Cold-Weather Product Empties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What products have you emptied?
Maggie, x.

2020 Favourites | Skincare

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.

What products got you through 2020?
Maggie, x.

Recent Skincare Additions

With the pandemic going on in the world and many of us spending hours each and every day wearing a mask, I think many of us have been taking skincare more seriously and have been following a routine of sorts much more diligently. Following a routine has helped me in two drastic ways: one, it helped me get through the phase of sore, reddened  and sensitized skin and two, the ritual of following a routine and taking time to unwind has actually been quite therapeutic. I thought it seemed fitting that I share some thoughts on products I’ve been incorporating more recently.

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

I don’t think I would have come across this comforting cleansing cream if it weren’t an option in my Fall 2020 Fabfitfun box but it’s one I’ve been enjoying using, especially as the weather is changing and my skin is getting dehydrated with the change in season (yet again). It contains glycerin, sweet almond oil, fatty alcohols and soothing plant extracts towards the top of the ingredient list. It leaves my skin moisturized and not stripped — which is no surprise because it contains only one mild detergent — and feeling soothed. It contains some fragrance at the bottom of the ingredient list but just the synthetic kind; it doesn’t strike me as irritating and it’s an appealing spa-like gourmand scent. It’s also a middle of the road kind of makeup remover.

Kiehl’s Cucumber Herbal Conditioning Cleanser ($30 CDN | 150 mLs)

Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking with this cleanser. Not only is it laden with fragrance, it does contain those fragrant essential oil extracts that I can tend to react to. I think I was just overexcited about adding a new cleanser to my rotation. It’s a hydrating, lotion cleanser that’s soap-free and doesn’t contain any sort of harsh surfactants. It does have a kind of pleasant herbal scent and I can enjoy it in small doses, especially as a refreshing second cleanser. However, I would avoid the eye area completely with the essential-oil-based fragrance and salicylic acid it contains. I’d actually quite enjoy this cleanser, if they omitted the lavender, rosemary and citrus peel essential oils.

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

Although I wish it wasn’t packaged in a semi-translucent jar, — but honestly is that any worse than a clear dropper bottle???? — I do love this humectant-rich gel cream. It contains a potent dose of glycerin, mandelic acid, gluconolactone, skin-replenishing and theoretically exfoliating acetyl glucosamine and squalane. It binds water to the skin and is quite brightening whilst being gentle. It does contain a wee bit of fragrance, contains some gentler acids to help resurface and even and deposits a slight pale pink tinged luminescence that has a slight blurring and brightening effect. I love using it either in the morning before sunscreen or in the evening pre moisturizer.

Grace & Stella Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($34 CDN | 50 mLs)

This was another skincare item that I chose in a recent Fabfitfun box that has impressed me. Can you believe it’s actually the first hyaluronic acid serum I’ve tried? It contains a few different kinds and molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, panthenol, glycerin and castor oil. It left my skin plumped and hydrated. I liked it as an active-free serum that I used prior to my moisturizer. I appreciated that it was fragrance-free and gentle.

Paula’s Choice Probiotic Nutrient Moisturizer ($42 US | 50 mLs)

This is a sophisticated fluffy gel-cream textured moisturizer that contains prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics along with the usual suspects. It’s a lighter weight moisturizer than I might usually go for — I go for heavy duty soothing moisturizers — but it’s really helped to appease my easily angered skin barrier without the heaviness of a richer cream. I’ve loved it in hot and sweaty humid summer weather. It also contains green tea, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, peptides, a ceramide, niacinamide and a number of barrier reinforcing substances. It smells very much in the same vein as fermented foods, but I don’t mind. I notice a great decrease in inflammation when I use this moisturizer, which I expect is related to having a happier skin micro biome.

Paula’s Choice Super Hydrate Overnight Mask ($34 US | 88 mLs)

Despite being one of the biggest Paula’s Choice cheerleaders around, this mask is not my favourite product for my reactive, dry and dehydrated skin. Due to maybe a combination of the pH of the gel cream, my skin still dealing with sensitivity from mask-wearing and using acids, adalpalene and azelaic acid, my skin stings a minute or two after I apply this — even after incorporating it for a while. The interesting part is that there isn’t really anything in the ingredient list that explains the sensation. It does dissipate, however. It has a lightweight gel cream texture that tackles dehydration really well without much weight — I kind of wish it had more emollients and a richer texture. It contains some really interesting soothing extracts including chrondus crispus, cloudberry, mushroom and some berry-derived extracts — most of which function as antioxidants.

Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 ($33 US | 60 mLs)

I never thought that I would love a sunscreen lauded for it’s semi-matte finish but in the out of control heat and humidity we’ve been experiencing this summer, I’m in love. I don’t find this light textured tinted mineral sunscreen drying, but I do find myself needing a moisturizer underneath and the slightly grey-tinged fairer tint has been what I’ve been using as a foundation most of the time. The sunscreen sets to a semi-matte finish but feels comfortable even on my dry skin and never feels heavy or greasy, even in hot weather underneath a mask. I’ve actually been mixing it with the Avene Tinted Mineral Fluid recently, as together they leave more of a satin finish that I can prefer as it’s starting to get closer to fall and to warm up the tint slightly. The vehicle doesn’t contain much in terms of emollients but it has a whole host of antioxidants which help to fight free radicals.

Have you added anything to your skincare routine?
Maggie, x.