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 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

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other Holiday Sales


If you’re anything like me, the evening of Thanksgiving can be the most stressful because all of a sudden, those emails start coming in. A sale here, an exclusive there, and before you know it, you’re drowned in offers from every brand you’ve ever heard of and what should be a fun reward, shopping a great offer, turns into a tedious chore. This year, I’ve gotten a little fatigued by it all and I feel like others might be too. I think part of why this year’s holiday sales have seemed exhausting is because everyone is trying to figure out how to squeeze the sales in such a loaded few days, we have some like Beautyhabit, Credo, and The Detox Market that started at the beginning of the month (and are on round 2 of holiday deals), others though are boycotting Black Friday, such as DECIEM which closed down their entire website today and Abel Odor (and those like them) that advocate boycotting Black Friday altogether:

 

And while I get the sentiment, it does come across preachy and self-righteous. Look, here’s the deal. I don’t love this consumerist machine, but as a blogger who buys most of her own products, I know how helpful it can be to get a truly great deal so in the spirit of providing helpful information rather than deluging you with a pointless collection of sales I’m going to write up just a handful of sales that I’m personally partaking in and why:

The Nue Co: I know they’re carried everywhere now but most of their retailer offers top out at 20%. I was ready to pull the trigger at a 25% sale but then The Nue Co themselves came out with 30% off their line. The reason I’ve been waiting for their sale is that I had been looking for an opportunity to buy their Functional Fragrance. I love fragrance yet have a low tolerance of anything synthetic (unfortunately including the “clean” options at Credo such as Ellis Brooklyn and Phlur). I keep hoping that new fragrances will break the mold sort of like what happened when green beauty took hold of skincare years ago, but that just hasn’t happened. From Credo (Ellis Brooklyn, Phlur) to Aesop, which was my big splurge last year, fragrances have remained very synthetic and as a result, nauseating. I just don’t think the fragrance industry has figured out how to kick out the truly bad offenders. It’s sort of like nail polish, sure, you can get up to 7-free but there are still ingredients that you don’t want near you. I am hopeful that The Nue Co’s Functional Fragrance, which is more aromatherapy and supposed to be very natural in ingredient origin, can work out.

MIJA: MIJA launched its hero product, Superstar, earlier this year and it’s taken off like the Vintner’s Daughter of the supplement world. MIJA is making Superstar available for 15% off or if you buy two (like I am), you get 20% off. As a bonus, they’re also including a free stainless steel reusable straw which is one of those things I kind of need to have anyway as laws are passed in CA and NY regarding plastic straws. You might notice that I’m not getting any supplements from The Nue Co, and that’s because I’ve been using MIJA’s Superstar since late summer and absolutely love it. You can read my review here. I love experimenting with skincare and makeup, but I think when it comes to internal wellness, the industry is a bit too lax and we should be more thoughtful. I don’t think it’s good to mix/match/switch around different supplements “just to try things out” because our bodies and internal processes are so complex. What I do know is that MIJA is made by a board-certified dietitian nutritionist, and not a new-age “wellness guru” like a lot of the others, and the results I’ve experienced from their signature product, Superstar, has really made it the only wellness supplements that I’ll need.

VERISHOP: So I hadn’t heard of Verishop before, but they popped up on my Instagram feed with a 25% offer for skincare, so you know I clicked. After perusing, it didn’t look bad at all. If you want Oribe or Tata Harper, get them here rather than their own sales (at 20%) because they’re offering 25%. When I saw that these two lines were stocked at Verishop, I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t stock up at Oribe nor Tata Harper’s current sale. Other notables are the Cire Trudon candles, which I really don’t think I’ve seen at anything past 20% before. There are lots of categories, including clothes so exercise some organization when perusing.

Shani Darden: 25% off the LA celebrity esthetician line. I think Shani has come leaps and bounds in the past year with a rehaul of her entire skincare line and the launch of her clinic in Los Angeles. I have been paying attention to her since she debuted on Into The Gloss years back and recall her single product – the Retinol Reform, then packaged in a tiny white glass bottle, and how every editor and celebrity in LA swore by that retinol as being both gentle yet effective. The past year, I’ve really dug more into retinols, after both high-end, organic, and everything in between. In fact, I just finished out a retinol (5% Granactive from The Ordinary), and want to try a new one. Since Retinol Reform put Shani on the map, I figured 25% off would be the perfect time to dip my toes into the line.

YULI: what makes YULI unique is that they don’t work with most retailers in the United States, and when they do (e.g. Ayla) they’re sold out faster than a Yeezys drop. They’re also known for never being discounted, even when they were one of the top-selling lines at Spirit Beauty Lounge, every sale excluded them at a time when even May Lindstrom and Vintner’s Daughter were not exempt from promotions. This year they’re having their biggest sale: 10% storewide, 15% over $200 — which had been their biggest sale, and now 20% at $300 which they’ve never done before. They also launched a seasonal holiday shop, it isn’t massive but their curation is spot on: an organic blush/highlighter/lip tint from new makeup line 14e, that comes in a pump — which keeps it more hygienic than the standard pots that we’d have to dip our fingers into, and even MIJA’s Superstar(!). Also, their beautiful Halcyon ROSE (which I wrote about here) which sold through their first and second run, is back — so it’s pretty easy to stock up and get that 20% because this is the line that makes Cell Perfecto PM, Ambrosia Beauty Nectar, Halcyon Cleanser, Liquid Courage… I mean their entire line is strong.


I hope this was helpful! Leave me a comment below and let me know what you’re shopping for the holidays. Also — how do we feel about Black Friday sales in general? Is there a better way it can be done?

