The Essential | Paula’s Choice BHA 9

As someone who doesn’t deal with pimples overly often, rarely has single blackhead and has skin that tends to be quite dry, I wouldn’t have expected that I needed such a potent beta hydroxy acid treatment in my life. Boy was I wrong. The Paula’s Choice RESIST BHA 9 Treatment ($43 US/0.3 ounces) is the perfect product for me to use in my routine alongside my repertoire of alpha hydroxy acid exfoliants for a pore clearing and anti-congestion boost. The consistency is very much a gel serum, which I appreciate because it does not dry out any sort of problem areas that I have any further. Unlike most other spot treatments on the market, this one does not actually irritate the spots further that I am trying to treat.

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Ingredients: Propylene Glycol (hydration), PEG-75 (texture-enhancing), PEG-8 (texture-enhancing), Water, Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Glycerin (hydration/skin replenishing), Avena Sativa Kernel Extract (oat extract/skin-soothing), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (antioxidant), Sea Whip Extract (skin-soothing), Arginine (hydration/skin replenishing), Polysorbate 20 (texture-enhancing), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer).

This is also much more than your typical spot treatment. It’s a concentrated sustained-release formula that contains a whopping 9% salicylic acid and manages to not be irritating because of the buffered formula, containing anti-irritants and nothing known to be irritating on the skin. The pump container does have a tendency to dispense way too much product but the results that it provides makes it worth the hassle for me. It helps to unclog pores and deal with congestion the most effectively and quickly of any product I’ve ever tried and speed up the healing time of blemishes. On the rare occasion where I get blackheads, I often find that they take weeks to go and using this has reduced that time to a day or two. This also seems to prevent underneath the skin blemishes from forming to an extent and reducing the severity of the ones that form. It also helps underneath the skin bumps heal more quickly. It also really helps with the recovery time of hormonal blemishes. Not only does the 9% salicylic acid help to clear the pores rapidly, it also has anti-inflammatory activity that really helps with dealing with the post-acne marks that hang around on my skin for ages. The most significant part for me is that it does this without pissing my temperamental skin off.

I shouldn’t advertise this but this is an excellent product to use if you’ve slept in your makeup, majorly slacked on your skincare routine and eaten terribly, as it takes down congestion and inflammation like a champ. Also, it is the only product I’ve ever used that has gotten rid of a blackhead in six hours. It’s expensive (especially when converted into Canadian dollars) but I have to say that the hype was well founded.

Any thoughts?
Maggie, x.

The Review | Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker

I promise I have non curly hair related posts in the works. However, there’s another hair product review post ahead. The Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker is a pricier product, retailing at $22 US or $30-ish CDN for 12 ounces or 355 mLs. It’s only available in Sally’s Beauty Supply in Canada, or other specialty beauty supply stores but is readily available online from Target and a bunch of other sites. I know in the US, it’s available at Sally’s Beauty Supply, Target and a bunch of drugstores. The product contains a bunch of naturally based ingredients, is cruelty-free and made in the US. I’m 99% sure it’s vegan too.


Camille Rose Naturals claims “our Curl Maker Curl Defining Jelly is handcrafted with marshmallow and agave leaf extracts”, will define curls “without the crunch” and will “eliminate frizz, moisturize and define curls”. In my experience, it definitely helps curls and waves to clump and acts as an enhancing product. It minimizes frizz and adds smoothness and hydration. I don’t experience any crunch with this gelly but I also find that it has maybe light hold on me and consequently follow it with a harder hold gel to get good results on my fine looser pattern of curls and waves. I know that those with a tighter curl pattern can use this gel on their own and enjoy doing so. The below picture on the left is my hair early on following the Curly Girl Method — fair warning my hair looks better now — with this product layered underneath a harder hold gel, and the picture on the right is my hair refreshed with this product.

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Now, let’s delve into the ingredients further. I consider it Curly Girl Method approved, meaning that it doesn’t contain sulfates, silicones or drying alcohols. However, the castor seed oil that the formula contains will require gentle surfactants to be removed and thus, might not be compatible with a shampoo-free regimen. The formula doesn’t contain any glycerin or other simple humectants that tend to be problematic in low and extremely high dew points. It’s really nourishing and smoothing with the coconut oil, aloe juice and castor seed oil. Curl Maker contains a fair number of ingredients classified as film-forming humectants that pull water into the hair and keep the moisture intact — some of these include: pectin, aloe, marshmallow root, nettle and panthenol.

