Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream

Aaand we’re back! It’s been awhile since I’ve updated!

Winter is coming back around again, and for me, that means I need to revert back to my heavier moisturizers. I decided to splurge a little bit on Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream after reading a few good reviews about it’s moisture retention. I didn’t love the $30 price tag on a 1.7 fl. oz bottle, but I definitely got my money’s worth, even if the cream didn’t do exactly what I was hoping it would do.

Despite advertising as lightweight, this white cream is pretty thick when it’s straight out of the bottle, and it’s not the easiest to spread out over your skin. This is a good thing in terms of longevity, usually, although sometimes the heavier creams tend to make me itchy after the fourth or fifth hour. Not so with Kiehl’s though. It certainly lives up to it’s “lightweight” expectation in the end: it doesn’t feel heavy at all once absorbed, it’s not itchy, nor does it lose it’s ability to retain moisture. Bonus points, it doesn’t leave any sort of white cast behind on your skin, despite the fact that it is a cream.

It’s rare that I feel that a moisturizer has actually improved my skin texture in the long run, but because of the staying power of this cream — and I dare say it might be close to 24 hours — I think it did play a part in preventing from my skin from drying out, thus giving it less of a chance for irritation. It doesn’t clog pores, my breakouts decreased, and my skin texture felt overall better over the course of a few months.

The ingredient list has a couple of different oils in it, mixed with glycerin, both of which helps to keep the skin moisturized for a long period of time. Most notable is probably the squalane oil, which is meant to mimic your own skin’s natural oils. There’s also a trace amount of Salicyclic acid in the moisturizer, which I think is an… interesting addition, give that this is meant to be a moisturizer, but it doesn’t decrease the efficacy of the overall product. The only thing I didn’t love was that BHT, a known carcinogen, was slipped in at the end — hopefully in tiny quantities, but I still wish Kiehl’s had left it out.

This cream is definitely worth the $30. Despite the small product size, it takes quite a while to get through the bottle, and I’m still hanging onto at least half after three months of daily use. If you have sensitive skin or acne, I’d recommend giving this cream a chance in your daily regimen. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.8/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes!

Innisfree My Real Squeeze Mask

I want to be an Innisfree stan so badly because their products are all-natural, and their sustainability measures are a little bit more defined than some of their competitors. Heck, they even replaced some of their plastic bottles with paper bottles, which I had never seen before them:

But their products have just seemed to lackluster, and the masks I’m about to review is no exception (which means you can skip reading this entire entry and just go to the end if you want 😉 ) I ordered six different masks from the website, Honey, Bamboo, Cucumber, Rose, Green Tea and Rice. Despite the plethora of options, there isn’t much to be differentiated between the different masks, despite possibly their scent. Speaking of scent, the rose mask smells like the water that old bouquets sit in, and starts to become green if you don’t empty out the vase. I normally love the smell of roses, but that mask was definitely not it.

I was happy with the mask size itself. MBD and Mediheal masks tend to overshoot my chin a half an inch or so. I was also happy that the packaging wasn’t overly saturated with the liquid. While I know the “extra” is good for applying on the rest of your skin, MBD tends to add more than I could possibly use, and I feel a little guilty throwing away any of the excess.

Anyway, the redeeming qualities stop around there. The liquid on the mask is not in the slightest moisturizing (maybe they did need all that extra liquid in the packaging, after all!). Quite frankly, it felt like a slightly sticky sheet of paper sitting over my skin. Ultimately, when I removed the mask, my skin didn’t seem hydrated in the slightest — it was actually a bit red, which is never the goal when you are using a product that is supposed to be moisturizing. The cucumber was probably the worst offender of this.

All six caused some type of skin congestion the next day except for the bamboo mask. The bamboo mask, despite not being particularly well inundated with liquid, felt refreshing both during application and after.

When I ordered these, I don’t recall alcohol being an ingredient in any of the options, since it most likely would have deterred me completely from buying them in the first place. But when I checked back on the website as I started writing this, who’s right up there in the #4 spot?

Alcohol, my skincare nemesis! If you have sensitive skin, I’d definitely skip this one (and not just because of the alcohol!) ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 1.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No!

DRMTLGY Broad Spectrum SPF45

When it comes to sunscreens and my overly sensitive skin, the phrase “No good deed goes unpunished” tends to jump to mind. Even my once-coveted Supergoop is starting to cause my skin to break out. So, there I went, on the hunt for the latest and greatest bottle of SPF.

