Fall Empties | Skincare

As much as I want to gush about and play tribute to the products that have gotten me through this transition into fall, I think I’m going to lose my mind if I have to stare at this full overflowing bag of empty products for much longer… and this is just the skincare empties to start with.

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm ($44 CAD | 125 mL)

This is the gentlest balm cleanser that I’ve ever tried and suitable for every single skin condition that I can think of (and trust me I’ve suffered with a few) and absolutely annihilates makeup and sunscreen without irritating any part of the face or eyeballs. It doesn’t really use traditional oils that some report as clogging, so it would be appropriate for those who are oil-hesitant, has a super minimalist ingredient list and doesn’t include fragrance or anything irritating. I’ve actually been venturing out from using this one because it’s gone up in price, the fact that I love the balms with more traditionally oily and nourishing textures and the variety of balms on the market that I want to experiment with.

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm ($13 CAD | 150 mL)

This is another uber gentle fragrance-free cleansing balm, but it has packaging that has its limitations and it is nourishing and soothing in ways the Clinique is not. I’m quite a fan of the tube packaging for ease and sink-counter storage but it can be an absolute pain to squeeze out at times — but I don’t have really have significant issues with that and seem to actually have the determination to get the product out. It features sweet almond oil, oat kernel oil and a plant-derived wax to melt down makeup and and these in combination with the oat kernel flour leave the skin hydrated and calmed. It isn’t quite the makeup annihilator that the Clinique is but it will remove mascara and waterproof eye makeup with a little bit of patience. It does emulsify but many will find the film kind of unappealing and likely due to the tube packaging and the oils it contains, the mixture can come out kind of separated — but melts down with ease in the way that coconut oil and shea butter does. I have a fresh one to start on after I go through the cleansers I’m working on and currently have in my stash and will likely particularly enjoy during the winter.

Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturizing Cleanser ($53 CAD | 120 mL)

This cream cleanser was one of those things that I didn’t realize I loved until I was at the very end of the tube. I was lucky enough to be able to purchase two backups on sale, which speaks to how much I’ve grown to love this cleanser. It’s a real treat in cleanser form. There’s enough oil content that it melts makeup well, but doesn’t remove tenacious eye makeup with quite as much ease as a cleansing balm or oil. The cleansing agents are really gentle, the grape seed oil, jojoba seed oil, avocado oil and coconut oils are high enough on the ingredients list to really nourish the skin and the honey and lactic acid add a boost of humectants to the formula. It’s scented but not with essential oils and after I use it, my skin always feels soothed, comforted and less dehydrated afterwards.

Neogen Real Ferment Micro Essence ($49.99 CAD | 150 mL)

I adored this watery first essence in the summer when it was beyond hot, humid and muggy as anything, and I finished it at the tail end of the summer. However, the water-light texture wasn’t ideal for my thirsty easily irritated skin, especially as things got cooler and my skin did its temperamental thing. Ingredients-wise, this essence relies on the probiotic-rich bifida ferment lysate, soothing humectant saccharomyces ferment, green tea, a variety of amino acids, replenishing ingredients and barrier-supporting niacinamide. It was rich in humectants, soothing ingredients and antioxidants but I’m not sure the texture was for me. It was super refreshing in the summer, without the irritation of essential oils or menthol or anything among that variety. I’m not sure the water-like texture is for me, however.

Dr Ceuracle Vegan Kombucha Tea Essence ($43.69 CAD | 150 mL)

If the Neogen was a product that’s great but not the ideal product for me, this essence exemplifies the kind of essence essentially for me. It’s a more traditional essence to be used later on in the routine but is also a milky moisturizer on steroids simultaneously. It contains emollients, glycerin, green tea, saccharomyces ferment, sunflower oil, sodium hyaluronate, cocoa seed extract, centella asiatica and ceramide np. It’s a kind of separated liquid consisting of tea and separated emollients that becomes a beautiful milk when shaken before use. It’s gloriously soothing, hydrating and moisturizing, even on compromised and irritated skin. It’s wonderfully anti-inflammatory and plumping and doesn’t even require a separate moisturizer. I often used it without a moisturizer over the top and I’ve already ordered a backup.

Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Probio Ampoule ($37.29 CAD | 50 mL)

This “ampoule” quickly became my favourite gentle daily non-active serum. It’s currently in the mail from Stylevana and the name is changed but the ingredients look identical. It does contain niacinamide but not in a ridiculous percentage that could lead to irritation and rather helps support the skin barrier. I would guess that it contains somewhere in between 3-5%, which is the sweet spot for many of its benefits. It also contains bifida ferment lysate, ten different probiotic ingredients and extracts, glycerin, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate and some oils including essential oils, which oddly enough don’t bother my skin whatsoever — but they are towards the end of the hefty ingredient list. I love this serum because it’s a great humectant, supports the skin barrier in a variety of ways and is instantly soothing. It helps that it never stings over a thoroughly pissed off skin barrier. It’s the perfect serum when you don’t want to come near your face with anything irritating and want to nourish and rebuild it instead.

Dr Dennis Gross B3 Adaptive SuperFoods Stress Rescue Super Serum ($96 CAD | 30 mL)

Thanks to the 2020 Caroline Hirons Summer Kit, I was able to try this pricier serum. I used it primarily last year but then I kind of left it towards the back of my skincare organizer, only to finish up recently. I really enjoyed this milky serum and the ingredients worked for my skin concerns but unfortunately some of the essential oils the formula contains irritates my skin around the mouth and cheeks with consistent use. It contains barrier-supporting niacinamide as the fourth ingredient, sweet almond oil, squalane, a bunch of antioxidant rich plant extracts and fatty acids. It’s a shame really but the essential oils were just not suited for my skin.

The Inkey List Brighten-I Eye Cream ($12.99 CAD | 15 mL)

This eye cream was a great everyday one for my sensitive dry under eyes, especially in the mornings under makeup and around tired eyes. It doesn’t sting like the majority of things do around my sensitive allergy-prone eyes, and the metal tip felt very soothing and awakening in the morning. The subtle cosmetic brightening effect was great for brightening dark circles. It contains glycerin, mafura seed butter, a man made antioxidant, mica, ginseng and centella asiatica. It was brightening, laid amazing under makeup, was soothing and affordable.

The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + EGCG Depuffing Eye Serum ($6.70 CAD | 30 mL)

I’m not sure why I slept on this product for so long; the ingredient list makes this one of the most robust and sophisticated formulas that The Ordinary has produced. My eyes are a problem area, being sensitive, dry, suffering from dark circles and prone to creasing with any kind of makeup, but I do not suffer with puffiness which is the primary concern this product corrects. I enjoy the thick gel texture that doesn’t migrate, adds substantial moisture with its oilier texture and doesn’t make my eye area burn randomly. It contains a number of antioxidants, glycerin, hyaluronic acid and lactic acid. Caffeine and the green tea derived antioxidant both are potent antioxidants with anti-inflammatory activity and have some research to support that they help with dark circles. I would repurchase because it actually has helped with the appearance of my under eyes and I enjoy it in the way I have enjoyed the Niod Fractionated Eye-Contour Concentrate at a fraction of the price. It doesn’t have the same sophisticated formula of peptides and amino acids but I get the same experience using it, especially when being incredibly sleep deprived.

Belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb ($50 CAD | 50 mL)

This was an awesome moisturizer especially in the warmer weather months because of the cushiony lightweight cream texture and kind of refreshing feel it leaves behind. It contains a bunch of antioxidant-rich plant extracts including a number of fermented extracts, macadamia oil, panthenol and oat kernel extract. It’s really plumping, soothing and moisturizing and really helps with dull potentially flaking skin. I normally shy away from jar packaging but I’m willing to look beyond it for this product. It’s not fragrance free either but it didn’t irritate my skin and I would happily use again. It’s great for skins with dryness and irritation that helps without feeling suffocating.

What products have you finished?
Maggie, x.

The Empties | Early Spring

Mark my words, I know that it’s been well over a month since spring officially started. However, until somewhat recently it’s been blizzard-ing, so forgive me if I consider it still pretty early(ish) in the spring season. I used to worry these posts were boring to read, as I rarely used to finish up much of anything and there was little variety of what I did finish up, always trying out new things, rather than finishing what I had on the go. However, in the last couple of years, I have become a more savvy and restrained shopper, buying less and finishing more:

Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Cleansing Balm ($28 US | 103 mL)

After disliking the Paula’s Choice Perfect Cleansing Oil, I’m happy to report that I loved this balm cleanser for nourishing the skin and breaking down makeup and sunscreen. It broke down waterproof eyeliner, mascara and tenacious face products easily enough — but it wasn’t an annihilator in the way that some of these super-oily balms are — with easy-to-use tube packaging and nourishing non-irritating ingredients. It’s fragrance free, doesn’t contain any irritants and actually features lots of fatty acids and some nourishing plant oils to offset any sort of barrier disruption while cleansing. It doesn’t leave a film or anything afterwards. I would buy again, with some sort of sale.

Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturizing Cleanser ($57 CDN | 120 mL)

This is my expensive treatment cleanser of choice and I went onto another back-up that I purchased on sale shortly, after emptying the tube. It’s an oil-rich cream cleanser that removes makeup, soothes the skin without being drying in the slightest. It has a subtle fragrance that doesn’t bother my skin because it doesn’t come from essential oils and is enriched with honey, lactic acid and goat’s milk, along with the grapeseed oil, avocado oil and coconut oil. My favourite part is that my skin is left calmer and moisturized after rinsing.

Kate Somerville Delikate Soothing Cleanser ($57 CDN | 120 mL)

This was a fine gentle fragrance-free milk cleanser but was nowhere near special enough to justify the cost for me. It wasn’t irritating or drying whatsoever and removed easily but it didn’t deliver long-lasting soothing or hydration like the former. It contains fatty acids, ceramides, cholesterol, aloe and miscellaneous other soothing and barrier-repairing ingredients. It kind of reminded me of Cerave’s cleansers with slightly less of a tendency to sting on an impaired barrier. 

Drunk Elephant Protini Powerpeptide Resurfacing Serum ($108 CDN | 30 mL)

Last year, I picked up a half-sized sample of this lactic-acid based serum and I’ve happily been using it around 3-4 times per week as a chemical exfoliant and serum in one. It contains 10% lactic acid which helps with overall clarity, brightness and smooths texture, along with amino acids and peptides for hydration and barrier-reinforcement. It’s lighter in texture but contains squalane and some nice rich plant oils along with the myriad of humectants it has. I repurchased a full-size; it’s expensive but lasts a while and is special.

Cosrx Advanced Snail Radiance Dual Essence ($40.99 CDN | 80 mL)

I did love using this plumping brightening humectant serum, however, going for the niacinamide-enriched version of the essence was completely unnecessary for me, as I have multiple other niacinamide-rich brightening serums on the go. I do love me some niacinamide… This is a dual chamber version of their cult favourite fragrance-free essence, with snail secretion in the one chamber and 5% niacinamide in the other. It also contained panthenol, medowfoam seed oil, sunflower seed oil, allantoin, macadamia oil, sodium hyaluronate and argan oil. I found my skin looked bouncy, plumped and soothed while using this serum but I sometimes had to watch to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it on the niacinamide. I will be repurchasing the original version of the essence that is even more economical.

