New year, new items: What’s in my beauty bag

Happy new year to all the ReadHead readers!  I can’t believe it’s been almost a year to the day that I’ve written my first post.  A big thank you to all who have supported my passion project.  If you’ve learned something new or tried something you liked, I’d love to hear it through the comments!

As a skincare fanatic, I try a lot of different items.  My goal is to give it to you straight, and to show you that more money doesn’t always mean better – but sometimes it does.

I took a look at the things that continue to be my staples over time, whether it be my other items didn’t continue to work for me anymore, or I found something to replace it.

If the new year means new you, here my go-to items to give you some inspo for your own makeup and skincare routine.  Happy reading!

Skincare items I can’t live without (everyday routine):

Cerave SA Renewing Face Wash – has ceramides, niacinamide and hydrators, plus removes all my makeup and has a kick of BHA to keep my pores clean and has a friendly drugstore price.

L’Oreal Hydrafresh Toner – while there may be options with better ingredients (i.e. sans denatured alcohol) this one boasts 99% alcohol free, is hydrating and you can’t beat the drugstore price & availability. It helps to remove any traces of dirt and makeup, is refreshing and has added BHA to help with clog-prone skin.

Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum – is perfect for someone with skin like me – clog and milia prone (ultra rich eye creams are a no-go), anti-aging and reducing puffiness.  Luckily dark circles aren’t a problem for me (yet) but the ferulic acid will help.  This is a gel serum so it won’t be ultra hydrating if that is important to you. Pro tip: If puffiness is something you struggle with, put this in the fridge to get some extra benefit!

Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Treatment – much like the above, it has fantastic ingredients that help to brighten, protect and refine skin, and is gentle yet effective.  I have other retinol products that pack a bigger punch (Peter Thomas Roth 3% for example), but I can use this consistently and layer with other acids with no irritation, and notice brighter, clearer skin.

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Serum – I did a ReadHead 2 Head on this vs. Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma (which continues to be my most reviewed post on ReadHead).  I recommend reading it if you’re new to vitamin C.  The vitamin C and additional layer of ferulic acid helps to give an extra layer of sun protection (key for someone with fair skin and correcting sun damage) while destroying free radicals and helping the skin function at its healthiest.

SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum – this is my ultra splurge item which utilizes growth hormones and antioxidants to trick older skin into think it’s a younger version of itself. This helps to regenerate new, healthy and less wrinkled skin.  It’s not surgery (nor should you expect the same result), but it’s one of the best topical cosmeceuticals on the market with clinical trials to boot.

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Serum – a nice AHA acid that I alternate at night with my retinoids to keep my dead skin and clogged pores at bay. If I start getting little pimples, this removes the top layer of skin and away they go.

Neutrogena’s 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment – this is my ride or die BHA serum that I use when I’m needing an extra dose of pore cleaning and Neutrogena discontinued it.  I have absolutely no earthly idea why as this has a cult following that may have some feeling one would need to pry whatever’s left on the market from their cold, dead hands.  I think it’s because it worked so well people didn’t need their products anymore! Anytime I can find this, I snatch it up and use it like it’s as precious as 24 carat gold.

Belif’s the True Cream Moisturizing Bomb – this has become my HG moisturizer.  Calming, hydrating, basic and effective.  It leaves my skin feeling awesomely dewey and minus the clogged pores of overly heavy/silicone feeling.

Dr. Jart Premium BB 45++ – the last step in my skincare routine, this is similar to foundation but has amazing ingredients, helps to cover redness and has an awesome amount of SPF in  it.  Talk about a multi-tasker!

Obagi Professional-C Sunscreen – I use sometimes under my Dr. Jart, or on days when I’m going makeup free.  It has vitamin E and the most stable form of vitamin C, l-ascorbic acid.  I like this formulation, but I received it for free from a promotion.  I like that it leaves me matte, but I wouldn’t say it’s an HG.  Great ingredients, and a good finish for oily-skinned folks who don’t want to layer makeup on as I find that it does pill up.

Rimmel’s Lash Accelerator – great lash conditioner which helps lashes grow by keeping them healthy.  I put this on at night (and not under mascara like it says you can do). It won’t compare to a Latisse or other lash growth items on the market, but it will help keep hairs conditioned and strong – plus you can’t beat the drugstore price!

