SKINCARE | Top beauty products under $50

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I hope everyone is doing well in the midst of this pandemic. I struggled with whether I should even blog about skincare and fashion since it seems so frivolous at this point, but writing is how I practice mindfulness and cope with stress. I hope that by continuing to blog, I can maintain a sense of normalcy in my life, and if you enjoy reading my reviews, your mind can also take a temporary break from the onslaught of negative news.

I know that historically I’ve generally focused on luxury beauty and luxury skincare, but today I wanted to share with you some of my more budget beauty favourites. Not everything has to be ultra luxurious to be effective, and by reviewing luxury skincare, I’m not saying that you have to break the bank if you want something good. There are a ton of budget beauty products that are equally, if not more effective than some of the luxury ones.

Vichy Mineral 89*

It’s no secret that I absolutely love the Vichy Mineral 89 ($41.95 for 50mL). I’ve used at least 5 bottles of this liquid gold and I love that it is so affordable too. It is completely non-scented, hydrating, ultra soothing, and just overall as a step 0 product for my skincare. I wrote about this more extensively here.

Vichy Mineral 89 Eyes*

Vichy released the Mineral 89 Eyes ($34.95 for 15mL) as a step 0 serum for the eye area. I don’t generally use this alone, preferring to layer it under a thicker eye cream. It helps my eye products sink in better, and it also helps to hydrate and freshen the eye area. I particularly enjoy using this during the day because it makes my eye area feel brighter and fresher. If you have younger skin, for example if you’re just starting out in the world of eye products, this is a great starter product to use alone. I wrote about this more extensively here.

Pixi Peel and Polish*

Pixi Peel and Polish (C$34 for 80mL) is one of my absolute favourite Pixi products. It’s an incredible enzyme and physical exfoliant in one. It is super tingly to eat away at your dead skin cells, but it also has the exfoliating bits for those who prefer a more physical scrub. As someone who sometimes uses relatively expensive exfoliants, this is one of my favourite and I honestly can’t say enough good things about it.

Pixi Rose Tonic*

The Pixi Rose Tonic (C$20 for 100mL) is the toner that I’m currently using. Truth be told, I’ve really enjoyed almost every single Pixi product that I’ve tried – they are fantastic value for still being super effective. I’ve also used the Glow Tonic, which is their top seller. It’s very effective as a gentle exfoliator but I generally prefer hydrating toners in combination with a serum that has actives in it, which is why I don’t enjoy using this on a daily basis.

Now back to the Rose Tonic – it is very gentle, yet still very hydrating, smells great, and my skin has been looking very supple and smooth since I started using it. For $20, you can’t go wrong with it.

Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner

As a beauty blogger and skincare addict, I love to try new products so I rarely repurchase products. I discovered the Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner (C$45 for 125mL) a year ago and I absolutely fell in love. So much so that I immediately repurchased a second bottle. This toner is seriously hydrating, and my skin feels so bouncy and supple after finishing the bottle. I could tell a significant difference between this toner and the Diorsnow one I used after (which is not good, do not recommend). I’m currently waiting to finish up the Pixi Rose Tonic before diving into my second bottle of the Coq-10 Toner.

May Coop Raw Sauce

I previously wrote about this product here. The May Coop Raw Sauce (US$29 for 150mL, but often there are $10 off promos) is one of my favourite daytime hydrating essences. I use this during the day only and using a patting / slapping motion on my face, and not with a cotton pad. It’s super thick and very very hydrating – a little bit goes a super long way. I used this for 3 months straight and only went through 30% of it, so the bottle will last you a very long time, further extending the value of this incredible essence.

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

I received two deluxe mini samples of the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask (C$26 for 20g) in the original Berry from Sephora over a year ago, and I’m currently on my second pot. The first pot took me nearly 9 months of daily use to finish, which is fantastic value for a free sample. My lips are perpetually dry, so I love using this lip mask at night before bed. Compared to the Bite Agave Lip Mask, it doesn’t last on my lips throughout the night, but I find it way less sticky and more comfortable to wear.

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L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream and Shea Butter Intensive Hand Cream*

In terms of hand and body care, my top favourite product that I’ve been using for over 10 years is the L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream (C$35 for the 150mL). I’ve been using this for so long that I was looking up the prices of this product now and I’m actually a little bit shocked. I recall the price of this hand cream to be around $25 when I was first introduced to it, but now it’s $35. Even then, I still think it’s 100% worth it because a little bit lasts you a super long way. Even before the campaign for hand washing, I was already washing my hands copiously, resulting in perpetually dry hands. This is one of the only things that help keep my hands feeling soft due to its 20% shea butter. Currently, I have the regular formula (in the limited edition blue packaging from a few years back), the rose-scented formula, and the Intensive Hand Cream.

The Intensive Hand Cream is usually what I apply at night right before I go to sleep. It’s a balmy texture that is super rich, making it great for the driest of hands and cuticles. It contains 25% shea butter, and it’s also great for dry elbows and knees. I love both the original formula and this one.

Neostrata Resurface Glycolic Renewal Smoothing Lotion*

This Neostrata 10% glycolic acid body lotion (C$45 for 200mL) is a quick an easy way to gently exfoliate your body. I love using this all over or just on my feet for when my feet are feeling extra dry or crackly. It absorbs quickly and leaves my skin feeling ultra soft.

CND Solar Oil*

CND Solar Oil (C$9 for 7.3mL) is the only cuticle oil I use. I keep a little mini bottle everywhere – on my desk at home, on my desk at work (back when I still had my own desk), next to the couch, on my bedside table, in my travel tote for use on the plane). It is so effective at keeping my cuticles healthy and it also smells amazing.

