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

Mizon Snail Recovery Gel

This snail gel has a pretty huge following, for good reason: It’s inexpensive, mimics the redness-reducing properties of aloe vera, and it works well as an occlusive or moisturizer. Unfortunately, my acne-prone skin does not love this product.

This comes in a cute, pink plastic bottle — small, but, a little squeeze of this colorless, odorless gel-cream goes a long way. From personal experience, this product is great to travel with — it’s small enough to chuck in your bag without taking too much room, and could also, hypothetically, replace a larger-sized occlusive or moisturizer product in your routine while you’re out of the house.

I used this, typically, as the last step in my routine — primarily when my heavier oils or occlusives weren’t in reach. I’ve used it as just a moisturizer as well, and put other products over it. However, this product is NOT heavy. You should absolutely stack other products with it because it’s not super moisturizing on it’s own. My word of caution is that it does still have a slightly longer dry time and it’s a bit tacky even after drying, so try to leave some time in between adding the other layer.

As for overall effect… I stand by what I wrote in the first paragraph, it works “well”, but it’s not GREAT. It’s definitely better to use it than to not use anything at all. My skin felt some relief immediately after use, and it might have retained a bit of moisture overnight. But I wasn’t wowed by the effects over a long period of time.

While I feel like this made my overall skin condition, at minimum, “ok”, I think it was also causing break outs. Nothing major, but after using the product for 3 days in a row, I noticed an increase in whiteheads and pore congestion. Like anything else, there could have been a myriad of other factors influencing this, but all other products remaining the same in my routine and the snail gel being the addition, I would suspect the snail gel. I had a similar reaction to CosRX’s snail gel. Is there such thing as being sensitive to snail secretion filtrate? Or perhaps it’s the olive oil. At any rate, there’s no drying alcohol in this product, so I know it’s not that.

For sensitive skin users, I ultimately wouldn’t recommend this, but only due to my own reaction. It may be worth a shot regardless, because it is a decent, portable “extra layer” you can add in. It’s also pretty cheap ($6, although it looks like Mizon’s either raised the price or price gouging is in play. I see it for $10 or $11 today!). I might be doomed to never experiencing the skin benefits of… a snail. Although if I’m being honest, I never envisioned putting anything related to a snail on my face until last year, so I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing… ~A

Still want to give this snail gel a shot? Click here: https://amzn.to/2JRDzx8

Perceived efficacy: 2.5/5

Longevity: 3.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

Clinique Moisture Surge 72 Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator

On today’s episode of buyer beware and Fake Stuff on Amazon…

I purchased this several times as it’s older iteration, prior to the upgraded title of 72-hour hydrator. I loved that stuff. It made my skin very bouncy, it didn’t pill, and had a very subtle fresh fragrance to it. It was comparable to Clinique’s Dramatically Different, maybe just a bit heavier. I used it day and night, and felt like it truly made a difference in my skin texture. It was an absolute dream to apply.

When the product changed names to tack on five more words, I jumped on Amazon to repurchase the new product. Seemed like the moisturizer had the same intended effect after all, and checked off all my moisturizer needs: “bad” alcohol and oil free. A little pricier, sure, ($39, ugh) but so was it’s predecessor.

A week passes and my package shows up. The jar looks identical to what was shown on Amazon’s website — the seller’s name was listed as “Clinique”, after all, why would it be any different? I open up the jar and woof… a strong smell of paint thinner. And, the gel-cream was white. It’s not supposed to be white! It should be light pink, for both the old and the new versions.

But like the idiot I am, I pressed on. “Perhaps this is the smell of fragrance free?”, I thought. “Perhaps alongside changing the product’s name, they changed the color of the gel?” The end of this story ended in a breakout, two days after stupidly slapping this stuff onto my face. So my assumption is that a fake had slipped into whatever warehouse it was being shipped from. As I went to contact the seller, I noticed a few reviews had recently appeared on the listing with similar complaints. Not the first, and won’t be the last time that will happen to me on Amazon, I presume.

So the second time around I popped into Macy’s to pick this up, as that seemed slightly less risky. This time around, the gel-cream was actually pink and devoid of that… wonderful paint thinner smell. It seemed to me I was finally holding the real deal.

But it didn’t perform the same way the old version had. This moisturizer does not play well with any other moisturizer or foundation. It’s very tacky feeling, and it pills like crazy! For all that tackiness, you would think it was retaining more moisture, but my skin didn’t look or feel “bouncy” at any point while using this.

“Use it as a night cream”, I thought, but while the product is still oil and drying-alcohol free, I noticed it causes my pores to clog up and I’ve broken out from it. The ingredient list is a bit lengthier than the original, but I can’t seem to pinpoint the new addition that could be causing this.

