Summer Essentials

I feel the daggers being spliced into my eyeballs any time I ever mention that I’m kind of over the heat and humidity of the summer and am looking forward to fall. Regardless, I’ve found some essential products in this season of heat, humidity, sweat and mask wearing. Can you tell I’ve had this post sitting in drafts for a while? Regardless, let’s get to my product staples that helped to keep me sane over the summer:

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

While this non-foaming cleansing milk does contain a bit of fragrance, it has become one of my favourite gentle cleansers, especially because it both removes makeup and gently cleanses the skin. It’s one of the few cleansers I can massage into my eyelids without stinging or irritation and it does remove makeup fairly well — but not quite as well as an oil or balm — and cleanses, leaving the skin hydrated and soothed. I use it as a first cleanse when I’m not wearing shedloads of makeup or as a second after I use a balm or oil. It contains soothing oat, antioxidant tea extract and liquorice root extract. It was a blessing, especially when dealing with an impaired skin barrier or generally angry skin.

Tarte Knockout Tingle Treatment Toner ($51 CDN)

Honestly, since the whole pandemic situation, I think I’ve been rather lucky on the mask-ne front. I dealt with some chin breakouts at the very beginning when I was dealing with the horrifically irritated skin. I accredit my skin staying clear to using this acid toner along with Differin a few nights a week. This contains a mixture of AHAs — but no glycolic acid –, salicylic acid, polyhydroxy acid and niacinamide. Vinegar is used as a stabilizer which you can definitely feel and smell on the skin but I find my skin brighter and resurfaced when I use this exfoliant 3-4 times a week. I would not describe it as a gentle entry-level kind of exfoliant, however. I’m still rolling my eyes at the stupid tingling marketing; the tingle is not indicative of the acids working, the tingle is indicative of the vinegar the formula uses to stabilize it.

Neutrogena Bright Boost Gel Cream ($34.99 CDN)

I’m not sure where to even categorize this gel-cream in terms of my routine but I’ve been enjoying using it as a humectant-slash-pre-spf-moisturizer. In the cooler months, I’ll sometimes use a full-on moisturizer underneath my spf-containing moisturizer but in this generally sweaty weather, I’ve been happily applying this cream to combat dehydration, draw moisture to the skin and add some general protection from the elements. Some of the ingredients would do better in different packaging but I do love the cream inside. It contains mandelic acid, polyhydroxy acid, glycerin, acetyl glucosamine and squalane. These ingredients almost all function as humectants, drawing moisture to the skin and a few work by imparting a brightening effect via surface exfoliation. I also like the brightening effect this gel-cream offers via its sheer pink tint it has.

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

A reoccurring theme this summer has been sweating and complaining about humidity and thus, I’ve enjoyed a tinted sunscreen with a lighter texture and more of a semi-matte finish. It’s a fairly pale greyish tint that has sheer to light coverage and matches my relatively fair skin — but I get my best match when I add a bit of the Avene Tinted Mineral Fluid to add some warmth, match my body and add back a bit of glow. It’s super lightweight and is somewhat mattifying but does not dry out my already dry skin when I use a moisturizer underneath. I’ve been enjoying using this as my daily sheerer base with added sun and antioxidant protection.

Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30 ($29 US)

On days that I’m leaning drier or am going to wear more of a traditional foundation, I reach for this mineral SPF-moisturizer hybrid. With a serum underneath, I enjoy that I don’t reach for a separate moisturizer — unless I’m feeling extra — and am left with my redness diffused, my skin brightened and more luminous skin overall. There’s a very very very faint greyish cast that fades quickly but you are left with a glowy kind of sheen that isn’t for anyone wanting to look anything close to matte. The vehicle is a lightweight but hydrating lotion with soothing liquorice, kiwi, ascorbyl glucoside, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and niacinamide as antioxidants, along with a peptide and fatty acids. It’s great for dry sensitized skin along with anyone else looking for a glow and a robust formula.

