Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

MAC Volcanic Ash Exfoliator Review

MAC Style Black included two pieces of limited edition skincare — the ever-raved about Volcanic Ash Exfoliator and previously-mentioned-but-finally-released Volcanic Ash Thermal Mask.

I’ve been a big supporter of MAC’s Volcanic Ash Exfoliator since it released.  I loved it.  I sparingly used it so it would last as long as I could manage.  I managed to make two tubs last me a year or so (it was launched in 2008).  I couldn’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for it to be re-released with Style Black!

The re-released Volcanic Ash Exfoliator is slightly different than the original in a few key ways, though the product still feels, smells, and does the same (for me!) as the original version did.  This release of Volcanic Ash Exfoliator uses both sugar (sucrose, specifically) and silica for exfoliating, whereas the original release only used sugar.  Before, when you scrubbed your face with the exfoliator, the sugar particles would eventually dissolve, but with the addition of silica, you’ll notice a slightly gritty texture the whole time.

From what I can tell, MAC was attempting to address some of the problems/concerns the product created when it was originally launched.  The tub packaging was both unsanitary and was not shower-friendly (which is the most convenient place to use this, because it can be messy).  The tub seemed to get a lot of water in it when I had it in my shower, which kind of resulted in the sugar dissolving faster than I’d like–and the heat of the shower also caused some of the sugar to dissolve, I’d imagine.   Since silica doesn’t dissolve, it also makes it a more shower-friendly ingredient when it comes to exfoliation!  The new tube packaging now makes it more hygienic and shower-friendly, as well.

Considering I ended up having half a tub of exfoliator without any exofliating properties because all the sugar dissolved, I’m happy it’s in a tube!  I also think that while it feels thicker, it’s also hard to judge, because before you were scooping it out of a jar so the two processes are different enough.  I also don’t have any of the old stuff left to compare.  It does, though, feel a little thicker.

In the end, it applies and feels like the original.  I’d say it’s a little grittier than it previously was, with the addition of silica, but it still doesn’t feel like a harsh, aggressive exfoliator.  It’s fairly gentle, and it should be used once or twice during the week, depending on how your skin takes to exfoliants.

Product value on this could be better, because they took out about an ounce of product and tacked on an additional fifty cents.  I can handle the slight price increase, but I’m less than impressed with the decrease in the product itself (particularly since it’s 3.4 oz.), since it represents about 20-25% decrease in how much you get for your money.

Bottom line: It’s a mild exfoliator that has an earthy, ashy smell that’s not unpleasant (at least not to me), nor is it like ohhh, yummy! , it’s just kind of the scent I’d expect from it.  It leaves skin feeling soft, smooth, and may even give you a lil’ bit of that glow.  I still love it, but I’m not quite as in-love as I was originally (I think that’s more because of all the other exfoliators that I also love).  I definitely still recommend trying it out–ask for a sample if you’re unsure–because it is a fantastic exfoliator!

  • Product: 28/30
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

Recommendation:  If you liked the original, I think you’ll still like this slightly reformulated version!  It’s a good, mild exfoliator!

Availability: MAC Cosmetics

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Korres Thyme Honey Cream ($32.50 for 1.35 oz.) is a daily moisturizer designed for normal and dry skin.

Korres is known as a brand that doesn’t use a lot of those “bad” ingredients like parabens, suflates, petro-chemcials, and synthetic dyes. My personal stance is I’m not overly concerned by them, as research hasn’t proven otherwise (at least not to me) — one of my favorite beauty blogs, The Beauty Brains, did a write-up on parabens. So for me, a “natural” product just has to be a good product for me, but I’m not looking for anything explicitly natural. (It’s totally fine if you are, though! To each their own! :) )

This is a medium thick cream that comes in a jar, but it actually feels lightweight and absorbs very quickly. I went through my entire jar in about four or five weeks. It definitely felt a little faster than normal (normally I’ve spent the requisite four to six weeks testing it out, and then I move on and there’s still plenty left). To be clear, though, I was using this both AM and PM and typically I do have a separate AM and PM moisturizer. I’d expect if you just use this as a PM moisturizer, you’d get about two to three months of use out of one jar.

This doesn’t have any SPF, which does make it usable at night (without feeling like you’re wasting the SPF factor!), but consequently, you do need to wear something else that does have SPF. I found it moisturized my normal-to-dry skin very well, and I never felt dry or had any dry patches creep on me.

I will caution some on the scent, which is kind of like an earthy honey scent. It didn’t read synthetic honey to me, but it’s noticeable when you first apply it. I personally didn’t notice the scent linger on after it absorbed, but if you’re not a honey person, I’d recommend you choose one of Korres’ other moisturizers. I liked the scent, though I didn’t love it, but it wasn’t an issue for my nose!

