Empties: June to August 2018

Posted on September 07, 2018 under Empties

Yay, empties! True to form, I never threw out the very dirty One Direction fragrance set box I’ve been housing my empties in for years even though I totally said I was going to. So today I am clearing out that dirty box to make room for more stuff to make it even more dirty.

Skincare

Vichy Idéal Soleil Ultra-Fluid SPF50: I really liked this. It’s a solid lightweight facial sunscreen that does its job. It’s about $25, which is kind of expensive, but I can also duck into my local drugstore and buy it, so convenience wins. (I do want to try the much-lauded Bioré sunscreen, but it’s not readily-available and I don’t know if I want to commit to such a complicated relationship with an essential step of my routine.)

La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL SPF60 Lotion: I did not care for this. I mean, it protected me from the sun pretty well, but it also pilled on my skin if I sweat. And, the thing is, in summer, when I am most likely to take the time to apply body sunscreen, it is hot. And when it is hot, I sweat. So… yeah. Good thing I got this as gratis, because I’d have been annoyed to spend thirty bucks on this.

La Roche-Posay Respectissime Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover: I have lost count of how many of these I’ve used up. You know the drill – as effective as Lancôme Bi-Facil (and without the cloying fragrance), half the price. (Actually, I’m using up a bottle of Bi-Facil that someone gave me right now, and I think the LRP is a bit better.)

Biotherm Homme Aquapower Eye De-Puffer: I got this as gratis at a Biotherm training and I kept it for myself because I know zero men who would use an eye cream, let alone appreciate an expensive one. This is definitely not worth $31, but I did really enjoy its light gel texture and cooling sensation first thing in the morning.

The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2%: This product has been called the Granactive Retinoid for like 95 years now, so that shows you how long I’ve had this. Anyway, I really, really liked it and have actually ordered a new one. I remember when this product first came out and I was blown away that you could buy any type of vitamin A derivative for under $40, let alone its price of $9.80. And it’s truly both gentle and effective.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5: This is maybe my fourth or fifth bottle of this. It’s a great, super cheap hydrating serum. Currently I’m using The Ordinary’s Marine Hyaluronics, which is basically the same thing but with a thin, watery texture and none of the stickiness of the 2%. (The texture never bothered me, anyway, so I don’t have a strong preference between the two.)

Lancôme Absolue Night Precious Cells Recovery Night Cream: Do you think I would ever in a million years tell you guys that a $205 night cream is in any way worth it? No I would not. And I will not. This is a thick, nourishing moisturizer. I will save $170 and keep buying my Origins overnight mask. (Obviously, I received this product as gratis.)

Nuxe Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm: This is just one of those indulgences that I don’t feel bad about anymore. As my mom said to me one day while on vacation, “Thank you for introducing me to this overpriced bougie bullshit.” But, truly, is $17 too much to ask for months of hydrated lips? I don’t think so. (One pot of this usually lasts me about 8-10 months, so I really can’t complain.)

Vaseline Lip Therapy – Aloe: I thought the taste of this was gross. It was also kind of slippery and not that effective.

Nivea Hydro Care Lip Balm: This is still my favourite standard stick lip balm. It’s effective and it layers nicely under lipstick.

Haircare

One lone product in this category today, and though it’s a boring (and standard) one, it’s also a milestone. I truly could not tell you how many tubes of John Frieda Sheer Blonde Tone Correcting Shampoo I went through over my four-year stint as a blonde. However, those days are (almost) over. I’ve almost grown my hair out enough to hack off the last of the blonde, so I’m now trying to find a haircare routine that works for my natural, non-blonde, non-bleach-damaged hair. This is the last tube of purple shampoo I’ll use for the foreseeable future, though it’s certainly a good option within that category.

Makeup

Random unmarked loose powder: There is truly nothing identifying about this packaging. I don’t know what it is. It was a good loose powder. To replace it I bought the Marcelle one, which is huge and will legit last me a decade. (This little tub lasted about three years.)

NIOD Photography Foundation, Opacity 12% (sample): This is very much not a foundation, but rather a liquid illuminator. It’s super pretty under makeup. It’s also $30, so… you know. (I will say, out of all the illuminating primers I’ve tried I do like this one the best. Although I’m a primer skeptic so take that potentially faint praise as you will.)

Maybelline Master Conceal Camoflage Concealer in Fair: I don’t think this product ever really caught on in the wider beauty world, but I liked it pretty well for both blemishes and under the eyes. Honestly, there’s still a lot of product in this tube, which is probably because it’s an outrageously generous 12mL/0.4 fl oz. (That’s 40% of a standard foundation size.) But it is very old, and its time on is up.