Hope this was helpful and provided a nice distraction to all of the negativity out in the world!

Items marked with an asterisk were (or have been) provided by PR for review consideration or as gifts. I’ve repurchased with my own money several of the PR products mentioned here, but they are asterisked for transparency purposes.

SKINCARE | All about Vichy hydrating serums

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I wanted to do this quick overview of some of the Vichy hydrating serums that I’m currently using in my life. Its no secret that Vichy Mineral 89 (C$41.95 for 50mL) is an absolute staple in my skincare routine. It’s the ultimate step 0 serum as it is super hydrating, very lightweight, and overall improves the health of my skin over long term use. I’ve used up at least five bottles and I don’t see myself stopping.

What’s different between Mineral 89 and the Aqualia Thermal Rehydrating Serum (C$42.95 for 30mL) is that Mineral 89 is a step 0 serum, meant to be used as the first step to your skincare routine even before toning. You apply it direct to your clean and towel-dried skin, and it was absorb immediately, leaving you with plump, very hydrated, beautiful skin that is ready for the next steps. Aqualia Thermal Rehydrating Serum is a true hydrating serum, meant to be applied after toning and before moisturizer. I use this right before moisturizer, after my active serum for the day, which can either be a Vitamic C+E combo for day, or a brightening / exfoliating serum at night. I have very dehydrated skin so I love a good hydrating serum.

Mineral 89 is a great skincare product for all skintypes. You can be literally parched and enjoy this as equally as someone who has oily skin. I have very dehydrated and dry skin so I layer this underneath many products, including the Aqualia Thermal Rehydrating Serum. If you have oily skin, you can use Mineral 89 with just your toner and moisturizer, and it can even help to rebalance your skin and reduce oiliness.

Aqualia Thermal Rehydrating Serum, while also nice, I don’t love as much as Mineral 89. I find that it does a great job at hydrating my skin and creating a moisture barrier, but it can also be sticky if I apply too much (which I have the habit of doing because I’m used to my skin being dry). There is zero stickiness or residue with Mineral 89.

Now Vichy’s newest product is the Mineral 89 Eyes (C$34.95 for 15mL), a step zero serum for the eye are. I used to be pretty terrible with taking care of my eye area, applying eye cream maybe 50% of the time at night only, but I’ve been very good about consistently applying the Mineral 89 Eyes. It is recommended that you apply this with an eye cream, but sometimes I apply it alone because I am lazy and alone is better than nothing. Similar to the Mineral 89 for the face, Mineral 89 Eyes is super lightweight but still very hydrating, and very gentle on the eyes. It doesn’t contain any fragrance or alcohol, and I’ve accidentally gotten it in my eyes with no stinging. It’s a great starter eye product for those who are just starting to venture into the world of eye care.

I absolutely love Mineral 89 and Mineral 89 Eyes. It’s definitely something I think everyone should have in their skincare routine. In the world of step 0 serums, Vichy’s are relatively affordable (see Sulwhasoo and Dior for other step 0 serums that I like and they are definitely way more expensive), but still do a fantastic job. I’ve used up more bottles of Vichy Mineral 89 than any other skincare product in my entire life, so that has to account for something.

I hope this was useful!

Products were provided by Vichy for review consideration or as gifts from media events. All opinions are my own.

SKINCARE | High tech skincare with FRANZ Microcurrent Face Mask System and Everyday Essence Face Serum

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In my quest to get the best possible skin for my upcoming wedding (and just in general because good skin is always a good thing), I’ve been trying out some pretty interesting products. The most unique is the FRANZ Microcurrent Face Mask System and the accompanying Everyday Essence Face Serum. FRANZ is a Korean skincare brand which harnesses the power of microcurrent technology to help improve the efficacy of skincare and its absorption into the skin. The brand’s primary products are face masks, and it also has accompanying skincare products that you can use for maintenance on a day-to-day basis. The products are all made in Korea.

From the brand, I received a two week starter kit, which includes two boxes of Premium Microcurrent Mask Systems:

  • 4 Enriching Masks (Wet)
  • 2 Elixirs (Boosting Essence); 7ml / 0.24OZ each
  • 4 Empowering Masks (Dry)

The starter kit also included one bottle of Everyday Essence (50ml / 1.7oz). Each box of the Premium Microcurrent Mask System includes two sets of masks and retails for US$50, so each application is US$25. The Everyday Essence is US$60, so by buying the set together, you save a total of US$40.

Application is pretty complicated, and it’s not something you would just slap on randomly. The face masks come in three steps; you’d first put on the Enriching Mask, which contains the majority of the serum and helps the mask adhere to your face. Next you’d apply the Elixir to the dry Empowering Mask on a specific area marked on the mask, and then you align the dry mask on top of the wet mask. The dry mask contains the microcurrent technology, and after 25 minutes, it should deliver a thorough dose of hydration and anti-aging ingredients to your skin. The process is explained in the Youtube video below.

First, let’s start with my thoughts on the Everyday Essence. For US$60 for a standalone bottle, it’s pricier than your everyday serums. It does come in a hefty 50mL bottle compared to most serums which are only 30mL. This is a great every day serum to use either morning and night. I mostly get hydrating benefits from it, as the anti-aging benefits usually take longer to appear. I use a hydrating serum over top most of my other serums with active ingredients, and this one layers really well over other products without being greasy, heavy, or sticky. I like that it contains some great ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, retinyl palmitate, biotin, folic acid, and folic acid.

