My AM and PM skincare routine, winter 2018

Posted on February 06, 2018 under Lists

It’s been quite some time since I shared what skincare I’m using, so I thought I’d do a bit of a skincare update. I’m still working my way through the backlog of gratis from my days working in cosmetics; as a result, there are some items in this post that aren’t utter favourites. But I think lukewarm to negative reviews are very useful, so why not include them?

As always, my skin is normal to dry, leaning dryer at this time of year. (Actually, most of my face has settled down from the transition in seasons – it’s only my nose that is still parched.) I usually only break out hormonally, and I do have fairly persistent hyperpigmentation which follows blemishes long after they die. I focus on hydration and acid toning in my skincare. I probably do my full skincare routine about 95% of the time. I never go to bed without washing my face and slapping on some night cream or an oil, but I can’t think of the last time I skipped a step – maybe in somewhere in the Christmas madness.

Here’s what my skin looks like without makeup. These pictures were taken at the end of January, when I was recovering from a stress breakout. (80% healed now, I’d say.)

I sometimes have closed comedones on my forehead and I get the occasionally random zit there, but it’s usually clear. It’s hard to tell in this picture but at this time a rare blemish was in the final stages of healing.

It can be hard to tell the difference between freckles and hyperpigmentation, but there are a few healing blemishes around the centre of my face here, which is rare for me. The ones on the left side of my chin are more standard – I always have either an active breakout or hyperpigmentation there. Despite the fact that my most recent breakout was larger than normal, this is pretty much the best my skin will be: by the time the hyperpigmentation starts to fade, a new zit will find a home on my face. Skincare really helps mitigate the length and scope of my breakouts, but, like 99% of people on this planet, my skin will never be totally blemish-free.

By the way, usually my zits aren’t too bad, but I do have the really bad habit of picking them, and sometimes they’re monsters to begin with, and the combination sometimes results in disasters.

I also occasionally have a bit of blotchy redness at the bottom of my cheeks. This tends to be more pronounced in hotter weather, so it’s not very noticeable right now at all. I don’t generally have very sensitive skin, but some skincare also exacerbates this redness.

Finally, I think it’s essential to note that, while skincare is a really great tool to address various concerns, a lot of “good skin” is genetic. I’ve never had particularly problematic skin; even at the peak of my teenage breakouts (age 14-15) I was doing okay. I hope it’s obvious that I’m not saying this to brag, just to be realistic about the results my skincare routine can actually achieve.

Gratis received through work will be marked with an asterisk, as always.

AM Routine

In the morning, I like to keep things pretty simple – I prefer not to rush through my morning routine but also like to maximize on my sleep, so there’s a delicate balancing act! If my face feels quite dry I don’t bother washing it; if not, I use a light cream or gel cleanser. Currently I’m using the Avène 3-in-1 makeup remover*, which does an okay job at gentle cleansing but which I do find leaves a sticky residue if I don’t wash it off vigilantly. My favourite cleanser for this purpose is the Marcelle Ultra Gentle Cleansing Gel. It’s gentle but efficient and doesn’t strip the skin or leave a residue. And it’s only $12.95! I’ll go back to it when I finish the Avène.

Unlike every other surface of my body, my undereyes are not horribly dry, so in the morning I’ve been really enjoying the Biotherm Homme Aquapower Eye Depuffer*. It’s a light, cooling gel that is perfect first thing in the morning when I’m trying to do my makeup despite the fact that it’s pitch black.

Lately I’ve been starting my skincare with The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1%, which is an antioxidant with an oily texture. I love using antioxidants if I’m going outside – living in a city I’m exposed to lots of free radicals in the forms of pollution, car exhaust, etc. For this time of year the oily texture of the EUK has been working quite well for me, but I’m not sure if I’ll love it so much in the summer. I find it layers well under other products but I’ll have to see if it’s too heavy in the warmer months, when my skin is pretty much normal.

