The Best Over the Counter Product Melasma and Hyperpigmentation

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fact or fear: Hydroquinone is dangerous.

When it comes to choosing skincare treatment products to help fade acne scars, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation, using the appropriate percentage of hydroquinone under the direction of a dermatologist doesn’t just offer hope, it offers visible results.






Hydroquinone, when applied topically, helps to inhibit the production of melanin, the substance that causes dark pigments in all skin types. It has been proven to dramatically reduce brown spots. This is not a new ingredient with inconclusive research behind it. Hydroquinone has been used safely for more than 50 years.


Unfortunately, misinformation has stopped many consumers from trying hydroquinone, which is the only medically-proven skin lightening agent on the market. Dermatologists and experts in the skincare field offer a completely different view and continue to prescribe it on a regular basis, simply because it works and it works fast.

Industry professionals consider hydroquinone to be the gold standard to lighten hyperpigmentation.


Montclair, NJ dermatologist Dr. Jeanine Downie appeared on the Dr. Oz recently as part of an expert skincare panel. While I am not generally a Dr. Oz fan, Dr. Downie is a well-respected dermatologist. She talked about skin discoloration and recommended using 2% hydroquinone saying that “It works by blocking the hormones that cause the discoloration, and it breaks apart the pigment.”


Dr. Downie mentioned something very noteworthy in her television appearance: the concentration of hydroquinone. Concentration is also mentioned in the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association’s position paper on hydroquinone. In this paper, experts state that a 2% concentration is considered perfectly safe for over the counter use. Doctors regularly prescribe 8% and above in their medical practices.

Science simply does not support any speculation of topical hydroquinone being harmful when used at the recommended concentrations.


In fact, if you are one of the millions of people concerned about dark spots, scars or hyperpigmentation, a well-formulated skincare product with 2% hydroquinone is designed to lighten all types of hyperpigmentation permanently and without the downtime associated with in-office procedures.


I recently spoke with one of the nation's most highly regarded dermatologists for his take.


"Hydroquinone is one of the most effective skin lightening medications available, and it gold-standard treatment for melasma.  Higher strength hydroquinone creams are only available with a prescription, however you can purchase 2% hydroquinone over-the-counter," explains DrFaiyaaz Kalimullah, a board certified dermatologist in Chicago. 

He also explained that he likes to use a hydroquinone formula that includes AHAs or other exfoliants, as they help the hydroquinone penetrate and work more effectively.

My Expert Pick: Admire My Skin Ultra Potent Brightening Serum


I have a top pick for you when it comes to OTC hydroquinone: Admire My Skin Ultra Brightening Serum. I actually stumbled across this one on Instagram and ended up ordering it on Amazon after checking out the ingredients list.

Active Ingredients: 2% Hydroquinone

Inactive Ingredients: Propylene Glycol, Alcohol Denat., Azaleic Acid, Hamamelis Virginiana Water (Witch Hazel), Aqua (Water), Lactic Acid, Kojic Acid, L-Ascorbic Acid, Salicylic Acid,  Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Sodium Hydroxide


It is a 2% concentration of hydroquinone and it has other ingredients that will allow it to better penetrate, which means the hydroquinone will work better for your skin.

The esthetician in me is excited to see Azaleic Acid in this. This ingredient is a topical antiseptic that can reduce rosacea flare ups and acne breakouts. It also helps create an even texture and improves skin clarity.

Kojic Acid is in this too. It helps block tyrosinase, which creates the melanin that creates the brown spots on the skin. Salicylic Acid is an oil soluble exfoliant this works to unclog pores, while Vitamin C protects and brightens. There is also Lactic Acid in this serum. Lactic Acid is a potent Alpha Hydroxy Acid. AHAs help fight fine lines, exfoliate, and renew the skin.


What else is in this? In addition to the ingredients I mentioned earlier, let's dish about the formula. I am not in love with denatured alcohol, as it can be drying, but with the other ingredients in this, as long you as you moisturize, you will be OK. The propylene glycol acts as a penetration enhancer and the witch hazel is soothing. Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose stabilizes emulsions and has lubricating benefits. Sodium Hydroxide can hold the pH of a product, which is so imporant when dealing with actives.




