Saturday, August 8, 2015

Vitamin E cream & DIY masks

This not-so-lovely picture is actually a two-fer of empty finished products. First, a long time ago I finished the original Puritan's Pride Vitamin E Cream. I got it from, you guessed it, my grandma's house. It was amazing! A really thick, lovely simple cream that kept my face soft and smooth through a harsh Chicago winter. I definitely planned to buy it again but haven't yet as I'm a product junkie and like trying new things. Vitamin E is a famous antioxidant and has moisturizing properties, so I was right to love this cream.

After I finished this jar, I cleaned it out and hoarded it, then later on I made a mask from activated charcoal, bentonite clay, coconut oil, aloe vera gel, chamomile tea, and peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils. The recipe can be found here. It made quite a lot-- I filled up three similarly-sized recycled containers. I didn't use it super often, and a little lasts a long time, so by the time I was finishing the last one the consistency had lost it's light fluffy texture, but it still seemed to work fine. The idea is that activated charcoal draws out dirt and oil out of your skin, and bentonite clay does as well. If I were to make it again I think I'd leave out the essential oils. I think they were in there as they have antimicrobial qualities, but Paula and others think they can be irritating to the skin, especially peppermint and eucalyptus. They did give it a really nice smell, though. I've already talked about how menthol is supposedly irritating even though I've never felt or seen any negative effects. Paula hates on all the "natural" plant-based ingredients that feel and smell "clean" to us, and she scares me by saying things like "skin can be very good at concealing it's being irritated." It seems counterintuitive to think that even if you don't notice irritation, somehow essential oils are damaging your skin anyway. She gives them some credit saying in low enough concentrations they are ok and they do have some benefits.

I'm on the fence about essential oils in general. Some people are really ALL ABOUT essential oils. There's a whole community of people online who are like snake-oil salesmen and swear by them for everything. This sounds mean but it's often the same people who live in Utah and are gluten-free even though they aren't celiac. Some of the essential oil hype I sortof buy and want to try: Lavender oil in your mascara for longer lashes! Essential oils as a bug repellant! DIY clove perfume! A subset of those people really caution you against putting them undiluted on the skin, but then you get others who are like, go ahead! As a teen, I used to get a cotton ball wet with water, drip a couple drops of tea tree oil on it, and use it on my face to treat acne. Now I think diluting it with oil would have been smarter. I still love my oils in steams for congestion, or in my winter humidifier, or I put my oil-cleaning mix in an old tea tree oil bottle so it has trace amounts of it and smells of it. More on that later. How do you find this shit, Amy? Pinterest. The answer is Pinterest. And Mormon bloggers. Enjoy that last link, I really am fascinated.

Right, but did the mask work? It was supposed to be a DIY version of the super popular and super expensive Glam Glow mask. I didn't feel like spending money on activated charcoal but found it was the main ingredient in some anti-gas capsules I had lying around (TMI??) and also I had some old Indian charcoal tooth powder, which although I couldn't confirm this, I suspect was made of activated charcoal. I just used a combination of those instead. Now that I finished it all, I think I'll just go with an easier version, which is Bentonite Clay mixed with apple cider vinegar. My bentonite clay is the brand Aztec Secret and I got it at Whole Foods. Because this mask is simple I can make it in one-dose batches and it has the same face-clearing effects. I don't have raw apple cider vinegar anymore but I have a load of regular kind, so I just use that, and it's nbd. It's better to use vinegar than water or the tea/oil mix in the charcoal recipe because it balances the pH making it gentler on your skin. It does smell funny but it helps to keep acne at bay and my face feels smoother afterwards. The charcoal one worked about the same, it helps dry up any pimples and to keep breakouts from getting started. I'm not great about regularly using a mask unless I have current breakouts, but my current skincare regime of oil-cleansing and the odd mask seems to be working for the time being.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dry Shampoo

I use a lot of dry shampoo because I only wash my hair about once a week. It does get pretty greasy by the end, especially when I'm working out, or biking, or it's summer. So by the end of the week it's usually about 50% dry shampoo. I've tried Klorane since it came highly reviewed by every blogger and magazine and website, but to be honest it didn't seem anything special, and the bottle went super fast. I felt I only got a few uses out of it, and for the cost, it was not worth it. 

