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.

Some skincare bits and bobs

Posted on March 09, 2017 under Lists

I’ve been doing a relatively good job at curtailing my makeup collecting habits, but I think I might have transferred these tendencies onto skincare. To be fair, I get a lot of skincare products for free through work, but I also purchase a lot of them myself. Skincare never used to be my bag; when I first got into makeup, all I did was use a St. Ives body lotion on my face (I know) and take off my makeup with a Garnier oil cleanser. Now, though, I have a multi-step skincare routine and a stable of products which I rotate through. I thought I’d share some of my favourites today, though this post is by no means an exhaustive look at what I own in the way of skincare.

For the record, my skin is normal to dry and currently at its driest. My biggest skin concerns besides hydration are a general dullness as well as stubborn post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

I absolutely adore washing my face at the end of the day. It just feels so satisfying. I never go to bed with makeup on, no matter the circumstances. I genuinely think I’ve at least removed my makeup if not thoroughly washed my face every single day in the past year.

I’ve been on the micellar solution train for three years now and I’ve cycled through a lot of them. I tend to just use whatever I get through work. I only started using everyone’s holy grail micellar water, Bioderma Sensibio H20, midway through last year. I originally had a 250mL bottle that I got from work, and then I purchased the big boy when I ran out of that. Bioderma is tied with the La Roche-Posay micellar solution for my favourite. I find both gentle and effective. A lot of other micellars strip my skin noticeably, but these two don’t. Bioderma gives me better value ounce per ounce, so I’ll probably stick to it. I like using a micellar solution to remove my makeup quickly and as a final step after a thorough cleansing to remove any leftover residue. I don’t use it as an eye makeup remover, though; I prefer a bi-phase formula since I wear waterproof eyeliner and sometimes mascara.

As I mentioned, even before I had anything resembling a skincare routine I used an oil cleanser. I’m still on board with that! I find oils break down my makeup super well and leave my skin feeling nourished. This is my third bottle of The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleanser, so clearly I love it.

An oil is a bit heavy for a spot of casual face washing, so in the mornings I use Marcelle Ultra Gentle Gel Cleanser. I mentioned this product in my 2016 favourites and I’m mentioning it here again because it’s that good. It’s an extremely gentle, non-stripping, but thorough cleanser which leaves my skin feeling 100% clean and smooth. It also removes makeup really well, though I do usually prefer an oil cleanser for that. Plus, it costs $12.95 at the drugstore. I feel like I should own stock in Marcelle based on how many bottles of this cleanser I’ve sold and how many of my customers keep coming back for it. It’s the best!

I’ve been [beauty blogger voice] uhb-sessed with acids for some time now. AHAs do wonders for my dry, hyperpigmentation-prone skin! I started with the NeoStrata Purifying Solution in the summer, which boasts 8% glycolic acid. There was a stretch of several months where I used it literally every single day, without fail. In the fall, I added The Ordinary 10% Lactic Acid into my routine, and usually rotate between these two. AHAs really help brighten my skin and reduce the longevity of my hyperpigmentation (which, as I’ve mentioned several times on my blog, is extremely stubborn – some spots will last six months).

Not an AHA, but I’ve been so totally reliant on The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 since the beginning of this year. This winter is really sucking the moisture out of my skin, and I use hyaluronic acid as my serum step every night and sometimes during the day to really give me that extra boost of hydration. I’ve noticed a big difference in my skin since I started using it. I have a bunch of products from The Ordinary (I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance of a Deciem store), but this one is probably my favourite. I haven’t had any of the dreaded nose flakes in months now, and any fellow dry-skinned people out there know how real that problem is in winter!

