Holy Snails Shark Sauce

I had — have — a lot of bad acne scarring. I didn’t really realize how big of a difference a good niacinamide treatment could make the scars improve. Sure, I’d had a long run with Cerave PM, but within the past year, Cerave has changed their PM formulation, and it’s been rough on my skin since then. The Ordinary’s Niacinamide has a beautiful cast, until it shreds off my face like cheese in a cheese grater. So I bit the bullet and plopped down $30 for a 30 ml bottle of the Reddit-coveted Shark Sauce.

As you may have noticed this serum is a bit on the pricey side, but I can assure you that it will last a long time – one or two drops should be enough to cover your face. The serum comes out of the bottle completely clear, and dries down clear. It does feel a little tacky for the first five minutes of application so you might want to wait to add more products until then. Otherwise, other moisturizers and foundation will layer just fine over this product.

I immediately noticed my skin seemed a little brighter after the first day, which made my pores seem smaller and my pre-existing scars seem less obvious. The sheen isn’t quite as “glassy” as the Ordinary’s serum, but it still has a beautiful, silky finish once dried. And, on my four-month mark today, I can safely say this has either lightened or decreased the size of some of my worst scars.

For anyone with sensitive skin, I would be a little cautious using this product. I did experience some pore congestion and small breakouts in the first two weeks of using this (even though it was simultaneously making my skin quality appear overall better and brighter, somehow). I was somewhat taken aback by this since the formula isn’t particularly abrasive — it doesn’t sting while applying, or even create the “niacinamide flush”. Fortunately for me, the breakouts disappeared after those first few weeks, and haven’t resurfaced since then.

The ingredient list is tame, with no drying alcohols or added fragrances. Included is hyaluronic acid for moisture retention, as well as another brightening agent n-acetylglucosamine. (I am happy to report that the Shark Sauce ingredient listing is very transparent on the Holy Snail’s website, I love a good product listing that doesn’t make you scroll down for five minutes just find the ingredients in teeny-tiny print!). Oh, and, in case you were wondering: no actual sharks were harmed in the making of this product…

I’d say $30 for this niacinamide serum is money well spent. Not only is this serum great in the short-term with skin texture and discoloration, but it’ proves to be around for the long-haul as well in it’s ability to decrease the appearances of scarring. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes, although you may need to push through the first few weeks of use.

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.

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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.

EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer

Pretty upset at this product and at myself. I tried this a few years ago when I was bored of my go-to niacinamide standby Cerave PM (I know, I know, again, this is blasphemy… I learned my lesson). I forgot why I stopped using it and trashed it in the first place, and repurchased just a month or two ago to try it again. So, here’s my big ol’ posting to remind myself why I should never buy this again.

Right off the bat, this is expensive. $32. For me, absolutely not worth it.

This white gel-cream comes out of a push-tube, and it’s odorless. All well and fine. When attempting to spread this on your face, you’ll find you have to keep going back for more product. For a lightweight moisturizer, it’s pretty hard to push around. It seems to absorb fine without leaving any product behind, but within five minutes you’ll notice… PILLING!

That’s right. Pils galore. Want to put on your sunscreen, or perhaps another moisturizer over this? Forget it. What about your foundation? Ha! Laughable! I’ve never seen a product pill so badly. I feel like I am missing something, because I had the same conundrum with The Ordinary’s Niacinamide product. These two products have crazy high reviews and the consumers love them. But every so often I run across a review that’s like, “This product pills up into little balls on my skin” and I want to scream Yes!!! That’s me!! Is there a specific skintype that forcibly pills up product you put onto it, for no real reason? I’d like to form a club for me and those people.

This product is hugely popular for being oil-free and thus tending to be good for acneic skin. I didn’t break out from using this (although to be fair my testing period was only four days), and people really love this product for being tolerant with skin sensitivities. But… what’s the point if it’s just going to roll off of your skin? This is a hard no from me. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

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!)

Cerave PM – Facial Moisturizing Lotion

Cerave PM

Welcome to my #firstpost! The whole point of this place is because I was sick of going on Youtube and watching makeup/skincare/beauty product reviews, only to find out that the video was sponsored, which made me question literally everything the creator was saying. Is it genuine if someone’s giving you a nudge one direction when you review their product? Making things worse, a lot of these videos — just to review one single product — are anywhere between eight and twenty-five minutes long. I really just wanted someone to tell me “yes” or “no”. So here I am, reviewing makeup, moisturizers, lotions, supplements — pretty much any beauty product that I’ve ever tried, I’ll post at some point.

Now, onto the review.

I stockpile Cerave PM just in case I run out, if that is any indication of how much I like this stuff. When I travel and I am forced to “pack light” (ha!) and choose one moisturizer, I will usually choose this. It’s ridiculously light weight and sinks into your skin immediately. Besides a few fatty alcohols, there aren’t any known “drying” alcohols contained in this product.

But is the niacinamide ingredient actually helping scar damage? I can’t really tell. I have plenty of scars from acne, and I can’t say that I’ve noticed any marked improvement by using this product specifically.

As for longevity, I apply this in the morning, and generally feel like my skin is moisturized all day. I’d recommend it to anyone just getting into the moisturizing game, or someone who is attempting to go back to basics. The price point is great at $9-$13. Oh, it doesn’t seem to break me out, either, and you can put three layers of the stuff on your face and it still won’t pill, even under makeup. ~A

A note from future A: This product recently reformulated, and has made my skin react poorly — buyer beware, in 2020! My new post on this change is here.

Perceived efficacy: 3/5

Longevity: 4.25/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.25/5