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Firming Moisturizer ($89 CDN | 50 mL)

I ended up trying this pricy moisturizer because it was sold in the set with the serum, and while I ended up liking it, I’m really not sure it’s special enough for the price for me. It has a lovely comforting plumping texture that’s moisturizing and hydrating without feeling occlusive in the slightest. I enjoyed the myriad of peptides and amino acids it contains to help support the skin barrier and help to bind moisture into the skin and the plumping cushion-y texture, but I didn’t find it concentrated enough or special enough to warrant repurchasing at this price. I did enjoy the airless pump packaging and the lack of fragrance or other irritants.

Kate Somerville Delikate Recovery Cream ($99 CDN | 50 mL)

This is another pricy moisturizer I finished, but on the other hand, it’s special enough to warrant repurchasing, especially when we’re lucky enough to be able to find it on significant sale. It’s a whipped balm that sinks into the skin without stinging in the slightest, soothing the skin and supporting the skin’s barrier — especially a damaged one, like mine certainly tends to be. The texture spreads really far, only requiring a little bit of product, even on my drier and tighter skin, and it offers moisture, comfort and repair without leaving a shiny finish. It features shea butter, ceramides, honey, peptides, plant oils and other soothing ingredients. It’s also beautiful under makeup, helping to minimize the appearance of dry patches and any sort of texture. It also doubles as a wonderful eye cream for those with a sensitive eye area and is wonderful for calming the skin after an allergic reaction. It’s been that kind of spring thus far.

Cosrx Advanced Snail Peptide Eye Cream ($32.57 CDN | 25 mL)

I loved this gentle, fragrance-free eye cream for my delicate and sensitive eye area so much so that I went through it more quickly than I could have, occasionally using on my face in addition to the eye area. I will be repurchasing for sure. It contains snail mucin, niacinamide, sunflower seed oil, sodium hyaluronate and a few peptides. It’s good for plumping up and hydrating the eye area without irritation and wears great under makeup — and I have dry sensitive under eyes that tend to get eczema and allergy-induced irritation.

Sunday Riley Juno Antioxidant + Superfood Face Oil ($95 CDN | 35 mL)

This was one of the first good essential-oil-free oil blends on the market and it remains to be a longtime favourite of mine. Sunday Riley used ‘superfood’ in its actual meaning — as in harvested from fruits and cold-pressed with a variety of antioxidants — and not as a wellness culture bullshit hype-word, which I appreciate. I’ve long-term appreciated the omega rich blend of oils for soothing, antioxidant protection, locking in moisture and helping to eradicate dry patches. I do not tolerate essential oils well so I’ve always appreciated that this was blended without, without skimping on the benefits of these fruit oils. I’d buy again, especially if I found it on for another deal but I might explore more affordable options, even though the bottle does last for ages. I quite like smelling like a salad dressing, which is precisely the scent the natural oils have without essential oils in the mix.

Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 ($35 US | 60 mL)

I was really slacking on the sunscreen front over the winter, mainly due to laziness. Once I got myself in gear this season, I found myself finishing a tube of the semi-matte finish tinted sunscreen that I had on the go. Because of the slightly mattifying semi-matte finish of the sunscreen, I tend to need to moisturizer underneath. However, the slightly blurring and smoothing finish coupled with the sheer light beige tint, is really flattering on naked skin. I have a backup and I’ll happily enjoy using as it gets hot and humid over the warmer months. It contains a bunch of antioxidants as well, which I enjoy seeing in a sunscreen.

Cerave Moisturizing Cream ($27.99 CDN | 539 mL)

This cream is probably the closest thing I’ve found to an eczema cure with consistent use. It helps to keep the dry and itchy skin at bay that I scratch and turn into a hot mess. The formula is bland, with fatty alcohols, three kinds of ceramides, cholesterol, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone and petrolatum. It stings less than most creams on the market — I’m prone to stinging — and contains ingredients to help rebuild and reinforce the skin barrier. It’s probably a forever repurchase from me. I also love the jar with a pump on it packaging; the pump is super easy to use and it’s practical to be able to screw off the lid to get the remnants out of the container.

Soap & Glory The Righteous Butter Body Butter ($18 CDN | 300 mL)

If I’m not using a fragrance-free barrier-repairing kind of body moisturizer, I’m using one of the Soap and Glory options as a treat because I can actually tolerate them on my eczema prone body, as they have a rich emollient texture and contain fragrance that I love, that isn’t essential oil based, which poses the greatest problem for me personally. My skin can be a bit of a diva, evidently. It’s a warm citrusy floral scent that I find super comforting and the formula has shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa seed butter, glycerin and rosehip oil to help prevent trans epidermal waterloss and the itchy feeling from returning to my body skin. It’s a favourite for a reason. I also enjoy that it’s rich enough to actually make a difference and for me not to go through the tub so quickly.

Curlsmith Wash & Scrub Detox Pro-Biotic ($37.99 CDN | 250 mL)

Another one bites the dust; I’ve finished another tube of my favourite clarifying shampoo. It doesn’t contain traditional sulfates so it’s not overly drying or stripping but it does enough to keep my scalp from getting itchy and flaky and keeps my waves and loose curls looking great. Another bonus is that it doesn’t turn my hair into tangle city, as most clarifying shampoos do. It contains perlite to gently exfoliate the scalp (without real traditional scrub particles that can be irritating), probiotic ingredients to help strengthen the skin barrier — which is obviously a priority of mine after reading this post –, apple cider vinegar and gentler clarifying agents with the ability to remove silicones and heavy oils. It will be another repurchase for sure.

Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Hydrating & Defining Hair Mask ($49 CDN | 236 mL)

Another long-term favourite of mine are these Briogeo masks and deep conditioners. This one was a primarily hydrating mask (that packed a punch despite being lightweight), with some protein, in the form of amino acids in the mix. Interestingly enough, it’s actually advertised as being protein free, despite the fact that there are amino acids high on the ingredient list, and scattered throughout; regardless, I don’t think it’s protein-rich enough to trigger alarm in those with a protein sensitivity. It’s moisturizing and hydrating, with wonderful slip that glides through the knottiest of strands (I can confirm this from experience) while being lightweight yet concentrated. It features sodium PCA, rice amino acids, avocado oil, castor seed oil, sweet almond oil, shea butter, linseed oil, chia seed oil, keratin amino acids, rice extract and hydrolyzed quinoa. I found after using that my curls had a bit of a boost, clumping nicely together. I’m currently using their original mask, but I would definitely consider picking up this one again.

Curlsmith Feather-Light Protein Cream ($35.99 CDN | 237 mL)

This was my second or third tube of what I would have to describe as my holy-grail curl cream. Despite its name, it’s a medium moisture but fairly lightweight curl cream with a hefty dose of protein. I’m onto another tube of this curl cream, as it’s reached backup status in my collection. It simultaneously enhances curls with some bounce, adds control and keep clumps defined and intact. It offers light buildable hold on its own, which makes it great for refreshes, using on its own or layering under a gel, as I do in my humid climate on my high porosity strands. It can give a bit of a fluffier look when used on it’s own, which I’ve grown to enjoy the texture and volume from at this point in my hair journey; this is less of a factor when paired with a harder hold gel. It uses sweet almond oil, hydrolyzed rice protein, hydrolyzed hemp seed extract and shea butter for a good protein-moisture balance on my fine, high porosity but abundant strands.

Curlsmith Curl Defining Styling Souffle ($55.99 CDN | 473 mL)

My go-to combination of stylers on any wash day that I know will give me great results is the previously mentioned cream in combination with this gel-souffle. It’s more of a medium weight gel, offering medium moisture, curl enhancement, humidity-resistance, medium-strong hold and good control. It’s a super concentrated product so this jumbo size squeeze-bottle lasts for months even on my thirsty high porosity waves and curls and it helps encourage my waves and loose curls into a more defined spiral-y shape and it helps my hair to last 3-4 days with minimal refreshing. It uses glycerin, babassu, irish moss, linseed extract, andiroba seed oil and avocado oil and is the most moisturizing gel that I’ve ever tried, without weighing down my fine waves and curls. Seeing as this is my most repurchased hair product of all time, it’s not shocking that I just opened another one of these jumbo-sized bottles for the warmer weather months…

What products have you finished up?
Maggie, x.

21 Products of 2021

I’m doing it! For the last number of months, I’ve had a list in the works of products I discovered and fell in love with in 2021. Every year — I think but don’t mark my words, I might have missed one — I’ve been writing a blog post detailing my favourites from at least one category of beauty, it’s been some time since I did a whole roundup. It might be coming late, but it’s here!

Curlsmith Wash & Scrub Detox Pro-Biotic ($37.99 CDN | 250 mL)

This uber-gentle scrub-come-shampoo is my clarifying shampoo of choice. I don’t experience any build up (even with my more richer products used and heavy hand) using this every couple of wash days and have a happy scalp that doesn’t randomly start itching and flaking (which I’m prone to especially in the winter). It doesn’t contain either of the harsher sulfates that can be stripping (and you know give me dermatitis so there’s that) but can still remove build-up from silicones, oils and the like with the selection of potent but still gentler detergents it contains. I don’t really care about the vinegar and probiotic ingredients used because I don’t think they have enough contact with the hair to lead to benefit but I appreciate the humectants and other hydrating ingredients that keeps the shampoo gentle. This doesn’t ever leave my curls and waves stripped or looking less defined, even without a deep conditioner afterwards.

Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Shampoo ($11.96 CDN | 384 mL)

This was my favourite gentle shampoo that I happily used in between uses of the more clarifying Curlsmith shampoo. It was actually a rediscovery rather than a discovery, but it’s so great, even if a regular shampoo might seem quite boring. It doesn’t contain the traditional sulfates that are prone to giving me scalp dermatitis and are overly drying, instead containing a blend of gentler surfactants, including cocomidopropyl betaine that is really good at removing silicones and oil buildup, shea butter, honey, yogurt, matura seed oil, baobab seed oil and coconut oil. The result is a really gentle shampoo that lathers without tangling up the hair and while providing slip. The scent is a lot but it’s a nice calming perfume-y one. It hits the right balance of cleaning the scalp and removing some buildup, while being gentle and moisturizing. It’s also nice that it’s affordable and lasts me months and months.

Pureology Hydrate Sheer Conditioner ($40 CDN | 266 mL)

For years, I’ve basically put regular rinse-out conditioners to the side, preferring to use deep conditioners in the place of a rinse-out. However, this was the year when not only did I get into using regular rinse-out conditioners, I actually have gotten to the point with my hair that I can rinse out all of my conditioner. This minty conditioner does contain isopropyl alcohol but this is not an issue, provided that you are rinsing it out. It has amazing slip, great medium but lightweight moisture with oils, hydrolyzed wheat protein and wheat amino acids and contains menthol and peppermint oil for a soothing and comforting minty sensation and smell. I avoid menthol and anything minty in skincare but I enjoy it, especially for soothing a scalp that is less than pleased. It detangles snarls like a champ and leads to great curl clumping. I’ve thought about actually going for a salon size of this conditioner, I’ve enjoyed it so much — and you get way better value with the salon sizes.

