Summer Essentials

As I started to write and compile this post, the Canadian east coast has been in a heatwave constantly for well over a month, which wouldn’t be so bad if, a, I actually enjoyed this level of heat and if, b, it wasn’t accompanied with the constant mugginess of entering a sauna. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written a blog post — make that a hot and humid minute — but here are the products I’ve been loving most recently:

Editors note: It may almost officially be Autumn, however, the weather hadn’t leaned at all that way until the present week.

Ouai Cleansing Scalp & Body Sugar Scrub ($50 CDN | 250g)

This was a product that I chose to try from FabFitFun. It was an obvious choice once I knew it was sulfate free — I occasionally have multiple site allergic reactions and get horrific scalp eczema when I use either sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate — and had that signature warm rose floral ‘melrose’ scent that several Ouai products have. It did not disappoint. I actually really enjoy using the scalp scrubby cleanser when I want a gentle cleanse but need some scalp TLC — especially in this weather, with a fairly sweaty yoga regime and a scalp with a general tendency to become unhappy — or as a first cleanse before following with a gentle shampoo. I say this because, the cleansing agents are gentler and it’s not much of a latherer on its own, and I kind of appreciate that, not having an oily scalp. I will say that it’s an oil enriched gritty scrub texture so I can see many people not loving it as much as I do, but I quite like the nourishing sweet almond oil, coconut oil and fermented ingredients. It’s also a gorgeous oily body scrub that doesn’t irritate my eczema.

Curlsmith Core Strength Shampoo ($34.99 CDN | 355 mL)

Another product really contributing to my scalp not lashing out at me was/is this gentle slippery clear shampoo. It’s sulfate free but contains ingredients that remove silicones and other forms of buildup, which has been helpful because having fine-ish high porosity hair in this kind of humidity, I’ve had to go to town on humidity-blocking ingredients like polyquats, oils and I’ve been using some silicones– gasp.Not only does this keep me from getting any buildup on my scalp — in combination with using a clarifying shampoo every little bit –, it has enough slip, letting me detangle my hair with ease, even after washing. I like that there’s some protein as well, as every little bit helps (although it would help more in a leave-in product). It’s also gentle and moisturizing, without heaviness.

Curlsmith In-Shower Style Fixer ($35.99 CDN | 237 mL)

As someone who has the kind of hair that requires lots of product or hold to maintain its structure, high porosity hair that seems to absorb everything in sight and high density hair, I love a good potent humidity-blocking gel. Did I mention that I live in a humid east coast climate with hair that is very impacted by humidity?; In fact, my hair’s reaction to humidity was why I embraced my wavy curls in the first place. With high-hold and humidity-blocking polyquaternium-69 as the second ingredient in this gel, followed by sealing oils and the film-forming humectant, aloe, this has been a god-send for lending maximum control to my hair. True to its name, it has to be used with lots of water, provided you want to be able to distribute its super thick and sticky texture — unless you are refreshing a super-stubborn piece of hair and don’t mind the concentration, that is. It’s very moisturizing and is medium-heavy in weight, but my density and porosity can support heavier products. It’s not the most curl enhancing gel I’ve ever tried, but it holds clumps together beautifully through humidity, sweat and even getting rained on slightly. And it gives the hair some grit, which I enjoy but it can destroy curl clumps if over-used.

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

I couldn’t go without mentioning my holy grail gel that — happily for me — works well in my high porosity waves in every season, even though I will combine it with the former gel to get extra control, hold, and humidity-resistance, to get hair that lasts for 4-5 days with minimal refreshing, even in borderline-repulsive humidity. This gel is moisturizing but is lighter in weight and has much more slip, offering lots of curl enhancement and bouncy curl clumps. It contains a number of film-forming humectants which I’m sure is why I love this gel so much (irish moss, aloe and flaxseed to name a few); film forming humectants prevent moisture loss in my hair and minimizes the frizz and loss of hold in a humid climate. It’s really flexible too, with medium-strong hold, working well in both soaking wet hair, damp hair to refresh and on dry hair to fix wonky curls.

Pattern Beauty Styling Custard ($32 CDN | 443.6 mL)

While I don’t find this true liquid-y custard to have enough hold on it’s own in my humid climate, I’ve found this huge tub of product to be great as a curl-enhancer to sandwich between cream and gel for some extra help in encouraging clumps and ringlets and adding control. It has some polyquaternium for humidity protection, curl enhancing flaxseed and film-forming irish moss. It’s also a great refresher when you get to the point of needing more product without adding crunch when you aren’t completely drenching your hair. It’s super slippery too, which is a help with fine to medium tangly hair, especially when refreshing on less-than-fresh hair.

Banila Co Clean It Zero Purifying Cleansing Balm for Sensitive Skin ($31 CDN | 100 mL)

I’ve been happily relying on this balm cleanser to remove sunscreen and makeup (on the off-chance that I was wearing it) and to just cleanse my face. It has a light kind of spa-like scent that I find rather calming and doesn’t irritate my skin, even around my eyes when I’m using it to melt down tenacious eye makeup. It’s great at removing waterproof makeup and water-resistant sunscreen and leaves my skin feeling soothed and hydrated afterwards. I have been known to just splash it off and not even follow it with another cleanser when I can’t be bothered — it has not been a summer with a lot of complex skincare rituals in the equation. The evening primrose oil, argan oil, centella, green tea and licorice root are a nice (albeit unnecessary) touch, as is the non-greasy texture.

Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence ($19.25-$35.25 CDN | 100 mL)

After finishing up some other serums, I’ve been reunited with this snail-based humectant serum. This has been an essential, especially as the weather has been so muggy that I haven’t craved layering more occlusive products and I’ve been really slacking on the skincare in general. The snail itself is very soothing and plumping and is enriched with allantoin, panthenol and sodium hyaluronate, leaving dewy and bright skin. I love this as a humectant serum that really helps to support the skin barrier.

Natasha Denona Zendo Eyeshadow Palette ($87 CDN | 19.25g)

Given that I have been minimally bothered even with skincare in the summer we’ve had here, it shouldn’t be a shocker that I haven’t worn a whole lot of makeup, either. When I’ve been wearing makeup, I’ve exclusively reached for this palette. I have discovered that particularly love when doing basic 2-3 eye shadow looks with this palette, as the finishes and subtle nuances of the shades really stand out with a more pared-down palette. The shimmers have gorgeous sheens that can lean somewhat metallic but the payoff is buildable and the mattes have that muted buildable quality as well. That is not to say that there aren’t bolder buttery metallics in the teal section of the palette, but in all honesty, I’ve been enjoying the more muted warm tones of the palette with a bit of winged liner.

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.

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.

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.