For moisturizer I’ve been using La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra*. I’m a longtime fan of LRP’s Toleriane Riche, which is a thicker cream great for dry, sensitive skin. However, Toleriane Ultra is thinner and layers better with other skincare and makeup. It isn’t as fluid as some moisturizers and does deliver enough hydration for my day-to-day needs – it helps that I pack on a lot of hydration in my nighttime routine so that I can use lighter products under my makeup.

Sunscreen is Vichy Ideal Soleil SPF50* – I find this one and the LRP Anthelios fluid basically interchangeable. Both are lightweight, non-greasy facial sunscreens that layer well. When I run out, I’m interested in trying some Japanese sunscreens since I hear great things about them and they seem to be a bit more cost-effective than Vichy or LRP.

And that’s it for my morning routine – I don’t use actives or do too much product layering.

PM Routine

My nighttime skincare routine is one of my favourite rituals, and washing my face is the best part. There’s something so satisfying about taking off broken down, hours-old makeup. I always really like the way my skin looks when I’m freshly-cleansed, too. My cleansing routine could be described as “extra”, but I like to be really thorough and make sure my face is spotless. I’ve been a devoted user of oil cleansers for about five years now; I find they’re great at breaking down makeup, and they do my dry skin a big favour. Currently I’m using the Biotherm Total Renew Oil Cleanser*. It has a very pleasant texture – not greasy, and without any residue. Though it’s effective and nice to use, I think it’s too expensive for what it is. The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil is half the price (and as we all know The Body Shop constantly has deals) and I like that it emulsifies more.

I find that no cleanser ever gets all my makeup off, even if my skin looks bare to the naked eye. I always do a second pass with a gentle gel cleanser, so the Avène cleanser comes into play here. On no-makeup days (which are pretty frequent, actually; I’m only on campus three days a week and don’t normally put on makeup to run errands) I just use the Avène cleanser.

I will always love the La Roche-Posay Respectissime Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover, which gets absolutely everything off without any tugging or rubbing. It’s as good as Lancôme Bi-Facil and half the price.

I follow all of that up with some micellar water; these days I’m using La Roche-Posay Ultra Micellar Water*. This one and Bioderma Sensibio are tied for my favourite. I know most people use micellar water as a first step to remove makeup, but I prefer to use it at the very end. When using an oil-based eye makeup remover it’s essential to remove the residue to avoid milia, and a micellar solution helps balance the pH of the skin prior to acid steps.

Which, of course, brings me to the second-best part of my skincare routine. I use a chemical exfoliant every day; I know that’s too much for a lot of people, but my skin tolerates it well. Generally, I get on best with AHAs. Right now I’m using the Vichy Idealia Peeling*, which is glycolic acid. It’s great, but now that we have The Ordinary there’s no reason to spend $40 on an AHA. I’ve gone through an entire bottle of The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%, which my skin really liked. I’ve also tried The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, which is cheap as chips and just as effective as the expensive stuff. Occasionally I use The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2% (now discontinued) instead of an acid. I always leave my acids on my face for 20-30 minutes before moving on to other steps, because acids require a specific pH to work properly and layering other products negates the effects.

For my eyes, I’ve been layering The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + ECGC and Bioderma Sensibio Eye*. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not convinced that the Caffeine Solution actually does anything for dark circles, but I’ll use it up since it’s not like it hurts. The Bioderma eye cream is a very thin gel-cream hybrid that adds a little moisture and not much else. It’s nothing special, really.

To give my skin the moisture it needs, I use The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 as a serum step. This is my fourth bottle; it’s so inexpensive and it really does make a huge difference in my skin. My night cream these days is Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask, which is an incredibly rich cream that I swear by in the winter. This is my second winter using it and I haven’t had any nose flakes since before I discovered it. About once a week, if my skin is especially dry, I use The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane. Of all the oils I’ve tried I like squalane the best – it delivers moisture but isn’t too greasy. It’s also nice on my arms and legs and on the fried, burnt ends of my hair. (Just kidding, I haven’t bleached my hair in 11 months and it’s so much healthier!)

