I thought I would do a little roundup of what has been added into my skincare routine recently. I tend to bring new products in as I run out of others on a one-for-one basis, while sometimes throwing minis into the mix to keep things interesting. The structure of my routine never really changes, so I didn’t feel the need to include the whole step-by-step process, so these are just the things I’ve been testing out recently.
Serums are easily my favourite category of skincare and I think they’re the most crucial step in addressing whatever concerns you may have for your skin (unless you have compromised or reactive skin, of course). I find I get really good results from incorporating a retinoid product into my routine, and after finishing up Sunday Riley’s Luna, I pulled my bottle of The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion out of my backups drawer. I’m about halfway through the bottle so I figured it was time I gave you my thoughts on it, but before I do I also wanted talk a bit about The Ordinary and my thoughts on the brand.
The founder of The Ordinary and parent company Deciem has been doing and saying some seriously erratic and questionable shit over the last year or so, and I’m at a point where I’m pretty hesitant about continuing to support the brand. In saying that, I think it’s important that effective skincare is accessible at all price points, and I don’t think it’s fair to expect everyone to spend $50, $100 or $400 on a serum. No matter how much you love skincare, or how badly you want to address your skin concerns, spending the money on high end skincare simply isn’t within everyone’s budget. The choice to purchase something more expensive lies only with people who have the means to do that. If all you can spare is $12 for something from The Ordinary, then I say keep buying from them. I’m not going to judge anyone who uses products from The Ordinary/Deciem regardless of what the founder does because at this stage there still aren’t many competitors in their price range. I probably won’t purchase anything from Deciem again, despite really enjoying some of their products. But I didn’t want to lie and pretend I’m not using their products as I still currently own several, and don’t think it’s right to waste them either.
I also thought this was worth reviewing because retinoids can be tricky in terms of working out a tolerance level as they come in many forms and some are more irritating than others, so I wanted to talk about my experience in case it helps anyone decide on a product for themselves. The Granactive Retinoid Emulsion contains two retinoids – the first is an encapsulated form of retinol, which is supposed to make it release more slowly, thereby causing less irritation. The second is hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR) which is a retinoic acid ester, which means that although it’s not retinoic acid (what our skin cells actually use) our skin interprets it as though it were and benefits from it all the same, but without the irritation.
So far all the products I’ve used that contain HPR have been pretty gentle, but tend to have a noticeable effect on my skin overnight, so I’m a big fan of the ingredient. Obviously when compared to Sunday Riley’s Luna, this product doesn’t include beautiful plant oils, doesn’t save you an additional hydrating step at night, and certainly has more potential to be irritating than Luna because it’s stronger, but it’s also less than 10% of the price, so ya know. I find that this isn’t overly drying (which can be an issue with retinoid products), although I do always follow with a moisturiser or oil afterwards. It gives me the results I’ve come to expect when I use a retinoid – namely very smooth, clear, plump skin when I wake up the following morning. Any emerging blemishes have been reduced and areas of uneven texture have been refined. I haven’t been using this every single night as I like to rotate through my serums and don’t like to over-do it with one ingredient, so I can’t say for sure that if I used this every night for a week that my skin wouldn’t start to react, but from using it 2-3 times a week I’ve seen great results. If I still felt comfortable buying from The Ordinary I would probably pick this up again.
Vitamin C Serum
I was using a Hylamide vitamin C serum until recently, and because it’s also under Deciem I’ve chosen not to repurchase it and I’m in the process of deciding what to buy next. Vitamin C is an essential in my skincare routine because it boosts collagen production, helps fade pigmentation and protects your skin from free radical damage. I got my hands on a few minis of the Keihl’s Powerful-Strength Line Reducing Concentrate (AU) which has recently been reformulated by the brand and although their website is pretty lacking in information, from what I can gather this contains 10.5% ascorbic acid, as well as 2% ascorbyl glucoside for a total of 12.5% vitamin C. So it’s not the strongest possible product out there but that’s still a decent dose.
The full sized product comes in a pump bottle which is good for product stability, and I appreciate that on their official website they sell a 15ml size for $30, which is a much more affordable way for the average person to try out the product. From there they jump to 50ml, 75ml and 100ml and totally bypass the standard serum size of 30ml. I personally would prefer to buy my vitamin C products in lower quantities just because vitamin C is notoriously unstable, so I don’t really want to have to get through 100ml of product with the key ingredient degrading over time. If I were to buy this I’d choose the 15ml size and would be happy to spend more money over time if it means each time I repurchase it I get fresh product.