DRMTLGY’s SPF 45 boasted the following on their website:

and there weren’t any drying alcohols in this product, how could I not pick this up for $22?

I will say I am a sucker for good packaging, and this certain has it. The bottle is simplistic, clean, sturdy, and has a shiny gold ring right under the cap. The bottle is seems misleadingly large for only having 2oz in it, but, I digress. It’s still a substantial amount, considering a little bit of the product will spread easily over the skin.

And it is fragrance free, lightweight, and absolutely clear. This melts right down into your skin, and there’s no trace of white-cast at any point during the day (even at the end of the day when you go to wash your face, and realize, “ah, I guess there was a little white-cast, after all!”)

But hypoallergenic? No. If a even particle of this comes into contact with your waterline somehow, your eyes will be burning for hours. Chemical sunscreens, such as this one, are not known for their sensitivity toward eyes, but this bottle pushed my level of pain tolerance for certain cosmetics. Although I will give it points for not causing “itchy” skin that often occurs with both mineral and physical sunscreens.

Non-comedogenic? Nope, again! My trial period of this sunscreen was at or around three weeks, and the minute I removed it from my regimen, my skin cleared back up. Otherwise, new break outs had been appearing at the end of each day, and the only thing that had changed in my routine at that time was the sunscreen.

I know that Dr. Dray has reviewed this before and was generally positive about it, particularly for the brand attempting to provide medical grade products, and that this was a much cheaper dupe of Elta MD’s UV Clear. Which, in retrospect, I didn’t do so well with the Elta MD sunscreen either, so everyone else’s mileage may vary.

I wish I loved this, but I’ve never had a sunscreen irritate my eyes as much as this one did. It held up incredibly well under makeup, and was compliant with all of my other moisturizers — but at the cost of ruining my skin. I suppose my hunt for the perfect sunscreen continues! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 4.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No!

Hair Chemist Brassiness Hair Oil with Lavender Oil

Hello friends! I apologize for my hiatus over the past few months. Unfortunately all the uncertainty surrounding COVID did a number on my productivity. Not to mention, I haven’t purchased new skin care or hair care products lately; I’ve been sticking to my tried-and-true holy grails!

In a desperate bid to stop myself from using Wella’s T-18 on my hair to cancel out the brassiness, I picked up a few products from Hair Chemist. One of those products was their Brassiness Hair Mask, which despite a few drawbacks worked fantastically well. I also grabbed the pictured brassiness hair oil, that didn’t cost more than $3. There were rave reviews on Sally’s website for this product.

The product itself a standard oil with an incredibly enticing lavender smell. The oil isn’t too heavy or too light, so it’s easy to work with and work through the hair. One of the first things I noticed, though, was that the “lavender” color leans more to the blue side than the purple, which suggests it might be better for orange-brass rather than yellow-brass.

I’ve trial-and-errored this product a few different ways. The first was to apply a light layer over my brassiest spots of blonde after toweling my hair dry, and pulled it through all the way to the ends with a comb and let it dry. I’ve also tried sleeping with this product in overnight, and washing it out in the morning. Regardless of application, the end result was generally the same.

The orange spots were neutralized, but it didn’t really turn brown or dark-blonde as I would have expected — it turned… grey. I wasn’t a fan. As for the level 10 pieces of blonde, they turned light blue. Again, this means the yellow was also technically neutralized, and the light blue did eventually fade into white, but was dang hard to get it to wash out! It took several days before I stopped seeing the blue-tinted hues in my hair.

For me personally, the oil was a bit too heavy and I didn’t like how my hair felt after any of the applications. It didn’t feel moisturized or healthy — just greasy, and overly-dry at the spots where the oil didn’t absorb. I wonder if it would be a better product for more coarse or curly hair. It might work more effectively for level 8 or 9 hair as well, or anyone who is looking for their neutralized effect to skew more gray/silver/dark brown than bright white.

Though brassiness hair oil did not work for me, I would totally consider buying a lighter, colorless version of this oil just for the smell… ~A

Perceived efficacy: For bright white hair, 2/5. For neutralizing orange, 3.75/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 1.5/5

JOAH Eye Candy Auto Eyeliner

Not bad for an impulse CVS buy! I actually had never even heard of JOAH, which would make sense because they’re a CVS-only brand and I very rarely step into CVS. Apparently inspired by Korean beauty, JOAH is made by the same people who make… um… press-on nails. Despite my misgivings about the latter piece of information, I’m really impressed with this eyeliner.

