Tag Archives: skincare review

Good Skin For All: Sephora Edition

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I LOVE Sephora. Even before I was an esthetician or had any interest in skin care, even before I was as obsessed with makeup as I am now, I loved Sephora. And I know that automatically makes a lot of estheticians hate me. Because I know when I was working in the school’s spa and making their product recommendations, a lot of clients would say, “what can I find that’s comparable at Sephora?” And most estheticians argue that for the same price you can buy their products that are professional, have a higher concentration of active ingredients (which is NOT always true), etc. But I have to ask these other estheticians: would you hate Sephora so much if you didn’t retail a skincare line you were recommending? Probably not. Although I am a practicing esthetician, I do not retail any product line, so I can remain a bit more objective. I make non-professional skincare recommendations much like a parent giving their teenager a condom: if you’re gonna do it, do it safely. Once again, I’ve left out Clinique and others whose ingredients are not listed online. So with that, let’s get into it!

oily

Goals for oily skin: to keep everything hydrated and balanced without drying out the skin and causing even more oil.

What to avoid:

  • drying, stripping ingredients
  • heavy, occlusive ingredients that will lead to breakouts

The routine:

dry

Goals for dry skin: to hydrate and treat signs of aging while avoiding drying ingredients.

What to avoid:

  • drying alcohols commonly found in moisturizers
  • anything TOO occlusive, as breakouts and troubled skin are issues

The routine:

combo

Goals for combo skin: to balance and treat the face as needed-dry spots as dry, oily as oily.

What to avoid: 

  • anything drying
  • one size fits all skincare

The routine:

acne

Goals for acneic skin: to clear up breakouts while keeping the skin hydrated and healthy.

What to avoid:

  • drying ingredients
  • harsh ingredients

The routine:

antiaging

Goals for anti-aging: to keep things hydrated, and utilize collagen.

Things to avoid:

  • drying ingredients
  • miracle-in-a-bottle products
  • anything harsh

The routine:

Eye Cream

Drunk Elephant Shaba Complex Eye Serum ($85); Origins Eye Doctor Moisture Care ($38); Ole Henriksen Ultimate Lift Eye Gel ($42); Clarins Extra-Firming Eye Wrinkle Soothing Cream ($63); Tata Harper Restorative Eye Creme ($95); Fresh Lotus Eye Gel ($48); or Origins Plantscription Anti-Aging Eye Treatment ($45). That’s just half of the first page. The main thing to look for in a good eye cream is hyaluronic acid, arnica extract, vitamins A, C, E, and K; and collagen. Always avoid alcohols.

What have been your best Sephora scores? Let me know in the comments below!

XOXO,

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Good Skin For All: Ulta Edition

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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.

oily

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

The routine:

dry

Goals for dry skin: to hydrate and repair compromised protective barrier.

What to avoid:

  • drying alcohols in moisturizers
  • harsh cleansers
  • comedogenic ingredients

The routine:

combo

Goals for combo skin: to balance the skin and treat each zone as needed.

What to avoid: one size fits all skincare.

The routine:

acne

Goals for acneic skin: to treat the acne without damaging the healthy skin.

What to avoid:

  • menthol and other drying ingredients
  • harsh abrasives

The routine:

  • 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.

antiaging

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

The routine:

Eye Creams

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!

XOXO,

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Good Skin for All: Target Edition

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Target is one of my favorite places to shop because I like to be a basic bitch and get a chai latte to sip on while I shop. As far as skincare goes, you have to dig! But, Target carries Andalou Naturals, which is my most recommended non-professional line, as well as Derma E and SW Basics. While I’m on the subject, I’m not a “naturals only” esthetician. I believe there is a time and a place for everything, and products need things like preservatives to give them shelf life. However, most drugstore/OTC lines that are not “natural” do not have a good concentration of active ingredients, whereas drugstore “natural” lines do. As with CVS, I’ve left out higher end lines that can be bought elsewhere. Unlike CVS, Target’s website doesn’t include the price-per-ounce, and I failed every math class I ever took, so if you’re looking for the best price using those parameters, you may need to do some in-store comparing for yourself. (If you’re just now coming in, please see my disclaimer from the Good Skin For All: CVS Edition post.)

oily

Goals for oily skin: balance without drying out.

What to avoid:

  • drying, irritating ingredients that will only cause your skin to produce more oil to compensate
  • anything too thick and suffocating that may clog your already acne-prone pores

The routine:

dry

Goals for dry skin: hydrating, gentle exfoliation, and acid mantle repair.

Things to avoid:

  • anything drying (obvs)
  • anything irritating
  • anything too terribly thick (dry skin is still prone to breakouts!)

The routine:

combo

Goals for combo skin: to balance everything out.