Fenty Beauty Cheeks Out Freestyle Cream Bronzer in Butta Biscuit ($42 CDN)

An everyday staple in my makeup routine has been this cream bronzer. The formula is creamy, easy to blend and lasts all day. The colour is actually a nice warm caramel that’s light-medium in tone and adds shape to the face while helping my face match my darker body. The colour is buildable — but builds quickly — and melts nicely even into dry skin. It actually wears well over sore, dry and flaky skin, which was a godsend.

Viseart Spritz Edit Eyeshadow Palette ($55 CDN)

This palette is more of a recent addition but it’s the perfect everyday eyeshadow palette for me. It’s a warm neutral palette — how shocking — with a mixture of mattes and shimmers and leans a bit peachy-crimson in the overall tone selection. These shades are really flattering on my blue eyes and slightly warm-toned fairish skin and blend like a dream, have the most minimal fallout and have a nice buildable formula that lasts. The shimmers are creamy and the mattes are on the drier end of the spectrum but are my favourites to work with, as per usual. I love how compact the palette is while having a mirror and twelve sizeable shades.

Have you tried any of these products? Do you have any favourites to share?
Maggie, x.

The Essential |Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30

Especially with the current horrific state of the Canadian dollar, Paula’s Choice products aren’t as affordable as they once were. However, I have no problem shelling over my funds for their fantastic sunscreen formulas. There’s this weird thing with sunscreen where it only works if you find yourself wanting to apply it. The Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30 retails for $29 USD for 2 ounces or 60 mLs, but they offer a nice smaller size to try and run really great sales often. At first I thought this sunscreen was a really nice moisturizer-sunscreen-hybrid that had an impressively minimal white cast — as in seemingly non existent on my fairer skin. However, I would now say that it has a slight beige glow tint to it that may not show up on the skin but is enough to diffuse redness and add a glow. It reminds me of a glowy makeup primer but it’s a sunscreen and a solid protection mineral one at that.

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The vehicle of this product is moisturizing enough to be used in the place of moisturizer, but it’s not heavy or greasy. It’s a lightweight and nourishing lotion that features soothing liquorice root, kiwi extract, argan oil, linoleic acid, reservatrol, ascorbyl glucoside and niacinamide. There aren’t visible shimmer particles in the lotion but it leaves a glow behind on the skin. I think a variety of different skin types would enjoy this formula but anyone trying to look matte would likely hate it. When my skin is very dry and in the cooler months, I tend to use this on top of a separate moisturizer but in the hotter months, I get good results using this as my moisturizer.

As someone prone to dry patches and uneven texture on the face, I often find that mineral sunscreens tend to cling to these drier patches in an unflattering way, even if they aren’t drying in formula. This is not the case with this zinc oxide and titanium dioxide containing formula. The cast is minimal and the formula is cosmetically elegant, even over dry patches, but the particles are nano-sized. The slight tint it offers is a result of the ingredients it contains, not the addition of iron oxides, which can offer additional protection from hyperpigmentation. It contains a variety of soothing and brightening ingredients that actually work. I’m kind of over this blue light and pollution protection nonsense but it does offer ample protection and antioxidants.

Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30 contains 5.25% titanium dioxide and 6.12% zinc oxide, offering robust protection from all wavelengths of UV light. I note that it does not make claims about water-resistance or sweat-resistance. It’s really comfortable to apply on skin with a compromised barrier and is a joy to wear on its own and underneath makeup. However, I will note that it’s not necessarily a SPF moisturizer I would wear underneath super heavy makeup as it can exacerbate shininess; it does wear fantastically underneath more lightweight sheerer bases. My best guess is also the sheerness of the tint on this sunscreen will make it work on a broad range of skintones, from the fairer end of the spectrum to maybe the deeper end of medium-tan.

What’s your current sunscreen fave?
Maggie, x.