Nature’s Bounty Hair Skin & Nails + Alive Whole Food Energizer  + Vital Proteins Collagen Peptide Powder – these supplements/powders help to give me the added amino acids, proteins, and goodies I need like B vitamins, biotin, collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin to boost my beauty routine from the inside and give me a little pep in my step.  The combination of these help my hair grow strong and my nails like a weed.

Just for fun (rev up that routine!):

There’s the steps that I take as an avid skincare connoisseur with skin that changes like the weather.  If you notice there’s a lot of de-clogging, brightening and exfoliating happening here.

If you’re new to the game don’t get overwhelmed – any steps beyond what you’re doing will bring improvements and take these slow.  You don’t need top of the line either, you just need to know helpful ingredients.  But, if you’re in the prime anti-aging years, it may be worth it to give your beauty counter a boost. And, if dry-like-the-Sahara skin is your concern (different than dehydrated) you may need to incorporate some extra moisture here.

I hope you got excited to try something new!  Have a favorite routine? Drop us a line in a comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Product Review: Nars Lip Pencils

It quite possibly took me 25+ years to wear a colored lipstick out of the house that wasn’t either for Halloween or some shade of nude/clear/light pink/balm.  Lipsticks can be tricky and ESPECIALLY when you are a natural redhead (hello clown face) and uncomfortable with the wrong formulation.

There are less than five lip colors that I own and have purchased with my own money.  Two of them (and my favorites!) are Nars lip pencils: the Satin Lip Pencil in Palais Royal and the Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella (gasp – a red!!).

The Difference:

The names are pretty indicative of what you’re getting with each. The Velvet Matte is a true matte (meaning without any shine) that gives you that sultry-looking pout.  The Satin Lip is a bit more buttery – closer to your standard lipstick – but still maintains the pencil application.  It does have a slight satin shine finish to it.

Velvet Matte Lip Pencil: Cruella

Color – this is a great classic red that is versatile. It is in between vampy and ring the alarm red. Highly rated by almost every beauty blogger out there, it goes on with precision due to it’s chubby pencil formula which means you can go without a lip pencil if you like.  It provides a brightness to the face, a whiteness to your smile, and is daring enough for those like me who have typically steered clear of reds in the past, while still approachable for an everyday red for those who are used to pulling it off. It can withstand the idea of either playing up your eyes or your lips so that you can go from girl next door to glam.

Application & Wear- as mentioned it goes on really easily with it’s pencil-like tip that isn’t as thin as a typical lip pencil, but easy enough to grip, creates a defined line and you can hold it with ease and no worry of breakage.  It glides on smoothly without much tugging, which can happen especially with matte lipsticks.  This is not meant to be a 24-hour lasting formula, and it doesn’t but I find that it has enough staying power to last you a few hours and it’s fade, although lighter, doesn’t become a blotchy mess.  Typical to most matte lipsticks, it was a bit drying on me so it would require some good exfoliating and moisturizing before application.

Satin Lip Pencil: Palais Royal

Color – this one is a beautiful sangria color, perfect for the winter months or glamourous night out on the town. To me, this one feels more at home than a typical red, and is probably my favorite lip color I’ve owned to date.  It goes on a true burgundy color, but can be softened or fades on it’s own to a brighter plum.  It’s the perfect color to bring some pop and brightness to your face, while bringing an elegance and refinement.

Application & Wear – similar to the above matte version, this goes on as a pencil which has precision to it.  However, the final product is noticeably different.  The Satin Lip comes out with a sheen.  Not a shine, but will reflect some light.  Whereas I see the matte as giving you a smoky, sultry look, these will give you some added moisture and a brighter look without any high wattage.  This one also wears and fades very well but can tend to cling to dry pieces on your lips. Both options should be removed with a good oil-based cleanser.

Overall

I really like these options, and in particular, these colors.  This blog is geared towards redheads, but these colors would look gorgeous on just about everyone.  At $27 for both options, they rival your typical higher end beauty counter purchases. The matte has slightly more to the pencil (.086 oz vs .07 oz per Sephora’s website) but it wouldn’t be enough to sway me either way given the varying finishes.  They look sleek in a black outer package with the color block at the tip.  I will say that these are slightly tricky to sharpen, but contrary to what you think it can be done.  That is the only con in it’s presentation in my opinion.  I will also say that Nars was cruelty free for a while, but seems to have dipped it’s toes back into no longer being so.