Briogeo Curl Charisma Hydrating & Defining Hair Mask ($49 CDN | 236 mL)

Given how well my fine but dense waves respond to protein, I’m kind of shocked (on a level) that my top deep conditioner discovery of the year only contains small amounts of protein and instead focuses on moisture. It’s a great one for adding a bit of strength with the moisture and TLC it brings. It has a nice light scent that most likely won’t bother anyone, offers out of this world slip and solid medium moisture without being heavy at all, even on finer textures with less density that I have. It features the humectant sodium pca, rice amino acids, avocado oil, castor seed oil, sweet almond oil, shea butter, linseed seed oil, chia seed oil, keratin amino acids, rice extract and hydrolyzed quinoa (at the very bottom of the ingredient list). It’s not protein free like it claims, but instead features mainly amino acids which support the strength of the hair and building of proteins overall and a very small amount of a hydrolyzed protein. My hair soaks this stuff up and I’m always left with juicy, smooth clumpy curls afterwards.

Curlsmith Feather-Light Protein Cream ($35.99 CDN | 237 mL)

This cream styler has a lotion texture and offers medium moisture, lightweight weight and structure to the hair with the protein it contains. I actually have managed to use this on its own offering light-buildable hold, but prefer to use it with a gel for hold that lasts in a generally pretty humid coastal climate. This gets my waves and curls to clump and spiral up with that kind of effortless fluffy kind of effect on its own. It’s also a great product for refreshes, as it offers enough hold to bring back definition and clumps without requiring Herculean effort to remove the cast. I’ve used multiple tubes this year.

Curlsmith Curl Defining Styling Souffle ($55.99 CDN | 473 mL)

This was my most used and loved gel of the year and was a great combination in my hair with the previously mentioned cream. I’ve graduated from the tubs of product to the larger squeeze bottle — which is much easier to use and get a precise amount of product out — because I love using it so much. It’s a protein-free gel with a thicker milkier soufflé-gel kind of texture — it’s super weird to explain but this is my best attempt — that offers medium control, on the higher end of medium moisture, a ton of definition and curl enhancement. My favourite way to use it is over a cream but I can get great results used on its own, as well. The hold is medium-strong, depending on how much you apply and how much water is in your hair when you apply it. It’s super moisturizing with glycerin, babassu oil, sorbitol, irish moss, andiroba seed oil, flaxseed and avocado oil, and leaves the hair moisturized, bouncy, shiny and defined in a way that lasts in humidity. And, my hair still has volume when I use this, along with glorious curl clumps.

Ion 9 Row Silicone Brush ($17.39 CDN)

2021 was the year that I figured out exactly how to use the ‘denman’ style brush or how to brush style in general. Nailing the technique of brushing through my wet hair with tension helps me to get controlled curls with bounce that last. There was a moment when how to form ringlets and spirals around the side of the brush really clicked and I started to consistently have good wash days that didn’t require much refreshing. It’s the right size on my wavy hair for encouraging clumpy ringlets and also works to define my hair when brushed with tension before styling.

Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer ($499.99 CDN)

Towards the end of 2020, I bit the bullet and purchased the Dyson dryer after much deliberation, after I had the opportunity to get $100 off. Safe to say, I liked it at first but now I can say that it’s been worth it on my hair. It’s basically the only dryer I’ve ever tried that I can stand to use long enough to get my hair dry because it’s light, and powerful enough to diffuse my hair. Note: I have the kind of hair that hairdressers complain about how long it takes to dry. Not only does it get my hair dry, it offers settings that allow me to get my hair to dry without disrupting my curl clumps that can easily fall apart, and it gets my hair dry without tiring out my arms. It seems ridiculous to have a hair dryer as a favourite, but here we are. Basically it allows me to actually get my hair dried before bed, letting me have better wash days that last, rather than wilting or frizzing out.

Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser ($45 CDN | 110g)

While I’m not a fan of a lot of Drunk Elephant’s customer relations and PR choices and marketing, I do really like this product (and another one I’m going to mention), especially as someone whose skin is sensitive to essential oils, fragrance and drying alcohols. This is a true oily balm that decimates makeup, has a truly nourishing texture and leaves my skin feeling soothed afterwards. It is also not an eye stinger. It uses safflower seed oil, açai oil, marula oil, sunflower seed wax, kiwi extract, strawberry extract, cranberry seed oil, borage seed oil, baobab oil, sweet almond oil and more to soothe and replenish the skin while breaking down makeup and sunscreen. It has a thick texture which i enjoy and I particularly enjoy the spoon magnetized to the top of the packaging for scooping the product out — because we all know I would have instantly lost the scoop if it weren’t attached magnetically.

Dr Ceuracle Vegan Kombucha Tea Essence ($43.69 CDN | 150 mL)

This milky essence toner has been a standby in my more pared back skincare routine I enjoyed in 2021. It’s soothing, hydrating, moisturizing and plumping. It contains a whack of emollients, some antioxidants, sodium hyaluronate and centella asiatica. It make such a difference on sandwiching moisture that lasts into my drier skin, especially over the cooler weather.

Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule 5x ($37.29 CDN | 50 mL)

This serum has become my no-fuss nightly serum for when I want one serum that will help with my barrier, brighten and generally support my skin health. It contains 5% niacinamide, which minimizes discolouration, helps keep pores clear and supports the skin barrier, what seems like a million humectants, some probiotic soothing ingredients and a few essential oils towards the bottom of the ingredient list. It has contributed to keeping my skin comfortable, soothed and happy and I enjoy not having to think about the serum step and just slap this serum on. I’m not a big essential oil person, but this doesn’t irritate my skin and feels really calming to apply.

Cosrx Advanced Snail Radiance Dual Essence ($33.49 CDN | 80 mL)

This essence, like many products these days, features 5% niacinamide which supports the skin barrier, functions as an antioxidant and does a little bit of everything, along with wonderfully reparative snail secretion, betaine, panthenol, sunflower seed oil, allantoin and macadamia seed oil. It’s the most plumping humectant serum that I think I’ve ever dried and very calming and gentle. When I’m not using the aforementioned serum, I was certainly using this one. It’s fragrance-free and doesnt contain anything weird, you know, except for the snail goo.

Drunk Elephant Protini Powerpeptide Resurfacing Serum ($108 CDN | 30 mL)

I backed off and kind of chilled out with the actives in 2021, but this was the chemical exfoliant I happily reached for the most often. It’s a serum that contains 10% lactic acid to resurface the skin and boost hydration, along with a robust blend of peptides, which both serve as humectants and strengthen the skin barrier, amino acids that also support the skin barrier and nourishing ingredients, such as antioxidant-rich plant oils. It’s expensive and might not be easily worth the money, especially if you are hesitant to invest in the Drunk Elephant brand from past decisions the company has made, but it’s a multitasking serum that does all of its functions well. It gives me much more even textured-skin, keeps my pores unclogged and functions as a humectant serum that binds water to the skin and supports my skin’s easily upset barrier.

Kate Somerville Delikate Recovery Cream ($99 CDN | 50 mL)

This moisturizer might be housed in a jar and be pricy to boot, but with its airy whipped balm texture and instantly soothing effect on the skin, it’s worth it for me. In fact, I actually have a couple of backups and I was lucky enough to find each and every jar for a significant sale. It never stings or irritates my skin, regardless of what kind of irritated state its been put in. It’s fragrance-free, contains ceramides, shea butter, honey, plant oils and calming extracts. It’s a cushioning cream without being thick and heavy and wears wonderfully under makeup on my drier skin that foundation tends to sit heavily on.

Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Mild Milk SPF 50 PA++++ for Sensitive Skin ($46.49 CDN | 60 mL)

In my experience, this is the ideal water-light sunscreen fluid for those who’s skin is typically too dry and too reactive to tolerate these fluids. It’s a combination sunscreen, containing titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide, along with the new generation chemical filters, Uvinul T-150, Uvinul A Plus and Tinosorb S, that are not only more photostable than traditional ‘chemical’ filters, but are also less irritating, too. This is one of the few hybrid or chemical filter containing sunscreens that does not sting my face, eyes or dry out my skin. I attribute this to it being formulated without the drying alcohols used to either stabilized the actives or get the water-light texture, being fragrance-free and using actives known to be easier to tolerate. It leaves a soft focus finish, setting on the skin without being overly drying or matte looking in the least and lasts in humidity and sweat.

Purito Cica Clearing BB Cream SPF 38 PA +++ ($12.59 CDN | 30 mL)

As someone who has grown to love lighter bases and did not wear a whole lot of makeup in the previous year, I’ve happily clung to this lightweight face product as a tinted sunscreen of sorts. Don’t get me wrong, it has substantial medium coverage, but blends really nicely into the skin, leaving a radiant finish that actually works during a heatwave and/or heavy sweating sessions, even without being powdered or blotted or anything of the sort. It’s a combination sunscreen, consisting of zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and octinoxate (one of the only traditional filters that I can tolerate), along with niacinamide, the forms of centella asiatica the formula boasts having to reduce irritation and strengthen the skin barrier and iron oxides, to add an added layer of protection against visible light.

Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 ($62 CDN | 30 mL)

I’m pretty sure the only other base product I used in 2021 was this other variation on a tinted moisturizer come tinted sunscreen. It’s formulated without fragrance or alcohol, and is enriched with squalane, niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate and allantoin and has a broad-spectrum zinc oxide for sun protection. As far as tinted sunscreens go, this sits more on the makeup-y side of things, coming in thirty different shades and offering a luminous-to-dewy finish and light coverage. I knew I wanted to try this foundation-thing as soon as I heard about it but I had to wait a while for it to be available in Canada and I wasn’t wrong. Unlike most serum foundations, it sits well on my drier skin, doesn’t cling to texture and blends pretty seamlessly into the skin, feeling lightweight.

Kosas Revealer Super Creamy + Brightening Concealer and Daytime Eye Cream ($37 CDN | 6 mL)

As someone who suffers from hereditary dark circles, a bone structure that makes dark circles and product settling into creases a reality and a dry, sensitive eye area, I know I’m making a lot of work for my concealer. However, when I’m wearing makeup, I always wear concealer under my eyes and this is one of the ones that works without making any of my problems worse. It settles into creases minimally — I haven’t met a concealer that doesn’t do this on my deep set eyes –, doesn’t cling to dry patches or dry out and/or irritate my sensitive eye area. The clean beauty marketing is not my thing, but I enjoy that it does not contain drying alcohol or pounds of masking fragrance. It’s medium coverage but looks like skin and works on patches without perfect texture; I will say that the shade range does, in fact, run horrifically yellow. It’s moisturizing with a blendable, skin-like finish.