The Favourites | Late Spring

There are times when beauty products and your self care ritual really matter; these lasts few months have been one of those times. In hindsight, it probably was not a great idea to reintroduce a prescription retinoid into my routine at the same time that the weather was changing, I was dealing from irritation from wearing a mask during the pandemic and was dealing with a bit of a seasonal transition skin freakout. The act of self-care was something I really got back into when dealing with this quite frankly super weird and anxiety-inducing time. I discovered and rediscovered a bunch of essential products and here they are:

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Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer ($43 CAD | 150 mL): This is a soothing milky toner with a minimal ingredients list that is incredibly sensitive or sensitized-skin friendly. It’s fragrance-free and has a short but substantial ingredient list featuring glycerin, meadow foam oil and green tea.  This is one of the products that helped me get through the period where I reacclimatized to using a prescription retinoid and was starting to deal with the irritation of wearing a mask. It’s incredibly soothing.

Avene Mineral Tinted Fluid SPF 50+ ($33 CAD | 40 mL): I realized that I had in previous months been slacking on the sun protection front, when I got better at applying it every single morning and my skin was looking so much better. I was enjoying using this tinted mineral sunscreen with iron oxides (that help protect further against visible light). The tint is actually a bit dark on me but I can make it work. It’s a golden kind of shade that would be ideal for light to medium skin tones. It has a super lightweight and thin vehicle that is hydrating and doesn’t include drying alcohols or anything of that sort. It was ideal for when I was using fake tan during the past few months, but can also get away with without. It was great on my sensitized skin and didn’t even highlight dry patches. Plus it offers enough coverage to actually cover redness and the like and I’ve been using it as my face product on more minimal makeup days.

Bioderma Photoderm SPF 50+ High Protection Milk ($25.90 CAD | 100 mL): Another sunscreen discovery was this one by Bioderma that I enjoy wearing (even on my face), despite being a chemical sunscreen. I’ve been happily using it daily on my neck, chest, shoulders and arms. It doesn’t contain any drying alcohol and has a comfortable lotion vehicle but most impressively, it features the less irritating filters Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M for far superior UVA protection and photostability. It leaves my skin feeling moisturized but not sticky or greasy.

Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30 ($29 US | 60 mL): I’m on a SPF favourites roll, it appears. I didn’t realize how much I loved this moisturizer-sunscreen hybrid until I accidentally threw my tube out (an unfortunate accident) and instantly found myself repurchasing. It was a great daily pick on my sensitive flaking skin, with mineral actives but no real white cast on my fairer skin. The ingredients in this lightweight lotion gives a greyish beige cast to the product that adds some glow to the skin and diffuses redness slightly, without adding any sort of colour to the face. It was a gentle sunscreen option that was moisturizing without being greasy or thick. It contains soothing liquorice, kiwi extract, niacinamide and a vitamin c derivative.

Paula’s Choice Omega + Complex Moisturizer ($35 US | 50 mL): I’m a bit of a Paula’s Choice skincare fiend but it’s been years since I’ve loved one of her standard moisturizers — I’m a major fan of her sunscreen-containing moisturizers, however. In the last couple of months I bought this one and have loved it, especially during that stage when my face was flaking, burning and generally hurt. With its fragrance free, shea butter, plant oil, fatty acid and ceramide laden formula, I experienced minimal stinging and an immediate calming effect. It has a fluffy consistency that is rich without being overly heavy that I think anyone experiencing dryness would enjoy, especially if dealing with sensitivity.

Fenty Beauty Cheeks Out Freestyle Cream Bronzer in 02 Butta Biscuit ($42 CDN | 0.22 oz): There’s something just so easy about cream products and I often find myself reaching for them the most often, even when I’m not doing an elaborate whole face of makeup. This is an easy to use balmy cream bronzer that blends like a dream and offers buildable colour. I really like the warm caramel colour it offers without veering into orange territory and the natural glow it gives to my fairer skin.

L’Oreal Matte Signature Liquid Dip Eyeliner in 700 Black ($14.99 CDN): Even though I’ve been into a more minimal makeup look, black eyeliner is still always in the equation. I’ve been really liking this precise brush tip liner because of how black it is and how precise and thin of a line it allows you to draw. It wears well, only smudging slightly if I nap on my side right on the wing and removes easily. I will note it requires a steady hand, as its not a pen style liner.

