A Skincare Update: All Green Beauty July 2020

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


I love hearing from you, whether in the comments section here or on my Instagram. Reach out!

Skincare Catchup: March 2020 Quarantine Edition

90090948_319410682350650_1004495937312807981_nHow’s everyone doing? As an introvert, this period of self-distancing hasn’t hit me particularly hard as it’s given me a chance to catch up on books, Netflix, and all the shows I’ve been meaning to watch. As an avid beauty junkie, I’ve been using this downtime to basically treat every day as though it was my Sunday self-care day. Here’s a snapshot of what I used today:

I begin each morning with my wellness drink, and given these times I’m not risking it — made by a board-certified nutritionist and dietitian, MIJA Superstar hits all the marks and immunity is a major benefit, plus, it tastes really good. I usually get anxiety/stress-induced inflammation that manifests as a stye or digestive issue but have not experienced any which I credit to this supplement.

I wash my face with lukewarm water then slather on YÜLI Pure Mask, which I’ve always loved but now have the time to really luxuriate in it. I think staying at home and not being able to get a decent sweat in at the gym has not been good for my pores and I’ve been noticing a bit more congestion, so this mask really helps to clarify while infusing with nutrients, giving me that naked baby-soft skin feel.

After rinsing off the mask, I follow with Reflekt’s Daily Exfoliating Face Wash. It’s very gentle and the exfoliation comes from jojoba beads rather than strong acids. I don’t use it as a scrub per se, but just a normal cleanse when I feel like my skin is a bit on the dull side. I also like that this is diluted in hyaluronic acid and otherwise skin moisturizing ingredients as well.

Post cleanse,  Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist is such a gorgeous mist. The bottle is beautiful and the juice is a nice milky texture. The only thing I had to change was being stingy with spraying it as I treasured it so much that I was not more generous with my sprays at the beginning.

Yuri Pibu Cellum Amaid Essence is so nice as well, and the perfect water-based serum that moisturizes. It’s a relatively clean K-Beauty staple that is focused on high concentrations of plant ingredients like yam that help to brighten skin too. It’s also very very gentle.

African Botanics Fleur’s D’Afrique Intensive Recovery Oil, I use this primarily as a night time oil but since I’m staying in all day, I figure why not go for it and slather on the anti-aging oil, right? This oil is STRONG but in that good way where you’re like “I’m definitely getting my money worth.” And it smells beautiful thanks to night-blooming flower extracts.

Indie Lee Daily Skin Nutrition has become such a reliable moisturizer for day or night. It’s not an attention-getting product and I mean that in a good way because some products are divas and this is like the hardworking team member on your group project who always replies emails, does their work, is super dependable, and you end up becoming friends.

Vive Sana Serum Cream is my last step. It’s an SPF 20 which in any real-world scenario is low (Vive Sana has an actual SPF cream that is SPF 30), but in this stay-at-home scenario works wonderfully because it provides just that right amount of protection and is such a rich anti-oxidant filled cream. I’d almost describe it as a face oil in a cream form with SPF20 in there.


Let me know if you’d like me to share more daily routines while we get through this very unusual time together!

*This post is not sponsored, though it may contain some affiliate links.

Current Routine: A Maximalist Focus on Layering Serums

 

Lately, I’ve been in a decidedly maximalist state-of-mind. It could be the colder weather, but I’ve also started binging skin talk videos from dermatologists who despite having very basic recommendations (for my taste), all adhere to going full-on with their serums. I remember the founder of MAC once declaring his greatest beauty secret was using “tons of serums every night” and I think it’s something we all casually say about people who take care of their skin, but it’s made me wonder — just what is the best way to layer serums?

Firstly, serums are the powerhouse step in any regimen. They’re the change-makers. This is the category of retinol, acids, vitamin c, peptides, hydration, or deep nutrition in a concentration that is meaningful. Second, while serums can be layered, there is only so much that our skin can take and we have to consider the point of diminishing returns when later serums might not even be able to effectively penetrate. Third, serums can be powerful and like alpha-type personalities, it’s best to make sure the serums can coexist before mingling. For instance, it’s not a great idea to do an acid peel the same night as a retinol treatment, and I know that Vitamin C and certain peptides can be particularly volatile around exfoliating acids.

So be smart about how you’re layering your serums. The evening is when I bring out the heavy hitters that turn back the clock, while in the day I’m more about protection which revolves primarily around SPF, and barrier creams rather than active serums. I’ll share a current system that I do in the evenings focused three-fold: anti-aging, nutrition, and nourishment.

I start by figuring out the layers, separating my options by texture: a lighter more watery essence-type of serum, a classic light cream-gel type of serum, and finally an oil-based serum. As my goal is to really feed my skin in good nutrition, I’m particularly looking for products without a lot of fragrance, silicones, or other non-beneficial fillers so I’m primarily sticking to clean skincare which tends to be more concentrated in the actual powerhouse ingredients.

