Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

The skin on my face does not like American-made sunscreens, chemical or physical, for some reason. I’ve had much greater success using Asian beauty branded sunscreens like Rohto and It’s Skin. So I was initially pretty pleased that I had received this in a sample-sized bottle only at first, because I was convinced I was going to intensely dislike this product the same as my other US made sunscreens. But it turns out… that… I’m in love… and that I’d happily buy a few full-sized containers to last the summer ❤

First off, the ingredient listing: love it. No drying alcohols, and nothing else that you don’t usually see in other sunscreens, except Diatomaceous Earth. Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen DE in any of my beauty products. Normally this ingredient is used in gardens as a pesticide! A couple Google searches informed me that this is apparently safe for human use, and actually helps to shed dead skin cells. Weird.

The product itself is a lightweight, odorless clear gel. And just as the name claims, this sunscreen really is unseen once you apply it. In fact, you can’t even really feel it after two minutes of drying time! There’s absolutely no whitecast on this, not even in areas where the product might spread unevenly, and pool up. That said, it’s ridiculously easy to smoothly apply, and a little goes a long way.

Quarantine has me in the habit of not wearing foundation, so I’ve only had a chance to try layering makeup over this product once or twice. But I had no issue applying makeup over this as long as I had waited the fully time to let the sunscreen dry down. By the end of the day, there was a little bit of increased pilling, but it’s nothing that’s unmanageable, and won’t cause any patchiness as a result of fusing with your makeup.

This sunscreen is phenomenal for anyone with sensitive skin. I didn’t experience the avobenozene-burning-sensation or any subsequent redness after applying. And, this product has not caused any breakouts for me!

The only thing on my wishlist for this product is that the SPF was 50, and not 40. I can definitely see a little bit of redness if I’m outside for too long, and/or forget to reapply. Supergoop has a 50 spf sunscreen, but a few reviews are telling me it’s heavy and oily, which I’m not a huge fan of.

But I’m still really pleased with Unseen, and I plan to tote this around with me everywhere I go this summer. The full sized product is a bit pricy for $30 and only 1.7oz, but again, you don’t need very much product to cover your whole face. This sunscreen is a definite buy, for me! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.8/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.7/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV SPF 50+ PA++++

After trying an unsuccessful string of physical and chemical American sunscreens, I decided to start looking for sunscreens featured on the AsianBeauty subreddit, particularly those that did not contain benzoyl or isopropyl alcohol. It turns out, a ton of chemical sunscreens have those ingredients… but Canmake Mermaid’s Skin Gel did not, so I went ahead and made the $10 purchase to try it.

To start, 10/10 on the packaging, with the silvery blue beach decals scattered throughout and the pink label. So cute! The sunscreen itself is quite thin, and comes out of the bottle easily. So, despite the bottle’s small size, a little of this product goes a long way. The white coloration of the sunscreen will sink in pretty quickly. Despite the easy absorption, it does leave a little white cast, and might lighten your foundation shade half a step. This occurs even with the “clear” version, and the effect of this is intensified in the white version of Mermaid Gel. Fortunately, the product spreads consistently over the skin, so it’s easy to blend in with makeup.

Speaking of makeup, this plays very well with other products. For me, personally, this is imperative. The drawback to this product is that it does cause a little bit of skin irritation. It doesn’t make me itchy or break-out, necessarily, but any redness that may have been leftover from old acne scars will be noticeably more pronounced.

Besides the redness, there’s really no additional “side effects” with this sunscreens that many others tend to exhibit. This won’t dry out your skin over time, or have the whitecast become worse over the course over the day. The sunscreen is odorless. It also doesn’t pill. You can safely wear a layer of foundation over this for a full day with no issues. Oh, and, the important stuff: this has an extremely high SPF rating (50 spf, PA++++), so this is great to wear all year round.