I got a three-pack of these batiste dry shampoos at Ulta on sale. They have horrible scents, like "sassy and striking mamba." I have no idea what these smelled like besides artificial. However. They soak up oil like a boss and make my hair magically look clean and fluffy again, which is the job of dry shampoo. They also barely leave any white residue and I can just fluff and go rather than rubbing it in a lot and brushing. Despite being tiny, I feel like they lasted longer than the Klorane, and they were super cheap. Batiste in general is cheap and I would buy it again, in an unscented version.

Except, I've been using plain cornstarch and it actually works fine. It's much messier and takes longer to apply, and it doesn't make the hair as fluffy as an aerosol can of dry shampoo does, but it works. I either keep it in an Altoids tin, where I just put my fingers in there and pick some up sticking to my fingers, then work it into my hair and repeat and repeat, or in an old cleaned out spice container with the little holes so I can sprinkle it in my hair. But cornstarch is kinda clumpy and it tends to not come out and then dump a ton out. The cornstarch also tends to really need a lot so it builds up if you are using it a few days in a row. However it is basically free, and it's travel-friendly as it is not a liquid, gel or aerosol. The internet also suggests using arrowroot powder which I also purchased fairly recently, and might try out. I think the same issues would apply. Although it's cool to go DIY, save money, and reduce the waste and chemicals associated with aerosol and packaging, though they no longer destroy the ozone layer, sprays tend to work better for me. I'm still looking though, and might try the Bumble and bumble Prêt-à-Powder.

Another similar product I've tried is Sally Hershberger Caffeine for Major Body 3-in-1 Volumnizing Spray. I read this review and went to a bunch of shops until I found it at CVS. At first I really thought it was working, but recently I've noticed if I spray it on hair that maybe already had some dry shampoo in it, it leaves this horrible sticky white residue. So, I no longer recommend. Maybe it's best to add volume to clean hair but that's not why I need dry shampoo.

tl;dr Dry shampoo is a life-changer.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Skincare Empties & Blue Lagoon

Good for me, I have been using up more products! It drives me crazy having four shampoos with half an ounce left in each, but that's where I am, so hopefully I can finish those soon. Here are some that I finished while on vacation in UK & Paris, because I'm fabulous.
Clinique Comforting Cream Cleanser - good but kinda greasy. I have had this for ages, I think it was another product I got from my grandma's house. I have never bought a Clinique product in my life and I don't think I will, I'm too snobby and they come from the mall. Turns out this product has been discontinued, so, it was pretty old. However, for my dry skin this was a pretty good cleanser, but it didn't make my skin feel clean. It is like putting on a thick lotion and then rinsing it off, with the residue you'd expect. The residue wasn't there if I wiped it off with a cloth but I'm not a huge fan of using a cloth, I feel it makes my skin a bit red and irritated. Started to smell funny by the end of the bottle which was probably about 5 years past its expiration date but don't judge me. I really do recommend a cream cleanser for the super dry-skinned like myself, maybe a cold cream?
Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen Lotion: My mom left this at my apartment when she visited, and then she didn't want it back. I realized why later when I was in Target and a nice lady was giving them out for free! So now I have another one. I like travel sizes for my daily products -- SPF face lotion, concealer, mascara -- so I can take them to the gym in the morning and not carry something big around all day, but, it makes my skin sting a little. I have no idea why, even the new one does. I'll finish it off since it's so tiny but, no thank you, lotion shouldn't hurt. I don't really have sensitive skin either, and I put it on in the morning when I don't even wash my face so it's not like it's getting into overly-exfoliated irritated skin or anything. I guess I could use it on my body but it would cover maybe one leg.
Blue Lagoon Algae and Mineral Body Lotion: this lotion was just OK despite the Blue Lagoon's status as the most magical, other-worldly, lunar landscape spa which is simultaneously bizarre, packed with people, relaxing, and good for your skin. Oh and also you can drink booze while in the pool/spa. The Blue Lagoon is a natural hot springs, the likes of which are everywhere in Iceland, and the water and the sediment in it (not sure how to describe this) is full of minerals like silica and algae that are really good for your skin and extra-relaxing. It has been turned into a huge super-modern spa and it is extremely popular. We only got to spend an hour or so in there due to arriving at the same time as about 5 other coach buses, long lines and somewhat poor planning by the travel company we booked with, but it was a magical hour. And then my brand-new-fiancé left his iPhone by the pool and I had to race back through the maze that is their locker rooms, fully clothed in my boots, to retrieve it minutes before the bus to the airport left. Anyway what was I saying... yeah, we got cheap flights to Iceland that included hotel, transport to and from the hotel via the Blue Lagoon, and while that was easy, really, the hotel left a lot to be desired and we didn't even stay there one night as most of the interesting bits of Iceland are more than a (5 hours of daylight in winter) day's drive away. But, I got engaged there! And Iceland is a fantastic, beautiful, near-perfect place. I think our travel package came with a coupon for $10 off something at the Blue Lagoon store so I got a small travel set which was $10.