For my essence-serum step, I choose the k-beauty brand, Yuri Pibu’s Cellum Amaid Essence which contains 60% Galactomyces Ferment, which is extracted from fermented Sake Yeast. Sound familiar to SKII’s Sake Yeast derived signature active, Pitera? That’s because it is, this Sake Yeast ferment is purported to brighten, soften, and renew skin, and is used in higher concentrations than anything from SKII. There is also wild yam extract and rice bran extract which help to brighten the complexion as well. Dermatologists say the primary indicator of skin aging isn’t even fine lines or wrinkles but the pigmentation changes, and this milky-watery essence is perfect for helping to give that hydrated, brightened effect popular in Asian routines.

In choosing my next serum, I go by texture weight, so after the watery-essence, I followed with a more textbook serum, African Botanics Nutritive Molecule Serum which is a coppery gel-cream hybrid not dissimilar to the textures of old school serums that you’ll find from brands like Sisley and Clinique but, obviously, with a much better formula. The great thing about African Botanics, other than clean formulas, is how complete they make their products. Nutritive Molecule Serum is thought of as skin nutrition, but it does much more than that:

There are 3 types of Vitamin C which build on the brightening and complexion benefits while also targetting anti-aging by building collagen, there are also anti-aging plant-based peptides and anti-inflammatory molecules from the Resurrection Plant and Aloe Forex that help with skin aging, and Niacinimide which has been shown to be effective in treating acne, fine lines, and pigmentation irregularities. Then there are plant-based hyaluronic acids that plump the skin and restore moisture, and marine-derived antioxidants that provide protection against urban pollution and UV exposure making it excellent for city-life which can be quite aging. This is an excellent gel-cream to give your skin incredible actives in a gentle manner that only feels nurturing and never aggressive.


I finish with an oil textured serum that can help lock everything in but at the same time is also the nutrition powerhouse since plant oils are shown to contain the most complete and bio-available nutrients for the skin. YULI Modern Alchemist is a nourishing, anti-aging serum in oil texture that provides the motherlode of skin nutrition with almost 30 active ingredients. The reason I call it a serum in oil texture than a face oil is because there are many active components in the formula that aren’t botanical oils such as CoQ10, Green Tea extract with superior antioxidant compounds EGCG and Resveratrol (this is the antioxidant compound that some dermatologists say is the most powerful in the world), numerous extracts and even an infused tamarind seed that is clinically shown to draw in more hydration through the deep delivery oil form factor than commonplace hyaluronic acid.

There are 2 game-changers in this serum, first a bio-retinol complex made from photo-stable plant-based retinol analogs that focus on renewal and anti-aging without the downtime. Finally, it’s a serum that addresses skin volume, elasticity, and dermal density. Our current method of approaching aging with lasers, exfoliation, and turnover has led to thin, crepey paper-like skin, and many dermatologists now judge skin quality by its dermal density and volume which is super hard to truly restore (it’s most commonly treated with temporary injectable fillers), and this serum actually works on the composition of skin to restore lost volume and density — all while the nutritive oils nourish skin in ceramides, fatty acids, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins.


Let me know if you’re also cocktailing or playing scientist with your serums, and your favorites!

ROSE, ROSE, ROSE: African Botanics, MV Organics, YÜLI


We’ve all used products that can only be described as beautiful. They’re the ones that just feel like heaven from the fragrance down to the way they feel, where every time you just feel uplifted, calmed and transported. I’ve noticed that mine all revolve around roses. There are so many roses on the cosmetics market, the majority are synthetic and those can be cloying and overly sweet. But with the rise of green beauty and the demand for authentic ingredients – we’ve been exceptionally fortunate that real, high quality, organic roses are now used in skincare. These are on another level because when done well, they are the most majestic, clean, and luxurious ingredients that really elevate a product into an experience. I’ve been feeling especially in need of pampering but with a simple routine in mid-summer, so this beautifully minimal 3-step rose centered routine has been making me feel like I’ve treated myself to the spa every time.

Cleanse – YÜLI Halcyon Cleanser – Limited Rose Edition: I’ve been using YÜLI’s limited-edition drop for the past two weeks and it has been nothing short of heavenly, especially when the rose gel combines with a cool splash of water on a summer day. Only 500 units of the cleanser were made which sold out after 1 day. The limited quantity was due to the sourcing of roses from private rose gardens that are untouched by any form of commercial harvesting. The OG Halcyon is a staple in my routine, so I knew I’d love this one – I just didn’t realize it would completely take it to another level of luxuriousness of the most pristine roses. It is decadent and like wrapping your face in a hug from roses as impurities are gently lifted from the gel every morning and night. Absolute perfection. *Update: YÜLI just launched at AYLA! And they’re the only place in the US that has this stocked as of this afternoon! Shop here.

Tone – African Botanics Rose Treatment Essence: This has been in my routine for a while and the reason it has lasted this long is that it feels so special that I save it for times when I really want to slow it down and savor a product. The essence is like a buttery-gel that melts into skin and works like it’s part toner, part serum. Sometimes I put it on before an oil, other times I use only the essence which does wonderfully on its own due to a heavy roster of hard-hitting actives and lets me experience the sensorial pleasure of the roses as it hydrates and tones my skin. At this point in the routine, I’ve cupped my hands over my nose and done enough inhales to relieve any stress. I linger in the bathroom for a bit, organizing my shelf, texting friends back, etc. as the humectants and emollients in this essence soak in moisture for my skin.

