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

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

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

ROHTO SKIN AQUA Super Moisture Milk SPF50 PA++++

I… I think I’m in love. Move aside, It’s Skin 2pm, I think I found a new holy grail of sunscreens. This little bottle is totally worth the month long wait to ship from Japan. Why do I love it so much? Let me count the ways …

1- No drying alcohols. Which leads me to my next point:

2- Has never broken me out.

3- Dries clear. There’s absolutely NO whitecast.

4- Odorless. Well, there is the faint sunscreen-y smell, but nothing noticeable or overwhelming, and goes away after a minute or two.

5- No pilling. Easily spreadable. Just give it a couple of minutes to dry, then go ahead and dump your foundation, powders, other moisturizers, literally whatever, on top of it. It won’t roll up.

6- Dries quickly. Kind of the same as #5, but I wanted to mention more of the texture. The sunscreen is a watery white gel that absorbs extremely rapidly — and clear. You’ll still feel a bit of a “film” on your skin, but it’s not heavy or bothersome.

7- A little goes a long way. Don’t be scared of the tiny 40ml bottle – you really only need two or three drops of this to spread across your face. Which reminds me…

8- No burning on application.

9- Waterproof. You can still “feel” the film of this on your face even after working up a sweat.

10- SPF 50! Can’t get much better than that.

11- Bonus ingredient: hyaluronic acid.

This is everything I could want in a sunscreen. It’s too perfect. The only thing I hate is the ridiculously long ship time. I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop because I can’t find anything wrong with it. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Yes

Beauty Products and User Subjectivity

I wanted to write a disclaimer on the sidebar about how I am not a doctor or a cosmetologist, I’m simply a beauty product enthusiast, and that all of my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. Everyone will have a slightly different experience than I did with all of the products I’ve mentioned on this page. But I also wanted to add my personal take on “everyone’s needs are different/everyone is different” and “you should never fully take the advice of someone on the Internet.”

My favorite makeup and skincare YouTubers are Jeffree Star and thataylaa. Jeffree Star is probably my prime example of “everyone is different”. He tries on makeup that he loves, that I generally think is tacky and god awful. Now Jeffree, I’m sure, has sponsorships of all kinds, even if he doesn’t directly promote them. But whether he likes, or dislikes, the product, he makes himself completely clear as to why. His videos allow you to actually see how the product performs alongside his, ah, very opinionated commentary. Whether or not you agree with him, that’s up for you to decide. But I find that his brand of brutal honesty is preferable to most of the other channels that exist, where the creator is seems almost hesitant to mention the drawbacks of the product, likely because they’re trying to upsell in order for you to click their affiliate links.

Next, there’s thataylaa. I also like her for her honesty, and her head-on approach with to dealing with cystic acne: she put her makeup-free face on display for thousands of viewers at it’s very worst, and demonstrated how to use and find makeup for people with similar skin issues. It helped that she had similar skin tone/eye color/hair color as me. As a result, much of my Amazon and Ulta shopping was fueled by her recommendations.

I found Catrice Prime and Fine finishing spray through her! It worked magnificently — until I broke out, read the ingredient list (yep, after buying it, of course… my fault), and noticed it had benzoyl alcohol in it. No, it wasn’t at the very top of the list, so the chances of it being an irritant were slightly less, but I still felt weirdly jilted. I mean, didn’t she know benzoyl alcohol is a common adversary for those who suffer from cystic acne?! How dare she! In the most petty way possible, I felt disappointed in her.

Then I opened my bathroom closet a few days later and realized that my favorite self-tanner had alcohol denat listed somewhere along the second line. But I loved that self-tanner! I was never going to give it up! Double-standards galore. I digress: it made me realize that everyone’s needs and likes are going to be different. Thataylaa probably wasn’t having issues the same way I was with the finishing spray, and why would she? She isn’t me.

So when you read any review, or watch a video that demonstrates the product, just keep in mind. Your results are probably not going to be the same. A popular product won’t always be guaranteed to work for you, just the same as a lower-rated product might be your personal holy grail. I’d take a guess and say that 98% of reviewers are not professionally certified in any way to give a completely accurate dissertation (including myself!), so digest those reviews accordingly. 🙂 ~A

CosRX Galactomyces 95 Toner Balancing Essence

One day, I woke up and decided I was bored with applying Cerave PM every single day. I know, complete blasphemy, right? Cerave PM is amazing. But I wanted to switch up my niacinamide treatment, so I picked up this product from CosRX.

I love CosRX for both their packaging simplicity, and their short ingredient lists. The product — clear, watery gel — can be seen from the outside of the bottle. You don’t need too much of the product, it’s easily spreadable once on the skin. The absorption time is a bit long — probably close to 5 minutes — and sits “tacky” on the skin even when dried. Considering the tackiness, though, it doesn’t pill up against other products as much as I thought it would.

