Happy 2021: Answering Your Questions

iPad (my most used device at home) with The Nue Co Functional Fragrance Room Spray

Happy new year!

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.

December 2020: Objects for Interior Life

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.”

Mija Superstar

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.

NuFace Trinity Microcurrent Device

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.

Sigil Amor Fati

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.

YÜLI Pure Mask

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.

Holiday Sales Guide 2020

Image Credit: Violet Grey

Well folks, here we are. In what has been a dumpster fire of a year, we’re at that time again when shopping season is upon us. This year in particular, I’ve felt so mixed. On one hand, it’s been a tough year, people want to be more thoughtful about how and where they’re spending money. On the other hand, most of us are in a collective in a state of extenuated stress and exhaustion from this year. So in a year unlike any other, it’s also unsurprising that the sales this year have been kind of all over the place too. Here’s my two cents on the general trends with the sales this year (feel free to skip directly down to the sales if you want):

– Sales timeframe all over the place: Sales are starting earlier, and I think that’s a good thing as I don’t always like the intensity of Black Friday – Cyber Monday deals. However, what we’re seeing now are some retailers starting as early as mid-October, others have early Black Friday sales anywhere from a week to a few days before Black Friday. And then we have the sticklers who will only go live with their sale when the clock strikes midnight after Thanksgiving. This has made it nearly impossible for casual shoppers to track, as email inboxes are blown up with confusion “wait, is THIS the sale? Or is there another one?” It’s also made rounding up this guide difficult because at the time of writing: some sales are over, others haven’t begun so keeping up with the information has been difficult to pin down. I know that retailers and brands don’t coordinate with each other, but wow, this feels disorganized. And while we’re on that note…

– The confusing terminology.. is an early access sale the same as the actual Black Friday sale, and is the pre-Black Friday sale any different? It seems each brand/retailer has a different interpretation. Some mean — “hey the sale you’ve been waiting for is happening now,” but I’ve also seen some unhappy customers comment on The Nue Co and Standard Dose IG accounts about their actual Black Friday deals are better than the “early access”/ “holiday” sales that literally ended right before Black Friday deals launched. So it’s a confusing and risky strategy for brands/retailer – do you change it up and go more all-out on actual Black Friday even when you’re telling your customers to do the spend earlier? Will that mislead your customers? Could it actually create confusion and lead to fewer orders as a result? So far, I don’t see the long play payoff in enticing customers to shop the early access in the week leading up to Black Friday, and then suddenly launching an even better deal on Black Friday. Most shoppers are either saving up and splurging, or dipping their toes, so to have them spend on their wishlist items and suddenly go “HERE’S A BETTER DEAL” does not seem like it will win any points.

– Mystery sales. This is where there are mystery items as the main draw of the sale. And I just don’t know why this is a strategy. It’s basically saying “Hey, there’s a chance you’ll HATE this, but we swear you’re getting it at a good deal!” Who does this serve? It sounds like the retailer/brand is trying to get rid of slower selling products. Similar to: “here’s a bunch of tiny-ass samples that we’ll give you for meeting a minimum spend even though you probably won’t use most of them because you’re not actually interested but FREE STUFF!”

– Different sale every day (e.g. new item discount, new gift with purchase). I think this strategy is to entice multiple orders? But it just feels like no matter when you buy, you’ll end up with a bad case of FOMO. Similar to mystery sales, the customer is not in control, and at an intense time where they’re being bombarded with offers, they’re most likely just going to move to the ones they have a handle on. Savvy shoppers also have a game plan, and this type of sale is pretty exhausting for anyone to really keep up, so I suspect this strategy may actually cause disengagement.

– The sit outs. We get it, Black Friday is consumerism, and not some altruistic endeavor. To be completely transparent, I posted on IG if I should even do a sales roundup this year because I just felt like this year deserved to be an “off year.” But 98% of you responded that you really wanted actual insight into where you should spend money, because guides don’t usually go beyond just listing a bunch of codes.

Each year we have brands post about how they’re not partaking because… values *cough* brand image *cough*. And that’s fine. But in an already stressful year, with a ridiculously convoluted and clusterfucked roll out, maybe don’t take up more bandwidth to get off on your own ego about how you’re taking a moral high ground. It’s like saying you’re opposed to Thanksgiving, while refusing to give up your spot at the table, and other people are trying to just enjoy the meal. Also most of these brands are discounted at several of their retailers, so let’s not pretend like this is some genuine statement on consumerism or brand integrity. One last note on this is: I don’t believe in conspicuous or irresponsible spending, and I know that especially this year, it’s been tough for many people. At the end of the day, we’re talking about beauty, which might seem frivolous, but that doesn’t mean people can’t save up for nice things that might genuinely make them happy. A lipstick may make someone feel empowered in the era of Zoom meetings, a bath soak may be the one thing keeping someone together at the end of the day, a fragrance around the home could make us feel transported even when we’re on lockdown 2.0. Every sale helps make these small bits of happiness more attainable, especially in tougher times. I understand wanting to make a point against mass consumerism, but the moral high ground and judgement has got to go (and we can get into it too – such as many brands being worthy of our support as they’re 1) small businesses 2) ethical/eco-friendly businesses 3) doing good — basically the type of businesses we want to support with our dollars). TL;DR: if this isn’t your cup of tea, you don’t have to partake, but don’t shit on others who do, and don’t assume that your non-participation makes you somehow more evolved, maybe spend the energy doing things like buying carbon credits, reducing plastic in your packaging, etc. to clean up your own business?

THE SALES

Violet Grey – 20% Off, applied at checkout.


Why I recommend it: Violet Grey is positioned as creme de la creme in the beauty world. Sure they can be snobby, but their brands are top tier, often times exclusive, and their sales are rare to come by. Last year, they had tiered sales, this year, they’re straight forward with 20% which is big for them, and not something I expected.

Products to get:
Augustinus Bader – The Cream, I haven’t seen any other discounts on Augustinus Bader, and I know so many people are curious about their (expensive) products. The Cream is the OG that put them on the map, so that would be my go-to from the line. Their line is priced so high, but the hype is at the point where I think most people have it on their radar, so this 20% makes it the best time to give the line and their products a try.

Byredo – Rose Hand Lotion, Byredo is similarly high-end, and not really available at discounts (Byredo’s own site is offering a limited edition candle at full price as their Black Friday promotion… soooo that’s where we’re working with). If there is anything from the line you want, Violet Grey is probably your best bet at a discount. I recommend the Hand Lotion just because it seems like such a given that everyone’s hands have been drier and more stressed out this year, but there are other good picks like the new Mojave Ghost fragrance which thankfully is among their lighter scents (it is inspired by the Ghost Flower in the Mojave Desert, and meant to be worn more as an intimate scent).

Standard Dose – 25% Off, applied at checkout.


