding process in one fell swoop? Look no further than a bottle of castor oil… place it on your most broken hair follicles and watch allllll the hair fall out! (I’d like to think that this happened for the better…)

What about your skin? I don’t really recommend it. Again, this oil is just so heavy and sticky that it’s very difficult to remove or absorb, which, in my opinion, also makes it a bad candidate for oil-cleansing (OCM). Despite this oil being non-comedogenic, I noticed a lot more redness in my skin than usual when using it as a “only step) in my routine.

Unfortunately castor oil misses the mark on skincare and hair growth panacea status. However I think it’s been a great alternative to coconut oil for masking my hair and helping to keep it hydrated. There are a lot of masks on the market that boast castor oil as the main product, but I think it’s best to go straight to the source and just grab a bottle from a reputable skincare or holistic company business. ~A

TL;DR:

Will it definitively make your hair/eyebrows/eyelashes grow super fast? Probably not.

Is it good for your skin? Not the worst, but there are better alternatives.

Is it good for overall hair health? When used sporadically, yes.

Black Owned Beauty Brands

I found this awesome infographic that lists black owned cosmetic brands from @nyjats Twitter. A great way to support the Black Lives Matter movement right now is to shop at black owned businesses.

Two of my favorites in this list: Mielle Organics for natural hair products, they don’t generally include drying alcohol or SLS ingredients! Then there’s Pat McGrath — I have a powder eyeshadow from this brand that I LOVE but I’m terrified of using because it’s, well, it’s that good, it never rubs off and the color payout is fantastic — so I’ll probably cry if and when it runs out.

I hope that everyone finds peace and safety in this time, and remember to amplify black voices! ~A

Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile now, you have probably realized that I never stop talking about Clinique’s Dramatically Different Gel. It is just the most reliable, versatile, lightweight and foolproof gel, and I’ve never found anything like it.

Except, oops, I forgot that Clinique had a few more things in their Dramatically Different line-up. I had a little inspiration after reading a great write-up on this product over at V’s Beauty Talk blog, which kickstarted me into grabbing a 1.7oz trial size for $15 ($30 for full-size) to see if this lived up to my extremely high expectations.

Although Clinique tends to be heavy on the ingredients-you-cant-pronounce-the-names-of, this line generally leaves out drying alcohols and comdeogenic oils, which I like. The product itself is closer to a liqui-gel than a jelly, but this makes it easy to get out of the bottle. If you have dry skin, prepare for this stuff to dry down extremely fast. You would think this would be “a little goes a long way” spreadable, but it’s not.

Unfortunately the review mostly goes downhill from here. Immediately after I applied this, my skin felt sticky. After six hours, my skin still felt sticky and… dry, again. Products are impossible to stack over this, because it will pill. Scrubbing the product off the next morning also ends in a gigantic, pilling mess.

So… what is this? I can’t use it as a moisturizer, because it doesn’t hydrate my skin for long enough, and I also can’t stack anything else over top of it if I wanted to. I can’t use it as a one-step emolliant either, or even consider it a humectant, because it, again, is not hydrating.

Based on the ingredient listing, and for the sole fact I love the gel version so much, I would be inclined to recommend this to sensitive-skin users, but honestly I suspect the uncomfortable sensation this moisturizer leaves behind actually did cause some irritation to my skin, and ultimately caused me to break out a few times after using this.

I was hugely disappointed by this product, but, for some perspective, there are three different types of moisturizers in this series, and more suited for different skin types than the other. Maybe the gel version is my one-and-only, and you know what they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: 2/5

How much I actually like this product: 1.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

The Death of the Department Store

First, on a lighter note, happy Memorial Day to all my American readers, and happy Monday to everyone else! I’m taking a slight detour from talking about skincare today to talk about a subject that’s near and dear to me: malls, shopping for clothes, and the closure of long-time retailers. It is safe to say that if I was close to you in any way in the first twenty-five years of my life, I have probably gone to a mall with you. I spent a lot of time there with my grandma and my mom, especially. Out of all the department stores available, JCPenney was surely my mom and I’s favorite.

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 set off a chain of bankruptcies and store closures, since the physical locations are now closed, and the spending that may have occured online is partially curtailed from those who lost their income. Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, my beloved JcPenney, and now Lord & Taylor have joined the ranks of the, well, fallen, along with their dearly departed relatives, BonTon, Sears and Toys R Us.

