Happy 2022! Are you taking measured steps into this new year like I am? After the last two years, who really knows what to expect anymore, right?
One thing I didn’t expect was the cold temperature with endless winter storms in New York. Despite my care, my skin always feel one lazy missed step away from that tight, irritated kind of dryness. While in warmer weather, a nice face mist and face oil might be enough, I’ve turned to the full arsenal to keep my skin well moisturized for winter storm weather.
As my deep hydration serum. Because all the beautiful oils, and rich creams would be pointless if there is no actual hydration for them to protect. Ambrosia Beauty Nectar brings the hydration in spades, with over 18 types of hyaluronic acid. It’s sure to draw in and retain moisture post-shower, or face mist. And because it’s YÜLI, all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Their ratio of hydration content to humectants is balanced so the hyaluronic acid always has hydration to work with, even in the driest conditions. My favorite hydrator in the formula has to be the “vegetal placenta extract,” which is every bit as cool as it sounds. It’s a rejuvenating and hydrating active derived from plant nutrient tissue that mimics the hydration and nutrition content of the placenta to really replenish the skin.
I use about 3 generous pumps, pressed on my skin morning and night. Ambrosia Beauty Nectar is a light fluid-gel designed for fast absorption. It’s actually the same texture as our skin’s own moisture reservoir. It’s high science for sure, which is what I want in my serum step. I give this super-serum about 15 seconds to allow the nectar to feed into my skin. By the time it soaks in, I know my skin has received it’s daily fill of serum actives.
As my face oil. Recommended by Garçon’s World. There is a mildly intoxicating aspect to this oil that is special. For some reason, I had the initial impression it might be better suited for younger skin types. It feels light, absorbs quickly, and is actually decongesting. Yet, it’s substantial enough for Winter. The founder lives in Canada, so I trust that she made her products to stand the test of cold winters! Your skin will continue to feel the effects of this skin plumping, nourishing oil. It has a beautiful golden color, a quality brought forth by the composition of 22 fresh, organic botanical oils. The blend includes antioxidant-rich Pomegranate Oil, Cranberry Oil, rejuvenating Rosehip Oil, and Sea Buckthorn oil, brightening Gotu Kola oil, decongesting Nettle Leaf oil, soothing Evening Primrose, and beautiful Bergamot and Neroli.
I use anywhere from 3-5 drops. This primarily depends on if I’m feeling minimalist or if I want to soak myself in this nutrition-rich goodness. The silky texture is just right, it absorbs quickly, and imparts a nice pampered glow. I just think this is such a fabulous oil, and it makes my skin so happy.
Doubles as my long wear/overnight mask, and rich moisture cream. This formula is so lush, creamy, and abundant. Susanne Kaufmann developed the Moisturizing Mask as a treatment for her family0owned resort spa on the Austrian alps. And it feels, and smells exactly as one would envision a buttery cream in such a pristine setting — luxurious, clean, and elegant. Inside the formula you’ll find a mix of organic honey, nourishing plant oils (including one called Purple Viper’s Bugloss), moisturizing fats like topical cholesterol and lecithin, and plant extracts like Wild Pansy.
As a moisturizer, I just apply a thin layer of the Moisturizing Mask over my serum and oil. It absorbs into my skin in half a minute and leaves it feeling soft throughout the day. You’ll notice this immediately soften the fine lines, and lessen the depth and pull of wrinkles. As a mask, I apply a hearty layer, and go over drier areas with an extra thick layer. I usually leave it on overnight. The Moisturizing Mask does absorb over time into my skin so it won’t get over my pillowcase when I sleep.
I have experienced the best results to counter winter-dryness and dehydration with these three beautiful, organic, high-science products. This combination creates a serum-oil-cream moisture sandwich that has become such an ace overnight intensive routine. You will wake up to the most refreshed, pampered skin.
I gotta be honest, each year the holiday sales start earlier and get increasingly confusing. I started receiving emails as far back as September, and many of you messaged me around October to see when or if I’d be writing my usual holiday sales guide. I know that great deals coming at you over this period can aggravate a pretty aggressive case of FOMO (fear of missing out). My overall approach this year has been to wait until the Black Friday- Cyber Monday weekend, even with earlier holiday sales start dates. And I feel like it has paid off. But with so many sales, instead of a long list that you could possibly peruse anywhere, instead I’m sharing exactly what I’m getting for myself and which sales I’m using to get them. Do note: this list is serum-heavy because sales are when I typically splurge on this category.
5% Boost: If you have a Chase Freedom credit card, purchases made using PayPal automatically reward a 5% cash back bonus, so as I go through the deals, if I denote this boost, just know that you can basically add another 5% to the promotion. If you don’t have this card yet, get it here (there is no annual fee).
I purchased a bunch of products from Naturium last year, but haven’t gotten around to reviewing them even though I’ve been using them consistently. So consider this my repurchase/mini-review in one:
Vitamin C Super Serum Plus — Naturium is priced very reasonably (this retails for $25 regular price), and the Vitamin C Super Serum Plus (the most concentrated Vitamin C serum in the line) will not feel like you’ve sacrificed any quality. Initially, I wasn’t sure if Naturium achieved the low price points by sacrificing ingredient quality or concentration, but after using the Vitamin C Super Serum Plus, I can confirm it is not the case. This is a VERY potent, yet non-irritating Vitamin C serum that utilizes pure Ascorbic Acid, and I often notice my skin brighten and look more even overnight. Beyond the Vitamin C, what I like about this serum is that it’s a one and done because there’s also retinol, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. I don’t really like to layer serums, I prefer to use one-two serums in my routine in one sitting, and changing them out daily based on how my skin feels. With the Vitamin C Super Serum Plus, it feels like I’m really going in on the Vitamin C without sacrificing anything else. I’m going to bring up the price again because it’s kind of unbelievable to me that this serum retails for $25, when really it could easily be going for $75+. So of course with 25% off, this is high on my repurchase list.
Alpha Arbutin Serum 2% — on nights where I’m not using Vitamin C or Retinol, I like using the alpha arbutin serum which has lemon (nighttime only!) and niacinimide to work on hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and balances skin tone. Where retinol promotes cell turnover, Vitamin C brightens skin and boosts collagen, this serum is a complexion brightening powerhouse that will work in tandem with retinols, Vitamin C, and anti-aging serums to really bring out that glow we all talk about. I also like adding Alpha Arbutin because you won’t usually find it in acid products, and it’s not only effective, but it’s considered a more skin-friendly alternative to hydroquinone (they’re the same root molecule), the gold standard skin brightener that dermatologists use for age spots, melasma, and post-inflammatory pigmentation.
YÜLI – 15% off Site-wide (with deluxe trial of Ambrosia Beauty Nectar), Code: BFCM21; 20% off Orders $250+ (with full-sized Harmony Body Oil, $80 value), Code: BFCM200.
YÜLI really is a staple in my skincare collection, and their once-a-year holiday sale is basically the only opportunity to get anything at discount. 20% off at $250 is the lowest price tier I’ve seen from them, not to mention you get an $80 product – Harmony Body Oil, which I feel is such an easy product to love that everyone can use. If you can’t hit that number, and just want to try something, you’re still getting a 15% discount, and they’re including a deluxe sample of Ambrosia Beauty Nectar, their most expensive (but worth it) product. Additionally, they take PayPal, so you can add in a bonus 5%.
Halcyon Cleanser – Limited Rose Edition — It’s no exaggeration to say that since finishing my last bottle of Halcyon Cleanser – Limited ROSE Edition last April, I’ve thought about it…. Each time I’ve cleansed my face. I mean… the original Halcyon is my holy grail cleanser, and the Rose edition is just so next-level aaahhhhhmazing. It smells of faint, aquatic roses, the type of fresh and pure floral that you just want to bury your nose into. And their rose is uncompromising, sourced from private gardens which is why the stock is so limited. I’m buying multiples.
Ambrosia Beauty Nectar — Ambrosia Beauty Nectar has been described as witchcraft in how it just does… everything you could want for the skin in an almost indescribable way. Writing a review for it a while ago proved it be a challenge because there was so much I wanted to say, and didn’t know how to say. Yes, even I found myself out of words. Just trust me on this, it’s an exquisite product. You know how you always hear about miracle serums that do multiple things? This is it. And the ingredients deck is all killer, no filler. For instance, there are multiple actives classed as pharmaceutical-grade antioxidants, and each one is like a miracle ingredient that has long been missing in skincare. Yes, it’s expensive, but there are still serums multiple times this price that don’t have a third of the innovation and formulation integrity as this one. It’s also why I stock up on this during the sale. The formula is absolutely worth it for what you’re getting.
Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment: When it comes to retinols, I prefer to stick to the tried and true retinols, and when I think of tried-and-true, science-based formulas, you can’t go more standard than Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol which is a very powerful, result-driven retinol that happens to also be outfitted with antioxidants and even Vitamin C. It’s such a packed ingredients list for a great price. I had purchased two bottles last year that lasted me until August. I’ve felt a retinol-shaped hole in my routine since then, so I’ll be picking up one extra bottle this year.
Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant: When it comes to acid-exfoliants, I’m kind of done with glycolic acids. They’re harsh, photo-sensitizing, and can cause inflammation. Upon researching acids, I started finding more and more literature about the strengths of Salicylic Acid, an acid I recall from my acne-prone teenage years. I purchased a travel size of the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (pictured) last year, and have loved it for how gentle and effective it worked. Salicylic Acid works on the sticky and congested bits, the clogged pores, build up, and congestion. That’s why it’s so marvelous for acne. But even for those without acne, I feel those are the qualities one would want from an acid. Plus it’s so much gentler than glycolic acid.
The Nue Co. – 30% Off Site-wide + Free Barrier Culture Cleanser ($42 value) on orders $100+; Code: GARCONBF30
I love this deal because not only is 30% super generous, but the free bottle of Barrier Culture Cleanser (which I reviewed here) is so welcomed because it’s a product I would have otherwise purchased since I did like it a lot. Additionally, they accept PayPal, so you’re potentially looking at a whooping 35% off.
Barrier Culture Moisturizer — The ideal light yet weighty gel-cream texture, lightly scented with the most delicate touch of something nice and comforting, sinks into skin wonderfully, just perfection. Barrier Culture Moisturizer just resonated with me off the bat, and it’s sort of the ideal moisturizer for me. I’ve found myself always reaching for it as my moisturizer of choice from mid-summer to the colder temperatures we’re now experiencing. Such is Barrier Culture Moisturizer’s versatility that it never feels heavy yet always provides that perfect moisturizer benefit. I’m already on bottle 2, and will be purchasing another.
Destress 360 — Truth be told, since initially trying Destress 360 and really enjoying the benefits that I experienced, I’ve been looking around at others. BUT each time there is something that piques my interest, I read the ingredients list, compare them to Destress 360, and Destress 360 wins me back every single time. Most stress supplements focus on 1-2 herbs, an adaptogen or a CBD, but Destress 360 is so much more thorough and holistic. Since the pandemic, I’ve found my anxiety levels have increased significantly, but I just find that Destress 360 helps me coast through stressful days with ease that I otherwise would not have had.
Special Note: I would also recommend their Functional Fragrance, but I just feel like I’ve BEEN all about it for so long now. Seriously though, if you haven’t tried it yet, you really should.
Violet Grey – 20% Off Site-wide
D.S. & Durga Rose Atlantic — D.S. & Durga is one of those cool niche fragrance brands that I’ve been wanting to try, and I got a bottle of their Rose Atlantic after hearing how pretty much every cool kid in fashion and entertainment swears by it. I felt there was no better entry point to this chic Brooklyn perfume brand than the future Santal 33. And boy was it love at first sniff. Out of the box, I was afraid it would smell old-grandma, but nope, Rose Atlantic is much smoother and hipper to ever be that. The rose is soooo nice and fluid. Rose Atlantic is forward and clean without being cloying nor overbearing. There is more staying power and direct fragrance gravitas than just essential oil based perfumes, yet without the overwrought synthetics that feel overwhelming with ongoing wear which was a delight to discover. This is such a nice personal fragrance that feels beautiful, clean, and luxurious.
Royal Fern PHYTOACTIVE SKIN PERFECTING Essence — I just LOVE pressing this onto freshly cleansed skin. Firstly, an essence is a fluid that has a high concentration of plant based matter, and this uses the namesake Royal Fern extract which is an anti-pollution, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory extract. It’s pretty much an instant refresh for tired skin. Now… the product that put Essences on the map is SKII’s Essence, and this one is just sooooo much better in my opinion. This contains good acids, like gluconolactones, that tame enlarged pores, manage hyperpigmentation, and soothe irritation. It also has my favorite acid, lactic acid, that helps to plump as it exfoliates. It’s one of the only acids that is exfoliating, hydrating and anti-aging. Finally the Royal Fern extract helps to overturn the effects of pollution and UV damage on the skin. And it smells so clean and fresh in a green unisex way.
Special Note: Last time I posted a Violet Grey sale, so many of the products I recommended got excluded so I not only made these purchases successfully with the code, but also checked again prior to publishing this post. If you have your eye on anything from Augustinus Bader, I’m happy to confirm that as of this writing, their products are 20% off as well. I purchased the newly launched Augustinus Bader Eye Cream with the 20% applied.
Over the past year, countless wellness studies have indicated that people generally cite stress, sleep, and mental function as their top issues. I personally don’t think these issues just arose, I think they’ve always been there, but with the shift to conscious self-care, we’re perhaps finding the vocabulary to vocalize of these major issues.
The Nue Co. is a wellness supplement company that I’ve mentioned before as one that has continued to intrigue me. They’ve really diversified their offerings entering into skincare (my review here), and different formats for supplements including fragrance, where their original Functional Fragrance remains a favorite for me.
The Nue Co. recently launched Mind Energy, their latest fragrance that uses their patented olfactive science to activate neural pathways to help with brain fog, and mental exhaustion. Many of us probably refer to this as our 3PM slump, our mid-week burnout, but whether you have a name for it or not, I think we can all relate to having these moments where composing another email just becomes one task too many, feeling sluggish, unable to recall something you were doing, and just feeling absolutely mentally tapped out.
If you’re not familiar, The Nue Co. fragrances are made my master perfumers using their patented olfactive science. As such, their fragrances never smell like a mix of essential oils, they’re incredibly sophisticated and function not only as olfactive supplements, but actual luxury fragrances. In this case, the perfumer for Mind Energy is Stephen Nilsen, who has formulated for luxury perfume brands like Bond No.9, and Commodity. And the research comes from the Brain and Behaviour Lab at the University of Geneva that did a study of ingredient notes that activated mental energy, and stimulated the brain. A fragrance that makes your mind function better, sounds good, right? So how does it feel and perform in real life?
The first time I sprayed Mind Energy in its inviting ruby-red bottle, I immediately thought “what does this remind me of?!” And my answer is a mix of childhood happiness, summer fruits, and bubbly beverages. Here is Mind Energy’s note composition:
Top notes: coriander seed, juniper, and pink peppercorn Middle notes: clary sage, spearmint, peppermint, geranium, and clove leaf Base note: cedarwood
I find the inclusion of uplifting coriander seed, soothing clary sage, and intoxicating clove leaf so beautiful and nuanced. I would describe Mind Energy as bright, fresh, enlivening, yet grounding, warm, and inviting. Think of Mind Energy as that instant zest that would totally refresh you and your senses on a long-haul international flight, that spray that just absolutely wakes you up and brightens the cabin, yet is comforting and soothing like being wrapped in your favorite soft blanket. The opening notes are so bright, fresh, and zesty, it’s almost like smelling a just peeled citrus rind (though there isn’t a citrus ingredient), and then the incredibly fresh greens come in, and eventually it eases and lulls into a soft clovy creaminess.
The entire aromatic experience of Mind Energy is delightful, and comforting. The first time I sprayed Mind Energy was in the evening after it arrived in the mail, and I remember just enjoying it. The second time was after I took a mid-day walk, and I really felt the functionality of Mind Energy kick in. All of a sudden, things just felt clearer and more open, like somehow a light that had been off was switched on. While I didn’t feel that I was in a mental fog, after spraying Mind Energy, I suddenly felt more awake and proactive. And while these feelings may differ with use and from person to person, the connection in how an application of this fragrance made this change was undeniable.
I recommend Mind Energy to fulfill self-care needs whether as a functional boost, or a nice treat yourself moment. Especially as we head into overcast, stay-inside weather, I think this burst of Mind Energy is the perfect antidote for mental fog. And because I work with Garçon’s World who have a great relationship with The Nue Co, we have an exclusive reader perk for 25% off all full-sized The Nue Co. Fragrances until end of month (October 31st) with the code GARCONME25.
If you want a quick run through the their fragrances, keep reading:
Functional Fragrance is the OG, and has been one of my favorite fragrances. Especially with winter approaching, I’m looking forward to using this cozy, and warm fragrance more. Functionally, it’s designed to target stress, which is one of the three big issues. It’s formulated by master perfumer Frank Voekl who is also the nose behind Glossier’s You, and most of the Le Labo range (including their cult Santal 33). I really consider this The Nue Co’s pièce de résistance, and one of the jewel products I’ve encountered.
