My Chemical Romance- Serums, Acids, and the Frontier of Antiaging

About a year ago, I decided to get a little more serious about skincare.  And by that I mean I detected a couple thin creases on my forehead, glared at myself in the mirror, and calmly, resolutely stated, “Negotiation’s over. Sentence is death.”

Okay, not really.  I mean, I haven’t exactly unleashed the wrath of Valhalla on my face since then, but I have done the following within this past year: purchased (and finished!) my first vitamin C serum, purchased my first chemical exfoliant, purchased my first night moisturizer specifically for its antiaging and brightening properties, and purchased my first retinol serum.

Now, you may think this all sounds like ten levels of Joan Crawford insanity but trust me- it’s not.  You should see the skincare routines people have out there.  I’ve seen bathroom shelves that look like a Pfizer lab, with upwards of ten products used both morning and night.  And I know comparing our own shortcomings to those of others is no way to properly gauge where we stand morally, but believe me when I say that this foray of mine into antiaging is really no big deal.  My main motivation for all this is the hope for beautiful skin when I’m 60+, so I’m playing a long game here.  I’m not toiling over today’s skin problems as much as looking to prevent the next decade’s.

So what exactly have I done and what exactly have I used?  And how do I use it?  Peek away, and learn a thing or two about acids while you’re at it:

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Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment – Remember this time last year when I wrote a post on dipping my toes in the antiaging pool and I mentioned receiving ExfoliKate as a gift?  And how I was scared to use it?  Well let me tell ya, I tried it, and that stuff is a game changer.  I’ve never seen such instant results from a single product.  The full size costs $175 for a reason (and I’ll probably continue purchasing the mini for $24 and just use it sparingly).

This is a physical exfoliant in that it has tiny granules that physically rub off dirt and dead skin cells from your face, but it is also a chemical exfoliant.  ExfoliKate contains lactic acid and fruit enzymes (pumpkin, in this case).  These are acids – also known as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) – that naturally, chemically exfoliate your face, revealing a brighter, smoother complexion with improved dark spots and skin tone.  One site described such acid exfoliants as capable of “removing the glue that holds dead skin cells together.”  Most exfoliants either are just physical (think St. Ives scrub) or just chemical/acid (think peel pads).  ExfoliKate is both physical and chemical in its exfoliating properties, and it’s incredible.  My face glows after using this stuff.

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster – This is the first vitamin C serum that I’ve purchased.  It’s known for its great reviews and a yummy citrus scent.  Truth Serum is marketed as being able to brighten, help restore elasticity and firmness, and improve skin’s texture against hyperpigmentation and sun damage.

However, I have to admit that I didn’t really see noticeable results.  The serum hydrated my skin well, but I didn’t notice much of a reduction in small scars or dark spots on my face.  This may be partly my fault, however.  Vitamin C in skincare is sensitive to light and basically loses its effectiveness upon exposure, and I left my bottle of it in the car on a sunny day last summer.  There are a lot of biochemical factors that go into making an effective vitamin C serum, from the pH balance to environmental exposure to the serum’s ability to actually “deliver” the vitamin C into the skin.  Science, people!  It’s important to do your research and take proper care of your skincare products.  I have another vitamin C serum I’m using now so we’ll see how that goes.  It definitely hasn’t seen the light of day, you can be sure of that.

Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial – Wow.  Wowowowowowowow.  This, by far, was my favorite skincare purchase of last year.  This night cream has a variety of rose extracts and oils in it so it may not be for everyone (some are sensitive to rose), but this cream has been like a big whoosh for my skin.  I love seeing my complexion in the morning after having worn it to bed; my skin always looks fantastic!  Everything from dullness, dryness, dark spots, and even fine lines seems to improve after wearing this overnight.  Of course, I believe the effects of most skincare routines are rather temporary so you have to keep using it, but this is one product I’ll probably continue to repurchase.

I’m not sure about the vitamin C in it though because as I mentioned earlier vitamin C has to remain fully shut away from air and, ideally, light.  This cream is in a jar so it’s constantly being exposed to air.  I’ve learned to be skeptical of vitamin C creams in jars because they just can’t be that effective with so much air exposure.  But aside from that, everything else in this cream has been doing wonders for me.

Glossier The Supers – I was gifted these three serums last September by Glossier and they have been lovely additions to my routine.  How timely!  You can read my early, full review of them here.