Ingredients: Dionized water, pectin, coco nucifera(coconut )oil, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, panthenol, ricinus communis (caster) seed oil, althaea officinalis (marshmallow) root extract, agava americana leaf extract, equisetum arvense (horsetail) extract, urtica dioica (nettle) leaf extract, corn starch, xanthan gum, chondrus (seaweed) crispus, polysorbate 20, tocopheryl acetate (vitanin E), cyanocobalamin (vitamin b-12), phenoxyethanol (optiphen nd) caprylyl glycol, fragance (parfum) and LOVE!

The Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker does not necessarily give me the tightest waves and curls out of every product on the market but it certainly helps to encourage spirals and curl clump formation. It’s that perfect balance on my fine but high porosity hair of being smoothing and moisturizing without adding heaviness. The formula is protein-free but the aloe and the coconut oil have been known to act similar to proteins for those who’s hair is protein sensitive. As I’m nearing the end of my bottle, I plan on reinvesting in another bottle to use as a curl enhancing product and to refresh with. Also, in my experience this is defining but elongating.

Has anyone tried anything by Camille Rose Naturals?
Maggie, x.

The Essentials| Winter & High Porosity Hair

I’ve been following the Curly Girl Method again for over a month and have to admit that I’ve become happier with my hair. I’ve been able to achieve more consistent results and curls and have noticed an improvement in how my hair is clumping towards the ends and an increase in curl definition all over my head. What’s the most impressive about this is that I’ve had luck with my waves in the winter, when I typically dislike my hair the most during the winter. Much of what I’ve learned for what works in my hair has come from learning about my hair characteristics and not just about my wavy curl pattern. Looking into my porosity and its significance has been particularly helpful. I believe understanding my hair porosity is what has helped me to get better results and improvement this time around.


Porosity, as a reminder, is the measure of how your hair responds to and holds onto moisture. Those with higher porosity hair find that their hair absorbs moisture easily but also does not retain it well. I’ve always had hair that hairdressers commented on as being incredibly porous. However, I was beginning to doubt my porosity because my hair floated in that strand test, which by the way can be incredibly inaccurate. My hair is fine but high density and this heaviness can make it seem like my strands are easily weighed down, which is not the case. My hair absorbs any moisture incredibly quickly, loses moisture quickly, tangles intensely and reacts terribly with humidity. Despite not being damaged, my hair’s cuticles remain open. Here are some of the products that worked well for my higher porosity hair and a brief explanation of why they work on my high porosity hair, especially in the cold Canadian winter.

Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate and Repair Multi-Action Leave In ($14.99 CDN): I’ve loved having this milky spray leave-in around this winter because of its lightweight nature – it never weighs down my finer waves or my roots that tend to fall flat because of their weight – and versatility. I like using it as a leave-in on wet hair for an extra dose of protein, to help clump and smooth my curls and as an extra layer of moisture. It contains a water-soluble silicone which I don’t mind in the slightest because my hair does not tend to easily experience build up and it acts as a heat-protectant – a godsend when I diffuse. It has some nice slip, too, and a light dose of shea butter and oils, which my hair sucks right up. I love using it as a refresher spray after my curls have fallen out on subsequent days, adding hydration without weight, when paired with a styler. It also works well to fix a wayward curl via dampening and pin-curling. I’ve heard that Canadians are starting to see this pop up in drugstores as well, which is exciting.

Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Anti-Frizz Max Hold Gel ($16.99 CDN): In my experience, high porosity hair that sucks everything up and has a tendency to get frizzy and dry – especially in the winter – needs a harder hold gel. This one has the strongest hold out of most of the gels I’ve tried without being drying or heavy and I find gives me the best multi-day hair because it reduces the frizz factor from refreshing and actually stays working in my hair overnight and beyond. I find many gels disappear in my thirsty hair overnight and I lose definition and frizz creeps in. It has protein which can be a plus for most high porosity people and contains shea butter and a few plant oils to help nourish the hair and seal it. It does contain a lot of the humectant, glycerin, but it also has lots of anti-humectants as well which prevents moisture from being sucked out of the hair.
Shea Moisture Mongongo & Hemp Seed Oils High Porosity Moisture-Correct Masque ($16.99 CDN): I’m realizing now that I’m talking endlessly about Shea Moisture for my high porosity recommendations but they truly do work on my finer high porosity hair in this cold Canadian winter especially. Unfortunately, this one isn’t readily available here in stores – I’ve had to order it online. It’s a blend of fatty alcohols, butters, a few slip agents, oils and a mild to moderate dose of protein. It’s not heavy but it definitely hydrates thirsty hair, reduces frizz and helps my curls clump nicely. I use it as either a standard conditioner in the shower but it makes an excellent deep conditioner. The butters and oils keep hydration in my hair for longer than a minute and seem to ward off frizz and it offers a dose of protein that higher porosity hair tends to crave, especially if its fine like mine. Doing full weekly deep conditioning treatments have become essential for me during the harsh winter weather and this is my product of choice.
AG Hair Recoil Curl Activator ($22/$38 CDN): While AG isn’t exactly a particularly budget conscious line, the salon brand is super easy to find in Canada, at many salons and is sold at Chatters, the popular chain. This cult favourite curl cream is one of their many sulfate and silicone free products and can easily be purchased. In the cold Canadian winter, adding a lightweight and curl enhancing cream to my routine has really helped my hair to retain moisture and clump nicely. I use it before gel and I find that it keeps my hair defined and help my curls underneath clump more nicely into spirals. It does contain humectants but it also has film-forming ingredients that seem to minimize the hydration loss and frizzing. Adding this curl cream to my routine this winter has really helped with my hair being smoother and in more hydrated, bouncy curls.
Deva Curl One Condition Delight ($26-30 CDN): Including Deva Curl’s most lightweight conditioner might seem like a strange choice in a post about thirsty winter hair but hear me out… In the winter, my hair is much drier, more tangly, frizzy at the crown and lifeless. It needs babying and constant nourishment from the elements, dry air and friction from rubbing against scarves and coats. However, when you have fine hair like I do that can get weighed down in certain sections, a great nourishing but lightweight conditioner can be your best friend. I like this one because it’s curl enhancing for me with the protein and the linseed and my hair drinks it up. I like using it as a leave-in and as a standard conditioner, but not rinsing it out whatsoever. I also alternate my typical gentle shampoo with co-washing and I reach for this one often because it has the slip I want and doesn’t contribute to flat roots, as some can. It does contain glycerin but it also has film-forming humectants which are helpful for reducing moisture loss in colder weather and minimizing frizzing that occurs. It’s an excellent complement to the more butter and oil rich products that I rely on to keep my hair moisturized.

Any thoughts?
Maggie, x.

Products I’ve Used Up | Take Two

Let’s skip as much of the introductory ramble as possible. I finished some products and I wrote a lot about them…


DevaCurl No-Poo Zero Lather Cleansing Conditioner ($32 CDN/ 355 mLs): Please forgive the old packaging of my bottle; I had forgotten that I still had a quarter of a bottle left underneath my sink. I’ve been trying it out again and my feelings haven’t changed. I really like the minty citrus scent and the slip that co-wash leaves in my thirsty tangly hair. Unfortunately, this product tends to make my scalp itchy in ways that conditioner washing with straight conditioners do not. I expect that my scalp hates the peppermint oil, which is a known irritant and when my scalp starts to itch, I can easily start to have an eczema outbreak… I didn’t really find it any more cleansing than a standard conditioner and although my curls liked the slip of this product, I just couldn’t do it on more than an occasional basis. It also gave my fine hair limper roots, which I did not appreciate.

Maui Moisture Curl Quench + Coconut Oil Conditioner ($10 CDN/ 385 mLs): Loosely speaking, this product is kind of sulfate, silicone and drying alcohol free. It does contain standard alcohol but as far as I am aware, it’s acting as a solvent in the formula. I’m not sure how I feel about this but I definitely did not experience any sort of dryness as a result. It has a thicker consistency that does impart some moisture but isn’t as intensely hydrating and as slippy as I would prefer. It was a fine conditioner but it wasn’t my favourite because of these shortcomings. It’ s a good affordable conditioner with aloe, glycerin, coconut oil and fatty alcohols. Unfortunately, I did not find it to be curl clumping either. I feel like it would be better for those with thicker hair textures and less tangly hair than mine.

