“Where Do I Start???” – How To Build A Skincare Routine

Oftentimes, I get wrapped up in talking about new beauty or skincare products – wrapped up enough that I’ll forget: some people are still figuring out how to build a basic skincare routine.

No shame in starting from scratch, & no such thing as a dumb question…so, after a few requests, here’s a very simple routine/top shelfie that you can use for guidance. Let’s do it!

First, let me just make it clear: my skin type is dry/sensitive. Products that work really well for my skin type may not work as well for someone with oily or combo skin. It’s hard to accurately determine your skin type online – always best to go to a dermatologist – but if you can’t make it to one, try this skin type quiz by Soko Glam, an online K-Beauty retailer. Remember: online quizzes won’t give you the most accurate results, but they can be a good place to start.

With that in mind, let me outline a simple 3-step routine. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on your skin, but want to see some improvement, it’s a good place to start.

  1. Cleanse
  2. Tone
  3. Moisturize

At the end of the day (or beginning), it really comes down to these three steps. Cleanse your face to refresh/remove dirt, oil, & other “bad stuff.” Tone to brighten, hydrate, & purify. Moisturize to keep your skin soft & hydrated all day or all night. Remember, even if you have oily skin, you should be moisturizing. Not moisturizing the skin can cause dehydration – dehydrated skin usually leads to micro-abrasions, which can let in bacteria. This leads to breakouts & acne. So – no matter what skin type you have, make sure you’re moisturizing!

Some of you might already know the three step routine, & that’s great – but you might not know when or how to use serums & oils. Here’s how the three step routine would look plus serums & oils. Remember: you don’t have to use serums or oils; they’re a great way to up your skin care game if you’re not completely happy with how your skin is looking or feeling, but they’re not the must-haves (in my opinion).

  1. Cleanse
  2. Tone
  3. Serums – if you’re using several, work your way from most “watery” to most “gel-like.” In my experience, watery serums will sink in faster & easier if you put them right after a toner. Gel-like serums take a little longer to sink in, so they could use a little extra time…after you’ve finished with the watery serum(s)
  4. Oil – just like with serums, work your way from most diluted to most rich. Any oil will have a different texture & consistency than a serum; that’s why they’re categorized differently
  5. Moisturize

So that’s how you “up” your skin care game, if you’re already used to the three step method.

Without further ado, here are some of the products I use most often (as well as a few new ones). Almost all of them are under $30; there are two exceptions. Remember that you can get effective & affordable skin care products – these two qualities are not mutually exclusive!

Cleansers Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, CLĒ Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser

On the left: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser. On the right: CLĒ Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser

As you can see by the rather banged-up bottles, these are the two cleansers I reach for most often. Let’s start with Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, a product I’ve been using (& loving) for almost two years now. I love MJC because it’s such an effective non-foaming cleanser. Most foaming cleansers dry out my skin; Milky Jelly doesn’t lather up, but it does get rid of dirt & oil, just like any other cleanser would. The delicate floral scent is amazing, too. I like to use two pumps of it on dry skin in the morning, making sure to massage my face as I work the cleanser across my skin. It’s like a mini spa treatment – every single morning – & it only takes 2 minutes. I rinse off with luke-warm water, then move on to toner. Read my #MiniReview on Milky Jelly here!

As a bonus, here are some other options for non-foaming cleansers – for those of you who live in countries that Glossier doesn’t ship to, or for those of you who just aren’t interested in Milky Jelly:

Next up: CLĒ Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser: this is probably (okay, definitely) the only foaming cleanser I can use regularly without worrying about my skin drying out. I like to use this best in the evening – it does an amazing job of getting rid of any leftover makeup that my micellar water might have missed, & it’s admittedly very fun to use. When pushing down on the pump, a goopy substance similar in texture to Milky Jelly comes out (no scent!). Massage that over your face, & it quickly foams up. Leave on for 30-ish seconds, then wipe off with a damp towel, or rinse off with water (I prefer the latter). Most definitely the only foaming cleanser I can use without worrying about drying out my skin, even in the cold dry winter months. This cleanser is magic. Read my review of Oxygen Foam on CLĒ Cosmetic’s blog right here!


On the left: Glossier Solution. On the right: Thayer’s Witch Hazel Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner 

For a few years, I religiously used the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, & Rosewater – yup, the one that everyone used (& still uses). Although I’ve seen a lot of people complain about it online (not pure, makes them break out) I’ve never had an issue with it – I just eventually encountered options that were more my style. It took me a while to convert to “cotton pad toners,” as I like to call them (as opposed to a spray, like Mario Badescu) but the one that sold me was Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner. I got it at Target for $11 in October – & I’m still on my first bottle. The alcohol-free option is really nice if you have sensitive skin, & lavender is especially soothing on my skin, so I was really happy when I saw that this was one of the few options left on the shelf. Witch hazel is a natural astringent, so it clarifies the skin – but it also soothes & reduces any inflammation that might be present. Also in the formula: aloe vera, plain old water, & glycerin – all calming & soothing for the skin. If you’re hyper-sensitive, Thayers has a non-scented version of their toner. If you still prefer spritz toners to cotton pad toners, Thayers now has a lot of their toners in spray bottle packaging – check them out here. Read my #MiniReview of this toner here!

(Side note: When using a cotton pad toner, I use Shiseido cotton pads. I know, I know – fancy…but seriously, they’re worth it. Even better, they’re actually quite affordable if you do it my way: cut them in half! Use one half for your morning routine & the other half for your evening routine. This way, you cut the cost in half, & you still feel all the benefits of using the Shiseido Facial Cotton (these truly are a huge upgrade from drugstore cotton rounds…trust me). If you have sensitive skin & feel like a lot of cotton pads/rounds are scratchy on your skin, these are for you. 

