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

The Ordinary Buffet

I was contemplating going back to my review for the Ordinary’s niacinamide and copy-pasting the whole thing into this post, since the wear and the results have been roughly the same for me between the two products. But, alas, that would have been boring.

In TO’s usual style, this is a serum that you can apply directly to your face using a dropper. Buffet’s serum is clear, but extremely heavy. I usually apply one squeeze of the dropper to both sides of my face, and to my forehead. When spreading the serum, I have to be INCREDIBLY careful to not go over the same section more than once. Because it pills. Like crazy.

The pilling, actually, merits it’s own dang paragraph. I had almost the identical problem with The Ordinary’s niacinamide. As the instructions state, your face must be clean before applying. And they mean it, too: nothing can be on your face, or this product will pill. Don’t even think about putting foundation, or any other moisturizer on top of this, either! This product plays well with nothing, and will cause your face to become a huge, pilling mess if you try to introduce anything else for the next eight hours. The serum does leave behind a tacky feeling even after it’s dried, and the residue will peel off your skin if you push on it too hard.

All that said… even on it’s own, this serum has a really nice sheen to it that makes your skin glow. I noticed that it decreases redness and other discoloration, too, which evens out your skin tone. If you’re comfortable with going out into the world bare-faced (and without a lot of sun exposure, since the likelihood of you applying SPF over this are most likely nil), this product will make your skin look phenomenal.

Long-term results have been harder for me to track, because of the aforementioned pilling product: most days, I’d like to be able to use SPF, and a little bit of foundation. Peptides and their supporting amino acid actors are supposed to be helpful to reduce signs of aging, but I’m of the opinion that this product itself is a one-time shot only. Once the product has worn off (or pilled off!), my skin no longer looks bright. Similar to the niacinamide product, the serum has a certain tacky-ness created by the ingredients that contributes to the shine, but I’m not convinced that it’s being absorbed well by the skin since it pills off so quickly, thus making me question if it’s truly effective.

If you’re a lucky individual who can stack Buffet with other products, there’s a few counter-indications for using this with other ingredients. Vitamin C will nullify the effects of ‘Buffet, as will any other direct acid, such as lactic acid. In terms of comedogenicity, despite Buffet leaving behind a residue, this did not cause me to break out, or create any sort of irritation. Yay!

If you’re going bare-faced and are willing to forgo all of your other skincare products that day, Buffet is the way to go. You will be glow-y and bright! Otherwise, I’d skip this one in any routine. I’m hoping to find another peptide serum that plays better with others.

Happy 2020! May we have all have fantastic skin this year! ~A

Perceived efficacy: Short term, 5/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 2.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Glossier Boy Brow

In my experience, eyebrow gels across all the different makeup manufacturers aren’t really wildly different from one another, so this is going to be a short review. But Glossier’s Boy Brow and Brow flick have been hugely popular lately, so I thought I’d give it a try. (Plus, I low-key love Glossier’s super-simplistic packaging. Just another case of me falling for what’s on the outside…)

I bought this in the color brown. For a brown gel, this is pretty dark, probably bordering more on black. What’s really a huge sell for me is the tiny wand. My eyebrows aren’t super bushy, and the applicator only has 6 spindles of brushes on it (ie: short applicator), so it’s easy to follow even the thinnest part of my brow without getting it all over my skin.

My only problem with this gel is that, either, there isn’t a ton of product in here in the first place, or that it seems to dry up really quickly. So actually getting the product on the brush after the first week or two of application can be a struggle. You have to kind of, wiggle the applicator around until you can pick up some color. This can sometimes cause the actual application of color to be inconsistent — one side of the applicator will have a TON of product, and one will not, causing the color to sort of, bleed out onto on part of your eyebrow and not the rest. But this is easy to fix by just going over the eyebrow a few times (without re-applying product to the applicator).

Because of the occasional heaviness caused by an over-saturated application, this can take a minute or two longer to dry, whereas most brow gels dry almost immediately. Once dry, it’s pretty difficult to rub off. Unfortunately I find myself needing to re-apply this after hour 4 or 5 — not that the color has completely disappeared, but it definitely looks to be lighter. This is compared to my Ardell brow gels that seem to last a whole work day.