Why I recommend it: Standard Dose is sort of the creme de la creme when it comes to high-end CBD-focused wellness. I know many of us have been curious/interested in this realm, and their curation of CBD products is one of my favorites. Added bonus, you’ll also find non-CBD products that have a wellness focus too.

They’re one of the retailers that had the confusing rollout, all week long they did tiered discounts starting at 15%, with 25% off at the highest $200 tier. But for Black Friday, it’s a straight 25% off.

Products to get:
Sigil Scents, Sigil is a new-to-me natural fragrance company that is making their way among both the cult, niche circuit and the naturals circuit. The brand itself is having a 25% off sale with purchases over $200, but that means buying 2 bottles (they only have 4 total perfumes in their line), which can be a bit of a gamble. The Standard Dose offer is much more flexible, as you won’t need to buy half their line to get the discount.

Corpus Naturals, Corpus is the only deodorant brand I’ve been using. Not only is it natural, none of their deodorants contain baking soda, which in my case, makes me really itchy. Their scents are also very high quality, like something you’d expect from a designer brand. My favorite is No Green which is a bodied neroli and cardamom, while my partner smells so good wearing The Botanist, which has the citrus qualities but more of a vetiver and forest feel. Similar to Sigil, Corpus itself is offering 25% off on their own website too, but I feel like why not just it from one place and reduce the carbon footprint?

The Nue Co. – 30% Off + Free bottle of THE PILL on orders over $110

Why I recommend it: Because there have been so many new releases from The Nue Co. that I’ve been loving. And 30% off is a seriously high number that makes getting things and trying more things a no brainer. And The Pill is a great product (see full review here), so the fact you can get it for free with $110 is not a cherry on top, it’s like a full course on top of what you’ve ordered.

Products to get:
Functional Fragrance, this one grew on me, A LOT. Throughout the past year, it has been the only fragrance I’ve used. The scent is so lovely and grounding, and not full of artificial, overpowering notes so I don’t get nausea/tired of it after a few hours of wearing it (important especially when you’re just at home most of the time). If you haven’t tried it yet, but are even just the slightest bit curious, I think it’s worth exploring (they have a smaller size, and even a room fragrance version if you want the smell but not on you). It completely changed my perspective on fragrance, and its potential to be functional and act as a wellness product. And the fragrance itself is so well done, even Sophia Roe said it became her favorite and go-to perfume in 2020.

Forest Lungs, the newest fragrance offering from The Nue Co. After my experience with their Functional Fragrance, I just had to try Forest Lungs which is similar as an anti-stress fragrance supplement, but works through bringing in healing olfactive scents from nature and the great outdoors which feels very timely at a time when we’re staying in. I am really excited for this to arrive.

Sleep Drops, I’m kind of surprised by the decline in my quality of sleep as I’ve gotten older. I just feel more restless, and always wake up before I feel fully recharged. I’ve been searching for something to take at night, but it’s hard because I’m also actively avoiding edibles as my goal is to take it when I’m in bed, having already brushed my teeth so I can immediately get ready for dozing off. The Sleep Drops are non-habit forming, alcohol-free, and use herbs like passionflower and valerian root to induce tranquility and reduce anxiety, which sounds perfect.

Naturium – 20% Off with code THANKS2020

Why I recommend it: So here’s the thing about Naturium. They had a terrible rollout with a lack of disclosure and transparency where the co-founder, Susan Yara didn’t properly disclose the fact that she co-founded this line despite talking about the products on her massive platform. That was shitty. But that doesn’t mean the products themselves are bad. I had been following Susan Yara for two years (she is really well known for her celebrity skincare/beauty reaction vids on Youtube), and I always had a hunch she’d be releasing a line. Despite a misstep with rollout, the products themselves are well done, the formulas have good actives in good concentrations, the packaging is pretty nice, and the price is beyond fair. I always made it clear that how I feel about a person whether I liked or disliked them, wouldn’t change how I accessed their product — and that is the case here, I think the products are very promising, and am excited to get my hands on them.

Products to get: So I kind of went all out just to try things, but what I primarily wanted to compare them against were similarly clinical lines like Paula’s Choice, and budget ones like The Ordinary. So here’s what I got –

Retinol Complex Serum, at just $20 regular price, you’re damn right I want to see if this works as well as more expensive retinols. What I like about their retinol complex is that they have real retinol alongside Bakuchiol, the leading plant alternative.

Niacinamide Serum 12% + Zinc 2%, at $16 regular price, I couldn’t say no to this either. Niacinamide is sort of the star ingredient of 2020, it’s good for stressed out skin, helps with pigmentation, balances out sebum, and decongests. This reminds me of The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum (I mean, even the name, c’mon now), so I’m curious how the formulas perform. Also, since staying at home, I’ve been more prone to congestion, and have been searching for a serum that can work as a non-acne, acne serum in the sense that it can help with breakouts, but also just be good for skin overall. And I think this is the perfect fit. It’s also the best seller in the range.

BHA Liquid Exfoliant 2%, I know Susan Yara likes acid toning so I was really curious what her acid toner would be like. I’m surprised it’s a BHA with fruit acids, rather than a AHA. As most acid toners are AHA, I do want to see how this handles on the skin, whether it’s gentler, or if the results might manifest differently. I also know Susan often likes to get her acid and essence in the same step, so I wonder if this might resemble Asian essences in any form as well.

Paula’s Choice – 20% Off

Why I recommend it: I’ve been getting into Paula’s Choice this year. I’ve kept it fairly within the realm of specific serums like Retinol, because I was just getting tired of spending a lot on luxury retinols that didn’t feel like they were working. For Paula’s Choice, it’s no frills for me and everything is on the purposeful side.

Products to get:
1% Retinol Treatment, their strongest retinol and also their best seller, which I previously reviewed and really liked. This is my trusty staple retinol.

Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30, a tinted mineral sunblock with state-of-the-art antioxidants for extra skin benefits. I want to see if the super-light aspect means it will feel more “breathable” than normal mineral sunblocks which tend to be thick, and chalky.

MIJA – 20% Off, code: THANKS2020

Why I recommend it: MIJA has one product, aptly named Superstar. It’s the primary wellness supplement I’ve taken for the past year. And more incredibly, it has satisfied my search among the class of wellness supplements for one that just works. This all-in-one streamlines my supplement routine, and doesn’t rely on gimmicks, nor market toward isolated areas (most powders are geared toward specific issues in isolation from overall health, which don’t sit right with me as it’s just not how the body works). Superstar works because it’s made by someone who knows what they’re doing, formulator and co-founder, Sarah Koszyk is known as one of the leading nutritionists and dietitians in the country, and her client list at her private practice in San Francisco is a who’s who of Silicon Valley.