Let’s be real, though, these stores have been struggling for years. Of course, the failings are largely in part to bad or poorly executed business moves Failure to boost their online presence, failing to adapt their physical locations into the strip malls or smaller storefronts that are now gaining in popularity, poor labor conditions, failure to secure on-trend and relevant suppliers, siphoning 90% of the company’s income to a few choice CEO’s (ok, I might be exaggerating just a little), just to name a few.

What I’m here to talk about today are the issues I had as a consumer. Obviously, my complaints as an individual are not, and never will be, what sunk these companies ships. But I can’t help but feel I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Get a couple thousand of us who have similar sentiments, and you, as a company, have lost just a tiny piece of your income over the next few years.

Design – No shade if you own any of these shirts. But does anyone look at these shirts and think, “this is an inspiring, long-lasting staple in my closet”? To me, it looks like the end result of a K-Mart shopping spree in 1998. I wouldn’t personally market these in the 25-45 year old woman demographic, but JcPenney seems to think that’s the way to go.

On the flip side, we have companies like J. Crew who have tasked themselves with selling more fashion forward pieces. Sure, this dress looks cool right now, but is it worth the pricetag if you’re only going to wear once, maybe twice, if you’re lucky? Is this going to be cool in a year? And that type of fabric/material… don’t you break out into hives just by looking at it? (I know I do!)

Price and Quality – As a business, your end game is to buy a product from a supplier or a wholesaler on the cheap, sell it at a little bit of markup, and viola, there’s your profit. But as someone who’s been shopping for, well, their entire life, I am now mostly able to determine bad from good quality. If you’re trying to sell me a tank top for even as cheap as $11, and I pick it up and realize it feels like it’s a stiff paper bag and that the hems will roll up after one wash, I’m not going to buy it, even if it is only $11. And if you, a store, tells me that you bought it from your supplier for $9 — then you better drop your supplier, fast!

This was J. Crew and Gap’s biggest undoing, in my opinion. I don’t want to walk into a store that’s trying to sell me a “high-end” lifestyle, and pick up a skirt or a shirt that’s displayed on the rack that already has wrinkles in it’s short-longevity fabric, all while boasting a $50 price tag. Especially when a company had been known in the past to only provide well-made items (I’m looking at you, Gap!)

Contending with the Internet – have you ever gone onto Walmart’s online site and noticed how slow it is, no matter how fast your internet connection is? that’s because it’s bogged down with zillions of items. It makes the online shopping experience with them really unpleasant. Macy’s and Kohl’s are also notorious for having websites with heavy-load times. I’m no master website designer or server administrator, but in the year 2020, there has to be a way to somehow circumvent this.

And sure, having an online presence is big. But just because you went online and made the shopping experience more convenient, isn’t going to stop the consumer from comparison shopping. Case in point:

What a cute Nike hoodie from Kohl’s! I don’t know about $45 for it, though. Let’s see what else is out there.
oh what do you know, this is $9 cheaper on EBay, new with tags and has another color option! Just need to check out the seller and make sure they’re legit. See ya Kohl’s!

Inclusivity – For the most part, department stores haven’t really changed their approach to modeling clothes. And I get it, to some extent — using a thin model to show off an item would, in theory, bring attention to the item itself instead of the models’ typically static features. But not everyone has a 25 inch waist or thin thighs.

I think a sign of a good clothier, or someone who has invested in good suppliers and designers, is a company that sells clothes that conceivably look good on most people. An arduous task, I’m sure — everyone’s bodies are different!

Now, American Eagle and Aerie are no saints in the industry. Their sweaters still pill in the wash. But I love seeing the models on their website. They’re just so much more realistic. Sometimes I even see models who have the exact same features as me, and it makes me feel more inclined to buy the clothes, since it’s proof to me that, I too, an average person, can look good in these outfits.

In short, I’m sure no big-box retailer is going to stumble across my post and have some great revelation over how they’ve been “doing it all wrong”, according to one girl who lives in a little city. I am really going to miss the exciting aspect of stepping into a mall and wondering what you were going to see that day. But writing this post was a reminder to myself that, in a way, some of these retailers dug their own grave. ~A

Mediheal NMF Intensive Hydrating Mask

Lately, the weather around here has been anywhere between 25° and 70°, and my skin is suffering for it. Even my coveted My Beauty Diary masks don’t seem to be doing much in the way of re-introducing moisture back into my skin. So I decided to look for a sheet mask that was a little more heavy duty in hydration.