Essence Lash and Brow Gel: Yes, this crusty tube once contained clear brow gel. I don’t know why I keep buying this product when I’m feeling too cheap for L’Oréal – it truly has almost no effect. Yes, L’Oréal is audacious for charging $15.99 for a clear brow gel, but it’s also really good. I think it’s time to just accept that (and stock up when it’s on sale).

L’Oréal Paradise Extatic Mascara: I hate to be a Negative Nancy, but this much-lauded mascara (which, in case it wasn’t obvious, is the UK version of Lash Paradise) didn’t do much for me. I mean, it wasn’t awful. I thought it was decent as I was using it. But as soon as I switched back to Clarins Truly Waterproof, I was like, “Oh yeah, this mascara is it.” L’Oréal is not.

Quo Blending Sponge: This was my favourite Beauty Blender dupe for years and years and years, but I think they’ve reformulated them. The one pictured was great, as always, but the one I bought to replace it is a lot denser and soaks up so much product. So now the one good product Quo made also sucks.

Nail Care

Quo 100% Acetone: I used this up over many years. I don’t know why I bought it or even why I didn’t just take the $3 loss instead of stubbornly deciding to use it up. I will not buy 100% acetone ever again.

Quickies Nail Varnish Remover Pads: I honestly bought these because I was like £1 off Superdrug’s free shipping threshold. They’re not very good pads; it takes a lot of elbow grease to get anything off.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat: I have used up many, many bottles of this top coat (over all brands of nail polish) over the past four years. I’m trying out one of Sally’s other top coats right now, but I always seem to go back to this one.

Miscellaneous

Here are some items which are not empty but which are now unusable.

Rimmel Stay Matte Powder: The lid for this powder shattered in my move from Glasgow to Toronto, which is fine because I never use pressed powder. Anyway, this remains one of the most poorly-packaged products ever to torment this sacred Earth.

Sally Hansen Hard As Nails in White On: A leakage caused this bottle to fuse shut; I could probably get into it if I tried, but it’s pretty old and it’ll only cost me like $4 to replace.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in All Chalked Up: This nail polish became gloopy and unusable super quickly, which is honestly a huge bummer because 1) I absolutely adore the colour, and 2) it’s been discontinued so I can’t replace it. Maybe this is what will finally make me buy nail polish thinner.

… and that is everything I used up over the summer!

Empties: February to May 2018

Posted on June 20, 2018 under Empties

My empties posts are always at irregular intervals because that’s how using products up actually works in reality. Sometimes I’ll use up eight thousand products in the span of a month and sometimes three months will pass with my only empties being, like, a lip balm and brow gel. This post features a four-month accumulation because things were slow on the empties front around here; after my last empties post, I was left with a bunch of close-to-full products.

But I had a very convenient alibi for an empties post when it came to leaving the UK – although I’m getting this up nearly a month after returning home.

No press samples in this batch. Things I received for free through work are marked with an asterisk.

Skincare

A-Derma Soothing Foaming Gel*: This is a decent cleansing gel, though it’s nothing special. I prefer more hydrating cleansers, anyway.

Vichy Idélia Peeling*: I liked this! My skin responds well to glycolic acid and this was no exception. However, if Deciem can survive their CEO’s long-term public meltdown, the glycolic from The Ordinary is like $7 and just as good.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5: Speaking of The Ordinary! I’ve honestly lost count of how many bottles of this I’ve gone through. It’s just such an effective, low-cost serum. Will keep using.

Origins Drink Up! Overnight Intensive Mask: You can see that I’ve done a number on this tube in an attempt to get out every last drop. This is my favourite night cream for winter time, and I can say that for the second year in a row the dreaded nose flakies have failed to make an appearance thanks to this rich moisturizer. A tube conveniently lasts me November through March, which is the perfect amount of time.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Intense Soothing Care*: This is a really great daytime moisturizer. It’s rich enough to really hydrate dry skin, but thin enough to sit well under makeup. I’m working through some other things right now, but I’d happily go back to this. I went through a few tubes of the thicker, richer Toleriane Ultra, but I think this one is better-suited to daytime use.

Vaseline Lip Therapy + SPF 15: This was a decent lip balm that certainly got me through a dry winter. Nivea works better for me, though.

A forgotten empty, photographed later:

Bioderma Sensibio Eye Contour Gel*: A nice thin eye cream that delivers a medium amount of moisture. My undereyes have become quite dry lately, which I’m chalking up to age, so maybe I will buy another tube.

