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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) 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:ย No!

Black Owned Beauty Brands

I found this awesome infographic that lists black owned cosmetic brands from @nyjats Twitter. A great way to support the Black Lives Matter movement right now is to shop at black owned businesses.

Two of my favorites in this list: Mielle Organics for natural hair products, they don’t generally include drying alcohol or SLS ingredients! Then there’s Pat McGrath — I have a powder eyeshadow from this brand that I LOVE but I’m terrified of using because it’s, well, it’s that good, it never rubs off and the color payout is fantastic — so I’ll probably cry if and when it runs out.

I hope that everyone finds peace and safety in this time, and remember to amplify black voices! ~A

Catrice California in a Box

I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur of makeup palettes — I’m more of a “single color eyeshadow dish” kind of person. I know exactly what colors I want and need for my blush, bronzer, and eyeshadow and I am scared to deviate from that (although, I was obsessed with orange eyeshadow for awhile, and I kind of enjoyed it). But this palette really stood out to me while I was standing in Ulta — I realized I actually liked every color in it, and would probably actually use them!

Here’s a quick rundown of my take on what’s in the box:

Pearly and dark blush: The darker colored blush surprisingly paints far lighter than I would expect it to. For some reason I anticipated a more mauve-y undertone, but I’d describe it more as deep pink. This has a fantastic pigment and would look beautiful on someone with a medium or darker skintone. Now, for me personally, the dark blush was a little bit heavy for my complexion, so this is where the pearly blush came into play for me. The peachy tones make for a very subtle color on my cheeks, with just a tiny bit of “pop” of pearl highlighter that slightly illuminates the look. Almost undetectable, otherwise — just the way I like it! (but it probably won’t be for you if you’re looking for a bolder look)

Light and dark bronzer: The bronzer is my only gripe about this product. It dark bronzer really skews orange, and I could only see this getting worse as time passes and more oxidizing occurs. The light bronzer is a lesser offender of turning orange, but it’s so light. I think it would be imperceptible on anyone, except possibly someone with an alabaster skin tone.

Highlighter: this is definitely not the most extreme of highlighters, which might be for the best since I’ve noticed the bright highlighter trend sort of winding down on Instagram. It’s very subtle; you might want to add a second layer if you really want it to stand out. The nude coloration of this highlighter makes it look far more natural looking than a pure white highlighter.

Overall one of my biggest issues with this palette is that the colors aren’t very malleable, and they’re unforgiving of user error. Usually if I’m a bit heavy-handed with blush, I can correct it without too many issues just by blending it in more with the brush. That’s a difficult ask with this product, though, so I recommend using a very fluffy brush for the bronzers and blushes.

I didn’t have any issues with the products losing efficacy over time, although perhaps the highlighter may have lost it’s shine after hour 4 since it’s already very subtle to begin with. Also, the bronzer made me want to wash my entire face after hour two when I realized that the orange was only getting worse. But I didn’t, and the bronzer sadly still persisted until past the eight hour mark.

For $12, this is not a bad product if you’re looking for something subtle! Despite the vacation vibes that the marketing of this product gives off, this palette is actually quite suitable for work — you’ll get the faintly sunkissed glow without looking overdone. Just make sure you go in with a very light hand! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 3.5/5

Longevity: 3.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4.25/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

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

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

LANEIGE Lip Sleeping Mask

There are aspects of this lip mask that I really love. Certain qualities of this sleeping mask might even compete with my beloved Aquaphor in the running for favorite lip products. There’s just… one single thing… in the ingredient listing that I cannot wrap my brain around, and that’s alcohol.

First, let’s talk about the product itself. This comes in a cute, pink plastic tub, and has a very faint berry smell. The texture looks creamy, but applies clear, with just a tinge of red. The wax layer on this lip mask is long-lasting, so not only will your lips feel smooth and soft upon application, but the mask is intended to lock in moisture for the long term. It is advertised as a sleeping mask, but this is fine for use at any time of the day if you’re not intending on using lipstick or lipgloss over it.

There’s a lot of reviews that say this will make your lips more plump. I suppose with added moisture to anything, it will increase the thickness to some degree. But it’s not a plumper in the sense that it isn’t like products on the market specifically labeled “lip plumper” that create that minty, burning sensation on your lips and subsequently makes them look half a size larger.

Although this is listed as an overnight mask, the mask itself generally wears off after an hour or two. Still, after long-term use of this product over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed my lip “health” has been a little better, an impressive task considering it’s currently the dead of winter. I don’t feel like I need to re-apply other lip protectants during the day as often as I normally do.

What compels me to not re-purchase this mask is the fact that there is alcohol in this. It’s a shame, because otherwise the ingredient listing is pretty tame (albeit super long) — I like the shea butter and plant extracts aspect of this. While the alcohol is low enough down the ingredient listing that I suspect it’s only intended for product dry-down, I can’t help but feel it contributes to actually drying out your skin, that skin sloughing off, and the user having a subsequent desire to want to reapply this product to fix the “dry skin”.

All in all, mixed feelings toward this lip mask. It does work for a certain period of time, and it’s certainly better than your run of the mill peppermint-and-wax chapsticks. But it’s also working against the user. Sneaky marketing tactic for Laneige to get their consumers to buy more? We’ll never know. ~A

Fake product alert! Looks like Amazon’s loaded with fakes of this product — don’t take the gamble, and just buy it straight from Sephora instead.

Perceived efficacy: 3/5

Longevity: 3.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 3.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Pixi H20 Skindrink

Potential new holy grail moisturizer, comin’ right up! Pixi Skindrink is like a thicker, tackier version of Bio-Oil that I never knew I needed — and also cheaper alternative ($19 for full size) than the very similar Dr Lin Hydrating Gel, which now retails for $30. Geez, I can’t believe I used to buy Dr. Lin moisturizer for like, $7 at one point of my life. Anyways! I love Skindrink, and although I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, I already know it will be a re-buy of mine.

This is a clear gel that comes out of a push-top tube. It’s very easy to spread, and one pump should cover the entirety of your face. This has a noticeable rose- or soap- like smell, but fades after thirty minutes of wear.

You’ll probably notice that this moisturizer does not dry down after application — it will feel greasy, and still easy to disturb after application. Even when it’s “dry”, it’s extremely tacky, not unlike many paraffin or petroleum type moisturizers that are used as occlusives. So I only recommend Skindrink as a last step in your nightly routine, or if you don’t plan on wearing makeup that day. It’s all worth the slight discomfort of a greasy face, though. When I wake up in the morning, my skin feels bouncy and smooth!

I haven’t broken out from this, and this is probably thanks to the somewhat tame ingredient listing, with glycerin and silicones at the top of the list to keep moisture in. There’s no irritating alcohols — in fact, there’s not even a single fatty alcohol either (such as cetearyl alcohol), which is hard to come by when looking for a moisturizer.

The Pixi website suggests you can put this moisturizer in the refrigerator to maximize the “cooling” effect Skindrink provides (which will occur even without the refrigeration, just to a lesser degree). Combining the simple ingredient listing and the cooling effect that should come as a relief for those with sensitive skin, I’d absolutely recommend Skindrink to acne sufferers.

I know this was a pretty short review, but it’s a pretty simple moisturizer with a single function — to retain moisture — and Skindrink does that function very well. This was my first venture into Pixi skincare products, and I’m excited to try out more by them! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin:ย Yes