This mask is a pain to get out of the packaging and unfold since it is over-saturated (in the best way possible, of course) in product. That said, the fact that the linen is already soaked through makes it a lot easier to contour to your face, making this one of the better-fitting masks I’ve tried in my lifetime.

Right away, I loved the way this mask felt on. It was immediately relieving, and refreshing! Since it’s over-saturated in product, the overall effect is cooling. But I just felt like the tightness and irritation were going away in real time.

Unfortunately I’m not a huge fan of the tacky residue the mask leaves behind. As with most other masks, you can’t really stack other skincare or product over this for at least 30 minutes to an hour, or else it will pill. But this stuff is really sticky. Sure, that probably means that it’s better at retaining moisture, but it’s just a little bit too uncomfortable, for too long.

The long-term effects, however, are amazing! My skin has been brighter and clearer since I started to use it. It doesn’t aggravate my skin, and I haven’t experienced any breakouts from using it, despite the obnoxious pore-clogging texture that the mask seems to leave behind after use.

I think for how much improvement in quality my skin seemed to experience, $11 for a box of five masks was more than worth my money. Despite my complaints about the immediate after-effects of this mask, this is a great pick for anyone with sensitive skin and enough time to spare for this product to fully sink in. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 4.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

After a little Googling, I just saw that Mediheal has BTS special edition versions of some of their masks. I wish I had seen this before, how freakin cool!

La Roche-Posay Micellar Water

Disclaimer: I largely think micellar water is a marketing hoax. In my personal opinion, removing makeup and cleaning your face should be left to good ol’ fashioned face cleanser, possibly a splash of toner, and that thing that comes out of your sink… ah yes, water. But I do love trying out skincare products, so I will admit I’ve tried a few micellar waters in the past few years. And… this one ain’t it, for me.

I picked up the “sensitive skin” version of this instead of the effaclar version, which is more targeted toward oily skin. As with most micellar waters, it is basically… odorless, colorless, water. It’s best applied with a cotton ball or pad.

Did it remove my makeup? I hate comparing two items because there’s zillions of items on the market in general, but I actually sort of liked the Garnier Micellar water back in the day, when it was like the only one you could buy in the grocery store. Garnier’s formula was ridiculously oily, but man, did it take off makeup! One swipe and five layers of foundation were gone. That’s not the case with LRP’s version, here: on average I used up five cotton circles to take off my makeup, even on a “light foundation” day. So it does remove makeup, but it will waste your time in doing so.

Did it make my skin feel clean? After the aforementioned five cotton circles used up on my face, my skin was feeling a little raw. I guess it felt clean? There definitely isn’t an “oily” residue left over. However…

Is it good for sensitive skin? In my opinion, no. Sure, some of the abrasion can come from using a cotton circle or pad, but this product is impractical to use with just your hands. Once my makeup was removed, my face felt dry. Even after adding a layer of moisturizer, my skin was still more dry throughout the day than it would have been, had I just used a regular cleanser.

There are no drying alcohols, sulfates or parabens in this micellar water, so I don’t think that the ingredient listing is inherently evil. But the need to fight through your foundation removal causes more abrasion to your skin than it’s worth. Maybe it is better to use an oilier formulation, after all.

La Roche-Posay has a good name in skincare, sure, but I would personally pass on this $15 micellar water. There are better ways to cleanse and remove makeup than this! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 1.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

Catrice California in a Box

I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur of makeup palettes — I’m more of a “single color eyeshadow dish” kind of person. I know exactly what colors I want and need for my blush, bronzer, and eyeshadow and I am scared to deviate from that (although, I was obsessed with orange eyeshadow for awhile, and I kind of enjoyed it). But this palette really stood out to me while I was standing in Ulta — I realized I actually liked every color in it, and would probably actually use them!