L’Oreal Bambi Eye Mascara in Blackest Black ($14.49 CDN):I may have rolled my eyes at the marketing of this mascara when I saw it but it’s a good one and does achieve that wide eyed effect. It achieves loads of volume and separation, achieving drama without feeling heavy on the lashes. It has a large somewhat football-shaped synthetic wand that isn’t difficult to use. It doesn’t flake or anything on me and isn’t a hassle to remove. It’s a good one.

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum ($123 CDN | 50 mL): I invested in this spendier perfume around Christmastime and I’ve been loving wearing it, even just for myself, even moreso now that late Spring is in bloom. It’s a gorgeous warm orangey citrus with some rose and jasmine and some warm patchouli. It’s a warm floral that I love that’s surprisingly fresh and lingers. There’s a reason why everyone wears this one.

What have you been loving?
Maggie, x.

Skincare Sunday | Pamper Time

It’s a weird time to be alive and a time when skincare and the whole ritual that surrounds it has become extra important. With social distancing at the forefront of our consciousness (hopefully) towards the second month of the global pandemic, I think lots of us are experiencing traumatized skin — either from wearing masks, the change in weather or from the added stress of uncertainty. Participating in a bit of an extravagant skincare ritual helps to bring some normalcy for me and I thought I’d blog about it to be extra therapeutic. For reference, my skin is dehydrated, dry, a bit congested, dull and needs a bit of barrier TLC at the moment. I’ve been getting reacclimatized to using a prescription retinoid in my routine and may have gone a little overboard with it…

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Paula’s Choice The Unscrub ($29 US | 118 mL): Even though I have skin that is very sensitive and reactive to any sort of manual abrasion, I do enjoy gentle physical exfoliation maybe once or twice a week. As someone who is prone to dry patches of texture and is currently using acid exfoliants and a prescription retinoid, I appreciate an uber gentle product like this one. It uses jojoba esters for exfoliation rather than jagged beads, only uses gentle cleansing agents and features antioxidants and soothing ingredients. It never strips my skin and gently sloughs away at any little bits of flaking or textural irregularities.

L’Oreal Energizing & Brightening Pure Clay Mask ($14.99 CDN | 50 mL): Despite having a drier skin type, I do enjoy a gentle mud mask on occasion, particularly when I’m dealing with some congestion. The most important thing is that they have a gentle formulation like this one, which contains glycerin, a mixture of three types of clay and charcoal powder. This one is good because it’s gentle, doesn’t break the bank and can be removed easily (as long as you don’t let it dry excessively). I do find my skin is less dull after use, as well. I will note that I only apply the mask to the areas that I need it, which is essentially my t-zone where my skin can be more normal and less dry.
Olay Regenerist Luminous Overnight Mask Gel Moisturizer: I like applying a moisture mask in the areas that I skipped out on with the clay mask, which is primarily the cheeks, the area around my eyes and the area around my mouth. I wont dwell too much on the formula because it looks like this product has been replaced by the Olay Brightening Overnight Gel Mask, which is fairly similar. Both contain glycerin, niacinamide and the vitamin c derivative sodium ascorbyl phosphate.