Bottom Line: This is the best of the best! It sells on Amazon for $23.99.


You will truly not find a more impressive over the counter Hydroquinone product on the market. In fact, let's compare the ingredients of its main competition.


I have personally tried other formulas, including Rodan + Fields (not a fan of this brand in general) and Murad.

Rodan + Fields Reverse Skin Lightening Treatment

ACTIVE INGREDIENT: Hydroquinone 2%

INACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Water/Aqua/Eau, Ethoxydiglycol, Cetearyl Alcohol, PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer, Diethylhexyl Sebacate, Polyacrylamide, Ceteareth-20, Glycerin, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Dimethicone, Fragrance/Parfum, Retinol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Sodium Metabisulfite, Laureth-7, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Citric Acid, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Propylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Benzoic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Chlorphenesin, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Limonene, Linalool, Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Yellow 6 (CI 15985)

Bottom Line: The Rodan + Fields is full of synthetics. It has multiple parabens, artificial colors, silicones, BHT (YUCK!), various polymers, synthetic fragrance, and Imidazolidinyl Urea, a formaldehyde releaser. Like every other R + F product I have tried, it is junk. Plus, it made my skin worse. I used this for several months and it actually made my spots MORE visible and my skin looking older. It is $99. Thankfully this was free for me to try because it is insanely overpriced.

Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum

Active Ingredient: 2% Hydroquinone

Water, Alcohol Denat., Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Methyl Gluceth-10, Dextran, Hexapeptide-2, Rice Amino Acids, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Urea, Yeast Amino Acids, Trehalose, Inositol, Taurine, Betaine, Zinc Gluconate, Ascorbic Acid, Chitosan, Propyl Gallate, Nonoxynol-10, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Chitosan PCA, Allantoin, Polyquaternium-10, Sodium Metabisulfite, Sodium Sulfite, Sodium Hydroxide, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Limonene, Linalool, Fragrance

Bottom Line: While superior to the Rodan + Fields, this one still contains artificial fragrance and ingredients that do not benefit the skin, like the PEG and EDTA ingredients. Retails for $65.

Don't be afraid of Hydroquinone.

On the fence about hydroquinone? Other products with significantly less effective ingredients can take months of regular use in order to see results, while hydroquinone works rapidly -- in a matter of a few weeks. Unlike expensive laser treatments and deep chemical peels, products made with hydroquinone are just as effective, but come with a much smaller price tag.



What is Retinol?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

When it comes to turning back the clock on the visible signs of skin aging, Retinol is the beauty industry gold standard ingredient. Backed by over four decades of scientific research, topical retinoids provide a visible reduction in the signs of skin aging.





What is retinol?

Retinol is the name for an over the counter retinoid. 

Before we continue talking specifically about retinol, we need to discuss retinoids.

What exactly is a retinoid? A retinoid is a Vitamin A derivative that accelerates cell turnover, unclogs the pores, and stimulates collagen to reduce the look of fine lines.

The anti-aging benefits of retinoids were unknown back when it was first approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, when the FDA first approved Tretinoin, it was for the treatment of acne. Tretinoin was patented in 1957 and approved for use five years later. The brand name you may be familiar with is prescription Retin-A. Since Retin-A, other brand names have come about including Renova, among others.

While acne treatment was its original claim to fame, dermatologists who prescribed it would later notice that patients who used it were experiencing skin with that looked younger and brighter as well.

Today, there are different classes of prescription retinoids, including adapalene and tazarotene. All three classes are quite effective -- they are just slightly different strengths.

While we're talking about retinoids, Differin (adapalene) is now available OTC without a prescription for acne.


About Retinol and its skin benefits


Retinol is an impressive over the counter retinoid.


Retinol gradually converts to reitnoic acid, which is the active ingredients in prescription retinoids) and it is VERY effective at treating the skin signs of aging. It just takes a bit longer. It is also gentler with fewer side effects.

Retinol enhances collagen production is truly the most effective OTC anti-aging skincare ingredient available.