Overall: 4/5 

Price: $$$$$

Packaging: 4/5 

Have you used Nars Lip Pencils before?  Drop us a line in the comments.

Product Review: Urban Decay Brow Box

As you would have read in my earlier blog post touting that eyebrows are the new LBD, the eyebrow industry has exploded not only because if the increased attention to a perfectly arched brow, but also capitalizing on those poor souls growing up in the 90’s when pencil thin brows were in – and just never filled back in.

There are a ton of great products out there, but where I find a common denominator that separates the winners from the losers is color.  Many fall either too ashy or too red (and that’s coming from a redhead!).  Smashbox discontinued my fav brow shadow, so off to find a new BFF (brow friend forever) I went.

About Urban Decay’s Brow Box

Urban Decay is well known for their primers and shadows, and while on the hunt saw a bunch of high ratings which landed this in my beauty basket.  They have this alt-rock glam/grunge thing going on, targeting those who are into beauty and associate with the fringe, apparent with palettes called “Naked,” photography more goth than glam and bright, bold colors. As a rocker at heart, I enjoy the demo they are going after.  I also happen to love them because Gwen Stefani is a spokesperson and she’s my all-time fav. I digress.

Packaging:

They have done a great job of putting this brow kit into a beautiful and functional design. The outer shell is a textured black and deep purple metallic plastic with that although small, has some weight to it.

Their Brow Box kit is one of, if not the best, value as far as handy tools and an all-in-one you’ll come across. The top lid opens up to reveal the brow powders, and then sort of opens like one of those Caboodles from back in the day to present you with some tiny yet helpful tools.

For those who travel a lot, have limited space for beauty tools, or are type A and like everything packaged nicely, you’ll really enjoy this one.  You get your choice of three brow powder color options to choose from, and each has an accompanying color to give you some blendable variations.

Here’s what comes in one box:

  • 2x colors of brow powder
  • Brow wax
  • Mini tweezers
  • Mini angled brush & spoolie
  • Mirror

Isn’t that awesome? The tweezers and brushes won’t replace a higher end version, but they are fantastic when you have that one hair you just need to get and don’t want to go digging, are new to the brow game, or if you’re attempting to pack light.

Application:

Even though I’m a redhead, my brows pull more to a brown. I also deepen my root so I sometimes go a little darker on my brows. I use the color “Brunette Beauty” and mix the lighter color in my inner brow closer to my nose, and then go darker.  I’ve had mine for about two years at least, so it’s lasted me a lonnnnng time and I’d say that if I wasn’t running out of wax, it could still go on for another year.

These are also best used for a defined and filled-in brow look. For those who like a more natural tamed look, or just want to fill in a spot here or there, this may be too dramatic for you.  Finding a good middle ground between filled in and drawn on, it’s more typical of your Insta brow consumer.  Because of that, it also takes some time and care to apply. I do LOVE that it comes with a wax, though. It adds that one extra step of definition and hold.

The down sides are that over time it does become a bit crumbly vs. buttery and the colors don’t blend as well.  This also creates some fall out which is easily brushed away, but annoying.  Those of us oily-skinned gals may also have some trouble on the most humid days.  It certainly isn’t budge-proof.

Overall:

Overall I really like Urban Decay’s Brow Box and would recommend it for the right type of buyer considering the type of look it will give you mentioned above. At $30 for one box, it isn’t the least expensive but certainly approachable for a brow-conscious buyer, and does provide everything you need in one place which is a great selling point.

It isn’t bullet-proof and does have some down sides, so I may venture out to try something else next time.  But, I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to my trusty Urban Decay because it is really that good.

Overall: 4/5

Price: $$$$$

Packaging: 5/5

Have you used the Brow Box? Drop us a line in the comments.

 

 

Product Review: SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum

Here at ReadHead, we’re just a tad bit (a lot) nerdy about science in skincare.  I will start this post off with saying three things right off the bat before you read on: 1) this is clinically proven to work 2) you will never get over the sticker shock 3) there are some funky ingredients.  Ok now that that is settled, read on!

SkinMedica is a physician-only skincare line – meaning you have to get it from a place that is licensed like a dermatologist, medical spa or plastic surgeon’s office.  Their products contain top-of-the-line ingredients, and a price tag to boot.  Their #1 flagship ingredient is TNS, which I’ll talk about more in a second.  This line, and TNS Essential Serum in particular, is well known, top-rated and a part of the daily skincare routine by just about any certified dermatologist/plastic surgeon/medispa professional out there.