Not only is Superstar’s formula made from high quality organic plant-based ingredients, it is also clinical and effective, drawing on decades of work, Sarah has set about the most extensive data points to look into the common, universal dietary shortfalls and nutritional gaps to address in this one supplement. This is why it’s able to check off so many boxes on benefits from external skin health, to digestion, stress/mood, immunity, and energy. MIJA’s attention to the actual ingredients, from sourcing to preparation, reminds me a lot of In Fiore and YULI, which I don’t really see in the supplement space. I haven’t seen Superstar offered at 20% off before, so definitely grab yours at this sale.

YÜLI – 15% Off, code GRATITUDE2020, Free Harmony Body Oil on Orders $300+, plus donation matches.

Why I recommend it: It’s not just that YÜLI is that rare brand that works on its own model (trading off no big box wholesale, no discounts, no PR for on-site sourcing from their own farms, products made fresh, and time-intensive/costly formulas that don’t fit in normal wholesale models). So their sales are rare, and exceptional when they do occur, and a straight 15% from them is a big deal.

It’s obvious that they put a lot of thought into their sale this year. Instead of tiered discounts, they have a straight forward (and user friendly) discount of 15% off without meeting any spend. Additionally, if you do spend over $300, they’re including a free Harmony Body Oil, which would cost $80, so the actual discount saving you’re getting is pretty high. And Harmony is not a frivolous gift, especially now I just am in the mood for their body oil: it’s perfect because the weather is getting drier, I always need to make an effort to take care of my body as well as my face, and their body oil really is very soothing and anti-inflammatory, making it the perfect gift to receive.

Also, the discounted amount you save is going to be matched as donations to three non-profit organizations, the United Negro College Fund (which gives merit and need based scholarships to minorities, and whose recipients include Martin Luther King Jr. and Spike Lee), 350.ORG (one of the leading grassroots organizations pushing for adoption of clean, renewable energy), World Central Kitchen (a global nonprofit that provides meals to vulnerable communities. They’re currently partnering with local family-owned restaurants to keep small businesses afloat and communities fed through the pandemic). I have to say, these choices are stellar, and diverse. YÜLI is exemplifying what it means to be a business that does good, and it’s awesome that they’re making this a win-win for customers to enjoy savings, receive a gift all at great values, and also partake in making a bigger positive impact. How could I not recommend this sale?

Bonus hack: My partner taught me this — If any of you have those credit cards that give points back, some cards like Chase Freedom are giving you 5% if you pay through PayPal Oct-Dec. I know that YÜLI accepts PayPal – so it’s basically 5% added on to your savings.

Products to get: Obviously, Ambrosia Beauty Nectar. It’s just in its own class of super-serum, pairs well with everything, and is one of those products that should be in my routine as regularly as possible.

If you have acne scars, and those stubborn red marks, it’s a good time to take the plunge on Cell Perfecto PM, which short of lasers is as good as topical treatments get. This was the product that started my YÜLI love affair.

I also love their Halcyon Cleanser. I rotate cleansers a lot, but this is one that makes me happy every time I come back to it because it works so effortlessly, and makes my skin feel “nude” afterward where it’s neither stripped nor is there a ‘film’ feeling which is a tough balance to achieve. I’ve found that even if I switch in a new cleanser, I still won’t remove my Halcyon from my shelf, and will reach for it at those “1 AM in the morning and I just want something that works and feels good” times. And I may have purchased 3 bottles of their limited release of the ROSE version of Halcyon Cleanser that just came back in limited numbers for the sale.

This is before we go into their fabulous face mists, and incredible oils, so really, you can’t go wrong with this line.


Nuface – 25% off, code SELFCARE

Why I recommend it: I’ve been on the at-home microcurrent train for a while now. I think many of us have been looking to home-facials in light of COVID, and microcurrents are one of the best ways to *literally* supercharge a skincare routine. There are two dominant brands in the space, Nuface and Ziip. NuFace is the more “mass market” brand, whereas Ziip is positioned a little more higher end. However, I noticed that even with influencers, retailer videos, and beauty editors, while they loved Ziip, they preferred Nuface for lifting and firming benefits. My own verdict is that Ziip is better for working on the complexion (radiance/pigment issues), whereas Nuface is stronger for toning and sculpting, which to me is the purpose of microcurrents. While it’s true that you can usually get Nuface at 20% if you look hard enough, 25% is obviously a better deal (they also accept PayPal, just FYI for those who might have credit cards that are giving reward points for spend through PayPal, see bonus hack from the YULI sale). So it’s a good time to pull the trigger as the devices cost a pretty penny.

Product to get:
I upgraded my device to a Trinity Set that comes with the attachments. I mainly wanted the red light LED attachment which would have cost more to buy separately. I think being able to pair microcurrent with LED therapy would pretty much cover all my at-home device needs.

Orce – 25% off

Why I recommend it: I’ve been neglecting my make-up recently. There hasn’t been too much need. But it’s also kind of made me purge my collection, and reset my makeup collection. I realized that what I missed was that “classic” more liquid type of foundation in a clean version. Then I heard about Orce, this clean makeup startup founded by a Singaporean woman, focused on catering to yellow-toned complexions that many Eurocentric brands don’t fully address (many veer red/blue instead of yellow/tan). And I heard the foundation being compared to Koh Gen Do, which is one of my all time favorites.

Products to get: At this time, Orce has a foundation range and a setting powder, so I’d start with the foundation. They also have a lovely “Experience Set” that sends you 3 vials of their range set by Light/Medium/Dark so you can match.



Okay folks, I think that about covers it. A couple of other products I’m getting that I haven’t mentioned are:

  • Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age: Discount at 23% off. It’s the middle-child in DECIEM’s range between high-end NIOD and mass-budget The Ordinary. The gents at Garçon’s love this serum and say it basically is the NIOD copper serum plus The Ordinary’s Buffet’s in one.
  • Glossier Hand Cream: Discount 25% off. The packaging is cute, and it’s priced pretty well especially with the discount (just $13). It’s just something I’d be happy to have around, which is good when it comes to hand creams.
  • Samsung SSD 500 GB: Discount $30 or 27% – Black Friday Deal. Okay, not a beauty purchase. But if you’re on a MacBook like me, chances are, you’re running out of space too. My partner recommended this SSD (solid state drive) external hard drive, because it’s super light and small (basically the size and weight of the Glossier hand cream so it’s great for travel), doesn’t have any moving parts (silent, and drop resistant), and the write speeds are as fast as the Macbook’s native SSD. This will hold all my photos (blog, travel), and documents that I don’t want to lose.

I know this has been very long, but more than anything else, I hope it’s been helpful. Feel free to drop me a comment!

The Nue Co’s The Pill REVIEW & 30% OFF CODE

The Topical Supplement

The Nue Co. landed on our radar in their first year of release as a brand to watch. Their combination of Doctor-meets-supermodel aesthetic, innovative products, and high quality formulas have won us over. The Pill is their latest product. It’s a topical supplement, designed as an all-in-one serum. While most supplement companies stick to ingestibles, The Nue Co. has ventured past those boundaries before to great results. Their anti-stress Functional Fragrance is one of our hands down favorite fragrances (and beauty product in general). Suffice it to say, our bottle of Functional Fragrance has not gone through a day without use in 2020. So we were excited to put The Pill through its paces.