Retinol must be stabilized. Most “retinol” products contain esters of retinol, such as Retinyl Palmitate and Retinyl Acetate, which are the LEAST effective forms. You need to see Retinol on the label. If you use the derivatives I just mentioned, you will not be able to achieve the same results that you would with pure retinol.




My favorite Retinol product


I have been using an ecobeauty serum at night from a brand called OZ Naturals. This serum is the real deal! It's called the Pro-Retaxinol 2.5 Serum and sells on the OZ Naturals website for a modest price of $17.95.


Here is the listing of ingredients:

AQUA, GLYCERIN, 1,3 PROPANDIOL, RETINOL, CAPRIC CAPRYLIC TRIGLYCERIDES, HAEMATOCOCCUS PLUVIALIS EXTRACT, SODIUM HYALURONATE, HAMAMELIS VIRGINIANA (WITCH HAZEL) EXTRACT, XANTHAN GUM, ROSA CANINA FRUIT EXTRACT, CAMELLIA SINENSIS LEAF EXTRACT, CHAMOMILLA RECUTITA (MATRICARIA) EXTRACT, POLYSORBATE 20, P ANISIC ACID,  PHENYLPROPANOL, PROPANEDIOL, CAPRYLYL GLYCOL , TOCOPHEROL, CITRIC ACID, BIXA ORELLANA SEED EXTRACT.

Other ingredients in this serum that are worth mentioning

This serum also boasts Astaxanthin, which is a keto-carotenoid. This ingredient is found in sea algae and is a powerful antioxidant -- believed to be significantly more potent than any other antioxidant.

There is moisture boosting protective Vitamin Ehyaluronic acid, antioxidant green tea, and rosehip oil which can improve skin tone, pigmentation, and uneven texture. 

I use this serum at night before my Seed Extra Moisturizing Face Cream. It is gentle enough for my fairly sensitive skin, too. If you are looking for an effective pure retinol product that is gentle and affordable, you will not a find a better one than this serum from OZ Naturals.


Does it work?

I am loving this. Most retinoids are a bit too strong for my skin, resulting in peeling. This pure retinol serum has been in my arsenal for a while now and I am starting to see a slight reduction in fine lines, especially near my mouth where I have a pesky line. I will keep you updates as I use this for a longer period of time.

The Best Vitamin C Serum On the Market

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Three Vitamin C serums. Three will give you real results. Two will likely put a dent in the beauty budget. One will surpass all expectations.


Today, I want to take a look at Vitamin C serums from SkinCeuticals, Obagi, and Seoul Ceuticals. I have personally tried all three. One is perfection in a cobalt glass bottle.






Comparing Vitamin C Serums


SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum - $165 (1 ounce), 15% Vitamin C, 1% Vitamin E, and 0.5% Ferulic Acid -- Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Laureth-23, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopherol, Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate

Obagi Professional C Serum  - $115.50 (1 ounce), 20% Vitamin C - Propylene Glycol, Water, L-Ascorbic Acid, Alcohol, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbitol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Zinc Chloride, Calcium Hydroxide, Fragrance

Seoul Ceuticals Day Glow Serum - $15.75 (1 ounce, price is from 10/3/17 on Amazon), 20% Vitamin C, Also contains Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid -- (98% Naturally Derived /72% Organic) Ingredients: Deionized Aqua (Water), Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide (plant-derived hyaluronic acid), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel), d-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Carbomer, Arginine, Ferulic Acid, Citrus Stem Cells, Kosher Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba Oil), Phenoxyethanol, Ethyl Hexyl Glycerin, Organic Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola Extract), Organic Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail Plant Extract), Organic Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium Extract), Organic Taraxacum Officinale (Dandelion Extract)


Which Vitamin C Serum is Best?


I have personally tried all three of the Vitamin C serums, most recently purchasing the Seoul Ceuticals Day Glow Serum. All are of a similar consistency. All absorb quickly. One stands out for its stellar ingredients, lack of anything questionable, and added beneficial ingredients. That is the Seoul Ceuticals. I am blown away by the quality and the efficacy for this price point.


