Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Warm Up Your Mornings: Aveeno Positively Ageless Warming Scrub

Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Ageless Warming Scrub ($9.29 for 4 oz.) is a gentle exfoliator with a warming feel.  It uses shiitake mushrooms in it (this is where you might find your “anti-aging” properties).  Like most thermal products, it heats up when it comes into contact with water.  It has very fine, sand-like exfoliating beads that slough away dead skin without being overly abrasive nor too fine that you’re not sure if it’s doing the job right or not.  I’m not going to discuss the anti-aging claims, because even if they worked, I’d unlikely to be able to tell since I’m 23 and don’t have too many signs of aging yet (thankfully).  The skeptic in me doesn’t really feel that a scrub that you rinse and wash off in a few minutes is likely to turn back the hands of time in a truly significant way either.

I was really, really impressed by Aveeno’s Warming Scrub, and it’s definitely a new favorite and easily in line to become a shower staple.  As someone who pretty much lives and breathes new products, it’s always difficult to actually stick with a staple–but for the sake of argument, if I was a normal consumer, this would totally be a buy and buy again product.  It smells kind of like a more natural version of baby shampoo.  I couldn’t think of a better description for the scent other than that; it’s kind of clean, lightly sweetened, kind of natural.  I liked the scent quite a bit, just because it was soft, pleasing, and relaxing.

The exfoliating bits and bobs in this product seem gentle enough to be used several times a week, and I’ve encountered no problems using it about three or four times a week.  I use mine in the shower, so typically in the AM, so I don’t have to worry about getting off any makeup.  I’ve been a long-time user and fan of Aveeno products, so I’m happy to see this one work out for me as well.  I think I’ll have to pick up a tube and pass it along to my sister and see if she likes it.  (We both grew up using Aveeno skincare products.)

For a very long time, my favorite thermal scrub was Prescriptives’ Instant Gratification ($45.00), with Clean & Clear’s In-Shower Facial coming close as a more affordable option.  Instant Gratification is much more of a mask kind of product, because it’s not something you’re meant to use on a daily basis (I used mine about once a week or less), and it’s more abrasive than both the In-Shower Facial and Warming Scrub.  I really like that I can use the Warming Scrub more often, because I love that thermal/heat sensation that comes along with it.  It doesn’t last long (20 seconds or so), but it’s so relaxing and a great way to start your day off.  Smooth, soft, and radiant skin, courtesy of $9 well-spent!

If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ! :)

  • Product: 29/30
  • Value: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

Recommendation:  For an affordable, thermal exfoliating scrub, Aveeno has you covered!

AvailabilityDrugstore.com

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

For Normal-to-Dry Skin: Korres Wild Rose Moisturizer

Korres Wild Rose Moisturizer ($32.50 for 1.40 fl. oz.) is designed for normal-to-dry skin types and contains SPF 6. It’s supposed to give skin “24-hour intensive moisturiz[ation].” According to Korres, this moisturizer also contains Wild Rose oil, which “diminishes fine lines, hyper- pigmentation and resurfaces skin, revealing a soft and radiant complexion” along with vitiamin C to “inhibit free radical damage and brighten skin” and Phytic Acid, “a natural skin lightener.” Two other ingredients Korres calls out specifically are Grape Seed extract (rich in VItamin E) and olive oil. (You can see a full ingredient list at Korres’ website.)

Korres is a brand that considers themselves natural, and this product (based on Korres‘ website) has 85.1% natural content, and it does not contain petrochemicals, mineral oil, silicones, parabens, sulphates, or synthetic dyes. It does contain fragrance, alcohol, and nuts. It is suitable for vegans and contains no animal by-products or undergone animal testing. Also, even though it talks about diminishing fine lines, it doesn’t contain any retinol or AHAs (it’s purely from the vitamin C).

I started using Korres Wild Rose Moisturizer immediately after I finished testing their Thyme & Honey Cream, which I liked but didn’t love. I definitely liked the feel, scent, and results of Wild Rose better than the Thyme & Honey Cream. I felt like this had a very subtle scent of rose, but it was much less cloying (even when you sniff directly from the jar) than the honey scent from the other moisturizer.  I didn’t mind the honey scent since it didn’t linger, but it wasn’t exactly my favorite.

My favorite part about this moisturizer it is it applies very quickly, feels lightweight, and it does provide good hydration throughout the day. I don’t typically feel dry with this moisturizer at all, which is a great thing. However, I’ve noticed as I’ve concluded my testing phase (five weeks), I do have some drier spots–in the same places where I typically get them–so I think it’s about time for me to switch to a more moisturizing night-time moisturizer. While I was using this, I also felt like I wasn’t as oily at the end of the day, either.

I was using this AM and PM (I’ve been too lazy to come up with a dual regimen, I fail!), and it lasted me approximately five weeks. With the SPF (even though it’s minimal) in this product, I would consider it more of a morning moisturizer, and if it’s used strictly during the morning, you’ll find a jar lasts you two to three months, which is typical of a 1 oz. jar (from my experience). As far as pricing and value go, I think it’s about on par with mid-range skin care, and I get enough usage out of one jar to merit the $32.50 price tag.

I really like the Korres’ brand, and I like their mission and how they identify certain products. They also have a great labeling system and make it easier to understand what you’re getting (or not getting!) in your skincare. I do wish they’d use an airless pump (or perhaps a tube) for their moisturizer to keep it more hygienic, but I’ve personally been able to change my behavior and be sure to use open-jars more hygienically with a clean spatula.

I had a good experience with this moisturizer, and it kept and made my skin look smooth and like it had a glow from within. I’m not sure if I’ll repurchase this in the future, even though I liked it, because it didn’t do anything for my acne (it didn’t make it worse–it just didn’t eliminate it). It’s not technically supposed to, but it’s definitely something I’d love to find in a daily moisturizer so the hunt continues!

If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ! :)

  • Product: 28/30
  • Value: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

Recommendation: If you have normal-to-dry skin and are looking for a fast-absorbing, lightweight daily morning moisturizer, you may find Korres Wild Rose Moisturizer to be right up your alley.

Availability: Beauty.com, KorresUSA.com, Sephora

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