Moisturize – MV Organics Rose Soothing Protective Moisturizer: To close out the routine is this incredible moisturizer. The price point is high but I need like 1/5 of one pump, basically a tiny string of product for my whole face so it will last and last. What impresses me is that the cream is so rich, yet I’ve never broken out because it just lands on the skin perfectly, with a nice smooth texture that can work as a primer. I read a lot of reviews on Detox Market that said the same thing, saying the cream is thick and rich yet soaks in and doesn’t cause breakouts. The rose in here is full-bodied but not cloying and provides a good cap to my 3-step skincare routine or the olfactive feast of roses.

What I’m using Feb-Mar 2019

I’ve been trying to share a routine update/highlights every month or so (product reviews to come as well!). One of the things I never really liked as a reader was following someone’s routine that would change on a weekly basis. It’s just not realistic and I don’t think it cultivates a real understanding of how the products work in an actual routine. So you might see repeats in these posts but that’s only because I’m sharing the products that I genuinely use. And if I do show repeats, I usually have some new thoughts about them as well, so read on…

Kjaer Weis Highlighter (in Radiance): I’ve really been loving this highlighter recently. It works flawlessly using fingers which is my preferred method especially for winter because it lets the product melt onto skin and blends seamlessly. Lately, I’ve been on following Patrick Ta and Mario Dedivanovic makeup tutorials on Youtube, and the way they use highlighters to sculpt the nose and bring the eyes to life is just mesmerizing. Radiance is the perfect shade that catches the dark undereye circles and “shadows” around the nose, and gives them a “glow up.” The texture of this highlighter is perfect, it dispenses just the right amount of product without being obvious, and it erases any dark circles and undereye bags and really gives definition to my cheekbones and nose.

DECIEM Anomaly Petrowhat? (in Rio -Guava): I love organic products, but every now and then, a convenient and cute product such as Glossier’s Balm Dot Com will win me over. However, as much as I loved Glossier’s balm and carried it with me everywhere, the ingredients really bothered me. DECIEM launched Anomaly, a line of lip balms, pretty much to directly target people like me who love this type of product but want better ingredients. The vegan, petrolatum-free formula is decided a step up while the familiar packaging retains the Insta-genic aesthetic. Definitely my pick for the next cult lip balm that every girl should be using.

YÜLI Modern Alchemist: I rediscover my love of this oil every time the weather turns cold. It’s a beautiful nourishing oil that is absolutely plush and luxurious on the skin, with a gorgeous rose scent that you’ll delight in pressing and massaging into your skin. I have done my research and this is one of the most nutritionally loaded oils that you can feed to your skin. YÜLI also sources their own ingredients and uses a proprietary in-house extraction and formulation process that increases bio-availability and absorption of the botanical nutrients. Although an oil, this is technically a serum because it’s not just a blend of plant oils thrown together, instead it’s almost 30 ingredients from CoQ10 to plant-derived Squalene, and bio-fermented ingredients as well as a bio-retinol complex, a safe and photo-stable alternative to prescription retinol that renews skin. The formula is designed from traditional Chinese medicine so they work in a very nourishing and therapeutic way that is not at all harsh or irritating to the skin.

ONOMIE A.C.E. Illuminating Eye Treatment: Part concealer for the under eyes and part eye serum, I have continued to love this treatment more with each use. The cream settles really well on the skin so it never accentuates creases and it provides a perfectly blendable, natural coverage that is incredibly subtle. I usually experience pilling when layering products around my eyes, but have noticed that this treatment works really well with the Kjaer Weis Highlighter. The treatment (with Vitamin A, C, and E) is also helping to fade a few pesky sun spots I developed a few years ago around my under eyes (since I’m terrified of getting SPF near my eyes) and it keeps my eyes feeling well moisturized.

Kahina Giving Beauty Fez Perfume Oil: So Kahina has two perfume oils, Fez and Essaouira, both inspired by Morocco. I loved both because they’re perfect “mood” fragrances that can be applied to pulse points so you smell gorgeous without ever feeling overwhelmed. Where Essaouira is the perfect crisp citrus for summer, Fez has that warm, grounding earthiness that is perfect for winter. It applies onto skin bold and exotic and dries to a sweet and delicate mix of rose, orange blossoms, and vetiver. If you’re dragging your feet on natural fragrances, make this your first foray – it’ll show you how beautiful high quality, perfume oil made from plant ingredients can really be.

Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator: Is there a person who does not like Josh Rosebrook’s Hydrating Accelerator? People swear by this stuff. I admit, when I first tried it, after hearing allllll the hype – it felt like an ordinary face mist. But over time, it grew on me. The spray is as good as everyone says, with the product being evenly dispersed in such a fine mist that it’s practically weightless. The mist actually contains a lot of plant oils so it’s actually quite nourishing as well as hydrating. I think because the mist contains water and oils, it actually helps layer with oils very well. One more note on the packaging, it is a lightweight plastic but that makes it extremely durable and it is basically the perfect mist to keep in your handbag for on-the-go use.

