Tatcha Deep Hydration Firming Serum

Happy new year dear friends! And now that we find ourselves wedged in the middle of a sneakily brutal winter (at least here in NY), I felt now is as good a time as any to share a goody that has helped to keep my skin from being the dry, flaky mess it was the previous winters (thank you aggressive heater and brisk wind chills!).

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Tatcha’s Deep Hydration Firming Serum is a light gel serum that packs quite a punch! Of course, Tatcha nails the packaging in a beautiful indigo bottle with a pump that dispenses just the right amount of product.

The gel is what I call “The Edward Cullens” effect because it sparkles! And what causes this sparkle? Oh just 23-k gold pigments that brighten and add this subtle radiance to skin. How cool is that? See pic below where I try to capture the gold shimmer:

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Although the serum goes on light and smooth, I was pleasantly surprised to experience almost an instant effect on my skin. It seems to gain strength as it stays on skin, feeling almost like a glove that locks in moisture for the deep hydration and holds skin firmly as the moniker would describe.

This product is what I consider to be a centerpiece item of the Luminous Water collection and is powered by ingredients found in the Okinawa sea including red algae which retains moisture, silk extract which gives it the weightless slip while also helping skin retain moisture and royal jelly extract which is a really healing and powerful moisture locking ingredient.

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Tatcha’s Deep Hydration Firming Serum ($95/1oz) is such a effortless yet luxurious add-on that will do wonders for dry skin and skin that becomes drier during the winter. For those looking to up the ante during this cold season yet are afraid of suffocating moisturizers, this might be your answer. The light texture does not cause breakouts and works over time to draw in moisture so really anyone with any skin type looking to increase the moisture they provide their skin can use this.

I prefer to use this at night in place of a moisturizer to let my skin breathe while waking up to really soft to the touch, plumped skin but I will also use it if I’m going out and my skin just needs to look a little more rested and cared for.

You can find Tatcha on their beautiful website and at Barneys locations in the US and Joyce Beauty in Asia.

MUN No.1 Aknari Nighttime Dream Youth Serum Review

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It’s fascinating to me how the deceivingly simple face oil can be so intricate and complex. On paper its just a mix of plant oils blended together yet to experience a well made blend in person is something else entirely. Each blend maintains its own character, personality, and tells their own story. Case in point, the cult beauty product from make-up artist Munemi Imai, MUN No.1 Aknari Nighttime Dream Youth Serum. This luxe oil earns my respect for the risks it took. At $95 for a mere 0.5 oz (15ml) of oil, founder Munemi Imai’s confidence lies in the blend of 3 seemingly simple yet powerful 100% organic oils: Argan, Bulgarian Rose, and Prickly Pear Seed. These are oils that have been seen in other products but never in such a stripped down way that really calls to focus the individual power of the three oils.

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Argan is already an established super star in the beauty world, launching lines from Josie Maran to Kahina Giving Beauty. It’s many uses have been heralded by Moroccan women for centuries, yet have only been appreciated by the Western luxury beauty shopper recently. There really isn’t anything Argan doesn’t do, it’s the most pure all in one skin care ingredient that moisturizes and heals and softens (thanks to high Vitamin E).

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Bulgarian Rose is one of my favorite fragrances. It’s just so luxurious and the aromatherapy benefits are plentiful. In this blend, Bulgarian Rose takes the front seat in the scent department. I read in an interview that in creating this oil, Munemi needed an oil to balance the scent of the Prickly Pear which wasn’t the most palatable, and after lots of trial, this rose was chosen. It’s obvious that she did her research well because this fragrance is fantastic. It reminds me of those fresh rose soaps made locally when I was a child. It first appears strong, almost spicy then levels off. Between the precious bottle, orange hue, and this fragrance, the entire experience feels very special.

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Prickly Pear Seed is one of the rarest, most expensive oils, and it is said to heal and brighten skin, essentially making skin appear healthy and glowing. It is packed full of every good thing skin could want or need and is what I consider to be the most special part of this serum and one of the best ingredients for skincare in general.

