I have such a love-hate relationship with Ulta. They have awesome deals and coupons…with a dozen limitations. It’s cool that they have a drugstore side and high-end side…until you wander over to the high-end side with a drugstore product in hand and the sales people shame you for your choices. I could just go visit family if I wanted to be shamed for my choices. But, it is a popular destination, and carries an assortment of brands. I’ll be including both drugstore and high-end options. I’m also going to include eye creams and treatments in the Ulta and Sephora editions. While I do think eye creams are necessary, I think they’re a waste of money if they aren’t concentrated, just like serums. So I left them out of the more drugstore editions, and have given them their own category at the end of the post. I’ve left out Dermalogica, because there are plenty of professionals retailing the line who you should be buying from.
Goals for oily skin: to balance and keep clear without stripping.
What to avoid:
- drying, irritating ingredients
- skipping moisturizer
- avoiding sun care since oily skin ages slower
- Cleanser: Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser ($15); Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Cleanser ($22); or Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel ($38-I have raved about this cleanser before for all skin types, but I especially love it for oily skin).
- Toner: I did not find a single oily toner that didn’t contain harsh alcohol as the second ingredient.
- Exfoliant: Murad Skin Smoothing Polish ($30) has a few too many preservatives for my taste but the rest of the ingredient deck is good. Mario Badescu Strawberry Face Scrub ($15) was the only other one that didn’t contain drying alcohols.
- Moisturizer: Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Moisturizing Lotion ($17.99); Yes To Tomatoes Facial Hydrating Lotion ($14.99); Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer ($28); Ahava Essential Day Moisturizer Combination ($42); or Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer ($29).
- Masks: Formula 10.0.6 Pores Be Pure Skin-Clarifying Mask ($6.99); Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Acne Mask ($47); Mario Badescu Special Mask for Oily Skin ($18) is actually really, really good; Mario Badescu Flower and Tonic Mask ($18); or Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Mask ($22).
- Serums/treatments: Ahava Dead Sea Osmoter Concentrate ($62); Skyn Iceland Pure Pore Minimizer ($35) has water as its first ingredient, which I don’t like to see in a serum/targeted treatment, but the rest of the ingredient deck is great.
Goals for dry skin: to hydrate and repair compromised protective barrier.
What to avoid:
- drying alcohols in moisturizers
- harsh cleansers
- comedogenic ingredients
- Cleanser: Mario Badescu Cleansing Milk ($12) and Juice Beauty Exfoliating Cleanser ($22) are the only good ones I found online.
- Toner: Mario Badescu Facial Spray ($7) is literally the only one. Ulta, up your skincare game.
- Exfoliant: I rarely recommend facial wipes for anything other than cleaning makeup brushes, because they tend to be too rough on the skin. But I like the Burt’s Bees Exfoliating Facial Cleansing Towelettes ($5.99) since exfoliation should only be done twice a week anyway. Plus, they’re the only thing I can find. Smh, Ulta. Smh.
- Moisturizer: Juice Beauty STEM CELLULAR Anti-Wrinkle Moisturizer ($65); Peter Thomas Roth VIZ-1000 ($65); Skyn Iceland Arctic Hydrating Balm ($35); Juice Beauty Green Apple Age Defy Moisturizer ($45); Neutrogena Naturals Multi-Vitamin Cream ($13.59); Mario Badescu Glycolic Skin Renewal Complex ($35); Derma E DMAE Moisturizer ($16.49) are just a few of the good ones I found.
- Masks: Mario Badescu Super Collagen Mask ($18); Ahava Purifying Mud Mask ($33); First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask ($24); or Montagne Jeunesse Creamy Coconut Masque ($1.99).
- Serums/treatments: Tarte Maracuja Oil ($48) is an oil, not a serum, but it’s really good for dry skin. Other good treatments are Mario Badescu Cellufirm Drops ($25) and Juice Beauty Soothing Serum ($36).
Goals for combo skin: to balance the skin and treat each zone as needed.
What to avoid: one size fits all skincare.
- Cleanser: Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser ($24); Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser ($15); Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Cleanser ($22); Juice Beauty Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser ($26); or Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser ($6.79).
- Toner: Juice Beauty Hydrating Mist ($22) and Skyn Iceland Arctic Face Mist ($29).
- Exfoliant: Murad Skin Smoothing Polish ($30); Reviva Labs 10% Glycolic Acid Cream ($25.49); Derma E Daily Detox Scrub ($11.63); or Derma E Microdermabrasion Scrub ($22.49; this is pretty abrasive so DO NOT use it more than twice per week).