African Botanics Rose Treatment Essence: Organic beauty sometimes just spoils us with real, luxurious plants and this product takes the cake. I love the way the roses between the African Botanics Rose Treatment Essence layer with YÜLI’s Modern Alchemist serum, it’s just the most beautiful thing that leaves skin so dewy, soft and plumped. The texture of this essence is quite unique, it’s like a buttery gel that holds its shape rather than liquids like most Asian essences. I tend to use this alone after cleansing and before applying serums or oils because I think of it as the toner step for African Botanics. It’s very hydrating and the essence moniker is true to form because it’s almost like a serum in the level of ingredients (peptides, B vitamins, caffeine, yeast beta glucan, marula oil). If my skin feels more dehydrated than usual, I will use this essence first and then spray a face mist like the Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator, because the hyaluronic acid in this essence will bind the water molecules in the mist.


Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what products you’re excited to try now that we’re hopefully moving into Spring!

 

Recent Skincare Updates: Eye Serums, Winter Products

This winter has been tough. I think I’m at that age now where if I drop the ball on my skincare for just a day, it’ll show. The worst has been my eyes. I’ve noticed that it is where most people age the fastest and it is the category that my mom will spare no expense to plump and smoothe those deep lines into oblivion.

Read on for my eye serum experiences, I think you’ll like that the eye products are all in a more accessible price point. It wasn’t done on purpose but they’re definitely good buys. I do cover two face serums that are quite luxurious and they’re certainly worth it. One is a scientific and organic oil that nourishes and feeds restores my skin in the winter and the other gives radiance to my skin. I mix them together often and it’s an antioxidant beast.

Eye Serums

The first eye serum I bought in this bunch was Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum, a line I had always known to take their actives seriously. Of all eye serums I’ve used, this sounded the most intensive, so I hoped for powerful results as well. I was initially wary of using this as an “every day” serum due to how active the formula sounded but quickly found that it was gentle and not at all the harsh active serum that I had built up in my head. I noticed brightening within around 3 days of use and also saw a slight reduction in an emerging fine line around my under eyes after 2 weeks. With promising results, the only drawbacks for me were the small bottle size and the need for a separate daytime serum. Although the instructions say this can be used during the day, I just don’t like putting retinols on my skin during the day. I really like Dr. Dennis Gross’ Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum and saw evidence that it was working. It’s slightly on the expensive side at $69 for .5 oz but not extraordinary compared some of the really luxe eye creams that don’t deliver even half the results. The formula isn’t entirely “green and clean” but in this case, I considered it a worthwhile balance for the results.

Originally searching for a good daytime eye serum, I asked around and my friends at Garçon’s World told me that they recently sat down with Sephora and specifically looked over their entire eye serum collection. They unanimously all loved the Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel, for its comfortable gel texture and immediate hydration. It’s only $54 for a formula that’s quite clean, so I figured that was worth a shot. It’s fragrance-free, absorbs quickly, doesn’t pill when you apply make-up over it, and has a natural lifting effect. This reminded me so much of the $100+ eye serums in how it felt and performed, that I had to check several times that it was actually just $54.

For the days where I wanted to fake it while still giving my eyes something that was actually working to benefit them, I leaned on Onomie’s A.C.E. Illuminating Eye Treatment. It’s a genius undereye concealer and eye serum in one. There are actual clinical tests for the 10% Vitamin C formula that shows how it actually brightens skin and improves fine lines and wrinkles. And for those who are impatient, the concealer aspect works to cover up dark circles, illuminate the under eye area like a highlighter, and blur imperfections. This really does work as both skincare and make-up, and I cannot be without it now.

The Miracle Oil

In the winter, my skin gets extra dry, thirsty, frail, fatigued, you get the idea. I need that extra serving of nourishment to keep my skin happy. Face oils are a wonderful treat because they nourish, lock in moisture, and are full of nutritional compounds like minerals and vitamins that the skin is able to fully absorb and metabolize into… well… skin food. YÜLI’s Modern Alchemist oil is over-the-top, there are just so many gorgeous ingredients (including the vitality-activating ‘Root of Light’ that you may know is the heralded centerpiece of the $225 Kjaer Weis Beautiful Oil) and actives like CoQ10, and pure EGCG polyphenols. I love the science behind YÜLI products but this is an oil that is also just so beautiful and rich without ever overwhelming the skin. There’s a delicate, luxe rose scent tempered by a hint of the plethora of medicinal plants in the formula, and the texture is extra-emollient and long-lasting thanks to super-enriching oils like avocado, prickly pear, borage, and cloudberry. They’re balanced to have a precise lipid ratio that is bio-identical to skin’s healthy lipid profile which enables the oils to deeply nourish and fortify, while still maintaining that “breathability” to ensure that it won’t cause greasiness or clog pores. Besides being super pleasurable to use for the satisfying scent and cushiony texture alone, there are just so many nutrients in Modern Alchemist, that beyond just softness and plumping, it brings life back to my skin.

The Glow Serum

Many of you aren’t sure the difference between many of African Botanic’s serums and the Nutritive Molecule Serum, in my opinion, is their corner store serum. Here’s how I break it down, while all of African Botanic’s serums have anti-aging and hydration benefits, I consider Nutritive Molecule Serum to be the daily driver that is most balanced with antioxidants, peptides, and moisture enhancers. The ingredients are similar to their Ressurection Cell Recovery serum, both are loaded with antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, algae, African botanicals, etc. What makes Nutritive Molecule Serum special, is the high concentration of three types of Vitamin C. There’s almost everything you could want for your skin in this orange-cream/gel serum that is powerful in its own right but what I think really defines the serum is the high concentration of Vitamin C that gives skin a glow and radiance even in the middle of winter.

