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.

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.