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This serum is an anti-aging product that targets wrinkles and fine lines while toning complexion. I believe the argan helps to smooth and soften lines/wrinkles along with prickly pear seed which also makes the complexion better. Although the serum is prescribed as night time product, one can use it during the day as well. I personally keep it for night as I think the smell is wonderful for bedtime and I want to save what precious drops I have of this oil.

Now onto my personal experience..

munI found this oil to be so thoughtfully made. The confident blend of 3 oils works well in creating a minimal yet worthy product that is well rounded and versatile. The fruity scent of rose is a little on the spicy side but calms down to remind me of very fresh rose soaps, so it smells clean and fresh. The texture is actually thicker than I expected, more so than May Lindstrom’s Youth Dew which itself is good for dry skin. Although it is thicker than expected, I did not have any breakouts and the serum worked very well with my skin. It kept my skin very hydrated, even allowing me to forego moisturizer during the oddly cold winter/spring transition in New York.

I follow the instructions to a tee, applying a toner like Yuli Cocoon Elixir to get skin damp and conditioned before applying just 1 pump of the Youth Serum. This minimal routine really gave my skin a break. After 3 weeks of use, I have to say, it is a joy to use this serum each night. Being welcomed first by the fragrance then by the three organic oils as they sink into skin, it truly feels like a luxurious experience. I also discovered this serum to be great around the under-eye area as Prickly Pear Seed Oil is known to reduce dark circles.

Now onto the price. For those of you who love a well made luxury product, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in this serum. I know there are also people who will only shell out this kind of money ($95 for 0.5 oz) for something that can deliver miracles. If you’re in this camp, I’m just going to be honest that you may find yourself feeling a little uneasy. There are times when I use this that I think $95 for three oils is a bit much but I value that extra bit of polish and attention that separates this brand from a simple DIY. Results wise, this serum is very good and each of the wonderful superstar ingredients is given adequate opportunity to shine  but where it really excels in my opinion is with reactive, sensitive skin. As this serum only contains 3 (very high quality and beneficial) ingredients, the chances of something setting off a reaction is VERY VERY LOW. It’s also good for those who like to hop from product to product because the pared down ingredients list really helps give skin a break, almost like a juice cleanse for skin. I don’t imagine anyone will find this serum to cause breakouts or adverse reactions unless you happen to be sensitive to Argan, Rose, or Prickly Pear – in which case, it’s best to just skip this and similar serums all together.

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I wish the bottle could be 1 oz instead of 0.5 oz but that’s neither here nor there, and a bottle of this serum can last a good 2.5 months. As someone who enjoys splurging on luxury beauty products, I found MUN’s Dream Youth Serum to be a wonderful addition to my growing collection of oils. It has a special place as an effective minimalist product on days where I want to give my skin a break without depriving it.

Have you given this very special serum a try? What is your take?

The Samples: Round Up

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Clockwise: La Prairie White Caviar Illuminating Serum, Ahava Mineral Body Lotion, Juice Beauty Cleansing Milk, Murad Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 20, Dr.Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel

La Prairie White Caviar Illuminating Serum: A serum to treat dark spots and uneven coloring. Key actives for anti-pigmentation include: golden caviar extracts, tomato fruit extract, larch tree extract, and white tea complex. I make it a point to call this out because La Prairie is one of the most scientifically advanced high-end skincare brands and many detractors of the ‘natural skincare’ movement say natural products aren’t ‘effective’ which just isn’t true as it’s the base of active ingredients in nearly ALL skincare.

This is a light serum that seems to have shiny glitter in there. I seriously thought I was going to have sparkly skin a la Twilight vampires when I first used this. Fortunately the serum disappears upon contact. At $450 for 1oz, I expected miracles, as should you. I was disappointed to see that the top 3 ingredients in this formula are water, glycerin, and alcohol, followed by silicones. This is kind of the typical layout of ingredients you’ll see in many top-tier ‘premium’ brands in department stores. I wish that good ingredients like their active form of Vitamin C could be more concentrated as that seems to be the key method they’re using to lighten skin pigmentation. So as expected this serum is beautiful to look at but unfortunately didn’t really deliver long-term benefits.