Dear Green Beauty Brands, You’re Better Than This

I may not be the most consistent with my posting schedule but I’ve always kept it honest. Lately, I have felt a little burned out. Where I used to be so enthusiastic and optimistic about high-end green beauty brands, I’m now worn by seeing repetitions of the same stories, packaging, and ideas. Brands are all jumping onto one wagon, overloading (and eventually toppling) it. To be clear, this has nothing to do with “who came first” – companies such as Aurelia, Indie Lee and Agent Nateur came much later in the game than pioneers like In Fiore and Tata Harper yet they are original and bring something new to the conversation. So I’m a very big proponent of options and love supporting unique, innovative, NEW ideas and concepts.

What I don’t like are the brands that piggyback off others ideas and concepts such as the endless brand founders who happen to speak in May Lindstrom-lingo, or how the packaging is all basically iterations of the same concept. This is a post I shared on Instagram that I would like to share on here as well:

“Today I’m sharing this photo posted by @spiritbeauty, one of the pioneers of the #greenbeauty movement who’s website Spirit Beauty Lounge was once the most beautiful web shop that had THE green beauty brands. For many, she was the one who discovered lines like Tata Harper, May Lindstrom and Yuli. What set her apart was her vision of luxurious green beauty that were every bit as high-end as the brands seen in high-end department stores and niche concept stores (which all three aforementioned lines now happen to be in). She had an eye for going above to find authentic visionaries who would have a future and advocated for them. This photo is a snapshot of the brands she championed. Unfortunately this community rewards copycats, and despite everyone saying they want the luxury experience, the truth is that everyone wants luxury on a budget which I can’t blame them for but what happens is that retailers without this eye for luxury end up stocking those same brands, then branch out and get more brands becoming bigger in the process and then throw more discounts to move customers – and in the words of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amorouso, the copy-cats came to the table and stole our lunch. Spirit Beauty Lounge as far as I know, is no more. Whether it is an extended hiatus or a permanent shut down remains to be seen, but her voice – the part that made green beauty all the more special and luxurious has been silent for a while. In it’s place, are retailers and new green beauty brands espousing the same origin stories, the same why we’re special, the same iterations on formulas and packaging. “Our line doesn’t use essential oils”, “Our line’s specialty is essential oils that are TESTED and that is why they’re special”,”Our line uses entire whole plants”, “Our line uses no colloidal silver”, “Our line focuses on colloidal silver, gold, etc!” and the countless iterations on founders who single white female May Lindstrom and Etsy-esque lines that resemble Herbivore Botanicals. Some also imitate their formulas, have the same naming convention and sizes and then undercut them on pricing. But here’s the thing, they all universally claim originality, a need to create that sprung from a void, yet ironically taking from the very brands that they’re manipulatively erasing from the narrative. 

Our community rewards it by continuing to fall for it, thinking a new iteration with a random new ingredient or another impassioned talking head who started playing with oils in 2014 is going to be better than the next – FOMO. This is why you do not see me introducing new lines that often. I won’t accept a free sample from another copycat brand to share with you guys if I don’t think they’ve legitimately going something new to add to the conversation. Spirit may be gone for now, but I ask each of you to learn the lesson from that – reward originality, vision and authenticity not “me-too” brands who piggy-back off the work of others.”

I know in our “community” there is still a decorum from “going there” – people will talk about a problem but not actually tell you exactly who the offenders are and it doesn’t do any good. I believe in using my writing to express my honest voice so I will shed some examples in hopes that it both educates and discourages offending brands from continuing this unethical practice. I won’t even share the subtle slights of which there are nearly countless examples but here are three very recent and unarguable cases:

Lil Fox Miami Eucalipto dupes Kahina Giving Beauty Moroccan Beldi Soap with Eucalyptus

A fellow blogger friend of mine DM’d me when she saw LilFox introduce a new product that was *very similar* to one that Kahina has had on the market for a while already. In fact it is the same thing – this product uses the same two ingredients:

Saponified Olive Oil

Eucalyptus Oil

Is this illegal? No. A two ingredient product is not illegal, but I think you will agree this is not a good look especially as the titles both reference Morocco, which is an essential part of Kahina’s brand DNA. Regardless of whether this matters to you, it’s evident that the LilFox product is not original.

Romilly Wilde passes off In Fiore photos as their own

Romilly Wilde is a UK line that based on conversations with another friend of mine in the know has serious financing and PR muscle. The founder is also the one behind Plum Baby, a very successful line of baby food. All this is to say, they should know better than to:

1. Take another brand’s photo
2. Act like it’s their own work

In the photo above Romilly Wilde took a photo from In Fiore’s Instagram stream all the way back form 2014 and acted like they were “busy creating” these “new balms and oils.” Lies on so many levels.

The above proves it isn’t a fluke. Romilly Wilde takes a photo from In Fiore’s instagram stream and acts like they’re making batches for one of their products. Can we say dishonest advertising? That photo isn’t even their product!

Upon being called out, Romilly Wilde wrote a very half-hearted (in my opinion) apology that didn’t even tag In Fiore’s instagram that was essentially “In Fiore, we think you’re great. sorry for the whoopsies! We’ll be careful!” – that entire post/apology is now gone from their Instagram.

Recherche Beaute plagiarize YÜLI Skincare

Recherche Beaute is a line that just came out (their first digital presence was beginning of 2017). The founder is a “USC law school graduate.” Remember these two facts because the entire Recherche Beaute website is littered with plagiarized content from YÜLI.

Top: Recherche Beaute (2017)
Bottom: YÜLI (2012)

Literal word for word.

Top: Recherche Beaute 2017
Bottom: YÜLI 2012

Again, word for word from the question to the two paragraph answer. What’s absurd about this one is that Recherche Beaute is also claiming the same exact background, team, and development/testing process as YÜLI? It must be the case since they’re literally ripped them word for word, which makes their claim dubious and equally makes me doubt their authenticity of actual testing/development. Your description of the testing/development process isn’t even your own! Seriously if a brand can’t even come up with how they develop/test their products, what is the likelihood that they’re actually using those chemists and doing market testing? It seems they’re trying to create an illusion for something they don’t actually have based off of another brand’s content that impressed them.

