summer skincare favorites

On July 31, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

In the summer I am, like most, drawn to lighter skincare formulations. Here are my current favorites, for face rather than body this time, in the order I would apply them.

IMG_7189

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner

Key ingredients here are avocado and apricot kernel oil, and squalane, a botanical lipid that behaves much like skin lipids. This has a milk-like texture and a faint, aloe-ish scent. I like to pat this on with my fingers rather than involve a cotton pad. Wonderfully hydrating, the main idea being that you get some hydration going on before you try to seal that moisture in.

This is one of my favorite face products at the moment, up there with the Clarin’s Blue Orchid face oil. Picked up on a recommendation from Brit facialist Caroline Hirons, a great, straight talking resource. It’s a kind of serum/oil hybrid, a fantastic light liquid serum that has played well with everything I’ve layered over it. It smells like perfectly ripe peaches, sinks in promptly, leaves a healthy fed-ness behind. I plan to repurchase.

[OR]

Sunday Riley Juno Hydroactive Cellular Face Oil

The most expensive of the lot, but really nice. Really very, very nice.  A complex blend of superfood oils, basically it does everything.  A “blend of lightweight, fast absorbing oils extremely high in natural retinol, Omega-3, 6 & 9, essential amino acids, Vitamin C, UV shields, and natural anti-inflammatory agents for luminous skin. Anti-aging, antioxidant.” It doesn’t smell especially good (not bad, just vaguely herbal), and this is because they didn’t add anything (especially no essential oils, which can cause reactions in sensitive skin) to make it smell a particular way. Same story re: the healthy nourished effect mentioned with the REN serum. We’ll see how long it lasts before making any plan to repurchase, but I approve. Maybe I’ll talk about it more when I’ve used it a while longer.

Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum

Lisa Eldridge recommended this in a skincare video and I was curious to try it out. Clinique, for the record, has an awesome return policy, and you can try the product and still return if unsatisfied (others with great return policies: Sephora, Mario Badescu, Beauty.com, Ulta). I like it so far, but not sososo much that I wouldn’t switch it up when it’s gone.

(I like to use the REN serum in the morning and the Clinique at night)

Regenerist Luminous Tone Perfecting Cream Moisturizer

I’ve been using this for about 2 months. I don’t know. I can never tell if these things are helping with my pigmentation (my main skin issue at the moment). If I see a difference (and lately I do), there are always too many factors to determine which product deserves the credit. I’m inclined to chalk most of it up to the prescription retinol (if you have skin issues, step 1 is to see a dermatologist. For one thing, my prescription retinol is much, much cheaper than its over-the-counter equivalents) but active brightening ingredients here and there (and there, and there), don’t hurt. I figure. Nice creamy texture, not a bad price point. 

A solid moisturizing SPF [Always check for ‘UVA/UVB’ or ‘Broad Spectrum’ in the description] with some bonus skincare benefits. This is my budget option, and I’ve repurchased it a few times.

[OR]

Origins Mega-Bright SPF 30 Skin tone correcting oil-free moisturizer

Smells great, a light citrus scent, lovely texture, plays well with others. Not cheap, but really nice. Really nice but almost gone and I’m going to try this Murad Essential C one next, about which have heard no end of good things.

 N.B. I like these products but, of course, they may not work for you. Try first!

summer bodycare favorites

On July 23, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

Sunscreen, moisturizers, body oils, body scrub…here are a few of the body products I’ve been enjoying so far this summer.

IMG_7182

Banana Boat Sport sunscreen — I’m not that fussy about which sunscreen I use on my body, I mostly want an old-school sunscreen smell (I really enjoy that smell when it is authentic, in the context of sunscreen), and happily turn to brands like Banana Boat and Coppertone.  For a great explanation of the various types of and methods for rating/categorizing sunscreen, and what that means for you, check out this video, which I found educational. Facialist Caroline Hirons interviews plastic/reconstructive surgeon Marko Lens, the brains behind the Zelens skincare line, who has an excellent Italian accent.