Ahava Mineral Body Lotion: I am really enjoying this body lotion. At $24 for 8.5oz, there is a lot to like in this simple, but well made cream. The scent is lovely as is the texture, this is the kind of stuff clinical trials are made for as every sense is pleased with this lotion. The actual results are very typical and will be similar to what you’ll find in products that are cheaper and more expensive as the ingredients are very traditional: Water, Alcohol, Emulsifiers, etc. The good ingredients like Aloe Vera and Witch Hazel are in the middle of the pack, but I’d like to see them higher as I think it might make this mix more hydrating, soothing, and skin softening as it’s actual results now leave it in the “typical” range.

Juice Beauty Cleansing MilkSo first impressions – Tata-freaking-Harper! This formula reminded me so much of Tata Harper’s Refreshing Cleanser, from the texture to the scent to the way the product glides on the skin – I’m convinced that if I did a blind test study, few people could tell the difference if they’ve used neither products before. If you’re a fan of Tata Harper’s cleanser, you should jump for joy as this can be had for just $22 for 6.75oz! Unfortunately for me, this just felt so heavy on my skin like I was coating it in moisturizer instead of cleansing my face. In fact the first time I used it, I felt like I hadn’t washed my face the entire day afterward and by the time I came home at the end of the day I had 3 pre-acne bumps on my forehead. Not a fit for me.

Murad Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 20In the spirit of being helpful, I decided to review this, otherwise I’d just leave a big resounding “ugh no.” This is called a light-weight acne moisturizer and I guess if you include Tea Tree Oil to your product, you can justify it. But the entire formula is laden with alcohol which ages and stripes skin (causing more oil production that leads to acne) and silicones which clog skin. Yes the texture is light, but you’d expect that from all the chemicals. The SPF power is only at 20, which is surprising considering all the sunscreen power comes from chemicals, so one would think they would at least bump this up to a SPF 30 to truly be of any use for daytime wear. Also, this contains retinyl palmitate which is the form of Vitamin A that dermatologists are advising should not be used in sunscreens. Overall, everything wrong with chemical sunscreens can be found in this product. 

Dr.Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel: I like Dr. Saul Alkaitis, his products are priced fairly (although the cremes are on the high side for his line), and I like his philosophy that his products intuitively respond to individual skin type so his products are not sold by skin type. However this also makes buying things like choosing between his 4 masks extremely difficult as you have to look for indicator words to figure out what would be best for your skin. I digress, the Organic Soothing Gel earned a steady reputation in Spirit Beauty Lounge as a lightweight gel moisturizer that is really good for acne prone skin because of its anti-bacterial properties. 

The scent of the gel is similar to his line, herbal, strong, but not something you’d think was bad. The texture in my sample was a bit inconsistent, can anyone confirm if this product is supposed to be shaken first? The product came as very fluid at first and as I used more, it became more gel like and darker in color. So something was going on there. Unlike a lot of natural skincare products, there is an obvious amount of alcohol in this gel. It’s derived from organically grown grapes so it’s better than the typical alcohol that is used, but I wonder if a lower concentration would be possible. 

There are great ingredients to counter acne such as witch hazel, lavender, & fennel, but while I think it helped rather than hindered breakouts, I can’t say I would count on this for serious breakouts or to dramatically reduce flareups. Nonetheless, I would consider purchasing this as a light moisturizer that has additional benefits in discouraging acne, despite my reservations over it’s alcohol content and effectiveness in tackling breakouts.

Product Review: Laura Mercier-Flawless Skin Repair Serum

Product Name: Laura Mercier Flawless Skin Repair Serum
Cost: $95 (from Neiman Marcus

I’m a sucker for anything that promises to give “flawless” skin. It doesn’t matter if it’s anti-aging or blemish fighting, I just feel like the lazy consumer in me sees that word and just calls it a day! In this case, the serum is classified as an anti-ager.

While I’ve been familiar with Laura Mercier’s brand, I know her best for her make-up line (the foundations/concealers are AMAZING- review will come soon) and not the skincare. I think her brand message is delivering ‘perfect’ skin that looks ‘natural’. This appeals to me since I’m definitely a fan of the no-makeup look (even if I have to use an array of products and brushes to achieve it!) over the photoshopped MAC-Nicki Minaj/Kardashian look.