Here I am in the Blue Lagoon, with some white silica mud stuff on my face. You can kinda swim/wade up to areas with buckets full of it and you put it on your face, then it just goes back into the water, and you can feel it around your feet all squishy. It's very clean and white so it doesn't feel disgusting like you would think. Afterwards my skin was all soft and smooth and wonderful. However the packaged products do not deliver the same effect. You have to go to Iceland for that.

Gratuitous second picture of the Blue Lagoon lotion, and Jergens Natural Glow lotion: I had an old bottle of this from, you guessed it, my grandma's house. I don't think gma was the fake-bake type so some other female relative must have left it there. I used it up but didn't feel like it actually delivered any color, gradual or otherwise, to my super-pale skin. I chalked it up to an old bottle and irregular use, but I was disappointed. Later I tried Target-brand Up&Up gradual tanning lotion and I was very impressed, but that's a subject for later. I went to Austin for a friend's bachelorette weekend and I wanted to look tan, so all the outdoorsy fit tan Texans would accept me as one of their own. I fake-baked using a serious, all-at-once self-tanner, which turned out horribly splotchy. I had to soak most of it off and scrub some of it off, which led to skin abrasion disasters. I reapplied much more carefully using a lotion instead of a spray, which turned out less dark but more even. I saw this travel size at Walgreens before I left and decided to buy it to use in place of my normal body lotion to keep my tan topped off and keep it from fading too quickly if I was in the pool or shaving frequently. I felt it did a good job for that purpose but in my experience, this won't help you actually get darker over time, even with daily use. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Empties: Yes to Carrots, L'Occitane & Lanoline Beauty Product Reviews

I'm writing this while I make this carrot recipe, which uses 14 carrots (!) but I only have two, so this will have to substitute:
Yes to Carrots Nourishing daily facial moisturizer with SPF 15: I got this at Target when I ran out of my old SPF moisturizer, not remembering I have two or three more of the same thing in the cupboard. But I had it at my fiance's place where I spent most nights (now I've moved in and having all my stuff in one place is amazing) so I used it up pretty quick. It got good reviews on beautypedia/Paula's Choice and the price was right. At first I really liked it, it was light and had a nice texture, but it did take a long time to rub in and not have a white cast to my skin, so I probably won't repurchase it. There's really not that much in the little jar, but it has a great dispenser that pushes up from the bottom as you go.
L'Occitane en Provence Verbena Shower Gel: this was a hotel sample. I love L'Occitane because I love the south of France and I'm a sucker for nice smells. However this was just shower gel, really lemony smell, really annoying bottle. I like either a bar soap or a more moisturizing, creamier (gross?) shower gel.
Shine by Bliss body lotion: another hotel sample, way too thin and watery, I expected better out of a brand sold at Sephora? However I use body lotion every day, all over, and I am really tall so there's a lot of area to cover, and this got the job done.
Comfort Care ultra moisturizing lotion: even less memorable
Lanoliné Manuka Honey Skin Renew Firming Serum: I got this along with a Lanoliné moisturizer at TJ Maxx, my new favorite place for beauty product shopping because I see higher-end stuff for so cheap. I also wanted to try out something with manuka honey because it gets a lot of buzz (see what I did there) as well as collagen and vitamins, however I don't believe the latter ingredients did much at all. Also, it's from New Zealand, so that means it's good. Please, travel gods, I want to go to New Zealand! I used this through the colder months usually as a serum under my usual moisturizer. I think it helped keep my skin happy in the arctic desert that is winter in Chicago, but I went pretty heavy on the moisturizer too, so it's hard to know. It was a clear gel and went on a little tacky, and the bottle went really fast. Tactilely and aesthetically, I liked the heavy frosted glass bottle, but I suppose it isn't the best for active ingredient stability. Since I didn't see any major improvements in my skin I wouldn't repurchase. I know antioxidants are more a preventative measure to make up for sun damage now and hope things look good in a few years, but it felt like nothing and wasn't a real pleasure to use, so I'm moving on. Other reviews says this really tightened up wrinkles, so I probably shouldn't buy things made for people 20 years older than me.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Skin Care and Beauty Product Empties Reviews