Forest Lungs is the jungle green fragrance, designed to bring the outside in. It came out at the perfect time when we were all working from home, and staying in. The science here is to bottle the molecules that drive the calmness and happiness we derive from being in nature, called phytoncides, for stay-at-homers, and urben dwellers. This of this as Forest Bathing in a sophisticated fragrance.
Mind Energy is of course the newest fragrance that I just wrote about. It sits nicely in the collection, by focusing on the mental wellness aspect. I find it to be more energizing, and engaging. On a pure fragrance level, it also feels more youthful, with wear time sitting nicely between Functional Fragrance and Forest Lungs.
All of the fragrances from The Nue Co. use real plant ingredients, in very high concentrations, alongside scientific molecules that are derived to achieve their performance. As such, they tend to be lighter than most perfumes which is a good thing in my book. I find that lots of perfumes, even ones sold by “clean beauty retailers” can feel cloying and overbearing, but The Nue Co. generally sticks the landing in delivering effective, yet gentle fragrances. My recommendation is that if you haven’t tried any fragrances from The Nue Co. you absolutely have to get Functional Fragrance, and then I just really think Mind Energy should be experienced because it’s so different, but equally impressive.
There are only a few days left until the end of the month, so do remember to use the code GARCONME25 to get 25% off any and all full-sized fragrances from The Nue Co.
As I’ve gotten older, my attitude toward beauty products has become more no-nonsense. Gone are the days where a magical origin story will cast a spell on me, “oh this mask was harvested by mermaids and mixed with unicorn tears, cool cool, but what will it do for me?” I call it my Janet Jackson ‘What have you done for me lately’ approach to beauty products. And I recently realized while examining my beauty purchases, that without realizing, I had become a total Shiseido sunscreen convert. So given that sunscreen recommendations are the most frequent questions I get in my email and DMs, I felt it was only fair to share how I too became a Shiseido sunscreen devotee.
For a few years, I had been happy with the green, clean Zinc Oxide “mineral” sunblocks. But my dermatologist told me that although Zinc Oxide works, its lab performance is hard to replicate in real world scenarios. Zinc Oxide, being a physical blocker, needs to be evenly applied and remain on the skin to be useful, and any missed spots are not protected. More importantly, he explained that a physical blocker like Zinc Oxide is prone to movement and hence displacement is likely to occur with the faintest thing including a gust of wind, hair getting on our face, accidental brushing on the skin, what have you. Added onto that is the fact that many of the clean and green sunblocks also don’t use ingredients such as silicones, which are commonly used in non-green mineral sunscreens to help the formula stay in place. So I decided to try something fully dermatologist approved, which meant a full dive into La Roche-Posay’s chemical sunscreens. And long story short, they’re a more forgiving lighter texture, but often make my skin look shiny, and would ALWAYS sting my eyes.
Out of good options between reliability and agreeability, I remembered the iconic blue Shiseido bottles of sunscreen that my fabulous Asian friends from college would ALWAYS have in their bag. Then I did some research. From just reading about the products, it was hard to decipher if Asian sunscreens would be better than the US/EU standard, because their ingredients seemed similar. But I also know that Asian skincare is meticulous, and so focused on sun protection. A population that large couldn’t be wrong. I finally bit the bullet when I happened upon a Macy’s sale and spotted the Shiseido Urban Environment SPF 42 on sale, and given that it appeared to be a gentler version of their classic blue bottle sunscreen, it was the perfect product to try in their sunscreen range. Suffice it to say, it worked out, and led me to try more of the range. Here’s my breakdown on how these three products worked for me, and my thoughts/recommendations.
Actives: OCTINOXATE 4.9%, OCTOCRYLENE 3%, AND ZINC OXIDE 12.5%
Who it’s for: I think this is the best option for anyone with any hesitations or concerns that non-green sunscreens might be irritating, as well as those with complexions that can get oily or grimy by the afternoon. This is the “ultra light” sunscreen in the Shiseido range, and some actives also help to balance over-active sebum. This milky sunscreen is oil-free, and while I’m not oil-phobic (hi face oils!), I feel that this is a worthwhile feature since many chemical sunscreens make my skin look oily. This does not, my skin looks very natural. And since it does also contain a 12.5% Zinc Oxide, you’ll also get a nice bit of pore blurring, oil absorbing benefit, while the overall milky fluid texture and two chemical sunscreens ensure you get more breathable, proper, even coverage.
Additional benefits: I like the Urban Environment approach which is targeted to address three factors that cause urban skin aging: UV rays, daily environmental aggressors, and over-production of sebum (sweat/grime in NYC). This also has plant extracts like Paeonia Albiflora Root Extract which actively helps reduce the look of visible pores, and Scutellaria Baicalensis Extract, an antioxidant-rich herb to help protect the skin against daily aggressors, which produced noticeable results as my skin really did look better when I was using this.
Performance: The milky fluid texture of this sunscreen is wonderful, it truly is feather weight, yet works like a skin milk that dry skin will enjoy as well. It is lightly fragranced in that subtle Japanese beauty product way that I prefer to European cosmetics. This sunscreen has 40 minutes of water resistance which is important to me because it means that it can withstand some sweat, and rain. Additionally, it rinses off easily at the end of the day with a gentle cleanser.
Who it’s not for: As the first product that I tried from the Shiseido range, this just made me curious about the other products. But in hindsight, I really do think this is quite close to perfection. There aren’t too many chemical actives in the sunscreen (just two), so chances are that you won’t get the eye stinging or irritation, the performance is reliable with many great considerations for city-living, and it actually makes my skin look and feel good. The only case where I might recommend another product over this is if you just absolutely need the highest SPF level, or you plan to be in the water for a few hours in which case Shiseido’s other two offerings are both SPF 50+ and have 80 minutes of water resistance.
Who it’s for: This is the classic blue bottle Shiseido that is obviously meant for most people. That is important to note because it generally means most research money was spent getting this right, and it’s the core formula for the entire range. If you don’t actually experience any irritation from chemical sunscreens, there is no reason you shouldn’t try this first given it has better sun protection performance at SPF 50+ and provides 80 minutes of water resistance.
Additional benefits: Instead of plant extracts like you’d find in Urban Environment SPF42, this formula is geared with technology like WetForce Technology and HeatForce Technology which sense areas of moisture and heat to form a stronger barrier. So it performs under pressure. Very cool.
Performance: This is also a milky texture, ever so slightly heavier than Urban Environment SPF42, but still fluid and silky. This does make my skin look a little bit oily, although not as much as La Roche Posay or Avene, so I didn’t love it, but it wasn’t quite as noticeable either. Not a deal breaker for me. The sunscreen has 80 minutes of water resistance, but rinsed off as easily as Urban Environment.
Who it’s not for: If you’re sensitive to chemical sunscreens, just take note of the actives in this one to see if it uses any of the sunscreens you have a sensitivity to. It’s also important to look at concentration because for me, the active that stings my eyes is Oxybenzone (used in many Western formulas, but thankfully not used in any Shiseido sunscreen products), and Avobenzone, which is used in slightly higher concentrations in Western formulas. And although this formula has 2.3% Avobenzone, it isn’t a problem for me unless I apply my sunscreen really heavily right around my brow line, and happen to sweat a lot later in the day. Otherwise, I rarely had issues with stinging, and found this to be quite agreeable as well as a reliable top performer that never left me worried about sun exposure.
Actives: Zinc Oxide, Octinoxate, Octocrylene, Titanium Dioxide, Uvinul A Plus and Tinosorb S Aqua
Who it’s for: Where do I start with this one? Firstly Anessa is Shiseido’s Japanese SPF-focused line. Second, this is not technically supposed to be in the US market because it uses more modern SPF actives like Uvinal A Plus and Tinosorb S Aqua which the FDA does not recognize since they have not updated their list of recognized SPF actives since the 1990s. So you have to get it from Amazon as a Japanese import. But the product itself is good, in fact, it’s more advanced than what you’ll otherwise get from any retailer that is selling sunscreen in the US. With that said, since it’s not officially sold in the US, details are hard to come by as there aren’t English product descriptions. So I can’t confirm things like what the actual water resistance time is, though I think it should be around 80 minutes.
This is a wonderful product if you’re willing to be a bit adventurous because the SPF actives are beyond what the US is ready for. You’ll be living in the future.
Additional benefits: I’m not too sure because again, everything is in Japanese. I know there is peony extract which has high antioxidant activity and protects against UV.
