Product Review: Peter Thomas Roth Professional 3% Retinoid Plus

If you’re not familiar with retinoids, they are a derivative of vitamin A and are one of the few clinically proven ingredients to address skin rejuvenation including helping with age spots, acne and wrinkles.  You’ll see them listed as retinal, retinol, retinal palmate, and many others. Bottom line is that if you were born prior to 1990, you should be incorporating one into your skincare routine.  If you were one of the poor souls like me that suffer(ed) from acne, you’ll know the prescription terms by Retin-A, Differin, Tretinoin, and many others.

A few months ago I ran out of my trusty Dr. Dennis Gross retinol serum and decided to try something else.  I did what ReadHead is all about, and did some serious research on what to try next. My skin is finicky in the fact that it has a love/hate relationship with retinoids – like a cat.  Scratch its belly once, twice…purr…three times REARRRRR and all sorts of angry.  That means I need to find not just an effective retinoid, but one that is excellent in formulation.  You’ll find lots of retinoids on the market that are ineffective, and you’ll find some that will peel the skin right off your face.  Neither are ones I want to waste my money on.

I decided on Peter Thomas Roth’s Professional 3% Retinoid Plus because their 1% nighttime serum is highly rated and I’ve had some success with a few of their products in the past.  The 3% is fairly new, and is exclusive to Sephora and PTR’s website.  What interested me about this is that non-prescription retinoids typically go by “retinol.”  This one specifically goes by “retinoid” because it’s said to be a different type of retinoid formula that is both highly effective at 3% but packed with goodies that make the experience much more tolerable.


Both Sephora and PTR’s websites don’t give up the proprietary ingredients, but here’s what I could find on the websites:

This powerful overnight treatment delivers high-potency retinoid into skin to effectively improve the appearance of the size, length, and depth of fine lines and deep wrinkles, unify skin tone, and smooth rough skin texture. Caffeine enhances penetration to deliver retinoid more effectively into the skin’s surface while a buffering complex of SymCalmin, SymSitive® 1609, allantoin, and bisabolol soothes and helps prevent the stinging and burning commonly experienced with retinoid usage—eliminating irritation.

Note that in the description it says things like “soothes and helps prevent the stinging and burning commonly experienced with retinoid usage” which can happen with retinoids, and hence why you should take baby steps when introducing one to your routine.  This product is not for retinoid newbies and if you’re just starting out with retinoids, I’d suggest something <1%. <— For those of us who haven’t picked up a #2 pencil in a few years, this is a reminder that this means less than 1%.  ::says in my head:: The alligator eats the bigger number.


The packaging came in a nice darkly-colored glass container which is what you want when looking for skincare products that can degrade in the sunlight.  It had an easy-to-use push top dropper which easily distributed the product, which I could easily control for my needs. To make this even better, I’d like for this to be a pump-top so that you don’t have to open it, thus exposing the ingredients to the air, which can degrade them over time.


I pumped about 4 drops of the clear, water-like substance into my hand, rubbed them together to warm up the solutions, and put it on my face, neck and chest. patting it around like I was putting on aftershave.  Patting (vs. rubbing) helps to push products into the skin without tugging.


The first thing that I noticed was that this was by far one of the silkiest products I’ve ever felt on my skin.  The feel wasn’t wet like water, or greasy like a typical oil.  It was just….silky…and absorbed quickly into my skin.  That silkiness makes me think there’s a hefty amount of silicones in there, but it goes on like a dream and creates a smooth base under makeup.  It doesn’t pill, doesn’t sting, there’s no scent – you almost start to worry if it’s all a farse.  But it just WORKS.


My skin has become slightly more firm, has helped with my acne, and best of all I’m seeing (albeit small due to the limited amount of time I’ve used it) improvements without the dreaded irritation.  I alternate this with other products throughout the week so I have yet to use it day after day, but I haven’t experienced the flakes and dryness either.  Could it be?  A super over-the-counter retinoid that works and doesn’t make you want to hide in the closet with a red lizard face while you may (or may not ever and continue to punish yourself) get acclimated to? It’s yet to be seen if this will replace my Dr. Dennis Gross which has a few other ingredients my skin loves like BHA and Ferulic Acid but so far I’m thoroughly impressed.