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Now for the mask itself, I really like the fit, and the texture of the mask fibre. The shape and cutouts of the mask fits my face almost perfect, with the exception of the forehead space being slightly too short (this is a common problem for me so I guess my forehead is just too big XD). Of all the masks I’ve used in the past, this one fit me the best with barely any excess mask fibre dangling about. Each wet mask contains 25mL of serum, which is a lot. The wet mask is completely soaked in the serum, and there was still a ton leftover in the bottom of the sachet. The serum itself is a very thin liquid, and dripped quite a bit when I was taking it out of the sachet and unfolding it. I saved the rest of the serum to apply the next day, although you could also use it on your body.

The dry sheet with the elixir is really gimmicky. You’re supposed to squeeze the elixir into two small sections on the dry mask, and let it absorb. I assume this is what kickstarts the microcurrents as the dry mask itself is not attached to any electricity or anything. I had a really hard time “aiming” the sachets correctly and ended up getting a lot of the elixir on the mask itself. Once the dry mask was on, it adhered really well to the wet mask, and then my 25 minute countdown started.

I’m not going to lie. I fully expected to hate this mask because of how annoying the application was. While I was using this, I even texted my friend Angela to let her know I’m using this weird microcurrent mask and it’s so annoying to use. During application, I couldn’t feel any microcurrents or anything to indicate that the microcurrent technology was working. I couldn’t wait to take it off.

Finally the 25 minutes were up and I quickly went to remove the mask, and I was absolutely gobsmacked at how lifted my face looked. My jaw looked so much more contoured, my cheeks were more lifted, and my skin looked more taut and bouncy. My skin also felt very plump and hydrated. The serum from the wet mask had more or less either absorbed into my skin, or absorbed into the dry mask. There wasn’t much serum left to massage into my skin, which I was completely fine with as I really dislike too much excess serum.

Despite my low expectations, I was really pleasantly surprised by how good this mask worked. It is very pricey though, at US$25 per application, so it’s really not for regular use. I can see this as being a fantastic pick-me-up mask for pre-special events or when your skin is feeling particularly blah. I highly recommend this if your budget allows for it.

The Everyday Essence is good, but not amazing. I don’t think it outperforms some of my other hydrating serums, and it’s also harder to acquire so I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble. If you are going to get the masks though, do get the 2-week starter kit as you get a full size serum for just an extra $20, which is a great deal.

You can purchase FRANZ products on their website. I received my package directly from Korea, and folks in the US get free shipping with orders over US$50.

Products provided by PR for review consideration; all opinions are my own.

SKINCARE | Seven days of masking featuring Biotherm, Laneige, Sulwhasoo, Omorovicza, Vichy, Valmont, and La Prairie

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One of my goals this year is to use more face masks. When I was in Bermuda visiting my good friend Suz, I noticed that she masked every day, sometimes using two masks consecutively, and her skin is just glowing. She had a routine – get home from work, take off makeup, mask. A few years ago, I was masking way more often too but ever since I moved out of my condo, I’ve just been super lazy and less creative with my skincare. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy and hoard masks, and I have a super full mask drawer, so I really need to just use them.

Anyways, I wanted to write up some quick reviews on the face masks that I’ve been using lately. Despite the title of this post, I didn’t actually use these consecutively over seven days. I don’t actually advocate for using a different face mask every day, multiple days in a row, because you are subjecting your skin to different ingredients every night. My skin can get sensitive, so doing that just increases the sensitivity.

I’ve included a combination of sheet masks, wash off masks, and even overnight masks. Sheet masks can get really tedious to use sometimes (see lazy above), so I prefer to do a wash off mask just because it can be easier to use, especially in the mornings when I really just need a quick pick-me-up.

Biotherm Life Plankton Essence-in-Mask*

Serum texture: I believe the serum is the Biotherm Life Plankton Essence dumped into a mask pack. It’s very hydrating and lightweight, but too much of it and it becomes really sticky and doesn’t absorb. I had to wipe off quick a bit and my skin still felt a bit sticky climbing into bed.

Mask fibre and fit: It has a traditional cotton fibre mask, which I actually don’t like. It feels very heavy and weighed down, especially if the fit of the mask isn’t great. The good thing is that it does absorb a ton of serum, so it won’t dry out even if you leave it on for a long time. The fit of this mask is not bad. The forehead part was a bit short so I had to make up for the lack of coverage by constantly massaging serum into that area.

Overall: This mask costs $72 for a pack of 6. For a $12 mask, it’s not terrible, but it’s not great. My skin felt hydrated after but I didn’t feel like it was long-lasting hydrating. The next morning, my skin felt just okay. It has a very spa-like scent, which doesn’t bother me. I do like that it’s a quick and easy face mask, as they only ask you to leave it on for 8 minutes, which is a very short yet specific period of time.

Laneige Water Bank Soothing Gel Mask*

Serum texture: Such a lightweight texture that absorbs quickly into the skin with almost no stickiness. It’s super hydrating, and my skin feels plump and refreshed the next morning. The only downside is that it does contain quite a bit of alcohol, so if your skin is sensitive to alcohol then you might want to skip.

Mask fibre and fit: LOVE the fibre of this mask. It’s a gel mask so it’s super lightweight, adheres very well, and doesn’t fall off. I don’t love how it comes in two pieces, I find that the lower piece tends to slowly slide off my face, and I need to constantly readjust it. The downside of a gel mask that it doesn’t actually absorb that much serum so I tend to scoop a bunch from the bag, apply it to my face, then stick on the mask. Fit was okay, I felt like it was a bit wide (a common problem with me and sheet masks), so the sides kept falling off.

