Sunday, November 11th, 2012

NARS Skin Aqua Gel Luminous Oil-Free Moisturizer
NARS Skin Aqua Gel Luminous Oil-Free Moisturizer

Lightweight, Quick-Absorbing – Better for Oily Skin Types

NARS Skin Aqua Gel Luminous Oil-Free Moisturizer ($58.00 for 1.8 oz.) is described as a “aqua-rich gel-cream that hydrates, revitalizes, and fortifies the skin.” It’s supposed to improve water retention, keep skin feeling supple, and soften fine lines. It is “synthetic fragrance-, paraben-, alcohol-, and oil-free,” according to NARS.

In the past, I’ve used the previous version of the Aqua Gel, and I really liked it and found it hydrating enough for my skin type (normal-to-dry; more normal when I was testing this, as it was during the summer). It was actually a go-to product for when my skin was getting dry.  A lot of what was great about the original is true here:  it’s lightweight, feels and glides on like a gel-based moisturizer, and it sinks into skin quickly.  There is a little tackiness, though, even if it doesn’t look or feel oily/greasy.  It has a pleasant smell, though it is hard for me to articulate the scent; it’s not quite herbal, but it seems natural enough–not perfume-y or anything like that.  During the summer, it was lovely against the skin, because it felt cool when applied.

This moisturizer is much more suitable for combination to oily skin types; it was not hydrating enough for me with normal skin.  I would use it at night, but my skin really need more moisture.   NARS says it is ideal for normal to combination/oily skin types, but it was not hydrating enough for when my skin was normal. I went through the jar in a month, only using it at night time.   I didn’t notice an impact on minimizing or softening fine lines.

Ultimately, this is a lightweight, quick-absorbing gel moisturizer that will be most suitable for oilier complexions.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012


NARS Gentle Cream Cleanser

A Truly Gentle Cleanser

NARS Gentle Cream Cleanser ($29.00 for 4.2 fl. oz.) is supposed to be a “gentle, non-drying cream cleanser with a luxurious lather designed to pamper the skin while washing away makeup and surface impurities.” NARS says it is best for normal, dry, and seasonally dry skin, and it is “synthetic fragrance, paraben, and alcohol” free.

I’ve been using this for the past two and a half months as my morning cleanser (though I have also used in the evenings on occasion). It’s lightweight, incredibly gentle, non-drying, and a little goes a long way. I don’t even think I’m half-way through the tube, even though I consistently use it every morning. It lathers up quickly, but it’s not at all drying. I tend to have normal-to-dry skin, which is more normal than not during the spring/fall, but it gets drier as we head into winter. What I like most about the cleanser is really how genuinely gentle it is; there’s no stinging or burning sensations if this gets into your eyes at all. It doesn’t cloud your eyes or anything like that either.

It cleans well, and for something marketed as “gentle,” it is surprisingly effective at removing makeup. It won’t get long-wearing products off fully, but it did break down my liquid foundation well.  I like how it leaves my skin post-cleanse, which is soft and supple–my skin never feels stripped or dried out. Given how long I’ve been using it, and how much is left, the price tag stretches out a bit.

I have one complaint, though, and for me, it’s enough to look for something else:  the packaging.  It looks sleek, and just looking at it, everything seems in order.  Using it, however, is another matter.  It leaks cleanser, mostly into the cap, but unscrewing the cap will leave you with half an inch of cleanser just sitting inside the cap.  More leaks out as you unscrew the cap, so then the cleanser runs over and down the sides.  A little goes a long way, and it’s hard to get just a little out, because it has such a fluid consistency.   I feel like a lot of cleanser has gotten washed down the drain as a result, and it keeps the tube perpetually slippery and sudsy.  It might be better with a pump or if you could stand it on the opposite side (the tapered end).

Bottom Line: I really enjoyed the cleanser itself, but the packaging made it hard to use and wasted product.

Friday, June 29th, 2012


Ole Henriksen Herbal Day Creme SPF 15

Ole Henriksen Herbal Day Creme SPF 15 ($35.00 for 1.7 oz.) is designed for daily use to “protect against UV rays and environmental aggressors.” It’s supposed to moisture and yield “healthy, radiant results” without leaving any residue behind. The brand says the formula is suitable for normal, combination, and sensitive skin.

I have normal-to-dry skin, though I’m rather normal right now, which is typical for me during the summer months. I’ve been using this as my day cream for the past month, and I’ve got about one or two uses left. It comes in a plastic jar, and the cream itself has a thick, creamy consistency that feels on the richer side. What I’ve noticed is that while it feels fantastic on, it can take awhile to absorb into the skin. It consistently would take at least a half hour to sink into my skin, and until then, there was a slightly greasy feel to my skin; I could just touch it and know it wasn’t absorbed yet.