Performance: Milky texture as well. The mild version that I’ve linked above is basically unscented, and feels very light and lovely. Texture-wise, this might be tied with the Urban Environment sunscreen for wearability and comfort. It doesn’t take care of sheen/oiliness like the Urban Environment, but it is very neutral in this respect so my skin still looks nice. I notice that it does take a little more to fully rinse off, but it’s nothing that is too stubborn. Being a Japanese sunscreen, I appreciate that it also has a PA++++ rating which we don’t provide in the US. This denotes the protection grade of UVA, as SPF generally is a measure of only UVB radiation. Four plus marks mean “Extremely High UVA Protection.” However it’s worth noting that US sunscreens generally have UVA protection, it’s just that we don’t list them individually on the product.
Who it’s not for: Since there is no official market availability in the US, it’s a bit of a risk-reward to purchase from Amazon because the vendor changes frequently, and it’s sometimes difficult to tell if you’re getting a different version, etc. I went through six different product pages, to land at a reliable product page (linked above) sold directly from Shiseido Japan and confirmed as the mild/unscented version. If you don’t want that hassle, you have two good options from Shiseido that can be purchased in the US (above).
Final Thoughts: I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of these options. The safest bet in my opinion is Shiseido Urban Environmental SPF 42, which is a nice mix of performance and real world considerations for sensitive skin in city-life. If you’re looking for the most advanced formula, and don’t mind something not fully in sync with outdated US sunscreen standards, go full JBeauty with their Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Milk SPF 50/PA+++, which I feel provides performance with good ingredients, and without the limitations of US sunscreens primarily as related to potential irritation. Of course the tried and true Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion SPF 50, is the most tested for those looking for a reliable workhouse that happens to outclass similar US counterparts with a more silky feel, and nicer on-skin performance.
Remember when we collectively shared the hope that 2021 would be a wind down from the absolute dumpster fire of 2020? Well, it feels a little bit one step forward, two steps back. Lately, between getting our new place renovated, and everything else going on, it feels like every day has been handling Murphy’s Law which posits that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
So when I found out a month ago that The Nue Co. was releasing a supplement that dealt directly with stress, I was dialed in. Enter The Nue Co.’s latest release, Destress 360, an ingestible in capsule form that helps to deal with stress, and anxiety with a slew of adaptogens, nootropics, and cortisol balancing extracts. What makes the formula impactful is that it uses ingredients clinically proven to reduce everyday stress and anxiety, supporting the functions depleted by continual high stress: immunity, muscle pain, libido, sleep and focus.
From the outset I didn’t really doubt if Destress 360 would be effective, because the other releases from The Nue Co had worked so well for me. But, I didn’t know HOW it would work, or if I would even notice. I suppose I was already in my head about how to even share experiences when talking about something as intangible as stress.
Let’s just start with the basics of my experience. Destress 360 comes in a jar of 60 capsules, and you’re instructed to take 2 a day in the morning. As I’m on the conservative side with ingestible supplements, I actually started with just 1 capsule for the first three days to get a feel for it.
The capsule was easy to swallow, with no after-taste. Nor did it cause any digestive upset which some pills can cause. I didn’t feel any immediate reaction, which is good. You won’t and shouldn’t expect to feel buzzed or numbed out, as this is all about functionally dealing with stress. With that said, I did wonder how I would be able to tell if it’s working.
Then my day happened. It just so happened that through the day, Murphy’s Law took place with our home renovation, my bank alerting me that my credit card information was stolen, and freelance writing jobs that fell through. And as these things happened I didn’t feel like “oh I took a pill, and can totally handle things!” Shitty situations still feel shitty, no pill can fix that, nor should they. But what I overwhelmingly noticed was an urge to take a nap. I can’t fully explain it. I didn’t feel drowsy, but I just felt that instead of an adrenal/Fight or Flight response, I was more… “let’s step out for a minute.” Which I ended up doing. I took a nice 30 minute nap, which is a rare occurrence, and it was so restful and restorative. I woke up feeling like “okay time to sort everything out!”
By day 2-3, I noticed that the anxiety pains that I sometimes feel in the pit of my stomach subsided entirely. I’m going to be honest and maybe over share a little about why this is important to me. I know in this day and age, we all talk about being over stressed. In fact The Nue Co’s research indicates that stress is the key issue facing most people today. But for me, it’s an issue I’ve actually sought help for, starting in college when I saw a therapist for weekly visits to deal with my anxiety attacks. These attacks would get really bad when I’d have multiple coinciding deadlines for papers, midterms, interviews, that I’d feel short of breath, break into a cold sweat, and have an elevated heart beat. And they always started with that feeling at the pit of my stomach.
I have never taken anything to help handle this, and while there have been supplements meant to handle stress, I really wanted to be responsible with how I was handling my stress. Did I feel Destress 360 helped me with stress? Absolutely. I just know that in my case, it made me feel more in control of my stress, to not let it consume me. And I know… what if it’s placebo? Well, the formula does check out. Here’s what is in it:
Vitamin C & Zinc – works together to stop stress, and build the immune system while supporting the adrenal glands Magnesium – Promotes relaxation and ease Ashwagandha – adaptogen to help the body adjust to stress and anxiety, clinically shown to decrease cortisol, and inflammatory serum CRP L-Theanine – a calming active derived from green tea that helps mental function, in particular creating beneficial alpha brain waves that help creativity, relaxation, and decreased anxiety Licorice Root – levels abnormal increases in cortisol (a stress hormone), and assists with adrenal fatigue Passionflower Extract – used for anxiety, and widely used as a calming agent prior to surgery. Used as treatment for insomnia, and stress. Pine Bark Extract – a known anxiety and stress relief supplement particularly because it’s rich in beneficial minerals like magnesium and iron that can counter fatigue.
I really wanted to write down these ingredients individually because I feel they’re so well put together. Every ingredient is meaningful, and contributes in different yet cohesive ways to support the body through stress, hence why the supplement is called a ‘Total Body Stress Support.’ Not only is the formula impactful, but just as important, The Nue Co uses a safe approach, primarily through plant-based yet scientifically-backed ingredients that won’t create side effects, or dependency. I currently take Destress 360 on days where I feel that the extra support would be nice (hello, Mondays! And mid-week slumps), and it has been a welcomed addition.
Now a major part of stress is how it can affect rest and sleep, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to overcome. This is something I’m super aware of because my parents both have difficulty with sleep, and as I get older, I have noticed my quality of sleep has gone down. As you might know from when I shared in previous posts, I have been taking The Nue Co’s Sleep Drops. And I wanted to include my thoughts in this review because I think the pairing of Destress 360 in the morning, and Sleep Drops in the evening are perfect for gentle starts to the day that stay with you throughout, and a peaceful evening.
With Sleep Drops, I noticed immediate improvement to my sleep quality from first use. Sleep Drops are dispensed via a dropper, and I take about 3/4 of the dispenser under my tongue then swallow. It is a brown liquid that tastes herbal (from the tinctures) and sweet (not from sugar, but from the vegetable glycerin). It’s not like a drowsiness inducing sleep aid, instead it is non-habit forming and simply helps to prepare the system for sleep.
I usually feel that peaceful readiness for sleep within 15 minutes of taking Sleep Drops. The first time I took it, I slept a full 8 hours without any interruption through the night. And every time I’ve taken it since, it’s been better sleep than nights that I don’t take it. Every. Single. Time. I KNOW this stuff works. And I had been using a CBD sleep drop prior that I thought was good, but comparably it is twice the price, and does not come close to achieving the results that this does.
The formula for Sleep Drops is primarily plant-based, and include:
Valerian Root Tincture: has proven sedative effects, studies show it reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the duration of deep, restful sleep Catnip Tincture: a mild sedative that is used in medical practices for insomnia and nervous exhaustion, works together with valerian root for best results German Chamomile Flower Tincture: reduces insomnia, eases anxiety, promotes more restful sleep Passionflower Tincture: improves sleep quality, unwinds anxiety, ideal for rest and tranquility
It’s clear why I pair Sleep Drops with Destress 360. The formulas are very complimentary to each other, and overall provide better comprehensive management of stress, reduced anxiety, better rest, and improved sleep quality using safe, yet effective plant-based actives. And the ingredients are kept concise so as to remain easily manageable for the body. Destress 360 manages all the things that happen during the day, making sure that stress does not disrupt the body, while Sleep Drops helps to just set the body for a peaceful, unwinded evening so it gets better beauty sleep. If I had to choose one, I think Destress 360 is perhaps more comprehensive, and impactful as it will no doubt help with better sleep as well in the evening. Plus, it’s an easy to swallow capsule, as opposed to an herbal tincture, which I know might not be to everyone’s taste. However, Sleep Drops retail for just $30, and will last me a long time so it’s a good value for what it can add to de-stress and resting that it’s sort of a no-brainer for me to have both in my routine.
