Mediheal NMF Intensive Hydrating Mask

Lately, the weather around here has been anywhere between 25° and 70°, and my skin is suffering for it. Even my coveted My Beauty Diary masks don’t seem to be doing much in the way of re-introducing moisture back into my skin. So I decided to look for a sheet mask that was a little more heavy duty in hydration.

This mask is a pain to get out of the packaging and unfold since it is over-saturated (in the best way possible, of course) in product. That said, the fact that the linen is already soaked through makes it a lot easier to contour to your face, making this one of the better-fitting masks I’ve tried in my lifetime.

Right away, I loved the way this mask felt on. It was immediately relieving, and refreshing! Since it’s over-saturated in product, the overall effect is cooling. But I just felt like the tightness and irritation were going away in real time.

Unfortunately I’m not a huge fan of the tacky residue the mask leaves behind. As with most other masks, you can’t really stack other skincare or product over this for at least 30 minutes to an hour, or else it will pill. But this stuff is really sticky. Sure, that probably means that it’s better at retaining moisture, but it’s just a little bit too uncomfortable, for too long.

The long-term effects, however, are amazing! My skin has been brighter and clearer since I started to use it. It doesn’t aggravate my skin, and I haven’t experienced any breakouts from using it, despite the obnoxious pore-clogging texture that the mask seems to leave behind after use.

I think for how much improvement in quality my skin seemed to experience, $11 for a box of five masks was more than worth my money. Despite my complaints about the immediate after-effects of this mask, this is a great pick for anyone with sensitive skin and enough time to spare for this product to fully sink in. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 4.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

After a little Googling, I just saw that Mediheal has BTS special edition versions of some of their masks. I wish I had seen this before, how freakin cool!

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice BHA, your day of reckoning is finally here. Sort of. I’ve been experimenting with this product for close to a year now, and I’m actually still not quite sure where I stand on it.

The first thing I wanted to say is that this BHA was actually way more effective before they reformulated and chucked it in new packaging. Back then, I felt like I actually saw my pores shrinking in almost real-time. I think this is why it achieved holy grail status on a lot of blogs and subreddits. Back then, it was certainly worth it’s $24 retail value.

This exfoliant comes out of the bottle in liquid form — only a few drops will come out of the bottle at a time, which is really all you need for either your whole face, or any trouble areas that might be in need of it. It leaves a very slight oily residue behind, but nothing that will deter you from the rest of your skin routine.

The purpose of BHA (which is usually found in the form salicyclic acid) is to break through the oil and dead skin on your face and fight any acne-causing bacteria underneath, so the thought is that it’s good for both fighting and pre-empting acne. It can clear clogged pores, and help them to shrink. But this product does this in a very… hit or miss manner. On some sections of my face it seemed to smooth out my pores, and sometimes stop acne before it got any worse. On other sections, it was like I had never applied anything at all. My skin was either the same, or worse, by the next day.

I can chalk some of the skin-worsening up to the typical exfoliant “worse-before-it-gets-better” cell turnover, sure. But I never felt like certain sections of my skin got any better, even after long-term and careful use. I say careful because it is tempting and easy to want to go overboard with this liquid, but buyer beware: this stuff is crazy drying. You might not notice it until the end of the day, but be prepared for some skin pilling and cracking, particularly around your chin and lips.

What I liked about the old formulation was that it was fantastically effective against sebaceous filaments which a lot of people have trouble with on or around their nose. Actually, that was the only reason I ever bought this pricey BHA in the first place! But the new formulation doesn’t seem to address this problem.

This review probably seemed all over the place — there really were small sections of my face that showed a positive difference after using this, but overall, this wasn’t a good product for me. Different people have different reactions of exfoliants, so it’s possible this BHA is still worthy of the $24 spend for some people. For me personally, I think I’ll need to rely on AHA’s to keep my skin under control. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1.5/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No. Or maybe yes? Who knows!

La Roche-Posay Micellar Water

Disclaimer: I largely think micellar water is a marketing hoax. In my personal opinion, removing makeup and cleaning your face should be left to good ol’ fashioned face cleanser, possibly a splash of toner, and that thing that comes out of your sink… ah yes, water. But I do love trying out skincare products, so I will admit I’ve tried a few micellar waters in the past few years. And… this one ain’t it, for me.