- Masks: Mario Badescu Super Collagen Mask ($18); Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Mask ($22); Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask ($52); Nip + Fab Soften Kale Fix Clay Mask ($12.95); or Derma E Purifying Charcoal Mask ($14.63). There were several good ones but these are the ones I’d recommend first.
- Moisturizer: Mario Badescu Oil Free Moisturizer SPF 30 ($28); Yes to Tomatoes Facial Hydrating Lotion ($14.99); Mario Badescu Ginseng Moist Cream ($18); and Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer ($29) are the best. Ulta actually doesn’t suck when it comes to selection for combo skin, so there were some other good options as well.
- Serums/treatments: Lumene Vitamin C Drops ($20.39) and Mario Badescu Peptide Renewal Serum ($45) are worth the money.
Goals for acneic skin: to treat the acne without damaging the healthy skin.
What to avoid:
- menthol and other drying ingredients
- harsh abrasives
- Cleanser: Choose from the oily options; there are no denatured alcohol-free cleansers when you select “acne” under cleansers on their website.
- Toner: Once again, choose from the oily options. The search specifications only brought up Clinique, and the Ulta website does not list Clinique ingredients.
- Exfoliant: Hey…so…guess what. Yeah.
- Masks: I’m just gonna end this here and refer you to the oily routine because ULTA’S WEBSITE SUGGESTS SHIT FOR ACNE.
Goals for anti-aging: deep but gentle exfoliation, intense hydration, and proper usage of anti-aging ingredients.
What to avoid:
- products that claim to have surgical results
- sun exposure
- harsh, drying ingredients
- Cleanser: Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel ($38); Andalou Naturals Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk ($12.99); or Juice Beauty Cleansing Milk ($22). Really, anti-aging specific cleansers are unnecessary; anything for dry or sensitive skin will work just as well.
- Toner: Juice Beauty Hydrating Mist ($22) is a good option, in addition to any of the suggestions for dry skin.
- Exfoliant: Mario Badescu Strawberry Face Scrub ($15); Derma E Microdemabrasion Scrub ($22.49); or Reviva Labs 10% Glycolic Acid Cream ($25.49).
- Moisturizer: Philosophy Anti-Wrinkle Miracle Worker Moisturizer ($60-I don’t like the “miracle worker” moniker but it does have a great ingredient deck); Juice Beauty STEM CELLULAR Anti-Wrinkle Moisturizer ($65); Murad Day Moisture SPF 30 ($60); Peter Thomas Roth VIZ-1000 ($65); Juice Beauty Green Apple Age Defy Moisturizer ($45); and Derma E Hydrating Day Creme with Hyaluronic Acid ($19.49) are all good options on the first page alone. Look for moisturizers that have high concentrations of vitamins A and C, hyaluronic acid, collagen, and glycerin, and stay away from SD alcohol and high concentrations of sodium hydroxide.
- Masks: any of the suggestions for dry skin will work well here. Some other good ones (there are probably repeats, oops) are Freeman Charcoal and Black Sugar Facial Polishing Mask ($4.29); Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask ($14.99); First Aid Beauty 5 in 1 Bouncy Mask ($38-I think it’s a bit on the pricey side given the actives to preservatives ratio but the ingredient deck is good); and Mario Badescu Super Collagen Mask ($18).
- Serums and treatments: Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum ($45); Philosophy Turbo Booster C Powder ($39); Peter Thomas Roth Neuroliquid Volufill Youth Serum ($120); or Lumene Vitamin C+ Age Defying Radiant Beauty Drops ($20.39).
Eye creams are pretty universal in the sense that everyone really needs the same thing: hydration, ingredients that address dark circles and sluggish circulation, and DON’T contain “cheap” (i.e. drying) alcohols. So regardless of your skin type, you should choose from the following:
Algenist Complete Eye Renewal Balm ($68); SheaMoisture SuperFruit Renewal Eye Cream ($12); Clarins Extra-Firming Eye Cream ($63); Juice Beauty Green Apple Brightening Eye Cream ($38); Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Cream ($45); Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Eye Cream ($55; I hesitated to include this one because of the ambiguous “alcohol” towards the bottom of the ingredient deck, but given its low concentration, I included it anyway); or the Andalou Naturals Luminous Eye Serum that I cannot seem to find on the site. That’s the one I use, and I bought it for around $20.
What are your thoughts on shopping at Ulta? Let me know in the comments below!