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

Skincare During a Pandemic

I hope all of my readers are doing well and keeping healthy!

If I’m being honest, skincare has been the last thing on my mind as of late. I’m sticking to my routine still, but I haven’t been inspired to try anything new, despite having a long stretch of time to do so.

But I did share this long quarantine month with Derma-E Vitamin C cream. I had forgotten what a powerhouse this cream was, despite the Vitamin C being likely less concentrated in it’s moisturizer form. And I do have a little bit of beef with some of the end-of-day pilling I noticed, but my skin has been amazingly clear and bright for most of the month! I recommend this to sensitive-skin users, if you’re looking for an entry-level Vitamin C cream.

I also wanted to talk about a post I saw on Reddit. I can’t remember if it was a YSK (you should know) or a LPT (life pro tip)-type thread, or maybe it was just in the skincare subreddit! But the overall message was, “Just because I haven’t worn makeup in a few weeks, doesn’t mean my acne stopped”.

I love this message. I think a larger part of the population believe that, if you have acne, it’s because you are dirty, or it’s because you’re using too much makeup. This is not true at all! Hormones play a much larger part in causing acne, and it’s probably king among other acne triggers, like stress and the outside environment.

Sometimes we all stumble upon a product that makes us break out a little more, sure, and foundation can certainly be one of those products. But break outs can happen due to an allergy or a skin sensitivity as well, a very possible scenario given the amount of different ingredients packed into a tiny bottle of product. And who’s to say the breakouts can’t completely be chalked up to hormones, in the first place?

So yes, you may be spending your quarantine with no makeup and a perfect routine every day. But it’s not going to guarantee your skin will get betterand that’s ok!

Overall, I’ve seen a lot of positive messaging to encourage people that they don’t “need” to do everything right during this quarantine. You don’t need to use this time to change all of your imperfections. The only thing we need to worry about is just to get through the day, and never losing hope that we’re one day closer to “normal life” again! ~A

Life with Cystic Acne: Barcroft TV

I usually view Barcroft TV as the TLC channel of Youtube — rife with “wacky” counterculture lives, most of which are played up for the sake of the camera. But Barcroft TV has also done several body-positive videos. I really like this idea because it visually explains the struggles of someone with an “abnormal” body in some way, while also stating that it’s okay to be different, particularly when it’s something you cannot control.

Many of the subjects in these latter videos have honest and realistic takes on life. And while most, in the end, triumph in some capacity, the sadness and pain they experience to get to that point can sometimes be extremely relatable to the viewer.

In the past two years, Barcroft has made a few videos related to people suffering very extreme forms of acne. But the video I’ve embedded today really hit home for me. At one point, the subject states that she thought her boyfriend would break up with her because of her acne. Fortunately, her boyfriend — now husband — could only express shock toward her concern, because her acne had never even “been on his radar”.

But the moment she explained how insecure her acne made her, to the point of no one wanting to date her because of it, was heart-wrenching for me. I remember feeling the exact same way as her at one point, when my acne was at it’s worst.

I’m glad Barcroft posted this video, normalizing a not-uncommon condition and highlighting the mental suffering involved when you have cystic acne. This girl is beautiful, and has a great personality — and major props to her awesome husband, who can see beyond the skin. Now that’s the kind of partner every girl needs!

Now, on with the show! Click the play button on the video below to watch. ~A

Clean and Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser

Clean and Clear knows their target demographic very well: teens who are struggling with acne for the first time in their lives, and their parents who don’t know much about skin care. They have what seems to be an astronomical budget for their marketing campaigns (probably because their parent company is Johnson & Johnson), which make it seem like all you need to do is put the product on, dramatically splash some water over your face, and you’ll be out the door with clear skin in no time. That’s not to say Clean and Clear is pumping their products full of stuff that doesn’t work, but it seems like their preference is to hook the consumer with loud-colored product lines instead of having them focus on the ingredients in the products themselves.

That brings me to talking about this product. This is a white-cream cleanser that you mask your face with (or your problem areas), leave it on for 20-30 seconds, and then wash it off. The idea is that the 10%(!!!!!) benzoyl peroxide should eradicate active, or about-to-be active breakouts.