At night, I tend to rotate between two creams. First, I’m still loving my Origins Drink Up! Overnight Mask. I use this most nights and I always wake up with plump, soft skin. If I have the time, I like to put on a layer of this, let it sink in, and then add another right before I go to bed for maximum hydration. Sometimes I skip using one of my liquid AHAs and use the Jouviance Glyco Laser 5 Soft Peel Night Cream. I got this as gratis from my store’s Jouviance rep, and at first I was a little wary about using it as my only night cream. The texture isn’t too thick, and I thought that the 5% glycolic acid might make it a bit too drying to use on its own. But it totally works as a night cream, and it’s good for lazy nights (or travel) because it combines my moisturizer and acid steps. My skin always feels incredibly smooth after I use this. I recently brought it on my trip to Montreal and used it four nights straight, and it didn’t dry my skin out at all. In fact, every morning I woke up feeling hydrated and smooth – it totally counteracted the ill effects of long nights out partying.

Finally, one treatment product which I’ve been loving: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+. The Effaclar line is meant for oily, acne-prone skin, but the Duo+ is extremely popular as a salicylic acid-, zinc-, and niacinamide-based spot treatment. Those with very oily and acne-prone skin can use this all over their faces as a lightweight, purifying moisturizer. Because I’m dry and don’t really have acne besides the regular hormonal zits here and there, I use it as a spot treatment. It’s a lightweight gel formulation which layers well with other products, and it’s extremely effective at drying out active blemishes and nipping baby zits in the bud. I would never want to use something like this all over my face (I do much better with AHAs than BHAs!), but used sparingly where needed it works like a charm.

I have some other skincare products which I’m testing at the moment, so I might do a part two to this post sometime in the future. But for now, these are the skincare products that I’ve been loving the most recently.

Natural Norwegian skincare with Marina Miracle

Posted on December 13, 2015 under Reviews

This post features press samples, but all opinions remain my own.

If the YouTubers I watch are any indication, Scandinavian skincare (and everything else) is all the rage these days. I’ll admit, after visiting Iceland and Denmark this spring, I definitely get the fascination with Nordic countries – but I’ve never tried any Scandinavian skincare. I currently have a rather substantial backlog of skincare products I’m trying to get to in a timely manner – but when Marina Engervik, owner and CEO of Marina Miracle, asked if I wanted to try out some products from her line, I couldn’t resist. The Scandi allure was just too strong!

Marina sent along three products (and a lovely handwritten note!) that she thought would best address the skincare concerns I told her about. I don’t have hugely problematic skin, but as I told Marina, I am on the dry side and deal with dullness and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Marina sent me the Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser*, Herbal Face Oil*, and Argan Night Serum*.

Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser*


I’m a huge fan of oil cleansers, and actually purchased my second bottle of The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil about a week prior to receiving these products. I would say that the name “Creamy Oil Cleanser” is quite apt here – when I pump some of this product out, it’s a thin, lotion-y texture – not very oily at all. However, when massaged into damp skin, it emulsifies just like an oil. When I wash it off, my skin feels comfortably clean (not tight) and has no oily residue. It does a great job at getting all my makeup off. I always double cleanse with an oil and then a micellar solution when I’m wearing face makeup, but after using this cleanser I don’t see any remnants of my foundation on a micellar-soaked cotton pad.

This oil cleanser gets off eye makeup efficiently and fully, including waterproof eyeliner and mascara. I personally prefer to use a separate eye makeup remover as I don’t like the feeling of a heavy oil on my eyes, but for those of you who want one product that will do it all, the Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser* excels. I would go so far as to say that I may even like it better than my beloved Body Shop Silky Camomile Oil Cleanser – though it is more expensive, ounce for ounce.

My one reservation with this product is that it does contain coconut oil, which has a moderate comedogenic rating and can cause some people to break out – especially people who are more acne-prone. Personally, I have not had issues using small concentrations of coconut oil on my face, but it’s something to keep in mind!

Herbal Face Oil and Argan Night Serum


These are both fairly thick oils that do not sink in quickly. The Argan Night Serum* is especially rich, so on nights when I used it I didn’t use a night cream on top of it. I also wouldn’t use the Herbal Face Oil* under makeup unless I had at least half an hour to let it sink in. I will say that although I could feel the serum on my face for about half an hour after applying it, when I ran a finger across my face my finger did not come away with any of the product on it.

