Since I ended up with minis of quite a few moisturisers that I’ve heard a lot of hype about, I thought I’d put together a post in case any of you are curious about these products too. I’ve said before that I don’t think moisturiser is the most important part of my skincare routine, or that I generally think it’s worth investing a huge amount of money in them, but I don’t think I’ve ever really given much of an explanation, so I’ve decided to go a bit deeper into that sentiment today.
In my eyes, the job of a moisturiser is to hydrate the skin, which is a pretty simple thing to do. Granted, I’m speaking as someone who has oily skin that isn’t sensitive, so I don’t have to worry about dry patches or flaky skin (unless I’ve had a blemish) or whether or not I'm going to react to a new product, so I’ve never really struggled to find a moisturiser that works for me.
In saying that, I think if you have any particular skin concerns, they’re going to be best addressed by serums/treatments that target those concerns. Because I focus on that stage of my routine more than any other, I’m perfectly happy for my moisturiser to simply hydrate my skin and lock everything in without expecting it to do much else.
Of course, if you enjoy luxury and want something that’s an absolute joy to use, typically that means spending a bit more for that experience. That isn’t necessarily a waste of money because value is in the eye of the beholder, but if you’re on a budget and don't want to spend more than you have to, I’d save your money for serums and treatment products and use an affordable moisturiser.
The reason I feel strongly about this is because so many skincare/beauty companies market moisturisers as the most important anti-ageing product money can buy. In fact, some companies have the audacity to sell us moisturisers that cost upwards of $200 that come packaged in jars and have a mineral oil base (ahem). For the record, I don’t think mineral oil is evil, but it’s a very cheap ingredient and I would never in a million years pay $200+ for it.
Jar packaging is perfectly fine for a simple moisturiser that’s just intended to hydrate, but if the product claims to include, say, antioxidants, then by their very nature they’re going to oxidise every time you open the jar and expose them to light and air. By the time you get to the end of the product I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve broken down past the point of doing anything beneficial for your skin, so I don't see the point in paying extra for them. Of course some antioxidant ingredients are more stable than others, but at the end of the day no one wants to buy something and feel disappointed because it didn’t do what it said it would. Because I rely on my serum stage to get things like antioxidants, AHAs, retinoids, niacinamide, etc. (you can read more about that here), I’m not very drawn in by the claims that moisturisers make about their ingredients. So as far as I’m concerned, anything else I might get from my moisturiser beyond hydration is a bonus. Anyway, let’s get into the reviews!
Drunk Elephant Lala Retro
First up we have the Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream (AU) whose cute name really does suit the interesting texture - the closest thing I can compare it to is one of those whipped yoghurts that stays in the container even when you hold it upside-down. It contains a blend of oils and really does feel like it’s been whipped, because although it’s quite thick it’s also light at the same time. As you smooth it into the skin it spreads easily and almost feels like it melts, which is really enjoyable. I don’t find it to be too heavy for my oily skin, although I do prefer using it at night rather than during the day, but I’m sure you could get away with either/both.
I’ve only got a mini pictured, but the full sized product is packaged in a round container with a pump top, which I think is an excellent choice. Not only does it look cute, but it means that your product isn’t exposed to light and air every time you use it, and presumably there’s less waste as I’m guessing it dispenses the right amount each time. It contains a form of hyaluronic acid along with the plant oils for hydration, and they also claim it contains antioxidants from green tea seed. As mentioned, I use other antioxidant products in my routine, but the packaging means that these will probably be effective, so that's a nice bonus for me.
I’ve tired a few things from Drunk Elephant now and I have to say this is my favourite one and the one I’d probably consider buying a full size of. At $75 CAD (+ tax brings to about $85) and $88 (AU) it’s reasonably expensive for a moisturiser, but you do get 50ml, and I appreciate that they don’t make super outlandish claims about what the product can do, because the core of their pitch is still hydration. They also don’t lean too heavily on green/organic/natural marketing which is a pet peeve of mine. You don’t need to spend this kind of money if you’re on a budget, but if you’re looking to treat yourself this is one of the loveliest moisturisers I’ve tried, and I sure miss it now that it's gone.
Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturising Cream
Next up is the Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturising Cream (AU). I feel like this was really hyped up a few years ago, but I actually think it’s been reformulated since then (I think the old version was just called Goat Milk Cream) so I don’t know if all of those rave reviews still stand.
It comes in the same pump-top container as the Drunk Elephant, but upon feeling the texture of this product, I was surprised to find that it’s very thin and lotion-y. In fact, it runs out of the mini tube that I have, which isn’t what I had in mind. They also don’t make any super outlandish claims, but obviously the product is named after the inclusion of goat milk, though I highly doubt the goat aspect provides any particular skincare benefits, aside from it being a unique story for the brand. It contains “biologically-active milk polypeptides” which could have been shortened to polypeptides as “biologically-active” is just marketing fluff. If the ingredient wasn’t active then it would be useless, so one would assume it’s active even if you don’t say it.
This is slightly more expensive than the Drunk Elephant, but it’s available in a 30 or 50ml size depending on your preference. Between the two I’d personally pick the Drunk Elephant as I prefer the texture. This isn’t a bad moisturiser at all, and it’s recommended as a good option for sensitive skins, but I didn’t personally fall in love with it enough to justify the price tag.
Glossier Priming Moisturiser
The Glossier Priming Moisturiser is next as it’s the one that’s most similar in texture to the Goat Milk Moisturising Cream, although this isn’t quite as runny. Glossier is still hard to get your hands on in most parts of the world, but of the products I’m talking about in this post, this is the most budget friendly. At $27 CAD for 50ml it won’t break the bank (unless you have to pay hefty customs duties or worry about mail forwarding, of course). It contains hyaluronic acid to help with hydration, as well as vitamins A, C & E, although they’re pretty far down the ingredients list, which implies to me that they’re in a pretty low concentration and probably aren’t going to do very much. The inclusion of a retinoid (retinyl palmitate – the vitamin A) is a strange one to me - is it in such a small amount that they don’t expect it to do anything - in which case, why bother? Or is it expected to work - in which case, why is it in a moisturiser intended for daily use when we’re always told to use retinoids at night? I haven’t personally experienced any problems using this, but that’s definitely something that doesn’t make sense to me.
They claim it has an “anti-redness complex”, but I don’t find that this has any effect on my redness. It’s also supposed to include an “oxygenating agent” that delivers oxygen to your skin cells and improves texture, which I don’t buy at all. Frankly, I don’t see how oxygen and texture are linked, or what ingredient that is from the ones listed. I also think my skin can get its own oxygen just fine.
I know it sounds like I’m talking a lot of shit about this product, but all that aside, I actually quite like it. In my eyes, it’s a simple, no-frills moisturiser that does the job just fine. It’s lightweight and is great for using in the mornings under makeup (and SPF, of course) because it absorbs quickly and doesn’t make me feel greasy. If you can’t get your hands on Glossier, a similar alternative is the La Roche-Posay Toleriane (AU), which comes in 4 different textures/formulas depending on your preference and how dry your skin is. I’ve only used the original formulation but I’ve always enjoyed it and think it’s a great budget option.
Belief The True Cream
These last two have a lightweight gel texture, and they’re both blue, which I’m guessing is to make you think of water since they both have that theme going on. My understanding is the whole “water cream” thing comes from Korean skincare, where they somehow developed the technology to make a gel-textured moisturiser feel remarkably like water as you apply it to the skin. The most water-feeling one I’ve tried is the Dr. Jart+ Water Drop Hydrating Moisturiser, but the Belief True Cream Aqua Bomb (AU) does a great job of it too.