There are similarities among the 3:

  • All contain water and a form of Hyaluronic Acid.
  • All are in the proper types of bottles. Vitamin C needs to be stored in dark glass to prevent oxidation. All three meet the criteria.
  • All are safely preserved with Phenoxyethanol, necessary for a water-based product.
  • All contain a STABLE form of Vitamin C. 
  • Two of them contain 20% Vitamin C (stabilized), and one contains 15%.

There are also vast differences:

  • The first two serums contain Propylene Glycol. In fact, it is the very first ingredient (meaning most abundant) in the Obagi.
  • There is Triethanolamine in the SkinCeuticals.
  • Obagi uses artificial fragrance, as opposed to the Seoul Ceuticals. That cheery citrus scent is courtesy of Citrus Stem Cells and other natural extracts.
  • The PRICE. For real, friends, those first two serums are less impressive than the $15.75 one and are over $100 a bottle for the SAME SIZE product.


The Best Vitamin C Serum

No contest here -- the best is the Seoul Ceuticals Day Glow Serum. I can tell you that this serum from Seoul Ceuticals is nearly identical in texture and performance to the high end serums mentioned earlier. 

I apply it every AM between my toner and moisturizer and it is so lightweight that even those of you with super oily skin will love it.

It is quick absorbing and leaves skin with renewed radiance. The ingredients are outstanding, from the high concentration on Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C) to the other beneficial ingredients, which you'll see a bit more about below. Plus, the citrus stem cells give it a fresh orange aroma and the lightweight consistency feels absolutely esxquisite on the skin. Your skin will drink it up. It is my favorite Vitamin C Serum in ANY price range.


Skin Benefits of Sodium Ascorbyl Phoshphate (Vitamin C)



  • The Vitamin C present in the Seoul Ceuticals Day Glow Serum (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) is a STABLE form of the vitamin C, which is CRUCIAL. 
  • This form of Vitamin C (S.A.P.) is also a solid antioxidant, helping to neutralize free radical damage.
  • S.A.P. can interfere with melanin, helping to prevent and minimize brown spots and hyperpigmentation issues.
  • S.A.P. can increase collagen synthesis.
  • S.A.P. is skin penetrating. Not all forms can penetrate the skin, rendering them not nearly as effective.

10 Other Beneficial Ingredients in Seoul Ceuticals Day Glow Serum

  • MSM - This organic sulfur compound is an ingredient which is essential for collagen production. 
  • Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide - This is the botanical form of Hyaluronic Acid. HA can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water, making it the best choice for hydration and skin plumpness.
  • Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate - A stable form of antioxidant Vitamin E. It offers protective benefits and is a natural skin conditioner.
  • Arginine - This is believed to have skin regenerating effects. It is a naturally occurring amino acid and is known for its wound healing benefits.
  • Ferulic Acid - A plant based, bran-derived antioxidant. It is wonderful paired with Vitamins C and E, as it enhances their stability.
  • Jojoba Oil - Actually not an oil, but rather an ester, this can mimic skin sebum and essentially draw the excess oil out without causing dryness.
  • Gotu Kola Extract -Also known as Indian Pennywort, Gotu Kola contains an abundance of phytochemicals to heal the skin and prevent the signs of aging.
  • Horsetail Plant Extract -NO, this is not from a horse's tail. I have read that on other blogs before and it makes me cringe. EEK! This is a plant, also known as Shave Grass. Horsetail is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, making it an excellent choice for acne and other skin conditions. 
  • Geranium Extract - This has astringent properties and is known for its ability to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
  • Dandelion Extract - Naturally rich in antioxidants, this is a skin rejuvenating and cleansing ingredient to help keep pores clear of acne-causing bacteria.


You will NOT be disappointed in this serum!

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser Review

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I should change the title of this post to "I was wrong nine years ago when I reviewed Cetaphil because I ignored my dermatologist's advice and fell for junk science and fear mongering."