Overall: This mask is $31 for a pack of 5, which is a pretty good steal for the quality. The instructions say to leave it on for 30 minutes, so it’s not a mask you could use if you wanted a quick skin pick-me-up. I would definitely buy this again as they would make great masks to use on a sunny beach vacation.

Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Mask

Serum texture: This mask contains the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum soaked into a mask. The FCAS is one of my all-time favourite step zero serums. I’ve gone through at least 3-4 bottles of this stuff, and I still have two in my backup. It’s such a great base layer skin serum that allows all of the other products applied after it to be more effective. Each mask pack includes, I believe, 10mL of serum.

Mask fibre and fit: The fibre is a super light, thin cotton. It does a better job at soaking in the serum than a gel mask, but isn’t as heavy as the traditional cotton mask. It adheres really well to my skin, and I can leave this on for up to 30 minutes (instructions say 10-20 minutes).

Overall: This mask is $79 for a pack of five. I would highly, highly recommend getting this if your budget allows for it. This is one of my favourite masks to use when I really want to seriously pamper my skin. My skin always feel incredible after using it – super plump and glowy.

Omorovicza Deep Cleansing Mask*

Texture: Lightweight mud mask that dries down completely but doesn’t feel tight.

Overall: I don’t use mud masks that often because my skin is relatively dry, although it does get congested sometimes which is when I bring out the big guns. I recently discovered this product and I really like it. For a mud mask, and for something that is called a “Deep Cleansing Mask,” it’s not drying at all. It does a great job at decongesting my skin but still maintaining it’s balance. I don’t need to use a hydrating mask after this, which can be case with other mud masks. It’s a bit pricey at $160 for 50mL, but a little bit goes a long way with this because it is thinner than most mud masks in my mask drawer. I would probably rate this as one of the top 3 mud masks I’ve ever used.

Vichy Soothing Aloe Vera Mask*

Texture: A gel-ish cream texture that contains aloe vera and Vichy’s mineralizing thermal water.

Overall: I’m not a fan of this mask, sadly. I was really looking forward to it because my skin can get really sensitive under extreme climates (either too much sun or too much wind / cold), but I actually find that this mask makes my skin even more sensitive after just one use. It is pretty affordable at $34 for 75mL. It does do a good job at minimizing redness, probably because of its green hue that is a bit hard to wash off. I much prefer the Quenching Mineral Mask from Vichy, which is also $34 and does an amazing job at helping reduce sensitivity while deeply hydrating my skin.

Valmont Prime Renewing Pack*

Texture: Very rich, white cream that is a bit harder to spread. Feels like a primer and a traditional cold cream had a baby.

Overall: I understand that this mask has a cult following in Asia, which I completely cannot understand. Of all the masks I reviewed today, this one is the worst. It’s supposed to be a prime renewing, and stress and fatigue relieving mask, but I feel like it doesn’t do much to my skin at all. I use this in the morning because of its “priming” properties, and I keep hearing about how it helps to completely renew your tired skin, but honestly I didn’t see a difference before or after. The second ingredient on this list, after water, is mineral oil, and it feels very rich like mineral oil. It does contain a ton of different extracts starting from the 4th item on the ingredients list, but maybe my skin just isn’t in that bad of a condition to fully appreciate it. It’s also very pricey at $280 for 50mL. I definitely think you should try a sample of this before you buy it.

La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Sleep Mask*

Texture: Lightweight cream with the signature Skin Caviar scent

Overall: I received this from the La Prairie team as an engagement gift last spring. This is such an amazingly luxurious cream mask that I’ve been savouring for the nights where my skin really needs a lot of help. With this mask, I can instantly tell a difference in skin texture, bounce, and lift the next morning. My jaw is nicely contoured and my skin is visibly lifted and firmer. This product was revamped a year or two ago with the new caviar premier, which is even more effective at anti-aging, and I can really see the difference. It also comes with a beautiful brush that you can apply the mask with, which makes for such a lovely treatment. It is very pricey, at $500 for 50mL. It’s not going to be in everyone’s budget, but if you have the budget and want something effective, this definitely is something you want to add to your skincare collection.

Products with an asterisk (*) were received as PR samples for review consideration or as gifts from the brand. All opinions are my own.

SKINCARE | Daytime and nighttime routine update featuring Omorovicza, Eve Lom, and Verso

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Hello and happy 2020! I took a bit of a blogging hiatus towards the end of 2019 because honestly I was running low on inspiration, and I’d rather not publish unless I had something really good to say. To start off my blog in 2020, I wanted to share a skincare update with you on the products I’ve been using the last few weeks and months.

Daytime

Omorovicza Daily Vitamin C Serum

I’m on the fence about the Daily Vitamin C Serum from Omorovicza (C$200 for 30mL). I do like how lightweight and silky this makes my skin feel, and a little bit goes a long way, but I found that under a lot of products, it pills. I love the lightweight citrus scent, and while it’s not medical grade vitamin C (unlike Skinceuticals or AlumierMD), I do find a bit of comfort knowing that I’m still using this as an anti-oxidant during the day. I likely won’t repurchase this as it is also super pricey for being just okay.

You can purchase Omorovicza at Sephora and Nordstrom.