Top: Recherche Beaute 2017
Bottom: YÜLI 2012

This isn’t word for word, more like Recherche Beaute copied and revised YÜLI’s content, leaving it mostly intact. Again when you copy another brand’s statement on their production methods, and take it as your own – it makes me doubt you’re doing any of the things you claim.

 

Left: Recherche Beaute 2017
Right: YÜLI 2012

I mean… come on… at least change the order?

The reason I am giving the dates is because the YÜLI website can be traced and archive engines verify this content was on their site in 2012, meaning it’s inarguable that the original intellectual property belongs to YÜLI. What is also inarguable is the fact that Recherche Beaute plagiarized YÜLI’s content, taking someone else’s work as their own. Given that the founder is a USC Law School graduate, it’s really inexcusable for them to feign ignorance at their offense. You can’t say you graduated from that program and not understand plagiarizing and intellectual property violations. They knew the unethical move they were committing and decided to go ahead and rip off another brand’s work.

*UPDATE*
Shortly after posting this, I discovered on Instagram that other bloggers had discovered Recherche Beaute also plagiarized from African Botanics as well. Such a strange coincidence considering my most recent post on Instagram after the one I shared above was about the originality and vision of African Botanics.

The middle screen is an interview that Peter Nguyen, the founder of Recherche Beaute did with Jenni Kayne. The highlights in yellow are the plagiarized parts, and the screens on the left and right are the original content from African Botanics website.

This shows that it is not an isolated incident and that Peter Nguyen has made a habit of “Melania Trumping” other brands.

*UPDATE*
Since this post went live, I have been hearing from other bloggers and instagrammers about how Recherche Beaute has been deleting comments asking about their plagiarism and basically pretending this didn’t happen. They’re also Direct Messaging people telling them there was a “misunderstanding” which there is not (also how am I supposed to trust a company that DM’s people different stories – cause us bloggers compare notes- in private and hide from it publicly) and have tried to place blame on everyone from the “jealous competitor” narrative (as though they were coerced into plagiarizing by the brands they stole from? who are all more established than they are?) to setting the blame on a hypothetical employee as a scapegoat – basically not taking any responsibility and choosing to continue the dishonest and unethical behavior. Below are screen grabs from when they DM’d me last night, completely unedited:


So the thing about lying and crafting an inauthentic story is that holes exist that do not hold up to questioning as is evident in this case. Also, buddy if you had a content creator and writer, then it just establishes that inauthentic nature of  your message and makes it even more alarming and despicable that your brand would be plagiarizing other brands work. Recherche Beaute is literally writing on their Instagram that their content is “co-composed” and “co-crafted” sooooo in other words, the founder couldn’t even write his own content or use his own voice….and “The interview is 100% authentic minus the segments that were disrespectfully taken without his knowledge. ” – So you’re claiming to be 100% authentic with exception to the heaps of plagiarized material? You know this is bullshit right?!

I think I speak for most of us when I say, no one expects perfection in this industry but we do expect honesty and respect in terms of not being lied to and deceived. It seems that Peter/Recherche Beaute thinks we’re dumb and can’t figure this out. Even with an opportunity to right their wrongs, this non-apology and inability to actually own and take responsibility for plagiarizing and stealing content is very telling of the unethical nature of the brand.


As my other blogger friends have said, it’s indefensible and egregious. I am making it public because this behavoir needs to be called out, offenders need to take accountability and be exposed for their dubious practices, unethical behavior and face the consequences. If you see something, say something. Not addressing these issues is doing no one any favors so I am speaking loudly.

BeautyCounter: The Future of Green?

BeautyCounter was introduced in 2013 and focused on spearheading the movement for safer cosmetics through legislation and offering greener products. Their philosophy of advocating for legislative change for safer cosmetics while introducing these safe cosmetics were made simple through products that looked beautiful with a price point that was unexpectedly fair – although their prices have systematically increased through the years.

Despite my initial interest, I never pulled the trigger in purchasing any products due in large part to their sales strategy that focused on growing a network of independent consultants which instantly drew comparisons in my mind to pyramid operations such as Amway and Herbalife that leave a bad taste.

Then in late 2016, one of their independent consultants sent me an e-mail to try their products and I thought, why not? Especially as at the time, BeautyCounter was being carried in Target stores which I only later realized was a temporary engagement.

I received sample packs of their Countertime Rejuvenating Collection which includes:
Soothing Face Wash
Radiance Firming Complex
Uplifting Day Cream
Restorative Night Cream
Vibrant Eye Perfector

If you click the links, you’ll see that the names of the products I linked to have all changed, and I actually could not find Soothing Face Wash nor it’s current iteration on their site. I’m not sure why this is, but it is pretty confusing. As I only received small 4ml sample tubes, I also don’t know the ingredients, so if the ingredients or formula has changed as well, my insight on the products may be obsolete.

The first thing I noticed was how all of the 5 products were so similar in texture, consistency, weight, and fragrance. They’re all white-ish creams with a lighter more gel like feel and fragranced ever so subtly with natural essential oils. To the immediate senses, despite the uniformity across what should be 5 different categories, the products all pass the initial impressions test.

Here are my mini run downs of each product:


Soothing Face Wash: a good cleanser very similar to many cream/milk cleansers on the market. It’s good if you’re not wearing a lot of make-up and just want a time saving, simple cleanse, ideally in the morning or when you’re tired in the evening. I like that there is no foaming and the cleanser washes off clean. With that said, I preferred to use this with another cleanser: an oil/balm make-up remover if I wore full make-up during the day as my first cleanse then followed by this, or this as my first cleanser followed by a more in-depth cleanser if I went more bare faced.

I think those with drier skin will especially find this cleanser agreeable, if it even currently exists in the line?

