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!

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!

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 Dreamy Youth

I’m really digging Pacifica Beauty lately. They weren’t even on my radar until I bought this moisturizer. I was so pleasantly surprised by this product that I purchased a couple more items by Pacifica. What’s even better is that the majority of their products are under $15 — this face cream included, I think I grabbed it for $12 — and they seem to last forever. And it’s vegan, and it’s cruelty free, and the packaging is cute!

The “lasts forever” aspect of Dreamy Youth is that this seemingly standard-issue push pump is ridiculously efficient. One push will give you all the product you need — no more, no less. This white cream is somewhat thick yet it’s not too difficult to spread. It dries down clear in under 30 seconds. This has a very powerful floral scent — I personally like it, but it is strong, so this may not be for everyone.

Now, for a couple gripes about this moisturizer. It does leave behind a bit of waxy residue, similar to paraffin, without the “destroys every other product on your face” effect of paraffin (PS: paraffin itself does not make an appearance in Dreamy Youth!). It does make your skin feel very soft, of course. And while this plays well with makeup, I think this acts more as a barrier rather than a primer for makeup, so your makeup won’t completely “take”, making it seem dull and patchy in certain areas. For the most part, blending, as well as checking in the mirror at least thirty times before you leave the house, should mitigate this issue — but it’s still an annoying problem to have.

Dreamy Youth has a few good guy ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, aloe, shea butter and a couple choice peptides. Despite some of these proponents of age-reversal, I never really felt like this moisturizer was doing anything “extra” for my skin, besides, well, moisturizing! And even then, this isn’t the most moisturizing product on the market — while the cream is on the heavier side, I usually experience some skin tightness around hour six of wear.

I know I just complained a lot, but I do still like this moisturizer, as it’s never caused any issues for my sensitive skin! For skincare beginners especially, I would go so far as to say it’s a phenomenal purchase: there’s no outright “unfit for skin” ingredients, it’s foolproof to apply, and it does make your skin feel soft to the touch. Throw in the added bonus of purchasing from a cruelty-free brand? Sold.

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 3/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Pixi H20 Skindrink

Potential new holy grail moisturizer, comin’ right up! Pixi Skindrink is like a thicker, tackier version of Bio-Oil that I never knew I needed — and also cheaper alternative ($19 for full size) than the very similar Dr Lin Hydrating Gel, which now retails for $30. Geez, I can’t believe I used to buy Dr. Lin moisturizer for like, $7 at one point of my life. Anyways! I love Skindrink, and although I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, I already know it will be a re-buy of mine.

This is a clear gel that comes out of a push-top tube. It’s very easy to spread, and one pump should cover the entirety of your face. This has a noticeable rose- or soap- like smell, but fades after thirty minutes of wear.

You’ll probably notice that this moisturizer does not dry down after application — it will feel greasy, and still easy to disturb after application. Even when it’s “dry”, it’s extremely tacky, not unlike many paraffin or petroleum type moisturizers that are used as occlusives. So I only recommend Skindrink as a last step in your nightly routine, or if you don’t plan on wearing makeup that day. It’s all worth the slight discomfort of a greasy face, though. When I wake up in the morning, my skin feels bouncy and smooth!

I haven’t broken out from this, and this is probably thanks to the somewhat tame ingredient listing, with glycerin and silicones at the top of the list to keep moisture in. There’s no irritating alcohols — in fact, there’s not even a single fatty alcohol either (such as cetearyl alcohol), which is hard to come by when looking for a moisturizer.

The Pixi website suggests you can put this moisturizer in the refrigerator to maximize the “cooling” effect Skindrink provides (which will occur even without the refrigeration, just to a lesser degree). Combining the simple ingredient listing and the cooling effect that should come as a relief for those with sensitive skin, I’d absolutely recommend Skindrink to acne sufferers.

I know this was a pretty short review, but it’s a pretty simple moisturizer with a single function — to retain moisture — and Skindrink does that function very well. This was my first venture into Pixi skincare products, and I’m excited to try out more by them! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Holy Grail No More

Good morning readers, and Happy New Year!

For the new year, I decided to do a small purge of my skincare collection. As the seasons change, and as I’ve continued on with my Epiduo and spironolactone treatment, my skin has changed a bit. Products that I used to swear by and considered HG status at one point just don’t work as well anymore. That’s not to say I don’t consider them good products anymore, I would still recommend them to someone with a particular skin need.

