Well, 2020 has been a year. It has definitely been a year of skincare for me. All of the mask-wearing and hand-washing played a definite toll of my skin barrier and my eczema. Also, the ritual of doing my skincare routine likely helped to keep me sane in this quite frankly weird time. Here are my absolute picks for skincare products I used to keep myself sane and/or to keep my face and body from flaking off:
Purlisse Blue Lotus 4-in-1 Cleansing Milk ($36 US | 150 mL)
This non-foaming cleansing milk both works as a gentle morning cleanser, second cleanse in the evening or to remove a lighter face of makeup and sunscreen. It contains some essential oils low on the ingredient list but actually remains gentle enough to remove makeup from my sensitive eyes without stinging. It contains gentle surfactants and soothing ingredients including oat, green tea and liquorice root. It goes on as a light milk that rinses completely clean when water is added, but leaves moisture in the skin after removal. This is both a gentle cleanser that never stings and a nice treat. I will acknowledge that this cleanser is rather expensive, especially for a brand that I haven’t heard much about, but it is so concentrated I’ve had it on the go for maybe nine months… And when my face was raw and sore this was one of the only cleansers that didn’t burn or sting. Did I mention it doesn’t burn or sting?
Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturizing Cleanser ($50 CDN | 120 mL)
I didn’t actually realize this oil-rich cream cleanser was a favourite until I put this post together. It was included in the Caroline Hirons Summer Kit and wasn’t an instant favourite in the summer. It’s quite expensive but I do enjoy this ultra gentle cream cleanser. I could do without the fragrance, but fortunately it’s towards the end of the ingredient list and isn’t offensive. For a cream cleanser, this cleanser is both ridiculously gentle and rather good at removing makeup and sunscreen. It doesn’t burn my very sensitive eyes and actually does remove eye makeup well. This cleanser is formulated with super gentle cleansing agents, a number of plant oils, soothing milk proteins, honey and a teensy bit of lactic acid. This is a cleanser that I adore especially in the dry winter months alongside my prescription retinoid.
Pestle & Mortar NMF Lactic Acid Toner ($44 US | 200 mL)
This is the chemical exfoliant I have happily been reaching for most days in the latter half of the year. It contains lactic acid, gluconolactone, niacinamide and soothing black tea extract. It has been easy enough to tolerate in a routine with a prescription retinoid and leaves my skin radiant, even in tone and texture and with very few clogged pores. Using this toner, I find my skin looks resurfaced and bright.
Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer ($43 CDN | 150 mL)
This year, I discovered a new milky toner or rather moisturizer in liquid form. It’s fragrance free,has a short and benign ingredient list and really helps to soothe, hydrate and calm the skin. It’s a godsend at any point but was particularly useful when my skin barrier was compromised and my skin was red, raw and sore. It contains glycerin, meadow foam oil and the antioxidants, white tea extract and vitamin e.
Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence ($23.81 CDN | 100 mL)
Although it’s marketed as an essence, this was my favourite serum discovery of the year. It contains wound healing and reparative snail slime, sodium hyaluronate, soothing allantoin and barrier-repairing panthenol. It might feel a bit slimy but I enjoy the instant comfort it provides and the hefty dose of humectants it imparts into the skin. After using this, my skin was always plumped up, calmed and significantly more hydrated. This was a godsend, especially in a world where everyone was going overboard with the active ingredients. It resulted in generally less pissed off hydrated skin.
Neutrogena Bright Boost Gel Cream ($24.97 CDN | 50 mL)
To my chagrin, this gel-cream textured humectant — which I use as a kind of serum-moisturizer hybrid underneath my sunscreen during the day or underneath a heavier moisturizer at night — comes in a pot and is substantially cheaper on Amazon than anywhere else. It contains glycerin, mandelic acid, gluconolactone, acetyl glucosamine and squalane. The acids it contains are larger molecules and therefore are gentler on the skin and the polyhydroxy acid performs as a humectants while exfoliating. The acetyl glucosamine is an interesting skin brightening ingredient and squalane adds extra nourishment.
Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer ($35 US | 50 mL)
This whipped comforting shea-butter-containing moisturizer really helped me to get through a really rough bout of flaky, red, sore and raw skin at the beginning of the year and I haven’t stopped buying since. Actually, I love this whipped cream so much that I was a bit panicked when my container was empty and the product was out of stock. It never burns or stings with it’s gentle fragrance-free formula and is soothing. It relies on shea butter, omega-rich plant oils, ceramides, fatty acids and replenishing ingredients including sodium hyaluronate.