Paula’s Choice Resist Advanced Replenishing Toner ($24 US | 118 mL): When I want to pamper my skin, there’s no way I’m patting anything into my skin after cleansing other than this milky toner. It’s loaded with fatty acids, barrier-repairing ingredients and antioxidants. It’s soothing and deeply hydrating.
Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer ($43 CDN | 150 mL): This is totally unnecessary, with the milky toner in the rotation but when I’m feeling indulgent, I like to layer both. It’s a pretty simple formula but it’s soothing and very hydrating with glycerin, meadow foam seed oil and green tea.
Paula’s Choice Resist Advanced Soothing Treatment 10% AHA ($37 US | 30 mL): This isn’t my everyday acid exfoliant but I do love using this exfoliant-serum hybrid once or twice a week when I want an extra treat. It’s gentle and contains glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid and salicylic acid. It also contains glycerin, peptides, ceramides, liquorice root extract, green tea, oat extract and a number of other soothing and antioxidant ingredients. It’s really gentle (but effective) and definitely binds water to the skin and contains a bunch of ingredients that repair the skin barrier and combat any sort of disruption to the barrier.
Laneige Bright Renew Original Serum ($59 CDN | 40 mL): This serum has a pleasant milky texture especially when pressed into the skin as an addition layer of hydration — can you tell I’m rather dehydrated at the moment? It contains squalane, niacinamide, milk thistle, green tea and liquorice root extract. It’s a nice option for an antioxidant serum that also helps with barrier function and luminosity. Also, it’s a good option for when you are using enough actives that a pure vitamin c serum would not be prudent.
Paula’s Choice Omega + Complex Moisturizer ($35 US | 50 mL): This is a fragrance-free, soothing moisturizer that has a rich yet lightweight fluffy texture. It’s hydrating and soothing with shea butter, glycerin, a myriad of antioxidant-rich plant oils, fatty acids and ceramides.
Eucerin Aquaphor Multipurpose Healing Ointment ($10.99 CDN | 50g): As someone with dry sensitive and flaky lips, it’s rare I find a lip balm that works without causing irritation. This old school ointment has been one that has actually made a difference and holds moisture in my lips, leaving them smooth for hours on end.
Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30 ($29 US | 60 mL): I know traditional SPFs aren’t the most indulgent products but it’s important to wear one daily and this is one that I genuinely enjoy applying. It’s a mineral filter that contains ingredients that give it a slight sheer greyish beige tint, offsetting any sort of white cast it might otherwise have, on my skin at least. It has a lightweight lotion texture and leaves a nice luminosity without being heavy. It uses liquorice root and loads of antioxidants as well. It leaves my skin looking luminous and slightly evened out on makeup-free days.

What products are you reaching for?
Maggie, x.

Current Skincare Saviours

As much as I like obsessively researching skincare product and adding to the stash, I must say that I’ve been enjoying and reaping the benefits of relative consistency in my routine. Note, I do say relative simplicity… And with everyone spending much more time holed up in their homes and hopefully practicing social distancing, I think we’ve been reaching for a little bit more skincare self-care. I figure it’s a fitting moment to share some of these favourite products of mine. This could also double as a 2019 skincare favourites post which I now realize I didn’t write… Oops.

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Paula’s Choice Defense Gel-to-Cream Cleanser ($18 US): As someone with drier and more reactive skin, I’m not sure why I even  tried this gel cleanser but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it. It’s a soothing gel cleanser that emulsifies into a slightly foamy (but not stripping) cream. It’s soap-free but contains a few gentler detergent agents that provide the slight foaming effect. It’s the gentlest and most soothing gel cleanser I’ve ever tried and removes makeup much better than most skin cleansers — but not as well as a balm or cleansing oil. However, it will remove a full face of makeup with a warm microfibre cloth and I have the kind of skin makeup likes to cling to for dear life. It contains a bunch of soothing agents like oat amino acids, aloe, green tea, liquorice root and sodium PCA. I attribute the cleanser’s soothing quality to the inclusion of these antioxidants, anti-irritants and skin replenishing ingredients.

Tarte Knockout Tingle Treatment Toner ($51 CDN): I was resistant to trying this acid toner but I love it. I hate that it’s marketed as if tingling is a sign of a product working and don’t completely understand the inclusion of a few weird potentially irritating plant extracts (onion bulb, horseradish, myrrh and a few others) and am kind of ambivalent about the acetic acid it contains. However, this is the acid I use most nights and love the smoothing results, radiance, even texture, hydration and overall clarity it brings to my skin. I’m fairly convinced that the liquid toner texture that includes a penetration enhancer makes it a particularly potent acid exfoliant that my temporamental skin likes. It contains niacinamide as the second ingredient and uses both BHA and AHAs to exfoliate the skin. It uses the gentler gluconolactone, lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid, phytic acid and salicylic acid. I love it but this might not be the most gentle acid exfoliant to start with. I notice results quickly using this toner without any sort of tingling.

Paula’s Choice Resist Advanced Replenishing Toner ($24 US): I’ve waxed poetically about my love of this soothing milky toner so I’ll keep it brief. It contains fatty acids, cell communicating ingredients like epigallocatechin gallate, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid and plant oils that really help to restore and maintain the skin barrier and add lightweight hydration  and plumpness that isn’t fleeting. It’s also a necessity for whenever I’ve pissed off my skin.