Huda Beauty Naughty Nude Eyeshadow Palette ($85 CDN | 0.59 ounces)

I purchased this fairly pricy eyeshadow palette towards the end of 2020 and it’s been my eyeshadow palette standby ever since. The shades pretty much all lean warm — but without being a copper sunset — and sit mainly in the medium-tone family. However, there are deeper shades thrown in to make things smokier, darken the outer corner and to even create winged liner with and there are a few paler shades to add dimension and contrast. It’s not groundbreaking but it’s a great palette for those who like neutral-warm and leaning smokey shadows. There’s a wack of pretty light-to-mid tone metallic shades for the lids, a variety of options of matte crease, out of corner and plain old deeper shades and some more interesting shades, while still being a palette that blends like a dream without being fallout central. I like it for easy two eyeshadow looks and it also is great for more intricate eyeshadow-blending-for-the-soul moments.

Mented Cosmetics Liquid Lipstick in Blood Orange ($26 US | 5.7 mL)

2021 was not a year for lip products for a variety of reasons: one being that I didn’t wear a whole lot of makeup in general, another being that there wasn’t a whole lot of leaving the house and third, lip products were kind of a moot point and inconvenience with all of the mask wearing. My most worn actual lip product was this deep orange-based rusty coloured liquid lipstick. The formula didn’t really transfer onto the mask, wasn’t particularly drying and didn’t wear off unevenly (from my centre of my lips, leaving a ring around the outside). The shade really flattering on my neutral-warm leaning skin, without being too vibrant because of the deepness of the hue. The formula is long-wearing, as you’d expect, but feels lightweight and comfortable.

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum ($135 CDN | 50 mL)

This citrus-patchouli warm floral was a fairly new to me purchase in 2021, and it was easily my most worn and favourite fragrance. It comes the closest to the long-discontinued Dior Miss Dior that was my favourite, but has it’s own distinct identity and great longevity. Its notes are orange, bergamot, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, patchouli, white musk, vanilla, tonka bean and vetiver, but warm citrus-y patchouli is the vibe that it gives off. Day to day, I just will spray this on my clothes, the sillage and longevity is so good that it lingers, but on more of an occasion, I’ll happily do a few spritzes.

What were your 2021 favourites?
Maggie, x.

“Fall” Empties | Haircare & Body Care

As promised, I’m continuing on going through the products I’ve finished in between summer and fall this year. As I write this, we are currently expecting a snow storm so as far as the weather is behaving, it is no longer fall on the Canadian east coast. This is actually relevant because despite the cooler temperatures, we actually have a humid winter environment overall. The way I look at it is that even when it’s dry, it’s wet. Onto the products…

Curlsmith Wash & Scrub Detox Pro-Biotic ($37.99 CDN | 237 mL)

This clarifying shampoo has become an ultimate favourite of mine, as in I’m using another tube now and bought a backup. It has a little bit of grit without having harsh scrubby bead-bits in it thanks to the perlite, removes build up like a champ (but bear in mine that I can layer a whole lot of product before build up appears) and most impressively helps with an itchy flaky scalp without tangling or drying out the rest of my fine but dense easily-matted hair. The cleansers remove silicones without irritating my sulfate-sensitive scalp. It has some interesting probiotic ingredients that at the very least serve as humectants and scalp-soothers throughout the washing process and clarifying and balancing vinegar. Also I have great hair days without having to deep condition afterwards.

Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Shampoo ($13.99 CDN | 384 mL)

Even though I’m more of a wash-my-hair-twice-per-week kind of girl, this is my favourite daily gentle moisturizing shampoo. It contains four different surfactants that are uber-gentle but possess the ability to remove silicones and other forms of build up. Other noteworthy ingredients are manuka honey, yogurt, shea butter, baobab seed oil, mafura seed oil and coconut oil, which all contribute to the moisturized but not heavy feel this shampoo leaves on my waves. It actually has slip so it doesn’t worsen any knots I may have and cleans my scalp enough for that fresh feeling without drying out my wavy curls. I’m using another bottle at the moment so it’s a definite repurchase.

Garnier Whole Blends Royal Hibiscus & Shea Butter 5-in-1 Curl Conditioner ($9.99 CDN | 355 mL)

Having using regular conditioners instead of religiously going for deep conditioners, I found myself picking this one up when it was on sale, not seeing the dimethicone as the third ingredient, and figuring it was worth a shot, despite the drying alcohol it contains as I’ve gotten to the point where I actually rinse out my conditioner. Colour me surprised to find myself really enjoying this conditioner for the medium moisture it has and the amazing slip it offered so much that I repurchased it. I’m happy to say that it does not weigh down my hair or build up on it at all, with my routine of using sulfate-free shampoos. The pump is actually convenient, dispensing out a good amount of product and I liked the clumping and richness provided by the jojoba seed oil, coconut fruit extract and shea butter. The recyclable packaging and price is also a plus in my book.

Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Deep Conditioning Mask ($49 CDN | 236 mL)

This is my favourite hair mask and it’s certainly not my first empty tub of it. It has ridiculous slip and hydration while leaving the hair with so much bounce and body afterwards. It leaves my hair moisturized, strong and bouncy and my curls defined and springy. It contains some great slip agents, fatty alcohols, argan oil, rosehip oil, hydrolyzed proteins, radish root ferment and biotin. I will be repurchasing, as it’s my favourite deep conditioner, whether just used in the shower or left on for a while with heat. It’s concentrated too and applies evenly on my fine porous hair that tends to just absorb everything.

Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Honey Moisture Deep Conditioning Mask ($49 CDN | 236 mL)

As someone who usually loves richer and heavier deep conditioners, I was surprised to find out that I did not love this honey-infused version of my favourite deep conditioner. It has a heavier perfumery smell that I don’t enjoy as much, loses much of the slip it has, doesn’t go as far as it doesn’t evenly distribute throughout the hair while being heavier. Also this bear shape container is kind of a nuisance. I got it in a value set last year — as it seems to only be available seasonally — so I’m not super upset about it, but it was a weird disappointment for me. It was a fine deep conditioner but nothing like any of the other Briogeo deep conditioners I’ve tried.

Curlsmith Feather-Light Protein Cream ($35.99 CDN | 237 mL)

This has to be my favourite curl cream (and that says a lot because I enjoy quite a few) and I have two backups for it but the name is a bit of a misnomer, in my experience. Whilst it lends a fluffy and airy effect to the hair especially when used on its own, it’s not one of those super super light creams. It’s more of a medium moisture cream with a lotion consistency that manages to clump curls together, add some control and enhance spirals. The hydrolyzed protein adds some spring to my fine waves and curls, the pvp adds light hold on its own and can be used as such and the sweet almond oil and shea butter add the moisture my thirsty hair craves. I don’t avoid glycerin but if you try to minimize it, this might be a good option as it’s at the bottom of the ingredient list.

Bounce Curl Avocado & Rose Oil Clump and Define Cream ($35.99 CDN | 117 mL)

This cream is another one that I enjoyed offering at least medium moisture, great curl clumps and a mouthwatering musky scent. It’s super concentrated so you don’t need a ton of product — but as a wavy I do still get volume and bounce with this — but it’s majorly expensive for the amount that you get. I can see why so many people love it, as it preserves the formation of big juicy curl clumps, adds a bit of hold and nourishes the hair with avocado seed oil, murumuru seed butter, shea butter, rose oil and more. I did enjoy using it but I can’t think about repurchasing it with multiple creams on the go at the moment. This could definitely be a good winter option for thirsty tresses, though, and the effect it gives is controlled, shiny clumped curls.

Curlsmith Hydro Style Flexi Jelly ($35.99 CDN | 237 mL)

This is a lightweight (but moisturizing) slippery gel with flexible medium-strong hold that I tend to pair with a cream, but could probably work on its own — and I’m a self-professed cream styler addict. True to its marketing, it’s moisturizing with water-soluble castor oil, sodium hyaluronate and panthenol without adding any weight or heaviness. I had some great wash days with this gel and it left my loose curls and waves with spirals, bounce, body and flexible hold. It also doesn’t take a ridiculous amount of time to dry. I repurchased this gel, but it isn’t my holy grail soul hair gel. It would be amazing for fine hair that very prone to being weighed down and experiencing buildup; while my hair is fine, I typically can handle heavier products because I have so much hair and because I have hair that benefits from a bit more control in my products. It’s great for that airy look, however, and I get great wash days with this. Glycerin is super low on the ingredient list so it would be good for those who are very impacted by the ingredient in high and low dew points.

Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Hydrating Lotion ($22.59 CDN | 170 mL)

In the past, I swore by the hyaluronic acid based products in this Japanese line but the last two that I’ve bought, I’ve ended up finishing up on the body. This one has a super-rich gel consistency, containing seven different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, glycerin and urea but can sometimes pill weirdly or interact weirdly on the face in combination with a bunch of other skincare products. It’s no longer my favourite humectant serum or milky toner for my face but it was great underneath my moisturizer on my body, that is perpetually dry itchy and flaky. This is still a great humectant, though, even though I think I’ve moved past it for my face at least.

Cerave Itch Relief Moisturizing Cream ($27.97 CDN | 340 g)

This has become one of my favourite daily body moisturizers for my eczema that has definitely flared up throughout the cooler weather. It’s a slightly different nuance on their classic cream with the addition of the analgesic pramoxine hydrochloride to discourage itching and the addition of shea butter as an emollient as a main ingredient. It doesn’t sting on irritated patches of skin and leaves the skin moisturized for hours. I’d repurchase and I have in the past but at the moment I’m using their classic cream happily.

What products have you used up?
Maggie, x.

The Summer Essentials

It might be officially fall now, but before getting onto the lovely symptoms that the change of seasons gives me, I thought I would catch up on the products I loved throughout this hot and humid Summer we had. I’m one of those girls who adores fall, but before I get onto those seasonal-central products, let’s do a roundup of warm weather favourites:

Paula’s Choice Omega + Complex Cleansing Balm ($28 US | 103 mL)

I did not need to add another cleanser to my cleanser rotation this summer, but I couldn’t resist picking this one up. I might have only worn makeup a handful of times over the season, but I really appreciated how well this cleansing balm broke down my tenacious sunscreen. It has the ease of being housed in a tube — and isn’t impossible to squeeze out — and is fragrance free so it doesn’t upset my skin or sensitive eyeballs and breaks everything down like a dream. It actually easily removed waterproof mascara, which I so very rarely use, mainly out of the fear of having to remove it . The fatty acids its enriched with also add to the soothed, comforted feel it leaves behind.

Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Mild Milk for Sensitive Skin SPF 50 PA++++ ($43.69 CAD | 60 mL)

In such a hot and muggy summer and since doing yoga five times per week, — at least a few of which I get super sweaty during — I’ve come to appreciate this velvety liquid sunscreen. It’s a combination sunscreen, featuring zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, Uvinol A Plus, Tinosorb S and Uvinul T 150, and has great photostability and reliability in independent testing, all without irritating my skin in the way that chemical filters tend to. It has that velvety finish that everyone enjoys but without irritating and over-drying my skin out with drying alcohol and has the most minute white cast that dissipates on its own and reapplies nicely. The sunscreen isn’t drying when layered on top of other skincare and I enjoyed how the sunscreen felt on my skin in the heat and sweat and that it doesn’t run into my eyeballs and make me cry painful tears.

Dr Ceuracle Vegan Kombucha Tea Essence ($37.89 CAD | 150 mL)

Essences are a weird skincare product; I love them but they are weird. They either are super-watery products that you pat into the skin immediately after washing (think a first essence) or are a variation on the serum theme, with a real focus on a single or a few key ingredients. This one falls into the latter group and my lord, is it moisturizing. It contains your usual glycerin, green tea extract and water, saccharomyces ferment filtrate, sunflower seed oil, centella asiatica and ceramide np. It has a really interesting kind of biphase texture that turns from the tea-coloured liquid to a calming milk. In my experience, it’s a soothing, calming, hydrating and moisturizing dream. I loved it in the hot and humid weather and I’m sure I’ll be ready to express my eternal devotion to it in cooler temperatures. In the summer, I used it as a serum underneath moisturizer or on its own when I was feeling lazier, and I know I’ll be happily piling it under anything in following months…

Ion 9 Row Silicone Brush ($17.39 CAD)

Even dealing with quite frankly the most ridiculous humidity this summer and starting working out five times week and getting sweaty, I’ve actually probably gotten to the best place with my wavy curls this summer that I maybe ever had. A big part of this is attaining good wash day results after using the denman-esque brush to coil my hair and form curl clumps and spirals that last. Most wash days I use this brush to form spirals and enhance my curl pattern with a curl cream, before scrunching with a gel. This brush has definitely helped me achieve tousled, fluffy loose curls.

Curlsmith Curl Defining Styling Souffle ($35.99 CAD | 237 mL)

The first half of the season, I think I exclusively used this as my gel, which is why I actually ended up converting to the jumbo sized bottle. It’s one of those gels that offers medium flexible hold and is actually curl enhancing and clumping by its own right. I get the best results by applying it to my hair after removing excess water with a microfibre towel first and get a slight cast that disappears on its own post drying or diffusing. It’s a glycerin-heavy gel but it performs well enough in humidity if you don’t mind the fluffy look, probably because it’s moisturizing with babassu oil, sorbitol, linseeds, avocado oil and shea butter. Basically the film-forming humectants and oils it contains make it perform well in heat and humidity. This gel has given me some of my most juiciest spirals and clumps and plenty of curl compliments, with its odd custard-y texture.

Pattern Beauty Curl Gel ($32 CAD | 289.8 mL)

Towards the end of the summer, I got the opportunity to try this highly acclaimed gel through FabFitFun and I couldn’t resist giving it a go basically the second the box arrived. I will note that it worked as well on my long loose curls as it does for the tighter types that it was certainly created for. It’s a cream gel kind of texture with medium hold and is very moisturizing. It helps to clump curls together but didn’t weigh my hair down by any means, which makes sense because I think it was intended for big airy but defined curls, rather than a flatter more helmet-y controlled kind of curl. It’s another glycerin heavy gel with aloe, coconut oil, castor oil, wheat amino acids and hydrolyzed silk. It offers maybe medium hold but leaves the curls defined, soft and easily refreshed days later.

Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille Eau de Parfum ($85 CAD | 10 mL)

I was not doing a whole lot of perfume during the season, as it was just so hot and humid and I was doing so much swimming that it seemed like a moot point. I tended to only reach for perfume for evenings or the rare actual occasions and I found myself reaching for this expensive perfume. Now, I was happy to be able to try the private blend in this smaller spray, as they are majorly expensive but it is the perfect warm boozy spicy vanilla that doesn’t actually read masculine. It lasts for weeks on clothing and forever on the skin without being headache-y. I can only imagine liking it more in cooler weather.

Kosas Revealer Super Creamy + Brightening Concealer and Daytime Eye Cream ($37 CAD | 6 mL)

While it has been rare for me to wear makeup at all in the season, I did reach for this concealer basically every time that I did. It’s hydrating, has good ingredients, creases incredibly minimally and does not highlight texture or dryness. The mica it contains provides some light reflection, the arnica should theoretically be soothing, the caffeine is brightening and anti-inflammatory and the peptide it contains, sodium hyaluronate and squalane are lovely things for my generally dehydrated and flaky skin. It’s great underneath the eyes, with a full face of makeup or minimal makeup and buffed wherever you need it for a foundation-free face. I will say the colours run incredibly yellow and the first shade I bought (3.5W) could easily make me look jaundiced; the second time around, I went for 1.5C, which was lighter and was marketed as having pink undertones, which works wonderfully under my eyes and on the centre of my face. It isn’t actually cool-toned or overly pink though; it’s more neutral warm and slightly yellow …

What products were your standbys this summer?
Maggie, x.

Spring Favourites

I started compiling this post of favourites, back when Spring was a whole lot more wintry than it is at the moment — It’s like 30 degrees right now so it appears we are quickly veering into Summer territory around these parts. I’ve been slowly gathering the products that I’ve been loving and relying heavily upon — most of which are new but there’s a returning favourite or two. I only recently realized that perhaps I let the collection pile enough… Note: I totally thought I had published this months ago…

Clinique Turnaround Revitalizing Lotion ($53 CDN | 200 mL)

This essence toner is so underrated that I wasn’t even sure it was still made. It’s a lightweight essence toner or traditional asian ‘lotion’ that’s perfect to use on the skin immediately after cleansing, or first thing in the morning. It’s fragrance free and doesn’t contain anything irritating, which has been especially important as I’ve been adjusting to using tretinoin. It’s soothing and hydrating, formulated with glycerin, some notable repairing probiotic ingredients, antioxidants like centella asiatica and caffeine, acetyl glucosamine and sodium hyaluronate. This is a light product that adds plumpness, bounce, hydration and radiance to my worn out and sensitized skin.

Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Probio Ampoule ($42.13 CDN | 50 mL)

This k-beauty favourite has been a welcome addition to my serum arsenal. It contains 5% of the wonder ingredient, niacinamide, if my memory serves correct, along with ten probiotic ingredients including bifida ferment lysate and lactobacillus ferment, glycerin, a host of antioxidant-rich ‘superfood’ ingredients, a few plant oils and a ceramide. Quite far down on the ingredient list, it does contain some citrus-derived essential oils but they don’t actually bother my skin – probably from their low concentration. I certainly haven’t been using this serum long enough to see long-term effects, but I definitely see the soothing, anti-inflammatory and moisture-boosting qualities of this serum. I can tell it will provide brightness and barrier-repair long term, which is exactly what my skin needs.

Kate Somerville Kx Concentrates Squalane + Hyaluronic Serum ($129 CDN | 30 mL)

One thing I’ve done in the last six months or so is I’ve started to try to treat my skin as if its not an enemy that needs to be aggressed in order to improve it. Incorporating serums and treatments with hydrating and barrier-supporting ingredients rather than just dose upon dose of active ingredients has been one of the main ways I’ve done this. This milky serum, while expensive, has been a great way to treat my dry and sensitive skin holistically. It contains squalane, glycerin, panthenol, adenosine, four different types of hyaluronic acid and nothing fragranced or notably problematic. It’s expensive — so I’ve been lucky enough to snag it on sale through FabFitFun and hope to continue purchasing it discounted in the future — but is the hyaluronic acid serum of my dreams. It’s soothing, plumping, hydrating and reparative with a more substantial milk texture. I love using it daily as the last step before my moisturizer.

Face Theory Lumizela Azelaic Acid Serum A10 ($33 CDN | 30 mL)

I’ve tried to get on board with the anti-inflammatory ingredient, azelaic acid, before but I found the ingredient sensitizing with the rest of the actives in my routine and I struggled with the stingy prickly sensation after application. A lot of my skin issues are inflammation based, so I was happy to discover that I could use this milky serum a few times a week without irritation or prickliness. It contains 10% azelaic acid, stabilized with a salicylic acid ester, along with colloidal oatmeal, aloe and green tea. It functions as an antioxidant but I love it for the anti-inflammatory activity it has. As someone who struggles with redness left after blemishes and sensitivity in the centre of my face, I’ve enjoyed reaching for this. The texture is really nice and hydrating on my drier skin, but isn’t heavy.

Kate Somerville DeliKate Recovery Cream ($93 CDN | 50 mL)

I was initially very resistant to buying this moisturizer because it was expensive and was housed in jar packaging, unlike the majority of the moisturizers in the line, thus leaving the ingredients susceptible to losing their stability and potency; however, once I tried this whipped balm moisturizer I could understand the packaging choice completely. The moisturizer is so thick that I assume it was likely difficult to put in the brand’s traditional airless jar. I’ll gladly be repurchasing again, hopefully with some sort of discount code. The texture is precisely like a whipped balm without being overly heavy. It is possibly the least stinging moisturizer I’ve ever tried and is perfect on my pissed off skin that’s currently adjusting to tretinoin and has been suffering from daily mask wearing. I can happily report that this fragrance-free moisturizer is so concentrated that it will lasts months and months on my dry thirsty skin, as minimal product spreads easily. The rich cream contains glycerin, shea butter, a bunch of ceramides, honey, some peptides, cholesterol, green tea extract and a host of other reparative soothing extracts. After use, my skin is calmer, much less tight and with a generally less pissed off skin barrier. This cream is rich but not greasy or heavy and I love that it’s fragrance free.

Cerave Bebe Healing Ointment ($13.49 CDN | 85g)

As someone who is incredibly eczema prone and whose adjustment period to daily mask wearing was a tumultuous one, these healing ointments have greatly improved the quality of my skin life and maybe my life altogether. I had been waiting to try the Cerave traditional ointment to come to Canada for years, so when I saw that the product was available under the baby line, I had to grab it. It’s another petrolatum-based ointment that’s enriched with panthenol, three ceramides and hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid. It’s a great balm for my sensitive chapped lips, is great to help heal and protect irritated skin around my mouth, nose and chin from mask wearing and soothes eczema and retinoid dermatitis.

Purito Cica Clearing BB Cream ($16.69 CDN | 30 mL)

I’m feeling hesitant to talk about a Purito sunscreen-containing product after the recent Purito (and other Korean sunscreen) controversy. However, this sunscreen-makeup hybrid has been a firm favourite of mine. It comes in three tints and Light Beige — the one I’m using — works well to camouflage any sort of redness or discolouration on my skin with its pale-ish greige cast without clinging to dry patches and somehow making my skin look worse. It’s fragrance and alcohol-free, contains niacinamide, three ‘cica’ ingredients and iron oxides. It’s a combination sunscreen featuring four filters — titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, octinoxate and octisalate — along with the visible light protection of iron oxides. I have worn this mid-day in the sun and actually have faith in the SPF 38 PA+++ protection. This has been a staple everyday tinted sunscreen product, with medium coverage that doesn’t cling to dry patches or bits of texture. The glowy finish is flattering, as well, especially when you’ve pissed off your skin spectacularly.