Sadly, it turns out my skin is pretty sensitive to this product, so I wasn’t able to use it enough to see the long term results. For the short-term, I didn’t really see anything noticeable, not quite the way The Ordinary’s Niacinamide temporarily turned my skin into glass.

I tried this out both morning and night. A few hours after, I noticed quite a bit of pore congestion, and I believe I had some small breakouts from that. There’s no alcohol in this product, so my suspicion is that my breakouts are related to the fermented ingredients. Case in point, I used to use My Beauty Diary Natto Masks (natto = fermented soybean) religiously, with no issues whatsoever. Freakin’ love that sheet mask. But one day, a year and a half later, these masks started to have roughly the same effect on me that Galactomyces has on me now: it caused crazy pore congestion and breakouts.

I would tread carefully if you have sensitive skin. Cerave PM is probably a much safer option if you’re prone to breakouts. This is also relatively pricey — $18 — although you do get quite a bit of product. If you’ve been able to try this product out to see any long-term results, please comment and let me know how you like it!

Side note: You may also recognize this product as “Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence”. I think the renaming was probably for the best… ~A

Try out Galactomyces here: https://amzn.to/2Sf9Ilo

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 3/5

How much I actually like this product: 2/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

L’oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Tinted Self-Tanning Lotion

loreal paris sublime bronze

Myself and my pasty pale skin have been through many a self-tanner. Sublime Bronze was definitely not my favorite, despite it’s otherwise high reviews for a drug store tanner.

First of all, I noticed L’oreal, moreso than most beauty brands, LOVES benzyl alcohol and alcohol denat, particularly as the second or third ingredient… Sublime Bronze is no exception, so if you’re looking to avoid it, you might want to pass on this one.

The color comes out of the squeeze bottle in a dark brown gel lotion, and has a tinge of sparkle to it. I don’t mind a bit of shimmer in my self-tanners, and the glitter in this isn’t too overbearing, so that works for me personally. Don’t forget to put a mit or gloves on before applying this — it will absolutely stain your hands. This smells… a little banana-y. To me, the DHA smell isn’t too overpowering, even after a day or so.

There is a guide with this lotion (gets dark where you need to blend it in, so that there aren’t streaks!), but it’s relatively useless. I truly hate how this tanner dries. Not only does it take awhile to dry, but it dries patchy and streaky regardless of how much attention you pay to blending and being cognizant of the guide. The color will last you maybe a day or two, even if you’re being careful not to scrub your skin in the shower and not sweating particularly much. Since it’s an “instant” product I can’t say that longevity is necessarily the goal here, although it would be nice if it stayed on for a little longer. Although… the blotchiness and the streakiness of this lotion makes you want to remove it anyway!

Weirdly, this product works AWESOME for the face. It darkens immediately, won’t look blotchy if you mix it in with moisturizer, and for some reason the color sticks around for 4-5 days. But alcohol denat as the second ingredient makes that venture totally not worth it for the health of your skin.

Too bad, L’oreal. I liked the shimmer, the not-too-overpowering smell, and the $7 price tag, but the other aspects of this product just don’t stack up. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 2.5/5

Longevity: 2.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 2.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: No

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

cetaphil gentle skin cleanser

The holy grail cleanser for anyone with any acne issues, ever. It won’t cure your acne, but it will never make it worse, and does it’s job well to give your skin a clean slate for the day.

For $10-13, this pump bottle comes with enough product to last you at least 4-5 months, depending on how often you use it. One pump should be enough if you add a little water in to lather it. Apply it to your face, and wash it off. Simple. It’s incredibly basic — the cleanser comes out faintly white and it’s easy to lather up. It has no distinct smell.

In terms of removing makeup, this isn’t the best in the world and you might need go through the motions a few times to remove any extra product. But if you’re just looking to remove excess oil or grime from your face from the day or night (without stripping 100% of the natural oils from your face), then this is definitely your product.

I have tried the regular version of this (not labeled gentle skin cleanser), and it seemed about the same — maybe a tiny bit more drying, but nothing that prevented me from using up the whole bottle.

There really isn’t too much to say about this cleanser — it is, again, basic, but does the job starting your skin back at zero pretty well without being too drying, and a lot of people love it for that reason. I HIGHLY recommend this product if you have any type of acne. ~A

If you’d like to go back to basics with your skincare, click here: https://amzn.to/2SIPld6

Perceived efficacy: 4.5/5

Longevity: n/a

How much I actually like this product: 4.5/5

Recommended for sensitive skin: Resounding yes!