Whether I applied the Argan Night Serum* or the Herbal Face Oil* at night, I always woke up with soft and plump-feeling skin – which is not always a guarantee for me, especially in the colder months. These oils might not be appropriate for someone with oilier skin – or even for me in the summer – but for someone on the drier side, they work beautifully. I often get flaking around the sides of my nose, and I haven’t dealt with that at all since using these Marina Miracle products.

I ended up really liking both of these oils, though they are on the heavy side. During this testing period I used at least one of them every day, but from now on I will probably save them for use 2-3 times a week. I feel that they are potent enough that their effects will carry over across a few days, and I can supplement with a regular moisturizer.

And now for some before and after pictures. You’ll notice that I struggle with a bit of dullness, some redness at the bottom of my cheeks, a few zits, and post-inflammatory hyperpigementation. I usually get zits on my chin and my cheekbones, and while they go away fairly fast, the hyperpigmentation lasts forever. When I took the before pictures, I was dealing with the remnant of a cystic zit that refused to die.

I haven’t edited these photos at all, even to adjust for colour balance, contrast, etc. I’m also not wearing makeup in any (obviously).


The left side of my face.


The right side of my face.

And some close-ups, for those of you who are into the gory details:


I suppose I can’t say with absolute certainty that the hyperpigmentation wouldn’t have faded over the course of nearly a month, anyway. But as someone who has had PIH last for up to half a year, I’m pretty pleased with this. I also feel like my skin is generally a bit brighter and more even – and is it just me, or am I even less red at the bottoms of my cheeks?!


The packaging on Marina Miracle products is really beautiful – it’s durable, heavy green glass. It’s not extremely travel-friendly for obvious reasons (though the size of the oils is certainly convenient), but for when I’m staying in one place I think the packaging is beautiful. The boxes they come in are also really pretty, with an elaborate tree motif. I held onto these forever so I could photograph them for this post because they’re so pretty, but I suppose now I can recycle them. (I’m not normally an outer packaging hoarder!)

You’ve probably concluded by now that I have been quite impressed with Marina Miracle – or at least the three products I got to test. Personally, I would say the Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser* is my absolute favourite of the bunch – it does an amazing job at getting makeup off without stripping my skin and it’s a daily use product for me. I do like both of the oils, but they’re more of a special occasion thing for me – and probably not suitable for all skin types. When I run out of the cleanser, I will seriously considering repurchasing – it’s that good. I’ll have to see how the oils fit into my routine now that I’m not using them daily, but if I’m still seeing results I’d definitely consider picking up at least one of them again.


Such a sweet note that Marina included! I love little touches like this – it really gives me a good first impression of a brand that reaches out to me.

A note about the term “natural”: it is not regulated, and thus is not hugely meaningful when it comes to cosmetics. Also, there are harmful, poisonous, and downright bad-for-you things found in nature, so “natural” isn’t necessarily an indicator of how good an ingredient is for you.

The Sweet & Creamy Oil Cleanser* retails for $41 USD/$56.29 CAD for 110 mL/3.7 fl oz. That means it’s $0.37 USD/$0.51 CAD per mL, or $11.08 USD/$15.21 CAD per mL.

The Argan Night Serum* retails for $59 USD/$81 CAD for 25mL/0.85 fl oz. That means it’s $2.36 USD/$3.24 CAD per mL, or $69.41 USD/$95.29 CAD per oz.

The Herbal Face Oil* retails for $42 USD/$57.68 CAD for 25mL/0.85 fl oz. That means it’s $1.68 USD/$2.31 CAD per mL, or $49.41 USD/$67.86 CAD per fl oz.

If you’re interested in both the Night Serum and Face Oil, you can purchase them in a package for $90 USD/$123.60 CAD, which brings it down to $1.80 USD/$2.47 CAD per mL, or $52.94 USD/$72.70 CAD per fl oz.

Marina Miracle has recently launched their worldwide shop, which means all of you lovely people can browse their products and place an order if you’re so inclined!