Back in 2008, I wrote about the so-called nasty and harmful ingredients in Cetaphil, which is one of the most highly recommended skin cleansers ever. It is recommended by dermatologists (including mine) and pediatricians alike. Again, junk science and scary articles swayed my own view. I fell for fear and believed that if I loved my kids, I'd only buy the most natural stuff ever. Many of us fall for this even if THESE FEARS HAVE ZERO SCIENTIFIC BASIS.




Not long ago, I returned to a very old stand by of mine, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. I had been trying out the Korean Skincare Routine (more on that month-long experiment next week!) and my skin was dealing with product and multi-ingredient overload. I bought Cetaphil because I know how quickly it soothes and calms my skin.

I am a convert. This one now sits in both showers and by my bathroom sink for me to use at night. I used to like Cetaphil. I just stopped using it because of "chemi-killz" and unfounded fears. I am human, make mistakes, and believe in owning up to them. I was wrong in that 9 year old review. 


More about Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

The formula is NOT sexy. It lacks sophistication, the latest in ground-breaking botanicals, and slick packaging. One might say it is very ordinary, even boring. And that is okay. This is a damn good no frills product for sensitive skin.

If you wear long-wearing makeup and/or waterproof mascara, this will need to be your second cleanser. In fact, I love double cleansing and I use my cleansing oil to remove makeup, rinse that off, and then follow with Cetaphil.

Can we please talk about the ingredients? They are so basic, but serve a purpose:


Water, Cetyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben

That is it. Now I know what you may be thinking if you are a long-time reader. It might be something like, "Has she completely come undone? This is full of - gulp - parabens and sulfate and nothing NATURAL."

It contains just what the skin needs for a gentle cleansing and NOTHING more. That is why it will be effective for most people. There is water, a fatty alcohol (not drying) which is an emollient, sodium lauryl sulfate (a surfactant), stearyl alcohol (another emollient), and preservatives to keep it fresh.

But isn't Sodium Lauryl Sulfate bad? No, it is not. Even the alarmist "clean" consumer resource of the EWG rates it as safe. It is a tried and true cleansing agent.

And what about those nasty parabens? The truth of the matter is that parabens have a long history of safety and efficacy. They are used around the globe, including in the European Union, where cosmetic ingredients are quite regulated. They serve a purpose: to protect the integrity of a product and keep the nasties OUT so you don't get harmed.

The Beauty Writer's Bottom Line

If you are a budget beauty shopper -- or even if you are not -- Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (NOT the oily skin version with fragrance and a totally different consistency) is a solid choice. No bells and whistles. I consider this the L.L. Bean backpack of cleansers. Those backpacks have been around forever. They may not be fashion forward, but they are sturdy and functional. If they don't live up to your expectations, they can be replaced for life. I consider this cleanser to be that dependable, kind of boring item. It is very affordable and because it contains so few ingredients, is a very solid choice if your skin is sensitive. It is fragrance free, which I am really happy about.

Sources:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651417/
  • http://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/paraben_web.pdf
  • https://www.euractiv.com/section/health-consumers/news/eu-scientific-committee-clears-parabens-in-cosmetics-as-harmless/
  • http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/consumer_safety/docs/sccs_o_132.pdf
  • https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/productsingredients/ingredients/ucm128042.htm
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19101832
  • https://www.chemicalsafetyfacts.org/parabens/




Budget Beauty Favorites

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


I am sent several high end products to try each week. I have worked for brands with high-priced skin care. I have been given these products to use as part of my compensation. So why are about 60% of the products I am using on my face DRUGSTORE products?






I will tell you why: Drugstore products, in many cases, are just as good as their high-end counterparts. 

What is even better is that it is no longer impossible to find great quality drugstore products free of less than stellar ingredients. I switch around my brands quite a bit based on what I am reviewing, but when I sit here and think about what I am using right now, I have to share how you can find great products without breaking the bank. 


My current drugstore or budget beauty favorites:

W7 Lightly Toasted Eyeshadow Palette



The W7 Lightly Toasted Palette is stellar! It is everything you want out of the original Urban Decay Naked Palette but without the fallout and high price tag. Brushes matter when using this - or any shadows- so ditch the applicator that is included and use your good brushes. My favorite brushes are from It Cosmetics, Cat Cosmetics, Jane Iredale, and Real Techniques.  Applied with high quality brushes, the W7 shadows are silky, buildable & highly pigmented.