At $82 for 1 oz. it’s definitely not drugstore-price friendly, and is on the higher end of the mid-range luxury products.  The fact you can only get this from two places also is limiting.  ReadHead readers can find great retinoid options for a cheaper price, but so far I’m extremely happy with my purchase.  For experienced retinoid users who have sensitive, reactive skin that benefits from retinoids but can’t handle the powerhouses like Obagi or Skinceuticals, this is a great option to try.

Overall: 5/5

Packaging: 4/5

Price: $$$$$


Have a retinoid you like to use?  Drop us a line in the comments.

Product Review: Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45

BB stands for beauty or blemish balm.  They were all the rage overseas with Japan and Korea leading the way.  I wrote a blog post about the difference in BB, CC and tinted moisturizers which can be helpful before digging into this review.

BB creams are fantastic options for those who want more than sheer coverage, don’t want the sometimes heavy or clogging feel of full foundation, and want a multi tasker with SPF and skin-improving properties. The down sides is that they can be hard to color match with the fairest and darker skin colors being left with little to no options, and sometimes finishes can be spotty.

Dr. Jart, a Korean-based brand focused on skin care readily available at Sephora, has a range of BB creams that target different skin needs.  They are all very different, and the Premium Beauty Balm is no exception.

Ingredients – Dr. Jart is a Korean company, and focuses on skin care as much as the makeup aspect.  Since my 20s I’ve been willing to forego coverage for skin care so this is a total win for me.  This BB cream has arbutin to lighten skin, hefty doses of UVA/UVB filters for an impressive 45 SPF and does not cause irritation.  The ‘cones, which can be problematic for some, creates a smooth surface.

List from Sephora’s website:

Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide: Provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
-Bio-Peptide Complex: Provides antiaging properties and supports natural collagen.
-Arbutin: Brightens skin; evens skin tone.
-Adenosine: Improves elasticity and firms skin.

Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Phenyl Trimethicone, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Hexyl Laurate, Dipropylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Arbutin, Cyclohexasiloxane, Butylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Magnesium Sulfate, Aluminum Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Calcium Stearate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Propylene Carbonate, Polysorbate 80, Propylene Glycol, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Talc, Tocopheryl Acetate, Adenosine, Alcohol, Lecithin, rh-Oligopeptide-1, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, PVP, Platinum Powder, Steareth-20, Chrysin, N-Hydroxysuccinimide, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide.

Application – The product comes in a hard plastic pump (more on this in the packaging section).  One pump seemed to not be quite enough to cover my face and neck.  Two was too much.  So, for me 1.5 pumps is where it’s at.  I put this on with my fingers after I put my serums and moisturizers on and out the door I go.  It spreads easily, isn’t streaky and blends well into the skin. Lots of people use beauty blenders or brushes, but for me I’m no fuss no muss and fingers works just fine for me!

Color/Finish – Dr. Jart has two color options: light/medium and medium/tan which is newer to the arsenal.  I have only used the light/medium, so my review will focus on that.  The color is a light beige with a slightly gray cast to it.  This is typical in many Korean BB creams that are geared towards lighter skin tones.  It does adjust slightly once it dries down to fit an impressive amount of varying shades of skin.  For me it’s a fantastic color match as I range in a golden fair base but could pass for neutral with some redness, but for those with very warm undertones may find it makes you look washed out. The finish is slightly to definitely dewy depending on the types of moisturizers (if you use one) you put on before this.  Sometimes I do get a bit of high-wattage going on with particularly emolient moisturizers that I need to tone down with powder.  If you don’t like that finish or have very oily skin, this might not be for you.  You can also use that to your advantage if you have extremely dry skin – put on moisturizer and immediately follow up with this to have an easier time spreading. For those with dry or dull skin, this provides a beautiful finish that will give you a youthful glow without the down sides of a heavy foundation. It is light to light/medium coverage which does well with average redness but will not fully cover acne or dark circles.  Think your skin, but better.

Packaging – You will see 99% of reviews raving from the rooftops about this product.  And you’ll see a ton of complaints about the packaging.  The package is a hard plastic tube with a pump top.  If the tube lays on its side, you have to pump it a ton of times to get the product out.  You also can’t get the last drop, which I can only imagine how much is wasted without being able to squeeze or get into the tube.  It can be faulty, which is very annoying.  Not enough to keep me and the hordes of loyal followers away, though.