Water can cause ascorbic acid to oxidise, so this is a water-free formula that is pretty silicone-heavy. It has that trademark silicone slip but is fairly thick, so that means you need to use quite a bit of product to spread it all over the face. It’s ever so slightly gritty – not in an exfoliating way by any stretch, but it’s still noticeable. It also has a slight warming sensation – not “heating” exactly, the way some masks or cleansers might be, but I can definitely feel a little something that I don’t feel with other products. It disappears within a few seconds and doesn't really make a difference to me either way but I thought it was worth noting. This is a decent vitamin C option, however it doesn’t contain a combination of other ingredients (like ferulic acid or vitamin E) that can help boost the efficacy of vitamin C, so it would have been nice to see those included here.
In between minis of the Kiehl’s (I’ve got a 3 in total) I’m also trying out a mini of the Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Power Serum (AU) which contains 20% vitamin C (Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate), as well as 3% vitamin E (Tocopheryl Acetate) and 2% Ferulic Acid, making it a very good vitamin C option. This is considerably more expensive serum than the Kiehl’s ml for ml, but it’s also a more complex and potent formula, so I can see why. It’s up to you if any serum is worth $120 to you, but if you’re already looking at that price range, then this is well worth considering. The product itself is a lightweight white cream that absorbs easily into the skin, and it’s packaged in a pump bottle. The one downside I have to mention is that it smells really bad. They haven’t included any synthetic fragrance, that’s just the way it smells, so it’s probably for the best they haven’t tried to disguise it, but it’s definitely something you need to get used to. I haven’t made up my mind yet about which vitamin C product I’m going to buy (either one of these or something else), but I’m sure you’ll see it around these parts once I decide.
Niacinamide + Hydrating Serum
Is this entire post me talking about replacing Deciem products? Almost. I’ve mentioned in the past how much my skin benefitted from using a dedicated niacinamide serum, namely the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% from The Ordinary, and although it meant paying a fair bit more, I wanted to try something else. The Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Re.Pair Serum (AU) caught my eye because niacinamide is listed as the fifth ingredient. It’s probably not in there at 10%, but the bonus is that this serum also contains glycerin as well as various plant oils for hydration. With my oily skin, find this doubles up as a hydrating serum as well as my dose of niacinamide (although I do follow with a moisturiser or oil afterwards) so it’s a two in one.
This serum is based around what Dr. Jart+ refers to as the Centella Asiatica Complex, which is a group of four extracts of the Gotu Kola plant (Tiger Grass) – Madecassoside, Madeecassic Acid, Asiaticoside, and Asiatic Acid. These extracts have been proven to be beneficial in the treatment of small wounds, burns and skin conditions like psoriasis. They encourage the skin to build fibroblasts (essential for wound-healing), and collagen, while also inhibiting the development of scars. Fortunately I don’t have any burns on my face, but that sounds like an excellent way to help your skin repair itself after a breakout to me. If you have particularly sensitive or reactive skin this could definitely be one to look at. The product is a pale green, watery liquid housed in an excellent dropper bottle. When you unscrew the lid, a button pops up from the top and you press it to dispense the product. When you screw the lid back on, the dropper automatically refills itself, and I find that one pump is the perfect amount for my face – it’s the little things, you know? I’m glad I decided to take a chance on this because so far I’m really enjoying it and I think it’s a great serum.
I want to start off by saying that eye cream isn’t the most essential step in my skincare routine. The eye area is where most of us first start seeing fine lines because the skin tends to be thinner and more delicate, and I certainly think it deserves care and attention, but I’m just of the belief that you can take most serums around the eye area and you don’t strictly need to buy dedicated eye products, particularly if you’re on a tight budget. Most eye creams are essentially moisturisers and don’t necessarily contain a potent concentration of actives, so if you want to fight the signs of ageing, a few good serums on rotation are what’s going to the best job for your eye area as well as the rest of your face. In saying that, I still buy eye products, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to!
Lately I’ve been using a mini of the Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream (AU). This is a bit of a power-player when it comes to eye creams – not only does it contain a combination of effective actives, it’s also hydrating at the same time. It’s $78C but compared to most other eye products on the market I’d say you’re actually getting your money’s worth here. It contains a blend of 8 peptides as well as 5 forms of vitamin C. Peptides are cell-communicating ingredients that encourage the skin to produce more collagen, which is essential for young-looking skin. The product has a fairly thick, creamy texture that nicely hydrates and plumps my under eye area, and it comes packaged in a pump bottle (not an open jar, which is important for the ongoing stability of the vitamin C). As I said, I don’t think eye creams are strictly necessary, but if you like using them then this is one of the best I’ve seen and next time I’m looking to buy an eye cream this will most likely be it.
