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

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

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

Should You Take Zinc for Acne? A Story Told by Reddit Comments

Short answer: you probably shouldn’t take zinc to cure acne.

One weakness I will admit I have is that I can sometimes be easily persuaded by other Reddit users. So when I saw reviews like this:

And this:

And this:

I immediately set out and bought 50mg of zinc from my local vitamin shop. And no, I foolishly did not do any additional research. I figured, there was already zinc found naturally in the food I ate, and it was in my multivitamin, and I had heard people say in the past that zinc was good to take when you had a cold — what would 50mg extra of zinc really do to me?

Turns out, even when taken on a full stomach, it would give me extreme nausea. The nausea would last up to two hours. I carried on doing this for about four days or so, until I finally made the connection that perhaps it had been the zinc doing this to me.

So I consulted Google, and found this on Livestrong:

Oops, I had been taking 50mg, plus the 10mg that was already found in my multivitamin. I immediately stopped taking it. Besides, my skin hadn’t gotten any better anyway. Clearly, I should have done my due diligence like the replying user in this Reddit post:

So, readers, please learn from my stupid mistake. Don’t take supplements before doing your research! There’s a chance zinc might work for some, particularly if they are zinc-deficient, but otherwise, my final verdict on zinc for acne is the following:

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

The Vicious Cycle of Makeup

I love makeup: I love what it’s capable of. I love the artistry that goes into good makeup application (which I admittedly don’t have much of, which makes me appreciate the talent even more). I love the confidence and pride it instills in me after I’ve applied it successfully, in such a way that my features have been noticeably enhanced.

I loved makeup a lot when my skin was at my worse. Having cystic acne kept me constantly checking mirrors, shielding my face from others, not making eye contact, and generally just not wanting to interact or interface with anyone, even the people I was very close with, who ostensibly wouldn’t judge or care if I had acne in the first place. Makeup — foundation, specifically, that was full coverage enough to hide the acne — was able to eradicate my fear of going out into the world, perhaps not fully, but to a great extent.

Foundation can make your skin look great. It can make it look smooth and blemish-free, amongst other things. But foundation itself — what’s in it — is still just chemicals and ingredients, both natural and unnatural. Foundation is not your skin. No matter what the label tells you — non comedogenic, natural ingredients only, oil-free, skin-like, etc. — it’s still not your skin. You are putting, painting a foreign substance over and onto your natural human skin. Keeping that in mind, there’s a good chance you may be an individual who is impervious to certain irritants, so wearing makeup is a non-issue for you. But the other half of us has an equally good chance of experiencing breakouts after a full day of foundation. I am in this latter half.

When you are someone with sensitive skin, makeup becomes both the savior and the catalyst for your skin issues. I needed makeup to cover up the problems on my skin. But the makeup was also making me break out more, as evidenced when I came home every night, rinsed the makeup off, and came to find out that more spots had appeared.

Even Kendall Jenner isn’t immune!

I was really able to put this to the test over the past month, now that my skin is usually close to 100% clear, thanks to the very powerful Epiduo. Generally speaking, I’ve been going to work without any foundation. But on the days I do wear foundation to work, I come home after eight hours and notice my pores show sign of congestion even after washing the makeup off. Which leads me to believe, for at least half of us with sensitive skin in the world, makeup will only make your issues worse.

But it’s really difficult to go out into the world without makeup, if you’re trying to cover up acne. At the height of my skin issues, I had the suggestion made to me that I needed to wash my face at night. That was such an embarrassing comment to receive — of course I was washing my face at night already! Just washing my skin was not going to cure a hormonal problem!

So, makeup can really do amazing things for your confidence, particularly when you feel you’re at your lowest. But I wish I had been more confident to go out on public without makeup when my acne was at it’s worst, and I really feel for those who are in a similar position as me. I wish the education around acne and what causes it was a little more mainstream in our society, so others wouldn’t automatically assume the sufferer was “unclean”, thus reducing the stigma around it.

I’ll never trash my bottles of foundation, and I’ll never unsubscribe from my favorite MUA’s on Youtube. Makeup is an art — it can accomplish amazing things if applied correctly. But from now on, I’m going to try to go bare-faced as much as I possibly can, even when a small breakout occurs. And I hope, for the new year, that my beautiful readers have the confidence to go out into the world with a look based on what they are comfortable with, and not just what society deems as “acceptable”. ~A

Both of the Georgia Gibbs in this picture are beautiful!

Epiduo Forte

This stuff is so powerful that it is causing me to have to temporarily forfeit like, 70% of my regular skincare regimen. On that note, I may be taking a temporary hiatus until my skin gets back on track after having used this.

This is my second go-around with Epiduo Forte. I was prescribed this in conjunction with spironolactone when I first saw a dermatologist about my cystic acne. Yep, prescription only, depending on where you live — and I think there are different variants on the name of Epiduo, depending on the strength.

