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. 🙂 ~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: Yes

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

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Moisturizing Hand Cream

How is the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream regarded so highly? How is it a holy grail for dry-skin sufferers? This is basically the equivalent of dipping your hands in wax. There’s no moisturizing quality in this product whatsoever.

Actually, a reviewer on Target has my exact thoughts, almost verbatim. I guess there are a few naysayers, after all:

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Heck, I’d go so far to say that comparing to this to petroleum jelly is a slap in the face to petroleum jelly.

Onto the customer experience. This $6 clear gel-cream squeezes out veryy slowly from the tube. It’s quite thick, which you think would be a telltale sign of a good humectant that holds moisture in, but this will inevitably fail to do just that. The thickness of this cream will make it difficult to absorb into your skin, or even to spread around on your hand in the first place.

Even when you think it’s done drying onto your skin (which can exceed ten minutes, some days), it leaves behind a very tacky residue, which makes it close to impossible to do normal things like… turning open a door knob. Sure, every lotion does this to some extent, but not as long as a couple hours after application! Heck, even running your hands under the sink won’t remove all the residue. What is this stuff?! Is this what all the positive reviews are mistaking as moisture?

When I focus on how my skin feels under all that goop, it still just feels dry, despite the fact it has a slippery layer of wax over top of it. And at the end of it all, when the sticky residue has finally worn off, your hands are still just… dry.

On the plus side, it is fragrance free, for anyone who’s bothered by that. Also sort of on the plus side, there’s not a whole lot of red flags in the ingredient listing, except maybe glycerin and sodium sulfate, the latter of which I wonder causes the dryness. Honestly, seeing as glycerin is the second ingredient of this hand cream anyway, I’d recommend someone to just use Vaseline instead. It’s much more effective as a humectant.

If you suffer from eczema, this might be worth a shot, since it is low on skin irritating ingredients. Other than that, I would completely skip this hand cream. Yes, I know there’s a ton of five star reviews out there, but I’m starting to question how many people Neutrogena paid off to play nice. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

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