I know that many people are sensitive to Vitamin C or have a hard time finding a stable Vitamin C, but I’ve noticed with every use that Nutritive Molecule Serum seems to flip the on switch in soft lighting my complexion.


Is there an eye serum you think I should check out? Have you experienced any of these eye and face serums? Drop a comment!

Winter 2018: The Body, Skin, Make-up Prep for that “Holiday Face”


I had overarching intentions of attending to my blog over Christmas but then caught a bug and simultaneously overcommitted to too many dinners. So in between catching up on my magazine subscriptions and Netflix (just finished Sabrina and Bird Box, not very festive, I know), I’ve had to put myself together for holiday dinners with family and friends. So I thought I’d share my “holiday face,” putting on a healthy complexion even when you’re not at your best.

I start with a soak in a hot bath (you’ll be too tired once you get home). It helps to clear the passageways. Afterward, I go over my entire body with In Fiore’s body oil*(the one pictured is discontinued but the current version is the Solution Botanique), which gives me my personal fragrance of green, yet sweet jasmine while helping to keep my legs, elbows, and arms silky soft. Follow with two glides of Agent Nateur’s No.3 Deodorant (they also have this in a sensitive skin version which is baking soda free, here), which mingles well with the body oil, to keep me smelling and feeling fresh. That wraps up my body care.

I move on to skin prep which starts at skincare. A good skincare system sets the tone for how your makeup will settle onto skin and how your skin will “breathe” with the products over time. YÜLI’s Ambrosia Beauty Nectar serum is magic in a bottle, even if I am sick, I’ll look like I just came back from a camp where we just juiced and did IV drips. YÜLI products as many of you know, are serious business and this serum is excellent for plumping the skin and it immediately vanquishes dry, rough spots that can easily become exaggerated by foundation. Ambrosia wears many hats in my routine, in this case, with its flash absorbing, emollient hydrous texture, it works like a hydrating, antioxidant-rich skin primer. I close with MV Organics Rose Soothing Protective Moisturizer, my barrier shield from winter elements. It’s used by makeup artists as a base product for good reason, the smooth yet full-bodied texture creates the perfect canvas and it also balances my skin under makeup so it doesn’t look dry and cakey, nor shiny and oily.

For makeup, I’ve been loyal to Kjaer Weis. I know there are many brands that came out with foundation in the past year, but the Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation feels like a higher quality product to me. The packaging is unrivaled, the colors blend so well, and the texture is so buttery on the skin. The cream wears beautifully in a “your skin but better” way where it compliments your natural tone and evens it out like a perfect real-life filter. The Kjaer Weis Lip Tint is equally wonderful, I layer it on almost like a lip balm because it’s also moisturizing due to the plant oils and butters. In addition to a burst of creamy, intense pigment, the lip tints also nourish lips with shea butter and jojoba oil, how wonderful is that? I dab just a touch of the RMS Beauty Living Luminizer on my cheekbones and under eyes to instantly lift my complexion. It’s the makeup equivalent of Red Bull, you’ll just look awake fresh as a daisy. I finish with Beautycounter’s Lengthening Mascara, which reliably extenuates my lashes without irritating my sensitive eyes. The brush itself is very intuitive and the product applies onto lashes in a very fluid yet direct manner for great control.

Et voilà!

What are the products that pull you together even when you’re under the weather? Have you discovered any great products this Christmas? Leave me a comment!

Labor Day Weekend Essentials

When I was a kid, the end of summer was the saddest time of the year for me as it meant going from carefree days filled with travel to going back to school. Now, as a grown-up, I relish in this time of year when I know the weather is going to hit that sweet spot between hot and cold, and New York feels “alive” again. This Labor Day weekend, I’m gleefully bringing the sweaters and coats out from storage while eyeing moisturizers that will soon come back into the rotation (hi, MV Organics Rose Moisturizer!).

In the meantime, here’s what I’m using – split into two categories:

HYDRATION

Tatcha Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream: a buttery lotion in a very durable tube that will travel well in your handbag. Somehow this tube holds so much cream that I’ve been using it for months without really making too much of a dent. It could also be that it’s so effective that you don’t need a huge glob. The indigo colored cream melts into hands, leaving a watery sheen that feels so soothing and hydrating. And I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, this is one of the few hand creams out there that isn’t fragranced with synthetic perfume so the beautiful scent is enjoyable, not cloying.

Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator: the spray on this is so fine, it feels like tickling your skin with a feather. Because of this, I often overspray my skin which isn’t bad because there are tons of wonderful organic ingredients. The scent is also really nice, I can’t really describe it other than it’s refreshing, clean, but delicious at the same time? Similar to the Tatcha hand cream, this is really light and durable, which means it is ALWAYS in my handbag. Beyond the convenience factor, this is important because it helps me increase my skin hydration since it’s easier for me to mist throughout the day no matter where I am.