What to avoid: one-size-fits-all skincare.

The routine:

acne

Goals for acneic skin: to clear up and control breakouts without drying out and damaging the healthy skin underneath. Good exfoliation is key.

What to avoid:

  • anything abrasive or drying (you can’t scrub away your acne)
  • anything that will clog pores, leading to further breakouts

The routine:

 

antiaging

Goals for anti-aging: to avoid further sun damage and dehydration.

What to avoid:

  • magic-in-a-jar claims (nothing will beat Botox and fillers)
  • anything drying
  • anything irritating

The routine:

Follow the product suggestions for dry skin. Target has shit anti-aging skincare.

Have you had better luck with Target skincare than I have? Let me know in the comments below!

XOXO,

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Good Skin For All: CVS Edition

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A huge part of my personal philosophy is making skincare more approachable and accessible. That’s Why I’m Cool With Non-Professional Skincare. I wanted to expand on that and REALLY help you guys put together an effective routine, no matter where you’re shopping. As I’ve stressed so many times before, it comes down to using the right ingredients for your skin type and concerns, so I’m going to put together a full skincare routine for each skin type based off of labels alone. I’m going to leave professional skincare recommendations to the professional who knows your skin best, so I’m going to be working with CVS, Target, Ulta, and Sephora. In the case of CVS, I’m going to leave out brands such as Clarins, Dermalogica, etc. as those can be bought from higher end stores or professionals. These posts are going to be really long just because there’s SO MUCH, but I’ll do my best to condense and label things well for easier scrolling!

disclaimer

I have not personally tried every product I’m going to suggest. 1.) That’s too damn expensive, and 2.) the vast majority of these products are not suited to my skin type. I’m making these recommendations based on ingredients and my ingredient knowledge alone. Be smart and stay away from things you know your skin is allergic or sensitive to; discontinue use immediately of any product that isn’t agreeing with your skin. Professional skincare may produce better or longer-lasting results due to higher concentrations of active ingredients. While I recommend professional lines for things like exfoliants, serums, and treatments, the point of this series is to piece together a comprehensive routine using OTC skincare only.

oily

Goals for oily skin: balancing oil without drying out the skin, and keeping things clean to reduce potential breakouts. Oily skin requires more cleansing and exfoliating than other types.

What to avoid:

  • Things that make your skin tingle-I’m looking at you, Noxema. That tingling feeling is meant to evoke illusions of cleanliness, but really it’s your skin screaming in irritation from drying ingredients like menthol and SD or denatured alcohol. The goal is to BALANCE oily skin, not dry it out to the point that it produces even more oil to compensate.
  • Things that are overly thick or emollient-bar cleansers, stick foundations, occlusive moisturizers, and balms leave ingredients that mix with your skin’s excess oil and add to the greasiness. These things can also clog your already acne-prone skin.

The routine:

Be sure to find a sunscreen you’ll use daily. Just because your skin will age slower to due to your higher oil content, doesn’t mean you don’t need sun protection.

dry

Goals for dry skinto stop damaging the outer layer by avoiding drying, abrasive, and damaging things such as bar soaps and unprotected sun exposure; to use good exfoliation and proper hydrating products to build up the damaged outer layer. Dry skin also tends to age quicker, so products that utilize vitamin A and glycolic acid are vital.

What to Avoid

  • bar soaps
  • water-soluble cleansers
  • irritating ingredients such as menthols and abrasive scrubs (fruit, shell, or nut fragments)

The Routine:

combo

Goals for combo skinbalance. That’s pretty much it. Combo skin is tricky because you need to treat the oily areas with products designed for oily skin, and dry areas with dry products. For the sake of this series, I’ll recommend products based on the “combo” category on the CVS website.

What to avoidone size fits all skincare.

The routine:

acne

Goals for acneic skinclearing the skin and keeping it clear WITHOUT drying it out or causing more damage.

What to avoid

  • anything inflammatory, as acne is an inflammatory disorder
  • anything drying (menthol, harsh detergents, over concentrated acids/peroxides/alcohols)
  • overdoing the cleansing; keeping the skin clean and exfoliated is crucial, however, you CANNOT wash away your acne. All you’ll do is irritate it!
  • unprotected sun exposure (no, sunscreen will not give you acne, and no, sunlight does not “clear up” acne)
  • thick, waxy textures

The routine:

