Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Parched Skin? Clinique’s Maximum Hydrator to the Rescue!

Clinique Maximum Hydrator ($27.00) is a moisturizer designed as part of their men’s skincare line. Gender aside, this is a fantastic moisturizer, and it’s actually one I’ve repurchased–for myself, not the boyfriend! This is an excellent moisturizer for those with normal to dry skin, because it is incredibly hydrating, and if you have oily skin, it may be too much for you. It is a gel-based formula, though, so it doesn’t feel heavy.

Maximum Hydrator is a multi-purpose product that is supposed to be used both in the morning and the evening. For men, it is touted as a post-shave product to help soften and plump up the skin. Here are the ingredients Clinique wants us to know about:

  • Aloe Leaf Water helps restore optimal moisture levels within skin while soothing dehydrated skin.
  • Moisture-binding polysaccarides (sugars) Trehalose and Sorbitol work along with Sodium Hyaluronate to help skin retain moisture and maintain important natural performances.
  • Palmitoyl Oligopeptide signals skin to stimulate the natural development of collagen.
  • Glycerin, a powerful humectant, helps attract and secure moisture to skin’s surface for immediate comfort.
  • Green Tea Extract and Sea Whip help soothe and protect delicate skin from potential damage from daily irritants.
  • Vitamin E helps fight damage caused by free radicals while Cucumber Extract soothes and de-puffs eye area skin.
  • Caffeine works as an anti-irritant to help soothe and calm easily distressed skin.
  • A blend of 3 different weights of Dimethicone provides improved slip, cushion, and a comfortable end-feel to the product while helping skin retain surface hydration.
  • PhytofixTM , a specially formulated blend of Sunflower Seed Cake, Barley, and Cucumber Fruit Extract, supplies skin with a powerful capacity for barrier repair for improved long-term hydration.

Whether you’re a woman or a man or a woman shopping for your hubby, this is a slam-dunk moisturizing choice. It helped soothe my painfully dry skin from my trip to New York back in February. It was gentle enough not to aggravate my existing breakouts nor cause additional ones. It was hydrating, fragrance-free, and absorbed quickly. You get a good amount for your money, and each jar lasts me about two months if I use it just once a day (I usually use mine at night, though sometimes I use it in the morning, too).

The only downside to this product is that it doesn’t come with any SPF, which is something I think would be a nice addition, because most men in my life aren’t going to be vigilant enough to use a separate moisturizer and SPF–they are too lazy and need an all-in-one kind of product.  The packaging isn’t phenomenal, and I do prefer creams/moisturizers in airless pump containers, but the packaging is simple and no-fuss, so it’s functional.

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

Recommendation: Dry skin? Sensitive skin? Definitely give this a shot–try asking for a sample next time you’re near a Clinique counter. This is one of my favorite moisturizers, and it is one that I’ve gone back to when other moisturizers aren’t working for me. This is a definite must-have for me during the winter, too, when my skin gets quite parched.

Availability: Nordstrom, Clinique, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sephora.com

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

It’s a Toner, Not a Lotion: Clarins’ Super Restorative Wake-Up Lotion

Clarins Super Restorative Wake-Up Lotion ($40.00 for 4.2 oz.) is indeed a toner. I must admit that I had to read the product’s tip sheet before realizing it was a toner and not a moisturizer. (Hey, I associate the term “lotion” with moisturizer, what can I say?) I will even go so far as to admit that I used this a few times as a lotion, but I am happy to report it did not cause any ill effects (e.g. breakouts). Funny enough, my skin didn’t feel like it even missed a moisturizer!

Which leads me to tell you that this is an excellent, non-drying, non-irritating toner that works well to re-energize the skin with the slight cooling nature of the product. The toner is a gel-based toner, rather than a liquid toner. Clarins recommends applying it with a cotton ball with “light, tapping movements,” and I’d say that’s a fair technique. You can substitute cotton balls with cotton pads or sheets as well.