Another “toner” I’ve been incorporating into my routine: the latest from Glossier: Glossier Solution. This is the brand’s first release of 2018, & it’s been getting a lot of attention – it’s one of the first Glossier products that really focuses on clearing & brightening skin, as well as reducing acne/hormonal breakouts. Solution is a chemical exfoliant, meant to be used once a day in replacement of a toner. The AHA/BHA/PHA blend dissolves dead skin cells, brightens, softens, & refreshes skin, as well as reducing redness, acne, & breakouts. Read the full scoop here; first, though, let me say this: if you’re using Solution – or any other chemical exfoliant – wear sunscreen! When using any kind of chemical exfoliant (this one included) your skin is more sensitive to the sun. You should wear sunscreen no matter what, but if you’ve been guiltily ignoring that, it’s time to start protecting yourself – especially if you’re using a chemical exfoliant. I’ll give you some of my favorite options in a moment. Stay tuned.

Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin

Finally – I mentioned that my first toner was a spritzer (by Mario Badescu). Here’s one that I’ve revisited & been really loving lately: the Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin. Think of it as the Mario Badescu Facial Spray…but make it purer. There are three ingredients in this: purified water, pure rose oil, & natural vegetable glycerin. If you’re worried about a cloying scent, worry no more. This has a very delicate, floral scent – similar to that of Glossier Milky Jelly. It’s described as “multi-purpose,” because it is. Use it for your hair, use it as a toner, use it as a setting spray, use it as a refresher when 3 pm hits & you still have a few hours to go (but your skin isn’t feeling it) – face, body, hair…go ham. Just don’t drink it. I haven’t used this for a minute, but I’ve been revisiting it – & I’ve appreciated it as a toner, a refresher, & a setting spray this past month. Oh – & it’s only $10. Find it online, in some Whole Foods, some Urban Outfitters, & perhaps even some Targets, if you’re lucky.


From left to right: Glossier Super Pure Serum, The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, & Valjean Labs Hydrate Serum

Like I mentioned when talking about how to build up your skin care routine to something more complex or “fancy” – serums aren’t necessary, but they can be great ways to really improve the texture, tone, & even the health of your skin. I typically don’t wear more than two serums at once – because too much of anything is a bad thing – & I usually wear different serums at night than I do in the day. I won’t delve into that, because this is just about how to build a simple routine – so here are a few serums that I’ve been enjoying. Some are old favorites, others are new discoveries – but they’re all under $30, which is great. Let me start with the Valjean Hydrate Serum – I have a #MiniReview on this, which I’ll link here. If you’re just looking for a super quick review, though, here are my two cents on it: I liked the texture of Glossier’s Super Bounce Serum (another hyaluronic acid serum), but wasn’t seeing results that made the $28 price tag worth it to me. I tried The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid serum (way cheaper) but like a bunch of their other serums, this one was tacky, dried down oddly, & I didn’t even feel like it was hydrating. Stumped, I kept hunting. I saw “Valjean Labs” pop up across a few photos on Instagram before I asked some friends about the serums, & I heard only good things. I got the Hydrate serum first – followed by Glow & Firm. I like Firm – it’s a hydrating & plumping serum that contains ferulic acid & Vitamin E – but I’m not a fan of Glow (a Vitamin C serum). It just didn’t really seem to do anything. So: Hydrate remains my favorite serum from Valjean. It’s a thin, watery texture, but doesn’t dry down tacky. It’s cooling & soothing – really helps reduce redness – & it feels like a cool drink of water for my skin. I use it morning & night. It layers under other serums/moisturizers really nicely, too. Pick it up for $15 at Urban Outfitters, or keep your eyes peeled at your local TJ Maxx – Valjean serums go for $4.99 at TJ.

Next up: an old favorite; an old friend: Glossier Super Pure Serum. The Glossier Supers hold a special place in my heart; Super Glow was the first serum I ever put on my face when the trio launched in fall of 2016. I’ve hopped back & forth between Super Pure & Super Glow as my favorites, but at this point I can confidently say that Super Pure is my favorite. This is a serum that is, in fact, worth the $28 price tag (for me). It calms redness & inflammation in the short-term; long-term, it reduces breakouts & just clarifies the skin overall. The water-gel consistency is not sticky or tacky; it doesn’t pill; it wears beautifully under makeup/moisturizers…I have no bad things to say. Check out my longer review here

Finally – a brand-new addition to my routine: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. It’s so new, in fact, that I’ve only used it twice so far. Before purchasing, I snooped around for some opinions, & immediately got some “NOOOO! IT IS SO SCRATCHY!” comments. Naturally, I was a bit scared when it arrived – but I’m glad I had that “background knowledge” of the texture of the serum before giving it a go myself, because it influenced the way in which I applied it. Obviously, I can’t give that big of a review, because I’ve only used it twice, but here are my first impressions: definitely the “oddest” serum I’ve used yet, mainly because it’s “water-free” – that means that it looks like a cream; maybe a runny moisturizer. The “scratchiness” comes from “dehydrated spheres” of hyaluronic acid, which “offer visible surface smoothing.” I wouldn’t call it scratchy; it doesn’t feel like a sugar/salt scrub; it feels more like someone put sand into a light moisturizer (I know that sounds odd). There’s no denying that it’s a bit abrasive, especially if I were to rub it into my face – but thanks to everyone’s warnings, I was able to avoid that situation. When applying, I put some on my fingertips, then gently press it into my skin. Wait a few minutes, & sure enough – the “dehydrated spheres” melted into my skin. Then, it’s simple: apply moisturizer, & be at peace. There’s no denying that it’s one of the oddest products I’ve tried so far, but I’m intrigued. The Ordinary has great prices, & it’s even more accessible, now that it’s being carried (online) at Sephora. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted.


