Derma-E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

I purchased this serum a bit by accident when I failed to differentiate between the words “serum” and “moisturizer” in the process of attempting to re-up my supply of Derma-E’s Vitamin C Moisturizer. I’m glad I didn’t return the serum upon realizing that it was the wrong product, because I ended up loving it!

Similar to the moisturizer, this serum smells distinctly like fruit loops. The serum comes out of the push-top bottle as a clear liquid, albeit with a faint cloudiness to it as most Vitamin C serums tend to have, but it otherwise dries down clear, and dries immediately. No drying alcohols like benzoyl alcohol in this product, nor do you get the grittiness that tends to be present in other Vit C serums.

Despite a tame ingredient listing and nothing else listed that would otherwise irritate your skin, this stuff is incredibly drying, and if it’s over-used, could most likely start to cause break-outs. Not only does it dry down quickly immediately application, but after a few hours, you’ll notice your skin starting to tighten up. Fortunately, this is a great feature for any extra layers of moisturizer and sunscreen — you’re definitely going to want to pack in as much skin protection as you can after using this.

Despite how drying this serum can be, I haven’t had any issues with stacking foundation over it, and the foundation subsequently “cracking” around dry spots. I do, however, tend to avoid night-time exfoliants after a day of using this serum — it’s way too much for my skin to handle. Derma-E doesn’t seem privy to disclosing the percentage of Vitamin C that’s in their products, so I’m wondering if this has a concentration that’s higher than 10% due to the effect it has on my skin.

The results from this serum are almost immediate, similar to the equally fast-acting moisturizer. It’s great at smoothing out textured areas of your skin, making it appear brighter, and I think it’s even reduced the size of a small, long-time scar on my chin!

For $20, I think this serum is definitely worth the buy if your skin has a high tolerance to acids. If you’re new to Vitamin C, I would still recommend the lower-intensity moisturizer by the same brand, but both products are phenomenal. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: 4/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes — carefully!

Castor Oil

Castor oil has recently been a hot topic in the skincare community since the big eyebrow trend is still hanging around, albeit evolving. Everyone wants fuller eyebrows! Castor oil is like the 2020 version of biotin, except it’s a topical oil instead of an ingestable supplement. It claims to make your hair grow faster and will help to moisturizer your skin, so I tried it out for two months to see if it lived up to the hype.

Isn’t Castor Oil Toxic? Unless you’re allergic to castor oil, the answer is no, on two fronts. Growing up I remember hearing the reference to castor oil as being used as a laxative. Yup, gross. But there is a distinction between food-grade castor oil and skincare castor oil, so if your bottle says “not safe for consumption” then… you probably shouldn’t consume it. But that’s not because of the ricin! Yep, another unpleasant word to throw into a paragraph. Ricin is not contained in the actual oil itself. Ricin is the result of the seeds being mashed together after the oil has been extracted. Long story short, your skincare castor oil isn’t poisonous, but if you’re looking for a laxative, you should probably go find yourself a food-grade bottle!

Does it make your eyebrows or eyelashes grow faster? In my experience, no. I can see where it would give the appearance of your eyebrows seeming darker since the oil clumps all the hairs together, but if you’re missing certain patches of your eyebrow, this oil will not help to stimulate skin cells in helping the hair grow. Ditto for the eyelashes. It’s kind of a daunting task to Q-tip this in the eyelash area to begin with, but again, besides the oil making them darker, I didn’t feel that my eyelashes grew any faster or more voluminously.

I will say, however, one of my nervous tics is to pull my eyebrows when I’m stressed out, and putting castor oil almost completely put an end to this habit, solely because that oil is so… unruly, to deal with. Turns out, not pulling your eyebrows out lets them grow! Who would have thought… For anyone who suffers trichotillomania, I highly recommend you pick up a bottle and give it a try. You can even use it for your hair. Which brings me to…

Does it make your hair grow faster? Again, no. But it is, in small doses, it is a good “mask” to help keep some moisture in. Since castor oil is so sticky, I would recommend that anyone with fine hair use this as a day-mask or wash it out before you go to bed.