Eve Lom Radiance Antioxidant Eye Cream

Full disclosure – I’ve only been using the Radiance Antioxidant Eye Cream (C$98 for 15mL) for about a week but I am pretty happy with it so far. I ran out of my normal eye cream (from La Prairie) a few weeks ago and I’ve been going without a daytime eye cream just because I’m lazy, and was relying on my Verso eye serum. I’ve had great experiences with Eve Lom skincare in the past and this one is no different. I love the balmy texture that is moisturizing without being greasy. I use this as my “eye moisturizer” on top of the Vichy Mineral 89 Yeux and they work wonders together. I don’t notice that it minimizes wrinkles or anything but I do feel like it reduces the creation of additional fine lines.

Eve Lom Moisture Cream

Similar to the above, I’ve only been using the Moisture Cream (C$210 for 50mL) for about a week and I am absolutely IN LOVE with this. It is such an interesting gel-ish thick cream texture that is super moisturizing but still very lightweight. It has lavender in it, which not everyone enjoys, but I adore. I’ve been using this primarily as my day cream but I also use it at night on the evenings where I am taking a break from Verso. It works great both under makeup and as a rich night cream for my super dry and dehydrated skin. If you buy anything from what I’ve reviewed today, this has to be it (unless you hate lavender, then you should stay far away from this).

You can purchase Eve Lom at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Nighttime

I switched the majority of my nighttime routine to Verso towards the end of November / beginning of December last year. After about a month of using them, I’m really liking the state of my skin. This is the first time I’ve ever used a retinoid eye product and moisturizer. Historically I’ve only used retinol or retinoid serums or facial oils.

Verso Super Eye Serum

The Verso Super Eye Serum (C$110 for 30mL) is a lightweight milky gel texture. A little bit goes a super long way. I apply this at night only and I use it about five days a week, or two to three days on and then one day off (using the Eve Lom Eye Cream above) to give my eye area a break). I really like the texture of this serum but I don’t know if I feel like it’s doing much to my eye area. I feel like it is a bit too gentle to actually make a difference, but it also causes sensitivity if I use it too many days in a row. I would skip this.

Verso Super Facial Serum

The Verso Super Facial Serum (C$175 for 30mL) is a thick serum that is ultra creamy and relatively moisturizing for a retinoid-based product. I use this about 5-6 days a week, with a one day break. I really like how gentle it is that I can use more regularly compared to other retinol products. It really does work. I feel like my skin is a lot smoother and softer over time. It does cause a bit of sensitivity if I use it without a break, but I found that I can get away with just a one day break per week. If you have ultra sensitive skin, you may want to take additional breaks.

Verso Night Cream

The Verso Night Cream (C$145 for 50mL) is my favourite of the three products. It is a super rich night cream that still is moisturizing but not greasy, and still absorbs quickly. When used with the face serum, I wake up with smooth, glowy skin that is a great base for makeup. Similar to the Facial Serum, I like that it is a lot gentler compared to straight up retinol products, and I can use it pretty much every night (I also take a one day break with this each week). Slow and steady wins the game – now I can get all the benefits of a retinol-like product without the dryness.

You can purchase Verso products at Holt Renfrew.

All products were provided by PR for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

SKINCARE | Blush and navy wedding skincare featuring Suqqu, La Prairie, Laneige, Halo Beauty, and Nivea

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Ever since we picked blush and navy to be our wedding colours, I’ve been subconsciously drawn to skincare products packaged in these colours. Today I wanted to share with you some of the products that I’ve been (still) enjoying in my skincare routine as I prepare my skin for our big day!

The first is Suqqu Moisture Repair Essence N. This product I added to my routine in early September as the weather was just starting to turn cold in Vancouver. My skin isn’t perpetually dry and dehydrated and I needed an extra moisture serum step to help boost my skins hydration level. I purchased this in London when I was there last summer, and so far I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s such a lightweight hydrating serum that works perfectly over my retinol. I love this under my La Prairie moisturizer too. With my dry skin I’ve been expecting it to peel once I restarted using retinol, but I haven’t had any redness or peeling.

I previously wrote about the La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream Sheer, and I’m still loving it. While with the colder weather, it’s not quite enough hydration for my dry skin (hence the layering with the Suqqu serum), I love how it absorbs so quickly into my skin leaving no residue behind. While I love a rich moisturizer, some of them do leave behind a residue, but thankfully this does not. My skin feels firmer and smoother with every week of using this cream, featuring the new Caviar Premier which launched earlier this year.

I have perpetually dry lips but when I was in Vegas earlier this year, I picked up this mini size of the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask. I LOVE THIS STUFF! It’s been absolutely amazing for my dry lips. My lips used to peel and crack regularly but with this lip mask applied every night, I haven’t had any issues at all with dryness. I also bought the day gloss / balm and while it’s great for on-the-go, I still prefer this one since it works the best on me.

In terms of general skin, nail and hair health, I started using Halo Beauty Hair, Skin and Nails Booster this year. I was using it off and on (which you’re not supposed to do since it won’t maximize the benefits), but when I am using it, I definitely see and feel a difference. I was on the keto diet earlier this year and I had been experiencing some hair fallout. While I feel like this didn’t stop the fallout, this did make my hair grow back at an alarmingly fast rate. I also noticed the random dry patches on my skin have been disappearing. Recently I’m back on HSN Booster on a regular basis because I’ve been really stressed out from work so my scalp has been really dry and flakey.  I’m hoping that this will help.