Overall, each product has individually been very impactful to me. Together, Destress 360 during the day and Sleep Drops at night form my favorite system for day and night to target stress and anxiety. I think the formulas are well-done, and the results are gentle yet effective, and noticeable from the start. I know that in these times, stress and sleep are intertwined, and it’s no surprise that they’re both major issues right now for so many. You all know that I work with Garçon’s World, who have a terrific relationship with The Nue Co, so I an happy to share an exclusive offer for 30% off Destress 360 (normally retails for $55) when you use the code GWDS30. It will end on July 31st, so do be prompt if you want to get this for 30% off.
I didn’t plan to make a post on sales, but then it seemed that before I knew it, my inbox was flooded by incoming sale alerts. So forgive me if this sales guide isn’t as comprehensive as ones I’ve done in the past, but I thought I’d share some that I am shopping!
Violet Grey: 20% Off – Automatically Applied
I have to start this short list off with Violet Grey because they’re actually what prompted me to take a gander and decide to partake in a few sales for Memorial Day Weekend. 20% Off is special when it comes to Violet Grey for two reasons. The first is that Violet Grey does maybe 2 sales of this level a year (if you skip this one, you’ll probably have to wait until Black Friday). The second is that the Violet Grey curation typically features high-end brands that are harder to find on discount, making it really valuable if you were saving up for a splurge or investment product. Here’s what I have added to my shopping cart:
Victoria Beckham by Augustinus Bader Cell Rejuvenating Power Serum – Augustinus Bader is just about every beauty editor’s favorite thing, and their original moisturizer – The Cream – even landed as one of the Best Skincare Products of All Time from WWD. The only thing keeping me back from trying them? They are quite an investment. Add their lauded collaboration with Victoria Beckham, and we’re definitely talking about creme de la creme. But if there is anything I’m going to splurge on during a 20% off, it’s going to be their most exclusive which I know won’t be available for this price anywhere else. And I could ALWAYS use a good serum, so this seems like the perfect opportunity to test out the “Cell Rejuvenating Power Serum” which contains the highest concentrations of the Augustinus Bader patented ‘secret sauce’ in all of their products that works by supporting the skin’s own ability to fix itself. Also the bottle is pretty, and looks unlike anything else I own.
Vintner’s Daughter Active Treatment Essence – Vintner’s Daughter products are priced a pretty penny. And, they’re sticklers about never being on discount. You’ve probably seen those email blasts by retailers talking about store-wide discounts, and the fine print typically includes an exclusion on Vintner’s Daughter. But Violet Grey is the only place that seems to be exempt from this, so when they have a sale, it’s the only time and place you’ll land a Vintner’s Daughter product off retail price, and 20% at that for this sale. Obviously we all know Vintner’s Daughter has built the reputation they’ve built on being cultish and celebrity-driven. But Active Treatment Essence does seem like such a more complex formula than their initial face oil – Active Botanical Serum – that I had wanted to try it for ages, but never pulled the trigger because the regular price of $225 just felt too high, but getting it for 20% off does change things. Also the Essence sounds ideal for summer, and would layer really nicely with the serum I’m also getting from above.
Hanacure All-in-one Starter Kit – I feel like we’ve all seen their Instagram ads, and the photos of celebrities like Drew Barrymore using this mask that makes you look old and wrinkly as it works, and then once you wash off, is supposed to be the most amazing thing ever. The formula comes from South Korea, and you need to mix in the ampoules with formula using a brush (that is included) which all feels very… science adventure. Plus, it’s only $29 regular price, so yeah adding to cart.
Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Blush Stick in Petal – I’ve had my eye on Westman Atelier since they launched. And at $48 for the blush at regular price, their price point is actually quite more accessible than I imagined. Their packaging is in a very chic stick format that would travel easily, won’t scratch, and is convenient for reapplication, and the formula is on par with anything you’ll find in green beauty makeup so getting it for 20% is making me really excited. I chose their blush as my first product because I feel like that’s really hard to get wrong since it’s such a versatile product, and I chose the Petal color because it’s their top selling that is said to work for the most skin tones.
Okay, so I’ve written about The Nue Co quite a bit recently, my last post was on their recently launched skincare system, and prior to that, I had talked about their Functional Fragrance in my Bedside Wellness Routine. Their recent launches clearly struck a chord with me. I just find The Nue Co’s approach to supplement really intelligent by diversifying into the way we can supplement through fragrance and skincare. And the formulas are so sophisticated, and well done. That’s not to say their ingestible supplement are lacking, I’ve just started Sleep Drops, and although I’d like to test it a while longer before writing a full review, it’s something that is making a positive impact to my sleep quality. Here’s what I’m getting from their Memorial Day sale:
Functional Fragrance: What can I say? It’s my favorite fragrance, and the one I wear most frequently. It doesn’t overwhelm my sensitive nose, and unlike probably 98% of fragrances out there, it doesn’t feel suffocating after a few hours where I instinctively want to wash it off. The anti-stress benefits are genuine, and feels very calming and grounding, but even without it, the fragrance is something that can be worn just because it smells so damn good.
Barrier Culture Moisturizer: If you read my write up on The Nue Co’s entire skincare system, you’ll know that I really liked all three products (Cleanser, Toner/Serum, Moisturizer). However, I’ve found myself most concerned with running out of the moisturizer, despite the fact that it should still last me a while. This shows perhaps how much I’ve come to enjoy it, that I’m already in that state of making sure I’m not going to run out. The moisturizer is a super-light, delicate gel-cream that absorbs so quickly, is never greasy at all, yet always leaves my skin perfectly happy. I don’t think I’ll be using other moisturizers this summer, so I’m definitely stocking up on this.
Magnesium Ease: This will be a new-to-me product from The Nue Co. I’ve had my eye on it for a while because the idea of a topical magnesium supplement is really compelling, and I also thought this could deliver some additional benefits as a face mist. This spray is supposed to help with stress and sleep, which would pair well with the current Nue Co products that I have (their Functional Fragrance Anti-Stress supplement, and Sleep Drops). It seems like this is a great boost up product that can tie everything together.
I’m working on getting a detailed review on some Naturium products I’ve used over the past couple of months. In the meantime, here’s what I’ll say: the formulas are good, they’re like a modern lovechild between Paula’s Choice and Drunk Elephant, and their price points are at a surprising halfway point between the aforementioned brands and budget brands like The Ordinary. Here are the products I’m getting:
Retinol Complex Serum – The two things I always have in my skincare are sunscreen and retinol. So I’m always looking for good, reliable retinols that are scientifically backed. The reason I like this one is because it uses photostable, encapsulated retinol, AND bakuchiol, and costs just $20 regular price. If you can find something that works, is made well, and the price is more than justified — stock up.
Multi-peptide Eye Cream – I know not everyone believes in eye cream, some people say you can just use moisturizer. But I just feel like I need that extra oomph. And this is the perfectly textured soft cream, and it contains three types of peptides, all for $16 – again, at regular price. It does replicate the performance I get with some $60-$80 eye creams.
I also know that The Detox Market is having a Memorial Day Sale as well (10% off $100 code DETOX10, and 15% when your order is $150+, code DETOX15). However, with the above, I’m pretty set, but I thought I’d mention this for anyone else who might be interested since they do carry a very wide range of green beauty products.
Hopefully this was as helpful as my previous sales guides, leave a comment if I missed anything or if you have your eyes on anything to take home from this weekends sales!
Okay, so technically The Nue Co did not just introduce a full 3-step system: one product, The Pill, was released a few months ago, but the recent launch of their Barrier Culture duo of the cleanser and moisturizer, completes a very streamlined, and cohesive 3-step routine. Also, I’m not entirely sure if supplement brand The Nue Co would even frame their 3-step skincare system as skincare, as all the verbiage on the products categorizes them as “topical skin supplements,” an approach I like, but for real-world use, this system is functionally a 3-step skincare routine.
One of the chief reasons The Nue Co’s new releases and overall skincare system appealed to me is their approach to skin through a supplemental approach and their focus on supporting the skin barrier for skin health. With the rise in advocacy of isolated active ingredients like acids, vitamin C, and retinols, we have seen increases in skin damage and overall sensitivity. There are so many influencers who aggressively hopped onto the acid toning train who then had to take time off from beauty blogging because they had messed up their skin. The Nue Co’s focus on not only gentle solutions (all products are fragrance-free, no added coloring, with clean formulas that don’t have ingredients that don’t need to be there), but on actual barrier support is a timely and necessary take, and I like the direction they’re taking the conversation on skin health. Besides barrier support being equated to healthier skin, barrier supporting products also help keep the skin protected and managed from what The Nue Co estimates can amount up to 90% of skin issues including environmental pollution, and UV damage.