Paula’s Choice Resist Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA ($37 US): A few times a week, I will skip the acid toner and use this serum instead. I don’t find it has quite as much resurfacing oomph as the toner but I love it’s hydrating serum texture, combination of glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid and tartaric acid and the inclusion of pore-penetrating salicylic acid at a 0.5% concentration. It’s a brilliant potent water-binding exfoliant that’s loaded with peptides, glycerin, ceramides, skin soothing ingredients and antioxidants. As a result, it’s an excellent serum and exfoliant that gets you the benefits of a 10% AHA that’s easy to tolerate.

Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Emulsion ($28.92 CDN): This emulsion is essentially a humectant based product that could act as a moisturizer that I apply before my moisturizer or sunscreen. It’s fragrance free, doesn’t have anything irritating in it and features five kinds of hyaluronic acid, urea, allantoin and mineral oil. The bottle lasted me nearly a year and I noticed my skin holding onto moisture much better without adding any real producty feel to the skin.

The Ordinary “B” Oil ($9.20 CDN): This rich fragrance free plant oil blend is economical and just so close to Sunday Riley’s Juno in my experience. It’s super anti-inflammatory and soothing with squalane, a variety of antioxidant-rich plant oils and some novel extracts, sourced from algae that research suggests are also anti-inflammatory in their own right.

Paula’s Choice Resist Skin Restoring Moisturizer SPF 50 ($33 US): This is actually the only synthetic or chemical sunscreen product that my reactive skin has been able to tolerate and I credit that to the gentle formula, loaded with antioxidants and anti-irritants. It has a comfortable cream-lotion texture that never feels oily, thick or greasy, while providing my drier skin all it needs in a moisturizer. It contains shea butter, allantoin, niacinamide, liquorice root and oat kernel extract. It uses a combination of broad spectrum filters but I wouldn’t use it for a day in direct sunlight for hours as these filters have stability issues over time. This moisturizer is one I happily reach for often; makeup applies wonderfully over it and it doesn’t seem to migrate into my sensitive eyes.

Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturizer SPF 30 ($29 US): I’m more of a daily mineral sunscreen girl at heart and this is likely the best one I’ve tried. It offers great broad spectrum stable protection and the cast is offset by the slight beige tint the ingredients have. I don’t think relatively fair to medium skin tones would really experience a cast because of the slight tint the ingredients naturally have. The formula also leaves a luminosity to the skin without visible shimmer particles or anything of the sort. It’s an emollient moisturizer that doesn’t feel overly thick or heavy, whilst adding a substantial dose of hydration. The formula contains glycerin, liquorice root extract, kiwi extract, argan oil, some fatty acids and peptides, a couple of different vitamin c derivatives along with other antioxidants. It’s really soothing on dry or parched skin as well.

L’Oreal Revitalift Cicacream ($27.99 CDN): This more affordable moisturizer has been a solid favourite in the last year or so that I’ve had it. It’s recognized for skin health by the Canadian Dermatology Association for being fragrance free and ideal for weakened skin. It contains glycerin, sesame seed oil, shea butter, cacao butter and a notable amount of centella asiatica. It feels comforting on the skin and definitely helps to protect and rebuild the skin barrier and fights inflammation. The centella also supposedly increases collagen production significantly.

REN Evercalm Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask ($62 CDN): This is a thick occlusive cream that does wonders for pissed off skin and/or an impaired barrier. It’s an excellent product for when I’ve overdone Differin and the acids or when my skin gets crazy dry and angry when I get sick or the weather changes. It contains lactobacillus ferment, which is an non-living probiotic with demonstrated ability to enforce the skin barrier and soothe and hydrate the skin, along with algae extract, a potent water-binding antioxidant, a few other probiotic ingredients and arnica flower extract. It’s not a cosmetically elegant cream to slather all over the skin and leave on overnight — although I do do this on occasion. However, it nips irritation of any sort and a problematic barrier in the bud without stinging on the skin in the slightest.

Any thoughts?
Maggie, x.