And while on vacation I used up a mini 100mL bottle of Bioderma Sensibio H2O which I forgot to photograph. The original Bioderma remains one of my favourite micellar solutions, alongside La Roche-Posay.

Hair

John Frieda Sheer Blonde Tone Correcting Shampoo: Oh wow, more of these? I can’t help it – it’s a good blonde shampoo and I would always buy it when Superdrug had it for £3.95. That’s a bargain!

John Frieda Sheer Blonde Go Blonder Lightening Shampoo (mini) x2: Went through two of these while travelling, only managed to photograph one. I’ve been using this shampoo on and off for over three years, so these travel minis are a no-brainer.

John Frieda Sheer Blonde Go Blonder Lightening Conditioner (mini): A solid conditioner, another tried and true product that rotates in and out of my haircare routine with regularity.

Toni and Guy Damage Repair Mask: I’ve used up a lot of deep conditioner in four years as a blonde, so I feel confident in saying that this one was average. I want to say it weighed my hair down a bit, but now that my hair is actually reasonably healthy it gets greasier a lot faster, so it’s hard to say accurately.

A straggler, photographed later:

Toni and Guy Instant Refresh Dry Shampoo: This dry shampoo worked well, but not as well as Batiste. It also had a very strong smell which I did not enjoy. The only reason I bought it was because I was one second away from fully succumbing to jetlag and could not for the life of me find the Batiste in the Superdrug I was in. You know that when I step off a plane my first priority is Batiste.

Bath and Body

A-Derma Exomega Emollient Balm*: I absolutely love this product. Despite the name “balm”, it’s not a super thick lotion, yet it delivers a lot of moisture, which is absolutely necessary for someone with KP. This can also be used on the face, so it’s a true multitasker. It’s right up there with La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+.

The Body Shop Coconut Body Butter x2: This is the only Body Butter I like, and I exclusively buy it in bulk during 3 for $30 sales. Because of the coconut oil, it has a thicker, semi-solid texture and it does absolute wonders on my perpetually-scaly, KP-ravaged limbs. Weirdly, the first of these tubs that I went through had the same texture as a regular Body Butter, which was a devastating blow. The second one had the texture I like, which was a lot better – but I’m still thinking they’ve reformulated to make the textures consistent across all scents, and I just ended up with an older tub. If this is the case I won’t keep buying it, since the texture was what I liked so much about it. (Okay, and it makes me smell like I live in a hut with a palm frond roof, which I love.)

L’Occitane Almond Shower Oil: You know I love this stuff. Is it absurdly expensive for something that is on my skin for like twenty seconds total? Yes! But it’s so luxurious, and I really cannot underestimate how dry my arms and legs are. They need every bit of moisture they can get.

The Body Shop Shea Butter Exfoliating Sugar Body Scrub: I am firmly a drugstore gal when it comes to body scrubs, but I picked this up during a 3 for $30 sale so I can’t be mad. It had a very interesting soufflé-like texture. Otherwise, it was a sugar scrub. It was fine, but if you pay full price for it you’re a fool. (Well, that goes for all products from The Body Shop, but especially sugar scrubs. Come on.)

Makeup

Benefit “That Gal” Primer (mini): Can we talk about the value of this mini? It contains 7.5mL of product, and the full size is a whopping 11mL. I mean. What. Strangely generous size aside, this is a pretty classic illuminating primer, though it has a thicker texture than others I’ve used and a very noticeable pink tinge. I enjoyed using it during the transition from winter to spring, when my skin decided to protest the change in seasons by being dry as a bone. Would not pay for the full size, but would probably spend Sephora points on another mini.

Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (mini): I don’t know if it’s fair to feel this accomplished about using up a mini, but I do. I mean, this is only the third lipstick I’ve used up in my life, so it has to count for something! I really like the Le Marc Lip Crème formula and this was a very flattering neutral which I enjoyed wearing immensely.

Lancôme Hypnôse Mascara (mini): This used to be a favourite because it delivered volume and length without any clumps. Like, I dare you to try to make this mascara clumpy. It just doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, I have now discovered that it does not hold a curl at all, which is a dealbreaker for me. I don’t know if the mini just performs differently than the full size I had, but something is up here.

Lancôme Hypnôse Drama Mascara (mini): I don’t remember anything about this. The end.