I’ve covered The Pill in a previous post. But just a quick refresher: The Pill is the toner/serum step in one with a very gentle but effective acid complex, vitamins, and KBeauty inspired botanicals that aim to tackle the three common skin areas: exfoliation, hydration, and anti-inflammation. It fits perfectly as step 2 of this 3-step system. So let’s look at the two new products that make up the Barrier Culture: the cleanser and the moisturizer.
The Nue Co Barrier Culture Cleanser is a very calming gel textured cleanser that aims to repair the skin barrier, and it contains pre-biotics, pro-biotics, and postbiotics, which are renowned for their support of the microbiome. This cleanser offers deep cleansing, and is “anti-stripping” as it contains no alcohol, soap, or sulfates. Firstly, Barrier Culture Cleanser reminds me of a cross between the Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser and Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser (which might be my favorite skincare product from Glossier), both cult cleansers that are renowned for being gentle and pretty much agreeable for all skin types. The Nue Co’s Barrier Culture Cleanser is just as gentle, forming no foam at all, instead just forming a nice slip around the skin that makes it feel clean, but assuredly not stripped. Something interesting I noticed is how well it removed the sunscreen and overall buildup that even some more powerful feeling foamy cleansers would often miss. This cleanser gets that residue every single time without fail, almost like it just collects it and just easily rinses off. It just seems to go deeper than normal cleansers without feeling any aggressiveness at all.
I’m super impressed by this efficacy. Not only do the pre-pro-post biotics help the skin barrier and microbiome, the formula is also pH-balanced, and free of the aforementioned alcohols/soaps/sulfates. I also have to say, the bottle and pump are quite generously sized and just feel super nice. I feel like it can easily last a few months, which is good because I felt that my skin improved as I kept using this which is a sure sign that it is in fact improving my skin’s microbiome and skin barrier. I have been so impressed at how much this gets, how it performs as a first AND second cleanse without ever leaving my skin feeling stripped. It’s worked really well and reliably as my only cleansing step.
The Nue Co Barrier Culture Moisturizer is a dream because it’s exactly the type of moisturizer I was looking for after falling love with their toner/serum, The Pill. The Pill just does so much, that the last thing I wanted as a follow-up was a heavy moisturizer that might take it off, move it around, or smother its performance. Yet my skin still does better with something after that serum step to keep tightness and dryness at bay. Barrier Culture Moisturizer is a light, breathable gel-cream that is beyond soft. All moisturizers are a balancing act between thicker occlusion and actual hydration, and this leans more on the hydration side while still giving just the right bit of occlusion that gives skin just enough support without impairing serums or feeling weighed down. I really feel that The Nue Co spent a lot of time getting the texture of this just right. Similar to the cleanser, Barrier Culture Moisturizer also contains microbiome/barrier supporting pre-pro-post biotics. However, there’s more, this moisturizer also contains ceramides, niacinamide, squalane, peptides, and soothing plant extracts like calendula, cica, and chamomile that help moisturize, repair, and rebuild.
While writing this review, I realized: Barrier Culture Moisturizer might be my current favorite moisturizer, and the fact that it’s in a pump (super hygienic, and shows it indeed has a lighter texture) earns it bonus points. While the formula also doesn’t contain added fragrance, there is a faint smell of the natural mix of calendula, cica and chamomile that most will not pick up unless they have a really heightened sense of smell. If you don’t like fragrance, this should not be concerning as it’s super light (on a scale from 0-10, with 10 being a Caudalie face mist and 0 being Cetaphil’s cleanser, this is a 0.2-0.3), but if you are able to pick up on this super subtle scent, it feels pretty nice even though it disappears quickly. Performance-wise, although the Barrier Culture Moisturizer is light and quick absorbing, being more of a gel than a cream, it is sufficient and the perfect weight in my book for anyone who just wants that ideal hit of support without overweighing their skin or competing with their serums. If you’re like me, and use (sometimes multiple) serums, then you know that those serums/oils tend to work best with a moisturizer that… lets them live, if that makes sense. This is that perfect option that leaves my skin happy, never feeling tight or dry, while also never causing congestion or greasiness. Barrier Culture Moisturizer creates the perfect naked rested skin complexion, and delivers a gel-cream that is hands down the perfect texture and feel.
I really like The Nue Co’s approach to their skincare, or topical skin supplements. The products are multifaceted, and focus on the holistic health of the skin. The products themselves worked well, and delivered on all fronts, functioning superbly as a cleanser and as a moisturizer, respectively, with gentle, barrier supporting performance being key. My skin felt calm, soothed, and relaxed. They’re super easy to integrate, and there isn’t a learning curve because the products are made for simplicity and versatility. I especially like to do the full Nue Co routine on alternate days from when I use things like acids or retinols, where I’m giving my skin a break, but also want to make sure I’m helping my skin be healthy and repairing/healing it well.
All three products are designed to work in a streamlined system, with the Barrier Culture duo shown to address over 90% of skin issues on their own. So I definitely like following through this system in its entirety. However, even without a full routine from The Nue Co, each selection works really well in its own right. As a contributor on Garçon’s World, I do have a pretty massive 30% off discount code for you if you do make a purchase from The Nue Co. Just use the code: BC30GARCONS. I’m not entirely sure when the coupon expiresThe coupon was set to expire end of the weekend, but The Nue Co saw the response and decided to extend it to the end of month April 30th!
Lately I’ve been centering my routine around restfulness and peacefulness. It feels like a lot of the uneasy energy from 2020 hasn’t quite dissipated, so I’m being more mindful in my routines to look at how I can promote a more conducive environment to unwind. My bedside is a place I spent some time editing. I first removed any gadgets that might blink their lights in the middle of the night. Then I reduced clutter until I just had a purposeful yet thoughtful selection of bedside essentials.
Skincare: Retinol, PM Serum, and Eye Mask
Let’s start with skincare! My PM routine is where I like to apply powerful products that can work on my skin overnight. Apparently night time is the best time for skin healing and repair, so reserved for this time is my current retinol of choice, the reintroduction of a holy grail PM serum, and gel eye patches which have become my new nighttime addiction.
African Botanics Retinal Night Cream: I love African Botanics, and tend to have at least 2-3 products from them in my skincare rotation at any time. Many of you know I’ve been on a kick for high-performance retinols, and I knew that African Botanics Retinal Night Cream would not disappoint. Although called a ‘night cream,’ it really works as a retinol serum rather than as a moisturizer. It is described as an “ultra-strength Vitamin A,” and contains actual retinol in the form of 0.1% encapsulated retinaldehyde. Retinaldehyde only needs one conversion in the skin to retinoic acid, the active retinol, whereas traditional retinol needs two. This means faster and more effective results with less chance of redness and irritation. Further, because African Botanics is known to provide a buffet of beautiful actives, the Retinal Night Cream also contains Vitamin C, Peptides, Niacinimide, CoQ10 — all superstars in the skincare world in their own right, along with signature African Botanics oils like Marula, and Kalahari Melon oil that help to keep skin moisturized and soothed, especially from the effects of retinol.
I initially wondered if the powerful combination of actives might be too much for my skin, as Retinol, Vitamin C, Niacinimide are each active in their own right, though they’re also known to work well together. I was pleased to find that the formula, while impactful, did not cause irritation; it is totally a case of high performance with little to no down time (no redness, nor stinging). The light yellowish cream absorbs quickly and because it is feeding my skin so many great ingredients, I don’t really feel the need for face oils or other serums. I also like to have the retinol serums work more on their own any way for full impact. Unlike other African Botanics products that have the luxurious fragrance, this is fragrance-free because it is obvious that they just wanted to focus on the performance. It is still a luxurious feeling cream with amazing ingredients and results, but it’s clear that everything in this formula is made to make it a full-on performance beast. I currently use it every other night in my routine, not because it is sensitizing, but because I like to rotate my retinol for best results and give my skin an overall offering of diversified actives. On the other nights, I use…
YULI Cell Perfecto PM: My initial post about this product still remains my most read blog post (remember when I started back in the days on Tumblr?). Cell Perfecto PM will always reserve an indelible place in my skincare holy grail tier of products because it made such a significant impact on my skin, there is a line in my skincare history defined as pre-Cell Perfecto PM and post-Cell Perfecto PM. I had tried every product for acne scars but none come close to this in delivering such meaningful improvement, to a degree that I did not expect from a skincare product. I no longer need this as much because my skin has improved, which is really the best testament — but I still like the benefits that I get from this corrective serum. Even without apparent acne scars, I find that Cell Perfecto PM helps with areas of my skin that appear a blotchy or uneven, like a real life Photoshop airbrush tool.
