The Skincare Line I’ve Used For 15 Years

One of the most miraculous sights in my bathroom is that of an empty jar. I often get bored or jump from one thing to another when what I’m using isn’t working. But, off and on (more on than off especially with their toner) for 15 years I’ve bought Aqua Glycolic. It was even confirmed by my derm to be one of the best lines on the market- high praise for a simple line priced around $12.

Aqua Glycolic is a hidden gem among drugstore skincare. Best prices I’ve found are at Costco which typically has it all in stock behind the counter in their pharmacy (you don’t need a PX it’s just where it’s kept) but every pharmacy either carries it or will order it for you free of charge. A few tips: I don’t like their creamy cleanser because it feels thin and doesn’t remove makeup. Use the body lotion in place of the cream on your face if you want a higher concentration of glycolic (it’s the same formula), and dilute the toner half and half (or more if you’re sensitive) with witch hazel so you get the benefits of the toner without any drying or irritation.

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Post-Baby Skin Care: What I’ll Be Using to Get Rid of My Melasma (Round 2)

Well here we are, today is the day I’m giving birth to my daughter (Note: of course I’m not writing this in the delivery room, it’s actually the night before) and I’m once again planning my new skincare routine to banish the melasma that reared its ugly head from pretty much day 1 of this pregnancy. I actually think it never went away from the first pregnancy and just kept on building throughout this one. Either way, I’m ready to attack. I’ve done a ton of research and have come up with what I think is the best of the best as far as attacking pigment and restoring my skin without using hydroquinone or Botox.

Cleanser:

I was thinking about getting this Pigment Bar from PCA Skin, a medical line that I really like but I nixed the idea and will stick with my cleanser that I love. I’m just not sure how much help a cleanser is in fading dark spotting since it’s only on the skin for a few seconds and the ingredients are washed away. If you’re curious though, check it out- it’s a cool concept and people seem to really like it.

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Toner:

Hands down, one of the most effective things I’ve ever used on my skin has been Mandelic acid from Vivant, a line sold through skin pros and doctors that is really picking up steam in the industry for its skin-changing ways. Mandelic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid extracted from bitter almonds, so it’s a safe alternative to hydroquinone (a skin lightener that really works well, but has safety concerns.) This 9% solution will help to lighten while also making my skin soft enough to allow the serums and creams to penetrate and work that much better.

vivant toner

Serum:

I was a little on the fence about this one so I ordered two and then canceled one. I wanted to get Skinceuticals Phyto + which I ordered from Amazon (before canceling) because of its botanical formula and kojic acid, a known skin lightener. In the end the shaky reviews mixed with the fact that I know Mandelic will definitely work were what swayed my decision to stick with a more potent formula. So I ordered Vivant’s Mandelic 3-in-1 Serum 15% which combines Mandelic with Lactic Acid, a combination that will lighten and brighten my skin without question.

vivant mandelic serum

Retinol:

Can I use a retinol while nursing? My derm thought so and she recommended Afirm, a Retin-A alternitive (sidebar: Terntinoin and Retin-A both break me out because they put the vitamin a into a cheap cream that’s all greasy terrible so I can’t use it anyway) that’s easily absorbed into the skin and gives the same results as a prescription retinoid at a fraction of the cost. A good retinol will diminish wrinkles, fade discoloration, and give better clarity and tone to the skin. Another interesting fact: Retinoids are the only FDA approved treatments for wrinkles. I bought the 3X, formula which amounts to a 0.6% retinol which is their strongest treatment. Again, I’m getting the higher percentage treatments for all of the formulations just because my skin is used to really active stuff.. Start with the 1% just a few times a week if you’re just venturing into the world of retinol, but really if you have wrinkles or discoloration to get rid of this is a really good place to start.

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Antioxidant:

I always use an antioxidant serum during the day to combat further damage (and you should too), so I’ll use Vivant’s Spin Trap serum with vitamins C&E. I’ve used this one in the past and for some reason it seems to keep longer than others, it doesn’t turn that dull color vitamin serums turn after just a few months which means its potency is also in tact.

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Moisturizer:

I went out on a limb for this one. I’ve never used Nia 24 but I see it everywhere and am fascinated by it since it’s the only niacin-based product I know of. There’s a bunch of research they have on their site (independent from them) showing how niacin heals sun damaged skin and can even play a role in skin cancer prevention. Their signature treatment cream is this Intensive Recovery Complex, pricey at $118 but something I’ve literally looked at buying for years. Because it’s meant specifically for hyperpigment issues, I thought it would fit in perfectly with my whole skin-lightening regimen.

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SPF:

Good SPF is key when you’re using an active bunch of products like this. Even in the winter when you don’t think you’re getting sun exposure, you are. I’ve been using Coola SPF 30 Unscented Matte Tint as a daily primer and skin perfector. The look and feel is just like a slightly tinted primer that helps to even out skintone pre-foundation. I love Coola’s sunscreens, it’s an organic line that only does suncare so they do it really well. It’s basically a really good SPF disguised as a great makeup primer that will help even out my skin on days when I won’t be wearing foundation (which will be quite often in the coming weeks.)

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Oh- and I’ll be using my Dermaroller to get super maximum penetration and faster results. Read HERE and HERE to catch up on the magical wonders of Dermarolling (aka microneedling) if you missed my past posts on the subject, and keep an eye on Hautelook (get the app) because they often feature them for just $20 or $30.