The reason I bolded 10% BP is because 10% is A LOT. That is the maximum percentage benzoyl peroxide can be sold at. For me personally, a 2.5% spot treatment is enough to make my skin peel. Now that I think about it, even the prescription-only Epiduo gel is only 2.5%! I use the Clean and Clear product MAYBE twice a year, and the way I view it is kind of like a nuclear bomb — if I’ve gotten to the point of using it, that means I’ve had a very terrible breakout, and I’m prepared to accept the consequences of my skin burning and peeling to help turn over the breakout faster.

Imagine you are a teenager who is embarrassed by their first onset of acne. You walk into Walgreens, and find a cleanser that promises clear skin. You don’t really know what the 10% truly implies, but Clean and Clear is a very popular brand, and it’s cheap ($6), so you should buy it too, right? Once you use it, you notice your skin is burning and peeling, but the adage is that “if it hurts, that means it’s working”, so you keep on cleansing your face with it, hoping to see clear skin the next day.

But it doesn’t work like that — with repeated usage of this product you’ll only experience more irritation, and the dryness of your skin will likely create even more breakouts. Just because you’re washing it off after 20 seconds doesn’t mean you’ve reduced your exposure to the BP. You’ve more or less entered into a never-ending cycle, because the product simultaneously causes the problem, and also cures it.

I know that Clean and Clear is not the only brand that sells 10% BP in this form, as a cleanser. Other brands yet sell this percentage as a spot treatment, which makes a little more sense since the idea is to “target” the problem area and not put it all over your face. The spot treatment idea I can get behind, as long as the user has education about the strength that they’re using. But as a cleanser — I can’t back that as a well-intended product.

My recommendation to someone new to skincare who is struggling with acne or possibly has a limited budget is to try to stick to a basic routine. Use a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil, an oil-free moisturizer like Cerave PM, and, if you must, sparingly use a spot treatment that isn’t more than 2.5% BP. Unless you already have a very high tolerance to benzoyl peroxide, slathering 10% of it on your face is only going to lend itself to trouble. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5 (with CAREFUL use)

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

Elta MD Intense Moisturizer

Elta MD Intense Moisturizer

This is a weird one. During my cystic acne phase, I used this as an occlusive, and continued to use it for the first five months of treatment. I didn’t have any issues breaking out “more” than I already was. Using it now, though, now that I’m back to combination skin, I’ve noticed it’s congestive to my pores. This seems weird to me as the ingredient list is simplistic — petroleum, and paraffin — both of which are in other products I currently use. So, for all you sensitive skin/acne sufferers: I would actually suggest giving this a try first and see how you react. I really liked this in the beginning and thought it worked great. I’m guessing as my skin recovered, my sensitivities changed.

Onto the review! There is quite a lot of product in this tube, and you don’t need very much at all. The only smell is really the mineral-y, waxy smell of the petroleum. This moisturizer does, as they advertise, “melt” — it comes out as a thick line of waxy product, but starts to disintegrate into water when it makes contact with the heat of your skin. That makes this product best as a last step/occlusive, after you’ve put all your other products on for the night (just be careful not to sleep with your face on the pillow…). It’s awesome particularly in the winter when you feel like you honestly could never get enough moisture in your skin — this moisturizer will provide it!

A full eight hours is about the time it takes for this product to fully break down, but the end result is that you wake up feeling that your skin is bouncy and soft. As I mentioned before, I used to not really find that I had any “new” breakouts (that were caused by this, anyway).

I’m kind of bummed out that I don’t have great results with this anymore like I used to. I think it’s the most moisturized I’ve been from using one product, and the price point of $10 is great for the amount of product and overall effect. I’ll give it the review I would have given it when I had bad acne though, because I think it could definitely be a holy grail for acne sufferers, so long as they don’t have any sensitivities to petroleum. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti Wrinkle Cream

This product was one of my very first moisturizers and retinol products. I don’t know how I feel about that, to be honest — I probably could have started with something a little bit more low-key, without the retinol, but I must have figured 20 or 21 was a good as time as any to hop on the anti-wrinkle train.

I definitely did not know what I  was doing with anything retinol related at the time, so there is a possibility I used this way too much — every morning/night, or at least, every day. I probably wasn’t wearing any sunscreen with it, either. Bad. But I can say with confidence that it never broke me out (any more than I already was at the time, anyway — this was before my cystic acne, so I suspect at the time those breakouts were more due to my poor eating/sleep/stress habits), and the packaging does specify that it’s oil-free.