Radiance Firming Complex: This is the serum of the collection. It combines Vitamin C, fruit acids, algae and marine extract to tackle wrinkles, skin tone and improve hydration. Looking at the ingredients list which includes lots of plant oils that provide antioxidants and good amounts of algae (first ingredient), I definitely think that it is a pretty solid all-around serum. I don’t know if it has the high concentration corrective ingredients to really turn over wrinkles and skin tone, but I think for someone in their 20s to 40s, this will be a solid standard serum at a very reasonable $63 for 1 oz. The only caveat is that there are citrus oils so I recommend it for night time use. This would be my top pick of the collection.

Uplifting Day Cream: First thing to note is that the uplifting day cream doesn’t contain any ingredients that make it especially advantageous for day time use other than a lighter weight than the night cream. The good news is that it also doesn’t contain anything that makes it unsuitable for night time use either. I’d recommend picking between the two day/night moisturizers based on your skin type (choose the heavier night cream if you’re dry, or the lighter day cream if you’re oily, and try out both if you can’t decide). I’m not taking any points away for not including things like SPF which I actually prefer as a separate product, but what I will call to attention is that many of the beneficial ingredients are listed after phenoxyethanol, which as a preservative is either too concentrated in here or the beneficial ingredients are not concentrated enough to actually do any “uplifting”. I think that at $73, for a ‘meh’ ingredients list, there are better moisturizer options out there.

Restorative Night Cream: See note on day cream above. The Night Cream is thicker, and contains more emollients such as shea butter and heavier plant oils. For a restorative product, there aren’t actually that many anti-aging ingredients as one might assume given the very promising marketing language. You’re pretty much getting a heavier moisturizer that has good antioxidants, which isn’t bad but in a similar vein to the aforementioned products, probably won’t deliver top performance for the fanciful “lifting/firming/restoring” results that are promised.

A strike against this cream is the jar packaging which I wouldn’t mind (especially as it looks beautiful in the photos), but will accelerate the antioxidant breakdown which is unfortunate since that is the main source of the “restoration”. Again, as a general moisturizer, I’m not sure that I’d spend $75 on it but if you can score one of the day/night creams for around $40-$50, it might be worth it to try as long as your expectations of performance are aligned because they are good, solid moisturizers, just don’t count of them for too much anti-aging performance.

Vibrant Eye Perfector: This is a great eye cream that feels very emollient and disperses quite beautifully. Similar to the night cream, the jar packaging is problematic which may explain why the phenoxyethanol preservative is listed so uncomfortably high in the ingredients list again *sigh*. I probably sound like a broken record but the truth is that the limitations of the products are all very similar since the products themselves as I explained at the beginning are so similar to one another. I still enjoy using this eye cream but I know that there are better options out there both in terms of efficacy and formula.

For some of you, the fact that Beautycounter advocates for safe cosmetics but uses phenoxyethanol in their formulas might be a turn off. I try to steer away from phenoxyethanol in my products but do not consider it a deal breaker. For others, the independent consultant sales strategy might be a detractor for you as it was for me, which can easily be mitigated through purchasing directly through their website.

I found the samples a pleasure to use, and while I do not think there are enough good ingredients to back up the proposed benefits of many of the products, I do think that if you’re currently spending your money on products like Origins/REN, it would be worthwhile to give this line a try as well.

What I’m Reading

We’ve had this discussion before on where everyone is going to for their beauty scoop but in the evolving landscape of beauty publications, I thought that this time I would just share my list beyond the blogs you see in my re:

Gone
no-more-dirty-looks-logo1
NoMoreDirtyLooks
Sophie Amoruso of #GIRLBOSS fame recently stepped down from her position at Nasty Gal and in an Instagram Story captioned something along the lines of: “We killed it until all the copy cats came to our table and ate our lunch.” That is where I feel green beauty is currently. Bastions like No More Dirty Looks and Spirit Beauty Lounge who worked to establish the concept of “green” and “beaut is wellness” have become obsolete. In the case of No More Dirty Looks, the original founders got busy and brought on contributors who cozied up so much to the industry, it felt disingenuous (there was one time where 8 posts in a row were about one line). Editorial integrity was called out which was never sufficiently addressed. That’s where the downfall, for me, started but they still kept it going… until even that floundered when said writers struck out with their own lines and outside editorial jobs in the same industry which made the site lose a lot of the appeal that drew readers in the first place as a community to share rather than a place to sell. Now the site is all but dead with the founders acknowledging that the site “has fallen by the wayside”. Maybe one day it will be back, hopefully with the intent and tone realigned with the founder’s original purpose. But if that can’t be done, perhaps it is best left in the past.

1180-the_formula_milk_1
The Formula Blog: This personal blog was one of my favorites. I love Aimee’s self produced content from the photos to her brief reviews. There was a lot of insider content thanks in part to Aimee’s relationship with editors. However the last post was more than 5 months ago. Her Instagram is still good although the beauty feature is very scarce.

Burn Out
into-the-gloss-new-york-4
Into The Gloss
back in the day Emily Weiss would share her routines and that is actually where I learned about lines like Sunday Riley, Aesop, and even more mainstream lines like Jurlique. Her insider knowledge and access to people like Eva Chen and every beauty editor and fashion model was the draw. Now it has become the self-styled “editorial arm” of Glossier. Good for Emily, for maximizing her opportunity but let’s face it – the site is sooo not what it used to be back when we learned about Rodin Olio Lusso, or how jewelry designer Eddie Borgo went from La Mer to vegan products. Now the site fluctuates between sharing TOPSHELFIES of “on brand” girls from social media and writing their own posts in that cutesy, fae, “Broad City is MY life” type of way that I find to be too much. It is irritating to see the brand forcefully commit to communicating their almost stereotypically offensive take on “millennial speak.”  Now I skim through the main page and just go “this will be about glossier… this will have more products but they’ll be low key raving about the 2-3 glossier products they have in there… this one will be annoying AF…” and the posts just don’t carry the addictive quality that made me go back and re-read posts of yesteryears. It also doesn’t help that their products (which already don’t promise much) have consistently felt like a cosmetic version of holding a limp dick, I’m always left feeling like “this is a sad product, are we supposed to find the crap quality ironic in a hipster way and love it for that reason?” is the appeal “OMG this is so basic and opposite of good, HOW REFRESHING & BAD ASS!”?