Whenever I’m reviewing a product, I like to see what a company says about their products and what ingredients they tout as amazing, just because it helps keep me aware of what the product is supposed to do. Clarins lists the primary ingredients in the product as well as what they’re designed to do–something I like. Perhaps not always entirely believable, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

  • Pueraria Lobata – helps boost cell activity and collagen production, while soothing the skin.
  • Green coffee extract – rich in caffeine, energizes skin, helping it look more vital and radiant.
  • Ginseng root – reinforces energizing action of caffeine, adds vitality.
  • Oat Sugars, extracted from the plant’s seeds, work as a natural skin-tightening agent, and help smooth appearance of imperfections on skin’s surface.
  • Hibiscus extract – remove excess dry skin cells and brightens skin.
  • Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus) – helps eliminates toxins and reduce puffiness.

When applied, the product does feel a bit sticky, but it absorbs/fades within a few minutes, so it’s not a major concern for me, but it is a mild annoyance. My skin does feel clean and refreshed after using this product, and this toner is more about tapping it on than wiping away anything. I think this product is suitable for those with sensitive skin, but those with extremely sensitive skin may not find this suitable. It’s lightweight, goes on easily, and doesn’t leave skin feeling dry or tight.

  • Product: 8/10
  • Value: 7/10
  • Ease of Use: 8/10
  • Packaging: 7/10

Recommendation: Easy to use and effective are two great ways to describe Clarin’s Wake-Up Lotion (aka Toner!). It doesn’t strip skin of its natural oils or leave behind tightness (often confused with “clean”), which is something I consider a must-have in any toning or skincare product. The value is so-so, with $40 being a steep investment for a toner, but the bottle is large enough to give you approximately two months’ of use, perhaps more. It’s a good, solid toner, and Clarins’ fans will enjoy it.

Availability: Clarins, Nordstrom.com, Sephora.com

Anyone else try out this Clarins’ toner? Thoughts?

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Gel Cleansing with Darphin

Darphin Cleansing Foam Gel with Water Lily ($38.00 for 4.2 oz.) is a soft, gentle gel-based cleanser with an incredibly light floral scent. It looks nearly colorless when squeezed out of the tube and applied to face. It’s easy to use–just dampen face with a bit of water, then massage the cleanser all of your face to cleanse. It is a water-based cleanser designed to work even on the most sensitive skin without adding redness.

I’ve actually stuck with this cleanser for a few weeks now, because I find it so effective at cleansing, but also because it doesn’t irritate my skin or cause any breakouts. It seems to lift and remove the majority of makeup and dirt build-up from my day without much fuss, and my skin never feels tight or stripped after using. Even when I follow-up with my toner, very little residue is left behind–mostly around my hairline, which is where I always miss cleansing (I fear getting it in my hair) anyway.

Although it is a bit pricey, it doesn’t hold decent value, as a tube should last you between two and three months. (I’m into my second month now, and I haven’t even used close to half — maybe a third or so.) I imagine if you use this twice daily you should see about two months’ worth out of each tube. This cleanser is also easy to travel with, because you can squeeze what you need into a travel bottle, too.

  • Product: 9/10
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 9/10
  • Packaging: 7/10

Recommendation: If you have sensitive or easily irritated skin, consider Darphin’s new gel cleanser. Soft, mild, and gentle are all perfect descriptors of this daily cleansing product.

Availability: Beauty.com, Darphin.com

Have you tried Darphin’s latest Cleansing Foam Gel? Yay or nay?

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Make Up For Ever HD Invisible Cover Foundation ($40.00 for 1.01 oz.) is easily one of the more famous products produced by the brand. It is designed to create a “soft focus” effect when used while providing medium-to-full coverage for a flawless look. It is touted as an oil-free liquid foundation that works to make you look your best in even the harshest lighting.

Funny enough, I’ve had this foundation for a few months now, and I didn’t like enough to actually use it more than a handful of times after I initially purchased it as a local Sephora. To me, it didn’t do anything that my MAC Studio Fix Fluid wasn’t already doing. (Studio Fix Fluid is a good deal cheaper — $26.00 for 1.0 oz.!) In the spirit of 30 Days of Make Up For Ever, though, I figured I should give it another shot! For reference, the shade I was matched with and own is #140, which is described as “soft beige, for medium skin with dark yellow undertones.” In MAC, I am typically NC30. There are twenty-five shades available, so there is a good range of skin tones covered.

