After one of the most horrifying weeks in recent memory, I’ve decided to write about something that brings my high femme science geek heart joy. I’ve tried a lot of new skin care products lately, probably more than I should have tested at once. The results have been pretty mixed, so here’s a quick recap of the wins (a later post will go into what’s bombed). Starred links are affiliate links.
What Has Worked:
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser as a second cleanser. Actually, this week I have been using it as my only cleanser, because after replacing virtually everything else in my routine, I figured out that it was my oil cleanser that was breaking me out. This has the same gentle, non-foaming cleansing action as the Cetaphil I had been using, but has more in it that actually helps my skin. I know that ceramides really don’t do much in a wash-off cleanser, but the hyaluronic acid is always a welcome addition to a product for me. Let’s be real here, the fact that it’s so cheap doesn’t hurt either. ($8.38, Amazon*)
Laneige Essential Power Skin Toner for Normal to Dry Skin was one of the Laneige products I picked up when Target was clearing them out, and I’ve been happy with it. I like a lot of the ingredients in it, like the birch sap, which contains vitamin C and niacinamide, both of which have a brightening effect that keeps my skin from looking dull. I would prefer that it didn’t have alcohol in it, but that’s not necessarily the end of the world for me, since I’m loading on moisture and hydration anyway. Unlike Western toners, Korean toners are designed to either hydrate the skin, like this one does, or make the skin’s pH more acidic. So instead of putting it on a cotton pad that soaks most of it up and swiping it across my face like paint stripper, I pour a tiny bit out into my palms and pat it in. A lot of times you’ll see Korean toners labeled as “softeners,” and this one really does. ($28, Laneige*)
Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Borabit Ampoule, known affectionately to fans of Asian skin care as the Long Name Ampoule (also Longer Name Ampoule to those who were around before they added “Borabit,” a Korean reference to its purple bottle, to the name), is all about the fermented ingredients. There are plenty of nice things lower on the ingredient list, but they’re in such a low concentration that I just use this for the benefits of ferments to support my skin’s moisture barrier and prevent collagen loss. The ferments also help active ingredients like retinol absorb better, though I use a separate retinol serum (a no-name cheapie from TJMaxx, to be honest with you, until I find one I like better) to boost the retinol content to help control breakout and wrinkles. The ampoule only contains something like 0.004% retinol, so it’s really just there to look good on the ingredient list, and I need more than that. The ampoule is often mentioned as a dupe for the much more expensive Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair serum, but since I am not about to spend $65 on a 30ml bottle, I can’t speak to the Estee Lauder product. I just know that my skin definitely appears brighter and smoother since I’ve been using it. ($26, Amazon*)
Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule probably sounds strange if you aren’t already an Asian skin care enthusiast. It’s actually made from 80% snail secretion filtrate, aka snail mucin, the goo that snails produce to protect them as they glide across rough surfaces. I was weirded out by the idea of trying such a high concentration of snail mucin, but it’s become one of my favorite ingredients. It’s great for skin like mine with some acne scarring and a tendency towards dehydration, and this also has cocoa and lotus extracts, peptides, and added hyaluronic acid on top of what naturally occurs in the mucin. The other thing I love about this is that unlike a lot of Asian cosmetic products, it doesn’t have added fragrance to it. I don’t mind a scent to my products, but some smell so strong that I’m afraid my skin care is competing with my perfume, or that I’m going to trigger a migraine in fragrance-sensitive friends. For the price, it’s a great way to see how your skin gets along with snail. I’m always open to the idea of a new and better snail product, but this one does the job without being harsh. ($10, Amazon*)
Hada Labo Shirojyun Milk is my first real venture into Japanese skin care, and one that is popular on Asian-beauty blogs and communities. In Asian skin care, “lotions” are toners, while what we in the west would call a lotion is referred to as a milk, an emulsion, etc. This one contains arbutin, which helps with hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, and meadowfoam seed oil, a quick-absorbing oil that softens skin. The only real downside is that it uses methylparaben as a preservative, and some people prefer to avoid parabens. It doesn’t bother me, especially since this doesn’t have the silicones that break me out and are found in so many products–the Laneige emulsion that cost double the price of this one caused a nasty cystic breakout. I can see this being part of my routine for a long time to come. ($13, Amazon*)
Mizon Snail Repair Eye Cream is actually the first snail product I bought. My eyes are an area with which I’m particularly careful, between the hereditary (read: permanent) dark circles and the family history of major sagging. My grandma’s sagging got so bad a few years ago that she had to have an eye lift to fix the interference with her vision, and it’s likely mine would go a similar route, since our features are similar. Now, I’m not going to say that this is some kind of miracle cream that would completely do away with my crow’s feet and dark circles and the whole thing. However, my skin feels plump, and I haven’t had any complaints. And we have already discussed how I feel about SNAIL. ($14, Amazon*)
I still have a few products I’m looking for, to replace products that didn’t work out for me:
A lightweight essence, particularly for my morning routine
A good occlusive cream or sleeping pack that won’t break me out or clog my pores
A retinol serum with a known percentage of retinol that won’t break my budget
A physical sunscreen with the least white cast possible–I’m pale enough already!
If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them! I will also be doing another post soon with reviews of the products that have bombed for me.