For those avoiding parabens, this is the one item in this post that is not paraben free. When it comes to parabens, however, the scientific community has spoken. I no longer fall for the ridiculous fear mongering. Science is greater than fear.  Here is a good link for you if you are still worried about parabens.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Iced Amethyst


I am on my third tube of Revlon Iced Amethyst 💄- it is my perfect shade and rich & creamy. Plus, it is just $4.99 at Target. I have not purchased three tubes of the same lipstick since I was working for Estee Launder and used to go through Divine Wine quickly because it was "my" shade. That was in the late 1990s. The Iced Amethyst is much cheaper, creamier, and longer lasting.

No, the ingredients aren't "clean" or green, but the product is paraben free and it leaves your lips looking healthy with richly pigmented colors. It's the best budget lipstick formula out there - tried & true.

Ingredients: Trioctyldodecyl Citrate, Ozokerite, Polybutene, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, C10-30 Cholesterol/Lanosterol Esters, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Paraffin, Cera Microcrystallina ([Microcrystalline Wax] Cire Microcristalline), Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite Synthetic Wax, Tocopheryl Acetate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Polyethylene, Serica ([Silk Powder] Poudre De Soie), Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Palmitic Acid, Ethylene/Propylene Copolymer, Silica, BHT, Benzoic Acid. May Contain [+/-: Mica, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, 77492, 77499), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Red 6 Lake (CI 15850), Red 7 Lake (CI 15850), Red 27 Lake (CI 45410), Red 33 Lake (CI 17200), Yellow 6 Lake (CI 15985), Blue 1 Lake (CI 42090), Yellow 5 Lake (CI 19140), Carmine (CI 75470)]

Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser


I finished my Smashbox Photo Finish Primer and am loving the $5 Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser.

The moment I tried this one, I thought to myself, "I have tried this one before." I knew I hadn't, but it felt identical to a primer I used to use: Make Up For Ever HD Microperfecting Primer. That product has been discontinued, but the ingredients list is very similar and side by side in a blind test, you would not be able to tell the product apart.

I put this on my oily t-zone and use an illuminating highlighter from e.l.f. on the rest of my face. 

Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Stearyl Heptanoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Silica Silylate, Propylene Glycol, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Prunus Cerasus Extract/Bitter Cherry Extract, [+/- May Contain: CI 73360/Red 30, CI 77492/Iron Oxides]

NYX Cosmetics Sculpt & Highlight Brow Contour 


Another repurchase: I am on my fourth NYX Sculpt & Highlight Brow Contour in Ash Brown. It is superior to my other 3 favorites in rotation from Anastasia, It Cosmetics and Milk Makeup. Under $10 at Target!

This is a two sided eyebrow product. One side features a silky soft highlighting thin crayon to apply under the brow bone, while the other is your color to add definition and fill in your brows. This is really a lovely product.

Ingredients: Highlight Ingredients: Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Talc, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Paraffin, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Mineral Oil/Paraffinum Liquidum/Huile Minerale, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ozokerite, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Microcrystalline Wax/Cera Microcristallina/Cire Microcristalline, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax/Copernicia Cerifera Cera/Cire De Carnauba, Petrolatum, Polybutene, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol. May Contain (+/-): Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, 77492, 77499). Contour Ingredients: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ozokerite, Di-C20-40 Alkyl Dimer Dilinoleate, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, C30-50 Alcohols, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol. May Contain (+/-): Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, 77492, 77499).

L'Oreal Voluminous Feline Noir Mascara


Lastly, it's another beautifully formulated mascara from L'Oreal -- the Voluminous Feline Noir Mascara, which is a good dupe for Lancôme Hypnose Buildable Volume Mascara, which sells for $27.50. By the way, we've discussed it here before -- L'Oreal is the parent company of Lancome. I have found since my days of working for Lancome (starting my junior year of college) that there is a L'Oreal dupe for just about every single Lancome product.