Keep reading to find out more about this topical supplement approach. We also worked out a special for our readers as we’ve been encouraging everyone to try this line. From now until Thanksgiving, use the code BFGARCON30 to receive a whopping 30% off site wide on The Nue Co.

What does it do? What’s in it?

The Pill is an all-in-one serum. Its texture is light and fast absorbing, and the semi-opaque gel sinks into the skin without any residue or stickiness. The formula contains 27 non-toxic ingredients ranging from the scientific (AHAs, Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium PCA) to the natural (Bilberry Extract, Tiger Grass, Kakadu Plum Extract).

The Pill offers many benefits. They’re focused in three main areas that are quite universal:

Hydration: Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, Sodium PCA, Water Lily Extract, and Galactoarabinan all boost the skin’s NMF (natural moisture factors), prevent TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss), and give skin that comfortable, plumped moisturized feeling.

Anti-inflammatory: Because it’s one of the key causes of all skin issues, The Nue Co. focused on targeting inflammation with topical CBD (the ingredient of the moment and a known anti-inflammation powerhouse), and plant-derived Isoamyl Laurate which actually creates a refined velvet-smooth skin texture.

Brighten and Exfoliate: Acid toning is in and The Pill uses a full spectrum of plant-derived AHAs and skin resurfacers like passion fruit, sugarcane, and pineapple derived Lactic, Glycolic, Citric, Malic, and Tartaric Acids which is one of the most complete offering of acids we’ve seen in a product. Each acid works in different ways, some are good for brightening, others for breaking through dead skin cells, so it’s good to have this diversity. While it might seem like The Pill contains acid overload, fret not — many of these fruit acids (like Citric, Malic, and Tartaric acid) are much gentler than their acid-toner counterparts, and are ideal for sensitive skin. Besides acids, there’s also Tiger Grass, which is used in Korean skincare for brightening and pigmentation.

We reserved The Pill for nighttime use, like we do with all products with AHAs. However you can absolutely use this serum in the day with a good SPF.

Results

Despite dropping temperatures, our skin always felt like they were hitting the KBeauty Glass Skin goals. Our skin feels bouncier and just healthier in general, while the complexion is more even and radiant.

We were initially skeptical that a single product could be so multifaceted. Yet The Pill‘s formula just works. The acids help brighten and refresh the skin, and we’ve noticed less “dry patches” and congestion even around T-zones. This work is all done subtly without the slightest of tingling nor redness, due to the presence of excellent anti-inflammatories and hydration powerhouses that calm, and strengthen the skin. The Nue Co. took the time to work out the layering in this formula to make this a streamlined one-step serum solution, and we agree that it works.

Because The Pill packs everything, there isn’t a need for acid toners, nor other serums. Just give it 2 minutes to work into the skin (perfect for brushing your teeth). If your skincare philosophy is more is more, this is gentle enough to play well with others including Vitamin C. The Pill will work with any skincare approach.

How to buy

A 30ml bottle of The Pill retails for $85 will last you for a while, probably 2-3 months. For a serum that ticks all the boxes, streamlines the routine, and does the job of many serums, this is a great value. We’d compare it to products like Vintner’s Daughter Active Treatment Essence and UBeauty Resurfacing Compound which retail for 2.5x-3x the price, without delivering the impressive real world benefits that The Pill has.

We’ve said before that The Nue Co. is a brand that makes incredibly innovative and interesting products that everyone should try. To make it easier, we’ve been in touch with The Nue Co. directly to offer you a special 30% off code: BFGARCON30.

Here’s our take: The Pill (and the Functional Fragrance) are no-brainers that should be added to cart immediately. For a full inner and outer skin duo, we’d also suggest adding Skin Filter, with beta carotene, Vitamin C, and minerals as an ingestible counterpart to The Pill. But even if you have your eyes on something else, our code, BFGARCON30 is not exclusive to The Pill, and works site wide!


$85 for 30ml at The Nue Co., use code BFGARCON30 for 30% off site wide until November 24th.

The Supplement Top Shelf

The idea of spending $$$ on serums, and leaving supplements as an after thought doesn’t make sense. The research is conclusive that the things we ingest play a bigger picture in our overall health, and while we don’t discount the power of a really epic serum, at the end of the day it seems a bit daft to distill one’s youthfulness and wellness to only the lines or breakouts on one’s face. Here are a few of our favorite supplements:

Top Row (L to R):

WelleCo Nourishing Protein
Protein is often seen as a “men’s supplement” as it’s equated to muscles and working out. But men and women can both benefit from more protein. Protein deficiency can cause the loss of muscle mass, slower recovery from physical activity, and anemia. Most protein comes from sources we prefer to avoid. Welleco sourced their protein from Pea and Brown Rice Protein, making it clean and plant-based. It tastes satiating, and contains a host of other wonderful and important ingredients like L-Glutamine, Taurine, and fiber-rich Psyllium Husk. Clean protein with additional functional benefits, this is as good as high-end proteins get.

Sun Potion Green Adaptogens
A 3 herb mix of Suma, Maca, and Chlorella that tastes green and slightly toasty. Green Adaptogens is not a daily go-to supplement. The herbs are all geared toward raising energy levels. Instead, think of this as your caffeine-less energy boost, excellent for jet lag, or since who is really traveling that much these days, when you just feel like you’ve been put through the ringer.

MIJA Superstar
Superstar is made from adaptogenic superfoods that have the highest levels of bio-availability. Think of it as a modern, universal one-and-done multivitamin. It’s benefits are comprehensive, it’s performance is clinical, and it’s formula as good as it gets from an 100% organic ingredients list to having luxe ceremonial-grade matcha as a base ingredient. Superstar is made by acclaimed and board-certified Silicon Valley-based dietitian and nutritionist, Sarah Koszyk, and its formula is informed by decades of data points including her work at Zuckerberg General Hospital in San Francisco. This is foundational, and our non-negotiable daily supplement as it provides for every baseline nutritional need.

Flora Ex Machina Royal Ghee Gold
This delicious spread is made from raw honey, grass-fed ghee, propolis, turmeric, pepper, ashwagandha, and Himalayan salt. The highlight of this concoction is ghee, a type of Ayurvedic butter. It works with raw Californian wildflower honey forms the base for the immune and anti-inflammation centric spread of herbs. Excellent as a “lubricator” with functional anti-inflammatory benefits. Royal Ghee Gold is exactly what’s needed for recovery after strenuous workouts as it relieves common issues like tennis elbow or runners knee. And in some cultures, women also use it to boost healthy fat content while breastfeeding.