I picked up the “sensitive skin” version of this instead of the effaclar version, which is more targeted toward oily skin. As with most micellar waters, it is basically… odorless, colorless, water. It’s best applied with a cotton ball or pad.

Did it remove my makeup? I hate comparing two items because there’s zillions of items on the market in general, but I actually sort of liked the Garnier Micellar water back in the day, when it was like the only one you could buy in the grocery store. Garnier’s formula was ridiculously oily, but man, did it take off makeup! One swipe and five layers of foundation were gone. That’s not the case with LRP’s version, here: on average I used up five cotton circles to take off my makeup, even on a “light foundation” day. So it does remove makeup, but it will waste your time in doing so.

Did it make my skin feel clean? After the aforementioned five cotton circles used up on my face, my skin was feeling a little raw. I guess it felt clean? There definitely isn’t an “oily” residue left over. However…

Is it good for sensitive skin? In my opinion, no. Sure, some of the abrasion can come from using a cotton circle or pad, but this product is impractical to use with just your hands. Once my makeup was removed, my face felt dry. Even after adding a layer of moisturizer, my skin was still more dry throughout the day than it would have been, had I just used a regular cleanser.

There are no drying alcohols, sulfates or parabens in this micellar water, so I don’t think that the ingredient listing is inherently evil. But the need to fight through your foundation removal causes more abrasion to your skin than it’s worth. Maybe it is better to use an oilier formulation, after all.

La Roche-Posay has a good name in skincare, sure, but I would personally pass on this $15 micellar water. There are better ways to cleanse and remove makeup than this! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 1.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

Hada Labo Tokyo: Skin Plumping Gel Cream

I used this moisturizer a lot in my early skincare days, and I’m trying to remember why, exactly, I abandoned it. This gel cream is close to HG status for me, with maybe a few flaws that prevent it from ascending to that level. Oh, and if you ever wanted to live out the glory days of the old Clinique Moisture Surge (which, in my opinion, is now a shadow of it’s former self), this is the moisturizer to do it with.

The packaging of this white gel cream is a luxurious square-shaped glass jar, which admittedly, is a kind of awkward to fit in a standard-issue medicine cabinet. And while it definitely looks good for the camera, the packaging is unfortunately pretty wasteful. It really doesn’t hold much product at all, given how much room the jar could technically accomodate. Considering this is $23 out of the buyer’s pocket, I think they could have done with more product, or packaging the product more efficiently.

The gel cream is quite smooth and easy to spread. While I have my gripes about the amount of product in the package, you really don’t need too much to cover your entire face. The gel cream dries down clear. This leaves behind a bit of a residue, but it’s soft to the touch, not tacky, and intended to hold moisture in. Living up to it’s name, my skin looked plump, and seemed more hydrated even after a full day of wearing this.

Because of that remaining residue, this moisturizer doesn’t exactly play the best with foundation over top, or really any other product over top of it. But also not… the worst? A few times I noticed my makeup starting to pill around hour 2 of having both applied — not substantial enough to require re-applying, but enough to make me reconsider using this moisturizer for daytime use. The residue it leaves behind tends to hang onto your skin for dear life, making it difficult to fully wash off your face.

Besides some of it’s hang-ups, this moisturizer does a great job of hydrating your skin. This is oil-free, there are no drying alcohols or anything inherently terrible in the ingredient listing, save for the rampant polymers that are likely to blame for the skin smoothness and pilling alike. This also boasts collagen, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides. My favorite thing of all was that it never broke me out!

If you’re ok with splurging a bit, this is a nice face cream for night-time use, or bare-faced use, particularly for users with sensitive skin. Just be warned of this moisturizer’s long-term commitment — it’s clingy, and you’re going to have a hard time getting rid of it. 🙂 ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.25/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Skincare During a Pandemic

I hope all of my readers are doing well and keeping healthy!