I would say that this L'Oreal mascara is the perfect duper for the Hypnose. Just $8 at Target, this mascara lives up to its claims. Not going to lie: this is my favorite mascara of all time. It is official and, after 20+ years of searching, I really believe this is what I'd call my holy grail mascara.

Ingredients: Aqua / Water / Eau, Paraffin, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Copernicia Cerifera Cera / Carnauba Wax / Cire De Carnauba, Ethylene / Acrylic Acid, Copolymer, Styrene / Acrylates / Ammonium, Methacrylate Copolymer, Cera Alba / Beeswax / Cire Dabeille, Synthetic Beeswax, Bis-Diglyceryl, Polyacyladipate-2, Polybutene, Cetyl Alcohol, Steareth-20, Glyceryl Dibehenate, Steareth-2, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Acacia Senegal Gum, Tribehenin, Caprylyl Glycol, Glyceryl Behenate, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Disodium EDTA, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Myristyl Alcohol, Silica, Tetrasodium EDTA, Potassium Sorbate, BHT. May Contain: CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 / Iron Oxides, CI 77007 / Ultramarines.


Cire d'Abeille Skin Care Review

Thursday, September 7, 2017


Cire d'Abeille Skin Care is a brand of artisan-crafted products made here in the Rochester area in Fairport, New York.



Cire d'Abeille is local and I felt an instant connection right off the bat. This line is stellar and I want to share it with every single person I know. Although it has been YEARS since I had my facial care line and life has taken me in other directions business-wise and passion-wise, I know how hard it can be to get a solid skin care brand off the ground. I also know first hand that it takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort to get those products Leaping Bunny certified cruelty free. So I give this brand kudos for her dedication. I am impressed.

I am not just impressed by Ashley's passion for being cruelty free or because she is local. I am truly impressed by the products themselves!


I am very fortunate to be able to try out beauty products in all price ranges for this blog and for my print work, as I am introduced to so many products I may otherwise never have encountered. Many of these products are very good. Rarely, others stand above the pack and I want to scream from the rooftops about them. That is how I would describe Cire d'Abeille

Cire d'Abeille Skin Care is owned by Ashley Monney. As I mentioned earlier, her cruelty-free, paraben free products are handmade in small batches right here in upstate New York. From body scrubs to lip balms, you're sure to be impressed with anything you try!





I have tried over a dozen items from this local company and I can say that Ashley's creations are little slices of heaven. Each lip balm is unique and delightful. The body scrubs are exquisite - perfection in jars.

Intoxicatingly scrumptious body care products like Black Button Distilling Bespoke Boubon Cream Coffee Infused Body Scrub are comforting and smell like heaven, as is The Waffle Factory Salted Caramel Latte Body Scrub. I was so excited to see the latter on the counter the other day when I had a group of four 12 year olds out for waffles. I just had to buy it!

The Lime & Mint Exfoliating Body Scrub? Hello, can you say mojito?! Like every single Cire d/Abeille product I have tried, this one smells so fresh and truly unique, blended exquisitely -- expertly.




And friends, the Toasted Coconut Latte lip balm is the BEST lip balm on earth -- no joke -- and I have tried hundreds in the past ten years of blogging. It contains coconut oil, shea butter, coffee infused sweet almond oil, carrot seed oil, and more. It is moisturizing, non-sticky and tastes amazing. Truth be told, ALL of the lip balms are total perfection. Next up on my "to try" list: The Waffle Factory Banella Lip Balm. What is Banella, you ask? It is a banana, chocolate, and hazelnut cream lip balm. Delicious.





Could this be the planet's best scrub?




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How do the scrubs from Cire d'Abeille stack up? It is true. I am super picky about scrubs -- not to be difficult, but because I absolutely love body scrubs and am a touch critic. I have three brands of scrubs that I absolutely adore: Clover and Bee, Lemongrass Spa, and Rachel's Plan Bee. They all have their strengths. They all have left me sad when I use my last scoop. All have very good ingredients. Because of these factors, I want to break down cost since I have recommended them all to you over the years.