Kiehl’s Super Multi-Corrective Cream

When Kiehl’s asked if I’d be willing to try out their new Super Multi-Corrective Cream for 2 weeks for review I already knew it had to be something special. It’s a pretty confident ask after all; having Beauty Editors commit to a review after using it for such a short amount of time. What if it wasn’t long enough to see a difference, or worse yet what if I hated it and had to write a super awkward review like an ‘at least I liked the purple jar’ type of thing.

Lucky for me I don’t hate it. In fact I love it. I like it so well that I just returned the Ole moisturizer I bought recently that I’d been using on and off for a few years. Compared to this cream, Ole’s just felt flat and almost runny. It certainly didn’t stand up to this cream’s texture and it didn’t have nearly as many benefits. It strikes that perfect balance of being thick but not greasy and moisturizing but not heavy while using scientific advancements married with proven natural ingredients. It completely melts into the skin and gives the type of softness that feels like baby skin and not something artificial from a jar. It’s how my face feels after a facial, like it’s brand new.

It’s meant to lift, firm, and repair damaged skin using Jasmonic Acid (plant-based), Beech Tree Extract, and Fragmented Hyaluronic Acid which gives that big drink of hydration. I can see the texture of my skin is better from getting the moisture it needs so even my makeup blends in easier and my cheeks have a healthy glow. It’s too early to get the long-term benefits but I believe it’s doing great things (and it’s safe for pregnancy, yay!) so I’ll stick with it and be faithful to this little jar.

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Dr. Oz and The Wonders of Sea Buckthorn Oil

I didn’t know that Dr. Oz recently touted Sea Buckthorn ‘the new miracle berry’ when I ordered it from Amazon a few weeks ago. I was searching for natural skincare to help with my melasma and such during this pregnancy when I fell upon Sibu Buckthorn Oil and 180+ sparkling reviews about how amazing it is. It has a cult following for calming rosacea (a big theme among the reviewers), but it was also said to clear acne, fade dark spots, heal burns, and give skin a glowing new appearance. Really! People are losing their damn minds over it (see the reviews HERE on Amazon where I bought it.) There are a few different brands who sell this type of oil, but Sibu was the best reviewed and under $10. Sold.

I started using it under my moisturizer at night only as recommended because it takes a little while to fully absorb. It isn’t greasy or heavy and doesn’t really have much of a scent at all. I like the added hydration it gives and it hasn’t caused any breakouts – a big concern when using a new product on my skin especially an oil. Right away I noticed how calming it is and how I wake up with a glow. I think it’s too early to see long term benefits, but since it’s 100% natural and safe so I’ll continue to use it. It’s one of those things that you know is just good for your skin long term so I’ll be patient and wait for some great results.

Next I’ll try their Cleansing Bar, another fave among reviewers, as well as check out their supplements since it’s meant to be taken internally as well.

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Murad’s Renewing Cleansing Oil

If you would’ve told me years ago that I’d be pre-cleansing my face nightly with an oil I would have thought you were crazy. Although my skin isn’t oily anymore, I think I’ll always have that mind set that it is- sort of like when you loose weight but still see yourself as heavy. I can’t tell you how many 40-something year old clients I meet with clear (and usually dry) skin who still use Proactiv as a sort of crutch, never evolving their routine with age and skin changes. I’m glad I got brave enough a few years ago to try cleansing oils, they’re the easiest way to reamove makeup while adding some light hydration. Murad’s Renewing Cleansing Oil $32 does this particularly well leaving just a soft slick of moisture behind so your skin doesn’t feel tight or dry after washing. It’s non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores (most oils don’t, it’s creams that you need to watch out for actually) so all skin types can benefit.

Protecting your skin from harsh stripping is important. Dry skin equals old looking skin, just look at the way women age when they live near water versus a drier climate. Trading out a drying cleanser for a cleansing oil could make a big difference in the overall look and health of your skin.

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Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre 24 Hour Miracle Cream

Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre 24 Hour Miracle Cream is nothing short of a cult favorite among Makeup Artists and celebs alike. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out.

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I first saw it in action backstage at Fashion Week at every show – see the squished up tube behind the Rosewater spray (which I also went out and bought shortly after.)

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And here again, next to Eve Pearl, one of my favorite foundations at a different show. Every artist it seemed was carrying it.

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Even Gwyneth Paltrow gave it some Goop love a few years back touting its big time Makeup Artist following. But why is it a staple in most pro’s kits? Because I’ve yet to find a skin type it doesn’t work on. Oily, acne-prone, dry, and even clients with skin so sensitive they bring their own moisturizer because they’re afraid that whatever I’m using might trigger a reaction. But it never has. On the contrary- it calms, softens, and evens out the skin in a subtle but complete way. I’ve been using fewer silicone-based primers these days because this primes the skin so well that I don’t need the added step. At Fashion Week, I also saw it used as a makeup remover for the girls who came in full makeup from other shows. Without sinks and water, the artists were able to get the girl’s faces totally clean using this cream and tissues alone.

A 1oz tube is just $16, but I get the larger 2.6oz since it’s only $28. Yup, it’s a French drugstore line so not only is it free of nasty chemicals (Europe bans most of the ones we still use here), but it’s also cheap!