Clinique Even Better All Over Concealer + Eraser ($33 CDN | 6 mL)

I have a love-hate relationship with concealer overall. I need it to cover my dark circles and I’d like to use it elsewhere, but I find it creases like nothing else in this world, clings to dry patches and looks dry and heavy. Since trying out more moisturizing concealers that aren’t so full-coverage upon first application, such as this one, I’ve been converted. It sheers out nicely underneath my eyes, offering medium but buildable coverage and blends out nicely over large areas of the face — even those with dry patches and uneven texture. I can use it on just specific spots without it looking weirdly different from the rest of my face. I love that this concealer is available in such a variety of shades, doesn’t contain alcohol or fragrance and features niacinamide, urea, three vitamin c derivatives, sodium hyaluronate and peptides, amongst other things. Also, I’ve gotten to the place with my skin that I’m happy just wearing concealer for the first time in my life and this one is ideal for buffing out on my cheeks, chin and around my nose. The ingredients are also really friendly for dry irritated skin, which is something I’m well versed in thanks to mask-wearing and tretinoin use.

Curlsmith Feather-Light Protein Cream ($35.99 CDN | 237 mL)

Curlsmith’s most recently launched curl cream has proven itself as my favourite curl cream — and I’m a girl who adores curl creams of many varieties. It’s moisturizing enough to clump my curls, has protein to encourage bounce and ringlets and is light enough to give that fluffy effect without compromising on definition. It also has a substantial light flexible hold on its own; I pair it with a gel for wash days but I’m sure many use it by itself and use it on its own when I’m restyling or refreshing my hair. It features sweet almond oil, pvp, hydrolyzed rice protein, shea butter and a bunch of plant extracts.

Bioderma Photoderm Milk SPF 50+ ($25.99 CDN | 100 mL)

While I wear sunscreen on my face, neck and surrounding areas all year long, it’s during the Spring, when the weather suddenly becomes a whole lot warmer and sunnier that I’ve fallen back in love with this one. It has a lovely milk texture that’s moisturizing and soothing on my eczema-prone body skin that doesn’t feel greasy or heavy. This sunscreen is a hidden gem available in the Canadian sunscreen market, with incredibly robust UVA protection. It’s a chemical sunscreen — but one with these newer generation filters that are photo stable and much easier to tolerate on sensitive skin — featuring avobenzone, octocrylene, Tinosorb M and Tinosorb S. It’s not water resistant but it’s actually a favourite of mine for a day outdoors with heavy sun exposure because the protection is so good and because I’m actually willing to apply a generous amount. One of the filters is a hybrid filter so it has a slight pale cast that goes away fairly quickly. The formula is impressive, containing the newer generation UVA filters, but being formulated without drying alcohol simultaneously. It’s also a sunscreen I enjoy using on my face, but I primarily use it on my body.

What products have been your staples?
Maggie, x.

Cold-ish Weather Product Empties Part 2

Originally, this was going to be a second empties post to follow up the one I did earlier on in the winter. However, May is now around the corner and, therefore, it is safe to say that this is more of an end of winter, early spring kind of post. Winter may have made its way into spring — for the most part –, but this doesn’t mean that my skin on just about every surface of my body is not still dry, sensitive and likely flaking. Lets get to the products:

Skin & Co Truffle Therapy Whipped Cleansing Cream ($28 US | 100 mL)

I tried this cream cleanser thanks to FabFitFun and I enjoyed using it. The second ingredient was sweet almond oil and I found it removed makeup ridiculously well and had a thick oil-rich feel to the cream cleanser. It also contained some soothing plant extracts including witch hazel, which my skin tends to find sensitizing at times, amongst chamomile, calendula and centella asiatica. I did enjoy the moisture left after using this soap-free cleanser but found it could kind of sting around the lash line and eye area when used for makeup removal. However, there are few cleansers that don’t do that for me. I liked using this but it’s expensive for what it is and I want to explore other cream cleanser options. It contains fragrance, in case I didn’t make that clear, but it smells mainly of the sweet almond oil and something subtle and spa-like.

Niod Fractionated Eye Contour Concentrate ($68 CDN | 15 mL)

I would never have tried this eye serum if I hadn’t gone for the Caroline Hirons Summer Kit but I did enjoy using it, even as an eye cream skeptic with a very sensitive eye area. It was a nice kind of oily serum texture that never stung around my eyes, or seemed to irritate my dry eyes themselves. It helped with mask-related flaking and sensitivity around my eyes but I didn’t notice any sort of wow results. It contains glycerin, niacinamide, yeast extract, a ton of peptides, natural moisturizing factors, antioxidants and soothing ingredients. There was an improvement of hydration I noticed and maybe a minor improvement in my chronic dark circles. I don’t plan on repurchasing immediately as it’s not cheap and will likely experiment with some other eye products in the meantime.

Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado ($66 CDN | 28 mL)

Throughout the fall and winter, I developed some eczema around my eyes that never quite went away. Consequently, I’ve been reaching for eye-specific products on the daily and I happily used up this thick fragrance-free balm cream. I’ve had it on the go for over a year — the larger size is actually more economical than you’d expect — and I liked it. It didn’t tend to sting under my eyes, helped with moisture, wasn’t irritating and helped makeup sit nicely, even on my dry and flaky under-eyes. It contains shea butter, avocado oil, hydrogenated castor oil and sodium pca. I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to buying again but I’m experimenting with different products at present.

Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer ($43 CDN | 150 mL)

I love a good calming milky toner and I’m not sure whether I prefer Paula’s Choice’s milky toners or this one. Regardless, I have had another bottle of this fragrance-free moisturizing toner ready to go for months. It has a simple but nourishing and soothing formula with glycerin, meadowfoam seed oil and white tea leaf extract. It’s a great product to use after cleansing to add hydration and combat inflammation immediately after cleansing. My skin always feels less sensitized, nourished and plump. It also helps that it never stings on my skin, even when I have active eczema on my face.

Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Emulsion ($29 CDN | 140 mL)

Despite the fact that I’ve previously loved this traditional lotion-textured hyaluronic acid, I’m not sure I will repurchase again in this form. It’s affordable, coming with a large amount of product, fragrance-free and contains five different forms of hyaluronic acid, along with glycerin, mineral oil, dimethicone and squalane. In the warmer months, it would be possibly enough to serve as a moisturizer during the day, whilst being a fantastic humectant. However, I find that when it’s layered with a bunch of different serums and moisturizers, it tends to pill. I actually ended up using this on my body throughout the cooler months along with on my face to use up. I actually repurchased the traditional liquid form of this product.

Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence ($27.99 CDN | 100 mL)

I happily used this gel-textured humectant serum once or twice every day for a good six months. Despite being labelled as an essence, I think it’s thicker than a traditional essence and, instead, is a more gel-textured serum. I would definitely buy again but I’ve ordered the newer dual-chambered formula with niacinamide to try first. It contains 96% snail secretion filtrate in all of its healing and soothing glory, sodium hyaluronate, panthenol, arginine and allantoin. This is an amazing humectant serum on irritated skin from wearing a mask, retinoid-abuse and for those suffering from flakiness and dehydration. Using this, my skin was so much more plumped and hydrated and my post inflammatory redness from breakouts seems to be resolving more quickly from daily use.

Caudalie Vinosource Riche Intense Moisture Rescue Cream ($48 CDN | 40 mL)

I’ve been using moisturizers from this range for years and have maybe happily gone through three tubes. It feels like an instant comforting hug in a tube for dry sensitized skin. Weirdly enough, it does contain some synthetic fragrance but never makes my skin sting even when my barrier is the most compromised and when I’ve overdone it the most. It contains squalane, antioxidant-rich grapeseed oil, shea butter, borage seed oil and fatty acids. I have a number of other moisturizers on the go but I don’t want to go without this one. It’s almost impossibly soothing and rich without feeling greasy. This cream is a godsend on sensitized skin with dry flaky patches.

Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer ($35 US | 50 mL)

I shouldn’t have been surprised when the pump on this fluffy comforting cream stopped dispensing product this morning. I should have known from how much I relied on this moisturizer in this fall and winter and past experiences with this pump that it would give out without warning. Happily, I bought multiples last time after it went out of stock for a while. It’s soothing on the skin, doesn’t tend to sting, definitely helps with repairing the skin barrier and acts as a lightweight barrier cream for under a mask. Interestingly enough, it’s silicone free and shea butter based with glycerin, omega-rich plant oils, fatty acids, ceramides, squalane, sodium hyaluronate and nothing typically sensitizing. It sits well under makeup and sunscreens and offers richness and soothing while still being fairly lightweight. I love this stuff and it’s excellent value for money, even at full price and when I calculate the price into Canadian dollars… This is a product that I wish existed and I knew about in my teenage years. It’s brilliant for when your skin is sore and everything stings.

Cerave Itch Relief Cream ($27.99 CDN | 340g)

My primary eczema sites are my legs and arms, so moisturizing religiously is uber important. I’ve really enjoyed using this thick whipped cream. This rich cream tends to only sting very minimally on areas with broken skin. The texture of the cream is rich but it sinks in quickly and the best feature is that while the cream works to repair the barrier, it features 1% pramoxine hydrochloride to numb the itchiness without irritation. It contains glycerin, petrolatum, shea butter, dimethicone and ceramides. I’ve repurchased it already.

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+M ($25 CDN | 200 mL)

After I saw the new more eco-conscious cardboard tube packaging, I decided to give this fragrance-free lightweight whipped cream another try. It actually uses citric acid as a preservative, which can be much less irritating than phenoxyethanol and features shea butter, dimethicone, niacinamide, rapeseed oil, vitamin e and extracts with humectant ability. I did find that the cream felt light on the skin to such a degree that I had to use an awful lot of product on my dry body skin and that likely due to the amount of niacinamide, it could sting over more irritated patches. I would use again as a nice everyday moisturizer.

Briogeo Curl Charisma Chia + Flax Seed Coil Custard ($34 CDN | 177 mL)

While it’s called a custard, I found this product a go-to cream with a bit of hold, control and ridiculous clumping. It’s rich but gave good results on my fine mixture of waves and loose curls, helping to hold my spirals together and form in a more controlled fashion. I used this cream every single wash day for months happily and I can confirm, it’s concentrated enough to be worth the money. It contains castor seed oil, fatty alcohols, glycerin, shea butter, rice and keratin amino acids, hydrolyzed quinoa, fermented extracts and a few plant oils. I tend to use this cream paired with a gel but actually does hold up as a single styler. It was an instant repurchase.

