Forgive me being so crap at empties posts. I feel like they're a really good source of information and I love seeing other people's mini reviews on products they've obviously had plenty of experience using, but for me there's often quite a gap between taking my photos and throwing the rubbish out vs actually posting about it. And if I have to take photos of another lot of empties (which I did before I moved house to avoid packing up literal garbage) then in this case they're going to get combined, and the less interesting stuff gets cut because nobody wants a post that's 6,000 words long.
I already wrote a pretty long-winded post with all my thoughts about primers a while back, so I’ll spare you a repeat of that. All three of the above were lovely and helped my makeup apply smoothly and sit beautifully on top, but none of them helped control oil even a little bit. The Too Faced Hangover RX was nice and hydrating and smells slightly of coconuts, the Guerlain Meteorites Pearles Primer is just beautiful to look at, and the Laura Mercier Oil Free is a cult classic, but I think all three of these would be much better suited to someone with normal to dry skin. I realised they weren’t working for me so I made an effort to finish them up on boring work days when it didn't really matter if I got too shiny. I wouldn't repurchase any of them as they're not right for me.
I love the Maybelline Fit Me Concealer. It gets said that it’s a dupe for the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer and I think it’s close but even creamier. This is the concealer I turn to when I have an active blemish because I find it’s the least drying one I own that still provides a decent amount of coverage, which means it doesn't accentuate that dryness you get during/after a pimple as much as most other concealers, and it's great under the eyes too. It’s one of my favourites and I had already picked up a backup before this one ran out. The YSL Touche Eclat is a classic and I actually got this as a gift from my mum in a two-pack so technically I didn’t repurchase it but I’ve got another one. I realise people say this is meant to be a face highlighter but with skin as pale as mine it's not going to make much of a difference if I were to use it like that. It doesn’t have a lot of coverage and if I were to splurge on a high end item with my own money it probably wouldn't be this, but it’s great under the eyes to brighten things up and I like to reduce the need for coverage by using the Bobbi Brown Corrector underneath.
I’ve spoken about both of these powders before and they’re two of my absolute favourites. Lightweight, non-cakey and oil-controlling which is everything I look for in a powder. I've been through several of the Bourjois Healthy Balance Powders before and I finally got backups of the Soap & Glory One Heck of a Blot Powder a while back so I let myself finish this one up. Both have been repurchased. I always thought the hype around the Urban Decay Setting Sprays would be a bit bullshit, and they’re not cheap either so I started with a mini, but I really do think they help your makeup last longer. It’s not going to be a replacement for powder if you're oily, but I did pick up a full size of the De-Slick when I realised I was running low on this guy. It's not the kind of thing I use every day but it's good for special occasions or for when you know you need a little boost.
These first four are liquid liners, two are total 10/10 hits and two are duds for me. The one third from the left with all the writing rubbed off is my beloved NYC Liquid Liner which is super cheap, super black, doesn't fade or smudge, can be removed easily and is basically perfect in every way (by my standards). It's only fault is that it's not easy to get your hands on at all, but I've linked to an Australian retailer which I think would be the best way (though I haven't bought from them myself. The other one I love that's available in every Priceline is the Maybelline HyperSharp Wing Liquid Liner. It's not especially cheap but Maybelline goes on sale all the time so if you can wait you shouldn't have to pay full price. Traditionally I'm not such a fan of pen liners because I feel like they dry out much more quickly than the bottle-with-brush style of the NYC one. But this lasted months and months, is super black, doesn't fade or smudge and has a really precise nib. It has a brush tip that's kind of pinched so you can control whether you use the thin or thick side. If I were recommending a liquid liner for a beginner this would absolutely be the one. The only slight negative is that it borders on waterproof which means it takes a little extra effort to remove, but I'd prefer that over a formula that smudges any day of the week. I also weirdly don't think this was released in the US and I'm not sure about Europe, but if you can get your hands on it it won't let you down.
As for the duds, I mentioned when I first got the Soap & Glory Supercat that the nib doesn't work for me. It's way too thick for my tastes and I found it really hard to work with, so I decided not to hang on to it anymore. The other dud is the Maybelline Hyper Glossy which I didn't like because a) I prefer my liner matte, so that part is my fault, b) the brush tip is SO minuscule it takes too long to fill in your wing, and c) the lid broke after I'd only used it a couple of times so I couldn't even test it out properly. As for mascara, the Bobbi Brown Smokey Eye and the Clinique High Impact were both nothing special. I thought I'd heard a lot about the Clinique one but come to think of it, I think the hype is actually about the Extreme Volume version, not the regular High Impact. I didn't really care for either of them, but I did really enjoy the Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara. I get the hype on this one. I generally don't spend my money on high end mascara but if I were going to, this would be in the running for a repurchase. I believe it smudged a bit by the end of the day, but it gave me really full, black, defined lashes. Put it this way, it's not better than sex, but it's a good mascara.