Belif The True Cream Moisturizing Balm ($50 CDN |50 mL)
If I hadn’t tried this moisturizer in a sample, I don’t think I’d have ever tried it from the ingredients list alone. It’s packaged in a jar, contains a bunch of potentially irritating plant extracts, contains some fragrance and doesn’t contain many barrier reinforcing or reparative ingredients. It can sting a little on skin with a compromised barrier but I must say, I love the cushiony silicone-y feeling of this moisturizer that soothes the skin, immediately sinks in and imparts lasting hydration. It contains glycerin, silicones, macadamia oil, soothing fermented extracts, panthenol and oat kernel extract.
Paula’s Choice RESIST Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 ($33 US | 60 mL)
My favourite sunscreen discovery of the year was this tinted mineral sunscreen. The sunscreen, while marketed towards normal, oily and combination skin types, works well on my dry skin, especially throughout the hot and humid Summer we had. The finish of this sunscreen is semi matte and still flattering on drier skin but doesn’t lean shiny and the tint on it is a fairer subtler grey-beige. It doesn’t offer much for coverage but was enough for a base on its own for me a lot of the time, diffusing redness and evening out the skin. It’s a fragrance-free formula, enriched with a number of antioxidants and soothing ingredients and iron oxides for additional visible light protection. I love that it works for me on top of a serum or moisturizer and doesn’t cling to dry patches.
Avene Mineral Tinted Fluid SPF 50+ ($33 CDN | 40 mL)
This was another tinted mineral sunscreen that I happily discovered in 2020. It uses nano sized particles but still offers robust protection and includes even more iron oxides for added visible light protection. It has a beige tint and offers substantially more coverage, suiting light to medium skin tones best — I can get away with it, particularly when I have fake tanned or when I accidentally have gotten a bit of colour in the summer, on my fairer skin. It has a glowier, more moisturizing finish that can get kind of shiny, when sweating is involved. The formula contains numerous emollients and tocopherol and not much else. My favourite way to use this sunscreen was actually mixed with the aforementioned Paula’s Choice option to get my perfect colour and finish.
Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30 ($29 US | 60 mL)
This mineral-sunscreen-moisturizer-hybrid was one of the products that got me through early lockdown, when my was red, raw, sore and flaky. It has a moisturizing lotion kind of vehicle and contains antioxidants, skin-soothing ingredients like liquorice root, a peptide, fatty acids and barrier repairing ingredients. From what I’ve read and experienced, the particles are nano sized but this allows for the soothing mineral sunscreen to not cling to dry patches and apply evenly, with basically no cast. On my fairer skin, I basically do not experience a cast; instead, it has a slight grey-beige cast that diffuses redness without depositing any kind of colour. I will note that the finish it leaves is dewy and it does have a glowy kind of sheen to it but it never angers my skin, even in the phase where everything was angering my skin. It’s also a fantastic sunscreen choice when you’ve overdone it with the acids or retinoids.
Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream ($15.47 CDN | 226g)
2020 has been a year of eczema outbreaks for me on body, unfortunately, but I have become better at dealing with it as a result. This cream is one that I’ve repurchased multiple times and have used twice daily to decrease itchiness and irritation and help to repair my quite frankly damaged skin barrier. This fragrance-free cream contains 1% colloidal oatmeal to soothe the skin and act as a skin protectant, mineral oil and castor seed oil, soothing liquorice root extract and a barrier-repairing ceramide. It feels comforting on the skin and doesn’t sting on super irritated patches.
Polysporin Cracked Skin Healing Balm ($16.47 CDN | 312g)
This thick and kind of greasy balm has helped me tremendously throughout the year, allowing for some painfully itchy and sore eczema patches to heal. Applying it regularly on these patches allows them to heal, and keeps the dryness and itchiness at bay to a certain extent. If I’m feeling very broken out, I’ll use it all over areas but I usually just use it on patches of dry irritated skin. It contains glycerin, fatty alcohols, dimethicone and oat to seal moisture in and repair the skin. The formula is very bare bones and fragrance free but it works incredibly well to seal moisture in super dry and irritated areas.
Eucerin Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($8.54 CDN | 50g)
I originally fell in love with this petrolatum and mineral oil based ointment as a lip balm for my chronically dry, flaky and chapped lips. However, I came to rely on it to keep moisture in chapped patches of skin from mask wearing or random causes around my mouth, eyes and nose. It also contained panthenol, glycerin and bisbolol so it’s healing in the sense beyond being just a pure occlusive agent. It does contain lanolin as well, which can be an issue with some people prone to eczema.