Elemis Frangipani Monoi body oil — Smells awesome. Frangipani (or plumeria) is a tropical flower with a lush, peachy, creamy scent that reminds me of some lilies, but more fruity. Monoi is a term for coconut oil that has been infused with the tiaré flower, or Tahitian gardenia (which smells a lot like frangipani). Great for (easiest to get out of the bottle in) summer because coconut oil is solid below 76°.  The fragrance is nicely balanced and I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts but won’t repurchase. I will instead go for

Monoi Tiare Tahiti Monoi Tiiki Tahiti Coconut Oil — Same idea as above (sans frangipani) but much less expensive. The scent is stronger here, and a bit less complex (fewer ingredients), but also lovely. I find that it dies down pretty quickly, anyway, so don’t be afraid of how it smells out of the bottle. This brand also has a vanilla version, with a vanilla bean in the bottle, and it smells like frosting in a really authentic and delicious way (not in a synthetic, gross way). A bit too sweet for me but I know there’s an audience out there for it.

The Body Shop Olive Cream Body Scrub — I exfoliate year-round but with particular care in the summer. This smells great, bright and herbal. I wouldn’t mind if it were a bit scrubbier…but it works. I use a body brush beforehand, and sometimes an exfoliating glove along with the scrub, so there’s no shortage of friction. I like a number of salt and sugar scrubs as well, and am not too particular about the specific product slotted in here.

Weleda Citrus Deodorant — The active ingredient here is biodynamic (good for you, Weleda!) lemon peel oil but to me this smells like lime water with a little something else in it, which means it smells like a gin and tonic. Mojito, gin and tonic – why not smell like your favorite summer tipple? I don’t use this under my arms, typically, more as a refreshing body spray (all natural ingredients here, and no antiperspirant function) on the parts of my body most likely to overheat, or the parts that have already overheated. This bottle will last a while but I’m interested to try the rose one next.

Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter —  Coconut oil and shea butter whipped into a rich, luxurious cream. I like using straight coconut oil, too, or one of my options above, but this sinks in quickly and leaves skin moisturized for a good while. Such a good use of $5 or whatever it is. This smells like coconut frosting, so you’ll need to be OK with that. Not too sweet for me, though.

Nuxe Huile Prodigeuse — Having a dry oil to hand is really useful. So quick to apply and you don’t have to worry about getting oil stains on your clothing. This oil smells particularly lovely, a slightly old-fashioned (rather, currently out of fashion, but no less beautiful for that) floral bouquet that reminds me of classic French perfumers working directly from floral extracts (say, Houbigant, and others from Grasse). This floral is complex, restrained, elegant. It can easily be worn in lieu of perfume or, as I often do, layered under perfume to add longevity and interest. This one is a bit of a cult favorite, and there’s also a version with shimmer in.

Jergens Natural Glow Moisturizer — As I’m using sunscreen so faithfully, if I want a deeper tan (a noticeable-to-me tan) it’s got to be a fake one. Tanning is your body trying to protect you from sun damage, and also the sign that the damage is done…so a safe tan is a fake tan. I think the main complaint is that fake tanners tend to smell like biscuits, but as far as I’m concerned they smell like those awesome Speculoos ginger cookies I love, and I can’t at all see the problem. I use this just on my legs, when I think to. I don’t have streaking issues as long as I wipe off the excess with a paper towel or some such, and have exfoliated beforehand. I have the St. Tropez bronzing lotion as well, and while it is a bit nicer, the color a bit more realistic, the formula a bit more effective…it’s not so much better that I’m inspired to pay for it again and again when there are decent alternatives like the Jergens (and now many others) out there. As for ‘firming’, good grief. Don’t believe that stuff.

My face is a whole different story.

skincare: brazil nut oil

On February 21, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

IMG_1735

Brazil nut oil smells so incredible, like cocoa butter and vanilla and roasted hazelnuts rolled into one. This one from c. Booth smells great if you like gourmand scents and smelling vaguely edible. As it is a dry oil it doesn’t linger on the skin or stain clothing (at least, I haven’t noticed it staining anything, though it does have some dye in it). This Brazilian Nut spray is discontinued, I gather (I found it randomly discounted), but they make a Tahitian Monoi one I fully intend to try after this, and a Honey Almond one that sounds good, too. The spray bottle is convenient for getting the middle of my back, and generally seems to speed things up.

