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)


Joico Color Balance Blue Conditioner

Now we all know that bleaching your hair isn’t really great for hair health, but you think perhaps a conditioner would help, at minimum, albeit temporarily, soften it up a bit. This blue conditioner by Joico… well, isn’t the one to do that.

For $15 you get 10oz of this lightly-scented conditioner. As you could probably guess by the name, it’s a blue conditioner, and the liqui-cream is colored blue. Get ready for random flecks of the conditioner to stain your tub! (don’t worry, you can still scrub it out). A lot of reviews online complain that this leaves a residue, but I didn’t at all find this to be the case. In fact, I felt that it washed out far too easily, and felt like I hadn’t really applied anything to my hair.

The way blue and purple shampoos and conditioners work is that, a few times a week, you would apply the shampoo and conditioner to your hair to lift the lighter color a bit, and cancel out the brassiness. You leave it on your hair for a few minutes, then wash it out. When it dries, ideally, some of the yellow/orange/red hues of the bleached portions would be less noticeable.

Now, to be fair to the conditioner, usually it’s the blue/purple shampoos that do the bulk of the heavy lifting — hair color lifting, that is 😉 — but I’ve used other blue conditioners as stand alone products, and found that they did a better job of removing the brass than Joico did. I really didn’t notice much of a change in my hair at all.

To make matters worse, every time I used this product I felt that my hair was a bit drier that day. It misses that whole “conditioning” bit of being a conditioner, where within the first hour of two of hopping out of the shower you feel like your hair is silky smooth. That never happens with this product — instead, my hair felt itchy and wiry to touch, and I sense that this promoted breakage.

There’s a lot of chemicals in this that I am unfamiliar with that could have caused that kind of outcome with my hair. I also neglected to notice the isopropyl alcohol creeping in the third to last line of the ingredient listing, which has never been good for me personally in either skin or hair products. All in all though, this is pass from me — there are better blue and purple conditioners out there. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

CosRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

Throw out your Cerave cleansers, boys and girls, I have found the new cleanser holy grail! (Just kidding, don’t throw out the Cerave, it’s still fine). Seriously though, this $9, 5 fl oz bottle is awesome for sensitive skin.

It’s a cleanser, so I don’t think I’ll have too much to say in the review since the process is quick: you apply the clear gel from the bottle on your face with a little water, and rub it in. Then, you wash it off. However, there are a few things this product is capable of that, strangely, many cleansers cannot do:

1- You only need 1 dollop of gel for your face to cover your entire face (as opposed to like, four pumps out of a bottle, and even then, you still think to yourself “I probably need another”),

2- It removes makeup fully,

3- Doesn’t strip your skin: your face won’t feel dry after you wash the product off of your face, and…

4- Doesn’t cause break outs! I can’t say for certain if it’s because of the cleanser or not, but I feel that the condition of my skin has been better since I started using it a few weeks ago,

5- The price point is pretty good at $10 a bottle.

The smell of the gel is a bit sterile, but I can live with that. That’s the point of soap, after all, isn’t it? So there you have it! The perfect cleanser. I absolutely recommend this. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

THE ORDINARY Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

I think my skin has an “eject” button when it comes to TO’s products. I’d say about 50% of the products I’ve tried from them end in a terrifying amount of drying and peeling, with nothing to show for it.

The packaging is standard fare for TO: dropper bottle and dark packaging, to prevent light from affecting the structural integrity of the product (I think? Or did I make that up?). Sephora’s website says that the serum inside is “lightweight”, but I beg to differ. It’s pretty heavy and slow-moving — the dropper will likely take in way more than you need for both eyes. The serum itself is a light brown color, but that color is not noticeable once you apply it to your skin.

You really don’t need too much to spread under your eye. The formula is incredibly thick, but it’s fairly easy to push around. And for being so thick, it dries relatively quickly and fully, although you might feel that area of skin is a bit heavy for up to ten minutes. I can’t speak to stacking products over top of this one, since I think it’s overkill for such a thin layer of skin, but my next paragraph will explain this product’s time-delayed destruction of eye makeup!

Even if you’re careful to apply very little to the skin, within two to three hours you may notice your skin is starting to slough off, regardless of time you apply it. While initially playing well with eye makeup (assuming you’ve waited the dry time), it’ll start to crack any concealer, eye shadow or powder you’ve applied. This made me think “perhaps I should only apply this at night!”. In theory, this should be fine, since there’s no makeup around to break down at that point, but I still woke up with tons of rolling pills of skin and product under my eye.

Even after washing all of that… lovely mess off of my face, there wasn’t much to show for it, even after three weeks of use. I have noticeably recessed skin between my lower eyelid and cheek, so any dark circles or wrinkles that come into my life are on full display to the world. I didn’t feel like I was experiencing any brightening or decreasing of either. On the plus side, besides the crazy pilling skin, I didn’t experience any other irritation, not even in the instance it touched my waterline.

Another swing and a miss for me with TO products, although the low price tag of $8 doesn’t make me feel too guilty. I had a similar pilling issue with their Niacinamide and Buffet products, but those are HG’s for a lot of other people. So, as always, YMMV. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 1.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 1.5/5

J. Cat Beauty You Glow Girl Baked Highlighter

Another “cute packaging, mediocre product” review. I think I fell in love with the rose stamp that’s imprinted on the powder, primarily! But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad highlighter.

I picked this up in the shade Bella Rose, which may have been my problem from the start. I think pink-pigmentation probably gets lost in my slightly pink-tinted cheeks. The shade range is pretty extensive, though — 9 shades in total.

It seemed really difficult to get the powder to “show up” on the brush, or on my fingers. I had to press down pretty hard, and had to go back into the pan to get to the point where I felt I was getting enough product. Even on the skin, I didn’t think this highlighter was particularly noticeable without stacking it. I don’t know if it’s problematic, per se — there’s certainly enough powder in the pan. But I don’t like dedicating a ton of time to highlighter application, so it’s annoying to have to go back in to re-apply.

As far as effect, I wouldn’t say this is a particularly strong highlighter, not the same way Maybelline’s Master Chrome or the Wet n Wild highlighters are. It’s great for a subtle effect — a shine you can see up close, but not from further away. Me, personally, I like highlighter to be obnoxiously visible and potentially blind people from several feet away, but I won’t take off points for my own bad taste 😉 What I will consider though is the very short longevity of this powder. I didn’t think any of the highlighter was visible after hour four.

So while I personally think this is a very mediocre product, it might be worth the $7 buy if you’re looking for a highlighter that’s much more subdued. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.5/5

Longevity: 2/5

How much I actually like this product: 2.5/5

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