I hope you’ve popped some popcorn, poured yourself a nice, big, goblet of wine (notice i said GOBLET, not glass), and are ready to settle down to an incredibly verbose and image-heavy post by Moi – your resident Special Snowflake-Skinned Sick Chick of a Certain Age.
As you may know, if you’ve been reading, i’ve been testing a whole slew of skincare products in search of those magical few that won’t burn my skin off, cause me to break out into hives/acne, or generally turn me into a gross, scaly/sticky mess – all in the name of hydrating my ultra-senstive, newly dry and mature skin. In Part One of this series, I addressed some moisturizers, serums, cushions, essences, and eye creams that were serious skin-savers for me, and some that were…not so much. In this post, i’m going to talk about cleansers, MORE eye creams (in my eternal Quest for The One that won’t break me out in hives), toners and essences, and more!
Having such sensitive skin means that what works (and does not work) for me might not work for you – and vice versa. It’s a very individual thing, certainly. However, there IS certain information you may find useful, if your skin is similar to mine. So here’s the skinny on my skin: I’m ultra-fair – an NC 15 in Mac’s scale of skin tones; being in my 40’s, my skin would certainly at this point be considered “mature” cough, cough**; I am recently transitioned to “Dry”, and still adjusting my products to reflect this; i am quite sensitive, which is also new, and i am still figuring out which ingredients trigger me. It’s a slow process.
Also relevant, i believe, is that i am on several medications that can and do affect my skin. If you take regular medication, i urge you to look up side effects for your skin, so you can be informed as to how to approach your skincare accordingly. You might develop sensitivities you didn’t know about!
So, with no further wittering on, let’s get started! As before, we’ll start with The Bad and The Ugly:
- Klairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil – $23.99: I really, really wanted to love this cleansing oil, because, for one thing, i DO love the Klairs foaming cleanser so much – and, you know, brand loyalty and all. Klairs is known in K-Beauty for making some quality products, like their Supple Preparation Toner (next on my list of toners to try), and Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum. But alas, when i started using some higher-end waterproof liquid liners and mascaras, this stuff just couldn’t cut it; i had to really rub at my eyes to get things completely off, which is just…no. I’m not tryna help those Crows Feet dig their claws in any deeper, if you know what i mean.
- Algenist GENIUS Ultimate Anti-Aging Melting Cleanser -$38 : I’m not really sure what’s going on on my face when i use this stuff, but i just never quite feel clean when i use it. I feel moisturized, most definitely. But it never seems to quite emulsify properly – i’ve tried using it on a dry face, on slightly moistened skin, and totally wet skin; but it just never seems quite right. It doesn’t remove my eye-makeup, like, at all, so…i just don’t get it. And i’m an Algenist fan, in general. I LOVE the GENIUS Liquid Collagen Serum, as well as their GENIUS Vitamin C Serum; the only reason i don’t buy them both regularly is they are so incredibly expensive, and i’m saving my money for my INSANELY PRICEY HG eye cream (yes, i’ve finally found it! Read on to find out what it is…)
- Whamisa Green Tea Serum Toner – $22: This was a bit of a surprise-fail for me, on a couple levels. Right off the bat, it’s $22 for only 4.4 oz of product, which seems a bit silly. When i picked up the box, i was like…Ooookaaaay…However, i’d read SUCH good reviews for this stuff that i figured i should really try it. Whamisa is most known in the K-Beauty world for its hugely popular Organic Flowers Deep Rich Essence Toner, but i wanted to try this one because it’s geared towards sensitive skin. And again, it’s probably a perfectly serviceable toner for normal people. But, it is touted as toner for sensitive-skinned people, and that’d be me. So, i tried it, and right off the bat, it stung my skin. Now, please keep in mind that this is a K-Beauty toner, which means that it is a hydrating toner, unlike most Western toners, and not meant to be an astringent. And as i’m already using Missha’s Time Revolution Essence stuff first, my moisture barrier should be OK, and this shouldn’t have stung. It’s got good stuff in it, like camellia sinensis leaf, licorice root, and spinach leaf extract. HOWEVER. If you look down towards the bottom of the ingredients list, it has several essential oils in it, which can definitely be irritating to us Special Snowflake types. Also, it just felt, frankly, kinda sticky and gross on my skin. Like, super occlusive to my pores, like it just never quite sunk in – and low and behold, within a day of using it, i broke out. But, wanting to give it a fair shake, i toughed it out for a good two weeks before the pizza-face got to be too much for me. I gave it to a friend with hardier skin than mine. Le sigh.
- Dr Jart All That Contours Hydrogel Expansion Stretch Mask – $35: If you know me at all, you know that i’m a HUGE fan of Dr Jart products. Except for this here mask. Perhaps i’ve been spoiled by the essence-soaked, soft, rich masks i’ve been purchasing at the local K-Beauty Choc Choc shop, but this was just…weird?