It is a white cream, that quickly sinks into your skin without having to vigorous rub in. It’s can be a little bit pilly if you don’t let it set or you put too much in one area, etc., but as long as it goes on smoothly from the onset, it should be relatively lightweight. There’s no fragrance.

As it is a retinol cream, this should be worn at night, not during the day, or if you’re going to wear it during the day, put some sunscreen over it. So you probably shouldn’t need to put makeup on over it, but if you do, that should go on fine as well, again as long as you’ve allowed the product time to set. I haven’t used this in awhile, so it’s possible that reformulations have occurred in the time that’s lapsed thus changing the structure of the product, but I don’t notice any substantial ingredient changes.

While this product does boast retinol, they don’t disclose the percentage, and I read somewhere on Reddit once that the percentage is actually relatively low, or that it merely contains it’s lesser form, retinyl palmitate. But regardless of the amount of retinol, my word of caution is still to read up on retinol and how to use it properly before applying (especially if you’re acne prone, cause the retinol purging period can be real!)

But if you like to live a more carefree lifestyle (like me, at age 20) and do absolutely zero research before using a product, this is certainly the product to do it with. It’s probably not a miracle worker, but it won’t kill your skin, and there’s just enough good stuff in it to convince yourself that it’s actually doing something. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

Dermacol Make-Up Cover

Dermacol

Oh man. Where to begin.

I tried this at the height of my cystic acne. I saw a ton of Youtubers swear by this stuff as the ultimate cover. It is used for stage makeup, after all! Girls with cystic acne, the same and even worse than mine, used this to cover up all of their flaws, no problem.

After hours of scouring the internet to make sure I was buying a real item and not a fake, because naturally the actual Dermacol website/retailer had spontaneously somehow run out of the 207 color, I was able to snag this for $13 a piece (although I think normally it retails for somewhere in the ballpark of $8).

To be on the safe side, I purchased 207, 208 and 209. 207 is darker/yellower than 208 (why it’s ordered like that numerically.. no idea), 208 is basically white, and 209 was way too dark for me. I ended up mixing 207 with a tiny bit of 208.

This stuff comes out of the tube HEAVY. It reminds me of that Rimmel Stay Matte foundation, but way heavier. A TINY, smaller-than-pea-sized amount of this will cover your entire cheek. Don’t even bother with your beauty blender, just smear this stuff on with your fingers and hope for the best. A brush will help blending into your forehead or your jawline, but if you’re hoping to use it for the rest of your face, all it will do is push the product around, further into an area you won’t necessarily want it in. What I’m trying to say is, this foundation/concealer is REALLY hard to work with, and it’s difficult to keep it applied evenly across your face. Probably goes without saying that it needs a good fifteen minutes to fully set.

Oxidation? Absolutely. 207 will skew pink/red and 208 will turn more orange, a few minutes after application. I had to mix the two of them anyway, but I recommend you mix them anyway, for that reason.

But Dermacol does cover, and it covers immediately, even before it sets. All redness and pockmarks on your skin = GONE. It is truly full coverage. I wouldn’t say the finish is “beautiful” — I mean, it’s really just a total concealer, so the finish is very flat, and paint-like. But if the goal is wiping out blemishes, then Dermacol will accomplish that, very much so.

This does not play well with other makeup that needs to be applied directly to skin. I recommend using a setting powder, not a setting spray or finishing spray (except possibly Ben Nye finishing spray), but go VERY lighthanded on the brush to set the powder, or else you’ll smear the foundation. Yes, even after you’ve waited for it to set.

Dermacol will hold up for the better half of the day — around five or six hours — but when it breaks down, it really breaks down. Dry patches will cling. Oil will break through. Entire sections of the makeup will mysteriously go missing (or maybe I just touch my face too much… I don’t know. You get the point, though).

This review was an emotional rollercoaster just writing it. It was so stressful to use, but I so desparately wanted to cover the insane blemishes on my face!! Cause it definitely did. I covered the craziest of cysts and scabs and blemishes that should not have been possible to cover. But it was an art to get this on in the first place — and to keep it on. Rimmel’s Stay Matte foundation (link to my review of that here!) has pretty close coverage to Dermacol, and comparatively less stressful to deal with — I would recommend that, instead.  ~A

Still want to take the plunge? Click here: https://amzn.to/2CfvwmZ

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 2.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary Niacinamide

I found a post the other day on Reddit, in which the user was confused as to what the hype was re: products from The Ordinary. The concern was that the product — this one, specifically — pilled like crazy. At which point I thought… MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY!