Curlsmith Curl Defining Styling Souffle ($35.99 CDN | 227g)

Over the past six months, I’ve been trying out Curlsmith products and this true loosely-packed soufflé-texture gel has been among my favourites. It’s concentrated enough that it lasted me months — even using it most wash days — and offered medium-flexible hold that casts nicely with medium weight and medium moisture. For a gel, it’s very curl enhancing and encourages my waves to form spirals, even working well as a single styler. I tended to use it to top a gel for multiple day hair that I didn’t have to think too much about. It contains glycerin, babassu oil, irish moss, flaxseed extract, avocado oil and shea butter. I bought a backup before I even let myself finish this gel.

What have you finished up?
Maggie, x.

The Winter Favourites

There’s nothing I love reading, watching and writing more than a favourites post or video but doing them on a monthly basis has proven excessive for me. Happily, we’ve reached the point in my year to do my winter themed favourites. It was actually really difficult to edit myself down to this many and I can easily say these were the products I enjoyed using and relying on when I wasn’t at home, complaining of tiredness and overthinking.

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm ($12.99 CDN | 150 mL)

I feel slightly ridiculous that I couldn’t narrow it down further than three cleansers, but when you have skin that hates surfactants and harsh cleansing like mine does, you really appreciate the good ones, as I have done. I’ve been loving this affordable fragrance-free cleansing balm. It removes makeup quite well (but requires more product than some makeup annihilating balms) and leaves the skin wonderfully hydrated and soothed. It uses sweet almond oil, oat kernel oil, candella wax and almond glycerides. I love how practical the tube packaging is — even though it can separate. I use it most nights to melt makeup and sunscreen happily and remove it after emulsifying with a microfibre cloth. It’s very gentle around my sensitive eye areas and is a gentle skin cleanser in its own right.

Kate Somerville Goat Milk Cleanser ($53 CDN | 120 mL)

This cleanser actually has enough delicious oil content to break down makeup and sunscreen without scrubbing or rubbing, but I actually enjoy it best as a treatment cleanser, or on the rare mornings I want to cleanse my face. It’s expensive but I honestly only use a little bit and would probably have never bitten the bullet if it wasn’t included in the Caroline Hirons Summer Kit. It contains fragrance but no essential oils and includes grapeseed oil, jojoba seed oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, goat milk, milk protein, lactic acid and honey as ingredient highlights. The texture is a nice cream that leaves my skin soothed, glowing and hydrated. I tolerate it well even on my eczema patches, although it can kind of burn under the eyes if used to remove makeup — but this is probably because I have eczema patches around my eyes. I’ve been using for months and months and I’m happily going strong. It helps with texture, dry patches, general dryness and sensitivity.

Cerave Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser ($17.99-$18.99 CDN | 355 mL)

I’ve been a long term devotee of Cerave’s traditional Hydrating Cleanser but I love this one even more. It has a creamier lotion texture that foams slightly — but in a non drying way — and features amino acids, salicylic acid and natural moisturizing factors along with their classic ceramides. Unlike the original cleanser (since its most recent reformulation), this never makes my uber-reactive skin sting and it leaves my skin moisturized and comfortable afterwards. It does contain a little bit of salicylic acid so I don’t tend to use it to remove eye makeup but it does remove makeup better than Cerave’s other cleansers. It’s a great cleanser especially for skin with an impaired barrier from using actives, mask wearing and the like. It’s soap-free of course and uses very gentle cleansing agents.

Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence ($24.99 CDN | 100 mL)

This thicker gel texture more closely resembles a serum in my opinion, but I haven’t gone a day without applying it in months. It’s 96% snail mucin, along with betaine, sodium hyaluronate, panthenol, arginine and allantoin and serves as a fantastic humectant serum, with anti-inflammatory properties. It’s profoundly soothing on an impaired barrier, fights transepidermal water loss, plumps up the skin, aids in skin healing and helps to prevent and treat scarring. I find it helps fade pink marks left on my skin after a breakout or reaction in a more timely fashion while keeping my skin hydrated and soothed. The bottle is huge, too, so its excellent value for money. I know I included it in my last few favourites posts but I couldn’t help myself.

Neutrogena Bright Boost Gel Cream ($23.97-$34.99 CDN | 50 mL)

This is another repeat favourite of mine but I do love reaching for it as a mild daily chemical exfoliant in a lightweight cream vehicle. It acts as a humectant, formulated with mandelic acid, gluconolactone, acetyl glucosamine and squalane. It’s perfect for when my skin is feeling a bit too fragile for a heavy-duty acid toner but I still want the gentle resurfacing of an acid, along with the hydration of a humectant. It also has a pink sheen that’s nice and brightening, yet subtle.

Sunday Riley Juno Hydroactive Cellular Facial Oil ($95 CDN | 35 mL)

This winter, I got right back onto the facial oil bandwagon on a daily basis, applying this fragrance-free oil blend on my cheeks, around my chin and mouth and under my eyes, where I experience flaking and irritation, exacerbated by daily mask wearing. It has made a huge difference in the severity of my flaking, dry patches and radiance of my skin, when applied just before moisturizer. I’ve always found the combination of cold-pressed omega-rich oils anti-inflammatory and soothing. No matter how angry my skin has been, this oil doesn’t burn, sting, or have any sign of reaction.

Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer ($35 US | 50 mL)

I’m onto my second container of this moisturizer this winter even though I’ve had plenty of others on rotation. It’s a lightweight whipped cloud cream that’s fragrance-free, kind of bland in the best way, and either super low on silicones or silicone-free and thus, never pills, even with the skincare layering I’ve been doing. It’s a beautiful comforting cream that works well as a barrier under a mask while sinking into the skin and leaving a demi-matte finish under makeup. It contains shea butter, omega-rich plant oils, fatty acids, amino acids, ceramides, an antioxidant or two and a bunch of skin-soothers. It’s great for an impaired skin barrier and generally angry skin.

REN Evercalm Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask ($63 CDN | 50 mL)

This mask is the only mask I’ve reached for with any sense of regularity, because it’s fantastic for skin that’s suffering with dermatitis, eczema, redness, soreness and any sort of irritation. It’s that one product that never stings — despite the fact that it contains fragrance including fragrance derived from essential oils — even during the throes of flaking painful skin that can barely even be touched with water without potent discomfort. Coincidentally, this is a favourite product to throw on after hours of mask wearing. It contains shea butter, a bunch of emollients, lactobacillus-derived probiotics, algae extract and an angel dusting of white mushroom extract. The product leaves a definite film to the skin but I don’t mind as I tend to rinse off or pat off excess or leave on when my skin is in need of dire help. After use, my skin is calmed, soothed, less reactive and definitely moisturized. I notice an immediate reduction in redness and inflammation when I use this and am able to follow with the regular steps of my skincare routine.

Cerave Itch Relief Cream ($27.99 CDN | 354g)

This winter, I had the delight of an experiencing a months long eczema flare. Applying creams like this one, loaded with shea butter, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, emollients such as petrolatum and dimethicone has helped keep my dry itchy legs and arms under control. What particularly helped about this formula is the 1% pramoxine hydrochloride, which relieves the unbearable itchiness that accompanies eczema with none of the side effects that ingredients like menthol have. This cream reminds me of the original cream formula but with an added richness and whipped texture from the addition of shea butter and the itch relief. When used with ointments on the individual patches of concern, this kept me from itching patches for long enough to let them heal.

Curlsmith Scalp Recipe Clarifying Scrub Shampoo ($37.99 CDN | 250 mL)

This shampoo not only is clarifying without ruining my waves and curls or turning my hair into a literal lion’s mane of tangles, but also has kept my scalp happy and not itchy, dry or flaky throughout the entire season. I tend to reach for this gentle exfoliating sulfate-free shampoo in between more standard shampoos. It uses perlite, a volcanic rock, for exfoliation rather than irritating beads, keeps my scalp soothed with probiotic ferments and clarifies without traditional sulfates. My scalp is super happy afterwards and all product build-up is removed, without that stripped feeling. It’s concentrated — so I still haven’t gone through the tube — and has a delicious subtly fruity spa scent. It also contains vinegar without smelling like vinegar.

Maybelline Superstay Ink Crayon in 20 Enjoy the View ($12.49 CDN)

While I’m certainly not wearing makeup everyday, I have been enjoying wearing it 2-3 times a week. When I have been actually reaching for a lip product, I’ve been playing with this warm kind of rusty rose colour. The formula is a comfortable semi-matte kind of finish that lasts well without being drying or clinging to dry patches. I’m not selling the colour either, but it’s incredibly flattering, adding colour to the face without actually being a bold lip. It also easily applies at full opacity and works nicely as a stain with lip balm on top for more of a subdued flush.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Sultry Eyeshadow Palette Vault ($86 CDN)

On the days I’ve been wearing makeup, I’ve enjoyed playing with eyeshadow. I think I’ve been reaching for this formerly limited edition palette the most. The formula is pigmented, buttery and a little bit powdery, and there’s a nice combination of spectacular metallic shades and practical matte shades of varying depths. Although this palette reads quite cool, I actually found it quite neutral on my warm undertones with a mixture of shades on both spectrums included in a neutral but not boring colour story. I love the mixture of different light-to-medium metallic shades to play with on the lid, of course I like the matte peach pop in the crease, and I love that the palette includes a matte black and matte chocolate brown with an impeccable formula. I like the shadows for an easy slap on kind of eye look but I love them for when I want a glitzier smoky eye. It’s kind of frustrating that the palette has to be bought in the vault form but I can’t complain, having missed out on it the first time around.

Christian Dior Miss Dior Le Parfum ($122 CDN | 40 mL)

I’m hesitant to include my staple scent over the colder months, as it — like all good things it seems — has been discontinued. It’s the warmer spicier big sister to Miss Dior in its standard version that captures some of the magic that previous iterations of the scent had for me. It’s not the kind of scent I would ordinarily expect to reach for in cooler months, spent mostly at home in casual attire but I learned that I love this heady scent applied lightly into clothing; it makes me feel cozy, sophisticated and put together. I get compliments when I wear it, especially when it has been applied to clothes days before — it has that kind of longevity. It’s a patchouli and rose scent with added warmth from amber and vanilla.

What were your winter staples?
Maggie, x.

The Review | Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel

When these at-home rinse-off peeling products became popular, I found myself incredibly annoyed that I was unable to easily purchase them in Canada. After the irritation that many of us have faced from over-zealous use of acids and high-potency actives, I kind of understand why Canada has limited the sales of high percentage over-the-counter acids. The Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel ($39 US | 30 mL) was released as limited edition in 2020, but has recently become available again in a permanent capacity and I have to say that I have enjoyed using it. I do emphasize that using acids in this kind of concentration — even in a completely non-irritating and soothing vehicle — can be incredibly irritating and should be treaded with caution; the ten minute guideline should also be taken very seriously and literally.