Boots Botanics Hot Cloth Cleansing Balm: I mentioned this cute cleanser earlier, and it went really fast. It was a decent price, they have it at Target, and it came with a little muslin cloth. I used it in the winter as I wanted to use a cleansing balm instead of a gel cleanser, with the idea it would be less drying. However, I was torn, as I felt like rubbing it off with hot water and a cloth left my face pretty red and may have irritated it more than a standard cleanser. I read this advice on skinacea which suggested that cleansing balms or oils wouldn't strip skin (of it's natural oils, I assume) but would thoroughly clean off all makeup and sunscreen, unlike some foaming cleaners which can leave residue. However, this was just a bit too much of a pain in the ass. I have a long bedtime routine as it is, and the extra time dealing with the cloth was just a bit much.

Mary Kay TimeWise Age Fighting Moisturizer: Good God, this stuff would not die! Seriously it is the zombie of moisturizers. I was so sick of this thing and could not wait to finish it. I do think I swiped it from my grandma's cabinets a long time ago and so it probably was quite old and none too fresh, and by the end it was starting to possibly smell a bit off but I was on a mission to finish it and it didn't seem to be causing any issues with my skin so I just pushed through. It's actually a decent moisturizer, although I wouldn't buy it again. I only used it at night - I use an SPF lotion in the morning. It's got a pretty thin consistency, lightweight and sinks into the skin pretty quickly instead of an oily balm. It's a little expensive if you aren't in the habit of stealing your grandma's cosmetics but like I said, it did last forever. It's fragrance-free which is nice.

Korres Wild Rose Face and Eye Serum Brightening and Line Smoothing: Quite a name, but honestly this didn't do much for me that I noticed. However I don't really have many fine lines yet and I'm not 100% clear on what "brightening" means as a skin-care claim. I think it's usually for products meant to lighten dark spots or uneven pigmentation, so I probably had no business using this as I have already really pale skin and unevenness in my skin tone is usually post-acne spot redness, not brown pigmentation. I bought this in a moment of weakness at Sephora along with mini sizes of their evening primrose eye cream and white tea gel cleanser. This did last a long time. I wasn't a huge fan of the weird-ish rose scent, or the really thin, almost watery gel consistency, although it did sink in fast and wasn't terribly messy. I think I was just trying to get on the antioxidant/ preventative skin care bandwagon, but I've found better ways to do so by now.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Beauty Product Empties

Even though nobody cares, I'm going to keep reviewing beauty products I finish up. Mostly I'm interested in skin and hair care, rather than makeup. Other than mascara I have literally never finished a container of makeup. It's not that I don't use it, just a little bit goes a long way!
This Anew Genetics eye treatment was an eye cream sample I picked up 5 of at Walgreens or something? Somehow I got 5 of them. It's an Avon product that is marketed at people more concerned about wrinkles than I am. Moderately good reviews on Amazon/makeupalley, but Paula's Choice/beautypedia gives it nothing but hate. Even though I tend to agree with Paula on not believing a specific eye cream is necessary, in this small sample it felt really nice and thick and moisturizing. No other effects.