The Beauty Chef Collagen Inner Beauty Boost
Collagen is responsible for the characteristic plumpness and bounciness found in youthful skin. Inner Beauty Boost is a liquid concentrate that dilutes in water. It tastes like berries, and contains a good serving of gut healthy probiotics as well. It’s a wonderful add-on if you’ve been in situations that might cause collagen breakdown such as sun and smoke exposure, or certain partake in activities such as running (the gravity is no bueno).

The Nue Co Skin Food + Prebiotic
The Nue Co’s Skin Food + Prebiotic is a tarty powder. The formula contains ingestible Vitamin C at 122% daily value along with a prebiotic that smooths out digestion for clearer, brighter skin. In immune-readiness season, the extra Vitamin C helps to support the immune system.

CAP Beauty The O’CLOCKS 4PM
Made by a master herbalist to counter the 4PM slump, and reawaken the body. CAP Beauty’s signature supplement series did not disappoint from a conceptual standpoint. The O’CLOCKS 4PM has a nice tasting formula that reminds us of some of the Moon Juice dusts with a more palette friendly taste. However, for some reason the powder was so clumpy from the outset, and has hardened so much that it’s unscoopable (even bending our metal spoons).

Bottom Row (L to R):

Mariage Frères Pleine Lune
One of the most prestigious heritage French tea houses, Mariage Frères offers timeless, yet unique full-bodied flavors. Pleine Lune is a honeyed Black tea with notes of apricot, and warm vanilla with a pinch of spice. Definitely would not be out of place in the world of Harry Potter. Would also recommend the blue tea, made from green tea leaves and infused with notes of passion fruit and lychee over a milky coconut-rice profile.

The Fullest Saffron Latte
An uplifting, pleasing, and delicious happiness potion. Saffron Latte is helps the body release happiness-inducing, stress-relieving hormones. Easily mixable, tasty, and pleasurable all around. In 2020, we’ve really enjoyed (and needed) this bright cup of cheer. Full Review.

Pot d’Huile Hemp-Infused CBD Olive Oil
This functional CBD infused olive oil from Pot d’Huile is one of our at-home cooking must haves. Made from premium single-variety, cold-pressed, organic Californian Olives, and infused with full-spectrum CBD from Californian grown hemp. Drizzle onto salads, breads, or any place you want your olive oil to go. It tastes incredible, like a bottle of gourmet olive oil, and generates a nice, relaxing buzz. We recommend this olive oil to be enjoyed over a slow, thoughtful dinner, as the anti-inflammatories on the CBD lift away the wear and tear of the day.

WelleCo The Super Elixir
This is the OG of the WelleCo family, the original Super Greens that opened the conversation on green, alkalizing supplements. Inside, you’ll find a plethora of fabulous ingredients like Shiitake mushroom and free radical scavenging Grape Seed powder. Although there is now a Lemon and Ginger flavor option, the original Pineapple and Lime was quite agreeable to us. It’s actually the only flavor available in the refillable caddy option. The entire experience of this is luxury supplement at its highest-end.

The Nue Co Skin Filter
The Nue Co’s Skin Filter is a supplement that functions as edible skincare. It offers a good dose of 50% daily value of Vitamin A as beta-carotene, and a patented blend of Vitamin C, Zinc, Champagne Grapes, and Melon extract. Designed as ingestible skincare, The Nue Co originally rolled this out with many before and afters photos to show that their approach works just as well, if not better, than topicals. We suggest taking these pills for a month, with before and after photos. These pills will have you convinced that they’re real life skin filters.


Written by: Garçon’s World Team & The Beauty Idealist

Maya Chia The Eye Achiever REVIEW

MAYA CHIA THE EYE ACHIEVER REVIEW THE BEAUTY IDEALIST
I’m keeping this concise because my thoughts on Maya Chia’s The Eye Achiever are pretty straight forward. This is an oil-as-eye serum. Eye oils are my least favorite medium for the eyes because they travel, and can potentially get in the eyes leaving some irritation and temporarily clouding your vision. The rollerball applicator is good for massage and if it’s cool, can help de-puff and increase circulation, but it’s hard to control the amount of oil that gets out, which can leave oil streaking down your face.

The formula of Maya Chia’s The Eye Achiever is promising because there are stellar ingredients like astaxanthin (as the 2nd ingredient no less, so you’re getting a good dose), and oil soluble Vitamin C, in addition to lots of great plant oils like the brand’s namesake Chia Seed Oil (as the 1st ingredient), Raspberry Seed Oil, and Cranberry Seed Oil which are very nutritious and loaded with antioxidants. Unfortunately, where The Eye Achiever falls apart for me is the inclusion of spices like black cumin, fennel, and sea fennel. While I appreciate their collective nutritional aspect, I think it’s problematic to put these spices in a product that is used so closely around the eyes, especially in the oil format that is notoriously prone to traveling and getting into the eyes.

MAYA CHIA THE EYE ACHIEVER REVIEW - THE BEAUTY IDEALIST

Each time I have tried The Eye Achiever, I’m not able to go for more than 2-5 minutes without feeling some irritation just from the proximity to my eyes, that leads to my eyes watering. Due to the oil texture, I can’t actually rub this off my eye area as it just ends up getting everywhere, especially my eyes, which significantly aggravates the problem. There are times where I have had to wash my face again and start over just to remove The Eye Achiever, and deter further irritation.

I would be open to trying Maya Chia’s The Eye Achiever again in a spiceless version because I do like many of the ingredients in the formula. But as of now, if I wanted an oil for my eyes, I would most likely just separately apply my face oil around my eyes. If you want an oil that is ‘specialized’ for the eyes, I am kind of curious about Kora Organic’s Noni Eye Oil, which is a more forgiving $38 for the same size as Maya Chia’s The Eye Achiever which retails for $70.

Drop a comment if you’ve used Maya Chia’s The Eye Achiever, have any tips, or want to share your favorite eye products.

 

The Fullest SAFFRON LATTE – Review

I’m not a big believer in complicated routines. Especially when it comes to supplements, I’m a huge advocate of one-and-done. This is why I’m such an instant convert to MIJA Superstar (review here). Recently, I’ve been thinking about pleasure. 2020 has been quite a lot, and the idea of simple, pleasurable experiences has been at the forefront of my thoughts. By happenstance, I landed on The Fullest’s Saffron Latte through a GOOP newsletter on the very topic of happiness.

Saffron Latte is very straight-forward. It’s a pleasure powder, more experiential than supplement, and contains only 4 ingredients: Coconut Water Powder*, Coconut Milk Powder*, Saffron*, and Cardamom*. All certified organic. This doesn’t seek to replace your supplements, nor beat you over the head with scientific literature. The Fullest’s Saffron Latte just seeks to be a bright spot in your day, serving as an instant mood lifter.