  • Cleanser: nothing harsh, stripping, drying, or abrasive. That’s a tall order for drugstore skincare. Here are some good ones: Yes to Tomatoes Daily Clarifying Cleanser ($9.99, or $2.96/oz); Derma E Very Clear Acne Cleanser ($15.49, or $2.58/oz); or Burt’s Bees Acne Purifying Cleansing Gel ($9.99, or $2/oz).
  • Toner: the major concern with toners for acne-prone skin is avoiding anything that is too astringent. Again, you cannot dry out your acne; you can’t scrub it away, wash it away, sting it away. The only one I found that is worth the money without doing further damage is Andalou Naturals Clarifying Pore Minimizer ($12.99, or $2.16/oz). “Pore minimizer” is a bit of a misnomer, because you can’t minimize your pores once they’ve been stretched out. But it is a lovely toner all the same. Run away from anything that has denatured alcohol (sometimes listed as SD alcohol) anywhere near the beginning of the ingredient deck; this is what dries your skin out and makes it tight, which makes you think it’s working, but it’s just making your skin angry which leads to more breakouts.
  • Exfoliant: a leave-on AHA or BHA is ideal, because exfoliation (GENTLE exfoliation) is key to keeping acneic skin healthy. That can be hard to find outside of professional lines, so the next course of action is to find a good scrub. Acne scrubs are so, so abrasive and irritating. Here are the most gentle acne scrubs I found: Derma E Very Clear Acne Scrub ($13.99, or $3.50/oz); Reviva Labs Microdermabrasion Pomegranate Scrub ($18.99, or $9.50/oz); or Burt’s Bees Acne Pore Refining Scrub ($9.99, or $2.50/oz).
  • Moisturizer: just like with oily skin, you might be tempted to skip the moisturizer in the name of keeping your skin clear. This is a huge mistake! When your skin is stripped of the oil it’s putting out, it puts out more oil, which causes more breakouts. The key is to find a moisturizer that is light but still hydrating. The ONLY one that I can happily recommend is Burt’s Bees Acne Daily Moisturizing Lotion ($17.99, or $9/oz). CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM ($14.49, or $4.83/oz) is an alright choice, especially since it’s SPF 30 and contains niacinamide, but it has a lot of preservatives for the price. I’m not anti-preservative or paraben, but I do believe there should be more active ingredients than preservatives in products.
  • Masks: I stand by my bentonite clay powder recommendation for oily skin. You’re going to want to find something that is purifying without drying, lightly hydrating, and soothing. I’m gonna be real honest, drugstore acne masks are shit. The best options I found are these two: Beauty 360 Detoxifying Perfecting Black Facial Mask ($11.99, this one has a decent ingredient deck AND IT’S BLACK), and Queen Helene The Original Mint Julep Mask ($4.99, or 62 cents/oz). I hesitate to recommend the Queen Helene mask because although it has some great ingredients for the price, it also has two or three possibly irritating ingredients in higher concentrations. So watch out.
  • Serums/treatments: spot treatments are great for minimizing individual spots, but they aren’t a long-term or all-over treatment. They won’t keep spots from coming back. Keep that in mind when shopping for one. Most of the drugstore options are crazy drying and overpriced for how much active ingredient is in the product. Even my good friend Burt’s Bees had denatured alcohol as the first ingredient (damn you Burt). Derma E Very Clear Acne Spot Treatment ($11.49, or $21.28/oz) is the only good option I found. When you look at the price-per-ounce, you might consider another option.

antiaging

Goals for anti-agingthis is such a tricky skin concern because everyone expects miracles that will turn back the clock as quickly as the signs of aging appeared. Only surgical procedures and injectables will give you (almost) instantaneous results. You want to incorporate as much of the following ingredients as possible: antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E; superoxide dismutase; beta carotene; glutathione; selenium; green tea; soy extract; grape extract; pomegranate extract), skin identical/skin repairing (ceramides; lecithin; glycerin; hyaluronic acid; sodium PCA; collagen; elastin; proteins; triglycerides), cell-communicating (niacinamide; retinol; synthetic peptides; lecithin; ceramides). Sun protection is an absolute most because the most visible signs of aging are due to sun exposure and damage.

What to avoid:

  • “miracle” products that claim to mimic the effects of Botox and other medical procedures. Nothing can fully replicate the effects of those measures.
  • irritating products. As your skin ages, it doesn’t recover quite as quickly. It’s very important to avoid anything that could prolong that.

The Routine:

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Review: Peter Thomas Roth

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Here’s what’s up with my product reviews. Mostly, I’m reviewing things I get samples of, or things I’ve gotten in exchange for my points at Sephora. No one is paying me to run this blog, and it’s been hell finding a spa job that meets my needs, so until companies start sending me stuff (which, btw, if anyone knows how to make that happen, get at me, seriously), we’re working with samples. I like doing this is because I know a lot of people are in the same boat, using samples and travel sizes to construct their skincare routine until they find something they like or they’re able to afford larger sizes.

