Tag Archives: understanding ingredients

Quit Putting Glue on Your F***ing Face

The biggest Pinterest skincare trend right now is a DIY activated charcoal mask. I can’t open the app without seeing it in my suggestions; I can’t go into a makeup and beauty group on Facebook without being bombarded by pictures of women masking it up with this concoction. We all know that I am pro DIY skincare, when it’s safe and makes sense. So this is not me bashing the DIY aspect of this particular trend. I actually love activated charcoal masks for their cleansing and exfoliating abilities. What I take issue with is the other ingredient used: glue. Yes, glue. Good ol Elmer’s school glue.

Yall, this trend gets me HEATED. Like, heated to the point that I yell angrily at my screen, “ARE YOU F***IN STUPID?!” So heated, in fact, that I am writing this post now, and even Googled “why is glue bad for your skin,” because it seems like no one else is capable of doing so.

The theory behind this fuckery is that since Elmer’s glue is the same texture as pore strips and pulls out blackheads, and is nontoxic, you can use it in place of “pricey” pore strips and masks. Because why pay for something that’s been formulated for your skin when you can use something that’s been formulated for paper at a literal fraction of the cost? (Is my sarcasm just spewing out of your screen? Good.)

Here’s why this is a bad idea: glue contains ingredients that are skin irritants and cause allergic reactions (although the glue is nontoxic). Elmer’s doesn’t even list all of the ingredients used, as it is a proprietary blend, so who knows what else is in there that is not skin friendly. You may be pulling out the blackheads in your skin, but you’re irritating the rest of your skin in the process. Glue is also comedogenic; if the purpose of the mask is to clear your pores, why the HELL would you use something that is going to clog your pores? Not only that, glue was not formulated to be used on the skin; the list of things that are not formulated for the skin, but are safe for the skin, is short. Glue is not pH balanced for your skin, which leads to a whole other set of skin problems. You need to be very careful when using things that you have to rip off of your face. The act of ripping causes the borders of your pores to expand. Obviously, this leads to more noticeable pores, something literally everyone is trying to avoid. Not only that, you’re damaging your collagen and elastin. You are literally causing sagging, wrinkles, and early aging. All for the low, low price of school glue.

So please: avoid this trend at all costs. Pore strips and DIY peel-off masks may seem like inexpensive treatment options but the damage done to your skin is irreversible and will cost you a ton of money to temporarily repair. Here are my Target suggestions for charcoal based masks that will do what you’re wanting without damaging your skin:

You can find better options in several other places, but since this trend is so popular because it’s dirt cheap, I stuck with Target. One of my favorite blogs, FutureDerm, provides further but simplified information here. Even Refinery 29 advises against the trend here.

Thank you for reading through my rant! Seeing a professional for your skin concerns is always advised, but I get it, it’s not always doable. But please, for the love of your skin, DON’T PUT GLUE ON YOUR F***ING FACE!



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Good Skin For All: Ulta Edition


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

The routine:


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

What to avoid:

  • drying alcohols in moisturizers
  • harsh cleansers
  • comedogenic ingredients

The routine:


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

What to avoid: one size fits all skincare.

The routine:


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.


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!




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Good Skin for All: Target Edition


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.)


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:


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:


Goals for combo skin: to balance everything out.

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

The routine:


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:



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!



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Review: Peter Thomas Roth


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.


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.


  • 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.


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.


  • 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!



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“Men’s Skincare” Is Bullshit (It’s all just skincare people)



why is it so hard to convince men to wash their faces …..why do they think skincare is for women…..please, your skin cells are suffocating underneath their own dead brethren and you must exfoliate them….free them


SOURCE: rapunzelie

The day we covered Men’s Skincare in school was the day I remember as The Eternal Cringe. Maybe it was the slightly outdated, pandering textbook entry, maybe it was the concept of gendered skincare, maybe it was the annoyed look on everyone’s faces when I voiced my opinion. I don’t know. But something about it bothered me so damn much that I’m still bothered enough to write a blog post about it, one year later.


Barf. (Milady Esthetics textbook)

“Men’s Skincare” as a concept is rooted mostly in unnecessary gender separation, in my opinion, and has little scientific foundation. While it’s true that men’s skin tends to be thicker and oilier, I don’t think that warrants a whole different genre in the skincare world. I think it’s just another skin type-thicker and more oily, oily, normal, combo, dry, dehydrated. Skin is skin, no matter who wears it, and we all need to take care of it. It is an organ and deserves to be treated as such. Caring for your skin is a component of hygiene and who the hell doesn’t need to be hygienic?

I think by gendering skincare, we complicate things. We make good skincare harder to attain because instead of shopping by our skin’s needs, we’re shopping by gender. For example, the Nivea For Men moisturizer is a SUPER makeup primer and moisturizer. Nikkie Tutorials discovered it because she forgot her own moisturizer and had to use her boyfriend’s. How many people could be benefiting from this product but will never try it because it’s “for men?” How many women could be saving money by using men’s products? How many men are using the wrong ingredients for their skin because those ingredients are in “women’s skincare” products? How many men are letting their skin suffer because they believe skin care is “for women?”

And that right there is where the “Men’s Skincare Market” came from. In an attempt to get men to care for their skin, they made products “for men.” They added “masculine” scents which do no one’s skin any favors, they put it in different packaging, they attach ridiculous descriptions to their products to make men feel more manly by using their products. My husband’s body wash, for example:


“Fresher than limes & life success.”