On the other end of the age concerns spectrum, I have had this travel-sized Clean and Clear Morning Burst Facial Scrub for ages. I actually think it kind of irritated my skin when it got older, but don't remember that when I was younger. However it spent a really long time in travel-product-only purgatory and my skin had more acne when I was younger and I didn't really bother with it, so who knows what effect it had then. You know how skin care people are always saying that the natural grains that some products use to exfoliate, like sugar and apricot seed bits and so forth are too harsh for your delicate baby face skin, and you should use plastic microbeads? Apparently microbeads are making their way into the waterways (duh) and it's somewhat of a problem in Lake Michigan. They get in the lake, the fish eat them, the plastic in them soaks up all kinds of "toxins" (like what? it doesn't say) and then we eat the fish/plastic, etc. They may have already banned them in Illinois. That's all well and good with me, but the oceans are already full of tiny bits of plastic from manufacturing by-products and post-consumer waste. So, fun fact. As it turns out there are other "natural" alternatives for physical exfoliating, like oatmeal, but also there's chemical exfoliation, which is a whole new (amazing) world. I recently did a lot of reading about chemical exfoliants, and am trying out this one which is a baby step into the world of chemical exfoliants (cheap and very gentle). It feels pointlessly watery going onto the skin but I do believe it made my skin feel softer and smoother right away. I haven't used it regularly due to my irregular housing situation, so the jury's still out if it helps with skin tone or mild acne.
You may or may not already know that this product, Clean and Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment, is also a chemical exfoliant. Yes, salicylic acid is commonly known as BHA or beta-hydroxy acid, although from my reading I understand it isn't technically a BHA but it's close enough and that's what everyone calls it so let's just go with it. The chemical exfoliant that I'm trying is an alpha-hydroxy acid or AHA. You can read more about it in the links provided. Anyway the main difference for your skin is BHA/salicylic acid is mostly in acne products because it is able to get inside the pores and some ability to kill the acne-causing bacteria. However in my experience this tube did not do shit. It stands to reason that salicylic acid products would work best when daily applied to the whole area that is blemish-prone instead of a spot treatment (which this was) in order to keep those pores cleared. And it is my experience that once you do get a spot you must kill it with benzoyl peroxide (and/or hydrocolloid bandages/Nexcare patches which are a whole other -- disgusting and awesome -- subject entirely). However, lots of people find salicylic spot treatments effective, and it's possible this was old or the pH was off. Here's a breakdown of the differences between these two ingredients which are the main ingredients of basically any standard acne treatment. My skin isn't too sensitive so I can nuke it with 10% benzoyl peroxide for a couple days if I have some spots and then go back to my all the lotion all the time routine. This intense moisturizing routine is dialed up to 11 in the winter, and I really feel like it keeps my skin clearer than using products aimed at acne, which are generally aimed at dry skin. So I recently gave away all the leftover cleansers for oily, acne-prone skin to a friend with oilier skin and will keep trying products for dry skin.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Beauty Product Reviews - Empties

Friends are surprised that I'm really into beauty products and hair stuff and have a membership at Sephora because I'm usually unshowered and my hair is in a five-second bun. However, I'm really into it. I read beauty blogs and everything. I find it helpful to read product reviews before I drop my hard-earned cash on products with dubious claims. Even though everyone's skin and hair is different it's still nice to know. This is the holy grail of beauty review sites but it's really too much information, and this is good if you are a crunchy hippie with some disposable income.

Anyway, even though I like beauty products I go through them insanely slowly (see: unshowered). All the stuff here I probably had for years past its use-by date. I personally think that the use-by date is a plot by the manufacturers to make you throw out perfectly good stuff and buy new ones. However, I also hate waste and eat old food and use grubby old eyedrops that make my eyes sting, so I might not be the best authority on the subject. Anyway. I didn't actually buy any of the products above with the exception of the face wash sample which was 1,000,000 years old anyway and I probably bought in high school. Most of them are things various family members left behind in the bathroom at my grandma's old house. I am trying to have a cleaner, more "green" and natural routine so as I use up old products at my snail's pace, I will replace them with more natural and organic products as budget allows.