The bottle itself is a bit like a facial oil in that it is dropper based. I love droppers since you can control how much you use better than a pump, but they’re more difficult to get on when your hands are filled with product.

The Flawless Skin Repair Serum is botanical based but full disclosure, does contain parabens and alcohol. It promises that within 2 weeks, skin will be more radiant, firmer, brighter, and smoother. During my use, I noticed that it did seem to make my skin instantly supple. I also noticed that my skin did indeed seem more refined. The serum is buildable with light moisturizers and is good under makeup due to its silky texture.

This is one of those products that I’ve enjoyed using but probably will not repurchase due to the fact that there are just so many other alluring products on the market as well. I would recommend it for others, but I don’t think I will feel at a loss when this bottle runs out.

Product Review: La Mer- The Concentrate

Product: The Concentrate, La Mer
Price: $375 ( Available at Neiman Marcus)

If you speak to most women who buy high-end skincare, they either swear by La Mer or they don’t- either way, it is the one brand that manages to illicit a strong reaction from the market. I grew up seeing my mom use the mini-tubs of their signature ‘Creme de La Mer’. To me, La Mer has always represented the epitome of high-end skincare. However, lately with brands such as Sunday Riley on the rise which emphasizes green-technology, and natural brands like Kahina which emphasis clean ingredients, La Mer’s products have been looking a bit dated.

In order to appeal to a younger generation, La Mer has diversified their product line launching cleansers, toners, sunscreens, makeup, and hero-serums. The Concentrate was the product that most appealed to me.

This product is regarded as the most “potent” in the entire line due to it’s concentration of their renowned active Miracle Broth derived from seaweed. It’s primary purpose is to treat scarring, and skin that needs to heal. As someone with mild acne scarring, I was interested in testing this out.

The Concentrate comes out as a thick, yellowish gel that smells a bit medicinal and minty. Like all La Mer products, you must heat it with your hands/fingers before you apply it on the face. This makes the consistency a bit more absorptive. I found that unlike some of their other products, this wasn’t that heavy and didn’t cause me to break out. It absorbed fairly well, and moisturized my skin. 

After 2 weeks of use, I’m not sure if it did anything for acne scars but my skin did feel more supple. Although I don’t agree with the product’s claims that it can be a considerable alternative for people considering chemical peels/laser, I do think it is a well formulated, versatile serum that is good for skin. But for acne scar treatment, not so sure.

Review: Aesop B Triple C Facial Balancing Gel

Product: Aesop B Triple C Facial Balancing Gel

Price: $115

I’ve loved the Aesop line since before it was widely known in the US. I remember going to their one apothecary in Manhattan after class to get products before they opened their grand central station shop. The packaging reminds me of a more streamlined Kiehl’s with the wordy descriptions, but the dual tone colors (olive + black) make it a lot more sophisticated. During my most recent trip, the sales associated recommended the Aesop B Triple C Facial Balancing Gel as a great night time moisturizer for combination skin that also brightens the skin. As a huge vitamin buff, I was delighted to try out the B Triple C (1 part Vitamin B, 3 parts Vitamin C), even at the not-cheap price tag of $115.

The first thing I noticed when I put it on was how thick and molasses like the gel was, it isn’t one of those lighter, watery gels that just comes outs. You really have to get it into your skin otherwise it’ll be sticky. From experience, I now rub it in my hands a bit to warm it up which makes it a little more watery and easily absorbed.

I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of results but after the first night I used it, I woke up to skin that just appeared to be ‘better’. I can’t describe what it was, but I felt like my skin was firmer, and just appeared to be ‘better’. Having used it now for 3 weeks I can definitely say that my skin appears to be brighter, more radiant, and previous areas of redness have gone down significantly. It did not cause any breakouts, which is a little surprising given how thick the gel is. Although the texture left something to be desired, it was easily overcome by the results.

I will definitely buy this again and recommend it for those with normal-oily skin.