Rachel's Plan Bee ($20 for 7 ounces or $2.86 an ounce)
Lemongrass Spa ($28 for 8 ounces or $3.50 an ounce)
Clover and Bee ($34 for 10 ounces or $3.40 an ounce)
Cire d'Abeille ($8.99 for 4 ounces or  $2.25 an ounce)

The Bottom Line: Cire d'Abeille Skin Care has the BEST body scrub. It is no contest. When you look at ingredients, packaging, how the product FEELS and WORKS, I prefer this brand to the others. The price cannot be beat when it comes to high-end caliber body exfoliants at a very affordable cost. Of the 4 brands, this checks everything off the list of what you are looking for in a body scrub.

  • Beautiful, gift worthy packaging
  • Made locally 
  • Made with ingredients from other local businesses
  • The texture of the scrub is superb
  • Moisturizing, yet non-greasy so you won't slip in the tub


Shop Local with Cire d'Abeille


One last point: I feel really good about using these products, not just because of the fact that they work well and make me feel pampered and special, but because supporting Cire d'Abeille helps support our local economy. You see, Ashley could buy the largest economy size can of coffee to make her scrubs with coffee in them. She doesn't. She uses Union Place Coffee Roasters coffee, which is in Rochester. Her wine-infused products could me made with a big cheap box of wine. Instead, she supports local businesses such as Deer Run Winery and Casa Larga

These are just a couple of the MANY businesses Cire d'Abeille partners with to create such unique products. When you support your fellow local small business owners, you are not only helping your local economy, you're also making deposits in the karma department (in my eyes, anyway)!

I really wanted to tell you all about Cire d'Abeille much sooner, but I did not want to hurry with the post because this brand is really something special. Do yourself --and your skin -- a favor and head over to the Cire d'Abeille website, Facebook page, and Instagram account.

Luxury Lip Care: Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask and Henne Organic Lip Exfoliant Reviews


  • Hello there! First off, I just have to say that it is so quiet in this house. Nick is off at high school and Ben started 7th grade today. Unreal. When I started this blog, Ben was just 2 and Nick was just starting PRESCHOOL, so thanks for sticking with me all these years! I am back regularly and you WILL see several posts a week again!
  • Today's topic: luxury lip care. I am sharing two products I am absolutely swooning over. They are amazing and if you are looking to treat yourself, these products should be in your beauty arsenal! My two person favorites are the subject of today's review.

Henne Organics Lip Exfoliator Review

  • Henne Organics Nordic Berries Lip Exfoliator is the BEST lip scrub I have ever used. My other favorites have been the Lush Mint Julep scrub and another Henne Organics scrub -- Rose Diamonds.🌹

    I love everything about this exfoliant. It is 96.5% organic and is made with ingredients like jojoba and coconut oils, organic berry and vanilla flavors, raspberry, blueberry & more. It is a sugar-based scrub. It leaves my lips feeling so healthy and soft. I wear lipstick or lipgloss every single day, some of those days being the heavy duty LipSense, so I need to get rid of anything left behind. .

    The lovely Henne Organics product was included in my newest Boxwalla box and I just cannot recommend it enough!

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask Review

  • Next up, the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask Berry. This is the Korean version, which is not the product sold at Sephora. You can purchase this on the official Laneige website, from Amazon, and various K-beauty sites. On the Laneige site, you will find several flavors from which to choose. I opted for Berry to use after my Berry scrub.

    First off, when I was first introduced to this product, I figured it was another gimmick. The reviews are awesome, but I figured it would be just really overrated.

    Since I have been on a journey to better self care, taking some "me time", and REALLY enjoying my lengthier skincare routine, I figured "why not" and began using it a couple weeks ago.

    I use either the Mizon Good Night White Sleeping Mask or the Innisfree Red Wine Sleeping Mask before bed, so adding this to my bedtime routine was easy.

    It feels ridiculously luxurious and my lips are plump and satiny when I wake up.

    It contains multiple fruit extracts, shea butter, murumumu seed butter, Lyceum fruit, quinoa seed extract, and more. It really plumps and softens the lips! 👄

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