So, here is a list of products that are going into my “on-hold” stash, or in the trash, for 2020, despite their previously coveted “holy grail” status in my reviews.

Cerave PM. This started to make my skin feel congested and break out minorly. The buzz on Reddit is that Cerave PM was reformulated for 2019, and I’m wondering if that was related to my breakouts. Now, I’m on the hunt for a good niacinamide replacement…

undefinedCerave Hydrating and Foaming Cleanser. The foaming cleanser has always gotten a bad rap for being a little too harsh, and I agree with that. It’s also, for some reason, not very good at removing makeup. The hydrating cleanser tends to leave behind a film, and quite frankly won’t really make you feel clean. I’ve replaced both of these with CosRX Low PH Cleanser.

Read More »

Missha Near Skin Total Ceramide Cream

This ceramide cream is a simple-yet-effective moisturizer that’s found itself in pretty heavy rotation in routine. Even with the inclusion of PHA’s, this moisturizer isn’t exactly a heavy-hitter with stand-out results, but it’s simple, and sometimes that’s all I’m looking for in a routine.

There’s 50ml of product in this tube (which, by the way, is super portable and great for when you’re on-the-go). But it never really feels like there is truly 50ml in this product, like, there’s seemingly a lot of empty space in the tube, which is unfortunate because I go through this stuff pretty fast. This comes out of the tube as a white cream, is easy to spread on the face, and absorbs quickly. It’s about medium weight, so it’s sufficiently heavy enough to make you feel moisturized for most of the day. It doesn’t cause any pilling, so it’s great under foundation.

I think this was my first experience with a PHA cream. It exfoliates to a much lesser degree than a BHA or AHA would, thus the irritation is incredibly minor, if there even is any at all. That said, don’t use this before slapping on your retinol at night. There’s also some dispute on whether it enhances the effect of Vitamin C or just causes irritation. I’ve used Vitamin C with this with no issue, so this is ok to use in the morning provided you’ve snuck in some SPF in your last step.

As far as long-term effects of the ceramides and PHA’s go… well, there haven’t been any, really. But this hasn’t caused any breakouts for me, so I think this could be a good pick for someone with sensitive skin. Also, it’s relatively cheap to buy online, between $10-15 depending on where you look. You’ll most likely have to wait a couple weeks for the international shipping, but I think it’s worth the wait to try it out.

This was a pretty short review, but you know what they say, less is more. I stan a basic moisturizer! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 3.75/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Holika Holika Good Cera Super Ceramide Cream

In preparation for winter, and knowing that Cerave in a Tub is no longer a go-to option for me, I went on the hunt for a heavy ceramide cream. It’s a bit on the pricier side — $18 — but it had a few good reviews on r/asianbeauty, so I decided it was worth the splurge. The 2 fl oz’s go a long way.

I was surprised by the heavy jar when I got this in the mail, but I do like the yellow packaging. Nice, bright, and clean! This cream itself feels great: it’s very smooth and creamy. It is peach-colored in the jar, but the color disappears immediately once it is applied to the skin. It melts, actually, which I love. The only drawback here about the physicality of the product is how much I dislike the smell. It smells like some sort of lemony household cleaner.

The ingredient listing is where I become a bit conflicted. The ingredient listing is SO LONG and I am unfamiliar with quite a few of them, which isn’t always the best sign. I mean, it’s great that there are no drying alcohols in it, but I DO think my skin is a little sensitive to this because of how many oils they put in. Now, oils for me are hit or miss — some certainly play better with my skin than others, but this just seems like a lot:

Phew! Not listed in this screenshot is the inclusion of coconut oil and aloe vera (which both tend to be comodeogenic for my skin). On the plus side, we’ve got three types of ceramides, niacinamide, and allantoin.

Despite drying a little bit more tacky on my skin than I would care for (don’t put makeup over this one!), this does make my skin feel protected and soft. I don’t think it quite lived up to the “72 hour” claim, but the feeling did persist up to about the 18 hour mark.

As for my skin condition over all… I do think I have a bit of a sensitivity to this. Although it works GREAT as an emollient, especially overnight, I have woken up a few times with clogged pores, blotchy skin, or tiny break outs. But, I went into this knowing it wasn’t oil-free, so that was the price I paid.