My final step is always Nuxe Rêve de Miel Lip Balm, which truly is the most nourishing, effective lip treatment I’ve found. It does have a pretty thick, waxy texture, so it’s a nighttime-exclusive kind of product for me.

And… that is it! I would guess that this is a pretty extensive routine compared to the average, but it doesn’t take me all that long and it addresses all my skin concerns. I hate being away from all my skincare products – that’s the worst part about travelling for me. Anyway – there’s a (far too detailed) breakdown of what I’m currently using.

Packing Light for Prague

Posted on November 25, 2017 under Life

My last few trips I did not bother to pack light makeup-wise, either because I didn’t have to or because I felt I needed options. This weekend, however, I’m going to Prague for purely touristy reasons, and I thought this would be the perfect time to exercise some restraint. As with all my European weekend trips, I pack entirely in one small school-sized backpack, so I really need to streamline my makeup to make room. I thought I would share my very minimal makeup bag today.

I can easily fill a liquids bag with skincare, but I know that when I’m walking around all day and sleeping in a hostel dorm room at night my desire to keep up with a complex skincare routine is zero. So my liquids bag – which is from Muji, by the way – reflects a back-to-basics approach.

The skincare steps I cannot do without are cleansing and moisturizing. The Caudalie Vino Perfect Serum from this year’s Sephora birthday gift will help boost the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra moisturizer to keep my skin nice and hydrated. I’ve never had issues with dry undereyes until the past month or so, so I decided to bring the Biotherm Homme Eye Depuffer (which, by the way, is a nice gel eye cream even if you’re not a man). I got a sample of the Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Reconstructor which I’ve been saving for travel, since obviously my poor dead hair requires a lot of moisture. I don’t have any travel-sized shampoo right now, so I’ll have to pick one up at the airport.

The IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream is such an easy, fuss-free foundation that it was a no-brainer when it came to choosing which base product to pack. The packaging is also incredibly travel-friendly. For concealer, Maybelline Master Conceal works under the eyes and on blemishes.

I can’t be without Milani Eyeshadow Primer, and Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a staple for me as well. The Lancôme Hypnôse Drama mascara mini is convenient for travel, and I like the mascara as well. (Lancôme mascaras are so hit and miss to me, but this one is a hit.) Finally, a fresh tube of Essence Lash and Brow Mascara to keep my brow hairs in place.

And then the rest of my makeup easily fits in one small bag, which is a point of pride when I am prone to overpacking.

For the cheeks, Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure goes with everything and is a perennial travel staple for me. This is the most beautiful flattering blush colour in the world despite how “meh” it appears in the pan. I’m not sure if I’ll bother with highlighter, but I figured I’d give myself the option. Glossier Haloscope in Quartz is easy to apply without brushes and it gives a very natural effect, so I thought it would be perfect for travel.

Urban Decay Naked Basics is probably the most boring travel palette choice in the world, but it’s small, practically indestructible, and foolproof. I decided to add an eyebrow pencil into my repertoire mainly for travel purposes, so I don’t have to mess around with a brush and pomade when I’m on the go. The Annabelle Skinny Brow Liner in Universal Taupe is one of many ABH Brow Wiz dupes, and it works for me.

Forgive me for being extra and packing two lip balms. Overnight, my lips need the heavy-duty power of Nuxe Rêve de Miel, but during the day I prefer something a little lighter like Vaseline Lip Therapy. In an uncharacteristic move, I am committing to a single lip liner – Rimmel Exaggerate Lip Liner in Enchantment – and a single lipstick – YSL Rouge Volupté in #17. I love moisturizing lip products when I’m travelling, and the soft berry shade of #17 makes it a perfect candidate for this trip. I usually like to pair the Rouge Voluptés with a liner underneath to increase the staying power a bit, so I’ll likely just wear this combination together each day.