This $7 eyeliner doesn’t exactly have a robust color shade range to choose either in-store or online from at CVS itself (Black, Blackest Black, and Dark Brown were the only ones available in both cases), although their website, weirdly, has three more shades. In any case, I was in luck since dark brown is usually my go-to. The pencil itself feels somehow luxurious — it has fancy gold lettering, smooth and somewhat soft body that makes it easy to hold. You can “turn” the bottom of pencil when your liner tip runs low.

Application is smooth. Like, it’s alarmingly impossible for me to screw up lid-lining with this pencil. I think the only real annoying thing about this product is that the it depletes very rapidly, since it is so soft. While dark brown isn’t the most discernible of colors, the color is relatively accurate, without being too dark and muddy to confuse the shade with black. Did I mention it was smooth? No weird smudging going on, here. Usually my eyeliners are notorious for transferring the first time I blink after application, but I didn’t really notice any pigment transferring until about hour five or six, which is pretty good for an eyeliner (and it was light enough for me to just rub off).

Don’t tell anyone, but I still line my waterline, sometimes (I know, so nineties). This is also a phenomenal waterline pencil, since the waterproof aspect of it actually is waterproof, apparently, and won’t come crying off your lid twenty seconds in to application. Again, you might find some pigment transfer after hour five or six, but it’s not substantial. I also didn’t notice any eye sensitivity to this eyeliner — I didn’t experience any burning or irritation.

You can’t tell me Avril Lavigne’s eyeliner still isn’t a look!

Kudos to the people who make press-on nails for pulling this off! They’ve outdone what the bigger brands apparently can’t do very well, which is creating an eyeliner that actually sticks around for more than ten minutes! And, they’re cruelty free, which is awesome! I’ll be back into CVS to check out more of the JOAH brand very soon! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.75/5

It Cosmetics CC+ Cream Illumination SPF 50+

It Cosmetics CC Cream would be on my list of top foundations ever, but it’s non-compliance with dry skin and it’s inability to stack with other common products is a huge deterrent from me from buying any in the future. Not only that, but the apparent popularity of this $40 foundation has spurred a flood of cheaper fakes/dupes on the market which, sadly, perform the same, if not better than the original.

But first I’ll talk a little about the genuine product, straight from Ulta (which, hopefully, isn’t in the business of selling fakes). This comes in a soft plastic tube with a push-top. The tube is fairly large, but the product goes quickly, since the push-top tends to push out more than you actually need.

Applying this CC Cream is really satisfying. The color is very glowy and radiant. Although the shade range is incredibly limited for this CC Cream, I experienced with both the light and light-medium that the color can sort of “adjust” to your skin tone, within reason. This is helped by the fact that this isn’t full coverage to begin with, as you would expect from a CC cream — however, this still did a pretty good job of neutralizing any of my red tones from scarring. Even better, this foundation plays well with any product you put under it and doesn’t pill. …or so I thought.

I’ll walk you through a work day with this CC cream. I could hold my head up high at my desk and in the hallways, knowing I was only wearing a CC cream, and that my skin looked and felt great. Until hour four: I looked in the bathroom mirror and found the dreaded flaking around my lips and my nose. And it was bad. Sure, I know those areas of my face are a little drier to begin with, but yikes. The scaliness seemed to only worsen as I attempted to “buff it out” with a small dab of concealer. Eventually, I gave up. By hour eight, the CC cream was beginning to break down, and my entire face had become incredibly oily, except for the dry areas, which were still scaley and flaking off more by the second. Gross!

Artistic rendering of the author

After a few days of trial and error, I discovered that this product performs much better when you don’t use Vitamin C. Sure, I get that Vit C is an exfoliant and can cause a bit more dramatic of a skin turnover in drier areas, but I’ve never had this bad of an issue with “clinging to dry spots” with any other foundation. I also suspect I might have some sensitivity to the sunscreen component that was added into this product, since there are a lot of sunscreens, in general, that I don’t tolerate well.

It’s a huge shame that this product doesn’t perform as well after the first few hours, because it’s everything I would want in a CC cream, or even a foundation. It’s glowy. It’s just enough coverage to hide discoloration. There are no drying alcohols. There’s a ton of good stuff packed into this bottle like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and sunscreen.

As for the fakes? The fakes are sold all over Ebay and Amazon. A mark of a fake, without having the actual product in your hands is one or both of the following: a price point under $20, or the seller offering only the light, or medium shade. With a few exceptions of the font being slightly out of place on the packaging of the fakes, the imitation of the actual product is pretty darn good, except you will notice there is LITERALLY no shade differential between light and medium. They are the same color.