“Like captaining a schooner. Also buy our deodorant if you want to really be a schooner captain.”

What the actual fuck does any of that even mean? It inspires a certain aesthetic, sure, and it’s funny as hell to read when you’re stuck in the bathroom without your phone. But isn’t the point of product labels to describe the product, how to use it, and what it’s supposed to do for your skin?

I’m using a men’s body wash label as an example because my husband doesn’t use men’s skincare. So, although I have plenty of skincare products to use in comparison, I’ll use my body wash to keep things consistent:


“Nourishing, hydrating, moisturizes.”


Lists some of the ingredients and what they achieve-moisturization, hydration, etc.

It doesn’t make much sense, does it? How does the men’s product help them make an informed decision and buy a product that contains the ingredients needed to address their concern? Instead of trying to make “women’s” skincare more “masculine”, why not make skincare universal and without gender? Because that’s what it is.

Here are the facts on men’s skin needs:

  • Typically have larger sebaceous glands
  • Typically have oilier skin
  • Irritation from shaving the delicate facial skin is a concern
  • Folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle) pseudofolliculitis (razor bumps), and ingrown hairs are issues

That’s it. So judging from this list, men simply need products (in general) that are water-based as opposed to oil-based, and should use less irritating ingredients. Have you read a men’s skincare label? So many irritating ingredients are used in high concentrations in the name of being masculine, rugged, etc. Aftershave, for example, has a high concentration of simple alcohol, which we know dries out the skin. Which is the last thing you want to do after shaving. And don’t get me started on all the men’s 2-in-1 products.

Once again it all comes down to ingredients. Do not assume that men’s skincare is what you need because you have men’s skin. Do not assume that men’s skincare shouldn’t be incorporated into your routine because you have women’s skin. Learn what your skin needs and shop for that. And again, the best skincare routine is the one you’ll use.

If you’re a lady, what gems have you found in men’s skincare? If you’re a man, would you be willing to try “women’s” products if it meant better results? Let me know in the comments below!


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Ingredient Education Using Boscia Black


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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What the F**k are AHAs and BHAs?


Something I really hate about the beauty industry is their tendency to over complicate things in the name of marketing gimmicks. Make the consumer feel dumb so they’ll buy the first thing they see. Before esthetics school, I had no idea what the difference between anything was, and I was often too intimidated by the “explanatory” articles I’d read to actually implement anything. My lack of a good skincare routine was just as much due to being overwhelmed as it was to lack of education and, if I’m being totally honest, laziness. I strive to simplify things, because I don’t think skincare should be this big ambiguous “for professionals only” thing. I’m fully in the “POWER TO THE PEOPLE!” camp. Or in my case, “GOOD SKIN TO THE PEOPLE!”

In my quest to simplify the skincare world so even I can understand it, I’m going to be breaking down the differences between AHAs and BHAs. Chances are, you’ve heard of these terms, but don’t really know what they are. Me neither! But put simply, they are forms of exfoliation. And of course, we know that exfoliation is necessary for our skin’s health and cell turnover. Exfoliation, when done properly, helps your hydrating products perform better, evens out your skin tone and texture, and generally makes everything look brighter and better. So, using that logic, you should really make it a skincare goal to understand which forms of exfoliation are best for you, and maybe make that portion of your skincare routine your bigger investment.

Okay so wtf are they?

AHAs and BHAs are acids used in chemical exfoliators. Here’s a table explaining the difference between the two:


So as you can see, the concept really is not as difficult as the beauty/skincare industry would have you believe. These are just two different categories of acids that exfoliate your skin in a chemical form. Simples, right?! Let’s simplify it even further by breaking down what each form is good for:


AHAs and BHAs are just one ingredient in a shitload of ingredients. But this one ingredient can change your skin dramatically, for the better. So, when shopping for a new chemical exfoliator, be sure sure to find one that contains a source of either AHA or BHA, depending on which addresses your concerns. It could be listed as simply as AHA/BHA, alpha hydroxy acid/beta hydroxy acid, or the specific acid being used-glycolic acid, lactic acid, or salicylic acid.

The “catch”

There are just a few things to consider before going out and buying the first thing you see containing one of these acids. AHAs can cause greater sun sensitivity, so be sure you’re using your sunscreen with it (every damn day!). AHAs and BHAs are of little to no use if you rinse them off, so don’t fall for marketing gimmicks and purchase a cleanser or mechanical exfoliator (scrub) containing them; keep it chemical in this case. Also, both are known to irritate the skin in higher concentrations, so you might need to do some adjusting until you’ve found the right product and “dosage”.

What other skincare terms mystify you? Let me know in the comments below, and I just might try to simplify it in a future post!



Hipster Ariel: http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/fan-fiction-library/images/7/7e/1378582144_what-the-fuck-is-that.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20141121230126

Table image: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/CXX_-4l_ucKCgkOfZN_P1Bvhtygc5vFG_lYMqWaLkVMjJTxT3Mj5MYmY4PYW11tTvt_4pLyEtzw64AtlI_OvQQGly81tAd7566TZAh–AFhGlHTq7_Fz_ic1OhVC4ew=w506-h284

The Little Book of Skincare by Charlotte Cho

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here by Paula Begoun

Milady Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary (4th edition) by M. Varina Michalun and Joseph C. Dinardo

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