Lastly, an oldie but goodie is the Nivea Firming Body Oil. I’ve taken FOREVER to use up this entire bottle, and sometimes I do forgo this in favour of other, more interesting body lotions, but I always come back to this one eventually because it works. I love how fast it dries on my skin, how it doesn’t leave a residue, the amazing and comforting smell, and how it’s great for the colder months. I wanted to pick up another bottle but I don’t think they sell this anymore… so sad!

As I continue further into my wedding prep and get closer to the big day, I’ll be sharing more skincare prep ideas and product reviews with you! I’m so happy to be back writing skincare reviews, it really does bring me the most joy and I hope you enjoy reading them too!

La Prairie and Nivea were PR samples. Everything else was purchased with my own money or received as a retail gift with purchase. All opinions are my own.

SKINCARE | Recent product hits and duds featuring Herbivore Botanicals, Apothekari Skincare, Caudalie, May Coop and Elemis

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I haven’t written about skincare in a while but I wanted to share some quick thoughts on a few products I’ve been using lately.

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Herbivore Botanicals Bakuchiol Serum

I got a free deluxe mini bottle of this when I placed an Herbivore order during their 30% off sale. I used this every night for a few weeks and I didn’t see any major benefits to my skin at all. It was lightly hydrating, and the texture was soothing, but other than that I wouldn’t say it’s a very effective anti-aging serum. I personally feel like if you are pregnant or are majorly adverse to using stronger ingredients such as actual retinol, or you have very sensitive skin, or you just want all of your skincare to be 100% clean, then you might enjoy this because you can feel like you’re using an effective anti-aging ingredient. Otherwise, I wouldn’t get this over something else that’s more potent.

Repurchase? Nope.

Herbivore Botanicals Pink Cloud Moisturizer

Another dud from Herbivore Botanicals is their Pink Cloud Moisturizer. I purchased this last November during the Sephora VIB sale, and started using it at the beginning of July, and by then the jar had already mostly dried up to a point of it being a thick cream instead of a more whipped texture. In addition to not being moisturizing on me at all, it also broke me out. I loved the subtle rose scent, which was the only thing it had going for it.

Repurchase? Heck no.

Herbivore Botanicals Prism Serum

I ordered this because I love chemical exfoliants and this one contains a blend of fruit acids. Well similar to the Pink Cloud Moisturizer, it sat in the box for 8 months (unopened) and turned a weird brown murky colour. I still used it for a few days (according to the Herbivore Instagram account, the product is still good to use, and the colour change is just cosmetic) but I literally felt nothing from this. Maybe if you’re just starting out with acid exfoliators, you could give this one a go, but the fact that it turned bad before even the one year mark, combined with how it didn’t do anything for my skin at all, dissuades me from recommending this to anyone.

Repurchase? No

Herbivore Botanicals Rose Hibiscus Coconut Spray

The only item from Herbivore that I seem to be getting along with is the Rose Hibiscus Coconut Spray. It smells subtly rosy, which I am enjoying. It’s not super hydrating, which is a bummer, but it does feel really refreshing on the skin. It sinks in completely with no residue, making it a good candidate as a post-makeup setting spray too.

Repurchase? Maybe, but probably not because there are other products out there that can do better.

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Apothekari Skincare Bespoke Vitamin C 10% Serum

I received this from the Apothekari brand. I’ve known about this local Vancouver brand for years but it was my first time trying their products. The founder is a pharmacist and created this brand for people who are looking for active ingredients without certain harmful ingredients. The Bespoke Vitamin C 10% serum was custom mixed for me once it was confirmed that I wanted to try this product. With this product, they don’t mix everything together until it is confirmed that a client is ordering it, which means everything is ultra fresh.

I’ve tested several Vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic Acid combo serums in the last few years, including the very famous CE Ferulic by Skinceuticals, and I honestly have to say this one is my favourite. The texture is funny, almost goopy like aloe gel, but it feels super soothing and hydrating on the skin. As a vitamin C serum, I apply this on my face pretty much every morning and it doesn’t feel sticky or leave my skin with an orange tinge. I would highly recommend that you check this out if you are in the market for a Vitamin C serum, especially if you’ve been interested in the Skinceuticals one for a while. This is $95 which is a lot more affordable than the Skinceuticals version.

Repurchase? Absolutely yes.

Apothekari Skincare A is for Anti-Aging Retinal Serum

Retinal is Retinaldehyde, a derivative of retinol. Per Apothekari, retinal is the “ultimate retinoid because it is the direct precursor to Retinoic Acid, the form of Vitamin A.” I haven’t looked too much into the science of it, but this is supposed to be a gentler version of retinol. In addition to retinal, it also includes one of my favourite skincare ingredients Niacinamide at a 5% concentration.

This serum is an interesting yellow, creamy texture. It goes on smooth underneath my moisturizer without giving me a yellow tinge. I love that it absorbs super quickly, and is not as drying as regular retinol. The effects aren’t as immediate as regular retinol either, which is good and bad depending on what your skincare preference is. I personally like instant gratification, which is why I’m obsessed with regular retinol. I do see that my skin is smoother and brighter over time, but it’s just not an immediate benefit.

Repurchase? Maybe. At this point in my skincare life, I personally prefer something stronger like retinol because my skin can take it right now, but I definitely will repurchase if my skin becomes sensitive later on and I need something gentler.

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Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Essence

I received this from Caudalie PR and I love it so much, I have it saved on my Sephora Loves list. This is such a great lightweight essence lotion / toner for the summer months! I love the thinner texture which makes it great as a toner but also as a gently brightening essence. The scent is super subtle and very refreshing. I use this primarily in the morning but I also use it at night if I feel like my skin can use a bit of a kick. This is probably the most comparable essence lotion to the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence that I have found, which is amazing because this is a fraction of the price of SK-II.