Last year’s birthday gift at Sephora was a Peter Thomas Roth cleanser and mask duo. I avoided using it until recently because they are gel products, and gel cleansers tend to dry me out. Gel products are generally best for those with oily, combo, or normal skin. But lately my skin has been breaking out more than usual, so I read through the ingredients and gave them a try. Here are my “in a nutshell” thoughts. If you’d like a thorough analysis of the ingredients used, that will be below.

Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel (Sephora, $38/8.5 fl oz, same price and size at Ulta): As I suspected, this cleanser did dry me out a bit. HOWEVER! I really like using this cleanser in the same way I’d use a clarifying shampoo; not regularly, but every now and then to get a really thorough clean. It lives up to its claims and I was so pleasantly surprised by it. This cleanser contains glycolic acid (an AHA) and salicylic acid (a BHA), which is a fantastic combo for both anti-aging and acne. Some of the fruit acids may irritate more sensitive skin, so be cautious of that. The ingredient deck is great. I do not think pricey cleansers are necessary since you’re going to wash it right off of your face, but I really like this cleanser as a “treatment cleanser” of sorts, and definitely recommend it. Especially for those struggling with adult breakouts and anti-aging concerns simultaneously. I also recommend this to my gothy, glam, and other heavy makeup wearing readers, since it’s so deeply cleansing.

Cucumber Gel Mask (Sephora, $52/5 fl oz, same price and size at Ulta): Would I buy this at the $52 price tag? I’d hesitate. At the same price as the cleanser? Definitely. It is described as being “refreshing, calming, cooling, moisturizing.” Any gel mask is going to be refreshing. I used it after having a severe allergic reaction to another product, to test the calming claim, and honestly? Straight aloe gel is more calming, but it did calm my skin, to a degree. It does have a cooling effect without the use of menthol (this is a big plus for this mask), and is lightly hydrating, so good for skin types needing some, but not excessive, moisture. The ingredient deck is great. Using it for ten minutes twice per week didn’t give me AMAZING results. I just personally have trouble spending more than $30 on a mask, since it’s meant to be washed off.

Ingredient-by-Ingredient Analysis

Now that you know my basic thoughts, let’s look at the claims made on the bottles and the ingredients to figure out WHY these products are effective or ineffective.

Cleanser

Claims: “Oil-Free anti-wrinkle technology rejuvenates clarifies brightens with glycolic acid salicylic acid and fruit extracts for all skin types.” There is no punctuation on the bottle, do you know hard it was for a grammar nerd like me to type all that out?! Anyway. Let’s look at the back of the bottle now: “Luxurious facial cleansing gel helps produce a beautiful, fresh, youthful-looking complexion. Advanced deep skin renewing action increases cell turnover to help diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging. Detoxifies the pores, dissolves makeup, emulsifies oil, and improves skin texture as it gently sweeps away dead skin cells and impurities that can dull the complexion.” WOW those are some big claims. Almost “miracle in a bottle” type claims.