Now, I know the first thing that comes to mind is to use less product, and you totally could; it would sink in faster, and you don’t necessarily need a whole lot, but if you’re using this as a sunscreen, you absolutely do need a certain amount. Most recommendations say 1/2 teaspoon for face and neck. If you’ve never measured out what a 1/2 teaspoon looks like of your favorite sunscreen, I highly suggest you do so. You’d be surprised! So if you want to get the SPF 15 protection, you can’t skimp on the product.

It has an herbal and citrus-scent that some might love, others can hate. I like more herbal-scented products (and loathe more generically perfume-y ones, e.g. Lancome) myself, and I didn’t get strong whiffs of the scent while I wore the cream during the day. I mostly smelled it while I was applying the product to my face.

Overall, I liked the cream, and it’s something I’d consider using it again, if it had a slightly higher SPF rating.  The texture is really appealing, because it has that luxurious, rich feel and hydrates my skin excellently.  That hydration lasts all day long–my skin isn’t parched at bed time–and that’s what a good moisturizer should do. If it didn’t have SPF, it could be a really nice night cream. Based on my experience, I think this is more suitable for normal to dry skin, because it did feel a bit heavy for my skin in its more normal state.

Ingredients

Octinoxate 7.5%, Oxybenzone 2.0%, Meridamate 3.0%. Water (Aqua), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oilm, Glycerin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Squalane, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Dimethicone, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 80, Sorbitan Oleate, Carbomer, Potassium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Citral, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool, Citronellol, Eugenol, Annatto (CI 75120).

Saturday, June 9th, 2012


Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster ($48.00 for 1.0 oz.) is described as “a high-potency vitamin C complex that prevents and corrects signs of aging while promoting brightness.” It contains 10% vitamin C. This is supposed to firm, smooth, feel weightless, absorb quickly, and provide “instant and long-term hydration.”

I had enough trouble with the packaging that was enough to make me hesitant to repurchase this in the future, even if it turned out to be a really good product. It’s great that it’s packaged in a glass bottle with a pump dispenser, and it is slim and travel-friendly from a size perspective (but it’s glass, so it’s much more fragile). The problem was with the pump–it pumps out far more product (I’d say almost twice the amount) than you really need. I always ended up having so much excess that I was still looking for places to apply it after my face and neck (and I don’t think my neck needs any brightening serums right now).

UPDATED @ 6/9/2012:  The folks at Ole Henriksen sent me a replacement bottle after reading this review, and I absolutely wanted to update this post to update you on my packaging woes. The bottle I have now is infinitely better! A full pump is certainly too much for me, but you can easily control how much you pump out. I was able to go a quarter, halfway, or three-quarters of the way.  I’m really glad they fixed the packaging problem, and it was actually a problem and not a feature! (e.g. Benefit Stay Don’t Stray didn’t really acknowledge it as a problem and tried to “teach” us how to tap the pump with a video even) It’s also really awesome to see a brand keeping tabs on what is being said about their product range.

It’s just a product where a little goes a long way, particularly because of how easily spreadable the liquid is. It’s very water-like, so it just slides and covers well without needing gobs of it. I often had the product harden in the pump as well, which meant that when I went to pump it, not only did I get too much, but it flew to parts unknown (OK, the counter top, my eye once, but you get the picture!). I went through a 1 oz. bottle in about three weeks of morning-only usage.

The Truth Serum smells like orange citrus, not overly sweet but definitively orange-like, so it’s pleasant, subtle, and doesn’t linger for long. Like the brand promises, it also absorbs incredibly quickly (that’s probably my favorite characteristic). I saw some brightening and evening out of my skin tone. I know some people have recommended using this alone, as both a serum and a moisturizer, but Ole Henriksen suggests applying face/eye cream after this (per the brand’s website). If you have oilier skin, you could more likely get away with it as a two-in-one product. My more normal-to-dry skin needed this plus a regular moisturizer.

With vitamin C products, you have to watch for whether it includes a stabilized form of vitamin C, which this does in the forms of sodium ascorbyl phosphate and calcium ascorbate. Sodium hylauronate is an excellent hydrator, which is likely one of the reasons that those who need less hydration can get away with using this alone.  The product has a lot of excellent, good-for-your-skin ingredients, and the best part is that they’re listed in the beginning of the ingredient’s list–not the end!