It really stinks that this is no longer a super-great moisture. I love the texture of this stuff still; it’s really satisfying to apply. If only the results were still as satisfying… (oh, and if Amazon would stop shipping out fakes, that would be great, too 😉 ) ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1.5/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

I’ve been really into trying rosehip products, since I’ve heard they’re beneficial for scarring. It will be close to a full year of having “clear” skin, free of cystic acne, but unfortunately the scarring from that persists for me, big time.

I use this product as an occlusive at night, long after all of the other products have dried on my face, otherwise it will pill those products up and remove them from your skin. I drop this oil directly on my face with the dropper, but despite this being a “heavier” oil, the product still moves pretty quickly down my skin, so I have to be careful that it doesn’t roll off onto the floor! The liquid itself is bright yellow. This will mostly fade out when you rub it in.

My biggest gripe with this product is the smell. At first it smells awesome — standard rose-hip smell, which I absolutely love — but as time goes on with the oil sitting on your face, it starts to reek badly of fish. It’s so weird. Maybe it’s just me…

I think that this oil is mainly good for the moisturizing properties. The air in my house is relatively dry, and without some type of occlusive I usually wake up with dry and tight skin. But having this on overnight is a good preventative measure from that — my skin feels bouncy when I wake up. I don’t personally break out from this, but it is an oil, so I would caution sensitive skin users to tread carefully.

As for scarring… I can’t really say that it’s done anything at all to improve that. I’ve been using this for about five months now and can’t say that I’ve seen any noticeable difference if I’m using it any more or less.

For $15, this is not too bad of a product if you need a moisturizing oil, although I’m not really seeing any added benefit for scarring. ~A

If you’d like to try this rosehip oil out for yourself, click here: https://amzn.to/2Mo2Cpq

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe

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

Peter Thomas Roth Oilless Oil Squalane

Peter Thomas Roth Oilless Oil

I was looking around to try out squalane oil after Timeless’ squalane broke me out badly. Realistically, these oils probably shouldn’t vary too much from product to product, but what can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment!

Though the bottle is small, you won’t be finding yourself go through the product very quickly, even though you will seemingly end up needing to squeeze out more product than you initially thought (which, by the way, the dropper is impossibly hard to squeeze). It’s very lightweight, and not heavy in the sense that you feel it will really stick on you for a long time. I’m guessing that was the reason for it’s name, “Oilless Oil”. Though citing that the product does not have olives in it, this does smell faintly like a cooking oil.

Application on the skin is relatively easy, although as I mentioned before, I’ve ended up needing to dip back into the bottle to get more product — for an oil, it doesn’t spread very far. That said, it’s extremely absorbent for an oil. It will feel as though you haven’t even applied it after an hour or two, and if you’re careful, you could probably go ahead and start layering other products on over it.  This is actually ideal since squalane works best to penetrate the skin prior to putting on additional products. I personally default to wanting to using squalane an emolliant, instead since I had so much trouble with products pilling in my past run-ins with squalane!

I didn’t break out from this, which was great! But although this product is nice for an added boost of moisturizer, and I appreciate the aspect of not feeling sticky and slimy for more than an hour or two, I don’t really feel that this product is doing anything in the long run. It might be good as an emolliant before you go to bed as a last step if it complies with everything under it, but that’s about it.

I picked this up for a little cheaper than the normal listing price of $22-28 via someone’s destash — I definitely would not pay full price for it, if I actually decided to rebuy!

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: 3/5

How much I actually like this product: 3/5

Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting Cream

Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting

Wanted to see what the hype was all about, since this is one of the more popular lines of moisturizers on the market. Picked this up online for $13 (Ulta is selling for $28, but Walmart says $10 for the same amount of product, huh? Not sure if it’s a newer formulation or what, but, anyway…). Love the packaging, heavy glass-like bottle and there’s a good amount of product inside.

The product is a really smooth feeling, white cream with very light fragrance. The texture of it is cashmere-ish, as much as a moisturizer can be. I like that about it. It initially looks like it absorbs into the skin pretty well.

Until the next morning, that is. Nice, white patches of “dry” skin start showing up (although it’s actually just dried product). This isn’t an issue if you’re going to hop in the shower and wash the remnants off anyway, but it is ill-advised to wear this out during the day, even though the jar instructs you to use it morning and night. I made this mistake and used this prior to putting makeup on, and then I went to work. Not only did my foundation pill when put over this moisturizer, but it started to pill and dry up on it’s own through the day, causing more little white, “dry” spots on my skin. UGH.