This lavender-hued gel contains a 25% complex of alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, tartaric acid and malic acid), along with 2% beta hydroxy acid, sodium hyaluronate, and a number of soothing antioxidants. I can happily report that it doesn’t contain any fragrance or weird potentially irritating plant extracts. I will comment that on my more delicate skin, this can tingle and make my following products sting, which is to be expected on a routine involving a prescription retinoid while using a high-strength acid. I can happily report however, that I’m left with skin that’s noticeably brighter, smoother and resurfaced. It helps with congestion as well. I do note that I use this maybe once per week at maximum. I do, however, get instant results after I use this, as directed, of course. I suppose I use it as a mask-peel when I want exfoliation, instant gratification and visible results.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Aminomethyl Propanol (pH adjuster), Glycolic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Lactic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Mandelic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Isoamyl Laurate (emollient), Tartaric Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Propanediol (hydration), Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant,) Malic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Butylene Glycol (texture enhancer), Clitoria Ternatea (Butterfly Pea) Flower Extract (antioxidant/skin-soothing), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin replenishing), Glycyrrhetinic Acid (licorice-derived skin soothing), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Tocopherol (vitamin E/antioxidant), Bisabolol (skin soothing), Allantoin (skin soothing), Hydroxyethylcellulose (thickener), Hydrogenated Lecithin (skin-restoring), Xanthan Gum (thickener), Polyglyceryl-4 Laurate (emulsifier), Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6 (stabilizer/thickener), Titanium Dioxide (Cl 77891) (mineral-derived pigment), Mica (CI 77019) (mineral-derived pigment), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

It’s formulated at a pH between 3.5-3.9, which keeps the acids functioning optimally as exfoliation agents, without being excessively irritating as exfoliants veering on the excessively acidic side of things. Along with the standard but effective 2% concentration of pore-penetrating salicylic acid, the formula contains 8.4% glycolic acid, 7.1% lactic acid, 5% mandelic acid, 2.5% malic acid and 2% tartaric acid. As someone who is sensitive to glycolic acid in higher concentrations, I enjoy using it in a medium-high strength in a rinse off product to minimize irritation from the deep-penetrating acid, while still getting its benefits. Other than the acids, this formula includes butterfly pea flower extract, which is a more novel antioxidant that has calming and redness reducing properties. Of course, it contains a hyaluronic acid, a number of antioxidants and some other soothing ingredients as well.

In Canada, my purchasing options are limited to the official website here. However, I like that they offer affordable quick shipping to Canada that’s free over quite a low minimum and have good sales. I know those in the US can also purchase from Amazon — with prime eligibility– , and will soon be able to purchase the brand from Sephora, along with some Nordstroms. I also believe in the UK, they can purchase from the official site for the region along with Cult Beauty. I can also happily report that Paula’s Choice ships to a wide variety of countries through different regional sites. Dermstore, Skinstore and Skincarerx are all authorized online retailers as well that run frequent sales.

Any thoughts?
Maggie, x.

Cold-Weather Product Empties

Like many others, I’ve realized that I have an excessive amount of beauty products and that the ritual of using beauty products has helped me not lose my mind during the pandemic. I’ve been rather good at getting through products in my stash and actually letting products go when they are finished, so much so that I amassed too many empty products to share in one post. Here’s the first batch of products I’ve finished in the past number of months:

Pur-lisse Blue Lotus 4-in-1 Cleansing Milk ($36 US | 150 mL)

This milk cleanser was great and lasted a ridiculously long amount of time, but was kind of a lot to spend on a cleanser. It’s gentle, soothing, removes makeup and never ever stings, even on a really compromised and angry skin barrier. My skin was always left soothed and hydrated after I used it: it contains gentle non-foaming cleansing agents and soothing oat extract, green tea extract and liquorice root. It contains essential oils towards the bottom of the ingredient list but I actually didn’t experience any irritation.

Paula’s Choice Resist Advanced Replenishing Toner ($24 US | 118 mL)

I’ve repurchased this fragrance-free milky toner numerous times and will likely purchase again. It has fatty acids, sodium hyaluronate, a number of antioxidants and evening primrose oil. This is a godsend to apply after cleansing and exfoliating to lock in moisture and keep my skin barrier happy. I’ve said for years that this is a reparative serum in liquid form. It’s a dream to press into the skin, especially when your skin is angry and you’ve overdone it.

Grace & Stella Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum ($22.99 CDN | 50 mL)

Strangely enough, this was the first (or second, depending on how strict your definition of serum is) hyaluronic acid serum I’ve ever tried. I chose it in a FabFitFun box and it was good but I wouldn’t repurchase. It contains three different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, glycerin, panthenol and castor oil and had a gel-like texture. My skin wasn’t irritated by it and I did notice my skin stayed nice and plump when used underneath a moisturizer.

Belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb ($27 CDN | 25 mL)

After trying this moisturizer as a sample, I picked up the smaller size at Sephora and happily made my way through it in a couple of months. I repurchased to say the least. This silicone and oil-rich moisturizer has a cushion-y texture, leaving my dull, flaky and a bit sensitive skin plump and dewy. It contains a number of fermented extracts, silicones, panthenol, squalane and soothing extracts, such as oat kernel. I will note that some of the extracts are fragrant so it’s not a moisturizer I reach for when my moisture barrier is screaming out for mercy.

Paula’s Choice Defense Antioxidant Pore Purifier ($31 US | 30 mL)

This is a great introductory serum of sorts, being aimed to combat environmental aggressors, brighten the skin and combat congestion, but with the strength of the actives in my routine already, I find kind of irritating. One of the main ingredients is ascorbyl glucoside (a vitamin c derivative) and another is pore-clearing salicylic acid, which is shortly followed by potassium azeloyl diglycinate (an azelaic acid derivative). There are also a number of antioxidants in this serum. I actually enjoyed using it on my chest and shoulders where I’ve always been more prone to breakouts and scarring. Essentially, the ingredients in this antioxidant serum are very nice but they give my skin active overload when used in my routine on my face. Also, it makes my face sting.

Neutrogena Bright Boost Gel Cream ($34.99 CDN | 50 mL)

I love using this lighter cream as a humectant in the ‘serum’ stage of the routine. I love it despite the fact that it contains fragrance and is housed in jar packaging that can degrade the squalane and mandelic acid it contains. It leaves a flattering pink glow to the skin while being loaded with the polyhydroxy acid, gluconolactone, restoring acetyl glucosamine, mandelic acid and squalane. It gently resurfaces the skin whilst restoring the skin barrier and drawing moisture to the skin. I bought another jar. It’s even more reasonably priced on Amazon…

Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream ($15.49-$17.99 CDN | 226g)

Somehow I managed to only use up one body moisturizer in this season and a half since I last emptied my empty products bin, but it’s one I’ve repurchased yet again. This is a good cream for my eczema, which has flared up in the cooler weather. It stings less than pretty much everything else I’ve tried, is soothing with 1% colloidal oatmeal and keeps my eczema-prone skin in check. It also features castor oil, mineral oil, soothing liquorice root, a ceramide and an antibacterial ingredient. It’s fragrance free and feels comforting on dry tight winter skin.

Curlmix Sweet Almond Oil Flaxseed Gel ($26 US | 236 mL)

I liked this creamy fragrance-free flaxseed gel but it didn’t quite have the hold and obnoxious curl-clumping abilities I’m looking for. I ended up having to order it from US Amazon — but it’s not even available there at the moment — and ended up having to pay a bit for shipping consequently and it wasn’t worth the hassle. I will say it was nicely creamy and moisturizing and left me with defined shiny waves and curls that had body. The lighter weight creamy gel was fantastic for refreshing, I must say.

Garnier Fructis Curl Treat Shaping Jelly ($7.49 CDN | 311 mL)

This gel is a favourite of mine that I recently finished up, but was mainly using last winter and spring. It has a thick and gummy souffle kind of texture that only works well on drenched hair but when used in this way, it creates awesome hold and clumps without stickiness or stringiness when it dries. I get the best results when I use a curl cream underneath but I can use it on it’s own too. It contains glycerin along with other more complex humectants — including film-forming ones — and coconut oil. This gel has given me some of my best hair days but only when I use it on soaking wet hair properly. I repurchased it. It’s a hard hold gel and holds up particularly well in high humidity.

The Mane Choice Cheers Super Strength & Full Protection Gel-ato ($13.99 US | 355 mL)

I knew that buying this incredibly thick and sticky oil-rich gel was a risk for my fine wavy curls, but I found myself pleasantly surprised. My best results were thinning out the gel slightly in soaking wet hair to evenly distribute the gel and form the best multiple-day curl clumps, using this gel as my sole styling product. It’s one that takes a while to dry and smells like boozy grapes but has given me some of the best hair days, especially in humid wet east coast winter weather. It contains a lot of protein but is offset with humectants and oils. Even though it’s a pain to get in Canada and the texture is borderline repulsive, I’d repurchase. It gives me smooth, defined and shiny curls that clump together nicely. The hold is firm in my opinion, even in my long porous strands that seem to eat up product. This would be great for parched frizzy tighter curls.

Curl Junkie Spiral Lotion ($28.99 CDN | 236 mL)

This curl-cream-stroke-leave-in was a thinner, slippery-er texture than I usually prefer but I loved it, nevertheless. It’s not a styler I would use on its own except in a refreshing capacity, but it encouraged my curls and waves to spiral underneath a gel and left my hair with texture and bounce. It contains irish moss, your usual slip agents, hydrolyzed pumpkin extract and cranberry seed oil. It’s also fragrance-free. I’ll repurchase when I’m making an order on a site that sells it and ships affordably to Canada.

L’Oreal Bambi Eye Mascara ($14.49 CDN | 8.5 mL)

During the past number of months, I finished two different tubes of this mascara. It has solidified its place as my favourite everyday mascara. It’s a lightweight volumizing and separating mascara with a football-shaped synthetic brush. It doesn’t get clumpy easily and does lead to a wide-eyed effect that isn’t a pain to remove with a balm cleanser. I’m onto a new tube now.

L’Oreal Matte Signature Liquid Dip Eyeliner ($14.99 CDN | 2.25 mL)

As a winged eyeliner addict, I really enjoyed using this traditional brush-tip liquid eyeliner. The tip was firm and creates precise thin lines but I will admit that it requires a steady hand, which isn’t always my thing. It was super black and stayed black for months and months. It doesn’t smudge or anything, yet removes easily with cleanser. It was good enough that I repurchased it before dumping the old one into my empties bag.

Physician’s Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Eyeliner+Serum ($15.99 CDN)

I’ve been using this brush-tip-pen-hybrid eyeliner happily for years. I think the serum claims are semi-ridiculous but it does create the fastest and most fool proof flick. I repurchased and will repurchase again. It removes easily with cleansing balm or any oil-based cleanser and doesn’t smudge unless you nap, laying down on the wing precisely.

Maybelline Brow Studio Brow Tint Pen in 355 Soft Brown ($14.49 CDN | 1.1 mL)

I’m not sure if I got an iffy pen or what, but there wasn’t much liquid in this pen and it wouldn’t even let me fill in one eyebrow without running out of ‘brow juice’. The colour was alright — medium in tone but a bit warm for my cooler brown strands. I used it to fill in the tail of my eyebrows on minimal makeup days but after months, I got sick enough of it that I gave up.

What products have you emptied?
Maggie, x.