Repurchase? Already on my list!

May Coop Raw Sauce

I love essence lotions and when I saw a promotion on May Coop’s popular Raw Sauce, I ordered myself a bottle to use in the mornings. This has a really thick serum-y texture which absorbs quickly. The trick is not to use a lot, otherwise you end up feeling sticky. I noticed an immediate boost in hydrating in just 1-2 days of use, and then my skin also feels way more comfortable and even. I had a pimple on my chin that was taking a while to heel but for some reason this really helped heel that as well. I haven’t used this enough to see the long term benefits, but in just the few short weeks I’ve had it, I’m already starting to be a believer.

Repurchase? Yes! It’s so affordable too.

Elemis Pro Collagen Marine Cream

This full size jar came in the Elemis advent calendar I ordered last year. I’ve been using this as a daytime moisturizer and I’m a big fan. It has such a nice lightweight gel cream texture, soaks in immediately, is super hydrating, layers well with other products, and creates a good base for foundation. While this is advertised as a day cream (there’s a separate night cream that’s supposed to be thicker), you can absolutely use this as a night cream as well. I don’t think I’ve noticed significant anti-aging benefits, but I do feel like my skin is nicely hydrated all the time and more plump. The only thing I don’t love about it is the jar – I feel like the formula is light enough to be in a pump or squeeze bottle. That being said, you can easily get every last drop of this cream from the jar.

Repurchase? Very likely.

PR products include Caudalie and Apothekari, everything else was purchased with my own money. I do not use affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

SKINCARE | Don’t buy products from Herbivore Botanicals

You know me and my obsession with natural skincare products. I started to be interested in Herbivore Botanical‘s products after finding out about their Blue Tansy mask. This was at the height of my blogging days, and I had enough skincare for up to eight lifetimes, but I still bought a jar to try. I love blue tansy as an ingredient, and May Lindstrom’s the Blue Cocoon is one of my saviour products. A few months later, I noticed that my Blue Tansy mask, which used to be a beautiful ocean blue colour, is now grey, smelled weird, and also much thicker in texture. This is example #1.

I didn’t think much of it, and I continued being obsessed with their products, ordering a skincare kit which contained travel sizes of the Pink Cloud cream, Prism exfoliating serum, and the Rose Hibiscus spray. As a skincare hoarder, I bought it and never opened it, leaving it in the box, sealed tight, for a few months. I ordered it in November 2018, and come July 2019 when I was finally ready to use it, I opened the box to find that my Prism serum, which is supposed to be transparent, is now a weird brown murky colour, and Pink Cloud cream had essentially dried up in the jar.

I reached out to Herbivore on Instagram asking about this, and they said that their products are all natural so colour discolouration is normal. However it doesn’t explain why Pink Cloud essentially dried up in the jar. While Pink Cloud was still usable, it is no longer that whipped texture, and is instead slightly hard and needs a few spritzes of the Rose Hibiscus Spray to become spreadable.

Now, right before I discovered the mess of NEW products I had from Herbivore, silly me made another order, this time because they were offering a 30% discount and a free mini of the Bakuchiol Serum. I love retinol, and any products that claims to have retinol-like benefits, I latch onto and won’t let go. So I ordered some products for the promo. While I haven’t received it in the mail yet, I see a post by Chemist Confessions on Instagram talking about the lack of protective packaging used by Herbivore.

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Bakuchiol hails to be a natural alternative to retinol. For us, it's definitely an interesting little guy that has some eye catching studies out there… so this won't be going anywhere anytime soon. We're seeing a flurry of brands coming out with their interpretation of this product! One of them is Herbivore's newly launched bakuchiol serum. So let's #decodethatIL 1. The good: Bakuchiol studies use 0.5% of the ingredient. Now Herbivore doesn't disclose the exact bakuchiol %, but it's reasonably high enough on the ingredient list that we think it should at least be close to the 0.5% mark 2. The gimmick: the product includes another hot ingredient on the market — PHA gluconolactone. Now based on the data, this should be used at fairly high levels. Think upwards of 14%. So there's no way it'll hit that here. Really at this level, it's more of a formula support. 3. The questionable: bakuchiol is a retinol alternative that doesn't have nearly the same level of stability issues that retinol does… but it's still suggested to store it in a cool dark place. So we're still feeling a bit meh about the clear dropper bottle. Final thoughts? We think this is worth a go for those who want to try out a bakuchiol product since it's most likely used at the right levels. Just keep it in vampire settings (cool and dark) just to be on the safe side. #retinolalternatives

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This really made me think that YES! Despite Herbivore’s products all containing some kind of active ingredient, coupled by the lack of preservatives, means that they should be trying HARDER to put their products in airtight containers which will prevent oxidization, right? But no, they do not. Their products are clearly drying out in the bottle, and are turning bad earlier than they should be. This is a sign that the ingredients contained within the products are not as effective as they should be, and may even be completely ineffective.

Oh, and don’t forget this Reddit post about contaminated products made by Herbivore… Do you want to be putting mold on your face?

If you’ve noticed that I haven’t linked a single product here, it was done deliberately because I really don’t want you to buy their products. There are SO many products and brands out there that are equally, if not more amazing, and you really shouldn’t have to waste money on Herbivore’s products with the selection we’re faced with today.

Just another disclaimer that I’m not a scientist, I’m just some girl on the internet who loves skincare and who works hard at her day job so she can go and buy skincare products. Just based on that alone, I wouldn’t recommend buying Herbivore. Spend your hard-earned money somewhere else!