So anyway, the churning of eye-roll inducing articles mixed with self-promotion means this-

TL;DR ITG started slipping when Emily Weiss stepped away from the editorial/content side, and since Glossier’s launch has become increasingly unbearable transforming from an insider look behind the scenes of the most aspirational, into an SNL parody on millennial marketing. Like many relationships, change is inevitable and it’s time we cut the bullshit and acknowledge this is just not working anymore.

The Rise of the Clones

These are the “holistic health” sites like mindbodygreen, Well+Good, Chalkboard Mag that have great content yet absolutely no spark nor personality; making them difficult to differentiate. The combination of never critical beauty round ups, smoothie recipes, 5 foods for stress/immunity/ so on so on, gluten free EVERYTHING is a bit tedious and while the majority of articles are informative, everything just feels very… blogging by the numbers and formulaic… there is no engagement. Honestly, I can only take so many articles about avocados on toast. Whereas ITG doubled down so much on developing a personality as contrived as it may be, at least they arrived at a personality.. these sites need to find an identity that doesn’t all blend in together.

Men’s Sites

Recently, I’ve found myself signing up for feeds from two men’s sites that could not be more different from one another. Very Good Light is written for “generation z” and has articles on products next to pieces geared toward redefining masculinity. The product pieces are written in a way where it’s almost a journey of discovery and exploration as though the reader is figuring out a BB cream or new cleanser with the writer.

yoga1
Garçon’s World goes in from the other direction, with the express purpose of providing an edit for the modern man. The tone reads like GOOP x ITG (from their heydays), where the writers – themselves experts in the industry (including my favorite – Green Derm), talk shop with copies befitting of advanced magazine editors. More than that, they really cut through “trends” and deliver focus on products that are simply strong performers, including raving about a retinol serum from a purely clinical line (harder to get than Biologique Recherche) that I’ve never seen anywhere else before. There’s also really juicy stuff on their social media, their last Instagram story on the Kypris cleanser contamination was the first of two times my jaw dropped on Oscar weekend.

Personal Blogs 

While not a small-time operation by any means, I will go ahead and place Garance Dore in here as the site was started as her personal space. Since then, she’s done so well for herself. Garance Dore‘s Beauty category has expanded quite significantly and is probably the closest thing to old ITG that I’ve found. I think it is because while her team has grown over the years, Garance retains her voice as the site is still her “business focus”. Check out their post: Objects of Beauty and you’ll see why this site is one of few that still makes articles that I come back to read.

image

Caroline Hiron’s is the beauty bible for many people and I love her cutting yet honest reviews (check out her visit to Violet Grey). Admittedly our perspective on some things are not the same: I think the amount of acid toning and retinols she recommends is bordering on counter productive, and some of her reviews esp on cleansers leave me confused i.e. Tata Harper’s Purifying Cleanser to her is a strong cleanser and should be a 2nd cleanse but in my experience it turns into oil on skin and is pretty much a 1st cleanser as it leaves a film behind but can remove make-up (my review here), she also says Sunday Riley’s Ceramic Slip is a similar cleanser that is low foaming but in my experience, it was pretty foamy and one of the cleansers that would dry out my skin so I saved it as a once a week cleanser for when skin was extra oily. All this is to say, everyone’s skin is so different as are our perspectives when it comes to products and just because we don’t always align does not mean the other person is not valid. I think Caroline is blunt, no-nonsense and so witty and will continue to read her site as both an informative source and for juicy tidbits.

I think that does it for my reading list, does yours look like this too? Are there others I should be adding to the list?

My 2016 Beauty Favorites

I was honored to be invited by Garçon’s World to share my 2016 Beauty Favorites alongside some of my favorite beauty bloggers. If you haven’t heard of Garçon’s World, I highly recommend checking them out. They’re perhaps best described as a cross of Into The Gloss and GOOP for guys written by really knowledgeable people including the founder of a 5-free nail polish line and Green Derm.

Below is my portion from their feature, you can check out the full feature on their website.

img_2918-2
My 2016 has been less about discovery and more about selectivity. I took a step back from hoarding the next new thing that was being hyped and really paid attention to spending time with items that were thoughtfully made and high quality. My favorites in order from left to right are:

The Beauty Chef’s GLOW Inner Beauty Powder: This year, I really tried to get on the internal wellness trend and I’m someone who can’t stomach a wheatgrass shot so a lot of the super-herbal supplements were a no-go for me. The Beauty Chef’s GLOW Inner Beauty Powder is different, it’s a delicious, flavorful berry drink that I would consume willingly and the fact that it has 23 very nutrition packed ingredients is the major icing on the cake. This is a next level beauty supplement with a great taste that can ACTUALLY be enjoyed.

Tatcha Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum: I really love everything about the Tatcha line from the gorgeous packaging to the beautiful products. This eye serum is no different, starting from the de-puffing ceramic applicator to the relaxing and hydrating gel-serum infused with caffeine and gold, everything worked for me. I am a hoarder of eye serums and go through them quickly, then move onto the next. I knew this was a keeper when I ran out and went to Barneys the next day to stock up. It didn’t matter that I had other eye serums, I needed this one.