I tend to really overpack brushes, but this time I cut it down to the essentials: Magic Collection Oval Brush, ColourPop Blush Brush, ColourPop Blending Brush, ELF Crease Brush, ELF Eyeshadow C Brush, ELF Eye Contour Brush, ELF Small Smudge Brush, Elf Spoolie. Wow, I do really like ELF brushes, don’t I?

(By the way, I definitely washed that foundation brush after I took this picture!)

In case you were wondering about cleansing, I did buy a pack of makeup wipes from Superdrug. I hardly ever use wipes, but I just think washing my face with an actual cleanser while travelling is more hassle than it’s worth. My skin is pretty resilient, so I think it’ll survive. I love using actives on my skin, but I know that I can get away with just makeup wipes and moisturizer for three nights. It’ll make my life easier!

Anyway, I’m off this evening with my nice light makeup bag. I’ve wanted to go Prague for years, so I’m really excited that I could finally make it happen.

Empties: December 2016 to February 2017

Posted on February 20, 2017 under Empties

I feel like I did an empties post pretty recently, but I have accumulated a lot of garbage which I would like to throw out so that I can hoard new garbage in my room! So here you go…

Skincare

La Roche-Posay Respectissime Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover: This is definitely my favourite eye makeup remover. It’s gentle, super effective, and half the price of the Lancôme Bi-Facil. Have repurchased!

Bioderma Sensibio H20 Makeup Removing Micelle Solution: I got this for free through work and I really liked it. It’s right up there with the La Roche-Posay micellar water for me. A lot of micellar waters I’ve tried (Vichy, Avène, Garnier) have left my face feeling too dry and tight, but this one doesn’t dry me out. My mom and I are currently working our way through one of the 500mL bottles.

La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water: Obviously, I got this from work, because I am the kind of cranky skeptic who does not believe in paying money for a can full of water. I mean, they can say it’s packed full of minerals, but the literal only ingredient on this can is “water”. I know a lot of people swear by this stuff, but I am not one of them. I actually had this little can for about two and a half years and finally used it up by spraying it on my blending sponge to get it damp when I was too lazy to go run it under the bathroom faucet.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche Soothing Protective Care: This is my favourite winter moisturizer. It’s quite thick and rich, but it sinks into my skin pretty fast and I can easily put makeup on top of it. This was my second tube of it and I’m on my third now. Once it starts getting warmer I’ll have to switch to something a bit lighter, but this one is seriously great for dry winter skin – and if you’re super sensitive it’s a great option too.

Nuxe Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm: I love this stuff and seriously spent all day a few weeks ago going to five different Shoppers to hunt down a new one because they were all sold out. I scraped every last bit of product out of this jar and I will do it again with my current jar.

Body

The Body Shop Coconut Body Butter: I got three tubs of this in early November during a 3 for $30 sale and I AM OUT OF THEM ALREADY. Yes, since December 2 (when I posted my last Empties), I have used up TWO tubs. My dry skin loves this stuff. I’ll probably buy three more when there’s another good deal at the Body Shop, because obviously you should never buy anything full price there.

A-Derma Xera-Mega Nourishing Anti-Dryness Cream: I got this for free at a brand training event I attended for work. I loved this and I loved the Exomega Emollient Balm too. Both of them did a great job of hydrating my dry winter limbs without feeling too heavy or sitting on top of my skin.

Haircare

L’Oreal EverPure Repair Remedy Mask: This was pretty average as hair masks went. It made my hair feel pretty nice, but I don’t think it really repaired it. (I mean, my hair is super bleach damaged, so it’s not like I’m expecting a miracle.) It also had a very strong eucalyptus scent which I became accustomed to but did not enjoy. I think this has been discontinued, but I wouldn’t repurchase anyway.