For me, I did not have powerful enough results to merit $48 every three weeks, but brightening can be difficult to “see” and gauge, especially when after only three weeks (but I had no more!).  It gets a lot of rave reviews (and a friend’s raves is what made me want to try it myself!), though, and with the strength of the ingredient list, I’d still say it’s worth checking out.

Ingredients

Water (Aqua), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Calcium Ascorbate, Sorbitol, Glycerin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Euphrasia Officinalis Extract, Rosa Canina Fruit Extract, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Oleth-20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Benzophenone-4, Sodium Hyaluronate, Thioctic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Limonene, Linalool, Citral, Fragrance (Parfum), Yellow 6

Sunday, May 27th, 2012


Eve Lom Morning Time Cleanser

Eve Lom Morning Time Cleanser ($60.00 for 125ml) is a quicker, almost like a lightweight, version of Eve Lom’s signature Cleanser, which I reviewed earlier here. Unlike the original, this one doesn’t require such a regimented cleansing routine: you don’t need to rinse multiple times, and there’s no nuslin cloth required. The idea is that you don’t need quite as heavy of a product in the morning as you would in the evening (to get rid of the daily dirt and grime, as well as makeup). The brand advises to warm a dab of cleanser between your hands and massage onto dry skin with circular movements, then leave on for two minutes, and finally rinse with water.

I think of all things to note with this product is the scent: it does not have mass appeal. I’m in the “I like herbal” scents camp, so overall, it’s tolerable, and I’m not bothered by it–but I probably have a much higher scent tolerance than others. So long as I can’t smell it for the rest of the day, it’s not a deal-breaker. I want to describe the scent as cloves, fruitcake, and grapes over a lightly medicinal backdrop. I only notice the scent when I’m applying it, but it doesn’t linger once I’ve rinsed the product off.

The consistency is thick and not quite greasy but there’s a oiliness that gives it good spreadability; feels almost like what you’d expect out of a mask product or slightly less thick compared to a balm. It’s not as thick or as heavy as the original Cleanser, but it’s definitely thicker and less viscous compared to your typical gel cleanser. There are papaya enzymes in the formulation, which help to gently exfoliate the skin (and this seems really, really mild, so it also seems in line with being appropriate for daily use). The Morning Time Cleanser does not have any small grains (which the original version has).

It does what it advertises: it’s a gentle, lightweight cleanser that refreshes the skin and leaves it feeling soft and ready for the next step in your routine. I wouldn’t recommend it as a substitute for the original Cleanser if you wanted it to remove heavier things like makeup, because what I noticed when I was using it was that it had a tough time cutting through sunscreen. I’ve been playing tennis in the morning, which means I don’t take a shower and get into my morning skincare routine until post-game, but I slather on a generous helping of thick sunscreen. This cleanser and that sunscreen (Shiseido SPF 55 Face Cream) were like oil and water: turned it to sludge and just did not want to cut through it at all.  On the other hand, Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser, which is also a gentle cleanser, cuts through the majority of it with little effort.

On days when I didn’t play tennis, I used this and enjoyed the way it made my skin feel. It always left my skin feeling almost lightly moisturized, which was such a lovely effect when I used this during the early spring.  While it was nice to use, there wasn’t enough about it that would make me repurchase it at this price point.  I’d rather leave more room in the budget for serums, creams, and the like, rather than a cleanser that’s not on the skin for very long and gets rinsed off.

The packaging is nifty: it comes in an opaque squeeze-tube, but the cap locks and unlocks the cleanser, so a dollop of cleanser will be squeezed out of a single hole if you twist it one way. It makes for a much more travel-friendly cleanser! Note, however, that when you lock it in place, it will push out additional product, so it’s best to lock it back into place and then swiping what’s been squeezed out for use.

Ingredients

HYDROGENATED POLYDECENE, CETEARYL ALCOHOL, SODIUM COCOYL GLUTAMATE, LANOLIN OIL, STEARYL ALCOHOL, CETEARETH 20, PHENOXYETHANOL, PAPAIN, CHAMOMILLA RECUTITA (MATRICARIA) FLOWER OIL, HUMULUS LUPULUS (HOPS) EXTRACT, EUCALYPTUS GLOBULUS LEAF OIL, EUGENIA CARYOPHYLLUS (CLOVE) LEAF OIL, EUGENOL, LIMONENE, HELIANTHUS ANNUUS (SUNFLOWER) SEED OIL, ETHYHEXYLGLYCERIN, DAUCUS CAROTA SATIVA (CARROT) SEED OIL, DAUCUS CAROTA SATIVA (CARROT) ROOT EXTRACT, BETA-CAROTENE, ASCORBYL PALMITATE.