I got about 3/4 of the way through this pot of MOX Botanicals Peppermint Lip Butter before it started to smell a bit funny and I thought it was time to go. It's a lovely product though, I think I got this in a subscription box way back in the day, it's nice and hydrating and organic and all that and I really enjoyed it. Clearly I didn't finish up this Essie Polish in Turquoise and Caicos but was so sheer it took me 3 coats to build up and I just don't have time for that, so I decided not to hang on to it.
Moving on to skincare, I feel like at this point talking about Bioderma or the Garnier Micellar Water is a bit redundant as I've done it a million times before. They're both great, but this was the last bottle of Bioderma I had sitting around and I probably won't repurchase it unless I get a great deal because the Garnier one is just as good and much more budget friendly. The Garnier 2 in 1 Express Eye Makeup Remover is a great bi-phase makeup remover for when you're wearing waterproof eye makeup or a stubborn liquid lipstick. Loads of high end brands make these, i.e. the Lancome Bi-Facil Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover but at $55 a pop I'm more than happy with my $7.99 Garnier one.
Of these four cleansers, the only one I loved enough and would repurchase is the Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel. It completely melts away makeup while still being light enough to use in the morning without feeling heavy or leaving any residue on the skin, it comes in a great, controlled pump bottle and it's not outrageously expensive, plus it smells beautiful and is an absolute pleasure to use. I can't say a single bad thing about it except that you can't tell when you're about to run out of product. Not only is it worth all the hype it gets, but at around $40 you'd be hard pressed to find anything else this good at that price point. The Alpha-H Age Delay Cleansing Oil is lovely as well, but I'd repurchase the Oskia option over it simply because of the packaging. They're quite similar but the Alpha-H is more oily feeling and can melt slightly in the tube, meaning it would sometimes leak. There is nothing wrong with the product at all, I just think it would be much better suited to pump packaging and given they're around the same price, for me the choice is clear.
The Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil is another lovely cleanser but this one comes down to price. The packaging is beautiful and luxurious but it's quite heavy, meaning even the mini bottle I bought isn't great for travel, and at $48 US for a full size, it's considerably more expensive than the Oskia and it's not a better product that's worth the extra money. As for the First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser, I bought this as a second cleanser to use after removing makeup with one of these balm/oil ones, and it just wasn't for me. It's very affordable and FAB generally seem to be a good brand to turn to if you have sensitive skin (I don't) but I just didn't enjoy the feeling of this on my face. Although it wasn't stripping and doesn't contain any particularly harsh ingredients, I found that it felt like soap. You know that kind of oily-feeling slip that soap has? It reminded me of that and I'm not about it, so I ended up putting this guy in the shower to finish it off as a body product.
Despite the huge rise in popularity of chemical exfoliants in recent years (at least in my world), I still feel like there's a lack of options for a gentle exfoliating toner that's suitable for daily use. There are plenty of serums, masks and overnight treatments you can turn to, but when it comes to something you can use every day there still isn't a lot to choose from, which is one of the reasons I think Pixi's Glow Tonic is so popular. It fills that hole in the market and these days it's pretty readily available, so I always keep a bottle on hand because I know I can rely on it and it works for me. Daily exfoliation isn't for everyone and there are lots of people out there with sensitive skin who don't get on with glycolic acid or who find exfoliating that often irritates their skin, but I personally find that using an exfoliating toner in this way keeps my areas that are prone to congestion/uneven texture clear, i.e. my chin and jawline that like to grow patches of tiny under the skin bumps that don't do anything. Toners like this also remove layers of dead skin to allow all your expensive serums to penetrate more effectively, so I love having one in my routine.
On that note, I loved the Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion but unfortunately not long after I picked this bottle up they reformulated it and the new version is called Clinique Clarifying Lotion 1.0. In the new formula the key ingredient, salycilic acid, dropped from 5th on the ingredients list down to 9th, meaning there's probably a lot less of it in there and the toner overall is probably a lot less effective, which is such a shame because I would have definitely repurchased the old formula. It had a slightly thicker-than-water texture that made it annoying to put onto a cotton pad because it liked to roll off instead of soaking in, but it felt lovely and hydrating on the skin. It's also one of the very few daily-use exfoliants I've seen that's made with salycilic and not glycolic acid, making it perfect for people who are acne prone, as salycilic is oil soluble and can penetrate pores to help keep them clear. To the best of my knowledge all the other Clinique toners are laden with alcohol, and I wouldn't touch them. While I do use the occasional product that contains alcohol, it's most definitely not in the form of a twice-daily toner. It's a real shame this product has changed, and I would love to see more BHA toners on the market.
As for the hydrating toners, I've said before that I enjoy this step in my routine but that's it's not strictly necessary and isn't going to change your life. That said, I think La Roche Posay's Serozinc is great and I love the fine mist and continuous spray. The Heritage Rosewater & Glycerin Mist is lovely too, and great if you want a simple rosewater to help soften and hydrate the skin. There are lots of rosewaters on the market but this one (obviously) contains glycerin as well for added hydration, and it's also endorsed by Edgar Cayce if you're into that sort of thing. The Caudalie Beauty Elixir is a classic and while it's incredibly expensive for what it is and what it does, it smells beautiful and I love using it every now and then. If you're on a budget you can definitely skip it, but it's a nice nostalgia product and I still love it. Hydrating toners to me are much of a muchness but I do really enjoy these 3 and have repurchased all of them at least once in the past.