Shea Moisture Raw Shea & Cupuacu Frizz Defense Hair Masque ($16.99 CDN/ 354 mLs): I went an ordered this mask from Ulta because it was aimed at wavy hair – and I have waves with some curls thrown in there – and while I liked it, I wasn’t in love. It’s silicone-free, doesn’t have any drying ingredients and actually appears to be protein free. It had a thick texture that was smoothing and moisturizing but it didn’t do anything special for my finer strands. I think it would be better for thicker strands and those who are protein sensitive.

Shea Moisture Mongongo & Hemp Seed Oils High Porosity Moisture-Seal Mask ($16.99 CDN/ 354 mLs): This has to be my favourite hair mask that I’ve ever tried and I liked this so much when I finished it – over a year ago – that I held onto the empty package like a true hoarder. It’s aimed at hair curlier than mine with higher porosity but I love it for my high porosity 2c fine hair. It has great slip and is super concentrated, providing intense moisture to my strands that help curls to clump, especially at the lengths. It has some protein in it too, which my hair appreciates but it’s very moisturizing overall and is very concentrated. The texture is rich but not heavy. I recently acquired a new tub and I’ve been loving having it in my life again. It’s silicone free and drying alcohol free.

Love Beauty & Planet Argan Oil & Lavender Conditioner ($10-12 CDN/ 400 mL): This was an impulse purchase that I made upon seeing that the product was silicone free and seemed to have an interesting ingredient list. I really liked it. It’s silicone-free, has nothing drying in it and doesn’t really contain anything that could build up on the hair. It has a great spa scent, moderate moisture and great slip. It’s a great conditioner that hydrates without adding weight and contains fatty alcohols, your usual slip agents, along with coconut and argan oil. It helped to clump my curls and added no weight to my hair. It worked as a standard conditioner and as a leave-in. I would buy again, especially because of how easy it is to come across in stores here.

Suave Essentials Ocean Breeze Conditioner ($2.77 CDN/ 887 mL): The Suave Essentials conditioners are one of those things that frustratingly aren’t readily available in Canada. However, I picked one up when ordering other products from Target online and I have to say that I was impressed with the light and thin conditioner. It’s silicone free and is mainly formulated with slip agents and moisturizing fatty alcohols. This makes it a great conditioner to use as a co-wash on my fine tangly hair and as a weightless leave-in conditioner. The thin runny texture is very curl clumping and leaves me with more volume than others. I’ll buy again when I place another order online.

Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Enriched Calming Toner ($21 US/ 190 mL): These milky toners from Paula’s Choice have been an essential part of my skincare routine for a few years now and I wouldn’t want to switch them out. They add another layer of weightless moisture and prevent transepidermal water loss. There’s loads of anti-irritants, antioxidants and hydrating ingredients and nothing known to be irritating. It’s essentially a serum in liquid form that’s very calming with the ability to help repair the barrier.

Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Smoothing Treatment ($37 US/ 30 mLs): This 10% alpha hydroxy acid solution wasn’t an instant favourite but I grew to love the dual chemical exfoliant and serum enough to repurchase it, even before my bottle was empty. I find it to be an effective exfoliant and water-binder, with lactic, glycolic, malic, tartaric and salicylic acid – at effective concentrations – ,helping to smooth, brighten and even out my complexion. I find that the 0.5% of salicylic acid that the formula includes is enough to help prevent my skin from breaking out on my chin for the most part and I find the antioxidants and anti-irritants make the formula very easy to tolerate.

NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base ($33 CDN/ 7 mL): Despite having dry skin, I have somewhat oilier eyelids that are prone to creasing and wearing through eyeshadow in general. This is one of the few eyeshadow primers that I’ve tried that has consistently reduced the creasing I experience and increased the wear-time of eyeshadow. I’ve repurchased this.

L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara in Mystic Black ($13.99 CDN/ 8.5 mL): This dry volumizing formula has been a fantastic discovery in the last year or so. It’s so dry that it meets my standards for volume and curl without the risk of getting everywhere during application that wetter formulas have. It creates lots of drama in the lashes without being overly clumpy. My only complaint is that the tube gets grimy and the wand gets gunky earlier on than other mascaras so I find myself having to repurchase more often, which is probably a good thing for my eye health. I have repurchased and I will buy more soon.

What have you used up recently?
Maggie, x.