If you’re familiar with the YULI approach, you’ll know they make the most advanced custom formulas with tailor-made, cutting-edge actives. I think what makes them standout next to super high performance lines is their approach which goes beyond putting in the standard actives. There is a whole lot of thought behind how the actives should be working, so you’ll see really interesting use of ingredients and unique formulas meant to almost reinvent the approach. The ingredients in Cell Perfecto PM for instance contains complexion actives like Vitamin C (in the potent THC form), Bearberry, and Liquorice, which brighten skin and repel accumulation of melanin; then there are unexpected highlights like Reishi, Pine Lignin, and Gotu Kola, which help with skin repair and healing from damage; where your head might start to spin is upon seeing their exclusives that go beyond anything in the market like their Sea Minerals and Renew Minerals Complex (a lot of science here but what you need to know is they have a mineral technology using actives like zinc that lock onto damaged tissues, primary scar tissue, to correct and rehabilitate them), along with L-Arginine, an amino acid that shortens healing time and repairs damaged collagen structures (scar tissue), and L-gluconic Acid which controls keratinization processes (most acne scars have improper keratinization) and restores damaged skin. This formula is super power-packed, and my skin often looks brighter and more even by the next morning. Also, speaking of nighttime, the formula is not photo-sensitizing, but is a PM serum because the formula works in synergy with the skin’s rejuvenation system that works mostly as we sleep helping to overturn skin damage and deliver those transformative results. Hands down, game-changing night worker.
Patchology Flashpatch Restoring Night Eye Gels: I’m at the age where an eye cream is a non-negotiable, and I’ve come to accept that. However, what I’m noticing is that there are times when I just feel like something more is necessary. And that is when I reach for these convenient eye gels from Patchology that seem to be made for exactly this situation. The eye gels are naturally very occlusive and provide a natural boost to the thin, delicate skin around the eyes. Besides a direct infusion of needed moisture to the tired and more frail under-eye area (one of the only places on the face that doesn’t produce its own sebum), these eye gels also contain power actives like Retinol and Peptides to help with cell turnover, fine lines, wrinkles at night; and Pine Leaf Extract and Purslane which are powerful antioxidants and can help reduce dark circles. You might also recognize Purslane as the signature ingredient in all of Dr. Barbara Sturm’s astronomically priced skincare formulas, so you know this Patchology formula is legit. These gels come with a scooper for hygiene and are inside two caps to help retain their moisture. Once I put them on, they have a nice immediate cooling and moisturizing feel on the skin, and the gel starts to feel like second skin as it dries. Based on the fact that the eye gels actually thin out, I think the eyes actually absorb a lot of the gel and serum, which means its working.
I use these about 2-3 times a week as a power up for my eyes. I’ll admit to leaving them on for longer than the recommended 15 minutes. I make sure the fluid is all absorbed, pat, then wait about 2 more minutes. I notice that my eyes feel better, and creeping fine lines fade substantially and remain gone for days after. This has become a go to when I just need that extra kick in my eye routine.
Wellness: Room Spray, Pillow Spray, and Throat Spray
Besides skincare, I also like to make sure my bedroom is conducive to rest, and recovery. Lately, I’ve found that fragrance has a deep connection to wellness.
The Nue Co Functional Fragrance – Home Room Spray: I’ve been raving about The Nue Co’s Functional Fragrance, and their room spray is just as good as the personal fragrance, if not better, because it works on such a larger area as a background character, which is how I prefer fragrances to work. I think if you’re the type that doesn’t love wearing fragrance, but can appreciate their therapeutic effects, The Nue Co’s Functional Fragrance room spray will be just the thing for you. The scent is similar to the personal fragrance: warm, calming, and cozy, and the big bottle feels grand to have around. The Functional Fragrance is an “anti-stress” supplement because the scent notes are scientifically associated with lowering stress and anxiety based on studies with the Brain and Behavioral Health team from the University of Geneva.
Unlike traditional room fragrances, the Functional Fragrance leans toward more of natural fragrance formula that uses genuine plant notes to deliver the connected anti-stress results, and the formula is designed by the same perfumer behind Le Labo’s Santal 33 and Glossier’s You, so trust me, it’s exquisite. I particularly love the notes of Green Cardamom, and Cedarwood which make the room and overall atmosphere feel relaxed and “lived in.” I like to spray the Functional Fragrance throughout the day especially if I end up writing or binging a show in bed, and I always do a few sprays 3 hours before bedtime so it leaves just the right crisp dry down as we prepare for bed as a subtle atmospheric scent to promote relaxation and lift away stress.
REN Skincare & Now To Sleep Pillow Spray: While The Nue Co’s Functional Fragrance is an anti-stress fragrance that relaxes and unwinds, this spray is an actual sleep aid that does the trick in delivering beauty sleep. When it comes time to drift off and catch my zzzzz’s, I spray my pillows with REN’s & Now to Sleep Pillow Spray, which is the perfect addition to any night routine. As a fragrance with an entirely natural essential oil composition, it won’t overwhelm. The spray is not designed like a fragrance, it won’t last and is more something that will gradually subside as it lulls you into deeper sleep. That is why it’s a pillow spray, meant for closer contact for aromatherapy benefits. Although I love fragrance, I am very much sensitive to smells, so I was conservative at first, but now spray about 5 times per pillow. It smells so relaxing, with a pleasing blend of hops, lavender, and frankincense, which combine to provide a sedative quality. This helps me drift off to sleep much quicker, and with better, deeper sleep quality. Also, bottle of this will last AGES.
Biocol Something for a Cactus Throat Spray: In college I took a class on evolutionary anthropology and learned that all species have a “weak point,” and for humans, it is the neck/throat. This might explain why if I’ve been more extroverted than usual (hello Zoom gatherings!), my throat easily feels a little raw, and also why sometimes I get that dreaded “morning cold” where it feels weird or even uncomfortable to swallow. I never really thought there was anything that could be done about it, but on a whim I decided to try Biocol’s Something for a Cactus Throat Spray, a plant-based fix made to address these exact issues. The formula contains propolis, lemon, Icelandic moss, and copper. It tastes exactly how the ingredients make it sound, sort of like a liquid Ricola. Unlike a lozenge, I can immediately feel the spray take effect. Biocol’s Something for a Cactus Throat Spray is anti-inflammatory and soothes my throat, I really feel it work right away. My partner even takes a few sprays if he’s on back to back work calls and it helps his vocal stamina so he doesn’t sound hoarse. Most importantly, I use it in the mornings if I’m feeling the ‘morning cold,’ and I find that it takes care of the ‘cactus throat’ feeling each time. Biocol is a pretty quirky line that is both fun and yet highly scientific. I recommend anyone looking for functional, well made, and amusing products to check this one out, Something for a Cactus Throat Spray might also be one of my favorite product names.
Drop me a comment if you’ve used any of these products, and let me know what your bedside essentials are!
So let’s change the pace from the usual skincare dives. I wanted to answer some of the questions I’ve been getting from e-mails, and over instagram. I’ve found that the questions aren’t all necessarily beauty related, and to be honest, it’s been interesting connecting in other ways because we’re all people with full lives and it’s good to explore that together.
What was your biggest splurge in 2020?
My biggest splurge in 2020 was on renovations for an apartment that my partner and I purchased together in 2019. Progress has been slow, especially with COVID-19. We’ve been saving money as we go along to fix up what we can budget. The apartment is a beautiful space in Brooklyn with so much potential, but it hasn’t been updated in decades so everything has to be lovingly brought back to life and up-to-date.
So many things are almost prohibitively expensive, but I enjoy the couples time in scouring deals from wishlists that we’ve compiled on CB2 and Design Within Reach.
Outside of beauty, what category do you spend the most on?
Probably good food. I find that people who live in NYC get such a thrill on good ingredients at good values. Sometimes when Trader Joes gets a shipment of organic tomatoes, I’ve seen people line up out the door. I’m also not a great cook. I’m lucky that being in proximity to New York City means access to wonderful food whether it’s cheap eats or gourmet dining. There is a wonderful vibe to exploring restaurants in NYC that I’ve missed since quarantine. I loved meeting friends for lunch at new sushi places, and discovering them in a hidden basement of a skyscraper in Midtown with massive 30 ft tall ceilings and rows of rare Japanese sake, or early dinners at hole in the wall places that pack you in shoulder to shoulder with the next table that serve delicious soul food that never fails to hit the spot when the city wears you down. It’s no wonder that my partner and I both have credit cards that give bonus returns on restaurants. On that note..
I mentioned in a prior post on holiday sales about additional discounts with beauty brands/retailers by checking out through PayPal with some credit cards and some of you wanted more information..