African Botanic’s Cloudburst Micro Emulsion: if you’re looking for a light moisturizer that won’t suffocate your skin but is packing plenty of active nutrients, look no further! What I love about this moisturizer is that it’s essentially a serum masquerading as a moisturizer. The ingredients are a who’s who list of anti-aging, hydration superstars, and as it’s African Botanics, you can trust that they did not leave out any of the good stuff, from hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, to peptides and algae and minerals. Part of the reason why the moisturizer is so powerful but light is due to what’s called a “water in oil” technology that helps the gel-like moisturizer to sink into the skin and then plump and hydrate.

GLOW-GETTERS

Lina Hanson Global Treasures: I love, love, love this balm. Have I tried Blue Cocoon? Yes. Have I tried In Fiore? Yes. But Global Treasures from the ingredients (coffee, matcha, gold leaf, pearl) to the presentation, to the silky melt-on-your skin texture, is just unrivaled to me. I love putting this on as an eye balm, it tightens, firms and nourishes so well. Have persistent dry spots? Press this balm in, it will disappear quickly leaving only a subtle glow behind. If you’re worried about balms being too heavy, I can say that this is probably the lightest that I have used, in fact, I use a separate balm for my lips because the active ingredients make this function more like a super nourishing serum.

YÜLI Liquid Courage Antioxidant Serum: We can’t really have a discussion on glow-getters without talking about this gem. A good face oil can give skin that resplendent glow, but this one takes it to another level with brightening Vitamin C and Ferulic Acid (the combination is known to even undo pigmentation caused by sun damage), and a concentrated antioxidant cocktail that evens skin tone and instills radiance. The composition is really perfect where the oils soak right into the skin and wake up the complexion, due to actives like CoQ10 that really get to work on energizing skin. I like to put this on as an oil, antioxidant serum and primer before sunscreen and makeup because it’s so protective (boosts SPF) and functional, and in the night it’s a full-on anti-aging repair serum that leaves skin looking brighter, and more pristine the next day.

Kjaer Weis Highlighter: If you want that goddess glow, Kjaer Weis’ Highlighter is a must-have. One swipe per cheek delivers that radiant sun-kissed touch. If you want that Bella Hadid contoured glow, just apply the cream highlighter with a brush onto the under-eyes (to immediately vanish any darkness and bags), down the nose (for sculpting), and a dash on the cupid’s bow. It’s so simple to look good with this highlighter because the formula is so universally flattering and blendable. Any notice will look like a pro, because of how versatile this product is. This is that single product that can produce the perfect filter in real life, you know the one that your favorite Instagram influencer has where the sunlight hits at just the right angle and intensity.


Drop me a comment if you have questions about any of these products, or let me know what you’re using as we move from summer to fall! 

JULY 4TH WEEKEND BEAUTY ESSENTIALS


I hope everyone is having a good summer! This year’s July 4th was on Wednesday so I ended up making a very long weekend out of it and made the trip from NYC to the Hamptons.

My skincare isn’t really based on set routines because I believe in changing things based on what my skin needs, so I’m sharing a couple of the products I brought with me for my long weekend trip.

Kahina Giving Beauty Oil Cleanser

I’ve been consulting with estheticians and figured out that it doesn’t matter if you only wear sunscreen and “light makeup,” especially in summer, everyone needs to double cleanse to get that surface stuff off before going in for that actual cleanse. It is apparently one of the core tenants of Asian Beauty Rituals so I’ve committed to oil cleansing every night before going over my skin with my trusty Halcyon Cleanser which is like…. the most necessary staple in my routine and key for good skin during summer when everything feels grittier and sweatier, it leaves my naked skin soft and baby-like.

As mentioned in my previous post on oil cleansers, Kahina’s Oil Cleanser is my favorite oil cleanser. It has a subtle yet pleasant aroma, possesses a nice weighty texture for massage without tugging at the skin and rinses cleanly. Beyond good organic ingredients, it’s also anti-inflammatory which is a major plus for heat prone summer skin. I like to massage it and feel the impurities glide off my skin. Since using this in conjunction with Halcyon, my skin has been totally clear and pores look clean and tiny, even those around my nose.

African Botanics Rose Treatment Essence

Many people assume that summer means going lighter on moisturizing products but that’s a mistake. The water content in the skin can be even more prone to TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss) due to the sun, air conditioning and high temperatures.

The Rose Treatment Essence is a nice weighty translucent gel that is far from the fluid textures of Asian essences. I gently rub this around my skin and it disappears immediately like a succulent serum. And the rose, oh my, the rose scent is such a pretty thing, so full and elegant, that the first few times I used it, I was so taken that I barely even paid attention to any results. Armed with botanical emollients, humectants, hyaluronic acid, and oligosaccharides, the results are worthy of the price tag: it’s very hydrating but not heavy or clogging which is exactly what you want from an essence, and the ingredients make skin feel firmer and pores look smaller.

Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask

A classic as far as green beauty goes, this has been in my beauty ritual for years. I always purchase a new jar at the beginning of every summer because I know how beautifully it works to gently exfoliate dead skin cells and all that leftover residue that accumulates during summer. This leaves my summer skin feeling light, fresh and happy and the instant-ready jelly texture is convenient to apply and wash off. The refreshing aqueous-herbaceous, fruity scent is one of my favorites.