If you’re not sensitive to oils, don’t mind the smell of Pine-Sol, and you’re looking for a great overnight mask, this will do the trick. Otherwise, sensitive skin users, be careful with Good Cera! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3/5

Longevity: 3.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 2.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

My Current Routine

For the sake of documenting a moment in time, and perhaps to reflect in five years to ask myself “why on Earth did I use that?”, I wanted to list some of my current skincare favorites. I recently went on a short trip, which is always great for forcing yourself to decide on which products are truly must-haves (and also useful in those moments where you think to yourself, “why did I forget to pack that?!).

Now, of course, I don’t use all of these every single day, but everything listed is in heavy rotation. All of these products have been in my routines for a minimum of five months — some have been in my routine for over six years. I can say that all of these have maintained or improved my sensitive, acne-prone skin. Everyone’s reactions are different, but if I had to recommend products to someone with skin issues, these would all be included in that list.

AM Routine

  • COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
  • Mario Badescu Rosewater Spray
  • Melano CC Gel (although I’m not 100% sold on this one yet…)
  • Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
  • Rohto Skin Aqua Super Moisture Milk SPF50

PM Routine

  • COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser (I obviously love this)
  • Mario Badescu Rosewater Spray (same with this, I would spritz this every hour on the hour if I could)
  • Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner

PM Exfoliant Options:

  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA
  • The Ordinary 5% Lactic Acid
  • Epiduo
  • Derma-E Anti Wrinkle Eye Cream

PM Moisturizer Options

  • Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
  • Cerave PM

PM Heavy Moisturizers — “Last Step”:

  • Bio-Oil
  • CosRX Honey Ceramide Cream
  • HadaLabo Gokujun Hyaluronic Solution

Makeup

  • IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Illumination – Medium
  • Maybelline Stick Corrector Concealer (under eyes, and on/around eyelids with careful blending)
  • NYX Tinted Brow Mascara in Brown
  • L’oreal Lash Paradise
  • Physicians Formula Eye Booster Pencil Eyeliner
  • Physicians Formula Mineral Glow Pearls in Bronze (used as bronzer)
  • Maybelline Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter in Molten Rose Gold

Aquaphor

There’s a lot of talk in the skincare community about “slug life” — wherein a skincare aficionado ends their routine with the most occlusive product possible, and ceases any social activity for the remainder of the day (since drowning your face in Vaseline/oil/Aquaphor has the tendency to make you look a tad bit, well, slimy). Of course, by doing all of this, you run the risk of blocking your pores and causing more breakouts if you wind up picking the wrong product.

The ingredient listing in Aquaphor is relatively simple — mineral oil, lanolin alcohol, paraffin, panethenol and glycerin. But mineral oil is a tricky thing. It’s not inherantly evil — it’s in a ton of makeup products, and probably a lot of skincare products that don’t tout themselves as oil-free. Unfortunately, it absolutely has a tendency to clog pores.

I rotated between Cerave in a Tub, Aquaphor, and Vaseline when I first started using Epiduo — since Epiduo’s primary function is to turn over skin cells, my face was burning like crazy. The three aforementioned heavy-layers were intended to decrease the burning. Of the three, Vaseline was the best for this, and Cerave was the worst. Aquaphor landed squarely in the middle. However, of the three, Aquaphor lead to the highest tendency of me waking up in the morning and saying, “Ah, look, new break outs!” (Vaseline did this as well, but not to the same extent)

What I did find Aquaphor was best for was lips! I use the Aquaphor Healing Ointment in the smaller tube as my go-to chapstick. Most chapsticks have more drying components in their ingredient listing (like peppermint) that cancel out anything you’re trying to accomplish, which is generally to retain moisture in your lips. The paraffin and mineral oil, and otherwise short ingredient listing in Aquaphor will help to keep them hydrated.

If you’re not sensitive to mineral oil and you’re looking for a good “last step” in your routine — particularly if you have very dry, irritated skin (in fact, I think this is a holy grail for a lot of eczema sufferers) — I’d say give this a shot. It goes on easily and the gel is clear — you should start feeling some relief moments after you apply it. No, no one is going to win any beauty contents by slathering petroleum all over their face, but that’s the price you pay for being a believer in slug life! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5 as chapstick; 2/5 for face

Recommended for sensitive skin: If sensitive to mineral oil, no.