Alongside the Drunk Elephant sample, I’m also working my way though a bottle of the Hylamide Eye Serum that I had in my backups drawer. Although the eye serum is loaded with peptides, it’s not particularly hydrating, so I ended up buying the Clarins Hydra-Essentiel Eye Mask (AU) to layer over the top.
This is marketed as a mask, but because it sinks in and you don’t need to wash it off I just use it as an eye cream. It doesn’t contain any special anti-ageing ingredients or claims beyond hydration, but because I’m using an eye serum underneath all I really want this to do is hydrate, which it does perfectly well.
It’s got a fairly thick gel texture that sinks in easily and isn’t sticky, and I also really appreciate the pricing – it’s $33C for 30ml! Although it’s marked up quite a bit in Australia – sorry about that. If you struggle with keeping your area looking hydrated then you would probably enjoy this, and if you’re on a budget you could definitely take your serum/s around your eye area for their anti-ageing effects and layer this mask on top and I think you’d be fine.
I’m really not a sheet mask kind of girl, so when eye patches started taking off I felt pretty much the same way about them. It’s much more cost effective and you produce far less waste if you buy a mask in a tube/pot rather than single-use, individually packaged masks. However, the Heimish Bulgarian Rosewater Hydrogel Eye Patches (AU) caught my eye for several reasons.
You get 72 pieces in the pack, or 36 pairs for $28. I know if I bought eye masks that cost $8 a set I would never use them because I’d always want to save them for a special occasion, but because you get so many of these it makes me far more likely to actually use them.
They come in a tub (with a spatula to help you get them out) so they’re nowhere near as wasteful as individually packaged masks.
The patches themselves are water-soluble! So again, they’re far less wasteful than sheet masks you throw away because nothing goes in the bin with these.
The third ingredient is niacinamide, which my skin absolutely loves.
The patches themselves are slightly sparkly (which really serves no purpose) and they have a soft rose scent from the rosewater that’s in the product, although fragrance is also listed as the final ingredient. I keep mine in the fridge and find them really gentle and soothing under the eyes, although they do tend to slip down a bit as I’m wearing them and it can sting slightly if you get the product in your eye (which I have definitely done). I like putting on a set with a different mask on the rest of my face when I’m having a bath so I can dissolve these patches in the bathwater once I’m done. They’re not a necessity for me, but if you’re going to purchase eye patches and sheet masks, it’s worth going for something that’s both water-soluble and packaged in bulk like these.
The final new addition to my routine is the Glossier Zit Stick. I’m generally opposed to paying too much money for a spot treatment, particularly because the $5 Salicylic Acid from The Ordinary worked great for me, but once again I decided to look elsewhere and this launched just in time. Although I’m not majorly into Glossier’s skincare (with the exception of Milky Jelly Cleanser and their two masks), I think they have done a great job here. Most spot treatments focus on one ingredient that’s supposed to reduce pimples, but they decided to combine a whole lot of them in one. There’s 5% Benzoyl Peroxide, as well as a derivative of Salicylic Acid, Niacinamide and tea tree oil, all of which I have had varying levels of success with in the past. I got a little cluster of pimples right around the time I got this in the mail, so I got to test it out right away (lucky me). I found that it helped reduce the size of my blemishes pretty well, and for the most part it brought them to a head the following morning, and it didn’t hugely dry out the skin around my blemishes the way Benzoyl Peroxide treatments normally would.
I think they did an excellent job with the packaging – the tip is very precise and only dispenses a small amount of product at a time so it doesn’t go to waste. The rollerball is stainless steel so it doesn’t harbour bacteria and you don’t have get your hands involved to apply it. It has four little holes around the side of the rollerball that dispense product when you twist the other end, so you don’t have to roll it back and forth 50 times to get anything out. They say it’s meant for taking with you in your handbag and reapplying throughout the day, but I think that would only really work for people who truly live that #nomakeup Glossier life. I personally wouldn’t apply this over the top of foundation, and I don’t think certain concealers layer over it particularly well, so I’ve mostly been using this at night and it’s been working out for me so far.