Miscellaneous

Only one item in this category today, and a boring one at that. Tesco Beauty Nail Polish Remover was a nail polish remover. I got carded when I was buying it in September because I was also buying a knife and you’re not allowed to do that if you’re under eighteen. When the self checkout machine flagged me I totally thought it was because of the nail polish remover because I guess you can huff it or maybe make something explosive out of it. That story is not very interesting, but neither is nail polish remover.

The end! Now I’m back in Canada accumulating more empty things to show off at some random point down the line.

How I deal with Keratosis Pilaris

Posted on April 07, 2018 under Thoughts

I am twenty-three years into a battle against Keratosis Pilaris. For those who don’t know, KP is a super common skin condition involving little bumps on the skin caused by a buildup of keratin. (This is really gross, but sometimes you can pop KP bumps just like zits – that’s how much keratin we’re talking.) Usually it’s on the arms and legs, but it can appear anywhere except the palms. Some people’s KP appears quite red and inflamed. Some people have it on only some parts of their arms and legs and some people get it only seasonally. I am one of the super lucky people who has it all over my arms and legs all year round. Mine usually isn’t particularly red – the bumps themselves are obviously pink, but the skin around them doesn’t get inflamed. During the winter when my skin is very dry it can be more noticeably red, but the above picture is a good representation of how it normally appears.

KP is not painful (just itchy sometimes, when it’s really dry) and it isn’t indicative of any sort of serious medical condition. It’s literally just my stupid skin producing too much keratin. It’s totally genetic – my mom has had it for her whole life and I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. Apparently it’s common for it to spontaneously improve by about age 30, but I’m not holding out much hope. Mine has pretty much stayed the same throughout my life, and since my mom has had hers forever I assume mine will be much the same. It’s actually kind of nice that I have her to look to, because it means I’m not wasting any time waiting for my KP to clear up in the next few years.

KP used to be something I was pretty self-conscious about – in a world that pushes absolute smoothness as the pinnacle of leg beauty, I will never achieve that. But when I was a teenager I looked into KP and realized how prevalent it is – it’s seen in approximately 30-50% of the adult population. You’d never know that, though, because the arms and legs we see in ads and on TV are always nice and smooth, blurred and Photoshopped to perfection. I’ve talked to so many people who are really self-conscious about their KP. It seems nonsensical to me that so many of us have insecurities about something that is incredibly prevalent. Gradually I began to notice just how many people have it, and I stopped caring as much. (Like, a few weeks ago I was with a group of eight people and I could see that at least three of them had it…) A good amount of people I pass on the street deal with the exact same thing, and those who don’t have definitely seen KP skin before and will not be shocked when confronted with my arms. I don’t really care about it from an aesthetic standpoint anymore; I wear shorts in the summer with absolutely zero thought about my KP. I mean, if I woke up with nice smooth legs I wouldn’t be mad, but I’ve long since accepted that I have visible bumps all over my arms and legs.

I could shave my legs ten times a day and they will still never look like this. Although she is most definitely receiving help from Sally Hansen and good old Photoshop…

Really the concern for me is managing how dry and itchy my KP can make my skin. I don’t think that having super dry skin is necessarily an inborn feature of KP – I’m just lucky enough to have year-round KP all over my arms and legs and the driest skin in the world. Like I cannot overstate how dry my arms and legs are at all times. The dryness totally exacerbates the KP and makes it uncomfortable instead of just a bit ugly.

Now, if you have KP you have no doubt furiously Googled cures for it. You have probably read many stories about people curing theirs. I don’t doubt that that’s possible – but I really think that some of us just have lifelong cases that can never be fully cured. However, it can be managed and mitigated. The frustrating thing is that not everything works for everybody. Care of KP-ravaged skin seems to be very much in the “your mileage may vary” category – so what works for me may not work for you. Regardless, here’s what helps keep mine at bay.

Moisture

No surprise – moisture is the most important factor for me. This is primarily about feeling (since dry skin is way more likely to feel itchy and scaly), but I do think it makes a visible difference as well. The added shine of body cream makes the skin look smoother and more uniform than it actually is.

I only used body cream on the right leg – you can see what a difference it makes!

So, I basically take moisture wherever I can get it. Thick body creams are obviously the primary moisture vehicle, but I’m also a big fan of using shower oils instead of shaving cream in order to really maintain the moisture of my skin. There are a lot of shaving creams on the market that claim to be moisturizing, but I’ve never found them to do anything for me. Oils are where it’s at! I really like the L’Occitane Almond Shower Oil, but La Roche-Posay and Bioderma both make more budget-friendly versions.