The material of this mask was hard and uncomfortable, and i barely felt any essence on it at all. It was just sort of…sticky. Plus, you’re supposed to stretch those holes on the bottom half over your freakin’ ears. YOU try it. Uncomfortable as this thing already was, i could just imagine that doing that would just cause MORE wrinkles, not fix them. I get that it’s supposed to “lift” things, but, er. Er. No. However, i soldiered on and left the thing on for a whole 20 minutes, which was the full time called for, and i couldn’t wait to get it off. I didn’t feel ANY essences getting into my skin – it just felt…dry and sticky. My skin didn’t look BAD when i took it off…
It DOES look disappointingly dry, however. Definitely not a repurchase, ESPECIALLY at $35 a pop.
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum – $80 : So, i know i waxed poetic about how much i loved this C-Serum a while back. And not to totally knock it, it WAS fabulous – while it lasted. However, like apparently many other people have experienced, mine actually ended up oxidizing after only a couple months – it turned from an clear, colourless fluid when i first bought it to a darkish orange colour:
This was after only around, as i said, two months – and for the price point, i expect a lot more for my money. Très disappointed. After some research online, the colour-spectrum that is acceptable for this product ranges from clear-to-mid-yellow/light orange, with the light-orange being debatable. I would call that a darkish orange – in any case, considering that it was clear when i bought it, i do NOT care to put that on my face now. Le fail, DE.
- Tatcha Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum – $85: I’m not much of a Tatcha fan, as you may already know – with their whole precious “secrets of the Geisha” thing and – in my opinion – overpriced Appropriated Japanese Beauty line; but, in my search for eye-care products that won’t hurt my precious eye-flesh and make me break out into hives, i’m desperate, and willing to try ANYTHING. Plus, there are some pretty nice ingredients in this stuff – hydrating, age-fighting stuff like camellia sinensis, royal jelly, squalene, panax ginseng (yay!), licorice, rice, and silk; there’s also alcohol waaaay at the bottom of the list, but i figured i could live with that. And, for almost three days (which is usually how long it takes for things to go sideways), things were looking ok. I liked the creamy-lotion consistency, and lack of perfumy smell. It left an ever-so-slightly tacky feel behind, but my concealer played nicely with it, and spread super-easy. I was liking it. It felt hydrating enough for my ever-thirsty eyes – no need to reapply during the day, which is kind of a miracle for me. And then, the welt appeared beneath my eye. And not a tiny one. And then another one. Sigh. Back to the drawing board. I’d say if you aren’t a super-sensitive snowflake like Moi, and are in need of extra-hydration, this is a decent serum that could be enough hydration to work as an eye cream, and would be an excellent serum in any case.
And now, for The Good!
- Boscia Charcoal Jelly Ball Cleanser – $20: Ok, this is possibly the coolest skincare purchase i’ve made in like, forever. I feel like the K-Beauty company Boscia doesn’t get nearly enough credit for their products. Their Tsubaki Beauty Oil is to die for, and these Jelly Ball Cleansers are so awesome! There’s a Tsubaki Oil one that comes in pink, too – but this charcoal one in black is just so Punk Rock. Plus, the charcoal addresses the breakout issues i’ve been having lately. And, it’s kind of like a Gummi Bear in cleanser form – and looks like Futurama’s Dark Matter ball, which just makes me happy:
You can either soap up your hands, or rub it directly onto your face, just as you’d do with a bar-soap – only it’s got this weird texture, it’s hard to explain. It’s NOT a soap. It feels like something else entirely. Like a rubbery Gummi Bear. Not sticky at all. Slick and cool. It comes with it’s own dish to store it in, and when you’re done, just give it a rinse and pop it back in. My skin feels super clean but not dry when i use it, and looks ultra-bright afterwards. It definitely helps when i’m in breakout-mode to keep things at bay. It brings things to the surface and dries them out, without making my entire face dry, if that makes sense. The magic of charcoal, i suppose. Plus, it’s SO MUCH FUN to use!
- Klairs Rich Moist Foaming Cleanser – $18: I LOVE this cleanser. It’s got a rich foam texture, and a very mild tea-tree scent that would usually gross me out, but for some reason, is pleasant in this instance. It’s an amino-acid cleanser that is good for sensitive, acne-prone skin. I find that it makes my skin feel super-clean, refreshed, and comfortable, without drying me out. I use it after my oil cleanser, and it whisks away any remaining cosmetics or oil left on my skin. My face looks bright and polished afterwards. Definite win!
- Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling – Lemon – $27: Since using these bi-weekly, my skin is definitely looking fresher and brighter. They’re super-gentle, yet effective at sloughing off those pesky dead skin-cells that make my skin look dull and clogged. They have a cute little pocket in the back to tuck your fingers into, so you know which side is up – and also, you don’t contaminate the pads – which are HUGE. These feel really nice to use, and i look forward to the mornings when i incorporate them into my ritual – after cleansing and before toning. It just makes my skin feel extra clean and unclogged from All The Things! I’m really excited to try more by this K-Beauty company.
- Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence Intensive Moist – $49: The lovely Leah at Choc Choc in Chicago told me that, technically, this can be used as a toner/essence in one, if so desired; and since i haven’t found a toner that i like (read; doesn’t break me out) yet, that’s what i’m doing; i use COSRX Advanced Snail 96 for essence, as well. But anyway, my skin just adores this stuff! It doesn’t hurt me, or dry me out – or over-stimulate my skin. I LOVE the way it hydrates my face right after i cleanse – it might be my favourite step in my skin care regimen. It brightens, hydrates, and soothes. It’s also, according to Leah, a dead-on Dupe for the extremely pricey and famous SK II Facial Treatment Essence. The ingredients are basically the same, so yeah. I’d say buy this instead, and save a bunch of cash. I may switch things around in my routine from time to time, but i’ll never get rid of this.
- Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin-C Drops – $23: So, let us take a moment to first compare the price of this vitamin-c serum, to that of Drunk Elephant’s vitamin-c serum, at $80. Ok, are you done scoffing in derision? Here’s another thing to get indignant about – for as many complaints as DE has had about their product oxidizing, there have been NARY A ONE regarding Klairs’ product going that wonky. A little bit of discolouration? Sure. That’s normal, though. And so far, i’m getting the exact same effect from this serum – for a fraction of the price. Plus, it spreads a whole lot easier on the face, and i end up using a lot less; a few drops as opposed to a whole pump. So far, it’s a win-win. I just wish i’d found this first. But on the other hand, live and learn, eh? Onto the tech stuff – Klairs uses only 5% of L-AA in it’s formulation, a relatively low percentage of vitamin-c, especially formulated for sensitive skin-types, so it’s not actually an “active” at this percentage. However, it’s still strong enough to fade dark spots (if you have them) over time, and help shrink pores, and overall brighten the skin. I definitely see the difference in skin brightness, and my large pores near my nose are slowly getting a bit smaller (it’s a Struggle), compared to where they used to be. It also contains Centrella Asiatica, which is rich in vitamin c, vitamin a, vitamin b1 and b2, antioxidants, and promotes collagen production. Not only that, it is an effective acne-fighter! So what this serum lacks in heavy-hitting vitamin-c serums, which generally go in for 20% L-AA, this makes up for in being extra gentle, and adding in the anti-aging power-house Centrella Asiatica. I think it’s worth the trade-off, personally.
- Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil – $55: A wonderful Retinol oil suspended in healing German Chamomile and Blue Tansy, this brings Retinols to a whole new level. This stuff has seriously helped to change my skin – and it’s a Retinol my skin can actually take without getting unduly irritated – while helping resurface and support cell-turnover gently, and healing skin with powerful German Chamomile and Blue Tansy, two oils i was already putting on my skin anyway because of their calming, healing properties. I notice that if i go a few nights without this, it shows on my skin – and not in a good way. I will always buy this oil.
- Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Eye Cream – $180: *heaviest sigh of ever* Ah Sulwhasoo, the Queen of K-Beauty. I bow down to your awesomeness. So, i ordered a couple samples of this stuff on the recommendation of a couple redditors with Special Snowflake eyes like me, and reading Fiddy Snails’ many fine reviews of Sulwhasoo products, knowing that doing so would ultimately lead to my undoing; after all, we all know how the Gollum (Ginseng) Root has saved my skin, time and time again. And this eye cream is just chock full of the stuff. And, low and behold, i was suffering from my Tatcha eye serum-induced welts, when this stuff arrived in the post. Thinking, “what the Hell”, i smeared some on, thinking what possible harm could it do, and maybe, just maybe, my magical root would do some good, maybe…and damn it all if i should have taken pictures like the last time with the I’m From Ginseng Serum!!! But alas, i did not. But by the morning, the biggest welt was 80% down, and the other one just shrunk to a dried pinpoint head! And now, after a couple more very thin reapplications (because EXPENSIVE), they’re totally gone. GONE, people. But even aside from that, this stuff is just positively lovely. It’s thick, yet sinks into the skin within a minute or so – yet it doesn’t disappear; you can feel that your eye-area is still hydrated hours later. And the smell! It’s divine. Like earth and ginseng root. It’s not at all artificial-smelling. I know some people are put off by the earthiness and ginsenginess of the scent, but i adore it! I’m going to order a couple more sample tubes, but i’m afraid i’m doomed to eventually buying an actual tub of this stuff, and soon. It’s just too wonderful. If it actually helps smooth out fine lines, like almost every Redditor review i’ve read, it’s a cinched deal. But the fact that it healed two oncoming hives-in-the-making? That’s pretty much decided me already. I just wish it weren’t so obscenely expensive. Thank the gods that samples are a thing…(oh, and i was also sent a packet of the Ginseng face cream as a free sample, too – ugh. It’s also lovely. I can’t talk about it right now).
And that about wraps it up for this post! We are, by all means, far from finished – i’ll forever be testing new things out, because i’m basically hopeless – although i’m thinking my search for the Perfect Non-Eyeflesh-Excoriating Eye Cream might be (is, probably – i’ll just eat cat food) over!
What are your good, bad, and ugly skincare fails and successes? I’d love to know, especially if you’re a Special Snowflake Face like me! I hope you enjoyed the post!
XO – Monday