The science behind SkinMedica’s TNS

Major contributors to both intrinsic (meaning the actual aging process we all go through as part of our biology) and extrinsic (meaning things like diet, improper care and damage that humans expose themselves to) aging are splotchiness and freckling, wrinkles and loss of collagen.  You can read my post about drinking collagen to learn more about the role and effects of losing collagen here in my blog.

SkinMedica has done research that founded and brought to the commercial pharmaceutical landscape the importance of stem cell and human growth factors into topical skincare.  TNS includes a patented and to some, shocking and confusing ingredient called Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media.   This ingredient, which is sourced from discarded neonatal tissue (i.e. foreskins…and here’s usually where the confusion/shock/intrigue/distain sets in) is housed in chambered solutions that allow it to function and generate as our natural bodies would.  This growth factor and other cytokins mimic the skin’s natural production of elastin and collagen synthesis to promote younger-looking skin over time.

As also stated in my post about collagen, there is speculation on how much penetration these molecules have due to their large size.  There is agreement that it can penetrate pores and hair follicles, but that they function at their best after skin has been compromised i.e. microneedling, a strong peel, or laser, to get deeper and get more of the benefits of the technology.

Unlike many skincare products out there, this one has been proven in multiple clinical studies, and as mentioned, is THE choice for doctors and specialists to have access to just about anything in the world to choose from.

If you want to learn more about growth factors and clinical studies, you can find sourced information from the NIH here.

Ingredients

This SkinMedica product dispenses in a dual chamber, so that you get two different “sets” of product that you mix together.

I’ve already mentioned the Human Conditioned Fibroblast Media which is the differentiator in this product, but it also has an impressive array of vitamins and extracts.

Here’s the info from SkinMedica’s website:

Chamber 1:

TNS Recover Complex – Human Fibroblast conditioned media. A physiologically balanced, naturally secreted and stabilized growth factor blend that helps improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, skin tone and texture.

Chamber 2:

APS Corrective Complex made up of peptides and antioxidants like green tea, vitamin E, alpha-arbutin and hyaluronic acid.

Full list of ingredients: Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media, Water/Aqua/Eau, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Unsaponifiables, Alpha-Arbutin, Isoceteth-20, Arachidyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Ethoxydiglycol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Dimethicone, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Dipalmitoyl Hydroxyproline, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5, Ergothioneine, Hydrolyzed Sericin, Phospholipids, Ubiquinone, Rubus Fruticosus (Blackberry) Leaf Extract, Saccharomyces Ferment Lysate Filtrate, Aminobutyric Acid, Phytosterols, Tocopherol, Tocotrienols, Squalene, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax (Oryza Sativa Cera), Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Polyacrylate-13, Polyisobutene, Polysorbate 20, Behenyl Alcohol, Arachidyl Glucoside, Cetearyl Alcohol, Steareth-10, Steareth-20, Butylene Glycol, Maltodextrin, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Xanthan Gum, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Disodium EDTA, Caprylyl Glycol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Parfum/Fragrance, Hydroxycitronellal, Linalool, Coumarin, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Geraniol, Isoeugenol

Packaging & Application

The packaging that this bottle comes in is top notch.  It’s a presentation, as it should be with a $280 MSRP price tag. It has SkinMedica’s signature taupey-gray color with the silver chromatic lettering.  While the box it comes in is substantial, I wouldn’t call it or the bottle the product comes in as beautiful.  SkinMedica wouldn’t compete with a Lancôme or other products that spend a lot on marketing and packaging.  It’s straight-forward and appropriate, but you know you aren’t paying for a beauty bottle on your counter.  I care more about the science than the look of packaging, so that doesn’t bother me.  But, if you like to be delighted with your packages, this one may leave you wanting more.

The chambers are also a bit annoying.  Over time, the two products can misfire so that you get more of one product vs. another.  I end up having to store it upside down, or forcefully tap it on it’s top to get the chambers to work properly.

I dispense a shockingly strange color of white and bright orange onto the back of my hand, dollop them around a bit to mix them up, ad put it on my skin.  I’m a terrible baker, but I envision when you use a spatula device to layer in whipped egg whites – scoop and flip gently. The look, nor the smell will take you anywhere close to organic or botanical.  It’s a kick you in the ass real-deal “if you don’t like it oh well” type of thing.  It smelled to me like whatever chemicals they use in a Port-o-Potty.  I can’t even make that sound any more refreshing.  I’d turn my head and “whiff.”  Not my favorite. At all.