Also, for all you bleach blondes out there, have you ever had the burning desire to speed up the shedding process in one fell swoop? Look no further than a bottle of castor oil… place it on your most broken hair follicles and watch allllll the hair fall out! (I’d like to think that this happened for the better…)

What about your skin? I don’t really recommend it. Again, this oil is just so heavy and sticky that it’s very difficult to remove or absorb, which, in my opinion, also makes it a bad candidate for oil-cleansing (OCM). Despite this oil being non-comedogenic, I noticed a lot more redness in my skin than usual when using it as a “only step) in my routine.

Unfortunately castor oil misses the mark on skincare and hair growth panacea status. However I think it’s been a great alternative to coconut oil for masking my hair and helping to keep it hydrated. There are a lot of masks on the market that boast castor oil as the main product, but I think it’s best to go straight to the source and just grab a bottle from a reputable skincare or holistic company business. ~A

TL;DR:

Will it definitively make your hair/eyebrows/eyelashes grow super fast? Probably not.

Is it good for your skin? Not the worst, but there are better alternatives.

Is it good for overall hair health? When used sporadically, yes.

Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile now, you have probably realized that I never stop talking about Clinique’s Dramatically Different Gel. It is just the most reliable, versatile, lightweight and foolproof gel, and I’ve never found anything like it.

Except, oops, I forgot that Clinique had a few more things in their Dramatically Different line-up. I had a little inspiration after reading a great write-up on this product over at V’s Beauty Talk blog, which kickstarted me into grabbing a 1.7oz trial size for $15 ($30 for full-size) to see if this lived up to my extremely high expectations.

Although Clinique tends to be heavy on the ingredients-you-cant-pronounce-the-names-of, this line generally leaves out drying alcohols and comdeogenic oils, which I like. The product itself is closer to a liqui-gel than a jelly, but this makes it easy to get out of the bottle. If you have dry skin, prepare for this stuff to dry down extremely fast. You would think this would be “a little goes a long way” spreadable, but it’s not.

Unfortunately the review mostly goes downhill from here. Immediately after I applied this, my skin felt sticky. After six hours, my skin still felt sticky and… dry, again. Products are impossible to stack over this, because it will pill. Scrubbing the product off the next morning also ends in a gigantic, pilling mess.

So… what is this? I can’t use it as a moisturizer, because it doesn’t hydrate my skin for long enough, and I also can’t stack anything else over top of it if I wanted to. I can’t use it as a one-step emolliant either, or even consider it a humectant, because it, again, is not hydrating.

Based on the ingredient listing, and for the sole fact I love the gel version so much, I would be inclined to recommend this to sensitive-skin users, but honestly I suspect the uncomfortable sensation this moisturizer leaves behind actually did cause some irritation to my skin, and ultimately caused me to break out a few times after using this.

I was hugely disappointed by this product, but, for some perspective, there are three different types of moisturizers in this series, and more suited for different skin types than the other. Maybe the gel version is my one-and-only, and you know what they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2/5

Longevity: 2/5

How much I actually like this product: 1.75/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

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

The Ordinary 100% Plant Derived Squalane

Ever feel like your moisturizing just isn’t, well, moisturizing enough? Put some squalane in it! Not only is squalane good on it’s own as a hydrating oil, I like to mix this stuff in with almost everything.

Like many other TO products, this serum comes in a dark glass bottle, to prevent oxidation. I did a little extra research on this, since I’ve bought squalane from other brands that did not have dark bottles. Apparently, the compound of squalEne is highly susceptible to breaking down when exposed to oxygen and light. It’s younger sister squalAne has a much longer shelf life, but is still subject to degradation over time, and the dark bottles will help to slow this down. In short: other companies who sell squalane in a clear glass bottle are doing it wrong (I’m looking at you, Peter Thomas Roth!)

TO has an excellent dropper, if a bit unwieldy, to take the squalane out of the bottle. Since it’s so thin, the squalane tends to spread quickly, and absorbs just as fast. Because it absorbs so fast and it’s hard to correct when i misapply the product, I always need justtt a little more product. But the droppers are easy to use and to manipulate pressure on so that you only get as much product as you need. Since a little goes a long way, and the dropper makes it easy to put excess product back in the bottle, this product tends to last me close to six months.

The squalane itself is clear, and incredibly thin — it’s almost like water. For some reason TO’s brand of squalane seems even thinner than any other squalane I’ve tried. Although you can use this as a stand-alone oil and apply this directly to your face, I typically like to use this as an additive with my moisturizers (especially Clinique’s Dramatically Different).This makes it far less likely to pill with any other skincare product you might be wearing underneath.