Tatcha Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream

Have you ever sat in an air-conditioned room and then felt your hands? For some reason, they always feel a little… rough, right? I first used Tatcha’s Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream years ago and continue to love it. This hand cream disappears so quickly that it feels like your skin just drinks it up like water. And my hands are always left so smooth and nice.

Truth be told, I love a chic, sophisticated tube of hand cream since I’m always taking it out of my handbag in public and Tatcha is a brand that I associate with elegant beauty. Unlike a lot of other brands that make chic, sophisticated hand creams like Byredo or Le Labo, Tatcha uses only natural fragrances so my hands (and the things they touch e.g. FOOD) do not carry any cloying scents. This is very important to me as strong, synthetic scents really get to me and make me feel sick after continued exposure.

YÜLI Cellular Lip Conditioner

I’m more laid back about lip balm usage during the summer, it just feels counter-intuitive to me to cover my lips in a layer of balm while my face is melting off. Cellular Lip Conditioner is a lip serum that is 100% food grade (yay!), but also serious business as there is a powerful antioxidant chemistry that strengthens against UV exposure. It has great, nourishing plant oils like avocado, sesame seed, and green tea.

The texture is light, yet you feel nourished and hydrated. I like applying this also as a base layer before lipsticks and stains which can be drying (especially organic selections).

Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation

This has been my go-to foundation since I first started using it (see Kjaer Weis review). I love how versatile it is, it can be worn as a “naked your skin but better” foundation or a fuller coverage depending on how you blend and layer. For daytime, I do three swipes: one on each cheek and forehead, then blend in for a very minimal face that still evens and lightens my skin.

What I love about this cream foundation is how it soaks up oils that skin produces throughout the day so even by the end of the day, I’m left with a very natural dewy complexion with a highlighter-esque sheen rather than a greasy face.

YÜLI Metamorphic Elixir

It’s funny how long I’ve been using this line. When I first started, my skin was ridiculously out of balance, oily and acne prone. I was using Panacea Elixir (which is like an organic P50 without the acids) and now, I all about that tall drink of Metamorphic Elixir which is a very rejuvenating (translation: anti-aging) and hydrating face mist. One thing I’ve learned is that a non-water based mist is much better than water-based mists that can evaporate and leave skin even more dehydrated and Metamorphic Elixir uses botanical hydrosols and aloe vera which are more hydrating and do not have that evaporation problem.

In addition to that base, Metamorphic has serum-level ingredients with an instant-mist delivery so you’re loading up on things like hyaluronic acid, carrot seed, and immortelle flower (the star ingredient of Madonna’s MDNA line). This has helped my skin feel more plumped and satiated. I have been using it for 2 weeks straight, spraying anytime I felt like it and my skin analyzer indicated that my hydration went up by 26% – the real deal.


Let me know if you’ve been trying anything new for summer!

My Current Routine: Winter 2018

There’s something about the winter season that inspires what I deem “hibernative self-care”, which I loosely define as cozy evenings/weekends of take-out, and skin pampering while a Netflix marathon plays. To me, there is no better time to explore products; playing with their textures and exploring their intricacies in layering and mixing them with other potions.

As we all know, I’m unable to keep to a pared down routine. I didn’t think it made sense to talk about a single cleanser, or lone face oil that I’m using because by the time you read this, I’m already experimenting with another product. So I’m going about this more through the steps and processes in my routine to achieve plumped, radiant, well moisturized winter skin and the products I’ve been use regularly.


Cleanse

Cleansing is so important regardless of your skin type. I’m actually very turned off when I see a skincare brand founder say that they don’t cleanse their skin for whatever reason. There are impurities expelled through basically every orifice of our body including the pores of the sponge-like epidermis. Pollutants, smoke, oxidized residue from stale sebum and protein deposits, proliferation of microscopic mites and parasites, accumulation of dead skin cells, etc. are all reasons why every skin type should take cleansing seriously.  

During the winter, I like to rotate in the creamy cleansers. For a deep skin pampering session, I use Aurelia’s Miracle Cleanser, a very luxurious creamy cleanser that I massage for a good 5 minutes and remove with muslin. This has a familiar cold cream-esque texture and an uplifting, fresh scent that feels very spa-like.

If I’m looking for a quicker or less involved cleanse, the cream cleansers I go between are In Fiore’s Treate Gentle Cleansing Emulsion and Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Cleanser. For make-up removal and deep cleansing, I apply around 4-5 quick pumps and massage onto dry skin. This allows the cream to create a nice emollient texture so you’re never pulling or tugging at skin. As a daily cleansing step, I massage 2-3 pumps on wet skin and re-wet if it dries during massage. These creams both rinse off cleanly with water. While I love both cleansers and would repurchase them both, I really think everyone should try the Kahina Cleanser as it has really been an under-the-radar product which is a shame because it has one of my favorite cream textures, has an ever-so-subtle luxurious scent, and is a great price for the quantity. There really aren’t any negatives and I highly recommend it.