YÜLI Harmony Body Oil: It wasn’t until I watched Kim Kardashian rave about body oils on her Snapchat and how she marinates in them ALL DAY, that I realized I had to step up my game. YÜLI is a line that has consistently produced insane & gorgeous formulations and their organic body oil is best in class: their base is flower extracts of Immortelle, Blue Lotus, Water Lily infused in the most prized and beautifying oils including prickly pear, camellia, rosehips, buriti, acai, watermelon and sea buckthorn. The performance strikes the perfect balance of deeply moisturizing with a satin light texture. Harmony also provides UV protection, is gluten-free and nut-allergy friendly. The level of care and thought for this sophisticated body oil is mind blowing.

Glossier Super Bounce: When Glossier introduced their Supers, I was immediately drawn to Super Bounce with its promise of  hydration and plumping because let’s face it, moisture is the main area of weakness for those of us who use green products. Since adding Super Bounce to my routine, my skin just feels less thirsty and I’m convinced it is the one thing my otherwise pristine routine was missing. This cute and rather unassuming serum more than pulls its weight in delivering that dose of skin cushioning hydration that my skin was so sorely lacking.

African Botanics Fleurs d’Afrique: This is monumental as far as face oils go. Not only do I think this is the masterpiece of the African Botanics line, I think this broke the mold for face oils. The inclusion of South African Kalahari Melon and Marula oil dances with the most luxurious fragrance of Jasmine, Rose and nocturnal African flowers and is then topped off  by a 0.1% retinol, Vitamin C, and CoQ10 for over the top performance. This oil does everything well whether you’re in the market for anti-aging, anti-acne, or something for dull skin. I just put it on and know that all of the best actives are overtime to improve any imperfection. I do not care how many face oils you’ve used, this is one that must be experienced.

What I’ve Been Using: Nov/Dec

Hello readers! It’s been a longer time than I expected since I last wrote a post. There have been a lot going on in my personal life that I do not share on here or anywhere really. But some things do not change and that is my love of beauty products.

I have been working my way through products and based on your e-mails of “what should I use?” I realize the importance of providing product feedback in a more cohesive routine manner rather than leave them in an individual bubble.

So here is what I’m loving:

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African Botanics Fleurs D’Afrique

Holy crap you guys, this is a face oil on steroids! African Botanics was not kidding when they released this “intensive recovery oil” which contains marine micro-algae, retinol, vitamin c and CoQ10 in ONE SINGULAR BLEND! The scent is incredible and it’s not a surprise considering Jasmine Essential Oil and Rose Essential Oil are ingredients 3 and 5! This is over achieving. For anyone who has ever questioned the effectiveness of a face oil, try this and let me know if you still feel the same way. I seriously think this stuff is divine and savor each drop that comes out of the beautiful bottle. Pictures do not do it justice, just bring this up to a light to see the golden oil through the black frosted glass, it’s a thing of beauty. I could only use this 2-3 times a week at the beginning because it was so strong, which is another thing, sensitive skin might want to look at a calmer option like their Pure Marula Oil. But for those of you who just want to put a high quality buffet of actives on your skin in a face oil form, look no further. Buy this, enjoy, you’ve met your perfect match.

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Lina Hanson Global Treasures Balm

The first time I saw this balm on Lina Hanson’s Instagram, I knew I had to have it. Sure we’ve seen balms by many a green brand at this point but I was captivated by the gorgeous color and gold specks! Then I looked at the ingredients list and discovered the green color came from matcha, the gold from real 24K gold, and the inclusion of pearl powder. Gaahhh.. what a creation! When it arrived, I excitedly opened the jar and it was the beauty junkie version of what I imagine it would be like to meet a hot guy off of Tinder. “Ohhh that’s how the color looks in person and omg there are those gold specks!” I took a deep inhale and was welcomed with a warm, chocolaty note. I wrote Lina basically saying “Yeah it looks just as amazing in person but how are you not telling people how good this stuff smells?!” I’ve been saving this balm for winter to use on dry spots. But the real secret is how well this works as an eye balm. It doesn’t tug or pull, and gives the perfect emollient feel that lets you know that it’s working to get your skin buttery soft. My eye serums have been replaced by this gem.

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Tatcha Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate

This embodies the innovative and quirky aspects of Asian skincare with a bouncy memory serum texture. Overnight Memory Serum is an ultra-concentrated form of Tatcha’s Luminous Dewy Skin Mist which means it is very very hydrating and absolutely packed with the rejuvenating powers of the mist. It is recommended for overnight recovery and I consider it to be extremely effective in combating dry winter air. Tatcha is made in Japan and I think of this as a very luxurious pressed serum/essence, as it is a very concentrated and nutrient packed product that delivers results like a serum. A little does go a long way with this and I use the gold scooper that comes with the jar which measures out the perfect amount. It kind of feels like breaking the super soft Japanese tofu over your skin and I say that in the most fun way. If your skin doesn’t handle moisturizers well (hello acne prone ladies) but needs that surge of moisture in the winter, this is the product you need. On a final note, check out how bouncy it is!

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Yarok Feed Your Volume Shampoo

I’m making my way through green shampoos and the latest stop is at Yarok which I have heard so much about. I believe it was Spirit who praised the way this smelled and although I enjoyed Rahua, I wasn’t completely in love with the palo santo scent so I had my eye on this for a while. I was pleasantly surprised by the gentle and light aroma of the shampoo. The way it smelled and felt reminded me of a fruity syrup. This shampoo was not drying at all, and made my hair feel and look great. I do not think it is really strong enough for my scalp though because it gets oilier quicker. With that said, I still really like this shampoo, my hair seems healthier and it just feels good. I find myself running my hands through my hair often because it just seems healthier. Many organic shampoos lack those chemical ingredients that give hair that “sheen” and “luster” but this brings it back with good ingredients which is incredible. I’m going to continue forward and see if my scalp situation sorts itself out – if it does, this will be a keeper.