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Sodium laureth sulfate: emulsifier, surfactant, less irritating than sodium lauryl sulfate. This is the cleansing agent in this cleanser. According to my ingredient dictionary, it “exhibits a mild to moderate skin irritation index in irritation tests.” This confirms the cleansing claim and the emulsifying claim.
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine: surfactant derived from a coconut oil salt. This is what gives the product it’s creamy foam. Again, this confirms the cleansing, luxurious, makeup dissolving, and skin texture claims.
  • Coco-Glucoside: very mild cleansing agent derived from coconut oil and fruit sugar. Meets cleansing, luxurious, makeup dissolving, and skin texture claims.
  • Propylene Glycol: Less greasy than glycerin; humectant, solvent, and preservative. It is one of the most common moisture-carrying vehicles used in cosmetic formulations. It can be irritating in high concentrations. Meets cleansing, luxurious, makeup dissolving, and skin texture claims.
  • Salicylic Acid (Beta Hydroxy Acid): anti-inflammatory, exfoliating, anti-microbial, anti-septic, preservative enhancer, and pH adjuster. This is the wonder ingredient that meets almost every claim on the cleanser’s label: it improves the look and feel of skin by dissolving the top layer of skin cells; reduces sebaceous follicle blockage; and it appears to improve wrinkles, roughness, and tone. It may cause redness and irritation in higher concentrations.
  • Glycolic Acid/Arginine (Alpha Hydroxy Acid): reduces excess buildup of dead skin cells which can be associated with acne, dry skin, and wrinkles. It facilitates sloughing of dead skin cells (it’s an exfoliant). Enhances moisture uptake as well as increases the skin’s ability to bind water. This is the other all-star ingredient that substantiates the label’s claims. It’s beneficial for acne-prone skin, diminishing the signs of age spots, anti-aging, hydrating, moisturizing, and skin normalizing, all of which lead to reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Use of this killer ingredient leads to softer, smoother, healthier, and younger looking skin. In high concentrations, it can be irritating.
  • Peach Fruit Extract: abrasive; adds bulk and moisturizing activity. It’s used in products recommended for dry skin. And as we know, dry skin ages faster. So the use of this ingredient can substantiate the anti-aging claims. Plus it smells yummy.
  • White Oak Bark Extract: reduces inflammation and prevents infection. It is slightly tonic, strongly astringent, and antiseptic. I suspect this is what gives the sort of dry and tight effect due to the astringent.
  • Lemon Fruit Extract: anti-bacterial, anti-septic, astringent, and toner. Also used to perfume products. It’s suggested for treating sunburn, acne problems, and oily skin and it contains citric acid as well as vitamins B and C. It can cause irritation and allergic reactions, which is why I included the disclaimer in the beginning of my review.
  • Lime Fruit Extract: perfuming, emollient, soothing, and anti-septic. It’s a source of vitamin C and can cause photosensitivity.
  • Linden Flower Extract: known for helping problem or blemished skin, and is considered to be refreshing and soothing. Anti-septic, skin-clearing, soothing, sedative, circulation-stimulating, hydrating, and astringent. (After researching this ingredient, I’ll definitely be looking to implement more products that utilize it.) It’s used effectively for irritated skin and the relaxation of muscle tension and cold, and to mask odor and condition skin.
  • Grapefruit Fruit Extract: anti-septic and skin-conditioning. Good for oily skin, contains vitamin C and is very acidic. In high concentrations, it is too caustic to be used on the skin; but as it is lower down on the ingredients, it should not be a problem.
  • Citric Acid: astringent and anti-oxidant. Product stabilizer, pH adjuster, and preservative.
  • Citrus Bioflavonoids: I had to go to Google for this one, because there was no information in my ingredients dictionaries. Basically, citrus bioflavonoids are used for their antioxidant properties.
  • Allantoin: healing, calming, and soothing botanical. It’s an excellent temporary anti-irritant, and it stimulates new tissue growth, helping to heal damaged skin. Derived from comfrey root, it’s good for sensitive, irritated, and acneic skin.
  • Methylparaben: non-comedogenic and very low sensitizing preservative, used to combat bacteria and molds.
  • Quaternium-15: this is a somewhat controversial preservative. When used in leave-on preparations, such as moisturizers, serums, etc, it is considered highly sensitizing. However, used in low concentrations of 0.02 to 0.3 percent, it is safe and effective without the risk sensitization. Also, it’s one of the last ingredients in this product, meaning very small amounts of it are used. This should not present a problem.
  • Red #40, Yellow #5, Fragrance: all unnecessary ingredients that lend to the product’s aesthetic and do nothing for your skin. Again, as these are the last ingredients and therefore the most diluted, they should not present a problem.

Mask

Claims: “Extreme detoxifying hydrator. Refreshing cooling moisturizing calming gel helps soothe dry irritated skin with extracts of cucumber papaya pineapple aloe.” And the back label: “This ultra-gentle gel helps soothe, hydrate, and detoxify dry, irritated skin with botanical extracts of cucumber, papaya, chamomile, pineapple, sugar maple, sugarcane, orange, lemon, bilberry, and aloe. For all skin types.” No huge claims here, just soothing, detoxifying hydration. I’m always a little cautious of detox claims, because they never tell you what’s being detoxified. But as far as mask claims go, this is pretty standard.