Marc Anthony Hydrating Coconut Oil and Shea Butter Deep Nourishing Conditioning Treatment: Man, I bought two of these little packets back in June and I’m just now finishing the second of them. I use this about once a week and the packet is pretty generous, so I can make one of these stretch a long time. I like this treatment a lot and it always leaves my hair feeling smooth and healthy, but it’s not very cost-effective so I think I’ll hold off repurchasing for the time being.

Matrix SoColor Conditioning Permanent Hair Colour in 6C: This is what I used to dye my hair red and I liked it pretty well. I’ve never dyed my hair a natural colour before so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I like the colour result and it’s lasting pretty well. The colour is also really vibrant on top of my natural hair colour, which surprised me. All in all, good stuff. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to maintain red hair for awhile or go back to something similar to my natural colour, so stay tuned.

Makeup

Essence Lash & Brow Gel Mascara: Standard. This must be my third of these now. I don’t think it’s the best brow gel on the market, but it’s three bucks so a lot can be overlooked at that price point.

Lancôme Hypnôse Star Mascara: This mascara was okay. I ended up liking it better as it dried out a bit, which is normal for me, and I think anyone looking for volume would enjoy it. However, I think the original Hypnôse is better, and I prefer a lengthening formula anyway.

Maybelline Colour Tattoo in Tough As Taupe: Man, I am so proud of this one, guys. I used up an entire cream eyeshadow. It took me three and a half years, but I did it! I use this on my brows every single day, and I swear it’s looked almost empty for at least two of those years. Here’s a closeup to show just how empty it is:

The product that’s left on the bottom is so hard that I can’t get any colour from it. I’ve used absolutely every useable molecule of this product. Woohoo! And yes – I’m going to break open a new pot of it, because it’s been a staple in my life pretty much since I started doing my brows and I love it. I’ve never found a brow product that’s a better colour for me.

Miscellaneous

Essence Gel-Look Plumping Top Coat: You know, I still think my Sally Hansen Miracle Gel is my favourite top coat, but I always spring for Essence when I’m feeling cheap. It’s good but not the best. I haven’t yet decided if it’s worth sacrificing a week-long chip-free manicure for $10 savings.

Witchcraft Be Strong Protein Hardener: My nails started peeling about three years ago, and finally I decided to try a base coat to combat this problem. (I’d been holding out because I don’t really want to add an extra step to my nail-painting routine!) When this bottle got too goopy to use and I was too lazy to repurchase a replacement it became very clear to me how much it actually did for my nails. They still peel occasionally, but the problem has been drastically mitigated. I’ve made significant progress on my second bottle.

Quo Blending Sponge: So, I’ve never tried the original beautyblender because I am the type of person who physically cannot part with $26 for a sponge. But I have tried a lot of cheap blending sponges, and this one is my favourite by far. It’s very soft and does the one function it has very well. Plus, it’s $7, which is a price I am okay with.

Samples

I’m trying to make an effort to actually use up the samples I accumulate, throw into a box, and never look at again, so here are a few I’ve used up recently.

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer: I have used up so many foil packets of this stuff with so many different foundations and it never does a single thing for me. My foundation looks the same on top of it and doesn’t last any longer. NO.

Deciem Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age Advanced Serum: I layered this with my hyaluronic acid from The Ordinary for maximum hydrating benefits and I really liked it. That said, I won’t be buying the full size because I have enough serums for the moment and because I’m not really interested in anti-aging products at the age of 22.

Josie Maran Pure Argan Milk Intensive Hydrating Treatment: Maybe I used too much of this in one go, but it felt a bit heavy on my skin. It did a good job of hydrating and would probably be a nice overnight treatment, but I just looked it up to find out how much the full bottle costs and the answer is $70, so ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

By the way, the box which holds my empties is from a One Direction fragrance set that I got for £10 at Superdrug in early 2015 and split with my friend Bec. Ridiculously, I brought the empty box back to Canada with me when my study abroad was over because I love One Direction and really wanted a cardboard box with a picture of them on it. So, basically, I hauled garbage across the Atlantic Ocean so that I could use it to store more garbage. Woohoo!