The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Organic Rose Hip Seed Oil – good for all skin types 

I’m a fan of facial oils, but I’m not the biggest fan – basically, creams > oils in my opinion (& keep in mind: everyone’s skin is different). While creams are my priority, I found oils to be way more confusing, especially when first thinking about using one. Won’t it just make my skin greasy? Will I break out more? Why would you put oil on your face…?

The answer to the last question: there are many reasons for putting oil on your face, & if you remember that you’re not putting vegetable oil or bacon grease on your face – you’re putting rosehip oil, tea tree oil, marula oil & so on (all of which have their benefits) – the fear of breaking out or looking greasy will soon fade. Oils won’t make your face greasy – you just have to choose the right one. That depends on your skin type, & since I can’t tell every single one of you what your skin type is, I’d leave the serious oil recommendations to someone more qualified (ask a skin care consultant at Sephora, or go to your dermatologist, or just do some reading after you know a little more about your skin type), but I can tell you one oil that works really well for all skin types: rosehip!

Rosehip oil calms redness, reduces inflammation, & hydrates – of course. It’s lightweight, doesn’t feel heavy, sticky, or greasy, & it wears well under a cream. You can also put a little more on & forget a cream all together. One of the cheapest options out there is The Ordinary’s 100% Cold-Pressed Organic Rose Hip Seed Oil. Described as “a daily support formula for all skin types,” this oil is rich in various vitamins & fatty acids, all of which plumpen, hydrate, & boost skin’s circulation. It smells slightly floral, but I can hardly detect a scent. It’s not the highest-quality oil, but it’s under $10, I wouldn’t call it bad, & it’s a great way to experiment with facial oils without dropping a lot of money. Next on my list of things to try: Pai Skincare’s Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil, which has rave reviews on many platforms. It’s a step up from the $10, but from what I’ve seen, it looks to be worth it.


On the left: Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Cream. On the right: Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich

Currently, I’m using two moisturizers: a day cream & a night cream. If you use one & your skin is happy – great! My dry/sensitive skin gets a little finicky, especially when it comes to hydration, so my skin most definitely appreciates the two different moisturizers I use.

For daytime, I use the Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass CreamI held off for a very long time on buying this, mainly because I looked at the amount of product in the tube & rolled my eyes. I wouldn’t be forking over that amount for this little tube of cream…but then, I got it as a free sample with a Sephora order I made over winter break, & when I tried it out, I finally understood. This is an extremely dense cream; it’s almost like an ointment. This was worrying to me, at first: would it feel greasy? Would it clog my pores? The answer to both of these questions: nope! It most definitely doesn’t feel greasy, it certainly doesn’t clog my pores, & I’m glad I chose this sample, because by the time I ran out of the baby version, I was convinced that the full-size was truly worth it.

You need the tiniest amount – the tube looks like a tube of toothpaste, & that’s just about how much I use for my face: imagine that you’re putting a smear of toothpaste onto your toothbrush, & that should just about cover it for your whole face. I put the ointment between my fingertips to let it warm up a little, then gently press it into my skin. If I have the time, I’ll follow that up with a quick facial massage with my jade roller. If I don’t – I’m still good. The cream has really helped reduce any redness, which is something I struggle with (especially in the winter time). I would constantly complain about the dry area under my nose – not after a week of using this cream, though. January is one of the hardest months on my skin…& this year, I have zero dryness/irritation in my usual dry patches, my skin is relatively redness-free, & I get to use a very cool toothpaste-y product that smells like freshly-mown grass. Worth it? Definitely.

For night time, I use Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich – a product I’ve been religiously using & refilling since Glossier put it up for sale in January 2017. Basically: I’ll never stop screaming about this (screaming in a good way). I’ve been through a few jars, but I don’t go through it outrageously quickly, because it truly is “rich.” “Rich,” yes. Oily? Not even a little bit. I have dry skin & love it; I know people with oily skin who love it equally. People in the middle? Yup, PMR has your back, too. Red algae reduces redness, lavender makes you feel like you’re in an aromatherapy session, & the cream has this incredible buttercream texture that’s addicting. Every night, I smooth a little spoonful (I use the NIOD Stainless Steel Spoon to keep my creams sanitary) into my skin, I massage my face with my hands &/or my jade roller, & then I sink into my pillows with a sigh of relief. It’s the perfect way for me to end my day.


On the left: Glossier Invisible Shield. On the right: Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day UV Sunscreen 

One of the most important – but one of the most ignored – steps in a skincare routine is protecting your face from the sun. Even if you don’t work outside…even if you’re not going for a long walk…even if you live in a country where you don’t see much sunlight during the winter…you should still be wearing sunscreen. UV rays cause long-term damage, & you might not ever feel a sunburn – but you may still be at risk for skin cancer if you don’t take the proper steps to protect yourself. That sounds like a threat, but it’s just me saying be careful! You can greatly reduce the risk of skin cancer simply by throwing on some sunscreen every single day.

The two I swear by are Glossier Invisible Shield (SPF 35) & Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day UV Sunscreen Broad Spectrum (SPF 50). These products are quite different from one another, though ultimately, they both do a good job of protecting your skin from harmful sun exposure.