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Propylene Glycol (repeat from cleanser): Less greasy than glycerin; humectant, solvent, and preservative. It is one of the most common moisture-carrying vehicles used in cosmetic formulations. It can be irritating in high concentrations.
  • Cucumber Extract: moisture-binding, moisture-regulating, soothing, tightening, anti-itching, refreshing, softening, healing, and anti-inflammatory. Obviously this ingredient is carrying most of the mask’s claims. And given that the mask has cucumber in the name, it’s fantastic that cucumber extract is the third ingredient. Nothing bothers me more than a product being named after an ingredient that is barely even used. It’s excellent for eye treatments and treatments for oily skin, and effective as a tightening agent for tired, stressed, skin. It’s used in sun preparations as a refresher. The best part of cucumber extract is that it contains amino acids and organic acids that are claimed to strengthen the skin’s acid mantle.
  • Papaya Fruit Extract: cleanser for acne-prone skin. It’s a very gentle exfoliant (and one of my personal favorites). It softens the skin and can help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This is something you should look for in ALL masks.
  • Pineapple Extract: anti-inflammatory and exfoliant. It can be irritating to the skin.
  • Whole Leaf Aloe Vera: I could gush about aloe for hours. It’s an emollient and a thickener, but has so, so many benefits. It is hydrating, softening, healing, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory. Aloe is most recognized for its moisturizing properties because it supplies moisture directly to the skin tissue. It relaxes the skin, which is why it’s so valuable for sensitive, sunburned, and sun-exposed skin. This is another killer ingredient that you should incorporate whenever possible.
  • Bilberry Fruit Extract: bilberry is the cuter name for huckleberry. Astringent, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, slightly muscle relaxing, and protects against collagen degradation.
  • Sugarcane Extract: I had trouble finding information on this one. It is, essentially, the raw form of glycolic acid.
  • Sugar Maple Extract: natural source of AHA, which is exfoliating.
  • Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Extract: anti-inflammatory and repairer. Bactericidal, anti-itching, soothing, antiseptic, purifying, refreshing, and hypoallergenic, with the ability to neutralize skin irritants. It is non-comedogenic and is excellent for dry skin.
  • Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Oil: another form of chamomile.
  • Lemon Extract (repeat from cleanser): anti-bacterial, anti-septic, astringent, and toner. Also used to perfume products. It’s suggested for treating sunburn, acne problems, and oily skin and it contains citric acid as well as vitamins B and C. It can cause irritation and allergic reactions, which is why I included the disclaimer in the beginning of my review.
  • Orange Extract: perfume, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic, and sedative. It’s good for sensitive, delicate skin.
  • Glycerin: one of my personal favorite ingredients! It is a humectant and a moisturizer, and it improves the spreading quality of products.
  • Sodium Pca: a humectant that is a component of the skin’s natural moisturizing factor. It’s recommended for dry, delicate, and sensitive skins.
  • Allantoin (repeat from cleanser): healing, calming, and soothing botanical. It’s an excellent temporary anti-irritant, and it stimulates new tissue growth, helping to heal damaged skin. Derived from comfrey root, it’s good for sensitive, irritated, and acneic skin.
  • Disodium Edta: a low-concentration preservative.
  • Sodium Polyacrylate: suspending agent, stabilizer, and emulsifier.
  • Triethanolamine: emulsifier and pH adjuster.
  • Carbomer: thickening and suspending agent.
  • Polysorbate 20: solubilizer, emulsifier, viscosity modifier, and stabilizer of essential oils in water.
  • Diazolidinyl Urea: antiseptic, deodorizer, and broad-spectrum preservative against bacteria and fungi.
  • Methylparaben (repeat from cleanser): non-comedogenic and very low sensitizing preservative, used to combat bacteria and molds.
  • Propylparaben: one of the most frequently used preservatives against bacteria and mold. It’s considered to be one of the safest preservatives.
  • Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Blue 1 (CI 42090): product colorant.

I’m really happy with the ingredient decks on these products. Although they both contain several ingredients that may cause irritation, they both also contain ingredients that are used to combat those effects. I saw results with the cleanser after just a few uses, which is rare for me. I definitely recommend the cleanser, and the mask as well if you don’t mind the higher price point.

Have you ever used PTR Skincare? If so, which products did you love? Let me know in the comments below!

Love,

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Ingredient Education Using Boscia Black

boscia

I started this post to be a product review, but as I got down to listing ingredients, I realized how LONG it would be. And that I couldn’t really edit it down, because I’m telling you things you need to know. I’m telling you how to break down an ingredient label. So-here’s what I’ll do. I’ll list whether or not the product is “good” below, based on the ingredient deck and concentration of active ingredients to preservatives and fillers. If you would like to see the full breakdown of each ingredient deck, and find out WHY a product is “good” or “bad”, keep going down to the section titled “The Claims.” I’m going to make this a two-part series because I don’t know how to make it all fit into one post nicely!

Product Review

I had to quit using the set when it dried my already dry skin out. This is because of the activated charcoal, which is what the line is centered around. It’s terrible for dry skin. So, I’m basing these reviews on ingredients, ingredient concentration, and price.

Detoxifying Black Cleanser: The ingredient deck is disappointing. LOTS of beneficial ingredients, but all at the bottom of the deck-meaning you aren’t getting very much of it. It’s also $28. I say skip on this one. It has a neat warming sensation and a nice texture, but that’s a lot of money to spend on something you’re going to wash off your face…especially when it’s mostly fillers.

Luminizing Black Mask: Once again, LOTS of fillers in higher concentration than the beneficial ingredients. It does contain ingredients that meet the claims, but I’m not sure you’d get long-lasting effects from it. It’s $38 and comes recommended by Allure and The Knot. Definitely try a sample of this one before spending the money on it. It has potential though!

In summation: If you’re wanting to stay away from preservatives and fillers, avoid this line. If they don’t bother you, try some samples before deciding if they are worth the purchase. I personally do not think they are worth the money given the fact that the “active ingredients” come in mid-deck.