Overall – This product is a great one for sensitive, fair skin and is a Certified Readhead Best.  I still use other products (including sunscreen) but this can be a great multi-use product for people who don’t want a lot of steps in their routine.  At 45 SPF it’s great for protecting the skin and what I love most about it is that my skin looks and feels healthier when I wear it.  I’ve strayed many times over the years and although I may find a formula with a silky finish that can’t be topped (like Dior’s Hydralife) inevitably I start getting dehydrated and break out.  This one keeps me looking fresh and rejuvenated and washes off easily and CLEAN.  My acne subsides, and my skin looks more hydrated and bouncy when I use this.  And if I (gasp) fall asleep in it, I don’t pay with breakouts the next day. Definitely a great buy for winter dry skin.  Summer may need some extra setting powder.  At almost $40 it’s not cheap, but when you factor in the performance, convenience and that you don’t necessarily need a foundation, moisturizer or sunscreen, it’s definitely worth the splurge.  I’ll keep buying this and wishing they change the packaging for years to come!

Overall – 5/5

Packaging – 2/5

Price – $$$$$

Have you used Dr. Jart’s BB creams? Drop us a line in the comments.


Eyebrows Are The New LBD

A few years ago I met this naturally gorgeous beauty who was somehow tied up in a group of six degrees of friend-aquaintance with the friend I was waiting for.  While sipping on my Pinot I turned and it was like the heavenly angels started singing when I looked at her face.  “Eyyyyeeeebrowsssss…..”my mind gurgled like Homer Simpson over donuts.  Her eyebrows were so perfectly shaped that I had to stop her, especially since I was having a brow day like this one.


“I’m sorry to interrupt (but what I’m about to say is important to you), but I just wanted to tell you that you have amazing eyebrows.”

Now, while some (or most) of you may be thinking I am completely ridiculous, the fact that this woman was wearing one step up from sweatpants but had expertly defined eyebrows who’s outcome was more thought out than her entire outward appearance, told me this was as much her craft as Kim Kardashian’s contour game.

Her face lit up with a megawatt smile, told me that is the best compliment anyone can give her and I 100% believe her.

Nice hair! Oh hey thanks.

Lipstick is on fleek! Oh you’re so nice.

You’re looking Victoria Secret model -esque in that little black dress! Thanks but gotta cut down on those cheeseburgers still.


Her mantra is that NO MATTER WHAT her brows are done when she leaves the house.

We were instant BFFs with talk of products, threading v. plucking, and the lot.  You might have thought we were talking about pizza. Or solving world hunger. It was merely spitt’n mean brow game.

Seriously.  For those of you looking for a great way to compliment someone that shows you’re really paying attention, forget the shoes and go for the eyebrows (HARD CAVIAT! Novices, you should practice this beforehand with a friend because it could be uber creepy if you don’t sell it the right way).

So, why am I rambling on about this story?  Because it tees up nicely what I’m about to say. If you care about this sort of thing, which you’re reading a beauty blog so I assume you do – your eyebrows deserve some serious respect.

Much like you’d take the time finding the perfect dress and not splurging on the bargain buy for that hot date with the guy who didn’t know your name in high school, the same discerning eye should be given to your eyebrows.  They can do beautiful things for you, but can also be the thing that someone looks at you and can’t put their finger on what doesn’t look right or you are a unapproachable when you might be sweet as pie.

A few tips:

  • Eyebrow grooming/waxing/threading/plucking is an art and is subjective to the person who’s doing the work.  If you see someone’s brows you like, ask them where they get them done.  Do your homework for the best results and don’t assume that walking into any old place will automatically have you coming out looking like Cara Delevigne. <—-learned the hard way
  • Much like getting your hair done, you need to be very clear to the person who is doing your brows what look you’re going for.  Are you looking for a shape up?  Cleaning up what’s there? A new shape? Want to leave some of the random ones because you’re trying to grow them back in?  Time to be specific here.  It takes a long time for brows to grow back (except seemingly the ones I don’t want to ironically) and overgrooming can be….a really bad thing…not to mention incredibly frustrating when you’ve been trying to grow that bald scraggly patch out for 2 years and zip! in one second Zelma rips them out to never be seen again. <—- learned the hard way
  • Much like your eyelashes, take care of your brows to keep them full and healthy.
  • Bring in a picture of your inspiration!
  • If you’re new to the brow game, or want something low maintenance, you don’t have to go all out.  A few hairs plucked here, a few swipes of a comb there and something to hold those squirrely ones in place can make a huge difference by bringing out the shape of your eyes, highlighting your cheekbones and just making you look polished. 