What’s the difference? The Glossier sunscreen is a chemical sunscreen; the Dr. Jart+ sunscreen is a physical sunscreen. “Chemical” sounds scary in most situations, but just as is the case with “chemical exfoliation,” “chemical sunscreen” is not dangerous or harmful for your skin. It just operates in a different way than “physical sunscreen.”

Chemical sunscreens contain organic, carbon-based compounds which create a chemical (hence the name) reaction, changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. No – you won’t get burned, & no – it doesn’t feel hot upon application. Don’t worry.

Physical sunscreens like the Dr. Jart+ one contain active mineral ingredients, also referred to as physical blockers (again – hence the name). Most commonly, the physical blockers are titanium dioxide or zinc dioxide – that’s what gives physical sunscreen its famous (or, if you’re like me, infamous) scent. These blockers sit on top of the skin, deflecting & scattering UV rays away from the skin.

So – which do I prefer? Personally, after I tried a chemical sunscreen, I heavily lean towards that side of the spectrum. Most physical sunscreens feel very sticky & heavy on my skin & I’ve broken out from quite a few. Most don’t wear very well under makeup for me, either. I prefer the gel-like texture of a chemical sunscreen. Also – it’s much easier to reapply, since you don’t have to massage it into the face as intensely as you might have to with a physical sunscreen – chemical sunscreens leave no white cast on the skin, which is another bonus.

Still, I really like the Dr. Jart+ one. After I started taking immunosuppressive drugs that make my skin even more sensitive to sun, my mama & I panicked & looked for the most powerful & best sunscreen out there. SPF 50 is pretty much as high as you can get, & this Dr. Jart+ option is probably my favorite physical sunscreen. It’s very lightweight, it lacks that odd scent that so many physical sunscreens have, & it doesn’t feel greasy or sticky – doesn’t break me out, either. If you’re not into chemical sunscreens, this is a physical sunscreen that I truly do like. The price isn’t half bad, either – especially for a Dr. Jart+ product.

As for the Glossier Invisible Shield – like I said, I now prefer chemical sunscreens, after having tried both, & this one is a great choice. Recently, Glossier reduced the price to $25, which I feel is a much fairer price than the original $34. In my opinion, there isn’t enough product in the Invisible Shield bottle to justify spending $34 on it; now, with the adjusted price, I can give Invisible Shield 5 stars without feeling like it’s just a biiiit too expensive to rate so highly. I use about 3-4 pumps, & gently swipe the gel over my face after I’ve finished moisturizing (but before I’ve applied makeup). I let it sit for a few moments; it has a cooling sensation which is really soothing. I like the citrus-y scent, too.

A lot of people ask what the best amount of SPF is. Most dermatologists agree that anything between SPF 30 & SPF 50 is going to give you the same results. SPF 50 isn’t really going to give you more protection than SPF 30 – in fact, some people get less protection even while wearing SPF 50, since they feel like they don’t need to apply as much product. No matter what, be sure to reapply sunscreen if you’re spending periods of time outside, & don’t stress about SPF 50 working better (or worse) than SPF 35 or SPF 40. In the end, as long as it’s over 30, you’re good. Stay protected!!!

Spot Treatments 


Oh – almost forgot about this very important category. For a while, I was a non-believer. It seemed as though everyone swore by the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion; I’d given it a few goes & hadn’t seen anything special. Overnight results? Sounded unrealistic…& I never got that from the Drying Lotion.

For the past 7-8 months, I’ve been using & loving the Origins Super Spot Remover. It’s a clear gel spot treatment, which is nice – it sinks into the skin instead of rubbing off on your pillowcase (sound familiar?). It can also be worn under makeup, which, again: something the Drying Lotion cannot do.

When I ran out of my second little tube of the Origins treatment, I headed to grab a refill – only to see that it was sold out both online & in store. A Sephora employee redirected me to the Tarte Blemish Bully Acne Spot Treatment – same consistency, same texture, same end results. The formula seems to be essentially the same; I did notice that the Tarte formula contains caffeine, though, which is nice – it aids in depuffing whatever area you’re trying to target. I’ve been using it for about a week now, & have no complaints thus far. It seems to work just as well as the Origins treatment, & you get a little more product for the same amount, too. I’ll see how this one lasts in the long run, but for now…I’m liking it. Side note: the Origins spot treatment is now back in stock on Sephora’s website. 

Sometimes, one product just doesn’t work – if I’m really having a problem blemish (or two) I’ll layer two products: first, a thin layer of the gel spot treatment – in the past, Origins; currently, Tarte. After the gel has dried down, I’ll pat a small amount of Mario Badescu Drying Cream on top. That’s right – cream, not lotion. They are two different products. The Drying Lotion is the one you see most often: the pink sediment at the bottom of a vial of clear liquid. The Drying Cream is a yellow-beige paste that comes in a little jar. Described as “a unique spot treatment featuring sulfur,” the Drying Cream is ideal for under-the-surface bumps as well as good old blemishes. Sulfur & zinc oxide draw out impurities, but ingredients like aloe vera & Vitamin E ensure that you won’t wake up with a painful dry patch of skin where your blemish used to be. This does transfer, so if you wear it overnight, just be aware that some might rub off on your pillowcase. It’s worth it, though – I can’t say that this combo always works overnight, but it comes pretty damn close.

Well – that’s the finale! If you’re new to skincare, I hope I helped you figure things out a little more; maybe you have something to work with now. It can be very overwhelming when starting to be “serious” about skincare or makeup, simply because there are so many products. I can’t say that all of these will work as well for you as they do for me, but I hope I help at least a few of you. What’re some of your holy grail skincare items – whether you’re new or old to the skincare game?