All and all, I think the $16 pricetag is mostly just for the name “Glossier”. While I do love the size of the wand, there are longer lasting gels out there that are a little more consistent with their color application. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.5/5

Longevity: 2.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.5/5

Reviva Labs Vitamin E Stick

I impulsively picked this up at Fresh Market for… way more expensive than it normally retails, $8, compared to the going rate on Amazon, $4. I don’t know a whole ton about Reviva Labs so this was my first glance into the brand, although apparently they’ve been around for at least 20 years. Reviva touts themselves as all natural, and while the meaning of “all natural” tends to… vary… A LOT, from brand to brand, I tend to give reverence to brands that use safer ingredients.

This can be used as lip protection/”chapstick” for your lips, or directly applied to the skin around your eye. Ingredient listing has some pretty standard chapstick-like ingredients, like lanolin oil, olive oil, canola oil, beeswax and seed butter. The added bonuses are octyl methoxycinnamate/SPF 15, and Vitamin E for scar healing.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Great in theory, bad in practice. This definitely dried out the skin around my eye. Maybe not “burning” level of dry, but it was definitely tighter. I noticed “cracking” in that area with makeup, and cracking without. As a chapstick, this won’t last for more than five minutes on your lips. It’s not hydrating or occlusive whatsoever. I didn’t use this long enough to see if it was going to make any headway on scar healing, but, I mean, if it can’t even keep my lips hydrated for more than five minutes, then how is this going to be conducive to scar healing?

The only benefit I can see to this is the ability to apply SPF near the very thin skin around the eye. Normal sunscreens can be incredibly irritating if they get in, or around the eye, but that won’t happen with this stick. Still, SPF 15 is only going to block out 93% of UVB rays — you might as well opt for something in the market that’s at least SPF 30.

In short, I don’t get the point of this. It won’t keep your lips hydrated, and there are better options in the skincare world for applying sunscreen around your eyes. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2.5/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 1.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Maybe (fatty-oil sensitive users, beware)

TanWise Self-Tanning DHA Boost Drops

Summer is winding down. Actually, by the time this gets posted, I’ll probably be wearing leggings and drinking pumpkin spice coffee. I figured I’d sneak in another Tanwise review before my skincare attentions are turned to heavy moisturizers to combat seemingly sub-zero temperatures. The last Tanwise self-tanner product I reviewed was a total bust (link to that review is here), but fortunately, these drops are night and day better compared to the gel product.

For $11 from Sally’s Beauty, you get 2 fl oz of this water-based DHA formula inside a dropper bottle. I’ve had this for two months and it’s taking FOREVER to go through the bottle, even though I’ve been somewhat routinely (twice a week) putting it in a ton of my regular skincare products. You really only need a few drops to create some color. So, so far, it’s been a fantastic value for the price and the amount of product.

I’ve mixed one or two drops in with my regular moisturizers (Cerave PM, Dramatically Different) and had a magnificent warm brown color turnout after just an hour or two. NOT orange. I’ve also mixed this in with my body lotions (you might need a few more drops for this, depending on the expanse of your skin you need to cover), and also gotten very good color. I suppose it might not be as dark as Jergens, and possibly not as long-lasting (the stuff washes off in a day, two if you’re lucky); but I’m still very happy with it.

As far as the drop’s malleability with other products, this won’t conflict with anything you want to wear for the day — it won’t cause anything to pill since it’s water-based, and the tan will still develop regardless of what you put over it. What’s also awesome is that this product does NOT streak at all — although, it will get stuck under your fingernails, so be mindful of that. Otherwise, it’s basically foolproof. My only recommendation is NOT to stack the product more than one application every two days. That’s when this will turn you orange (trust me on this… I learned from personal experience. Not great.)

Huge bonus: This DOES NOT SMELL LIKE SELF TANNER. It’s unbelievable. Ok, maybe like, a tiny bit, if you haven’t washed it off after having it on for a day. But the smell is so minimal that I could actually forget that I’d applied it… unlike almost every other product on the market, that all inevitably remind you that you’ve slathered DHA over yourself.

Quick skincare tip: self-tanners are best applied at night, and NOT in conjunction with anything that contains SPF. SPF will cause the tan to fade faster. This is a weird little anecdote, since there’s a few self-tanners on the market that contain SPF. So keep your sunscreen in your morning routine, and slap on the self-tanner at night.

Since this didn’t break me out like the Tanwise gel did (no drying alcohols, woohoo!), this is going to be a definite re-buy of mine. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a quick glow, without the usual glove-and-guide mess that are typical of traditional tanners. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 3.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes (if no sensitivities to DHA)