If I’m being honest, skincare has been the last thing on my mind as of late. I’m sticking to my routine still, but I haven’t been inspired to try anything new, despite having a long stretch of time to do so.

But I did share this long quarantine month with Derma-E Vitamin C cream. I had forgotten what a powerhouse this cream was, despite the Vitamin C being likely less concentrated in it’s moisturizer form. And I do have a little bit of beef with some of the end-of-day pilling I noticed, but my skin has been amazingly clear and bright for most of the month! I recommend this to sensitive-skin users, if you’re looking for an entry-level Vitamin C cream.

I also wanted to talk about a post I saw on Reddit. I can’t remember if it was a YSK (you should know) or a LPT (life pro tip)-type thread, or maybe it was just in the skincare subreddit! But the overall message was, “Just because I haven’t worn makeup in a few weeks, doesn’t mean my acne stopped”.

I love this message. I think a larger part of the population believe that, if you have acne, it’s because you are dirty, or it’s because you’re using too much makeup. This is not true at all! Hormones play a much larger part in causing acne, and it’s probably king among other acne triggers, like stress and the outside environment.

Sometimes we all stumble upon a product that makes us break out a little more, sure, and foundation can certainly be one of those products. But break outs can happen due to an allergy or a skin sensitivity as well, a very possible scenario given the amount of different ingredients packed into a tiny bottle of product. And who’s to say the breakouts can’t completely be chalked up to hormones, in the first place?

So yes, you may be spending your quarantine with no makeup and a perfect routine every day. But it’s not going to guarantee your skin will get betterand that’s ok!

Overall, I’ve seen a lot of positive messaging to encourage people that they don’t “need” to do everything right during this quarantine. You don’t need to use this time to change all of your imperfections. The only thing we need to worry about is just to get through the day, and never losing hope that we’re one day closer to “normal life” again! ~A

Pacifica Kale Luxe Oil-Free Cream

I feel like such a fool! I was lured in by the words “oil-free” on this moisturizer! But alas, Pacifica has sadly snuck denatured alcohol into this otherwise very short ingredient listing. While alcohol denat has it’s place in the beauty industry, such as industrial-strength stage makeup fixing spray, I certainly don’t think it should find it’s way into moisturizers. And there’s even a chance it’s presence would not have bothered me so much if it didn’t act like a moisturizer that had alcohol in it!

I had a bad couple of weeks in early winter where my skin became a veritable oil-slick, and my skin began to break out like crazy. My dermatologists words suddenly came rushing back to me: “Only use oil-free moisturizers!“, a ghostly, subtle reminder that maybe I was doing too much in my routine, and needed to go back to basics. Cue the purchase of Pacifica’s oil free cream.

There isn’t anything particularly noteworthy in this $16 cream except, um, kale, which I’m not convinced really does anything. Mostly I just purchased it because it was oil free, somehow glossing right over the ingredient listing for alcohol denat. So although this 1.7 oz bottle gives you quite a bit of product to hold you over for a few months, for the ingredients alone, I do not think this is worth $16.

The moisturizer is really luxurious and silky feeling as you apply, but it’s more likely the smell will distract you from how nice this feels. I think the idea is that it smells like kale, but is more akin to smelling like the place it grew from, which is wet dirt. It is a matte moisturizer so it dries down quickly — too quickly, in fact. You’ll start to feel your skin underneath it start to dry up as soon as the cream does.

It does play well with makeup over top of it initially, but because this is such a drying moisturizer (wow, those two words next to each other don’t really make any sense…), you’ll find your skin start to develop dry patches throughout the day, causing your makeup to crack or pill on it’s own. Guess who started to get a few breakouts after day three of using this? Yep, you got it — this girl.

I think calling this a “drying moisturizer” should speak for itself. This cream flat out does not do it’s job at moisturizing, and if you have sensitive skin, you’ll almost definitely experience a break out from the sheer dryness alone, which isn’t cool since this cream specifically cites blemish-prone skin types as types that should use this product. Although I still love Pacifica as a brand, I think this was a huge miss on their part. Steer clear! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

Pacifica Dreamy Youth

I’m really digging Pacifica Beauty lately. They weren’t even on my radar until I bought this moisturizer. I was so pleasantly surprised by this product that I purchased a couple more items by Pacifica. What’s even better is that the majority of their products are under $15 — this face cream included, I think I grabbed it for $12 — and they seem to last forever. And it’s vegan, and it’s cruelty free, and the packaging is cute!