Catch you next time! Let’s talk about face masks next, shall we?


Sofia ❤

It’s Cold Season – That Means It’s Hydration Season

If you’re perpetually cold (like me) Cold Season starts somwhere around the middle of September, when the frost shows up on the ground in the morning & the tips of your fingers are never quite warm enough.

If you’re not perpetually cold, Cold Season has begun – like it or not. Thanksgiving has come & gone, & it’s only getting colder from here on out…sorry, folks! It’s just fact.

I hate the cold weather – it’s why I want to live somewhere warm once school, grad school &…grad grad school (??) is over & done with. For now, though, I’m stuck with the cold, dry, Midwestern winters. The winter lasts from late October to mid April – at least, that’s how I see it.

I hate the cold because…it makes me cold – but it also makes me dry, which is just as bad. There is nothing worse than getting a blast of cold, dry, wind right in your face (probably accompanied by a few ice pellets or snowflakes).

So – my skin is dry & sensitive year-round, but it gets extra-dry during Cold Season. I decided to write something up for the cold, dry-skinned people like me. If you feel like your skin never gets enough hydration, especially during the winter…you’ve come to the right place. Read on, & let your skin drink it all up!

Note: Black Friday is here! Here are some discounts from brands/shops that I love:

  • Glossier has 20% off site-wide plus free shipping from midnight Friday, November 24 until Monday, November 27 (EOD). No minimums, just discounts! If you shopped with me (using my rep link), I’d be extremely grateful (truly, seriously, & honestly).
  • Peach & Lily has a 30% off their entire site – just use the code PEACHANDLILY30
  • Urban Outfitters has buy one get one 50% off – including beauty & skincare! Urban carries brands like Milk Makeup, Valjean Labs (love their serums) & a whole lot more; definitely worth checking out
  • Into The Gloss: What To Buy On Black Friday – you all know I love ITG. Here, they’ve listed some great deals for luxury skincare, body care, fragrance, & more.

Let’s get cracking for real now! Keep in mind: I have dry/sensitive skin, so this post might not necessarily be the best resource for those with oily/combo skin types – but I’m confident you’ll find at least one or two treasures, too. Enjoy, & get ready to shop!

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser – $18 (plus 20% off for Black Friday weekend)

Backups on backups on backups – MJC will never leave my side, or my top shelf

It’s no secret that MJC is a holy grail cleanser for me. It’s the first non-foaming cleanser I ever tried, which, at the time, was a novelty (for me, at least). I wasn’t sure how it’d work out – but turns out, it worked just beautifully.

I have a #MiniReview of Milky Jelly here, but here’s a little update on how I’ve been using MJC: I’ve been using it on dry skin for the first time (ever) & I’ve been really loving it.

Milky Jelly can be used on damp or dry skin, Glossier says – it’s safe for the eyes, because it’s formulated with an ingredient base similar to that of contact lens solution. No burning or stinging here!

I’ve found that two pumps of Milky Jelly on my dry face (applied with clean hands, of course) have been even better for my skin than two pumps of Milky Jelly on my damp face. For whatever reason, it’s just been working better for me. Is there a reason? If there is, I don’t know it – but I won’t stop, because my skin’s been looking better since I’ve started using it this way.

I also recently purchased the Tatcha Indigo Soothing Rice Enzyme Powder, which I’ve been loving – a #MiniReview will probably be somewhere in the near future. I love it because it’s a physical exfoliant that doesn’t tear up my sensitive skin; when I use it, though, I like to make sure my skin has been given a gentle cleanse beforehand. Tatcha says to use the powder no more than three times a week; when I use it, I go in with one pump of Milky Jelly all over my dry face (with clean hands) before gently buffing my face with the Tatcha Indigo Powder. Results? Clean, soft, glowy, hydrated skin. Milky Jelly has been & will continue to be a favorite of mine. Bouncy, gooey (in the best way possible) & scented like roses, MJC is the cleanser that I would pick if I was told I absolutelypositively could not even think of using a toner. I think I’d survive if I used MJC.

Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner – $10.95


Alcohol-free? Lavender? Less than $11 for 12 fluid ounces? I’ll take 100, please.

No, seriously – this toner has been a life-changer for me, just as it has been for so many others. This is another product I love enough to do a #MiniReview on (check it out here) & I know that it’ll be a twice-daily staple for me for the rest of my life – unless something better & cheaper is out there…but the way Thayers prices their product, I seriously doubt it.

As you’ll see in the #MiniReview, there are many “varieties” of the Thayers toner. There’s Lavender (which I have), there’s Rose Petal, there’s Aloe, there’s Cucumber – there’s even a completely unscented version, for those of you who can’t deal with scented skin care. Thayers has also been slowly rolling out their toners in a facial mist packaging, a la Mario Badescu. Though people have been very excited about this, I think I’ll stick to the version I have. It does everything it should, & it works better than any misting toner I’ve ever used.

The signature red cap

The witch hazel is a natural astringent – which was initially worrying, because astringents can dry my skin out pretty easily – but the lavender, the aloe, & alcohol-free formula soothe & calm the skin as well as clarify it. I’ve seen a big difference in my skin: it’s clearer, it’s calmer, & I see less redness. It just looks more even – more content, if you will. 3-4 drops on a cotton square pressed gently into the face post-cleanse, & I’m ready to continue with my serums. Lavender has always been friendly to my skin, & this is no exception. It smells lovely (not too powerful), it’s cheap, & it works. Boom. Are you sold? You should be sold.