The first time around was a true clear out of my extremely broken out skin. I was excited to start using this white-gel-cream product, with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide for bacteria killing and .3% adapalene for cell exfoliation. The general Internet consensus is that this stuff really does work, but I quickly realized that applying Epiduo at night isn’t exactly the same pleasant experience as slapping on a sheet mask. For the first month or two? This stuff is gonna burn like mad.

You know that phrase “if it burns, it’s working”? Ok, first of all, that phrase is terrible advice to live by, because it’s NOT true for most skincare products, except maybe this one. Even then, you will question if it really is working for the first few weeks, because it actually makes your skin WORSE. Like, a lot worse.

The first time around, my cystic acne multiplied. By a lot. It was terrible, painful, and just all around hard to deal with. Even now in my second go-around, my skin is probably the worst it’s been in about two years. Epiduo forces your skin cells to turn over more rapidly, thus bringing the bacteria to the surface and causing a break out. It doesn’t matter how diligent you are keeping your face clean — you’re still going to break out, a LOT. And in areas you don’t normally break out in, too!

I waited it out for about six weeks, the first time. My skin finally started to improve! I mean, it doesn’t PREVENT your break outs from happening, but it makes your pores quite a bit clearer, and overall the texture and condition of your skin will be brighter.

So what’s my deal with Epiduo today, 3 weeks into my second go-around? Heck, why am I even here, on a second go-around? Shouldn’t my acne be mostly cured-ish after using it the first time? Not exactly. You need to keep using it. And that’s what I stopped doing. Sure, I would use it like… every two weeks… to spot treat, but that was it.

About nine months after I stopped using it consistently, my face started to get a little more… blotchy. Not so much cystic acne as it had been before, since the spironolactone keeps a lot of that at bay. But the texture overall just wasn’t great. My dermatologist told me in no uncertain terms that I “can’t just stop using Epiduo”.

So here I am, week three. I apply Epiduo every night. The first two weeks, my skin burned like CRAZY — that’s getting a little better now, though. Peeling skin though? Non-stop. Exfoliants are risky to use, since the Epiduo is already exfoliating for me and my skin is pretty raw. I can’t use most of my moisturizers or sunscreens, since they’ll pill, even if my face is 100% clean. And my skin is still… not great. New spots are turning up every day!

I’ve gone through Epiduo before and know it works, so I’ll have to just hold out for another month or so. In the meantime, my skin care routine is minimal: Clinique’s Dramatically Different in the morning, a TINY dot of Its Skin 2pm, and CosRX Honey Ceramide Cream at night (and The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 5% if I’m feeling brave).

Hopefully my next post will contain some positive news. Hey, if the Epiduo works for me a second time around, then that will mean the product REALLY works! Unfortunately it’s a pricey venture at $375, and many insurers won’t cover the cost — although, manufacturer’s coupons will occasionally help to knock the price down if they’re available. Ah, the price we pay for clear skin… ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 3/5 (you have use it regularly)

How much I actually like this product: 3.5/5 (the burning! the purging!)

Recommended for sensitive skin: It will MAKE your skin sensitive, even if it wasn’t in the first place. Prepare for two months of total annihilation!

Beauty Products and User Subjectivity

I wanted to write a disclaimer on the sidebar about how I am not a doctor or a cosmetologist, I’m simply a beauty product enthusiast, and that all of my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. Everyone will have a slightly different experience than I did with all of the products I’ve mentioned on this page. But I also wanted to add my personal take on “everyone’s needs are different/everyone is different” and “you should never fully take the advice of someone on the Internet.”

My favorite makeup and skincare YouTubers are Jeffree Star and thataylaa. Jeffree Star is probably my prime example of “everyone is different”. He tries on makeup that he loves, that I generally think is tacky and god awful. Now Jeffree, I’m sure, has sponsorships of all kinds, even if he doesn’t directly promote them. But whether he likes, or dislikes, the product, he makes himself completely clear as to why. His videos allow you to actually see how the product performs alongside his, ah, very opinionated commentary. Whether or not you agree with him, that’s up for you to decide. But I find that his brand of brutal honesty is preferable to most of the other channels that exist, where the creator is seems almost hesitant to mention the drawbacks of the product, likely because they’re trying to upsell in order for you to click their affiliate links.

Next, there’s thataylaa. I also like her for her honesty, and her head-on approach with to dealing with cystic acne: she put her makeup-free face on display for thousands of viewers at it’s very worst, and demonstrated how to use and find makeup for people with similar skin issues. It helped that she had similar skin tone/eye color/hair color as me. As a result, much of my Amazon and Ulta shopping was fueled by her recommendations.