I’m always using oils in the winter (all year round, really, but with especial faithfulness in the winter, and on my face as well), which is great for both conditioning and protecting the skin. I often find their effects more lasting than a standard moisturizer, and I often find them to be less expensive, too. That is, inexpensive oils condition better, to me, than inexpensive moisturizers. I apply oil immediately after showering, when the skin is still damp, and (especially in the case of sweet almond oil, another favorite, or any non-dry oil) give it a moment to be absorbed before putting clothes on*. I’ll often add a bit of a pleasant smelling oil (often a more expensive blend) to an inexpensive base oil (say, avocado, coconut, olive, or sweet almond) to luxe it up, and extend the life of the former.

*I really only run into problems with oil transferring onto my clothes when I have tried to put too much on (more than the skin can take), or am wearing light, fussy fabrics. In the latter case I am simply more careful, or will moisturize with something else.

The Body Shop also does a Brazil Nut Oil, which isn’t a dry oil but smells great, too, and I find the texture of their oils to be light and pleasant.

into: hair oils

On April 1, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

IMG_2603

My hair is perennially parched, ultra-absorbent, and scoffs at standard conditioners. The answer: oil. Straight up oil.

I find that oil is the answer to many things.

[Though if your hair is fine, it would probably be disastrous to use the kinds of volumes I am using.]

So, I wash it (if it is a washing day), condition it, do a rough towel dry and then:

1/2 – 1 tsp. of a blend of coconut oil and Vatika, a coconut oil based hair treatment that you can find at Indian grocery stores†. It smells like coconut mixed with lemon and the rich, earthy scent of henna. It is not very expensive, but I blend it with the slightly cheaper coconut oil to stretch it and to up the coconut scent, which I love. These are both solid at room temperature but melt instantly upon contact with skin. Melted between the palms, I apply this generously to all but the first few inches of my hair (onto which I smooth the last remnants), and then comb out.

To the tips I add another custom blend. As with face oils, I just look for organic, 100% pure options, whatever looks good. The blend changes over time, as I just keep arbitrarily filling my little pump bottle (the Macadamia Healing Oil Treatment, which smells awesome and masculine and ambery, but which is not great because it has silicone* in, and is expensive, anyway, so I just use the bottle now) with whatever I have at hand, but it is something like this:

[it turns out I forgot to put a few in the picture…you will have to imagine them, or look at my post on face oils]

macadamia nut oil. 100% pure, the kind you would buy for cooking. This shows up in a lot of drugstore hair products these days, and it is not a coincidence. No distinct odor. This is the dominant ingredient.

sweet almond oil. Because it’s not too expensive and is ultra-nourishing. This is probably next on the official ingredient list, quantity-wise.

avocado oil.  Smells a bit like food…but only a bit. Avocados and avocado oil are good for most things relating to hair and skin. I also cook with this.

olive oil.  Also extremely versatile and generally good for hair and skin. And doesn’t have to be expensive.

apricot kernel oil. Why not? Provided the textures play well together, the more the merrier, with oil blends.

argan oil.  Just a few drops, to give the blend an air of luxury.

sesame oil.  Maybe a TINY bit, because it smells strongly of food, but it is great for skin and hair. Great way to use that inedible sesame oil you accidentally bought from the American supermarket, because six years ago you thought you would be fine not going with an Asian brand. [But it was not fine, was it?] Alternatively you can put it on your feet.

All of this is still cheaper than some high-end leave-in treatments I’ve tried, and I am so much more satisfied with these results.

[Soon I’ll experiment with castor oil as a base for a scalp stimulant. Castor oil is a lot more viscous than the oils above and doesn’t mix readily with them.]