The Claims

According to Boscia’s website, the Black Pore Perfecting Collection “minimizes pores, removes impurities, and eliminates excess oil with Activated Black Charcoal and Artichoke Leaf Extract.” Those…are some pretty big claims. I could write an entire book on how to refute cosmetic claims, but that’s for later, when I’ve built up some more credibility.

Here’s the thing about testing a product’s claims. They may be based on temporary effects as opposed to long-term results. Anyone can claim that a product works judging by appearances. But what it all comes down to is ingredients. Do the ingredients used to create the product produce the results promised? That is the best way to judge a product. If something claims to be anti-aging, and it doesn’t contain anti-aging ingredients, you immediately know it’s no good. So! Let’s look at the claims and match them to the active ingredients to see if they match up. My references are Boscia’s website, the Milady ingredients dictionary, and the ingredients dictionary listed in Paula Begoun’s book, The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here.

Detoxifying Black Cleanser

Here are the skin benefits according to Boscia (all of the following is taken directly from their website):

  • Activated Charcoal: Absorbs excess oil and impurities, detoxifies, and exfoliates to refine the appearance of pores.
  • Artichoke Leaf Extract: Reduces the appearance of pore size by increasing skin elasticity; pore wall is less likely to stretch and retain debris. Inhibits hyperpigmentation and brightens the pore wall, also decreasing pore appearance.
  • Glycolic Acid: Improves the skin’s appearance and texture by accelerating the exfoliation process of the upper layer of the epidermis.
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbyl Glucoside): Helps brighten skintone and minimize fine lines as it defends against free radical damage.
  • Vitamin P (Alpha Glucosyl Hesperidin): The active component in citrus peel, helps enhance blood circulation to provide a warming sensation to the skin.
  • Licorice Root: Antioxidant that helps calm, soothe, and condition. Helps reduce hyperpigmentation and minimizes the appearance of dark spots by helping inhibit melanin synthesis.

Right off the bat, I’m skeptical because all of these beneficial ingredients come after the detergents and preservatives. That means that the beneficial ingredients are in lower concentration than the additives. Artichoke leaf extract, for instance, is the last ingredient in the deck, but the second listed benefit.

Glycereth-26 is a synthetic form of glycerin, which is the ingredient immediately after. Glycerin is a humectant and a generally great ingredient to have, as it’s water-binding and hydrating. Outside of moisturizers, it’s used to improve spreading qualities. The only concern here is that “it may be comedogenic and irritating to the mucous membranes when used in concentrated solutions,” according to Milady. So since it is the first ingredient, and therefore highly concentrated, it could be a problem. Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate is a mild cleansing agent that provides later. It’s derived from coconut fatty acid and glutamic acid (an amino acid). Polysorbate 20 is an emulsifier, solubilizer, and stabilizer often derived from lauric acid. Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate is a surfactant with some moisturizing properties and can be derived from vegetal raw materials, which may be the “natural” in “natural” products. PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate is a cleansing agent. Water is…well…water. Butylene Glycol is a solvent, antimicrobial, preservative enhancer, humectant, odor masker, and “viscosity controller”; it makes things slip.

Here’s where we get to the ingredients that the company is actually promoting. Glycolic acid is an AHA, derived from sugarcane but also produced synthetically, and exfoliates as well as hydrates (this meets the product’s claims). Charcoal powder is a bit tricky, as neither of my cosmetic ingredients dictionaries have it listed. And a quick Google search showed more beauty magazines talking about it than educational posts. But according to the Livestrong website, it is safe to use and matches the claims made by Boscia. Ascorbyl Glucoside is a form of vitamin C combined with glucose-this is NOT the same as ascorbic acid, which is the form of vitamin C that has antioxidant properties. So this is a little misleading and makes me side-eye Boscia. This is not to say that the ingredient isn’t beneficial! It does meet the claims made, it just will not act as the antioxidant that everyone immediately associates with vitamin C. Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil is rose geranium oil and serves as a perfuming and odor masking agent. Glucosyl Hesperidin is another tricky one because it wasn’t actually listed in either of my dictionaries. The closest I could get is hesperidin methyl chalcone which is a citrus bioflavinoid, extracted from the peel of sweet oranges and containing anti-oxidant properties. This must be the vitamin P they’re referencing in their benefits claim. I can’t say whether or not this matches their claim because I had honestly NEVER heard of it before seeing it listed on their website. Cue the side-eye. Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract is a miracle product in my humble opinion. It does everything Boscia boasts and more. I highly recommend finding products with this ingredient whenever possible. Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract is, again, ambiguous. So, I’ll just directly quote the Milady dictionary: “a botanical with potential anti-microbial and anti-irritant properties. This is  member of the evening primrose family and is commonly known as willowherb or fireweed.” Ceteth-25 is honestly beyond my comprehension. I have no fuckin clue what this is or what it does. Oleth-10 is an emollient and stabilizer. Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Leaf Extract is a gorgeous moisturizer and all-around great ingredient, definitely look for it in your products. Xanthan Gum is a texturizer, carrier agent, gelling agent, stabilizer, and thickener. Finally we get to Cynara Scolymus (Artichoke) Leaf Extract. The benefits match the claims, however, since it is the last ingredient added, you aren’t going to get hardly any of these benefits. And that’s a disappointment.