The Review | Deva Curl Frizz-Free Volumizing Foam

I originally tried out the DevaCurl Frizz-Free Volumizing Foam ($36 CDN/ 222 mLs) as part of one of the brand’s sets featuring products from their wavy line. I found myself liking the foam so much that I ended up purchasing a full-size of the product months later. I was not impressed upon realizing that the product had been reformulated by the time that I repurchased it. This reformulation was not for the better in my experience. It didn’t have as much hold and ability to help droopy curls spring up and tighten in my wavy hair. Both versions of the product are Curly Girl Method approved, formulated without silicones, drying alcohols or sulfates. As a sidenote, it’s also cruelty-free and formulated without parabens, if that is of interest to you, as well.

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The old version of this foam that I adored had a fairly similar ingredient list to the newer formula. However, the curl-enhancing ingredient changed from polyquaternium-69 to polyamide-1, which I simply don’t find to be as spiral and bounce boosting. Also, I noticed that the foam offered much less hold than the previous formula. Now, I’ll try to stop dwelling over the old formula that I preferred.

The brand markets the Frizz-Free Volumizing Foam as a product that primarily provides volume and frizz-protection, while being lightweight. It’s supposed to offer volume to curls, along with touchable definition and shine, whilst eliminating frizz. It offers maybe a light hold on its own in my experience (but my hair is heavy and higher porosity so I tend to experience little hold in products) and does help add volume and a bit of extra bounce to my curls in a weightless way. I definitely still experienced some frizz with this product and used on its own, I definitely would experience frizz. This foam is so weightless, though, that I think baby-fine wavies and curlies would love it. I can’t imagine it adding weight to anyone’s hair. I will concede it does add definition and a lighter hold and would be an option for those with hair that gets heavy from most products. For reference, I have 2c-ish hair that’s incredibly long, have high density fine strands and are higher porosity.

The foam is much lighterweight than a gel or even a mousse and functions as a curl enhancer for me, used before gel in my routine. It does add some extra definition, a touch of hold and some extra lift and bounce. It’s featherlight without being drying. I might actually prefer the product for refreshing, though, because the light hold helps combat frizz and my curls tendency to droop in areas, while helping to enhance them.

The scent of the product is light and fruity. Ingredient-wise, it relies on the polyamide-1 to enhance curls, add volume and protect against humidity via acting as a film former. The next ingredient is primarily a holding agent, matodextrin/vp copolymer. The remaining ingredients are your usual botanical extracts mainly. It doesn’t seem to contain any protein and the humectant, glycerin, only appears at the very end of the ingredient list. Polyquaternium-68 is also found very low on the ingredient list; I only mention this because I know that some find they cause build up.

I don’t think I would necessarily repurchase this formula as it is, but I will use my bottle up without complaint.

Have you tried this?
Maggie, x.

The Edit | Curly Girl Method Gels

Now that I’ve gotten back into following The Curly Girl Method with renewed vigour, I’m really noticing that I’m going through a good amount of the products I’ve been hoarding. My bag of empty products has rapidly been filling with hair products and as a true product junkie, I have lots of thoughts to share on them. Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the gels that I have finished up. This is going to seem like a lot of product but in all honesty, my hair eats up gel and I need lots of it to have consistently defined hair. Otherwise, my hair willjust wilt, tangle and frizz. It’s worth noting that I have a ton of fine long hair, a mix of waves and some curls in terms of texture and hair that is quite porous.

DevaCurl Arc AnGel ($60 CDN/ 946 mLs)

This gel is my absolute favourite in the humid summer because my hair frizzes out and wilts overnight and throughout the day the least with this gel. It provides great almost firm hold and isn’t particularly drying, crunchy or heavy for that level of hold but doesn’t give my curls the enhancing boost that Ultra Defining Gel does, especially in the cooler months when my curls need more encouragement. It’s a gel heavy in glycerin but it has nowhere near the amount of protein that the other gels in the line have, so it could be very good for hair that doesn’t love protein as much as mine does. I also frustratingly find that by the time I get towards the end of these large bottles, the texture of the gel starts to change and doesn’t seem to work quite so well. As it gets closer to the summer, I want to experiment with this one again.