Here’s a quick rundown of my take on what’s in the box:

Pearly and dark blush: The darker colored blush surprisingly paints far lighter than I would expect it to. For some reason I anticipated a more mauve-y undertone, but I’d describe it more as deep pink. This has a fantastic pigment and would look beautiful on someone with a medium or darker skintone. Now, for me personally, the dark blush was a little bit heavy for my complexion, so this is where the pearly blush came into play for me. The peachy tones make for a very subtle color on my cheeks, with just a tiny bit of “pop” of pearl highlighter that slightly illuminates the look. Almost undetectable, otherwise — just the way I like it! (but it probably won’t be for you if you’re looking for a bolder look)

Light and dark bronzer: The bronzer is my only gripe about this product. It dark bronzer really skews orange, and I could only see this getting worse as time passes and more oxidizing occurs. The light bronzer is a lesser offender of turning orange, but it’s so light. I think it would be imperceptible on anyone, except possibly someone with an alabaster skin tone.

Highlighter: this is definitely not the most extreme of highlighters, which might be for the best since I’ve noticed the bright highlighter trend sort of winding down on Instagram. It’s very subtle; you might want to add a second layer if you really want it to stand out. The nude coloration of this highlighter makes it look far more natural looking than a pure white highlighter.

Overall one of my biggest issues with this palette is that the colors aren’t very malleable, and they’re unforgiving of user error. Usually if I’m a bit heavy-handed with blush, I can correct it without too many issues just by blending it in more with the brush. That’s a difficult ask with this product, though, so I recommend using a very fluffy brush for the bronzers and blushes.

I didn’t have any issues with the products losing efficacy over time, although perhaps the highlighter may have lost it’s shine after hour 4 since it’s already very subtle to begin with. Also, the bronzer made me want to wash my entire face after hour two when I realized that the orange was only getting worse. But I didn’t, and the bronzer sadly still persisted until past the eight hour mark.

For $12, this is not a bad product if you’re looking for something subtle! Despite the vacation vibes that the marketing of this product gives off, this palette is actually quite suitable for work — you’ll get the faintly sunkissed glow without looking overdone. Just make sure you go in with a very light hand! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.5/5

Longevity: 3.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Hada Labo Tokyo: Skin Plumping Gel Cream

I used this moisturizer a lot in my early skincare days, and I’m trying to remember why, exactly, I abandoned it. This gel cream is close to HG status for me, with maybe a few flaws that prevent it from ascending to that level. Oh, and if you ever wanted to live out the glory days of the old Clinique Moisture Surge (which, in my opinion, is now a shadow of it’s former self), this is the moisturizer to do it with.

The packaging of this white gel cream is a luxurious square-shaped glass jar, which admittedly, is a kind of awkward to fit in a standard-issue medicine cabinet. And while it definitely looks good for the camera, the packaging is unfortunately pretty wasteful. It really doesn’t hold much product at all, given how much room the jar could technically accomodate. Considering this is $23 out of the buyer’s pocket, I think they could have done with more product, or packaging the product more efficiently.

The gel cream is quite smooth and easy to spread. While I have my gripes about the amount of product in the package, you really don’t need too much to cover your entire face. The gel cream dries down clear. This leaves behind a bit of a residue, but it’s soft to the touch, not tacky, and intended to hold moisture in. Living up to it’s name, my skin looked plump, and seemed more hydrated even after a full day of wearing this.

Because of that remaining residue, this moisturizer doesn’t exactly play the best with foundation over top, or really any other product over top of it. But also not… the worst? A few times I noticed my makeup starting to pill around hour 2 of having both applied — not substantial enough to require re-applying, but enough to make me reconsider using this moisturizer for daytime use. The residue it leaves behind tends to hang onto your skin for dear life, making it difficult to fully wash off your face.

Besides some of it’s hang-ups, this moisturizer does a great job of hydrating your skin. This is oil-free, there are no drying alcohols or anything inherently terrible in the ingredient listing, save for the rampant polymers that are likely to blame for the skin smoothness and pilling alike. This also boasts collagen, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides. My favorite thing of all was that it never broke me out!