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Yuli Metamorphic Elixir

When winter arrives, Metamorphic Elixir comes into play in a big way. If any green brand is going to pack in performance alongside the highest quality ingredients, it is Yuli and Metamorphic means business when it comes to hydration in the form of a botanically derived hyaluronic acid that is most compatible to the form of natural present hyaluronic acid in our skin, plant powered retinol alternatives (immortelle flower and frankincense which are both highly rejuvenating are literally ingredients 3 & 4), as well as the humectant glycerin which is a common ingredient however theirs is derived from fatty acids found in coconuts. Also if you love roses, this is flowing with a complex of roses with damask rose as the 2nd most abundant ingredient and also including a very rare white rose which smells soft and delicate. I think it was Chalkboard Mag that called this rose water on steroids for this reason. I first took the plunge to Metamorphic Elixir after hearing The Hermes Hippie and Rebecca Bailey of NMDL both  rave about it and it was love at first mist for me as well. A good face mist is like crack (I assume.. not speaking from experience), you just can’t get enough and already start dreading running out before you’re half way through  – that is exactly the relationship I have with this elixir. Add this to your winter regimen, it’s the tall drink of water your skin has craved.

The Sunday Trio

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Although everyone worries about their skin during the winter, I’ve always found summer to be more challenging. With the hot weather and scorching sun you have to not only figure out how to keep or increase moisture in your skin, but you have to account for increased sweatiness, oiliness, and increased usage of sunscreen. This leads me to sharing my Sunday trio, 3 steps that work as my weekly “restart” button to get my skin back into shape for the week ahead.

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YÜLI Pure Mask

This is one of the best powder to cream masks I’ve experienced. As is to be expected with YÜLI, there is a level of thoughtfulness and sophistication here that is quite special. The airy texture of the powder is super-fine that once activated with water turns into a silky cream that applies effortlessly onto skin. The reason this works so well for summer is because the ingredients have a cooling and soothing effect thanks to traditional Asian botanicals like mung bean, green tea and goji berries. When my skin is red, overheated, congested, or feeling gross in general from the effects of summer, this is like a cool smoothie for my skin – filter out the bad stuff, chock full of the good stuff.

Tatcha Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate

I am absolutely obsessed with this product. Like all Tatcha products, the presentation is beautiful but more so – the memory serum concentrate has such a unique formula where the texture is like a cross between a soft Japanese tofu and JELLO. Even when I scoop over some of the concentrate, the formula refills the areas I just scooped – how cool is that?!

So moving beyond that, the reason I love this is because it is essentially the ultra-concentrated form of Tatcha’s Luminous Dewy Skin Mist that is universally loved (it was even recently featured on Kylie Jenner’s snapchat). So this is THE product for getting hydration into skin and to accelerate recovery from a day out – making it the perfect pairing to the Pure Mask.

Aurelia Cell Revitalize Day Moisturizer

This is a dreamy, rich day cream that helps with dryness and dehydration, and it is the final step to seal in all of the good stuff from the first two steps. While the thickness may deter some, I love the way the creaminess just melts away into skin leaving it feeling only nourished without heaviness. This is definitely a very high quality product that is very rich with organic oils, aloe, and probiotics which keep skin surface healthy. Simply a pleasure to use.

The Review: May Lindstrom The Problem Solver

May Lindstrom Beauty Idealist
Do you have Instagram? If you do and you follow green beauty pros then you’ll know what I mean when I say there doesn’t seem to be a single person who has not heard of or tried May Lindstrom’s The Problem Solver. It’s almost an unspoken requirement that to be inducted into the green beauty club, one has a signature Problem Solver #maskselfie.

May Lindstrom’s The Problem Solver is one of her core products that helped start it all. It’s a correcting mask made of powdered clays, salts, warming spices, charcoal, and “soil nutrients”. May calls this her “hero. over-achiever. superstar” and describes it as follows:

The jet-black fusion of antioxidant-rich raw cacao, healing bamboo charcoal, soil nutrients, salts and exotic warming spices goes deep, on a mission to reveal your most radiant self. This intense treatment masque effectively purifies and tightens pores, extinguishes inflammations, fights and heals blemishes, jump-starts circulation in the epidermis and detoxifies skin with delightful ease and power. The radically different powder-to-mousse formula activates on contact with water, only releasing its magic at the exact moment of use so you experience full potency every time.

I had read about how this mask provides for quite an intense, heated experience and I will never forget the first time that I used this mask. When I opened the jar, it felt grand. The hefty, weighty jar seemed like it could go on forever. The powder looked a little like ash or soot and smelled like cacao, spices and clay. I diligently followed the instructions and rejoiced in turning the mask into a jet black fusion. Immediately upon application I felt an initial sting that quickly grew into a burning sensation and my face became frozen in a state of grimace.

5 minutes in, I was sweating. My breathing grew heavy and every second tested my resolve to stick it through. But I was so afraid of seeing lobster-red irritated skin if I washed it off prematurely as I believed that this must be the reason we’re instructed to leave the mask on for 45 minutes. As the mask began to dry, my pain gradually subsided. I thought I was out of the woods. And it was then a single god forsaken drop of sweat dripped into my eyes and I discovered pain on a whole new level. I was now crying while wincing and grimacing simultaneously. 45 minutes could not come soon enough and when it did, I washed with tepid, low flowing water which was all my battered skin could take. The rinse off actually provides exfoliation which is good in theory but horrible when your skin just got destroyed. It took me about 5 minutes to wash my face as I needed to be gentle and also because this mask rinses pretty dirty. I was pleasantly astonished to see that my face wasn’t lobster red after the blistering burn I experienced. However it felt traumatized and I looked like I had just emerged from an all night bender. My pores were blackened which required toner on several cotton rounds to clean. My skin looked sullen, dull, and lifeless.
May Lindstrom Beauty Idealist

If I’m being fully honest, this is the first beauty product I’ve purchased that I’ve seriously thought about returning. Given that this mask costs $90, I was determined to make it useful in some way: trying it on friends, boyfriend, family – no one really took to it. Then I read through online advice provided by May: apply this mask pre-cleansing/showering, or add some honey. But these are all just ways to keep as many things between the mask and your skin as possible, in other words creating barriers from your skin and the mask while still convincing you to use it.