The Experience

Firstly, Saffron Latte tastes delightful when added to oak milk (I’ve since tried soy and almond, all tasted amazing). Hell, it tastes good added to just water. Creamy Coconut Milk and Water give it a rich fullness, Cardamom is one of my favorite tastes that has a very bodied, grounding component, and finally, Middle-Eastern Saffron produces a sweet, floral top note that floats on the tongue.
Secondly, measurements of happiness are not exactly the most precise science, and admittedly GOOP is known to play fast and loose with science. But, it turns out there is compelling science behind the namesake Saffron. According to integrative doctor, Dr.Habib Sadegi, “research has shown that saffron is just as effective as Prozac for treating moderate depression. Best of all, saffron doesn’t come with the usual side effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) like Prozac and other antidepressants that include weight gain, and feeling emotionally muted. Adding to saffron’s neurological benefits, a review of 14 different research studies has found it to be as effective as Aricept, the most commonly prescribed drug for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Final Thoughts

The Fullest’s Saffron Latte feels like a ray of sunshine that you drink. It’s absolutely delicious and flavorful, and I do get a nice lift to my mood. The most economic option for Saffron Latte is the 7oz size for $64. In regards to the price, it turns out that saffron is very difficult and expensive to produce, especially for high quality, certified organic that yield better flavor profiles like the ones used in Saffron Latte. And despite the overall cute aesthetic, there is some serious science going on: Saffron is best absorbed by fats, so the rich and flavorful blend with coconut and cardamom is both pleasurable and functional. I definitely think most will find this to be enjoyable, and isn’t that especially worthwhile these days?

 


Photos shot by: Garçon’s World

Paula’s Choice CLINICAL 1% Retinol Treatment and Super Antioxidant Serum REVIEW

Paula's Choice Retinol and Antioxidant Serum Review, Garcons World

Paula’s Choice is the original influencer brand before social media was even a thing. Paula Begoun, the founder of Paula’s Choice, started her career as a makeup artist, and then became an investigative journalist. She wrote books like Blue Eye Shadow Should be Illegal and Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, and even appeared on Oprah. In 2008, Paula launched Beautypedia, a massive platform where her followers hung on her every word about ingredients, and products. So it’s no surprise that in the 2000s, she launched her own skincare line called Paula’s Choice.

What I know about Paula is that she prefers everything to be incredibly clinical. She loves formulas that have the tried and true actives, like retinol, and vitamin c in actual meaningful concentrations. Perfect, because lately I’ve been tired of the parade of Rosehip and Bakuchiol serums masquerading as retinols. I also noticed a lack of good, proven actives that actually penetrate the skin and make a difference. Paula’s Choice is not a flashy nor luxury-driven line, but it has a solid reputation. So I decided to test it out.

Paula's Choice 1% Retinol Treatment, Garcons World

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is the strongest retinol in the line. Not only does it contain encapsulated 1% retinol, but also peptides and Vitamin C. Basically, this retinol treatment is the most effective retinol you can purchase without a prescription. This serum also contains botanical ingredients like brightening licorice extract, and soothing oat extract.

The texture is a light lotion which absorbs quickly, and is excellent for all skin, even oily skin. I found it moisturizing enough during the summer that I don’t follow with any oils or moisturizers (thanks glycerin!).

I’ve went through a full bottle of this retinol treatment, and loved it. My skin was never irritated by the active retinol and vitamin c because they’re both encapsulated. The retinol converts in the skin, so you’re not going to feel any stinging nor irritation. I’m at the age where lines form with repeated movements like when I smile, floss my teeth, put in contacts. These lines and creases served as the litmus test for the retinol.

In 2 months, Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment has softened, and faded the lines. My entire forehead and mouth area feel much more firm and lifted. I had felt that I was losing some volume by a specific area of my cheeks, but this has noticeably increased the area’s density and firmness.

Paula’s Choice CLINICAL 1% Retinol Treatment is one of the best non-prescription retinols. It is powerful, effective, without being irresponsibly irritating. There are so many retinols on the market, and so much confusing verbiage. Paula’s Choice CLINICAL 1% Retinol Treatment is a clinical (thoroughly scientifically vetted), high-quality retinol that will do exactly what it’s supposed to do with great ingredients, in meaningful concentrations, all at a reasonable price of $49.30 for a full ounce. I already have another bottle on the way.

Texture photo of Paula's Choice 1% Retinol Treatment, Paula's Choice Super Antioxidant Serum; Garcons World
(L) 1% Retinol Treatment; (R) Super Antioxidant Serum
Paula's Choice Super Antioxidant Serum, Garcons World

Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Serum


As I was purchasing the retinol, I couldn’t help but also test the Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Serum. I really like the idea of a very strong, clinical antioxidant serum as I know antioxidants are good actives. However, I wanted to see what a “clinical strength” one could do that botanicals perhaps could not.

The Super Antioxidant Serum felt almost like a syrup-gel that melts into something resembling a face oil. The texture is very unique, instead of a sticky syrup feel, there’s a nice smooth slip quality before the whole thing melts into an oil as it absorbs. The way the Super Antioxidant Serum feels on the skin, I felt like no oxidative molecules, nor free radicals, were going to get through my skin. It’s not suffocating, but rather very nourishing, like slathering your skin in a hefty layer of protection. No wonder it is recommend for normal/dry skin. However, if you’re good with face oils, chances are your skin will like this too even if you’re on the oilier side.

The ingredients are phenomenal. Being a clinical line, there aren’t many plant ingredients. What we do have are incredible actives like 2 forms of Vitamin C, Tripeptides, CoQ10, Ferulic Acid, Beta Glucan, Superoxide Dismutase. The Vitamin C combo is potent, and high in the ingredients list. Fret not, it’s buffered with ceramide and Vitamin E oil which are soothing lipids, so you shouldn’t experience sensitivity issues. There are some plant ingredients including Turmeric Extract which is highly antioxidative.

I was pleasantly surprised at the level of actives in the Super Antioxidant Serum, which really is a double Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Ferulic Acid serum with peptides, CoQ10, and Beta Glucan all added in (amongst many other antioxidants). This really feels like if it could easily be a Skinceuticals serum, that could cost over $100. But it’s just $39 for a full 1 oz. My skin felt soooo buttery soft, and smooth using this. If I used Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Serum overnight, it felt like instant beauty rest in a bottle because my skin would noticeably appear more even toned, moisturized, and rested.

Results & Conclusion


I purchased the Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment and Super Antioxidant Serum together in case my skin needed a break from the retinol serum, in which case I’d turn to the antioxidant serum. However, both worked so well in different ways that I ended up just using them some days with the Antioxidant Serum in the morning and Retinol at night, or Retinol for 2 days straight, then the Antioxidant Serum to give my skin a change.