If you are a sensitive skin user and you’ve been around the block with sunscreens, I would recommend you give Mermaid Gel a try (as well as Rohto Moisture Milk, which has relatively similar properties to this sunscreen). Finding a HG sunscreen is a difficult task for even clear skin users, since the sunscreen ingredients themselves, like zinc oxide, can be known irritants. But I think some trial and error for the sake of sun protection is worth it! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

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 »

Reviva Labs Vitamin E Stick

I impulsively picked this up at Fresh Market for… way more expensive than it normally retails, $8, compared to the going rate on Amazon, $4. I don’t know a whole ton about Reviva Labs so this was my first glance into the brand, although apparently they’ve been around for at least 20 years. Reviva touts themselves as all natural, and while the meaning of “all natural” tends to… vary… A LOT, from brand to brand, I tend to give reverence to brands that use safer ingredients.

This can be used as lip protection/”chapstick” for your lips, or directly applied to the skin around your eye. Ingredient listing has some pretty standard chapstick-like ingredients, like lanolin oil, olive oil, canola oil, beeswax and seed butter. The added bonuses are octyl methoxycinnamate/SPF 15, and Vitamin E for scar healing.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Great in theory, bad in practice. This definitely dried out the skin around my eye. Maybe not “burning” level of dry, but it was definitely tighter. I noticed “cracking” in that area with makeup, and cracking without. As a chapstick, this won’t last for more than five minutes on your lips. It’s not hydrating or occlusive whatsoever. I didn’t use this long enough to see if it was going to make any headway on scar healing, but, I mean, if it can’t even keep my lips hydrated for more than five minutes, then how is this going to be conducive to scar healing?

The only benefit I can see to this is the ability to apply SPF near the very thin skin around the eye. Normal sunscreens can be incredibly irritating if they get in, or around the eye, but that won’t happen with this stick. Still, SPF 15 is only going to block out 93% of UVB rays — you might as well opt for something in the market that’s at least SPF 30.

In short, I don’t get the point of this. It won’t keep your lips hydrated, and there are better options in the skincare world for applying sunscreen around your eyes. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2.5/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 1.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe (fatty-oil sensitive users, beware)

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

INNISFREE Daily UV Protection Cream No Sebum SPF35 PA+++

Innisfree UV Protection Cream came up in my search for alcohol-free sunscreens on Reddit, so I thought I’d give it a try. It was… lackluster, though not awful.

You get a tiny bit more product in this sunscreen than you do with most Asian sunscreens at 50mL, at an equivalent price point of $10-12. It was tough for me to find a US seller for this one, so there was a bit of a wait for this to be shipped from Korea.

The product comes out of the tube pretty easily. It initially has this, kind of… beige-colored tint? But it immediately turns white once you apply it to your face. Smells a little like fruity chalk, too. Ok, let’s try a better descriptor than that: like Flintstones vitamins. And that smell never fades at any point through the day.

It applies fairly easy onto the skin, but the white-cast is somewhat noticeable and doesn’t fade easily. That said; it does play well with makeup and other products underneath it, but you might notice the sunscreen ends up being a tad bit of a white-mixer with your foundation.

This sunscreen started to make my skin feel a bit dry after the 4 hour mark — although it wasn’t affecting my makeup necessarily, it felt like my skin was cracking each time I smiled.

I guess longevity isn’t technically a “thing” with sunscreens, because you should be reapplying after 2 hours anyway, but wearing the Innisfree sunscreen for a week or two instead of my usual SPF 50 made me realize how much more effective the SPF 50 is at blocking out rays. I got substantially more color on my skin in those two weeks.

I was a little paranoid this would make me break out because it dried my skin out so quickly, but it didn’t. So that was cool. Other than that, I guess I wasn’t really blown away by anything, and I probably won’t rebuy it. The whitecast was kind of annoying, it made my skin feel too tight, and I could also see how the smell would be off-putting for some. But hey — any sunscreen that doesn’t break me out is a friend in my book! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.5/5

Longevity: 3/5

How much I actually like this product: 2.5/5

ROHTO SKIN AQUA Super Moisture Milk SPF50 PA++++

I… I think I’m in love. Move aside, It’s Skin 2pm, I think I found a new holy grail of sunscreens. This little bottle is totally worth the month long wait to ship from Japan. Why do I love it so much? Let me count the ways …

1- No drying alcohols. Which leads me to my next point:

2- Has never broken me out.