Estee Lauder eye makeup remover:
Honestly I am new to eye makeup remover. I wear mascara some/most days and liner maybe twice a month so it's not really a high priority. I think I used to use lotion on a q-tip before I got this little bottle. I guess this got the job done without feeling too oily like the other one I have, Clinique makeup remover (which I have a sample size of and also did not buy.) To me it feels wasteful to use all those cotton balls or q-tips. I might go full-rich-hippie and buy these reusable ones? Or the muslin cloth that came with this Boots cleaning cream from Target (which I bought because of online advice like this), or one of those microfiber cloths? When I finish the Clinique, I think I'll go with coconut oil like the entire internet says to do. I've tried it when I was traveling and it gets the job done and it's cheap and simple.

Mary Kay Time Wise Day Solution SPF 25
You know this crap is old because I can't even find the SPF 25 version online, in the bottle that looks like this one. Mary Kay in her wisdom has upgraded to SPF 35. I also have a bunch of those stashed waiting to get used up. I am aware that sunscreen stops working after it's been sitting around too long and this may be useless. However it is also my understanding that being in an opaque bottle with a squirt dispenser is ideal storage as light and bacteria don't get in there as fast to bring ruin. Whatever, I used this up and I didn't get a sunburn on my face the whole time. This tended to get tiny dried up bits in the dispenser opening that would then get on your face and not rub in, but it was also old as the hills so that could have been it. This gets the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for whatever that's worth? I feel like some minimal effort towards protecting my "milk bottle white" skin from the sun is required. Before maybe last year I never used lotion in the morning, or SPF unless I was going to be outside a lot, so a combination product is key. I know it's not quite as effective, but I am not about to put two things on my face when I can't even manage breakfast without being late for work. However I hugely prefer the Yes to Carrots lotion with SPF that I bought because of this review or a similar one.

Moroccan Oil Hydrating Conditioner
My cousin left this in the shower at my grandma's house and I swiped it. Sorry. I do not use many salon brands so I wanted to try it out. This was slightly better than bog standard conditioner. I wouldn't pay full price, but it was nice. There wasn't much of this left by the time I found it and I go through a lot of conditioner because I have long, thick, dry hair so I didn't use this more than a few times. It had a really thick consistency (unless that was just because it was the old bottom of the bottle?) that I like a lot.

Neutrogena Active Sport Transparent Sunblock Gel SPF 30
I actively (see what I did there) hated this stuff but I used it up anyway! It's a clear gel that makes horrible sounds when you squeeze it out, it smells overwhelmingly of rubbing alcohol, and it kinda balls up on your skin if there's too much in one place or you keep rubbing. If you reapply at the beach and you're already dirty and sweaty, it's even nastier. I love the beach and I hate spending money, so that's the only reason I finished this off. Ugh. Thank God it's out of my life.

Neutrogena Oil Free Acne wash sample
Like I said I have had this since the dawn of time. It lasted forever because I mostly used it on trips as I don't like using hotel bar soap on my face. I have moved on from foaming oil-free face wash, because I have dry skin with no oil to speak of, but I think this worked ok for me when I was younger and oilier. The packaging is annoying because there's no dispenser under the cap so you just squeeze it and WAY too much comes out. I think I still have about half of a full-size bottle of this or a very similar product, so I may save it for the summer.

Neutrogena Deep Clean Cream Cleanser
What is with all these Neutrogena products? I had no idea I had so many. Maybe they call to me and my family members (from whom I steal all my products) in a subliminal appeal to clean reasonably-priced Nordic values. This is slightly less drying than the foaming cleanser even though the tingly menthol is supposed to be somewhat irritating. I actually really liked using this. I like the tingly feeling, and I like using a thick cream cleanser that doesn't leave a greasy film (looking at you, Clinique cream cleanser.) I felt like my skin stayed in good shape when I was using this on the regular. Apologies for the picture, I guess the ink on the packaging started to deteriorate when I mauled the bottom of the tube trying to get out the last drops. I don't think I actually ever bought this but I won't because I want something with simpler ingredients and don't need things with potential irritants targeted at oily skin.