Even though Korres does recommend this for normal skin, I think it’s more suited for those with drier skin, because it is quite hydrating and rich enough to soothe drier skin, it may be too heavy on normal skin. I wouldn’t recommend this one for oily skinned folks, either. If you have normal skin but sometimes need an extra boost in hydration, I’d suggest checking out Korres Thyme Honey Mask instead, as an as-needed intensive treatment.

I’m not a big fan of open-jar packaging. I’m just not keen on using fingers to scoop out product (let’s face it, most of us are not vigilant enough about using a separate, sterile spatula every time we go to moisturize), so I’d rather an airless pump in some form myself. The packaging feels nice (I think it’s glass) and has some heft to it, and the way Korres’ labels their products is cute and functional.

Overall, after using this for over a month (’til I ran out), I liked it, but I’m still on the hunt for something else. I don’t typically use up whole jars of anything, so it is a testament to how much I did enjoy using the product while it lasted. It moisturized and kept my skin moisturized throughout the day without causing breakouts or clogged pores. That’s pretty much what the product is supposed to do, and it definitely did that! I’m trying out Korres’ Wild Rose moisturizer now, will let you know how that works out…

  • Product: 26/30
  • Value: 7/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

Recommendation: For those with dry skin, Korres’ Thyme Honey Moisturizer will keep your skin hydrated and soothed!

Availability: Sephora

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Korres Materia Herba Toning Cleansing Foam ($27.00 for 5.07 fl. oz.) is a foaming cleanser that’s touted as being very natural/organic for you. Korres lists it as having 98.9% natural content, suitable for vegans, and doesn’t contain a whole slew of purported bad-for-you ingredients like mineral oil, silicone,s parabens, sulphyates, SLES, synthetic dyes, fragrances, or petrochemicals.

The cleanser is designed to use naturally derived salicylic acid to break up oil, bacteria, while providing mild exfoliation and controlling blemishes, according to the brand. As far as a cleanser goes, I like it, but I don’t love it. It’s a very no-frills kind of product. The packaging is simple, the product itself is simple. You pump the foam in your hands, apply to face, and massage the product into the skin to dissolve and remove daily build-up. The foam itself is white, and there’s no real scent to it – kind of reminds me of something light and airy but not fragrance-y. It just smells “natural” to me.

I like using this as a morning cleanser, because I only need a lightweight cleanser in the AM. It does a decent job at removing makeup, but it’s not excellent at removing heavy makeup (like longwearing eyeliner, mascara, etc.), so that’s yet another reason I use this in the morning rather than in the evening. It leaves my skin feeling clean without any tightness, though it can be a little on the drying side if you already have drier skin. It is great on combination and oily skin, though.

The packaging is functional, clean, and really just simple. The value of the product seems high to me, because I only need one pump of foam to cleanse my entire face. I suppose the only problem with solid packaging like this bottle is not having any idea when you start getting close to the bottom. I point this out because Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple (the foaming version) is clear, so you always have an idea of when you need to buy more.

All in all, it’s a decent cleanser, and if simplicity is your style, this may be more suitable for you. For a morning cleanser, it moves up to pretty good, because it just gives you that nicely clean and refreshed feeling without being more powerful than you need.

  • Product: 8/10
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 8/10
  • Packaging: 8/10

Recommendation: If you like natural/organic lines and are looking for a simple cleanser, Korres Materia Herba may be something to consider.

Availability: Sephora

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

It’s a Toner, Not a Lotion (Part 2): NARS Hydrating Freshening Lotion

NARS Hydrating Freshening Lotion ($36.00 for 6.7 fl. oz.) is a water-based toner with a gel-like consistency designed to hydrate skin as well as gently exfoliate it.

When I was at NARS a few months ago, the artist was telling me about this magical toner that was really great for acne-prone skin. I was a bit skeptical, but every so often, an artist manages to convince me to buy something I had no intentions of getting, so that’s how I wound up with NARS’ Hydrating Freshening Lotion. Like the Clarins’ Super Restorative Wake-Up Lotion, “Lotion” means toner. It’s easy to use: just pump once onto a cotton pad and then use it on your face to remove any dirt and build-up.

One of the reasons I bought this was to help hydrate and exfoliate dry patches prior to applying foundation. It actually does seem to help hydrate and remove some of the flakiness on my dry patches and keeps the skin looking natural and radiant. This also helps to make sure I’ve gotten every last bit of dirt, makeup, and cleanser off of my face before I apply my moisturizer. (Seriously, the amount of gunk this product removes reminds me of the blackhead strips by Biore!)