Saturday, May 26th, 2012


Eve Lom Cleanser

Eve Lom Cleanser ($80.00 for 100ml) is the brand’s iconic product, and there are numerous raves for it, so I was very curious to try it. It’s supposed to cleanse, tone, and exfoliate by using a “powerful blend of Egyptian chamomile, hops, clove, and eucalyptus oil together with cocoa butter.” It purports to remove “even the most stubborn makeup and eye makeup.” It comes with a muslin cloth that’s intended to be used (in fact, a key piece to using this product) alongside the cleanser.

For someone who loathes to spend time in the evening on their skincare routine, this is not the product for you. Just stop reading right now, because this is a cleanser for someone who has made their night time skincare routine a ritual and enjoys it. Eve Lom instructs you to massage the cleanser onto face and neck, then soak the muslin cloth in hot water, press the cloth against the neck for a few seconds–and repeat up to three times–before working the muslin cloth against the skin in small, circular movements to remove the cleanser. The brand recommends rinsing the cloth in cool water and pressing against the skin as a final step. It doesn’t take twenty minutes (think three to five), but it’s not a thirty-second cleanser, and it really needs a couple of minutes to do its job effectively.

Within all the instructions, there is talk about the hot cloth opening pores and the cold cloth closing pores. I was peeved with this, because pores do not open and close like a door. The way heat, or a hot cloth, and steam works is that it actually loosens any build-up and makes it easier to remove. I haven’t yet read anything about what cold water will do (since you can’t close your pores) other than feel refreshing. This is a common myth, but I hate seeing it on a skincare product, particularly from a brand that wants to create simple, highly effective products to market. (I don’t think I’d categorize this product as all that simple, given the extensive ingredient list and routine.)

Using this product really does feel like you’ve brought the spa home with you, both because of the slower, more methodical approach to cleansing, but also the general consistency, feel, and post-cleanse results. It has a thick, waxy consistency, like a balm, but it does spread easily enough (I’ve actually come across some body balms that feel like a tub of cold butter, which are a pain to spread). There are tiny granules in it, and these feel lightly exfoliating on the skin when you actually start removing the cleanser, but they do make applying to areas like the eyes less palatable.

The warmth of the cloth against the skin helps to melt the cleanser, which in turn seems to help it breakdown your makeup without having to scrub. I was skeptical, but it actually removed all traces of makeup wherever I applied it.  I just never liked the way it felt on the eyes, so I wasn’t exactly getting it on my lash line, you know? I ended up using a cotton swab dipped in makeup remover for removing along the lash line. Once you’ve rinsed off the cleanser, skin feels soft, smooth, and there is a feeling of very light hydration (I imagine from the oils and cocoa butter). I have read a few customer reviews from oily-skinned folks that skip moisturizer as a result.  I had no problems with breakouts, dry spots, or the like while using this over three weeks.

It has a very distinct scent of cloves, fruitcake, and grapes, with an overall medicinal flavor. The scent doesn’t linger or overwhelm, but it’s there. I’m more tolerant of scents, particularly ones that aren’t just a big blast of perfume (think Lancome), so I’m not bothered by it, but it was a little off-putting when I first started using the product. It comes in a plastic tub with a screw-top lid, so you’ll want to wash hands before dipping your paws into this (or using a clean spatula).

It’s an experience more than it is a cleanser, I’d say. There are plenty of cleansers that do just as excellent of a job removing dirt and makeup in half the time (I’m thinking along the lines of cleansing oils in particular) and leave skin prepped and ready for serums and creams. You could use a muslin cloth with any thicker cleanser for gentle exfoliation to get more of an experience out of your cleanser of choice. I’m anticipating that the ingredient list is not going to appeal to skincare enthusiasts, because of mineral oil, some of the natural oils included (like clove), and having five different paraben-based preservatives in it. I’m not knocking this–it works and feels great–but it’s pricey and more often than not, I reach for a shu cleansing oil over this when I’m wearing a lot of makeup.

Ingredients

paraffinum liquidum (mineral oil), cetearyl alcohol, peg-30 lanolin, bis-diglyceryl polyacyladipate-2, aluminum stearate, theobroma cacao (cocoa butter), peg-75 lanolin, chamomilla recutita (chamomile oil), eugenia caryophyllus (clove oil), eucalyptus globulus (eucalyptus oil), humulus lupulus (hops oil), phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, p-chloro-m-cresol, eugenol, isoeugenol