My Holiday Sales Picks

I gotta be honest, each year the holiday sales start earlier and get increasingly confusing. I started receiving emails as far back as September, and many of you messaged me around October to see when or if I’d be writing my usual holiday sales guide. I know that great deals coming at you over this period can aggravate a pretty aggressive case of FOMO (fear of missing out). My overall approach this year has been to wait until the Black Friday- Cyber Monday weekend, even with earlier holiday sales start dates. And I feel like it has paid off. But with so many sales, instead of a long list that you could possibly peruse anywhere, instead I’m sharing exactly what I’m getting for myself and which sales I’m using to get them. Do note: this list is serum-heavy because sales are when I typically splurge on this category.

5% Boost: If you have a Chase Freedom credit card, purchases made using PayPal automatically reward a 5% cash back bonus, so as I go through the deals, if I denote this boost, just know that you can basically add another 5% to the promotion. If you don’t have this card yet, get it here (there is no annual fee).

NATURIUM – 25% off Orders $50+, Code: THANKS.

I purchased a bunch of products from Naturium last year, but haven’t gotten around to reviewing them even though I’ve been using them consistently. So consider this my repurchase/mini-review in one:

Vitamin C Super Serum Plus — Naturium is priced very reasonably (this retails for $25 regular price), and the Vitamin C Super Serum Plus (the most concentrated Vitamin C serum in the line) will not feel like you’ve sacrificed any quality. Initially, I wasn’t sure if Naturium achieved the low price points by sacrificing ingredient quality or concentration, but after using the Vitamin C Super Serum Plus, I can confirm it is not the case. This is a VERY potent, yet non-irritating Vitamin C serum that utilizes pure Ascorbic Acid, and I often notice my skin brighten and look more even overnight. Beyond the Vitamin C, what I like about this serum is that it’s a one and done because there’s also retinol, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. I don’t really like to layer serums, I prefer to use one-two serums in my routine in one sitting, and changing them out daily based on how my skin feels. With the Vitamin C Super Serum Plus, it feels like I’m really going in on the Vitamin C without sacrificing anything else. I’m going to bring up the price again because it’s kind of unbelievable to me that this serum retails for $25, when really it could easily be going for $75+. So of course with 25% off, this is high on my repurchase list.

Alpha Arbutin Serum 2% — on nights where I’m not using Vitamin C or Retinol, I like using the alpha arbutin serum which has lemon (nighttime only!) and niacinimide to work on hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and balances skin tone. Where retinol promotes cell turnover, Vitamin C brightens skin and boosts collagen, this serum is a complexion brightening powerhouse that will work in tandem with retinols, Vitamin C, and anti-aging serums to really bring out that glow we all talk about. I also like adding Alpha Arbutin because you won’t usually find it in acid products, and it’s not only effective, but it’s considered a more skin-friendly alternative to hydroquinone (they’re the same root molecule), the gold standard skin brightener that dermatologists use for age spots, melasma, and post-inflammatory pigmentation.

YÜLI – 15% off Site-wide (with deluxe trial of Ambrosia Beauty Nectar), Code: BFCM21; 20% off Orders $250+ (with full-sized Harmony Body Oil, $80 value), Code: BFCM200.

YÜLI really is a staple in my skincare collection, and their once-a-year holiday sale is basically the only opportunity to get anything at discount. 20% off at $250 is the lowest price tier I’ve seen from them, not to mention you get an $80 product – Harmony Body Oil, which I feel is such an easy product to love that everyone can use. If you can’t hit that number, and just want to try something, you’re still getting a 15% discount, and they’re including a deluxe sample of Ambrosia Beauty Nectar, their most expensive (but worth it) product. Additionally, they take PayPal, so you can add in a bonus 5%.

Halcyon Cleanser – Limited Rose Edition — It’s no exaggeration to say that since finishing my last bottle of Halcyon Cleanser – Limited ROSE Edition last April, I’ve thought about it…. Each time I’ve cleansed my face. I mean… the original Halcyon is my holy grail cleanser, and the Rose edition is just so next-level aaahhhhhmazing. It smells of faint, aquatic roses, the type of fresh and pure floral that you just want to bury your nose into. And their rose is uncompromising, sourced from private gardens which is why the stock is so limited. I’m buying multiples.

Ambrosia Beauty NectarAmbrosia Beauty Nectar has been described as witchcraft in how it just does… everything you could want for the skin in an almost indescribable way. Writing a review for it a while ago proved it be a challenge because there was so much I wanted to say, and didn’t know how to say. Yes, even I found myself out of words. Just trust me on this, it’s an exquisite product. You know how you always hear about miracle serums that do multiple things? This is it. And the ingredients deck is all killer, no filler. For instance, there are multiple actives classed as pharmaceutical-grade antioxidants, and each one is like a miracle ingredient that has long been missing in skincare. Yes, it’s expensive, but there are still serums multiple times this price that don’t have a third of the innovation and formulation integrity as this one. It’s also why I stock up on this during the sale. The formula is absolutely worth it for what you’re getting.