I purchased everything mentioned in this post. All opinions are my own, and based on my personal use and experience of the products.

SKINCARE | The most overhyped moisturizer of all time

Creme de la Mer review

Today I have a review of a luxury facial moisturizer that is infamous for being used by celebrities as body cream – yes I am talking about Creme de la Mer. I’ve been lusting after the original Creme de la Mer for over a year, so last fall I finally took the plunge and picked up a 30mL jar. It was C$230… an astronomical price for something with pretty basic ingredients. I fell in love with this product for two reasons – the smell, which is incredibly fresh and powdery and relaxes me completely; and the texture.

A lot of the reviews say that Creme de la Mer is so thick that it causes breakouts and congestion. It is indeed very thick, a balm-cream texture that is hard to spread around, however there is actually a right way and a wrong way to apply this. The right way is to take a pea-sized amount, warm it up on your palms, and then press into the skin. You notice a significant difference when you take the time to warm and melt the cream in your palms, which then allows it to soften into a gorgeous light balm which will then beautifully envelop your skin. I don’t always take the time to melt it (you really want to take your time to warm it), so application is iffy on most evenings. I also found that it doesn’t work well for facial massage, because you’re only really supposed to apply a tiny bit and just enough to thinly cover your skin, so when I try to massage with it, I either overapply or my hands drag on my face, which is not ideal.

Going back to the smell, it really is such a wonderful comforting scent. A lot of people might think it smells like old lady, and I can definitely understand why. It is a soft floral powder, which tends to bring a lot of people back to their grandma’s perfume. That being said though, the smell dissipates after a few minutes, and you can’t smell it anymore after.

Creme de la Mer review

In terms of efficacy, this really is just a very basic moisturizer. It’s really not that hydrating – my skin is very dehydrated so I tend to have to apply a hydrating serum before apply thing (usually a few drops of hyaluronic serum). You really have to be careful not to overapply, otherwise you will get congestion and some breakouts. I didn’t notice that my lines or wrinkles had been reduced, and I didn’t notice an increase in hydration over time or anything either. The one good thing I do like about this is that it is really good at protecting skin. The original story behind La Mer (which has since been disputed and called into question) was that it was developed by some scientist to help people with skin burns. While I didn’t have any skin burns, my skin was peeling due to the A-Passioni retinol that I was using, and I found that this was definitely helpful in helping my skin heel. While most other products stung my sensitive skin at the time, Creme de la Mer did not and was very soothing on my skin.

Would I recommend / repurchase? Definitely not. The 30mL is lasting me quite a while (I’ve been using this for over 2 months now and still around 1/4 of the 30mL jar left), so I’ll just enjoy this and then move on to something more effective. The experience was nice, and I’m glad I did try it out so I wouldn’t forever be lemming after this, but ultimately I don’t think it’s worth the price tag.

SKINCARE | La Prairie Essence of Skin Caviar Eye Complex… you don’t know how good it is until you stop!

La Prairie Essence of Skin Caviar Eye Complex review

Last summer, I got a nice raise and bonus at work, so I rewarded myself by buying myself a nice eye cream. I’ve always had really good luck with La Prairie skincare, so I picked up the La Prairie Essence of Skin Caviar Eye Complex (C$225 for 15mL). This is an eye serum that comes in the signature dark blue La Prairie bottle with a silver dropper. You can apply this alone, but they recommend that you apply this underneath their Skin Caviar Eye Cream.

The Essence of Skin Caviar Eye Complex has a lightweight clear gel texture. It sinks in super quickly into the eye area, and you really don’t need a lot for maximum spreadability. It sinks in completely, and works well alone or underneath your eye cream of choice. I am lazy, and I used this pretty much alone the entire time I owned it.

I’ve always been really bad at apply eye cream in the morning, and only apply at night, so my eye area is usually pretty dry throughout the day. Because of the lightweight texture, it really sinks in right away and I never feel like my eye area is heavy or greasy from eye cream. It also sits wonderfully under makeup.

Now here comes my revelation. When I was using this regularly, I was really not impressed. It was fine – basically just a fine eye product that did its job but I wasn’t sure if it was worth the price tag. My eye area was hydrated enough, and my lines were also somewhat smoother but not groundbreaking. Now, as soon as I finished using it and started using something else, I noticed a tremendous difference in how my eye area looked. It was almost… tired looking. I don’t generally get undereye dark circles but I noticed that my eye area looked not quite to dark circle level, but again tired. I had a tiny bit of the Essence of Skin Caviar Eye Complex left in the dropper, and I applied that back to my eye area, and then it went back to being hydrated, smoother, and brighter.

My experience was super puzzling, but then it just made me realize that La Prairie products really do work. They aren’t going to give you that WOW I just had an incredible skin procedure and now my skin looks amazing experience, but over time you can seriously tell the difference between using them and not using them.

This product is pretty pricey so I’m not sure I will immediately repurchase, but I can see myself going back to it again in the future. Because of the texture, a little bit can go quite a long ways, even if its used twice a day. I still have a little bit that I’ve just been trying to get out of the bottle. If you have an eye cream that you already use and love, this layers wonderfully underneath it as well.

Now if you’re interested in picking this up, you can grab it at Holt Renfrew. If you buy in store, make sure to ask for samples of other products as well because the girls are usually very good about giving samples with your purchase. You can try this out with the La Prairie Skin Caviar Eye Cream, and you’ll likely get an even more dramatic effect.