Okay, so for serums/treatments, the ones I'm most excited about are the REN Wake Wonderful Night Time Facial and the Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age serum. I really enjoyed both of these products and would consider buying both of them again. The REN one is super comparable to Sunday Riley's Good Genes at about 1/3 of the price and with 10ml more product. Although I've got a 15ml bottle of Good Genes lined up next, I've been just as happy using the REN treatment as I have been with the samples of Good Genes I've had in the past. It's basically an exfoliating treatment that uses lactic & glycolic acids as well as fruit enzymes to stimulate cell turnover (remove dead skin) so that you wake up with brighter, clearer looking skin. Although the results aren't as noticeable for me as when I use Alpha-H's Liquid Gold the night before (which I still do from time to time), I can still definitely see a difference come morning. If you'd like to try something gentle this is a good place to start, and, superficially it smells like creamy orange lollies. Also I will say that I could still feel quite a bit of product left when the pump stopped working, so I snipped off the top and poured the rest into some little pots and there was probably 1/4 of the tube left. I'm actually still working my way through those last little bits, so if you pick this up keep that in mind for when you're near the end.
I tend to use exfoliating treatments or a retinol in the evenings and prefer something hydrating and/or with vitamin C in the mornings, and I really liked the Hylamide serum as a hydrating option. It's slightly thicker than water so when you drop it onto your hand to smooth it onto your face it's not so thin that it runs everywhere or drips through your fingers, which is something that annoys me about other products. But viscocity aside, it contains peptides as well as 5 forms of hyaluronic acid, so if dryness or dehydration is one of your main concerns this bad boy would be one to consider. I much prefer it to Indeed Labs' Hydraluron (the serum in a tube, not the tub pictured above) which was super popular online a few years ago. Although the packaging is less travel friendly it sinks into the skin quickly, doesn't leave behind any stickiness and is just more of a pleasure to use. I found that my skin always felt very plump and hydrated when I used this and for me that's key to having both my skin and makeup look the way I like. I also like the Hylamide SubQ Eye Serum and after finishing up my first bottle, I'm now working my way through the rest of Tenneil's as sadly it didn't work out for her so she passed it on to me.
The Alpha-H Liquid Gold Radiance with Ferulic Acid (seems to be discontinued?) was a bit of a funny one for me. It's completely liquid, like water, so when a product like that is packaged with a pipette I'm never sure if I should try and drop it straight onto my face (it can drip out of the pipette on the way), onto my hand and press it in (it runs between my fingers) or onto a cotton pad and wipe it on (you have to use more product). Ferulic Acid is a great antioxidant, but even if this were still available I'd probably just stick with Liquid Gold (which I've used on and off for years) as you get more product in better packaging with identical results.
As for the two mini oils, there's the REN Omega 3 Serum Oil and the Josie Maran Argan Oil Light. The REN one was quite an oily oil, if that makes sense, so it took a while to sink in and left my face feeling pretty greasy, both at night when I applied it and the morning after. It didn't do anything miraculous and since I didn't love the texture I wouldn't buy it. I preferred the texture of the Josie Maran one as I found it to sink in quicker, but I generally prefer to use products that are a combination of beneficial ingredients as I think they're going to do more for my skin than one ingredient alone. So while it's lovely and hydrating, and probably great if you have sensitive skin and don't want to use anything too complicated, I'm all about the science backing my skincare so I'm inclined to go for something with a little more oomph in the formula.
As for moisturisers, I got the Origins Night-a-Mins as a freebie a while back from Sephora and while it's quite a rich, hydrating night cream, I'm not all that interested in Origins as a brand anymore and wouldn't choose to buy this again. I did really enjoy the Hydraluron Moisture Jelly though. It's a little tacky on the skin, but as I used SPF over it in the mornings before applying makeup it wasn't really an issue for me. I love the packaging - you remove the lid and press the top down and the product is pumped up through a hole in the centre, and found it to be a great, lightweight gel that's still very hydrating. Good if you've got oily skin and don't want anything too rich or greasy feeling. The La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo+ is a staple, though my boyfriend uses it a lot more than me these days as thankfully I rarely break out anymore (yay!).
I also finished up a tube of the Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentrate that's said to be super popular among makeup artists for applying under makeup. It's a little controversial though as one of the main ingredients is mineral oil. I personally don't have a major problem with it, especially in things like lip balms or body moisturisers (though I resent brands charging a lot of money them as mineral oil is super cheap). I just think the argument against it is mostly because it doesn't do anything particularly good for the skin. Mineral oil essentially creates a barrier over your skin, so if you have really sensitive, irritated skin then it might work really well for you. But if you're concerned with anti-aging then I think the main argument is that there are far better ingredients out there that will be of a lot more benefit to you. So while I don't hate it, I don't really buy any mineral oil based skincare as I prefer to use things that I think will do more for me. That's just my 2c on the whole thing anyway.