Read on for the review! Continue reading →

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

At-Home Face Masks:  Renew Your Skin

REN Glycolactic Skin Renewal Peel Mask ($55.00 for 1.7 oz.) is a peel mask designed to “renew the complexion, reduce fine lines, and improve skin tone, firmness, and radiance.” It uses a fruit acid complex (thus, lactic, glycolic, tartaric, and citric) along with papain enzyme to revv up this exfoliating peel. REN does warn those that this product is not suitable for those with sensitive skin, however.

I love the packaging, because it is extremely functional and practical. I, also, am not swayed by cute/fancy packaging for skincare–functional is far more important. It comes in an airless pump container, so you don’t have to worry about bacteria build-up or ingredient breakdown from exposure to air/using it with your fingers. I find two to three pumps gives me enough product to cover my entire face. The product is very easy to use — just apply the product to your face, smooth all over, and let it sit for ten minutes. After ten minutes, gently pat your face and “lift” the mask with your fingertips. Finish by rinsing your face with warm water, then pat dry with a clean towel.

It looks and smells like an orange fruit roll-up! It really does. I didn’t mind, since I’m a citrus kind of girl, and sweetness was just fine with me. The consistency reminded me of honey with just a bit of grit texture (but it doesn’t really feel rough/harsh). It may tingle a bit on some skin types (again, not recommended for sensitive-skinned folks), but it’s not a painful burn or sting. After I rinsed the product off, my skin felt incredibly smooth, soft to the touch, and gave me a bit of glowy-ness. I definitely felt like it improved the texture and appearance of my skin. I’m going to incorporate this into my skincare routine and use it once a week or so. I’ve tried stronger peels, but this still gives me the same results while being much gentler (which can’t be a bad thing, right?). If you’ve had trouble with chemical peels, I suggest looking into this one!

For those interested, REN is a brand formulated without parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes/fragrances, petro-chemicals, or phtalates. They pride themselves on using only 100% natural active ingredients. REN also does not test their products on animals nor tested on their behalf by a third party. They state that the only animal products they use are honey and beeswax in their Lip Honey.  You can purchase REN products at Sephora.com.

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

LUSH A Crash Course in Skincare Fresh Face Mask ($7.95 for 2.6 oz.) is the best mask for a general purpose, make-your-skin-feel-fabulous mask. It is ideal for all skin types. It contains such ingredients as organic avocado, kaolin, organic yoghurt, glycerin, organic lemon juice, sandalwood oil, lavender oil, and chamomile oil. It has a lemon-y herbal scent, which is pleasing and not overly aromatic.

I find this mask feels creamy, applies well (not too thick, not too thin – very easy to spread), and I always feel wonderful after using it. My skin looks and feels better — softer, smoother, and almost glow-y. I love using this early in the morning or before bed time. Makeup applies even better when I’ve used this in the morning (I imagine it has to do with my skin feeling smoother). When I’ve used it the night before, it seems like my skin is a bit clearer and still has some of the results of the previous night’s mask treatment.

I’m just about done trying all of the Fresh Face Masks I’m interested in (I’m passing on anything that’s anti-aging for now), and so far, I think my go-to duo will be A Crash Course in Skincare and Cupcake. I’ll probably switch it up occasoinally and go for Catastrophe Cosmetic and Brazened Honey. I kind of have a soft spot for all of the ones I’ve tried (even smelly Cosmetic Warrior), so it’ll be tough to pick and choose. I think I’m going to go through them again, but this time, I’m going to try and see which one really works best for my skin type.

(The following is a regurgitation from previous Fresh Face Masks reviews, for those unfamiliar with them.)

Just a reminder, Fresh Face Masks, at least in the U.S., are only available in-store and not online or via mail order (I believe UK Lush will ship within the UK), and they have a shelf life of approximately three weeks, and they must be stored in the refrigerator. They’re exactly what they’re called — fresh — so don’t expect to use them much longer than three weeks, because of potential bacteria and mold growth (gross, right?).

Even using a generous amount per mask, I get at least eight masks out of each tub. For $8 a tub, it’s definitely a price I like. I usually pick up two pots — one mask that is exfoliating and another that is just a general, soothing/cleansing/refreshing one. When I reach the end of the life of them, any extra, I slather everywhere – from face to neck to chest to hands. Plus, for every five black pots you turn into Lush, you get a free Fresh Face Mask!

See inside! Continue reading →