DevaCurl Ultra Defining Gel ($30 CDN/ 355 mLs)

Probably because my hair absorbs everything and seems to resist forming a protective cast like nothing else, I find that I need a good amount of this gel but I also find that my waves and curls are a bit bouncier and more spirally with this gel, especially in the cooler months when my curls tend to lie flat and wilt. It’s a touch more than medium hold and can enhance and tighten up my curls, without being drying or weighing my hair down. I wish I didn’t have to use quite so much and that it gave slightly more hold on my temperamental hair that resists looking decent by the next day. It has loads of protein which my fine porous hair loves and also is glycerin heavy. It’s my favourite of the gels in the cooler months, I reckon.

Ouidad Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel ($34.76 CDN/ 250 mLs)

I think this was actually the product that started my love of traditional gels, back when I tried it years ago. I found it for a great price at Winners and tried it again and remember why I liked it. My gripe with this product is that it’s expensive at full retail price, especially because the hold is on the lower-end of medium and in order to get good results, I have to use so much of this gel. It’s really hydrating and helps my curls to clump nicely but doesn’t quite have the structure and enhancement of the Deva gels. I will note that I don’t experience much frizz with this one and that I’ve had good hair days with it. This gel might be better for those who prefer a lighter hold or with a tighter curl pattern. I do love the fresh and clean scent. Glycerin is towards the bottom of the ingredient list with this one and protein appears near there as well.

Shea Moisture Mongogo & Hemp Seed Oils High Porosity Moisture-Seal Styling Gel ($14.99 CDN/ 236 mLs)

I didn’t love this gel but that was because of first time buyer error mainly. I bought the gel along with the other products in the high porosity line that I adore because I felt some sort of need to complete the collection. It didn’t work for me as a harder hold gel because it has a soft hold, as it’s marketed to. It’s smoothing and moisturizing but lacks the hard hold that I need. I do think those with tighter curls would like this if they want moisture and softer hair. I didn’t mind it as a refresher on damp hair. It has glycerin, shea butter, aloe and a variety of oils.

Shea Moisture Raw Shea & Cupacu Frizz Defense Styling Gel-Cream ($13.99 CDN/ 236 mLs)

I bought this cream gel because it was designed for a wavier texture and remembered liking cream gel products in the past, but it wasn’t right for me either as a main styler. I think it might work for those with coarser hair textures but not for my finer hair as a holding product. It didn’t weigh my hair down and it did add moisture but I didn’t find that it had much for hold or curl clumping ability. I did find it worked quite well on damp hair to refresh because it added that moisture and enough hold to bring curls back to life.

Equate Hard Hold Styling Gel ($2.27 CDN/ 350 mLs)

I purchased this affordable gel after seeing that its ingredients were similar to the cheapie gels available in the United States that those who follow the Curly Girl Method seem to adore such as the LA Looks offerings. The hold was moderate and it was somewhat curl clumping but I wasn’t blown away by this one. I did get fairly good results using this gel in combination with another cream or enhancing product but I think that the Sport Gel variation was my favourite out of the three varieties I tried. It’s glycerin free and contains a small amount of protein.

Any thoughts?
Maggie, x.

 

Top 18 of 2018

Some of my favourite posts to read and videos to watch are those detailing yearly favourites. However, I haven’t managed to write one since 2015. I’m remedying this now, after much thought on what products I would include. You can’t possibly imagine how much time I’ve spent thinking and thinking about this.  The way that I thought about the yearly favourites were the eighteen products that I relied on the most and got the best performance from throughout the year. I do note that some of these won’t surprise any regular readers here in the least and they aren’t products that just came out this year or products that I bought in the last year necessarily. Here we go.

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Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm ($39 CDN)

This fragrance and known irritant free balm cleanser was a late 2017 discovery that firmly has become my favourite makeup remover because it dissolves everything without stinging my eyes, blurring my vision – unless I’m an idiot and use way too much – or irritating my skin. It’s such a gentle balm cleanser that I managed to use it during an eczema flare when even water made my skin burn and itch without an issue. It’s nothing glamorous but removes even the toughest eye makeup and dissolves foundation better than anything else I’ve tried without that stripping factor. It’s so good that I can skip a second cleanse if I’m feeling lazy without getting under the skin bumps the next day.

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Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Replenishing Toner ($24 US)

Since trying out the Skin Recovery Toner in 2015, I haven’t wanted to be without one of these Paula’s Choice milky toners. Honestly, I tend to flip flop between this offering and the Skin Recovery one but just using one of them is essential for my skin that is prone to irritation, dehydration, flaking and eczema. It honestly provides many of the benefits of a serum in a milky liquid form. It’s obviously formulated without alcohol, fragrance and ingredients that are known to be irritating. It’s soothing and is incredibly helpful in maintaining a healthy skin barrier and repairing a compromised one with fatty acids, antioxidants and hydrating ingredients. It provides a soothing effect short term and long-term keeps my skin looking healthier and brighter, without dry patches and calmed.

Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA ($36 US) | review

Along with my prescription retinoid, – and more recently my azelaic acid – I rely on an AHA exfoliant to keep my skin smooth and clear on the whole and hydrated. This one keeps my pores from getting clogged and with the 0.5% salicylic acid and I find the glycolic, lactic, malic and tartaric acid formula to be gentler than pure glycolic acid but still have the same even-ing, brightening, smoothing and water-binding impact that single note formulas can have. More impressively, I love how gentle the formula is and how it combines the exfoliating ingredients with antioxidants and skin-replenishing ingredients. Essentially, it acts as a serum and effective exfoliant at once and I find it easier to tolerate, likely as a result of the antioxidants and anti-irritants.

Paula’s Choice RESIST Skin Restoring Moisturizer SPF 50 ($33 US)

It appears that I may have a thing for the Paula’s Choice RESIST line for dry skin, I’m realizing. I think that this is because they are chalked full of antioxidants and anti-irritants that make the formulas the most soothing and replenishing as possible, which my easily irritated skin needs. This is a very hydrating and cosmetically elegant lotion that is formulated with chemical sunscreen actives and is unique because it’s the only chemical sunscreen I’ve ever tried that has not immediately irritated my skin. I think I’ll always be a mineral sunscreen girl but I love this one for how it’s truly hydrating, isn’t greasy and never clings to dry patches in the way that mineral actives do. I think I tolerate this one because of the robust antioxidants and anti-irritants in the formula.

Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($72 CDN) | review

There’s no foundation that I’ve tried in the last three years that has knocked this cult favourite foundation from its spot as my go-to foundation. It looks incredibly skin like, even on my uneven texture and dry patches, and has a satin finish that lasts until I remove it on my dry thirsty skin. I like the medium-buildable coverage that it offers and how it will cover even reddened eczema patches, without losing that radiant finish. Without fail, this expensive foundation always makes me feel and look my best. Plus, it photographs fantastically.

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Laura Geller Balance n Brighten Baked Colour Correcting Foundation ($45 CDN)

Being someone with drier skin that doesn’t suffer from issues of makeup longevity, I have a tendency to skip powder altogether. However, I have discovered that I really like this one because of the light coverage it provides that mainly serves to cancel out redness of my face and because of the soft focus radiant (but without shimmer in sight) finish that it  provides over my t-zone. I tend to like wearing it if I’m going to be taking pictures and I loved wearing it in the unseasonably hot summer that we had. Also, the smoothing finish and coverage it provides works nicely as a low maintenance ‘foundation’ alternative on good skin days and days when I’m doing two or three minute makeup.

L’Oreal Paris True Match Lumi Cushion Foundation ($20-25 CDN)

I’m beyond irritated that this foundation doesn’t seem to be carried by most drugstores in Canada anymore but I’m pleased that they haven’t discontinued my favourite lighter coverage base entirely. The cushion foundation is not the most economical option but as someone who rarely goes through foundation, it’s worthwhile for an easy option that’s almost undetectable on the skin and doesn’t cling to dry patches in the slightest. When I’m unsure of what to grab as a base and I don’t have time to think about it, I reach for this light to medium coverage offering because it’s hydrating, weightless and doesn’t cling to dry patches. The dewy finish is very brightening and it covers redness well but always looks like skin.

Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Skinstick in Amber ($31 CDN)

As someone whose face just looks better with a bit of shading, I find myself often reaching for this cream-to-powder contour colour because it’s easy to blend into the skin and has a realistic grey tone that reads as a shadow. Also it works with both powder and cream products in my routine.

Colourpop Super Shock Highlighter in Wisp ($8 US)

I bought this putty-cream textured highlighter in a kit last year with a hefty dose of skepticism but I found myself really enjoying the gleam and sheen that this bronzier golden champagne highlighter provided to my cheeks. It’s one of those highlighters without obvious shimmer, I must note. Being fair, I find that I have to use a lighter hand but I love the luminous sheen it gives my cheekbones and how it adds life to my skin.