For those new to eyebrow grooming or looking for a new shape, I highly suggest going to see a professional and letting them do the work for you first. We have a tendency to over-pluck when we do it ourselves.  I will allow a small forest to grow on my face between appointments if I need to before I’ll pluck my own brows.  I’m still paying for past sins (reference horse meme above). <—- more learning the hard way

In closing, I read this fun little post about what your eyebrows say about you.  Check it out.

My personality says #1 all the way.  Did I pick the right one for me?  You can see my brows here.

We’d love to hear what brow type you are! Drop us a note in the comments.



Product Review: Cover FX Custom Cover Drops

Sometimes there’s a product that comes out that just…smart.  Leave it to the problem solving geniuses from Cover FX to come out with this innovative product that is an Allure Best of Beauty Award Winner.

Enter Cover FX’s Custom Cover Drops.

What makes this product different than your run-of-the-mill foundation is that it’s not foundation at all.  It’s actual pigment, and available in a surprisingly large range of shades. The idea is that you can customize your color and your coverage with just a few drops.

What it is:

Pigmented color drops that allow you to customize your color, coverage and finish depending on the base that you choose to add it to.


Designed to give you a slippery base, the ingredients scream ‘cones.  Those are things like silicone and dimethicone which give products like primers, the smooth appearance.  This isn’t problematic unless ‘cones cause you to break out, which they do to me.  There is also alcohol in here, but it’s at the bottom of the list.  Absent are SPF or any skin-improving properties, so your base should include these items separately.  It does include mica and silica which help to provide some sheen and brightness to a rather heavy formula.

List from Sephora’s Website: Ethyl Trisiloxane, Caprylyl Methicone, Bis-Hydroxyethoxypropyl Dimethicone, Isododecane, Dimethicone, Mica, Jojoba Esters, Triethylhexanoin, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Silica, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Water, Alcohol, Acacia Decurrens Flower Wax, Polyglycerin-3. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499).

ReadHead’s Thoughts:

Why I Bought It: I am really hard on foundations and have extremely high expectations.  I have tried just about every foundation and BB cream out there.  My skin is pale but with golden undertones, and redness in my cheeks.  My hair color of balayaged dark roots and blonde highlights tones down some of the redness, but I need something that doesn’t wash me out.  I am acne prone. and want something that will better my skin vs. just cover it up.  I don’t want a mask, but I need some coverage. I don’t want matte, but don’t want to glow like an oily disco ball. I am every foundation developer’s nightmare.

The thought was that my existing BB or lotion chock full of goodies would be a good base for this, when I want more coverage.

In-Store Application: I was color-tested by a sales associate at Sephora. (Pro tip: this is no knock on them, but never trust being tested.  It’s about 20% that they are correct.  I blame bad lighting, the fact that you’re almost never makeup-free to start, and oxidation. Give a product 3-5 hours and daylight…you’ll see what I mean.) She took a sample of my current day cream and added 2 drops of the concentrated pigmented drops to make a skin color-like concoction that she put on me with a foundation brush. It went on pretty well and surprisingly was  pretty high coverage for what I was used to.

At-Home Application: I tried this again at home and found that if you have the least bit of dryness in your skin, moisturizer is key.  I put a dollop of my moisturizer and two drops directly onto it and mixed.  It was pretty easy, but was somewhat messy.

Packaging: This product is a push down dropper in an opaque glass container.  I really dislike it in just about every way.  The pigment gets into the screw top part of the dropper.  Because it’s a dropper, you have product on your hand, which gets all over, you try to dispense it, some inevitably gets on the side, and then you find random pigment blobs on your hand, on the side of the bottle…just about everywhere.  I find that if the product dries out (which is likely because this will last you until the end of time) the dropper gets clogged.

Overall: This product covers imperfections like hyperpigmentation and redness really well, but I found that it fell flat for providing a smooth canvas which is suprising given the amount of ‘cones.  You’ll have to work to find a base and primer perhaps that keeps this from accentuating the things you don’t want people to see if you’ve got rough texture on your skin.  I would describe it as that it covers vs blurs. BUT if you can find the magic ingredients to make it work for your skin type, and don’t mind a little mess, this product would be great for just about any occasion and can be considered more economical because it will last a really long time. For me, this accentuated my large pores and looked a bit mask-like and cakey.  Full disclosure I don’t wear high coverage foundation often, so that could be a part of it.  I decided to keep it because it beats buying a full-coverage foundation that I’ll never use and likely won’t have as good of ingredients for a base.  The idea is spot-on, but this is a one-time purchase for me.