I have loved Super Bounce (and have since repurchased!) for its healthy dose of hyaluronic acid.  Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance that is excellent at retaining moisture within the skin, giving it that youthful plumpness that we naturally lose with age.  Super Bounce is great before makeup because it smooths and hydrates the skin so well.  I’ve also loved Super Glow as a stable vitamin C serum (using it now after having finished Truth Serum), and Super Pure has been great for any breakouts coupled with a blemish lotion like Mario Badescu’s.  And yes, I still get breakouts and have learned that most of us will continue to throughout adulthood.  The idea that you somehow graduate from them once you turn 21 is absolute crap.

I should also add that I consumed hyaluronic acid in supplements for about a month and had noticeably excellent skin for about 1-2 months thereafter.  No really, I got compliments in the dead of winter!  I took Olly’s Vibrant Skin Plump Berry Gummies with hyaluronic acid, collagen, and sea buckthorn.  My face was plump as a baby’s!

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Pixi Glow Peel Pads – These, sold at Target and much hyped all over social media, are little cotton pads soaked in glycolic acid and rose water.  They’re another example of a chemical exfoliant (or acid peel- the terms can be used interchangeably here), and they’ve been a good, quick solution for tackling dark spots, dullness, pore size, fine lines, and acne.  They are actually great for acne.  I had a breakout last week in a couple spots on my face and used these along with my Super Pure serum; I was zit free about 48 hours later.

Using an acid peel isn’t as intimidating as it sounds.  What I do is wipe my face and jawline with one or two pads and then wait three minutes; I then neutralize the peel with tepid water (as the instructions will tell you) and then continue with a regular facewash.  Your face will tingle a bit from the acid, and that’s normal.  And no, nothing physically peels off your face that you can see.  No Raiders of the Lost Ark reenactments here.

I love that these have been a nice one-step solution for tackling blemishes.  I don’t struggle with acne as much as I struggle with dryness and dullness, but there are millions out there who’ve battled acne as their complexion enemy-number-one.  If you’re looking for a whole systematic routine to combat acne that’s been plaguing you for a while, Reviews.com published an extensive, excellent research study on the best and most effective acne kits with their favorite four out of forty-two contenders.  I wasn’t too surprised at their choice for number one; I’ve yet to try anything from this brand but have heard nothing but rave reviews.

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum – This retinol serum is the newest addition to my lineup, and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to include it in my routine.  Retinol is really just a science-y term for vitamin A, and while it can come in different forms (retinyl palmitate, etc), pure retinol is a powerhouse for minimizing wrinkles and fine lines, reducing the size of pores, and rebuilding firmness that has been lost.  Like vitamin C, retinol is also sensitive to air and light, so be skeptical of any clear packaging or jars that you have to open up.  Now, many with sensitive skin will find that they may peel a bit when using a retinol and that’s normal.  There are retinols of varying strengths out there so it’s important to gauge what’s right for your skin and start slowly and modestly.

Things get really tricky, however, when you try and determine where exactly to fit a retinol into your routine.  Can you pair it with a vitamin C serum?  Is it safe to use an AHA exfoliant with a retinol, too?  You always think of mixing chemicals and making things go boom, and your face isn’t the ideal place for that.  You want to use things the right way!  However, I’ve found that wading into the deep waters of advanced skincare is not unlike mathematics and the interpretation of the law- the theories are endless.  I washed my face in the evening and applied this retinol serum on top of my vitamin C serum for a few nights.  I noticed no results, and actually developed red blemishes in the exact spots where I’d applied the retinol.  One authority I consulted advised not using the two together, though paulaschoice.com states that you can for extra benefits.  I’m going to try alternating my vitamin C serum and retinol now and see how that works and if the blemishes continue.  Most sources I consulted did say that you need to be patient and consistent with retinol.  I’ll also add that most quality retinols are expensive- $100+.  Mine cost eighteen bucks.  Only time will tell if these fine lines on my forehead demand a greater investment.

Now that we’re days away from the beginning of spring, at least I can say that I powered through winter with good skincare.  I didn’t feel nearly as dry this winter as I did the last!  Well, that may have something to do with the weirdly and freakishly warm winter we’ve had here and of course that may ultimately have to do with global warming and the possibility that the world is dying.  But for now, I’ll keep my anxiety at bay and just focus on that little wrinkle.  xo, MR

 

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Five (Truly) Small Christmas Gift Ideas

I absolutely love shopping for gifts.  I love finding practical things, or things that remind me of the recipient, or items that might be trendy and push the receiver’s boundaries a little, even if they decide to take it back.

In general, I really enjoy the gift-buying process.  However, in years past, my spending has easily snowballed because of how much I tend to find or wanting to match the value of everyone’s gifts.  That can’t happen this year, though.  The gifts need to be much smaller, and yet I’d still like to have some fun putting them together.  So, what I have here is a list of five different, very small gift ideas you can give to the beauty or bath enthusiast you know that will provide them with a luxurious experience.  And the best part?  They’re all under twenty bucks (not including tax).