Dr. Andrew Weil For Origins™ Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Soothing Treatment Lotion – $34


“Mushroom” isn’t exactly an…exciting word to hear when talking about skin care ingredients – but hear me out. This stuff is good, & it’s lightweight enough that it’ll suit all skin types, which is a big plus.

This is an “anti-irritant, redness-reducing facial treatment lotion” – it’s described as being super light. I’d agree; this is something you’d apply after a toner, but before a serum. It’s watery enough that you can put it on a cotton pad if you’re scared of spilling too much product, but I personally like to pour a little into the palms of my hands, then pat it gently into my skin.

Origins says that the formula of the lotion “features Dr. Andrew Weil’s famed mega-mushroom blend, which soothes, comforts, and hydrates skin.” Main purposes? It’s an anti-irritant & reduces redness. This also contains narcissus lily bulb (which has anti-aging properties), as well as sea buckthorn, which is calming & soothing. The result? A watery, “green-smelling” ….lotion! It sinks right into my skin; because it’s so watery, you don’t need much to cover the whole face. Make sure to shake this up before use – it has ingredients that may settle at the bottom.

This is apparently Origins’ #1 best-seller world-wide, which was a bit surprising – I expected a few other products to take the lead. Looking at the product, though, it makes sense: this works on all skin types, it’s versatile, & can work as a light layer of hydration for those with dry skin – or as the finishing touch for someone with oily skin. Best of all, a percentage of the sales go to Dr. Andrew Weil’s foundation, which tries to incorporate “alternative” medicines with pharmaceutical drugs. I’m here for that!

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin™ Liquid – $39 


If you have dry skin, this is the perfect follow-up to a toner/lotion.

I first purchased the Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid this past summer, when I was trying to find a reasonably priced essence-type product. This happened to be one of them.

No – off the bat, $40 isn’t “affordable,” but when you consider that I use it very regularly (not daily but almost) & still have not run out of product is a pretty good sign that you won’t have to refill this product often. You get 5 fluid ounces, which, looking at other essences, is truly a steal.

This is in the Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin line, which contains a balm, an oil, this liquid, a cream, & a few other things, too. It’s a good line – if you have dry/sensitive skin, it’s definitely a good line to look into.

The Ceramidin Liquid is described as “a powerful serum infused with ceramides to support the skin’s natural protective barrier while delivering a moisture boost for visibly plumper, healthy-looking skin.” I wouldn’t call it a serum; it doesn’t really have that texture for me. Plus, it’s hard for me to consider this product a serum, with it looking the way it does with its packaging. That’s not a bad thing – I just use it as an essence rather than a serum when I do use it.

You can see what I mean when I say the packaging doesn’t immediately call to mind a serum – don’t get me wrong, I like the shape of the bottle (& how much product is inside) but it doesn’t dispense like your everyday serum would – hence, why I call it an essence

The Ceramidin Liquid contains…ceramides, which supports the skin’s natural moisture barrier for up to 26 hours, thanks to “time-release hydration” – kind of how Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma serum works for up to 2 days even when you’ve washed it off. It seals in moisture, which relieves your skin’s dehydration, & relieves irritation, redness, flakiness, & tightens. It claims to leave the skin smoother – I don’t think that’s the case, but my skin does feel softer after I’ve used this.

The scent is very mild; I don’t really have a good way to describe it – just know that it fades very quickly & that there’s nothing unpleasant about it; perhaps baby soap is a good comparison. I put 3 or so drops into the palms of my hands, then gently press the liquid into my face. I let dry, then move onto my serums – & all that. This is intended for all skin types – so whether you use it as an extra layer of hydration, like I do, or as a finishing touch to a lighter routine (if you have oily skin) the Ceramidin Liquid will work for you some way, somehow.

Sunday Riley Juno Hydroactive Cellulr Face Oil – $45 


$90 for a product? Ouch. $45 for a product? Okay…at least I can breathe.

Sunday Riley’s facial oils were oh-so-dreamy to me last fall, but it took a good bit of saving (& a little help with some Christmas gifts of Sephora gift cards) to get the one that I wanted: U.F.O. – a staple in Harry Styles’ skin care routine, which means that if it’s good enough for him, it’s definitely good enough for you & me.

I ended up buying – & loving – the U.F.O., but it cost me $80. Granted, not all of it was “my” money, & it ended up lasting the whole year (which is incredible!) but let’s acknowlege it: an $80 product isn’t something most people can just click “buy” without giving a second thought.

That’s why I was so excited when Sunday Riley started selling the “mini” versions of their facial oils on Sephora’s site. The original/full-size product is 1.18 fluid ounces; the “mini” is 0.5 fluid ounces. This is most definitely a baby-size version – but I think that you can go the mini route without wasting product. Here’s why.

First off – you only need 2-3 drops of these oils. They’re highly concentrated – as they should be, considering the price tag – & using more won’t necessarily make things better. A little goes a long way.


If you’re using only 2-3 drops once a day, it’s probably a safe bet to start out with the mini version. End up loving it? Great! Time to get the full size, if you think it’s worth it – but that’s just my take on the Sunday Riley “minis.”

Anyways – I’m not here to talk about U.F.O. today, though it’s a wonderful product. I’m here to talk about Juno! This was the first mini Sunday Riley oil in my collection – full disclosure: this one was sent to me by the brand, but I’m 85% sure that I’ll be repurchasing this one. Here’s why:

Juno is a blend of a “cold-pressed powerhouse of superfood seed oils,” which nourishes the skin, brightens the complexion (thanks to Vitamin A & C), & fortifies skin, making it a good anti-aging product. It’s brightening, it’s hydrating, & it is wonderful.