Luminizing Black Mask

  • Boscia Peel-Off Mask Innovation: Provides “gap-free” delivery into the skin, giving immediate benefits and long-term results. Peel off removal provides extra refinement of skin texture.
  • Calcium Montmorillonite Clay: Absorbs excess oil, impurities, and toxins, gently exfoliates dead skin cells, and minimizes the appearance of pores instantly and over time.
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbyl Glucoside): Helps brighten skintone and minimize fine lines as it defends against free radical damage.
  • Maritime Pine Bark Extract: Improves skin elasticity and hydration, helping to prevent the first signs of aging. Provides antioxidant and soothing benefits.
  • Rosemary Leaf Extract: An effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that helps to firm skin and visibly reduce the appearance of pores. Has natural anti-bacterial benefits and aids in circulation.
  • Eucalyptus Extract: Provides antiseptic and antibacterial benefits, calms inflammation, and leaves skin invigorated.

One again, the awesome ingredients are in lower concentrations than I like to see them. This will be sitting on your face for about ten minutes, so you want to make it worth it, you know? Since I already broke down the cleanser ingredient deck, and a lot of the ingredients are the same, I’m only going to detail the ingredients I haven’t gone over yet. Those will be in bold!

Water/Aqua/Eau as the first ingredient is common, so even though I personally don’t like the practice, I won’t hold it against them. Polyvinyl Alcohol is a binder and film former, and increases viscosity. You know that vinyl feel your nail polish has? This is what gives it that. I’m going to assume it’s what’s responsible for the mask’s texture. Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water is diluted witch hazel. I LOVE witch hazel because it is anti-inflammatory, astringent, and anti-free radical. It is anti-aging as well as regenerative. I imagine it’s included in the mask because of the tightening effect. Glycereth-26, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin. Acrylates/Palmeth-25 Acrylate Copolymer, in short, absorbs skin secretions. This removes shine and is the “excess oil removing” aspect of this product. It is also a time-released preservative. It can cause skin sensitivities in higher concentrations, so with it being in the middle of this deck, I don’t imagine it would be an issue for anyone but those with sensitive skin. Iron Oxides (Cl77499) are used to provide color; I’m guessing this is what gives the mask the black color, since it does not contain charcoal like the cleanser does. According to Paula Begoun, these are “closely regulated by the US FDA.” Quite simply, iron oxides are rust. This does not serve your skin at all and only acts as a colorant.  Pentylene Glycol is an alcohol with humectant and anti-bacterial properties. Montmorillonite is essentially bentonite clay. It’s an abrasive so it serves as the “scrubby” part of the mask. It stabilizes and increases viscosity. Acrylates Copolymer was already listed, so I’m not quite sure why it’s listed again-there must be two or more different copolymers used in this mask. Polysorbate 20. Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract is healing, soothing, and anti-inflammatory. There are over 100 “strains” of honeysuckle used in cosmetics. Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract. Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Extract has potential to be an allergen. But it’s also antiseptic, disinfectant, and anti-fungal, and increases blood circulation. It’s often used as a fragrance, and for its skin tightening properties. It’s important to remember that that tight skin effect is not permanent. Cosmetic companies use eucalyptus, witch hazel, etc. to temporarily tighten the skin so you feel like it’s working. Pinus Pinaster Bark Extract is pine oil. It was originally used as a solvent and a disinfectant, but it is also deodorizing, anti-bacterial, and anti-septic. Think PineSol. It may be irritating to the skin an mucous membranes, so definitely keep it away from your mouth, nose, eyes, etc. This particular ingredient makes me wary. Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil is wound-healing, astringent (there’s that skin-tightening effect again), toning, tonic, refreshing, stimulating, deodorant, anti-septic, reactivating, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, softening, and invigorating. For something that does so much, shouldn’t it be in a higher concentration? I’m very disappointed that it’s so low on the list. Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Leaf Extract. Diglycerin is a synthetic skin conditioner and humectant. Xanthan Gum, Ascorbyl Glucoside. Sodium Hydroxide adjusts a products pH to make it more acceptable for the skin. It can be severely irritating to the skin if you aren’t careful with concentration. As the last ingredient in the deck, I think it’s safe.

Image source: Amazon

 

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