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Your own version of a “beauty sampler” or “beauty emergency kit”

Stores like Sephora like to sell their own beauty “emergency” kits, but they can still cost quite a few bucks even for the value they might have.  Beauty box subscriptions can also be really fun, but they certainly cost more than a flat rate of twenty bucks.  If I were to create my own version of sampler for a friend, I might think of it as a “day to night” kit and include the following: a pair of false lashes, a perfume sample, a pack of blotting sheets, a travel-size dry shampoo, and maybe a mini version of some kind of lip color I like.

The fun thing about this idea is that you can really make it your own.  And it may sound incredibly cheap, but if you’ve acquired a lot of beauty samples over the past year, perhaps you can select a few of them based on what you know your friend enjoys, package them nicely, and there you go! Done.  This is an idea that could potentially cost you under five dollars.

Three of your favorite drugstore mascaras

Come on, what girl doesn’t love opening a new, fresh tube of drugstore mascara?  Now, if you go to Target, the prices on cosmetics will be cheaper so I’d suggest shopping there (or Wal-Mart, if you can manage the chaos).  Maybe you could determine your gift recipient’s favorite kind of mascara first and include that within the three.  What I’d probably do is choose one kind I know they like, one kind I know I like, and maybe a “wildcard”, like a new kind that perhaps neither of you have tried.  If you play it right and shop around enough, you can still come out under $20.

For instance, if I swing by Wal-Mart and purchase a tube of Cover Girl’s The Super Sizer by LashBlast ($5.94), Maybelline Lash Sensational ($6.94), and Maybelline Volum’ Express The Falsies ($5.94), I’m at a total of $18.82.  Easy.

A couple Korean sheet masks

Korean sheet masks are super trendy these days, but what’s fun about giving them is that you can choose a couple different kinds for different skin needs.  For instance, Tony Moly (sold at Sephora, along with a myriad of other brands) sells sheet masks in packs of two and there is huge variety to choose from within this line alone.  They have masks for radiance, clarity, hydration, pore care, and many others.  One pack of two costs $7.50, bringing your total to just fifteen bucks if you choose to give two packs.

A sheet mask is a nice little end-of-the-day thing to enjoy with a glass of wine and Netflix, or a soothing treatment to use on a plane ride that can prevent dryness.  And, the fact that many of your friends may not have tried them makes them a fun novelty that beats another bottle of lotion.

A couple bath bombs or beautiful soaps

Now, I know that not everyone takes baths so you may want to investigate your friend’s bathing habits first, but bath bombs are my current fave form of entertainment that doesn’t involve Cheetos or spending more money (although I guess you can always eat Cheetos while taking a bath- I’m not quite there yet).  Lush Cosmetics makes fantastic, completely natural bath bombs that turn sitting in a tub into a fizzy, whimsical, almost chic experience.  They all smell amazing in their own way, leave your skin feeling great, and have their own unique qualities that makes choosing just one such a difficult ordeal.  Bath bombs, I might add, are also very Instagram-able once they hit water.  None of Lush’s bath bombs cost over $7; you could choose one of the bigger ones as a single gift or two smaller ones.

Another similar idea is to give a couple lovely soaps.  I know that Cost Plus World Market carries a huge variety of beautifully-packaged soaps for around five or six bucks each, and I personally love displaying them in their pretty packaging or on a cute soapdish to use.  Whole Foods carries a nice variety of ethically-made and ethically-traded soaps too for around the same prices.

A single, awesome candle

You can find great candles – and even better, soy candles – everywhere, for a whole range of prices.  My favorite thing for candles is to find a small business that carries a few different kinds to choose from.  The city I used to live in had an amazing old town area where you could find lots of unique ones; I’d suggest digging within your area for the small businesses and see what they have first.  However, you can always go to Target and choose a big soy candle with great packaging that your recipient will enjoy displaying.

Nowadays I get all my candles from Target (as I haven’t explored too many small businesses yet), and they’re the easiest way to make your home feel just a bit more luxurious.  Even if I don’t actually like the scent of a candle I receive, I can still burn it outside on my patio or in the bathroom when guests are over.  They are always useful, no matter what.

Let me know of any reasonably-priced gift ideas you’ve had for the beauty addicts in your life.  A great beauty gift doesn’t always have to be the latest Naked palette or a full-size bottle of perfume.  If you offer beauty services yourself, you can even gift a free blowout to a friend, a free mini makeover, or whatever you feel suited to give.  I mean, this is always an option:

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Merry Christmas!  xo, MR