Tone/Mist

It may seem like I’m on a Kahina kick, but I first used the Kahina Giving Beauty Toning Mist 2 years ago. Since then, I’ve wanted to revisit it, despite the fact that there are already so many beautiful organic mists out there. What I really vibe with from Kahina is their gentle, sophisticated nature. This mist uses soothing and hydrating aloe vera leaf juice, rose water, and anti-inflammatory argan and white tea leaf extract. It’s lightly scented with Moroccan desert rose (very similar to MŪN Anarose Toner) which makes this hydrating mist impeccably luscious.



Serum

Serums are the power players of any routine. My MVP serum since it’s release in late 2017 has been YÜLI’s Ambrosia Beauty Nectar, a highly impressive hydration/anti-aging serum that is the topic of 80% of the e-mails I receive. On that note: I hear you, I’ll post an in-depth review for Ambrosia Beauty Nectar. I have to admit that receiving all the requests just makes it harder for me to start putting together a review as I feel like the expectations are at a point where anything short of writing a book will not be enough.

Ambrosia Beauty Nectar is a beast, it blows hyaluronic acid serums out of the water, it raises the bar for how anti-aging serums can work, and I’ve even seen others say it has the benefits of all of the immensely popular Kristina Honey+Marie Veronique serums combined.

The oil-free texture is engineered to be identical to skin’s natural moisture reservoir, a layer of cushion that depletes with time. It’s active but unlike active serums with ingredients like Vitamin C, Retinols or Acids, it works WITH skin rather than trying to overturn it, so there is a lot of support for things like restoring the barrier, strengthening cell immunity, rather than creating irritation or inflammation. Though YÜLI is smart enough to know their customers are probably also using actives like Vitamin C (a notoriously difficult active that can have side-effects when in contact with the wrong preservatives, pH, etc.), so the formula is one of the rare ones that not only plays well with others but also boosts functionality, making it wonderful as the essential serum that can be the base of any cocktail.

Depending on how I feel, I either pump enough Ambrosia to create a thin layer before mist or mist and then apply a cocktail of Ambrosia + Face Oil. Ambrosia does for hydration, what face oils do for nourishment, so you want to use both. This is why one of the most common complaints I hear from readers who use primarily oils and balms, is this feeling of chronic depletion that is often mistaken for dryness but is really due to incorrectly relying on oil-based products to target hydration and reverse trans-epidermal water loss. If you are using a face oil by itself or only with a mist, Ambrosia is not only going to quench that underlying thirst for moisture but it’s also going to really elevate the way the entire system of products comes together.

When I want to go heavy hitting, my face oil of choice to pair with Ambrosia is YÜLI Liquid Courage Antioxidant Serum. Spirit Demerson refers to this more as a serum in oil form rather than a face oil because it’s not a straight blend of oils, there is pure Vitamin C (for glowing skin), Ferulic Acid, biofermented plant extracts that make it kind of a super-oil. I like to mix it or layer it after Ambrosia because they both contain concentrated, potent antioxidant complexes. Liquid Courage contains an antioxidant seed complex derived from the most nutrient dense seeds of superfoods while Ambrosia contains pharmaceutical grade antioxidants like Astaxanthin, so their concoction delivers the richest antioxidant cocktail. These two products combined are skincare nirvana and delivers such a radiant glow.

If I’m going more minimalist, I pair Ambrosia with African Botanics Neroli Infused Marula Oil which is a very pure Marula oil topped with Neroli for a very crisp, refreshing fragrance. African Botanics has the best Marula oil that is organic and comes from protected South African reserves. It’s so beautiful to just massage and lightly press into my skin. It’s really lightweight and sinks in quickly while feeding skin with all the necessary omega-rich goodness that comes with marula oil. Just very simple, high quality and beautiful.


Moisturizer

I’ve been all about textures lately and the African Botanics Cloudburst Micro-emulsion Balancing Moisturizer is this ingenious creation that is light as a serum but tops up perfectly after applying face oil. My skin is never left dry or thirsty. Thicker creams can clog pores, or dull the complexion, this one is quite different. The ingredients include marine algae, copper and plant peptides, and skin loving minerals like magnesium and zinc. The green gel is also immediately cooling and calming, thanks to wonderful anti-inflammatories like green rooibos tea, resurrection plant, and chamomile. It really is a serum level product, but intelligently utilizes molecular science to act as a moisturizer.

If I want something heavier or just crave that rich “slather on” feeling, I reach for the MV Skincare Rose Soothing & Protection Face Moisturizer, which is full bodied and indulgent without making skin feel suffocated. There are times where I get a little lazy and skip face oil, and this is that rescue product that really works well even by itself. When used alone, my skin is soft and comfortable. When layered after serums, my skin is glowing and has that extra oomph.

For daytime, I finish with Suntegrity Natural Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30. It’s a great, green sunscreen that uses only Zinc Oxide as it’s active sunblock. I like the texture compared to other physical sunblocks in that it’s easier to apply without leaving white streaks over my skin. I actually use this almost like a highlighter to take advantage of the white Zinc Oxide cast.  One tip is that the initial white cast does fade within 2 minutes, so don’t let that scare you. In fact, it wears incredibly well to the point that it “blurs” imperfections.


That’ll do it! Please leave a comment if you want to share your experiences with any of these products, your winter skincare tips or have any questions!