I think moisturisers like these are great for normal / combo / oily skin types, particularly if you don’t want anything that feels heavy when you’re going to apply makeup over the top. I’m not sure how people with properly dry skin would get on with these, as dryness is a lack of oil, so you’d probably be better off using a richer, oil-based cream (or a straight up oil). Although I enjoy using oils on my skin, I definitely save them for night time and like using something on the lighter side in the mornings, and I think most oily-skinned people would share that sentiment. Alongside the Aqua Bomb, Belief also has the Moisturusing Bomb (AU) in their line which is a richer formula that’s probably better suited for people with dry skin. I know Stephanie Nicole is a huge fan of it and she has good taste in skincare. My biggest annoyance with this product is the packaging - I’m not sure if it’s the same in the full size, but when you open the mini, the cavity that actually contains the product is the same width as the smaller part of the lid. So the extra width on the bottom half is for nothing because it’s hollow, which makes the packaging unnecessarily bulky. I liked using the Aqua Bomb mini while I had it, but the Dr Jart+ product I mentioned is around the same price but contains twice as much product (100ml) so if I were going to buy a Korean water cream I’d stick with that one because this isn't worth the extra money to me.
Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream
I had a sample of the Sunday Riley Tidal Water Cream (AU) a while back and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to give this another whirl. I wouldn’t say it’s quite as water-like as either of the Korean ones, but the thicker texture does give it a bit more of a luxurious feel, and I think drier skin types would probably enjoy this more than the other water-creams.
At $85 CAD (+ tax) this is the most expensive product in today’s line-up. It contains two forms of hyaluronic acid, as well as papaya enzymes which are supposed to exfoliate the skin. I don’t personally want my moisturiser to be exfoliating, so I think this is a bit of an odd inclusion. In any case, it’s about halfway down the ingredients list, so there’s probably not much in there to begin with, and enzymes are a fairly unreliable means of exfoliating because they’re not very stable, particularly not in jar packaging like this, so I’m not too worried about them.
The thing that makes Tidal different from the others is the inclusion of Alpha-Arbutin at a 1% concentration, which they claim “aggressively brightens the appearance of hyperpigmentation and dark spots.” Alpha-Arbutin is proven to be effective, but I’m not entirely convinced that it makes this moisturiser worth the price tag.
The Ordinary have a serum called Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA which is under $10, so if I were especially concerned with lightening pigmentation I’d be more inclined to pick that up (given that it’s double the strength) and combine it with another moisturiser. Interestingly, the Ordinary’s product description also states that “Alpha-Arbutin is extremely sensitive to degradation in the presence of water if the pH of the formulation is not ideal.” Given that the Sunday Riley product is called a “water cream” one would hope it’s got the right pH. So although the inclusion of Alpha-Arbutin is probably a good one, and assuming the pH is right and the product remains stable all the way through use (despite the packaging) then it might be worth it for you. But unfortunately as much as I love other products from Sunday Riley, this one isn't really worth the money for me when I compare it to some of these other moisturisers.
I think if you’re on a budget or would just prefer to spend your money elsewhere, some great options are the Glossier Priming Moisturiser (provided you have access to it), or the La Roche-Posay Toleriane range, which comes in several different textures/formulations depending on your preference. I would also recommend the Dr. Jart+ Water Drop Hydrating Moisturiser for normal to oily skin if you want to try something a bit different (again, providing you have access). As for a luxury option? In terms of doing anything beyond moisturising, I don’t think there are many that are worth spending a lot of money on, and I do think your cash could be better invested in the serum stage of your routine. In saying that, if you’re partial to a bit of luxury and want to treat yourself to something lovely, my top pick is the Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream. It has a beautiful texture and I think people of all skin types would enjoy it. Although the Sunday Riley Tidal Water Cream also feels beautiful on the skin, I personally prefer the Drunk Elephant, and it’s housed in packaging that gives the antioxidants the best chance of actually doing their job, so that’s why it gets my vote.