American credit card providers have been rolling out the incentives. And as long as you responsibly pay for the charges at the end of the month, there really isn’t a reason you shouldn’t start using them strategically, as they also help to raise your credit score.
For beginners, I recommend starting with cards that do not have any annual fees, like Chase Freedom. Right now, they’re offering $200 back when you spend the first $500, which is obviously a great deal. But on top of that, the Flex and Unlimited cards both offer 5% cash back on grocery store purchases for the entire first year you use the card. The difference between the two cards is that the Freedom Flex gives you 1% cash back on every purchase, but also has rotating categories each quarter of the year where you get 5% off. During holidays, it was purchases through PayPal, which is what I recommended to help you an extra 5% off holiday sales. Right now for 2021-Q1: they’re offering 5% cash back on streaming services, internet/cable/phone bills, and wholesale clubs — so I’ve moved our home internet, Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, cell phone bills to the Flex card, and ordered some gift cards from Costco.
The Freedom Unlimited doesn’t do rotating categories, it’s a straight forward 5% cash back on travel (flights/rental cars/hotels), 3% cash back on dining (including takeout), drugstores, and 1.5% on EVERYTHING else. This is what I use for food, and for purchases where I can at least get 1.5% cash back over.. nothing. Neither cards have annual fees, so I think getting one or the other is a no-brainer.
What do you use to shoot photos for your blog?
Honestly, just my iPhone. I don’t think you need to buy top of the line cameras, and to be honest, I’ve tried shooting with those before and the pictures came out worse because there are soooooo many things I have to learn how to adjust.
What I did invest in was a nice storage drive to organize my photos (because Apple is not very generous with space on their MacBooks). It’s the Samsung SSD in 500GB that I had recommended before. The space is larger than my MacBook’s entire storage size, and it is a solid-state drive which means there are no moving parts so it’s silent, file transfers are immediate almost like it’s native (in fact, I think the Samsung SSD technology is more advanced than the storage technology in the MacBook which is also solid-state drive but an earlier version), and it’s tiny and ultra portable (you just need a USB to connect it to your computer, as it doesn’t require additional power). I’m not a huge tech person, and this is something my partner recommended because he saw that I was having a hard time deleting photos on my computer, and it has been one of my favorite purchases that I use everyday to organize and store my files. Also, it’s like.. $80.. which really isn’t a lot of money for making my MacBook more functional for a few more years.
What is your current go-to bag?
I don’t currently have a go-to because I haven’t been going out that much. I do love a gorgeous handbag, but I believe in quality over quantity, so I only have a handful, purchased on trips to Europe (way cheaper) and often to celebrate an occasion like a college graduation. However since Mansur Gavriel, I’ve been researching these new direct-to-consumer handbag brands including Senreve, and Wandler. They have really beautiful designs, fresh point of views, high quality materials, and most of the time, come in under $1,000. I just haven’t decided which one I want to get first. If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments!
I’ll end this here. If you enjoyed this type of Q & A, please let me know. It’s obviously new, but I’m open to doing a couple of non-beauty focused posts here and there going forward.
How is everyone? I didn’t know how I’d approach holidays this year with increasing restrictions in the greater NYC area, and general feelings of disconnectedness. I ended up taking this time away from being online, so please give me a bit more time if I haven’t replied to your DM/message over on Instagram. As we near the end of this tumultuous year, I did want to pop on here both as a check-in and to jot down a few items in vastly different categories that are helping me through these days of “interior life.”
Oh how I love thee. This supplement has been my tried and true for over the past year. The founder, Sarah Koszyk is a doll, and a treasure trove of knowledge (she actually served as a dietitian/nutritionist specialist at Zuckerberg General Hospital in San Francisco), and I just think they’re really pushing forward what clean supplements can do as I found the first-wave offerings from brands like Sun Potion and Moon Juice to lack a true scientific approach. As a clinically formulated one-and-done daily supplement, it has streamlined my routine significantly. The formula contains a ratio of vitamins, minerals, and otherwise necessary nutrients (Sarah Koszyk delights in discussing the formula’s digestive and immune supporting agents), using over a decade of Sarah’s clinical work as a chair of the Board of Dietetics as data points, making it one of the most scientifically-backed, comprehensive, and universal supplements out there.
And a bonus is the inclusion of adaptogens, a special class of plants that help with stress, mood, and regulating the hormones linked to sleep, anxiety, and happiness, which has been very much needed this year. Take this in the mornings, you’ll get this feeling of someone letting the sunshine in and feel good the rest of the day.
If there is anything I’ve been doing a lot of this year, it is at-home facials. Since I don’t go out I have the time to play around at home, and I barely even order food delivery so going out to see a facialist isn’t on my calendar either. I upgraded to the Trinity with attachments during holiday sales. What I didn’t foresee was all the shows I’d be binging during the holidays (favorites are The Flight Attendant, Industry, and The Crown, leave a comment if there are any others I should watch), which create the perfect downtime to do these at-home micro-current treatments.
Sometimes I just do the quick 5 minute swipes which is good for toning and maintenance since results come from consistent usage. It’s when I do the more involved 20 minute sessions that I always notice a different in my skin the next day. I also like double-teaming with the LED light wrinkle reducer first, then the micro current orbs. By the time I’ve watched an episode of whichever show I’m streaming, I feel like I’ve turned back the clock on my skin. It makes me feel incredibly productive.
I’m so glad Sigil exists. Prior to discovering Sigil, I had grown a bit disappointed with the state of green beauty fragrances. You might notice that I haven’t covered clean fragrance brands like Ellis Brooklyn, or Phlur, and that’s because they don’t smell any different from generic perfumes out there, and worse – to me, they’re also very cloying and artificial. The only brand I remember really loving was Strange Invisible Perfumes, which were so beautiful, and just worked within a green formula of natural ingredients. Unfortunately they pulled out of most retailers, and I’ve kind of lost touch with their line in recent years.
Then Sigil came on my radar, and I took a chance. And wow – what a payoff! Sigil is entirely green, no synthetics, just pure beautiful plant made fragrances. At the same time there is that touch of complexity and sophistication that is rare in the pure, green fragrance space. Where Strange Invisible verged on the overtly floral, Sigil is all about edgy, modern, non-binary scents. Amor Fati is what the founder Patrick Kelly, recommends as the gateway fragrance. It’s simultaneously unexpected yet easy-to-wear for anyone. There is a fresh, yet deep opening with notes of oud and green pine needles connected through a more bitter bergamot top note. As it dries down, you’ll go through a phase of grounding Palo Santo and balsam-like resins that might at first challenge your aesthetic but manages to stay on the side of pleasing. The final dry down that defines the life of the fragrance that remains is what won me over with a beautiful almost floral, milky combination that is so comforting, and gentle that I wear it to bed.
This green fragrance is such a pleasure, and never cloying nor artificial where it would aggravate sensitive-nosed individuals. Wear-time is significant, but as it doesn’t use synthetics to prolong nor project, I’d say 3-5 sprays will you get through the day if you want to be more subtle by mid-day/afternoon. But that’s the thing about non-synthetic perfumes, they don’t over-extend, so you can always top up if you’re missing those top notes, or you just want to get another fresh hit.
I look forward to playing more with this line in the future. Thus far, it has made me excited about green fragrance again.
I’ve always loved Pure Mask. It has been a product that I’ve used over and over. But in the past year specifically, I felt like I finally had an opportunity to use this to its full potential. In many high-end spas from Los Angeles to Paris, masks are stored as powders that are mixed on-the-spot by the facialist according to the client needs. The YÜLI Pure Mask is actually one of the most used base formulas by many renowned Asian facialists, so I took advantage of my time at home to figure out how to replicate those fancier facials since I already have the base.
One formula that I’ve been obsessed with is mixing Pure Mask with half the amount of water I’d normally use, then using a plain yoghurt, and adding two pumps of their Ambrosia Beauty Nectar. To replicate the K-beauty facial experience, I even use a spatula to apply this creamy mask. The yoghurt gives the mask a texture like a creamy moisturizer that keeps the actives in the mask lively, moisturizes the skin, and contains probiotics which are good for the skin anyway. The double pump of Ambrosia Beauty Nectar gives the skin the good stuff like epidermal growth factors and the vegetal placenta extract in a more intensive mask application. It works for any skin type because it’s creamy and hydrating, resurfacing and purifying, and is an absolute beast when it comes to the level of nutrients and actives. With that said, sometimes when I just want to take it easy, Pure Mask is good on its own, mixed with just water. I like doing this before evening showers, and rinsing off in the shower. It somehow leaves my skin feeling baby smooth and so soft when I step out of the shower.