And sadly, they perform a bit better than the real It Cosmetics. Although the dry-cling still persists, the coverage is just as good (albeit a bit more “stubborn” to apply, since it’s not as fluid as the original), and also doesn’t devolve into a greasy mess by hour four like the original. I don’t condone buying a fake, and my purchase of these was purely accidental and ignoring of the adage “too good to be true” — and for all I know, these fakes could be pumped with arsenic, or something!

It Cosmetics truly has a great product on their hands with this CC Cream. The finish of this foundation is great, and I’ve never broken out from it. But I can’t recommend it to anyone with dry skin, anyone with sensitivities to zinc/titanium oxides, or anyone that wants to incorporate Vitamin C into their routine. That’s a lot of groups to have to exclude for a foundation! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.75/5

Longevity: 1.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: For acne-prine skin, yes — for dry skin, no

Ben Nye Final Seal Matte Makeup Sealer

Ben Nye’s Final Seal is the fixing spray to end all fixing sprays. If you’re headed to an event that you know is going to elicit sweating or even a bit of drizzling rain, or you simply just don’t want your makeup to come off… like… ever… then this is the product for you.

A 2oz bottle will run you about $16, which seems expensive at first blush, but one or two sprays are really all it takes for the product to work, so it should last a long time. This comes in a plastic spray bottle. I wanted to note that, though the packaging itself is not unusual, the liquid inside of it can be very temperamental when you take it out of room temperature conditions. When it gets too cold, it “freezes” around the sprayer, making the sprayer difficult to push down on. The sprayer will also freeze in place if you don’t remove excess product that may have dripped down around it.

The sprayer is a little more powerful than just a “mist”, so one of two sprays — top and bottom — should catch the entire face. Make SURE you close your eyes while you spray this, since the very first ingredient of this is denatured alcohol. You may experience a bit of stinging after applying this, but that should diminish in under a minute. The spray leaves sort of a “net” sensation, like your skin is locked into place. This is also unnoticeable after the first few minutes.

In my personal experience, I’ve been able to wear this from 8 in the morning until 9pm at night. Around the end of the wear time, I did notice a bit of foundation cracking around my lips, but this may have been because I had applied Vitamin C in the morning, as usual — which, as an exfoliant, pushes the old skin up, thus cracking the makeup. But it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be salvaged had I chose to keep it on longer. Both my eyeliner and mascara stayed put, as well.

The true test of a transfer-proof foundation or fixing spray are my winter coats. The zippers tend to end right at my chin, so the material of the jacket is directly under my chin/neck area, a prime area for makeup to rub off. No makeup residue on my jacket after using Final Seal!

This product, sadly, is not really good for the long haul for use on your skin. Alcohol denat is the first ingredient, which will inevitably dry out your skin, even if there is a layer of foundation between your skin and this spray. I will say I broke out substantially less after using Final Seal versus Skindinavia’s finishing spray, perhaps due to the comparatively short and simplistic ingredient listing, whereas Skindinavia had included far more preservatives. Still — Final Seal is not great for my skin.

So, acne-sufferers, use this product with caution. But this really is a phenomenal fixing spray and probably the first I’ve used where I felt 100% confident that my makeup would stay all day. I recommend for anyone seeking to lock their look in! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup

I have high standards for Clinique. It’s been around forever, and it’s pricy, for usually good reason — Clinique generally has high-quality products. But, for $30, this bottle of foundation is just meh.

I was looking for something with a little more oil control than my usual foundations, and perhaps something a little lighter in general. Herein lies my great foundation conundrum. I always want something that’s heavy enough to cover all my blemishes, but light enough to make me not feel like I’m super-clogging my pores. This is basically an impossible ask, and equally impossible to find. This foundation was no exception: it did not meet both of those criteria.

But it is light, for sure. This comes out of the tube with very little pressure needed on the bottle. It’s somewhat watery, but not runny. It spreads easily, but absorbs quickly into the skin, so I kept finding myself needing to get more product out of the tube to cover my entire face.

What I do like about this foundation is that it’s buildable. It won’t necessarily cause issues if you try to apply layers shortly after the other, but I recommend waiting for each layer to set for at least five minutes, because the foundation will thicken and show a bit more coverage in that time. But don’t mistake buildable for “can become full coverage” — it’s still incredibly light, and won’t cover deeper-set scars.