I found Catrice Prime and Fine finishing spray through her! It worked magnificently — until I broke out, read the ingredient list (yep, after buying it, of course… my fault), and noticed it had benzoyl alcohol in it. No, it wasn’t at the very top of the list, so the chances of it being an irritant were slightly less, but I still felt weirdly jilted. I mean, didn’t she know benzoyl alcohol is a common adversary for those who suffer from cystic acne?! How dare she! In the most petty way possible, I felt disappointed in her.

Then I opened my bathroom closet a few days later and realized that my favorite self-tanner had alcohol denat listed somewhere along the second line. But I loved that self-tanner! I was never going to give it up! Double-standards galore. I digress: it made me realize that everyone’s needs and likes are going to be different. Thataylaa probably wasn’t having issues the same way I was with the finishing spray, and why would she? She isn’t me.

So when you read any review, or watch a video that demonstrates the product, just keep in mind. Your results are probably not going to be the same. A popular product won’t always be guaranteed to work for you, just the same as a lower-rated product might be your personal holy grail. I’d take a guess and say that 98% of reviewers are not professionally certified in any way to give a completely accurate dissertation (including myself!), so digest those reviews accordingly. 🙂 ~A

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion wasn’t a silver bullet for me, but it sure was fun to play around with for a spot treatment.

Ulta gives you the option to choose between a plastic bottle or a glass bottle. Seems to be the same product as far as the effect goes. There’s a clear liquid is on top, and some pink sediment (calamine? I think?) at the bottom. If this gets shipped to you, get ready for it to look pretty crazy on receipt, since it will undoubtedly get shaken up in transit. You’ll need to let it sit so that pink sediment gets back to the bottom.

Once it’s settled, grab a q-tip or two and push it all the way toward the bottom to pink up that settlement, pull it out, and apply very carefully to the spot you’re trying to treat. Since you’re essentially slapping pink clay on spots of your face, this is probably best to use at night, unless you… are… a very brave person who is okay with exiting their house with their spot treatment on full display! In theory, you should be able to wake up, gently wash off the remaining dried lotion with water, and see that the spot is reduced. I did appreciate the longevity of the lotion, I didn’t have trouble with the treatment cracking/smudging/falling away from the problem area, even overnight.

Oh yeah, probably the other most noteworthy thing other than the pink hue of the dried lotion — this has sulfur in it. Yes, the “rotten eggs” smell. It’s not overwhelming, per se, but… well, sulfur is still pretty strong no matter what!

I was a fan of this for roughly a week at the height of my cystic acne. Active break outs were visibly decreased by the next morning — I was stoked. I thought it was the sulfur and salicylic acid combo that were making all the difference. In reality, the “quick fix” ingredient was actually isopropyl alcohol. It dries out the spot (hence “drying lotion”), which I think in extreme moderation is okay. It serves it’s purpose to dry out the inflammed area.

But there came a point where I think I was using this too often, not carefully enough, and the alcohol started leaking onto my healthy skin where there were no breakouts. That would dry out the rest of the skin, and cause even more breakouts. What a mess.

For me personally, this product is too much of a pain to even consider using. It’s a little messy and cumbersome to get the product out of the bottle. In the same breath, I’d say it’s also kind of fun, somehow… ? The whole “I’m putting sulfur on a Q-Tip” is such a novel notion to me! I also think they raised the price on this product since I used it, which is a shame — it looks to be $17 now, I swore it was around $11 at Ulta before. I think this product does the trick if you’re only going to use it once in awhile on one spot. But this isn’t something I’d be keeping around in my medicine cabinet to reach for immediately.

If you’re looking for this effective short-term product, click here: https://amzn.to/2B1Dccw 

Perceived efficacy: 4/5 short-term, 1/5 long term

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

cetaphil gentle skin cleanser

The holy grail cleanser for anyone with any acne issues, ever. It won’t cure your acne, but it will never make it worse, and does it’s job well to give your skin a clean slate for the day.

For $10-13, this pump bottle comes with enough product to last you at least 4-5 months, depending on how often you use it. One pump should be enough if you add a little water in to lather it. Apply it to your face, and wash it off. Simple. It’s incredibly basic — the cleanser comes out faintly white and it’s easy to lather up. It has no distinct smell.

In terms of removing makeup, this isn’t the best in the world and you might need go through the motions a few times to remove any extra product. But if you’re just looking to remove excess oil or grime from your face from the day or night (without stripping 100% of the natural oils from your face), then this is definitely your product.

I have tried the regular version of this (not labeled gentle skin cleanser), and it seemed about the same — maybe a tiny bit more drying, but nothing that prevented me from using up the whole bottle.

There really isn’t too much to say about this cleanser — it is, again, basic, but does the job starting your skin back at zero pretty well without being too drying, and a lot of people love it for that reason. I HIGHLY recommend this product if you have any type of acne. ~A

If you’d like to go back to basics with your skincare, click here: https://amzn.to/2SIPld6

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 4.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Resounding yes!