If you scroll through reviews, you’ll see that the average rating is 4.4/5 stars. Most reviews are complimentary; the more negative ones usually include a comment (or two) about the scent of the product. Yes – this oil (& all Sunday Riley’s facial oils, in fact) have strong scents. I’d describe them as herbal; kind of like a spicy cologne. I personally don’t have any problem with the scent; even if I did, I’ve found that it fades quite quickly. Still – if you’re not a fan of strongly-scented products, go give this a whiff in-store before spending your hard-earned money.

The founder – who is actually named Sunday Riley – says she uses it in the morning to revive her dry skin. I do the same thing – except I usually do it at night, mixing two drops into my Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich (together, the two smell incredible). Riley even says that she has “been known to mix a few drops of Juno with some foundation, which helps keep my skin fresh and radiant throughout the day.”


I don’t wear “actual foundation” – I stick to more hydrating BB/CC creams, & so I don’t find that mixing Juno into a face makeup product is necessary for me. But if you’re a regular foundation wearer & have dry skin, give Riley’s tip a go – it might do something great. Either way, this oil packs a punch. Packaged beautifully, it makes you feel luxurious the instant you pick up the little glass ombré vial. That’s how luxury beauty should make you feel. Always.

Shea Butter – CHEAP

My own little messy tin of hydrating, lavender-scented heaven

Two words: shea butter. Where to get it? Honestly, anywhere. Just make sure that it’s organic, if you want the real deal. I have a place near me that sells little tins of it; it comes in its original unscented version, & then there are some fun scents, too: orange blossom, peppermint…&…lavender…want to guess which one I took?


Truly, though – organic shea butter is amazing. I like carrying mine in my bag or backpack; it’s a great multi-purpose moisturizer to have on hand. Cuticles? Check. Elbows? Check. Rough/dry spot on your chin? Check. Shea butter has you covered – & if you pick a scented type, it can even serve as a solid perfume, too. Dab it on the eyelids for a dewy, natural look.

Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose Lip Conditioner – $22

If you’re looking for something a bit fancier, this might suit your tastes 

Okay…plain old shea butter just wasn’t giving you the luxurious holiday sensations you wanted? Maybe this is a better option for you. It’s a lip conditioner – so it’s a lip balm. It’s very lightweight, but slightly waxy, which I actually like. For me, that means that it’ll stay on for a good while…& it does! As the product name might suggest, it contains virgin coconut oil along with rose absolute. This rose absolute has a taste to it, so this balm tastes sweet! It’s not perfume-y; if you hadn’t told me it was rose, I might have just thought it was a generic sweet taste. It’s not overpowering; it’s very mild. Herbivore says it can be used as a standalone balm (which I do) or layered under a lipstick/gloss (which I also do). Either way, it works great. I do a few extra things, too: this works well for when I have super dry patches on my face, or if I’m out & my cuticles look a mess. This works in a pinch for both of the problems I just mentioned. Coco Rose has your back.

Glossier Balm Dotcom – $12 (plus 20% off for Black Friday weekend)

One last lip product – then I’m done.

I recently bought the Glossier Balm Dotcom Trio (which, by the way, has exclusive packaging for the holiday season, starting now) & chose “original” instead of “rose.” I was reminded of how good the original Balm Dotcom is – spoiler alert, it’s really good.

Obviously, it’s amazing on the lips; I like it just as well on my eyelids. It gives a pretty, dewy effect without feeling sticky. Granted, the finish is not glossy, so don’t expect a non-tacky eye gloss (does that even exist?) but it gives a nice sheen to your lids.

Balm Dotcom is described as a multi-purpose salve; the original version is the best to use on other areas of the body simply because it has no tint & no scent.

Will I quit buying my other two favorites (Rose & Birthday)? No – but I’ll be replacing my original tube over & over again now that I’ve remembered how good it really is.

Balm Dotcom sitting with its pal: Coco Rose 

Herbivore Botanicals Orchid Youth-Preserving Facial Oil – $64


Alright – looking for a product that’s extremely hydrating, gentle, & nourishing? You’ve got it with this Herbivore oil, which is one out of their three facial oils – the other two are Phoenix (for dry/sensitive skin) & Lapis (for normal/oily/combo skin).

Orchid is the cheapest of the three, & the one I would first point to, if you’re unsure of which to choose. Why?

It absorbs easily & quickly, without leaving a trace of a greasy finish, but firms & plumps the skin, along with protecting your skin’s natural barrier. This makes it good for both ends of the spectrum. It’s also friendly for sensitive skin.

Ingredients? Orchid extract (hence the name) jasmine sambac, and Japanese camellia flower oils work to protect the skin from free radicals. What are free radicals? Well, they’re bad for your skin, but it’s hard for me to explain. I’m not a scientist – just Google it…Google will explain it better than I ever could.

These oils also feed the skin with beneficial vitamins and fatty acids, like omega 3 and 6 – topical superfoods, if you will. It has a lovely texture; it’s extremely rich & has a delicate floral scent, but doesn’t overpower your skin (if you’re afraid of clogged pores) or your nostrils (the scent is pleasant & fades nicely).

I’d say that this is a great product to start off with if you’re looking for a facial oil that’s a little more luxurious; a little more intense – a step up from The Ordinary’s rosehip oil, for sure. You also get a lot of product – you’re paying $64 for 1.7 fluid ounces. 1.7 fluid ounces is more than one full-size Sunday Riley oil, which would cost $80-$110. You’re getting a lot more product – & the product you’re getting is good. I also appreciate the tapered dropper; it makes it a whole lot easier to control the amount of product you’re dispensing.