Though a bit pricey, one bottle should last you a few months, if not more, depending on how often and how much you use per application. I find need about two pumps for face and neck on a cotton pad per application, so I expect to finish my bottle in the next month or so. I do believe Shiseido (which owns NARS) also makes a similar product, so if you’re a Shiseido fan, you may want to look in their line.

  • Product: 9/10
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 8/10
  • Packaging: 8/10

Recommendation:  NARS’ skincare is underrated, in my opinion, because they really do have a solid line of skincare products that have never done me wrong–including the Hydrating Freshening Lotion!

Availability: Nordstrom

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Lather Up: Chanel Mousse Exfoliante Purete

Chanel Mousse Exfoliante Purete ($45.00 for 5 oz.) is a creamy cleanser/extremely mild exfoliant that cleanses, controls oil, and lightly exfoliates without ever missing a beat. If the name as you a little confused, the English version is Exfoliating Cleansing Foam Purity + Anti-Pollution.

Don’t let the sticker price fool you, this product does its job amazingly well and one tube will last you at least six months, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasted longer. It took me several tries to figure out just how little I needed–no more than a pea-size amount for face and neck. It foams up with little water and goes on thickly (but doesn’t feel heavy). All I know is I didn’t expect to fall in love with a Chanel cleanser, but I definitely did! This has quickly become a Temptalia household staple.

There are small exfoliating beads in this product, and I really do mean small. They’re small and sparse enough to make it incredibly mild in exfoliation, so you can easily use this product once or twice a day (AM/PM). It smells clean, that’s the only way I can describe it, and really does an excellent job at leaving my face clean.

It’s not the best at removing more lasting makeup like eyeliner and mascara and will leave a few traces behind, but I find most cleansers to do this (particularly since I don’t want to exfoliate my eyelids or anything!). Whenever I wear heavy eye or lip makeup, I use a separate makeup remover to handle those before I get into the facial cleansing anyway, so for me, it’s not a make or break point.

  • Product: 9/10
  • Value: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 8/10
  • Packaging: 8/10

Recommendation: If you want a cleanser that feels luxurious AND delivers and still holds value… consider Chanel’s latest addition to the Precision skincare line-up.

Availability: Nordstrom

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Clarisonic MIA

Clarisonic Mia Sonic Skin Cleansing System

Clarisonic Mia Sonic Skin Cleansing System ($149.00) is the latest launch from Clarisonic. It is a miniature-sized version of the original Clarisonic, and it is also $45 cheaper. It’s also available in pink.

You may wonder how this possibly can be part of Money Saving Mondays… because I know the Clarisonic can be a hefty investment for some who really want it, this does offer you a way to get it for less. It is also just as effective as the original, more expensive Clarisonic, so it represents true savings.

First, Clarisonic has a really useful comparison chart for the four models: Mia, Classic, PLUS, and PRO. The Clarisonic Mia is about an inch and a half to two inches smaller the the original,and it doesn’t feel as bulky. The Mia comes with a pLink charger whereas the Classic used a cradle charger, which makes it a lot more compact. The Mia brush head is the same size as the Classic, so you don’t lose anything in how well it cleans or the area it cleans.

Surprisingly, the Mia feels heavier compared to the Classic, but not by much (note that neither are, by any means, heavy). When you opt for the Mia, you have only a single speed setting, whereas the Classic provided you with two. Since I’ve used the Classic forever now, I can say that it’s not a big deal, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you didn’t even know you had two speeds on yours! The Mia also only lasts twenty minutes on a full charge compared to the Classic which lasts thirty minutes. Again, this is not really an essential difference to me; twenty minutes is still ten or so uses, which is plenty on a single charge.

I recommend you read my original review for the Clarisonic to get a more in-depth look at why I really love the cleansing system and recommended it even at $195. In brief, it is an easy, efficient way of cleansing the skin. It helps with skin turnover and keeps my skin clearer and smoother looking overall. I’m not often sold on advertising claims, but the Clarisonic is one beauty gadget I can’t live without!

  • Product: 9/10
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 9/10
  • Packaging: 9/10

Recommendation: If you want to get your skin its best shape, the Clarisonic can help. It gives skin a softer, smoother appearance while deep cleansing every time you use it without irritating even sensitive skin. If $145 is still out of your budget, consider looking out for F&F sales at Sephora where you can save another 10-15%. Or put it on your wish list!

Availability: Sephora

See size comparison photoContinue reading →