Now let’s figure out why I had this experience. This is the full ingredients list for The Problem Solver:

Fuller’s earth clay, red moroccan rhassoul clay, raw cacao, red alaea sea salt, ascorbic acid,sodium bicarbonate, bamboo carbon charcoal powder, organic vanilla, organic lavender, organic marshmallow root, wild harvested frankincense, organic gotu kola, organic angelica root, organic cinnamon,organic nutmeg, organic clove, organic turmeric, organic cayenne

Baking soda, raw cacao, cinnamon, clove, cayenne pepper. The aforementioned are not my Whole Foods shopping list for my next baking project, they’re what you’re marinating your skin in when you apply The Problem Solver. Cacao is a very popular product that’s antioxidant rich, however it’s kind of like wine – there are great properties but nothing exceptional but people laud it because it’s pleasurable. Baking Soda is something I use to scrub and clean my bathroom, it is also very alkaline which really messes up your skin’s pH and functionality so it is not something that is going to do your skin any favors long term. These are among the first 6 ingredients in the mask.

Then we have the spices, or what Tata Harper and countless other skin experts call sources of irritation and inflammation. Despite being culprits for the intense burning, their skin benefits are arguable yet what is absolutely for certain is that these spices cause inflammation. There was a short lived sitcom starring Michael J. Fox on NBC when I first got this mask where his TV character’s family makes a effort to connect with his zanny sister-in-law who always flocks to the next trendy thing. She makes them all mask together and they all going with it to accept her, and then they get burned and run to wash their skin as she says “there is cayenne pepper! They said it’s dujour!” and that summarizes the nonsensical nature of this mask.

To be fair, I understand everyone’s skin will respond differently. And you might love this mask and have no idea what I’m talking about when I share my experience. The reason I call out these ingredients is because I think they’re objectively bad for anyone’s skin.

And that spells the genius of the May Lindstrom hype machine which has convinced legions of beauty junkies and hopeful customers to not only apply these ingredients that go against one’s intuition but to idolize this time as the most delicate form of sensual self-care. As an industry, beauty is swayed more by a pretty story, visuals or ideas than actual scientific data which is irresponsible because the products we use should be more thoughtfully considered.

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Via May Lindstrom Facebook Page

Case in point: it wasn’t until May introduced a mask that used cayenne pepper that now multiple green brands also happen to have masks that use cayenne pepper despite this being highly irritating and inflammatory. It wasn’t until May educated us on the benefits of honey for skin in her Honey Mud that multiple green brands now have honey based products, despite it being essentially unviable when any other ingredient touches it. It wasn’t until May made us eye-gasm over the Blue Cocoon’s hue that other companies jumped onto the bandwagon with blue tansy oil despite the fact that with exception to its striking color, I would not use it daily or long term as it is listed as an ingredient to avoid for pregnant women and also those with endocrine or hormonal imbalances, which feels like nearly all the commenters on No More Dirty Looks, and I’ve seen multiple comments online from those who use this saying they can’t use it regularly as it leads to clogged pores and breakouts.

So many blogs will write about the importance of vetting brands while hyping up the very lines they should be questioning. Based on what I’ve researched, I cannot find sufficient evidence that shows whether May herself has any educational background in skincare or dermatology – and if I’m being honest, her title as skin chef doesn’t inspire too much confidence (again beautiful imagery, but WHAT DOES IT MEAN). Green Beauty is rife with passion, but passion and good intentions don’t translate into safe nor beneficial formulas. Given my history with her products, I question how these products are supposed to actually be good for skin (see review on Honey Mud).

Due to my very intense experience that created a very real, physically adverse reaction – I did more research on The Problem Solver in particular to see whether I was the only one. To my surprise, upon closer reading I found a handful of reviews where the bloggers acknowledge the burning but also that upon contacting May, a new jar was sent as a replacement that was free of said irritating ingredients, leading to a glowing review. This isn’t really a question on the validity of the green beauty hype machine, but rather at what point the review becomes entirely inconsequential as the product reviewed is essentially a custom-made product that is going to be different from the one that readers are being convinced to purchase? I know May is kind and gracious, but I think it is misleading to assume that your Problem Solver, will match an influential blogger’s custom made version.

May Lindstrom Beauty Idealist

This might come off preachy and judgy but I assure you it isn’t my goal – because I’m just as guilty of slathering on the said bathroom grade solvent+spices on my skin when they’re gorgeously packaged in dense black glass and gold lettering. My hope is to have this serve as a wake-up call to truly and actually reclaim your independence and trust your intuition. It’s an exercise in being active about what you put on your face rather than passively streaming in the messages you are bombarded with when you go onto social media from retailers, bloggers, brands and beauty sites. I know that May did the level of work and research that satisfied her and her retailers/customers, but I also know that the way she makes products and her choices of ingredients (& those other lines that mimic her) are just not aligned with my ideals.

If I were to summarize the line it would be this: I think May’s objective and success is that she formulates for that sensory experience. Creating products with aromatic richness or vibrant hues that are instantly photo-friendly and incredibly easy for editors to feature as they’re more concerned with marketable copies while only requiring a superficial understanding of the actual skincare. The priority then isn’t necessarily focused on ingredients that are especially great for the skin which opposes what I believe the goal should be for skincare products. This doesn’t mean in my book she can’t do anything right, it just means I’ll have to be diligent in examining future products in a vacuum away from the hype machine.

So tell me: have you had a similar experience to share or am I being too harsh?