But dammit if it doesn’t work, and then you have to suck it up on the painful price tag, it’s faulty mechanics and it’s awful smell because your face glows, your skin is tighter and your wrinkles less.  And such is life.

Final Assessment

This is a supreme luxury treatment and is right for the right type of consumer.  This is prime for someone in your 30s or 40s (who can afford it) before you start to see the full signs of aging.  This is a bit overkill for anyone younger.  I’d suggest a drugstore or Sephora-like buy of the beautycare basics an exfoliant, moisturizer, retinoid and sunscreen for that age range.

There are other products that will do great things for your skin.  But, they won’t do great things like this.  Growth factors are the future of pharmaceuticals, but they also have their risks.  It’s new and groundbreaking, but it is also not tested over time.  I also maintain that no topical product is a replacement for surgery or injections, so you have to be realistic about what it can do for you.

For now I’m going to hold my breath and wait until my local spa has it on sale.  For $281 MSRP for one oz, that is a bit of like breathing in smelling salts (or Port-o-Potty chemicals) and feeling like you need to go o confession each time you press “buy.” But I’ll give it a ReadHead best and save my pennies to purchase this little dose of the fountain of youth.

Consumer warning: this is a product that is certified to be sold at licensed skincare professionals only.  You buy at your own risk from Amazon and other sellers.  In my opinion the savings is not worth the risk.

Overall: 5/5

*Certified ReadHead Best

Packaging: 3/5

Price: $$$$$

Have you used SkinMedica TNS? Drop us a line in the comments.

ReadHead 2 Head: Skinceuticals C E Ferulic vs. Drunk Elephant C-Firma

If you’ve been around the cosmeceutical (that’s cosmetics/skincare with a pharmaceutical mentality) world for the past few years, you’ve likely heard of Skinceuticals’ C E Ferulic serum. Newer to the game is Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma serum, which leaves a girl to ask – who does it better?

A little background.

Skinceuticals, a subsidiary under the L’Oréal parent company, was one of the first to bring skincare + science to the masses and in ’94 brought their revolutionary skincare technology closer to the consumer by partnering with physicians to bring medical-grade ingredients to those like you and me. Launched around 2012, the Skinceuticals C E Ferulic was a serum ahead of it’s time, incorporating proven and new ingredients with promising results.  It boasts winning 24 beauty awards and quickly grew to beauty care cult status…for those who could afford it.

New to the skin care game and bringing with it a loud voice and a big stick, Drunk Elephant has exploded in the industry and quickly gained loyal followers.  Created by Tiffany Masterson and based off the promise of effective products that leave behind the known irritation triggers, Drunk Elephant’s unique ingredients (including it’s signature Marula oil) are both high-grade and effective while leaving those who are a bit more cause or source-conscious like a happy pachyderm.

The products

A lone star for many years, Skinceuticals C E Ferulic continues to grow in popularity but people can’t help but wonder if the Drunk Elephant C-Firma is a true dupe (meaning duplicate) for the high-end serum and half the cost.

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic

  • Cost: $165 USD
  • Size: 1 oz.
  • Packaging: No frills dark glass bottle with a dropper.  It’s straight forward and looks clean + clinical
  • Application: 3-4 drops to face and neck.  Smells like typical vitamin C and ferulic acid – like hotdogs.
  • Consistency: very watery and clear
Key Benefits & Ingredients:
  • 15% pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) provides visible anti-aging benefits, brightens skin and helps protect against oxidative stress
  • 1% vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) neutralizes free radicals and replenishes lipids
  • 0.5% ferulic acid enhances the antioxidant benefits of vitamins C
  • Shows improvement in the appearance of lines and wrinkles, loss of firmness and brightening your complexion
  • This vitamin C serum remains effective for a minimum of 72 hours
  • Evens skin tone and diminishes discoloration
  • The pH of the SkinCeuticals is patented, so no other product on the market has a pH between 2.5 and 3.0.  This is what keeps other companies from copying their serum verbatim.

Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Laureth-23, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopherol, Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate

Drunk Elephant C-Firma

  • Cost: $80 USD
  • Size: 1 oz
  • Packaging: Opaque plastic pump with a twist top.  It’s bright and fun with a pop of orange on top of it’s oatmeal-colored earthy beige, and highlights it’s signature elephant logo
  • Application: 3-4 pumps for face and neck.  Newer versions have toned down the smell to be more earthy vs. hotdogs
  • Consistency: orange and a watery, viscous gel-like formulation.
Key Benefits & Ingredients:
  • Potent Antioxidant Complex (L-Ascorbic Acid 15%, Ferulic Acid, Vitamin E 1%): Works to firm and brighten the look and feel of skin while defending against the signs of photo aging, pollution, and other environmental stressors
  • Chronocyclin: An antiaging chronopeptide that provides the antioxidant benefits of vitamin D to skin.
  • Pumpkin Ferment Extract and Pomegranate Enzyme: Work to enzymatically digest surface dead skin cells.
  • Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer: Hydrates and plumps the appearance of fine lines while acting as a free-radical scavenger.
  • Has a pH level of 3.3 to 3.5, which Drunk Elephant believes is the key to a non-irritating, clinically-effective formulation that delivers real results

*Duplicated ingredients from Skinceuticals are in orange

Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Laureth-23, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Tocopherol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Acetyl Glucosamine, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Glutamylamidoethyl Imidazole, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrobisdemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Glycine, Sucrose, Maltodextrin, Propanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Polysorbate 60.

And the winner is

I have been a Drunk Elephant fan-girl since this product came out, and have turned my nose up at purchasing something twice the price.  Especially since Drunk Elephant has produced results and has lots of great ingredients.

It was only after I received a great promotion on Skinceuticals that I decided to give it a go and I have to say that for my acne-prone skin, it is the winner.

Why you ask?

Skinceuticals had the least amount of ingredients, which my finicky skin appreciated.  It was not greasy and sunk in quickly.  The smell, although not my favorite, comes with the territory of medical-grade ingredients.  It seemed to perform the best on me by showing results and keeping my skin clear.

Although Drunk Elephant has a lot of great antioxidants and moisturizers in their product, the reason this doesn’t win overall is that my skin just does not do well with oils.  It performed on me, but it caused me to have clogged pores (which are already craters) continuously due to the Marula oil.  It also had a tendency to oxidize a bit at times and show a bit of an orangeish hue which could cause issues for the very fair skinned. It does excel in engaging packaging and providing additional benefits with more antioxidants.  Also, THAT PRICE.  You can’t argue with that.

So when it comes to the question on if C-Firma is a complete dupe, I have to say no.  However, I can’t say I don’t struggle with the price of Skinceuticals, and if I ran out and there wasn’t a sale, I’d be OK with DE.  Drunk Elephant still performs really well and those that have dry skin or aren’t prone to clogging may really dig this one.

Have you tried either?  Do you agree? Drop us a line in the comments.

 

 

Product Review: Dr. Jart Water Drop Hydrating Moisturizer

Since it’s getting into the warmer and more humid months here in the Midwest, it may be time to reconsider your beauty routine.  You may need to go from incredibly emollient and heavy moisturizers that protected your skin from the harsh cold and wind into something more suitable for the changing climate that won’t weigh you down or give you a case of the makeup melty face.

I am a fan of K-beauty (which stands for Korean beauty) products and Dr. Jart is high on my list.  My skin seems to love just about everything they put out in the moisturizer category.  What I like about their products is that they are true skincare, not just moisturizers or foundations.

With dehydrated/oily yet reactive skin prone to clogging, the Water Drop Hydrating Moisturizer is a great solution for those of you with my skin type.   This gem came as part of a freebie package from Sephora and has remained a staple in my closet (it’s way beyond a cabinet) since.   AND it’s super fun to use – more later in the application category of the review.

Ingredients:

While a much shorter list of ingredients than many moisturizers you’ll see, this is often times a good thing.  This formulation includes extracts and peptides to promote healthy skin, Dr. Jart’s signature arbutin for skin lightening, and humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin to give you that moisture surge.  It does have fragrance as part of the list which smells exactly like Fruit Loops.  The good news is that it’s at the end of the list, meaning there is the least of it, and…well…I love a good bowl of Fruit Loops.

From Birch Box’s Website: Water, Cyclomethicone, Glycerin, Arbutin, Sodium Chloride, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Hyaluronic Acid, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, DMDM Hydantoin, Fragrance

Application:

The Water Drop Moisturizer comes out in a white translucent gel-like consistency.  I squeezed the tube and was easily able to control the appropriate amount – a little less than a dime-sized mound – onto my finger.  Given the name “water drop” it wasn’t runny whatsoever which is nice.  Dealing with runny formulations that run down your hands is just not a fun thing.