Pin up into the loose, old-lady bun I’ve been doing lately, and air dry [always]. My hair IS actually oily after this. For hours. That is, if you touched it your hand would come away slightly besmirched. It doesn’t look oily, though. It glows with health, and is soft and hydrated. The curls are wonderfully defined and have good integrity (once dry I can move them around quite a bit before they disband into frizz). And I don’t want people touching my hair anyway.

 

† I cannot, however, recommend the jasmine hair oils you can also find in Indian grocery stores. Jasmine is a notoriously animalic, fecal essence (some of the molecules in jasmine and feces are nearly identical), and you will not smell like a flower garden.

* Silicone is not bad, really, but its effects are cosmetic only, and you have to wash periodically with clarifying shampoos to remove build-up. I avoid it because I want a genuine sense of the health of my hair, and I want to nourish it, not just create the effect of nourishing it. It’s in so many products now, though.

into: face oils

On February 16, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

IMG_1591

I have naturally oily skin but I like to treat it as if it is sensitive, dehydrated skin. Oily ≠ hydrated.

My preferred method of hydrating, protecting, and nourishing my skin is: face oils. For years now they have nearly taken the place of moisturizer altogether, especially at night, and my skin hasn’t been this soft and healthy since…before puberty. The lighter oils aren’t any greasier/heavier than a standard sunscreen, and many absorb completely within half an hour or so. They are also extremely soothing after exfoliation or skin treatments and rarely cause the stinging that the chemicals in some moisturizers can.

A good quality oil is often cheaper than a good quality moisturizer, and a little goes a long way. Most can be used for your hair or in the kitchen as well (not to mention as makeup removers and cleansers). I find dropper bottles the most convenient. Not too fussed about brands here, I just look for organic, 100% pure options and go for whatever is reasonably priced. Different oils provide different benefits, and I like to rotate several depending on how my skin is feeling on a given day.

argan oil.  Healing and nourishing, antioxidants, fatty acids, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard. Lightweight, absorbs quickly, no scent. I like this one and this one.

apricot kernel oil. Vitamin A & fatty acids. Healing and good for especially sensitive skin. Also quite light, and, like argan oil, good for when the skin is blemish-prone.

rosehip seed oil. Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, good for skin regeneration and treatment of scarring. You can go not so cheap(though I found this one discounted at TJ Maxx), or you can go really not so cheap. Downside that this dyes your pillow orange, upside is your skin the next day. Thick and rich, can really only be used at night or on isolated dry patches.

jojoba oil. Similar to the skin’s natural oil so it absorbs beautifully and has no distinct odor. Trader Joe’s has a good price. Inexpensive enough to use all over the body as well.

sweet almond oil. I tend to use this on my body rather than my face as it is especially moisturizing, inexpensive and has almost no odor. Absorbs well into the skin (unlike, say, baby oil, which is basically mineral oil, which provides a barrier of protection  but is difficult for skin to absorb (like petroleum jelly)). Great carrier oil for making your own blends. I like to add random essential oils to scent it (many of which also have skin benefits, but do your research first). Recommend frankincense (go smell frankincense), patchouli (not just for the 60s anymore), chamomile, lavender, peru basalm, ylang ylang.

Then there are blends, which can be very expensive indeed. Watch for cheaper blends bulked up with cheap oils like safflower. They will moisturize but don’t have the benefits a concentrated, high quality oil will. I have some of these but they are for the oil-guzzling body, not the face.

I don’t regret acquiring the Clarins rebalancing oils, which are precious but smell amazing and are packed with great nutrients. The Blue Orchid one smells especially awesome. Kind of a sweet, light, compelling patchouli. [Men, go put this on your face and just see what happens.] If, like me, you have a thing for cardamom, try the Santal one. Or, you know, choose one based on your skin concern. Smell before you buy, is what I say about these.

I’ll do a separate post about the oils I like for my hair, which are many. Will also soon experiment with olive oil, avocado oil, hazelnut oil, and castor oil in various contexts. We’ll see how it goes.

N.B. I didn’t like evening primrose oil, which, without heavy dilution with some nice-smelling stuff, smells actually rancid. Some oils should be stored in the refrigerator as they will go rancid, but this one smells unbearable anyway.

Pages:12»