The foundation has a natural matte finish that lasts… maybe five hours. It does do it’s job in the time it’s on. It maintains an even finish with minimal creasing (although it absolutely is NOT transfer proof so, try to avoid touching your face), and it does control oil as stated. It doesn’t feel heavy while it’s on. But once that five hour mark hits… POOF! It’s just gone, somehow. As if you never put it on. (Although, to be fair, I would prefer makeup to “suddenly vanish” instead leaving patchy areas of foundation behind…)

Now let’s discuss the acne-fighting feature of this foundation. This contains salicylic acid, a BHA. I don’t think this really improved my blemishes or overall skin quality at all, despite the BHA. I didn’t experience any burning, per se, but neither the lightness of the foundation’s weight or the addition of BHA’s were beneficial to me in this case. I continued to break out just the same, as always 🙂 Other users could potentially experience burning from this foundation because of the BHAs. And, finally, BHA’s conflict with Vitamin C if used at the same time. This is terrible for me, lover of Vitamin C treatments in my morning routines.

To wrap up my review of Clinique’s Acne Solutions Foundation in a few shorter sentences: Is it a light makeup? Yes. Does it last a long time? No. Does it fight acne? Not for me, personally. This won’t be a rebuy of mine.

If you still think this foundation seems like a good fit for you, my most favorite YouTube MUA thataylaa did a review of it here. Her experience was a bit different from mine, but the video does a great job of showing the finish. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2.5/5

Longevity: 2/5

How much I actually like this product: 2.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: If intolerant to exfoliants, no

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:

My Beauty Diary Face Masks

My Beauty Diary sheet masks are the best way to ease yourself into the sheet mask world. In fact, I’ve tried other brands of sheet masks, and always find myself wanting to go back to MBD. They’re cheap ($13 for a pack of eight), effective, and the masks fit and stay on my face better than any other. Because they fit better, they also seem to pick up grits off of my skin more effectively. And although all of the masks are lightly fragranced, they’re not overwhelming or head-ache inducing (with a few exceptions) — which is important, since these masks needs to stay on your face for twenty to thirty minutes.

There’s a lot of types of these masks, though. There’s also been a couple reformulations, and packaging changes, making it hard to discern which ones stand out more than the others. Usually I buy assorted packs on Amazon so that I can try them out to see which ones work for me, and which ones don’t. Here’s a short list of my personal favorites, and some of my not so favorites.

Like: Imperial Bird’s Nest Mask. This is probably the most hydrating sheet mask I’ve ever used across several sheet mask brands. Although the mask is goopy, and therefore a bit difficult to get out of the package and onto your face, the hydrating effect this has on the skin is totally worth it. The effects last throughout the day without being sticky. The ingredients might elicit an eyebrow raise (swiftlet nest extract, which implies, um, bird saliva), but visibly prove to be beneficial for the long-term health and hydration of the skin. My skin quality is fantastic when I use this twice a week. 5/5

Like: Natto Mask. Another mask where the ingredients are a little questionable (fermented soybeans), but the after-effects are indisputable: this sheet mask will make your skin super smooth, and incredibly hydrated. My only complaint is that the effects don’t seem to last as long as Imperial Bird’s Nest. 4.75/5

Like: Royal Pearl Mask. This mask is fantastic at skin brightening and evening out complexion. It’s purpose is not necessarily to be hydrating, so it won’t have as much of a long-term skin smoothing effect, but it really does noticeably illuminate your skin. I still wish it was a tad more hydrating, even though I know that’s not the point. But overall, Royal Pearl Mask is a great mask for my complexion. 4.5/5

Dislike: Aloe Vera Mask. Aloe Vera is typically used to diminish sun damage, and decrease redness caused by skin irritation. I used this on a “bad skin day”, hoping it would help to decrease some inflammation. I discovered that, not only is this mask not hydrating at all, but it doesn’t really do much in the way of easing skin irritation. Weirdly, I think this mask could even be described as “dry” (which might be caused by the aloe vera, since it’s cooling and tacky). 1/5

Dislike: Red Wine Mask. This mask just isn’t really for me. Red wine contains reservatrol, which is supposed to help with anti aging. Moisturizing and complexion evening is another key component of this mask. I… guess it’s a bit moisturizing, but doesn’t do anything at all for my complexion in the way of evening it out, or brightening. This mask is also more powerfully scented than the others. My biggest gripe with this is the fact that it’s sticky for a long time while drying, and still sticky even after it’s dried down — aka, doesn’t play well with other products over it. 2/5

Leave a comment if you have a favorite My Beauty Diary mask — or any mask at all! ~A