3- Dries clear. There’s absolutely NO whitecast.

4- Odorless. Well, there is the faint sunscreen-y smell, but nothing noticeable or overwhelming, and goes away after a minute or two.

5- No pilling. Easily spreadable. Just give it a couple of minutes to dry, then go ahead and dump your foundation, powders, other moisturizers, literally whatever, on top of it. It won’t roll up.

6- Dries quickly. Kind of the same as #5, but I wanted to mention more of the texture. The sunscreen is a watery white gel that absorbs extremely rapidly — and clear. You’ll still feel a bit of a “film” on your skin, but it’s not heavy or bothersome.

7- A little goes a long way. Don’t be scared of the tiny 40ml bottle – you really only need two or three drops of this to spread across your face. Which reminds me…

8- No burning on application.

9- Waterproof. You can still “feel” the film of this on your face even after working up a sweat.

10- SPF 50! Can’t get much better than that.

11- Bonus ingredient: hyaluronic acid.

This is everything I could want in a sunscreen. It’s too perfect. The only thing I hate is the ridiculously long ship time. I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop because I can’t find anything wrong with it. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti Aging Perfector

In the words of Jeffree Star, “I’m not living for this”. This is a more-or-less a BB cream, in which the point of using this product is more about the added benefits (sunscreen and retinol) and less about the coverage. Unfortunately, the added benefits ended up not being benefits to me at all.

This foundation comes in a push-top tube. The liqui-cream comes out in a thin line, and, honestly, what you can get out in one or two pumps won’t really seem like enough product. It didn’t spread very evenly, and I kept having to go back to get more of the product, after feeling as though it had stopped short while I was spreading it. This might have been because the color isn’t really intended to be coverage, but more of a tint, thus causing me to think I simply hadn’t used enough. Which leads me to my next gripe.

What tint? Although my skin undertone skews yellow, I have a lot of redness due to my various skin sensitivities, but otherwise I’m a hard NC-15 during a good half of the year. I figured picking this up in the “ivory to fair” shade would be satisfactory. And again, I get that this isn’t intended to provide coverage, but I didn’t see any color at all, not even enough to provide any smallest amount of correction. Then, after twenty minutes, the weirdest thing happened: it oxidized, turning my face slightly orange. Suddenly, my face no longer matched my neck! But at this point I was already out of the house, so I soldiered on and continued to wear it.

Now, fortunately, any color that was on my face was relatively imperceptible by noon, although I had quite a bit of oil breakthrough. But then my skin started to itch, and by the time I was home to remove my makeup, I had broke out in a few spots. Now, there’s nothing unheard of in this product’s ingredient list, nor anything that I would say is bad. But it does contain both retinol and sunscreen. Retinol, even at low percentages, invokes an initial purging period. And sunscreen… I don’t know. I don’t have a good time with American sunscreens, personally, but I can’t put my finger on why that’s the case.

I can see why some people would like this product though. If you can tolerate the ingredients that provide the benefits, it seems like it could be a great product. Retinol is great for anti-aging, as is SPF (and you would need the SPF anyway if you planned on going out in the sun after applying retinol). If your skin can mesh well with the oxidation-orange tint, you’d be in luck with this. Otherwise, this foundation is personally hard pass for me. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

It’s Skin 2pm Sunblock SPF50

its skin 2pm

This chemical sunblock by Its Skin is thus far my holy grail of sunblocks. This is a Korean sunscreen but is, for the most part, relatively accessible on Amazon. For such a small product, you may be concerned that the $15 price tag on this isn’t quite worth it, but the sunscreen itself is pretty liquid-y, and a little goes a long way. And the typical conditions from shipping anything halfway across the world still apply: you’ll probably have to wait a few weeks to get it.