I used squalane at the height of my cystic acne, and never noticed it causing any break outs — I can say the same of it now, it’s definitely a great pick for anyone who has sensitive skin. It’s also great if you live in a colder climate, who doesn’t want the extra hydration when it’s 10 degrees outside? For $10, this is a long lasting staple I’d recommend for anyone’s skincare collection. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 4.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Site Updates

Hello! Just me, checking in on my readers again. I hope you are all doing well and that you are all staying healthy!

I finally added a dedicated page for skincare routines for sufferers of cystic or severe acne. Don’t know what took me so long! That can be found by going to the top menu of my main page, or by clicking here.

For hopefully a large majority of my readers, the unintentional “good” thing that is coming out of COVID-19 is that you’re likely not wearing too much makeup while you’re stuck at home. What better time for a little bit of self-care? Here are a couple ideas:

  • Self-tanning! A lot of us are probably losing out on a lot of opportunities to do any real substantial springtime sunbathing — that’s where self-tanner comes in! My favorite self-tanner body lotion is Jergens; my favorite tanning drops are Tanwise!
  • Face masks! If you’re new to face masks, My Beauty Diary masks are inexpensive, and offer a variety of options for different skin needs. They’re also, weirdly, very relaxing!
  • Slug Life! Now’s your chance to lay around in emolliating and occlusive layers all day. If nothing else — your skin will be extremely bouncy after we’re let out of our houses! Try out Pixi H20 Skindrink for a pleasant-smelling slug life, and Elta MD Intense Moisture for the most extreme of occlusive layers.

But most important of all — eat well, Facetime your family, and wash your hands! 🙂

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

Bio-Oil Specialist Skin Care – Price Increase and Fakes, a 2020 Update

There’s been a recent uptick in Bio-Oil’s popularity, and I can’t help but wonder if some of the hub-bub is also related to their remarkably sharp price increase! Bio-Oil has been on the market for a little over thirty years, and remains a well known and liked skincare product because the stuff actually works. I reviewed Bio-Oil previously, in fact (link to original review here); while I don’t think it’s a miracle product for scarring, it is a great introduction into oils you can apply to your skin. It was worth $9, for sure. A quick walk into Walgreens last week, however, revealed the new price tag was $17 for the same amount of product.

I was a little peeved at the $17 price tag, but realizing the price was roughly the same as Amazon’s current going rate, I threw in the towel and purchased it. I do really like the stuff, after all, and sometimes a girl is too lazy to drive across town to Target/wait three days for shipping!

Foolishly, I also believed that Walgreens would pick from a relatively reputable stock for their beauty products, but I suppose to only reputable retailer would be Bio-Oil themselves. I should have opened the box in the store to inspect the product. But I didn’t. I got home and sure enough, upon opening the bottle, discovered that I may have had a dupe on my hands.

Sign 1 Fake: Super thin, almost water-like consistency. The real Bio-Oil is more like… oil. It slips and slides around your skin, and doesn’t immediately absorb, but the fake is much more thin. Upon further Googling for signs of a fake, I realized the fakes will also “bubble” if you shook them. Yep. It did that too.

Sign 2 of Fake: the smell. This had a faint whiff of like… antiseptic, kind of. Like the stuff they use to sterilie everything at the doctor’s office. Definitely not the light, faintly floral smell of Bio-Oil.

Sign 3 of Fake: A little more Googling informed me that the color will appear more pink than orange. This was definitely pink.

I didn’t even want to try putting this on my face for the sake of “science” and seeing what it would do. The antiseptic smell convinced me that I would more or less be putting mouthwash on my face.

It’s tough to find a good source for Bio-Oil, since the regular consumer cannot buy directly from the manufacturer themselves. Bio-Oil is easy to find at almost any supermarket and drugstore, but again, even drugstores I view as reputable aren’t immune to buying bad stock. With that said, if you’re going to buy Bio-Oil, I highly recommend skipping Amazon altogether, since Amazon is the king of fake products. I’ve had more comfort and assurance of quality products from Ulta, Vitamin Shoppe and GNC.

I know the frustration of buying fake products, so I hope this will bring a level of awareness to new Bio-Oil converts! It’s a great product, so long as it’s the real product! ~A

(Don’t forget to check out my original review here!)