While my skin responded well, sometimes with results noticed overnight, I think the products really show their benefits with regular, ongoing use. Going through both of the serums together, they’ve provided a major anti-aging kick in making my skin just feel more more firm and defined, with a nicer tone and smoother texture to my complexion. It’s amazing how much performance is packed in for the price point as together, you’d get a really wonderful serum combo of powerful actives for under $100 (Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is $49.30 and Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Serum is $39). I definitely urge you to try this because I feel like retinols and antioxidants are two of the most universal, top line actives, and in this time when we’re really searching for value, Paula’s Choice offers such a good value for well made, clinical performance products.

 

Good to the Last Drop: Weleda Sensitive Care Cleansing Lotion – Almond

I usually photograph products before I’ve really gotten into them as I prefer to capture them closer to their pristine state. That is obviously not the case here. I purchased Weleda’s Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion (now called Weleda Sensitive Care Cleansing Lotion – Almond), because I was intrigued by the idea of a naturally formulated cleansing lotion but I did not go into it with the intention of writing a review.

What is it?

Cleansing lotions aren’t new, a lotion/cream that can double as a cleanser or cold cream cleanser, is not only a comforting idea, there are real functional benefits as they easily dislodge waterproof makeup and sunscreen, and they gently cleanse the skin with a texture that feels like moving a creamy moisturizer around which does not disturb the barrier or dry the skin, and like most moisture creams, they rinse off with water, pretty smart right? Cold cream cleansers are very popular for people with dry skin, and with models, actresses, and early-day Into The Gloss muses, the people who regularly go through tons of products, who are prone to sensitivity from all the different products.

While lovely, I had never considered them a “must have” for a few reasons: I’m acne-prone and don’t usually wear too much makeup. Plus, most cold creams have outdated formulas that remind me of drugstore creams circa 90’s. But when I saw Weleda’s Sensitive Care Cleansing Lotion – Almond, it felt like every descriptor I was reading aligned with what I thought a modern “cold cream” should be: good natural ingredients, and made for sensitive skin (as that is the top clientele that uses it), and at under $20 (usually $19.99, I found them selling for $16.99 at Pharmaca which is why I linked to them), it was too good for me to pass up.

What’s in it?

The ingredients list is concise, and high-quality, which is what we want to see in a sensitive-skin formula:

Water  Sweet Almond Oil  Alcohol  Glyceryl Stearate SE  Glycerin  Hydrolyzed Beeswax  Prunus Domestica Seed Oil  Xanthan Gum  Lactate

While Weleda has product lines with nice scents like rose, and citrus, there was a clear reason they opted to make this cleanser part of their Almond line. By using Almond (which has a nice and subtle sweet note to it), the formula is free of any fragrances including essential oils, making it kind of over-the-top excellent for those with sensitive skin. The two plant oils in here are Sweet Almond which is not only a gentle carrier oil that nourishes acne-prone to dry skin (yay for me!), it’s also wonderful for sensitive skin prone to eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Sweet Almond Oil’s high fatty acid content is known to help dissolve excess oil on the skin as well, which is why it works beautifully to moisturize AND cleanse the skin, especially the stubborn waterproof products which usually have an oil-base. The other plant oil is Plum Seed Oil, which is a star ingredient in many more expensive products including Le Prunier’s Plum Beauty Oil which retails at $72 for 1 oz of pure Plum Seed Oil. Plum Seed Oil is known to be rejuvenating and anti-aging, excellent for the skin barrier, with high polyphenol antioxidant content. It also calms irritation, brightens the skin tone, and does not clog pores with recommendations as especially suitable for dry, sensitive and acne-prone skin types – what’s not to love?

Plant oils aside, the ingredients in Weleda’s Sensitive Care Cleansing Lotion – Almond are purposeful, with a water base, this helps to moisturize alongside glycerin, and the Alcohol Glyceryl Stearate SE is a nice texturizer that is a fatty-alcohol that calms the skin. It works with the Hydrolyzed Beeswax and Xanthan Gum to form a nice rich creamy texture that is simultaneously moisturizing, and “breathable”.

How do you like it?

A lot. As if that wasn’t clear from the ravaged tube of product. If this was a plate at a restaurant, mine would have been embarrassingly empty with even the sauce wiped up, the type of scenario where we all know a sassy waiter will sarcastically comment “looks like you didn’t like that at all.” Weleda’s Sensitive Care Cleansing Lotion – Almond is gentle, the cream is rich but not suffocating because all of the ingredients are nourishing yet light on the skin (even suitable for acne-prone skin) so you feel like you have a hefty comfort cream on, without concern of the cleansing lotion clogging pores, nor causing congestion. The performance is right up there in terms of make-up removal, and I even use this for eye makeup due to the high quality ingredients (no mineral oil or harsh cleansers), and total fragrance-free nature of the formula.

I love this for any time, as it’s such a low-maintenance product that works gently, quickly, and effectively, and easily rinses off when done. It takes the place of cleansing balms/oils/micellar water, and even some 2nd cleanse cleansing milks.

And because of the sensitive-skin formulation, with a creamy texture suitable for dry skin, yet thoughtful enough to benefit even acne-prone skin, and the fact that all this goodness comes in under $20 – I really don’t know who Weleda’s Sensitive Care Cleansing Lotion – Almond wouldn’t be suited for. Although Weleda’s Sensitive Care Cleansing Lotion – Almond wouldn’t fall into the typical luxury category that I usually review, for me the performance is every bit as sophisticated, if not more so, the ingredients are thoughtful and high-quality, this is one of those products that is an absolute gem that also comes in at an excellent bang-for-the-buck price.

A Skincare Update: All Green Beauty July 2020

Lately the idea of semantics has been weighing on my mind. The term Green Beauty, which to me started as a movement for empowerment in knowledge of the ingredients we were buying in our personal care products, has shifted into becoming the equivalent an eye roll synonymous with Gwyneth Paltrow jade vagina eggs and frou-frou rituals of the rich and bored. If you came here through my Instagram, I go into it a bit more on just how the industry is actually quite toxic from the people behind it to how it got this way.

While I think our green beauty community now has all but dispersed, I do believe in many of the products we championed. Here is my all green routine.

I know it’s odd to see an oil cleanser as a morning cleanse, but these days I’ve just been at home and it’s hard to justify a full cleansing experience sometimes when I barely want to even do a morning routine. I tried to go through with just water but notice it does a terrible job of penetrating the film of oils my skin seems to secrete overnight. One morning I reached for Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil out of sheer laziness, and found this to do a good job of getting rid of that oil film as oil binds oil (some of you with drier skin might like the film and refuse to cleanse in the morning, but you should especially if you use serums as they need to actually penetrate). It’s gentle and works in a breeze without any fuss, and because I only use half a pump, it rinses off quickly (*yes it does emulsify with water, hurrah!) and my skin feels clean and ready for the next steps without feeling like I had to do a whole production with my cleansing.  I first got into cleansing oils with Shu Uemura but the ingredients kind of turned me off (in addition to the fact that it doesn’t rinse off with water very well), it wasn’t until One Love Organics came along with their oil cleanser that I absolutely loved it. But the Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil in my opinion, has better ingredients (a lot more plant oils) and feels nicer.