The “lasts forever” aspect of Dreamy Youth is that this seemingly standard-issue push pump is ridiculously efficient. One push will give you all the product you need — no more, no less. This white cream is somewhat thick yet it’s not too difficult to spread. It dries down clear in under 30 seconds. This has a very powerful floral scent — I personally like it, but it is strong, so this may not be for everyone.

Now, for a couple gripes about this moisturizer. It does leave behind a bit of waxy residue, similar to paraffin, without the “destroys every other product on your face” effect of paraffin (PS: paraffin itself does not make an appearance in Dreamy Youth!). It does make your skin feel very soft, of course. And while this plays well with makeup, I think this acts more as a barrier rather than a primer for makeup, so your makeup won’t completely “take”, making it seem dull and patchy in certain areas. For the most part, blending, as well as checking in the mirror at least thirty times before you leave the house, should mitigate this issue — but it’s still an annoying problem to have.

Dreamy Youth has a few good guy ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, aloe, shea butter and a couple choice peptides. Despite some of these proponents of age-reversal, I never really felt like this moisturizer was doing anything “extra” for my skin, besides, well, moisturizing! And even then, this isn’t the most moisturizing product on the market — while the cream is on the heavier side, I usually experience some skin tightness around hour six of wear.

I know I just complained a lot, but I do still like this moisturizer, as it’s never caused any issues for my sensitive skin! For skincare beginners especially, I would go so far as to say it’s a phenomenal purchase: there’s no outright “unfit for skin” ingredients, it’s foolproof to apply, and it does make your skin feel soft to the touch. Throw in the added bonus of purchasing from a cruelty-free brand? Sold.

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 3/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Olay Foaming Whip Body Wash

I wanted to sneak this quick review in of Olay Whips Body Wash before the cold season officially ends (although, where I live, that probably won’t be until May…). My mom picked this up for me for Christmas, and told me she had heard it was supposed to be “life-changing”. I decided to put that to the test.

This comes in a 10.3 fl oz bottle. I was scared it wouldn’t last a long time, since it’s foam and is essentially weightless — I figured I would always end up using too much product — but it’s been about two months now and the can still has a quarter of the product left. Not bad. The applicator sprays out, amazingly, close to the exact amount of soap needed to cover your whole body by the time it’s foamed up. Since you’re not going back to the canister to get more over and over again, it really does save a little time in the shower.

This acts a lot like shaving cream, so if you regularly use shaving cream in the shower, you can probably skip that step entirely when you’re using this product. The foam allows you to see what spots you’ve missed, and the soap itself is emolliating enough to not dry your skin out after you’ve shaved and pushed the product away. For some reason, most shaving creams really irritate my skin after I’ve gotten out of the shower — not so, for this soap.

I think what I like most about this product is, besides the fact it smells really nice and actually lingers well after you’ve showered, is that it’s actually hydrating longer-term. As I mentioned before it’s pretty cold where I live, so usually my skin starts to itch immediately after I’ve gotten out of the shower and before I’ve applied body lotion, but I didn’t feel like that was happening so much after I started to use this product. It didn’t seem to dry out as much during the day, either. I’m actually surprised by this because this product does not exclude sulfates.

Time-saving? Absolutely. Hydrating? Yep. Smells great? Yes! Cost effective? Err… well, I’ve seen this at Wal-Mart before for $5.97 and, I think for that price point, yes, it is cost effective. But I just looked on Amazon and a “pack of one” will run you $14.80 — insane! So, in-store, yes, online, no. I recommend sensitive skin and cold weather sufferers alike to pick this up if they can find it in a store for under $7. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

The Vicious Cycle of Makeup

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

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

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

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

Even Kendall Jenner isn’t immune!

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

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

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

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

Both of the Georgia Gibbs in this picture are beautiful!

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