I like the company’s mission here, to strip out all the extra junk you don’t need. I appreciate that. But I also don’t understand how that makes this practical for every day use. See, on initial application, this stuff looks lovely — it makes a nice glossy-not-shiny sheen over your skin. Glassy with an “a”, actually, that seems like the best word to use. I like it. It’s odorless, and you apply a few drops with a dropper. A little goes a long way. And I think I picked this one up for $11 — not bad!

But that all comes to a halt after 30 minutes. Suddenly, even without touching your face, the pills start to form everywhere. Your skin just peeeeeeels off. Did you have sunscreen or makeup on? That’s going to come off, too. So I quickly learned that, at minimum, this is not for “going to work” use.

But then I thought… when the heck am I supposed to use this? Either way, it’s going to peel off, and apparently it’s going to peel off anything else I’ve applied as well, including other moisturizers.

And I mean — is the Niacinamide even working? Similar to the Cerave PM, I feel like the initial application does make it appear that my pores have shrunken, due to that glassiness both products create initially. As for any long term effects… I guess I haven’t been using it long enough to tell, but I also cannot fathom how it is useful when it falls off your face after 20 minutes.

I don’t know. I want to repurchase it, I want to love it because everyone else does. But I just… don’t get it. If you have any insight as to what I may be doing wrong, leave me a comment! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 3/5 (that initial glossiness, though!)

About Me

Whenever I look for beauty product reviews, points of reference are always huge for me. When I first started really getting into makeup and skincare, I suffered from acne — initially, it was the standard run-of-the-mill acne, and then once I hit my mid-late 20s, BAM, it blew up into insane cystic acne. Devastating! You’re supposed to be done with that stuff after your early 20s, but apparently not for me (and thousands of other women and men). So, until I got it treated, this little issue of mine forced me to read between the lines of all the reviews. For example, just because someone on Reddit posted a ~*flawless*~ “after” photo when reviewing a product, I had to ascertain a) whether or not they had any pre-existing skin conditions, or b) if they photoshopped the life out of their face.

It is unlikely that I will ever post a picture of myself, but, for all of those who are wondering what kind of person I am, and if my personal situation is relevant to your life, here it is:

  • I am in my late 20s.
  • Dark brown hair and light-colored eyes
  • To reference the MAC scale of skin shades, I’m going to say NC20 as a generality. But I’ve also scooped up NW-20-like shades. My personal description would be “pale-ish, with yellow undertones, and super red cheeks.” That’s as scientific as I can get.
  • As I mentioned before, I had absolutely terrible, insane, crazy hormonal cystic acne that was ultimately cured by spironolactone and Epiduo (more on that later) so I ALWAYS take that into consideration for product reviews since it was ingrained into me to look for oil-free products at that time
  • Now that I’m “cured”, I still have a lot of pretty deep scars, and I still get small breakouts from time to time.

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, I am going to do a little explanation of how I’m going to run things on this website (at least until I change my mind, which happens… a lot).

  • All products are bought with my own money, and I am not what you would call a rich person, so unfortunately swatching multiple products will be out of the question — I’ve likely only bought the one product for myself, so there wouldn’t be anything to compare it against.
  • I won’t be taking any pictures of myself with the product on, or during application. I’ll likely find the most recent stock photo of the product itself, or take a picture with my six-year-old Android phone of the product sitting on my bathroom sink. High quality, here we come!

Onto the rating system! Everything is rated out of five. There’s no scientific system in which things are rated, nor do the ratings for one category impact another (except maybe the last one), they’re just my own opinion.

Perceived efficacy: Do I think, or see the product actually working, based on the claims the outward label made?

Longevity: How long does it last?

How much I actually like this product: All things considered, how much did I like this? This includes things like physical characteristics of the products and the price point.

Now that I’ve set the stage, all I can hope for is that someone else who is searching for an honest and non-sponsored review will stumble across this page, and find the review that will make or break their purchasing decision. The beauty industry is really tough to navigate, and it’s hard to determine what’s best for you versus what’s being shilled to you strictly for a profit (I still struggle with figuring that out). Worst case scenario? I’ll keep this blog around to remind me the reasons of why I should not to go into Ulta and say “Oh, but the packaging is so pretty, I should give them another shot!”

~ A