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.






Defining the Dark Spots On Your Skin

As many redheads and fair-skinned people, I grew up always being freckled.  I remember a friend’s dad saying to me, “Did you get your suntan through a screen door?” Ugh.

While I’m not the fairest of the fair and I actually tend to tan fairly well which is like being a redheaded unicorn, this has proven to be aesthetically pleasant (who doesn’t like a summer glow) and a recipe for disaster on how I treated my skin in my early days.  While picking up my acne medication my dermatologist mentioned to my mom, “She’s way too tan for a redhead.”  Chalk that up to a challenge I shouldn’t have taken.  My mother’s voice when I told her I was going to the tanning bed still rings in my head. #momknowsbest

Enter the years of “aging” and suddenly your face starts dotting itself with dark freckles you never had seemingly overnight and swaths of nickel-sized brown skin that makes you look like a pound puppy. Given we can’t rewind the clock and yank our sun-worshiping selves off the beach by the ear, let’s talk about what those dark spots are and how to treat them.

Common dark spots:

Freckles can be both genetic and caused by the sun.  Take a look at your face, chest shoulders and arms (which have the most sun exposure) and then take a look at a place that the sun doesn’t shine like….your butt.  It sounds weird to tell you to do that, but if you’ve got some freckling (not caused by tanning beds) that’s one thing.  But most of us have a fairly freckle-free rump.  That freckling on your face is likely sun damage and age spots that show up after years.  The reason we start seeing them in our 30s and 40s is because the damage we did before we knew better is starting to show.  Giddy up for this fun ride.

Melasma is the darkening of patches of skin that can range from the size an eraser of a pencil to covering large parts of the face.  Melasma is caused by sun damage, but can also be caused by hormones.  Women are much more susceptible to melasma than men due to birth control and pregnancy – melasma is also called “pregnancy mask.”

Moles are something we’re all pretty familiar with.  Moles are caused by changes in the skin.  Most are harmless, but should always be checked by dermatologists on a frequent basis.  I’m talking to you – fellow pale friends! Moles can also be triggered by age and sun damage and indicate melanoma/skin cancer.

How do you treat this?

  • Sun protection is the #1 anti-aging thing you can do for yourself.  I recommend nothing less than 30 SPF.  This also includes hats, sunglasses to protect the delicate skin around your eyes, and wearing protective shirts and cover-ups while being in the sun.
  • Increasing skin cell turnover with long-term treatment from retinols and peels.  For light resurfacing, look for 10-30% glycolic, lactic or mandelic peels.  For the biggest impact you need peels that get below the surface like TCA and Jessner Peels.  Always check with a professional before attempting peels…and don’t forget that SPF!
  • Lotions or serums with hydroquinone, vitamin C and antioxidants help protect the skin from the sun and reverse sun damage. The trick here is getting enough in a product to be effective and stability, especially in vitamin C.
  • Lasers are also an option, like Fraxel and IPL, that target skin damage.  These are your pricier options, but are effective.

Have you found something that gave you SkinLove after dark spots?  Drop us a line in the comments!


*Note that there is some controversy over the use of hydroquinone and retinol, and should not be used by those who are pregnant or want to become pregnant.

Product Review: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel

Do you, Stacie, take Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel to be your lifelong partner?  I DO.

Every once in a while you come across that product that makes you shed a tear of happiness.  For someone with sensitive skin that requires exfoliation but then gets angry at me and goes dry, it’s a fine line between effective and…I just can’t.

I’ve used just about everything you can think of, including, serums, at-home peels, professional peels, acids and antioxidants of every letter of the alphabet…you name it.

I have to say that this product is fantastic and gets a high ranking from ReadHead. It’s easy to use, packaged in it’s own duo package for easy use and travel, and takes only a few minutes.

Application – it comes in a dual foil package that produces little folded cloths that look like wet naps.

  • You open package one which is full of alpha and beta acids gentle enough to be used daily but effective enough to work, swipe it on your face, neck and chest, and then wait two minutes.
  • Then, open package two which contains retinol and other anti-aging fighters plus an acid deactivator, swipe that on your face, neck and chest, and boom. You’re done.
  • You may become a little dry, but you will not see your skin peel.  Pro tip – some of the most effective peels show no peeling skin whatsoever.

You’ll see a ton of reviews online for this, but since this is ReadHead and we take things a step farther into the why’s, here’s some additional thoughts from a skin care specialist.

  • This product does contain alcohol. I am typically against alcohol but when doing a peel, using alcohol first before the peel is recommended to strip the skin of dirt and oil that would impede the efficacy of the peel. Alcohol in this sense, is a good thing.
  • For those of us poor souls with large pores and acne-prone skin, this is a life saver. The mix of manual exfoliation (putting on the peel), AHA and BHA, then retinol is an acne-busting combination.
  • Those new to peels and with sensitive skin beware. I think it’s not wise whatsoever to use this continuously everyday, not to mention price prohibitive for some. Too much exfoliation is not good for you and will invite irritation and skin sensitivity = sun damage. You’d be better off getting a good AHA/vitamin C product to use daily, and then a retinol at night (I love Dennis Gross Retinol brightening) and use this product once or twice a week.
  • That being said, if you don’t use other exfoliating products, need to rev up the exfoliation for a short time, or are having a particular bout of acne or rough textured skin, perhaps use this daily for a week and then let your skin calm.
  • This has replaced my 30% glycolic peels for home that I was doing once a month, but it would not replace my higher percentage or TCA peels that I do twice a year.
  • This is a surface peel, but a good one at that. It will help with gradual fading of sun spots, and lines that come from surface dry/rough skin. It will likely not get down to the lower layers of the skin where the dramatic changes happen and require more downtime. So, as long as you have the right expectations, you’ll be happy.

The price is high, but it’s effective and will help your other products you bought work more effectively. I’ve had mine for about two months and have only used 6 or 7 pads out of the 35 (I got 5 free with the Sephora purchase). Cutting them in half will help you too.

Enjoy clear, bright, refreshed skin!

Overall Rating: 5/5

Price: $$$$$

Packaging: 5/5

*Certified ReadHead Best

Have you used these pads before? Drop us a line in the comments.