Now on to the fun part.  As soon as I started putting the gel onto my face it “burst” into a water-like consistency.  There’s no sound or bubbling of this, but you can tell that it immediately starts to liquefy. I put it on my face and immediately felt the smooth, soothing and refreshing sensation they are talking about…and whiffed those Fruit Loops.  What a fun treat!  I’ve never experienced anything like it before.

Packaging:

The packaging is a silver plastic tube with a screw top.  Praise goodness that it’s not a pot, not a dropper, or some other crazy contraption.  It looks nice and worthy of Korean skincare, is easy to use and leaves the frills to the product itself.

Overall:

Moisturizing has always been a challenge for me, and my skin continues to change with skincare products I use, age and climate.  I appreciated the fun of using this product, and because it’s a gel vs. a heavy cream, it gave me proper moisture without causing an oil slick or break-out city.  At $36 is not cheap, but it’s a good formulation with skin-benefitting ingredients, and oily-skinned, acne prone people like myself may see that this helps improve issues heavier moisturizers or those with 100 filler ingredients you can’t pronounce may cause.  Those with very dehydrated or dry skin may not get enough moisture from this alone. It’s also not a multi-tasker as it does not include SPF.  You’ll need a separate sunscreen for day. I’m deducting one point off for that.

Pro-tip: Sephora has this on their 100 point products fairly often considering and at a great trial size.  Did I mention it’s just fun to use?

Overall: 4/5

Packaging: 5/5

Price: $$$$$

Have you tried the Water Drop Moisturizer or have a K-beauty brand you love? Drop us a line in the comments.

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.

Ingredients:

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.

Packaging:

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.

Application:

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.

Experience:

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.

Overall:

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.

 

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.

Ingredients:

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.

 

Case of Melty Makeup Face: An 80-Degree Winter Day Confirmed I’m Not Yet Worthy

It’s currently winter in my midwestern hometown of Cincinnati.  For the past few months I have been slathering moisturizer on like it’s going out of style since my skin was getting blasted by cold winds and dried out by artificial heat warmer than the fires of hell.

Winter was putting my makeup and hair products to the test.  My BB creams were struggling to not look like it was some color of paste too orange covering sandpaper and my volumizing hair products were falling flat. But I was determined – exfoliate and moisturize.  Moisturize, moisturize, exfoliate, moisturize.

Then yesterday happened and I was reminded yet again of why I have 8,000 products in my closet and what happens when I am ill-prepared. It decided that it would be 80 and swampy.  I used the same products as I have the rest of the winter.  My skin’s oil production was kicked into high gear of gross and felt like only a squeegee would do. My air-drying hair took on a volume of lion mane-like proportions.  My eyeshadow creased and melted, mascara left lines by the end of the night, and only a rubber band could save me from my hair. WTF.  More fodder for me to hate you, winter.

So, as crazy winter days transform and spring time approaches, it’s a good reminder to revisit the products we’re using as the seasons change.

Here’s some tips to arm yourself with the best types of products and techniques to save you from feeling like a melty-faced swamp monster.

Proper Skin Prep:

Two of the most important things when humidity and warmer weather kicks into gear are lightweight-yet-effective moisturizers and exfoliants that can penetrate into the pore to remove dead skin and clear out gunk.

Proper Makeup Prep:

Extra oil production, sweat and humid conditions can break down makeup, causing oxidation, unwanted shine, or even an overall disappearing act.

Primers have come a long way – you can find some with acne treatments, moisturizers and brighteners – and can create a sleek canvas and hold your makeup.  Primers are especially important in the t-zone and eyelid area if you have oily skin.

Set it off:

Setting your makeup with powder will take away additional shine. They have come a long way from cakey to translucent and finely milled.  A good powder is worth the investment.

Lastly, spritzing a makeup setting spray will keep you going all night long and hold your makeup in place.

  • ReadHead Favorite: Urban Decay All Nighter does exactly what it says.  It will hold that beautiful handiwork for up to 16 hours!  I use this in limited amounts though, as it is high in alcohol and can irritate my acne-prone skin.  It’s still a Certified ReadHead Best.

Have a technique that works for you? Drop us a line in the comments!