Paula’s Choice – 20% Off Site-Wide

Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment: When it comes to retinols, I prefer to stick to the tried and true retinols, and when I think of tried-and-true, science-based formulas, you can’t go more standard than Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol which is a very powerful, result-driven retinol that happens to also be outfitted with antioxidants and even Vitamin C. It’s such a packed ingredients list for a great price. I had purchased two bottles last year that lasted me until August. I’ve felt a retinol-shaped hole in my routine since then, so I’ll be picking up one extra bottle this year.

Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant: When it comes to acid-exfoliants, I’m kind of done with glycolic acids. They’re harsh, photo-sensitizing, and can cause inflammation. Upon researching acids, I started finding more and more literature about the strengths of Salicylic Acid, an acid I recall from my acne-prone teenage years. I purchased a travel size of the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (pictured) last year, and have loved it for how gentle and effective it worked. Salicylic Acid works on the sticky and congested bits, the clogged pores, build up, and congestion. That’s why it’s so marvelous for acne. But even for those without acne, I feel those are the qualities one would want from an acid. Plus it’s so much gentler than glycolic acid.

The Nue Co. – 30% Off Site-wide + Free Barrier Culture Cleanser ($42 value) on orders $100+; Code: GARCONBF30

I love this deal because not only is 30% super generous, but the free bottle of Barrier Culture Cleanser (which I reviewed here) is so welcomed because it’s a product I would have otherwise purchased since I did like it a lot. Additionally, they accept PayPal, so you’re potentially looking at a whooping 35% off.

Barrier Culture Moisturizer — The ideal light yet weighty gel-cream texture, lightly scented with the most delicate touch of something nice and comforting, sinks into skin wonderfully, just perfection. Barrier Culture Moisturizer just resonated with me off the bat, and it’s sort of the ideal moisturizer for me. I’ve found myself always reaching for it as my moisturizer of choice from mid-summer to the colder temperatures we’re now experiencing. Such is Barrier Culture Moisturizer’s versatility that it never feels heavy yet always provides that perfect moisturizer benefit. I’m already on bottle 2, and will be purchasing another.

Destress 360 — Truth be told, since initially trying Destress 360 and really enjoying the benefits that I experienced, I’ve been looking around at others. BUT each time there is something that piques my interest, I read the ingredients list, compare them to Destress 360, and Destress 360 wins me back every single time. Most stress supplements focus on 1-2 herbs, an adaptogen or a CBD, but Destress 360 is so much more thorough and holistic. Since the pandemic, I’ve found my anxiety levels have increased significantly, but I just find that Destress 360 helps me coast through stressful days with ease that I otherwise would not have had.

Special Note: I would also recommend their Functional Fragrance, but I just feel like I’ve BEEN all about it for so long now. Seriously though, if you haven’t tried it yet, you really should.

Violet Grey – 20% Off Site-wide

D.S. & Durga Rose Atlantic — D.S. & Durga is one of those cool niche fragrance brands that I’ve been wanting to try, and I got a bottle of their Rose Atlantic after hearing how pretty much every cool kid in fashion and entertainment swears by it. I felt there was no better entry point to this chic Brooklyn perfume brand than the future Santal 33. And boy was it love at first sniff. Out of the box, I was afraid it would smell old-grandma, but nope, Rose Atlantic is much smoother and hipper to ever be that. The rose is soooo nice and fluid. Rose Atlantic is forward and clean without being cloying nor overbearing. There is more staying power and direct fragrance gravitas than just essential oil based perfumes, yet without the overwrought synthetics that feel overwhelming with ongoing wear which was a delight to discover. This is such a nice personal fragrance that feels beautiful, clean, and luxurious.

Royal Fern PHYTOACTIVE SKIN PERFECTING Essence — I just LOVE pressing this onto freshly cleansed skin. Firstly, an essence is a fluid that has a high concentration of plant based matter, and this uses the namesake Royal Fern extract which is an anti-pollution, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory extract. It’s pretty much an instant refresh for tired skin. Now… the product that put Essences on the map is SKII’s Essence, and this one is just sooooo much better in my opinion. This contains good acids, like gluconolactones, that tame enlarged pores, manage hyperpigmentation, and soothe irritation. It also has my favorite acid, lactic acid, that helps to plump as it exfoliates. It’s one of the only acids that is exfoliating, hydrating and anti-aging. Finally the Royal Fern extract helps to overturn the effects of pollution and UV damage on the skin. And it smells so clean and fresh in a green unisex way. 

Special Note: Last time I posted a Violet Grey sale, so many of the products I recommended got excluded so I not only made these purchases successfully with the code, but also checked again prior to publishing this post. If you have your eye on anything from Augustinus Bader, I’m happy to confirm that as of this writing, their products are 20% off as well. I purchased the newly launched Augustinus Bader Eye Cream with the 20% applied.




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.