Physician’s Formula Eyebooster Lash Boosting Eyeliner & Serum ($15 CDN)

I feel like I’ve rambled on about how much I love this brush-tipped pen style liquid eyeliner so much recently but I do adore reaching for it on a daily basis because it creates a bit of a kitten flick with ease. I don’t have to worry about my eyeliner if I use this one. It removes easily and doesn’t really budge either.

Viseart Matte Eyeshadow Palette in Warm Mattes 10 ($100 CDN) | review

Ever since I picked up this expensive sunset-hued matte palette towards the beginning of 2018, it’s been my everyday go-to. I love how the shades have that flattering warm hue and that everything except a black is included for shade selection. Most of all I like that the shades crease on me the least of any eyeshadow formula, last for ages, blend like a dream and do not cause fallout. The red shade in this palette even got me on the red eyeshadow train.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette ($55 CDN)

It seems like whenever I do these kinds of posts, I can’t resist including a product or two that I’ve more recently discovered. This palette I might have only picked up at the beginning of November, but it has become a real favourite of mine since then. The colour choices are a bit more interesting than the Viseart, being a mixture of neutral mattes (with a few shimmers thrown in), along with some red and berry-toned shades. I love how it makes a nice one and done look and I’ve enjoyed experimenting with the more red shades. The formula’s powderiness doesn’t seem to leave fallout, either. Also, the formula is pretty easy to work with. I love the inclusion of a few shimmery shades for the lid and to add some dimension.

MAC Eyeshadow in All That Glitters ($9/$19 CDN)

I came close to including a selection of the MAC eyeshadows that I reached for some throughout the year but in all honesty, I mainly reached for this peachy champagne shimmery shadow. I’ve repurchased it countless times and when I wanted a lid shade, I always find myself reaching for this one and am pleased with how it looks.

MAC Brow Set in Beguile ($22 CDN)

While I might have a lot of brow, they are sparse and tend to look unnatural unless a lot of care is put into gently filling them in and taming them. This year, I discovered that using this brow mascara with a light hand held them in place and helped to fill in the sparse sections, without looking product-y or unnatural in the slightest. It was a godsend for when I wanted to do something with my brows but did not have the time or energy to really fill them in.

L’Oreal Pro Matte Liquid Lipstick in 360 Angora ($12.99 CDN)

My lip product discovery and favourite of the year was easily this liquid lipstick formula and my go to shade was this medium-toned greige shade. I have super dry lips and aren’t a particularly clean eater and drinker and tend to experience lip products wearing off unevenly through the day, accentuating my dry patches. I like a lip product that I don’t have to think about and this one fits the bill, especially because once I let this product set on my lips, it can last through a Christmas dinner. I also like how the formula doesn’t have a super dry feel but sets on my lips. Also, the colour is interesting enough that it feels kind of cool and different without being a bold or jarring colour.

MAC Lip Pencil in Boldly Bare ($22 CDN)

As much as I like buying lip products, I don’t find myself reaching for them on a daily basis because I can’t be bothered with the upkeep and having to think about them. On days when I wanted some colour to my lips, I often found myself filling in my lips with this neutral coral-hued rosy pencil and topping it with lip balm or a sheerer neutral lipstick offering. It happily lived in my purse throughout the year.

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DevaCurl One Condition Delight Weightless Waves ($32/$62 CDN)

I have long porous fine wavy curls that tangles like nothing else in this world and this conditioner ticks all of the boxes for a daily conditioner; I can use it as a leave-in to keep my curlier underlayer of hair hydrated and defined without flattening out the wimpier waves that are prone to falling out on the top layer of my hair and as my standard conditioner of choice.  I have a ton of hair that requires a ton of slip to detangle and this fits the bill, whilst adding the dose of protein that gives my hair the bounce it needs to look good. It has great slip and provides moisture without weight for my thirsty locks. It’s free of drying alcohols and silicones.

DevaCurl B’Leave In ($27 CDN)

This year, I noticed that most of my good hair days – when I actually wore my curls and waves down – occurred after using this curl boosting product in addition to gel and whatever cream product I was using. This holdless gel-textured product added a weightless dose of protein to my fine hair and really boosted the bounce and curl in sections of my hair that are prone to wilting and falling flat. I’ve used this product before with good results but I rediscovered it this year when I started putting more effort into my hair again.

Any favourites to share?
Maggie, x.