I absolutely love The Body Shop’s Coconut Body Butter – because of the coconut oil it has a semi-solid consistency that my skin responds to well. I’ve heard of a lot of people who found that coconut oil actually completely cleared up their KP. I can confidently say that is not true for me (and yes, I have tried pure coconut oil as well), but I do think it helps. Otherwise, I absolutely love the A-Derma Exomega Emollient Balm. It’s not a very thick cream at all, but it delivers so much rich hydration and I’m always amazed at how (relatively) smooth my skin feels after I use it. La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+ has a similar effect, but A-Derma edges it out just slightly for me.

Body oils work really well for me, too, and sometimes I’ll layer them. I’ve used argan and rosehip as well as squalane and they’ve all worked really nicely. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive: $6 bottles from The Ordinary work well, so do off-brand oils from Winners. I just recommend applying body oils in the bathroom and waiting a few minutes for them to sink in, because they can get a bit messy.

I will note for posterity that the best body cream I ever found for KP was by long-dead Canadian brand Dermaglow. Me and my mom were both obsessed with it because it actually seemed to make a huge difference in clearing up our skin. But the brand went under years ago and we just haven’t found anything as good. Part of me is still hoping for a resurrection even though it’s been the better part of a decade.

Exfoliation

Exfoliation is my second weapon against KP. This is another pretty obvious one – when you’ve got bumpy, textured skin, exfoliation is a good way to smooth things out. It helps to unclog the keratin-filled hair follicles and can slough off any flaky, dry patches. I use a body scrub every time I shower. Currently I’m using one from The Body Shop (obviously purchased during a promotion…), but usually I use whatever is cheap and cheerful from the drugstore since at the end of the day they’re all just sugar scrubs.

I also use chemical exfoliants about once a week. I’ve found that glycolic acid works best for me. There are a lot of body creams with 5% or 8% glycolic (and, indeed, the Dermaglow cream I mourn had 8%), but sometimes they don’t quite pack in the amount of moisture I want. I prefer to separate out those functions so I can get exactly what I want. I use glycolic acid on my face every day, so I just use whatever I have open at the time. Currently it’s by Vichy, but I’ve also used NeoStrata and The Ordinary with the same results.

I don’t overdo the chemical exfoliation because I really don’t want to dry out my arms and legs. It’s just a nice weekly treatment to help speed things along.

Sunlight

This is a bit of a controversial one, since some sources say that exposure to sunlight actually worsens KP. In general I would agree that sun exposure worsens most skin conditions, and it seems logical that sunlight would darken KP bumps. But my actual life experience begs to differ! I am all for sun protection and I don’t think anybody should be roasting out in the sun for hours a day to improve their KP. But my skin is never better than immediately after a cottage vacation where I’m outside all day. Look, I’m not the only one! This obviously isn’t a long-term fix or anything… but I had to mention it since it’s 100% the thing that makes the most difference. (My mom has had this experience too, so there are at least three of us!)

Things I haven’t tried

I’ve never used a steroid cream on my KP (though I’d be open to trying it). I’ve also never had laser treatment – that was something I used to long for, but the expense just doesn’t seem worth it to me anymore. If I’m going to get something lasered it’s going to be my eyeballs because I am too vain for glasses and too lazy for contacts (except for special occasions). And I haven’t tried making any dietary changes. It’s not that I don’t believe that might make a difference, it’s just that making noticeable lifestyle changes for the sake of something that I’m not even that insecure about anymore seems like an unbalanced tradeoff. Like, I can commit to three minutes a day putting on body lotion. Cutting out food I like eating long-term? Nah. It’s just not that important to me!

The unfortunate thing about all of these solutions is that progress is dependent on absolute rigid consistency. I can improve the look and feel of my KP as long as I’m vigilant about treating it. If I stop, I go right back to square one. I think that’s true for those who “cure” theirs, too – stop with the coconut oil or start eating dairy again and your perfectly smooth legs vanish. (Wait… you still have legs. They’re just not smooth.) I try to build these things into my regular routines, but sometimes it’s just not going to happen. When I’m travelling, stressed, or busy, these things fall by the wayside – it’s never a linear path. KP is never going to be my top priority, and that’s not only okay, it’s healthy. Some bumps on my skin should not be taking up that much mental energy when I can be focusing on school, my relationships with my friends and family, my hobbies, my health, learning new things, travelling… Obviously, when it comes to things we’re insecure about, that’s easier said than done. But it’s all about perspective, and some less-than-beautiful bumps on my arms and legs are so much less important than basically everything else going on in my life.