But for me, it’s absolutely worth the wait. Right off the bat, the tube is flashy gold and cool looking. Rip off the silver foil on the top keeping the product fresh under the cap, and the white liquid sunscreen tips out relatively easily without much need to squeeze the bottle. Like I said before, a little goes a long way.

The rest of this story is 100% awesome. The sunscreen sinks in with no whitecast! It smells amazing — very sweet, not overwhelming, and really not like sunscreen at all. After a couple of minutes of allowing to set in, makeup goes over this flawlessly with no issues of pilling (although it will cause some foundations to create a “cake” texture if you apply it too early). Even better — there’s no white-cast pilling atrocities on your face after hour 4. Heck, it doesn’t even happen after hour 8 or 12 or 16, although, technically, the efficacy of the sunblock is probably null and void long before then. But still! No whitecast! Wahoo!

In terms of actually doing it’s job as a sunscreen, this does it’s job as a 50 SPF (probably to better or lesser degrees depending on the timing between me putting it on, and me being exposed to sun). I’ve done a few laps outside of my work office in 85 degree weather with this on, and didn’t burn or tan (or if I did tan, very little).

Now, all of this said. I will say that, for me personally, it can cause a tiny bit of congestion in my skin. Not full on break outs, but minor clogged pores. It’s not pervasive, necessarily, but it does happen from time to time when I’m using it. My skin hated this even more pre-spironolactone, and it caused me to break out a ton (but I loved the concept of this so much that I just had to shelf it until I was a few months into my treatment… no regrets). However, history shows that I break out from most chemical sunscreens anyway, and quite frankly, I’m not sure what the trigger ingredient is. Not very helpful, I know. But while we’re talking about ingredients, I thought I’d mention that this is also alcohol-free! 🙂

Anyways, to wrap up, I obviously love this sunblock. I have yet to find another chemical sunscreen, in the US or otherwise, that ticks off all the boxes like this one does. If your skin tolerates most sunscreens, I highly recommend trying this out. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5!

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration – Oil Free Lotion Sunscreen 30 SPF

Hawaiian Tropic Weightless Face Sunscreen

I’ve used every Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen and tanning lotion under the sun (hah) since I was 16 years old. And, since I’m on this quest to find a new American HG sunscreen, I decided to give their Face sunscreen a try for $8.

It comes in a canister, almost, but with a push pump. It comes out plain white, and the application is pretty easy — of course you’ll need to rub it in to get rid of the whitecast, but that’s the deal with sunscreen. After that, there’s not really much residue white cast to deal with, or any crazy clinging to tiny baby hairs. It’s not tacky, and dries quickly. Sweet! It has a pretty strong smell — very sunscreen-y, and a hint of light floral, but that doesn’t bother me. From the get go, I really liked it…

…until my face started to turn bright red, and started to itch! Now, admittedly, my skincare sin is that I very rarely ever patch test, so I have no one to blame but myself. But the active ingredients in this are relatively similar to Cerave’s sunscreen, which I didn’t have an issue with, so I’m not sure if there was an interaction with something else I was wearing, or if I’m intolerant of something else in this sunscreen. In the resulting days I broke out just a bit, but I suspect this was because of my reaction, since the product does claim to be non-comedogenic.

Later on in the week, I did an, ahem, reverse patch test (yep I know, that’s not how you do it). I didn’t experience the same redness I had before, but the itchiness was definitely there.

I’m really not happy that my skin didn’t love this product because otherwise this ticks off all the boxes for me, in terms of what I’m looking for in a sunscreen. Lightweight and smells good. The SPF could be higher, but 30 would work for inside-only days. Heck, after the initial application I even tried applying makeup, and that went on smoothly over this product (although in the end I ended up just washing everything off, since my skin itched so much).

It’s really mind boggling to me since it’s not my first rodeo with these ingredients, and I wish I knew what the trigger had been. I do love this product, but I guess I can’t win ’em all… ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I wanted to like this product: A new category for failed attempts! 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No