My skin definitely feels softer after using it — likely from the paraffin? — and it looks smoother overall, but these effects are just temporary and disappears once the product is washed off. I’m not convinced that it’s doing anything long-term. I also feel like this would be a problematic product for people with mature or wrinkled skin.  On the plus side, it hasn’t broken me out! It also has niacinamide in it, which is neat, although I’m not sure if it’s enough to make a difference.

This probably will not be a re-buy of mine, but it does feel nice, and isn’t the worst thing on the market as far as night creams go. Just as long as you’re only using it as a night cream… ~A

A note from future A: I forgot to mention that this has benzyl alcohol in the ingredient listing. Not cool!

Perceived efficacy: 3/5

Longevity: 5/5 (although, if used as a day cream, this longevity is actually problematic!)

How much I actually like this product: 3/5

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

Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser

Ponds Cold Cream

This product has been around forever (since the early twentieth century, according to Wikipedia), and it’s in every grocery store in existence. Until two months ago, I ignored it completely, until it was at Target for $4 and I impulse bought it.

This product is a white cream cleanser. It’s, as the title would suggest, cool to the touch. The instructions on the back say to use it as cleanser. I was hesitant to do so because there’s definitely mineral oil in it, and my sensitive skin is very… particular to what oils end up on my face, if any at all. But I tried it anyway (no patch testing, yee-haw!). Although it required a little more manual effort of pushing the product around on my face than my normal foaming cleansers would seem to require, it actually did take off my makeup more effectively than aforementioned foaming cleansers.

I did this for a day or two. I am convinced it did cause a small breakout on my chin, but there’s no way to prove that. Needless to say, at that point, I started using the product only around my eyes, since it’s totally awesome at removing eye makeup.

There is an instruction on the back that suggests you do not have to wash off the product after applying it. After cleaning off my eye makeup one night, I decided to leave a few swipes “on”, under my eyes, right on top of my beautiful dark circles. It felt kind of nice, actually — the skin around my eyes tends to get irritated because of how sensitive my eyes are, and this product is super cooling (and, said product does not cause further irritation to my eyes!). And I SWEAR the next morning my circles looked a bit fainter. Placebo effect? Who knows. But I still do it to this day. Even if it’s just mind trickery, I’ll take it! ~A

To try out this oldie-but-goodie, click this link: https://amzn.to/2SOvycc

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5 (as an eye cream, or eye makeup remover. As an actual makeup remover, 4/5)

Longevity: 4.5/5 — if left on

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

Bio-Oil Specialist Skincare Oil

Bio Oil

Bio-Oil has been present and visible on the skincare market for just about forever, touting itself as a magical cure-all for all your scars and acne and infiltrating at least one full-page ad in every issue of Cosmo and Glamour. After some failed attempts to apply coconut oil (do not recommend) and jojoba oil (do not recommend, but to a lesser extent) as part of the “oil cleansing method”, I was pretty apprehensive to try this out. But hey, the claim on the bottle was that it was non-comedogenic so, here we are.

For an oil, it’s relatively watery and light weight — very thin. I don’t really love the bottle it’s packaged in, because if you squeeze too tight, you’re obviously going to get way too much product, but just flipping the bottle over on it’s side will only get you one or two drops, which isn’t enough. The smell isn’t obtrusive, it’s very light and sweet, and will linger if bio-oil is the last product you put on your skin.

Speaking of last product you put on your skin, bio-oil absolutely does not play well with anything else! It will pill the living daylights out of anything else you have on your face. For me, this was better to use in the summer at night-time, when my skin needed the hydration, but I wasn’t using any super-heavy moisturizers.

True to it’s word, it did not break me out. Obviously it’s oil, so you have to be careful not to touch anything with your face. I felt like my face was a little bit more hydrated and bouncy when I woke up the next morning.

As far as the scarring goes… I have some pretty severe scarring from acne on my face. In my personal opinion, the Epiduo and the lactic acid that I use are the most effective at clearing that up. The Bio Oil might “help”, but if it is, the results are comparatively very slow from what I’ve seen with lactic acid. Stretch marks, on the other hand.. I have a few long white stretch marks on my torso from losing weight. I used Bio Oil on this for a few weeks and I SWEAR they became less pronounced — less puffy, and less white-colored, more skin-colored. Another case of placebo, perhaps. But if you’re going to buy this stuff anyway, might as well try it, right?

For $9, it’s not a bad product. I certainly like it better during the summer, so I probably won’t repurchase it until then, but if you want to try out oils, I think that Bio-Oil is a good start, particularly if you are acne-prone. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.8/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5