Overall: 3/5

Packaging: 2/5

Price: $$$$$

Have you used Cover FX Custom Drops?  Drop us a line in the comments.


Product Review: Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion

For those of you faithful ReadHead readers (thank you!) you have read about my past abuse to my skin a la the sun.  I went from worshiper to demonizer in as fast as you can say UV.  Thanks to this trusty sunscreen – Neutrogena’s Beach Defense Sunscreen Lotion – I can go back to feeling safe but not like I have to wear a head-to-toe shield from sun Armageddon whilst taking a brisk walk on the sand.

This sunscreen is readily available in drugstores and online, and frequently has sales.  I have become sort of a hoarder of this lotion for that reason and will impose my will of “you NEED to use THIS” to all my friends.

First things are first.  I am not an ingredient purist when it comes to sunscreen.  There are others, like the Honest Company and other organic/vegan/crunchy companies that probably make things a little (or a lot) less chemical-laden than this one.  If that is important to you, understandable.  What’s important to me is that it’s no hassle and WORKS.

That out of the way, this is the BEST sunscreen I have used hands down and is a Certified ReadHead Best.  Read on for more deets:

What it is

Here’s the description from Ulta’s website: The first line of sunscreen by Neutrogena clinically proven to provide multi skin defense from sun + water damage; a full body suncare and outdoor skin protection for the active family.

Ingredients: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone, Water, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Dimethicone, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Benzyl Alcohol, Silica, Diethylhexyl 2,6-Naphthalate, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Trisiloxane, Cetyl Dimethicone, Beeswax, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Polyacrylate, Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Acrylates/C12-22 Alkyl Methacrylate Copolymer, Behenyl Alcohol, Trideceth-6, Disodium EDTA, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Caprylyl Glycol, Fragrance.

This is a chemical sunscreen (vs. physical). There are a few ingredients in here that are of concern for the EWG – namely oxybenzone.  However, these ingredients are common in effective sunscreens.  To my earlier point above, you will need to weigh your options and decide for yourself on what you deem more harmful; the occasional sunscreen slathering or the sun’s rays.  I happen to be OK with some chemicals that will help prevent skin cancer and premature aging. Chicken or the egg, perhaps.

Options: There are both aerosol spray and lotion options in 30 and 70 SPF.  I prefer lotions because there is less waste and the coverage is better, but I utilize both.

Application: The spray option is just like any other.  It’s a constant stream of spray, doesn’t clog and goes on clear .  I happen to use the 70 SPF lotion.  Unlike others I’ve used in the past, this stuff goes on like a dream.  It spreads easily and is more of a lotion texture vs. the sticky glue-like consistency of others. Immediately after there may be a slight white cast, but after letting this dry down, you can’t tell you have it on.  It even gives you a slightly dewey look without being greasy.  It does have a slightly different fragrance than a typical sunscreen which I happen to really enjoy but it’s not faint.  Those who are sensitive to fragrance should do a sniff test first.

Performance: For a sunscreen to work as it should, you need to make sure you’re using the proper amount with good coverage, and let it soak in for 30 + min before you go outside.  I use the lotion for this purpose and then bring the spray with me for easier application with sand, etc.  If you use the product in its intended way and use other proper protection methods, the lasting performance of this will exceed expectation.  I spent a week in Jamaica and Costa Rica with 0 base tan (I was as white as I was out of the womb) and did not burn once.  This was while playing volleyball for hours on the sand and ziplining right near the equator. I even (gasp!!!) used this on my face because I didn’t think my 55 zero oil for acne prone weenies would work given my propensity for retinol and peels and did not break out. PERFECTO.  Pale friends rejoice!

Price: For around $12 a bottle, it’s not outrageously priced given it’s performance.  This is also why I like the lotion better to eliminate waste.

Overall:  This is my 100% go-to for sunscreen.  It smells great, spreads easily, is easy for me to get, leaves little-to-no white cast, still allows me to get some color and keeps me from burning.  I really can’t ask for anything more from a sunscreen.  Thanks, Neutrogena!

Overall Rating: 5/5

*Certified ReadHead Best

Price: $$$$$

Packaging: 5/5

Have you used this sunscreen or have one you love? Drop us a line in the comments.