I follow with Yuli’s Panacea Elixir. If I do a full cleansing routine, I like to mist it on my skin as I feel that hydrates my skin more (this is what I tend to do at night), but if I do an oil cleanse, I like to apply this like a traditional toner with a cotton round. When used this way, it works like an organic Biologique P50 without the harsh acids that seemed to make everyone’s skin red, blotchy and angry. Panacea uses enzymes and ionized minerals instead that break away dead skin, oxidized pore clogging sebum, etc., and keeps my skin clear of congestion and any general griminess. It’s described as a juice fast for the skin, and feels to me like the skincare version of a herbal tonic you’d drink from a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner to leave skin fresh, hydrated, and clear of breakouts or congestion.


Next I use Agent Nateur’s Holi(oil) as my face oil. I loved this oil from first use. The texture is beautifully plush as it uses rice bran which is nourishing but also easily absorbed. There are only 7 ingredients in here, which isn’t bad because some of the most beautiful creations only have a handful of ingredients, and these ingredients are all top of the line in quality as we know Jena prides herself on sourcing. Standouts include a French patented Calcium Ketogluconate, and Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) which work with each other to increase the efficacy of Vitamin C in building collagen and brightening the skin. Now.. the smell. It’s beautiful and was something that stuck with me from first use. The more I used it, the more I thought “wow this is divine but also.. familiar?” It was only after reading the Garcon’s World review of Saint Jane Beauty’s CBD Face Oil where they compared the smell of rose and sandalwood as being extremely similar to Agent Nateur AND Ila that I figured it out. Remember Ila? I forgot until I read that review from GW who always manages to be on the mark and are friggin beauty archivists. I remember using their oil YEARS ago, and thats when the lightbulb went off that the Agent Nateur oil isn’t just similar in smell, upon some digging (going to their websites lol) their formulas are like copies. Where Agent Nateur uses a base of rice bran, Ila uses argan, and Agent uses the calcium+vitamin c, but other than that you can see for yourself:

Ila Formula
Wild-Grown Argan Oil (Argania Spinosa Kernal), Rosehip Seed Oil (Rosa Canina), Sandalwood (Santalam Spicatum), Rose Otto Oil (Rose Damascena Flower Oil), Vitamin E Oil (Tocopherol Extract)

Agent Nateur Formula
organic oryza sativa (rice bran), organic rosa mosqueta (rosehip) oil, calcium ketogluconate, wildcrafted rosa damascena oil, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, organic helichrysum gymnocephalum oil, wildcrafted santalum album (sandalwood) oil.

Not to take away from the brilliance of the Agent Nateur face oil which is one of the nicest I’ve used, I just have to wonder how much Ila’s oil that came before might have informed the formulation of the Agent Nateur oil. **As an aside, I’ve been reticent to talk about Agent Nateur on my blog because as many of you may be aware, the founder has some fringe beliefs that I think are harmful. She’s also treated a fellow blogger (who I consider to be a genuine friend in the space) in a very ugly and hurtful manner. I stand by my review of this product, but I don’t think I will be purchasing from the Agent Nateur line in the future.**

Following face oil, I make sure I get my eye serum in. Kahina’s Eye Serum is a favorite. I’ve used many, and it’s a category I obsess over. What I’ve learned is that creams are for dry skin (if your skin is more oily, it could lead to milia which has to be extracted via surgical instruments), serums with a lighter gel texture tend to be more for active benefits, which is the camp I’m in right now. Kahina’s Eye Serum is a gel texture but it doesn’t have alcohol and doesn’t have that “evaporating” feel that dries your skin out. There are peptides and good plant extracts that are brightening and boost microcirculation. I think of it as my anti-aging serum for the eyes.

So in the serum step we’ve done the face and the eyes, I finish with my lips. I’m very hot and cold when it comes to my lips. Sometimes I fall behind on taking care of them and they easily get chapped. But I was watching Blackpink on Youtube and noticed how ALL the girls are religious about applying their lip products before every interview, performance and photoshoot. Like they didn’t care about touching up lipstick, but if their lips were chapped, oh no! I also know that not taking care of the lips can really mess up the plumpness and lose volume as we get older. My main problem is that I like to drink my wellness tonics, eat food, etc. and I know half the ingredients in most lip products are not ones I want to ingest so it’s hard to space it out. This is why I use Yuli’s Cellular Lip Conditioner which is 100% food grade. It’s not a balm, think of it like a face oil but for your lips. How is it different? The lips don’t have sebum glands, there is more collagen, and they’re more exposed (that’s also why the lips are more pigmented).  The Cellular Lip Conditioner helps to nourish the skin, and their plants offer a degree of protection from exposure, and it helps to keep lips plumped. I consider this an insurance to keep my lips as healthy as voluminous as I can.

The Indie Lee Daily Skin Nutrition is the moisturizer I’ve been using daily. It is light enough that it can be dispensed from a pump and is not too flashy. But it contains all the right ingredients that a dream moisturizer should have like squalane, avocado oil, hyaluronic acid, and even rosemary extract (good for environmental stressors) and Vitamin C. It melts into skin without any heaviness or greasiness, yet is substantial enough that you’ll miss it if you forgot to apply it. I think of moisturizers as more of the defensive line meant to keep the moisture from escaping, adding some of that creamier heft, and if good active ingredients are there, all the better, and this ticks all the boxes.


Before we’re done there’s one more thing I do in the morning. My wellness tonic! Let’s be honest here, everything we can perceive from our skin and hair, to our digestion, and how we feel is rooted within our inner wellness. I’m not going to do elaborate multi-step skincare routines, invest in expensive products, and then ignore what’s going on inside where everything is actually going on. MIJA Superstar is one that I talked about before. I love that it’s made by a board certified nutritionist and dietitian who is very acclaimed, as most are not. And I love their approach of filling the universal gaps we all have with one comprehensive supplement that can align all of our systems. Their approach is to balance and optimize the body where it needs it, rather than other brand approaches where you’re asked to take something for your mood, something else for your immune system, another thing for your digestion, without any clinical evidence what taking them together will do, and no concern for what individual supplements might imbalance in other areas. Beyond their approach, this just works for me on all fronts (for me it is most noticeable in my digestive regularity, metabolism, and energy level, but it will be different for everyone, my sister who is usually sick about 2-3 times a year has not been sick since she started taking it in October 2019). Unlike skincare that has steps, you don’t need bundles of supplements to be healthy, Mija’s Superstar has replaced jars of other stuff I was taking before, effectively cutting down on both time and cost, as well as always feeling like I wasn’t getting everything out of my supplements. I’ve never been more satisfied.


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