If you’re ok with splurging a bit, this is a nice face cream for night-time use, or bare-faced use, particularly for users with sensitive skin. Just be warned of this moisturizer’s long-term commitment — it’s clingy, and you’re going to have a hard time getting rid of it. 🙂 ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.25/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Pacifica Kale Luxe Oil-Free Cream

I feel like such a fool! I was lured in by the words “oil-free” on this moisturizer! But alas, Pacifica has sadly snuck denatured alcohol into this otherwise very short ingredient listing. While alcohol denat has it’s place in the beauty industry, such as industrial-strength stage makeup fixing spray, I certainly don’t think it should find it’s way into moisturizers. And there’s even a chance it’s presence would not have bothered me so much if it didn’t act like a moisturizer that had alcohol in it!

I had a bad couple of weeks in early winter where my skin became a veritable oil-slick, and my skin began to break out like crazy. My dermatologists words suddenly came rushing back to me: “Only use oil-free moisturizers!“, a ghostly, subtle reminder that maybe I was doing too much in my routine, and needed to go back to basics. Cue the purchase of Pacifica’s oil free cream.

There isn’t anything particularly noteworthy in this $16 cream except, um, kale, which I’m not convinced really does anything. Mostly I just purchased it because it was oil free, somehow glossing right over the ingredient listing for alcohol denat. So although this 1.7 oz bottle gives you quite a bit of product to hold you over for a few months, for the ingredients alone, I do not think this is worth $16.

The moisturizer is really luxurious and silky feeling as you apply, but it’s more likely the smell will distract you from how nice this feels. I think the idea is that it smells like kale, but is more akin to smelling like the place it grew from, which is wet dirt. It is a matte moisturizer so it dries down quickly — too quickly, in fact. You’ll start to feel your skin underneath it start to dry up as soon as the cream does.

It does play well with makeup over top of it initially, but because this is such a drying moisturizer (wow, those two words next to each other don’t really make any sense…), you’ll find your skin start to develop dry patches throughout the day, causing your makeup to crack or pill on it’s own. Guess who started to get a few breakouts after day three of using this? Yep, you got it — this girl.

I think calling this a “drying moisturizer” should speak for itself. This cream flat out does not do it’s job at moisturizing, and if you have sensitive skin, you’ll almost definitely experience a break out from the sheer dryness alone, which isn’t cool since this cream specifically cites blemish-prone skin types as types that should use this product. Although I still love Pacifica as a brand, I think this was a huge miss on their part. Steer clear! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

JOAH Eye Candy Auto Eyeliner

Not bad for an impulse CVS buy! I actually had never even heard of JOAH, which would make sense because they’re a CVS-only brand and I very rarely step into CVS. Apparently inspired by Korean beauty, JOAH is made by the same people who make… um… press-on nails. Despite my misgivings about the latter piece of information, I’m really impressed with this eyeliner.

This $7 eyeliner doesn’t exactly have a robust color shade range to choose either in-store or online from at CVS itself (Black, Blackest Black, and Dark Brown were the only ones available in both cases), although their website, weirdly, has three more shades. In any case, I was in luck since dark brown is usually my go-to. The pencil itself feels somehow luxurious — it has fancy gold lettering, smooth and somewhat soft body that makes it easy to hold. You can “turn” the bottom of pencil when your liner tip runs low.

Application is smooth. Like, it’s alarmingly impossible for me to screw up lid-lining with this pencil. I think the only real annoying thing about this product is that the it depletes very rapidly, since it is so soft. While dark brown isn’t the most discernible of colors, the color is relatively accurate, without being too dark and muddy to confuse the shade with black. Did I mention it was smooth? No weird smudging going on, here. Usually my eyeliners are notorious for transferring the first time I blink after application, but I didn’t really notice any pigment transferring until about hour five or six, which is pretty good for an eyeliner (and it was light enough for me to just rub off).

Don’t tell anyone, but I still line my waterline, sometimes (I know, so nineties). This is also a phenomenal waterline pencil, since the waterproof aspect of it actually is waterproof, apparently, and won’t come crying off your lid twenty seconds in to application. Again, you might find some pigment transfer after hour five or six, but it’s not substantial. I also didn’t notice any eye sensitivity to this eyeliner — I didn’t experience any burning or irritation.

You can’t tell me Avril Lavigne’s eyeliner still isn’t a look!

Kudos to the people who make press-on nails for pulling this off! They’ve outdone what the bigger brands apparently can’t do very well, which is creating an eyeliner that actually sticks around for more than ten minutes! And, they’re cruelty free, which is awesome! I’ll be back into CVS to check out more of the JOAH brand very soon! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.75/5