This will last you forever. I promise. Mix 2-3 drops into your moisturizer, or just pat it into your skin before moisturizing. I love using this at night; I wake up with baby-soft, glowy, supple skin. It’s amazing.

(Here’s 25% off your next purchase on Herbivore Botanical’s site! They have some good Black Friday weekend deals coming up; also, if you’re interested in all three of Herbivore’s facial oils but don’t want to drop $200+, there’s a little sampler kit on the site – right here.)

The Body Shop British Rose Fresh Plumping Mask – $28

Does the texture/color look familiar? It should – it’s almost exactly like Fresh’s Rose Face Mask. Actually, it’s better

I remember Sephora’s 2016 birthday gift like it was yesterday: I chose the skin care kit, which contained the Fresh Soy Cleanser &the  Fresh Rose Face Mask, which was getting a lot of buzz around that time. I remember trying the cleanser & feeling neutral about it; I remember trying the mask, loving the smell, then feeling outraged when I looked in the mirror & found no noticeable difference – at all. The full size version of this product is $62, so I guess I have Sephora to thank for letting me have a go at a product that, while beautifully scented, really didn’t do anything at all.

Think of The Body Shops’ British Rose Mask as a cheaper, more effective version of the Fresh one. Like the Fresh mask, The British Rose Mask is a gel-textured mask that contains real rose petals. Alongside that, it contains the “essence of hand-picked roses from Britain,” aloe vera from Mexico, & is enriched with rosehip oil from Chile. Those are a lot of great ingredients for such a (comparatively) cheap mask!

This has a really pleasant, fresh, floral scent – not like a bowl of potpourri, don’t worry. I’ve found that it works particularly well when my skin is extra sensitive; this stuff works like a charm to soothe my skin & reduce redness & inflammation. It lives up to its name: it plumps, it’s fresh, & it hydrates. Grab this one instead of the Fresh one – you won’t regret it, & you’ll save $30 or so.

Frank Body Glow Mask – $21.95


Five-minute mask? Yeah, I was skeptical too. Then, I saw a photo of Duckie Thot – face of Fenty Beauty, Australia’s Next Top Model contestant, & now an icon in general – on Frank Body’s Instagram, captioned with something about her wearing their “brand-new, now-available Glow Mask.”

This is smart marketing, because I got the mask almost immediately – okay, two days later. Truly, though – Duckie has amazing skin, said she liked the product, & I was curious to see if it really did what it claimed to do…in five minutes flat.

The thing I first noticed was how rich the mask was in consistency. I wondered how brightening it really could be – I wondered if the “heaviness” would clog my pores, rather than brighten, tighten, & lift them. I also smelled something nutty – I checked the ingredients, & I saw coconut oil. I started to panic – my face doesn’t really like coconut oil – but I told myself that it was a five-minute mask, & that I should at least give it one go…so I did.

Well? Well: I like it! It’s not my favorite mask out there, & the results aren’t mind-boggling, but it’s a great mask if you’re having a busy morning but still want to feel pampered. The rich consistency of the mask will make you feel extremely luxurious; washing it off will also be enjoyable. I like the scent of the product, & after seeing that it did not clog my pores, I liked the texture, too. If you look closely, you can see that it’s slightly luminous when swatched.

A peek at the texture of the Glow Mask

What makes this work in five minutes? Frank Body is known for their brightening body scrubs, which contain coffee. This mask has Arabica coffee seed oil, which increases circulation, decreases puffiness, & promotes collagen production quickly – in five minutes, to be exact. Think of it as a Milk Makeup Cooling Water Stick, but for your whole face. Some other great ingredients: shea & coconut butters, which lock in the moisture provided by the mask. Coconut oil/butter is not my friend, but this time around, it worked for me. Thank god. Throw in some superfoods like goji berry extract & cranberry/raspberry seed oils, & you truly do have a brightening, hydrating mask that’s fun to wear, feels good on – & continues to feel good after you’ve washed it off. It’s not a must-have, but it’s a good mask, especially if I’m feeling extra dry.

Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask with Echinacea GreenEnvy™ – $56

One of the dreamiest masks for winter time 

An old favorite – & one that I highly recommend for dry skin in the winter time! This was the first self-warming mask I ever tried; I don’t even think I knew what a self-warming mask was until I came across this product last fall. It was intriguing: looks like pure organic honey in the jar; when massaged over the face, it turns from a transluscent yellow-gold to a rich, white cream. Leave on for 20 minutes – enjoy the warming sensation it gives your skin – then gently rinse off.

The Echinacea GreenEnvy™ that Farmacy has trademarked is “a unique variant of echinacea purpurea, which contains a high concentration of the phytochemical cichoric acid—a potent, natural antioxidant that enhances hydration and the purifying benefits of honey.” They said it, not me.

A true honey-gold

This mask is great for dry skin, because it plumps & hydrates without clogging pores, & it even lifts/tightens the skin, too. It contains honey (obviously) which is a natural humectant that’s been used to keep skin hydrated for centuries. Propolis, an antiseptic found in beehives, works to fight inflammation & redness. Royal jelly’s amino acid-rich properties attract moisture, then trap it in your skin.

Basically, this is a product formulated almost entirely off of honey/beehive products. It’s hydrating, brightening, & plumping. Do not get this mask if you think that you won’t like a warming mask, or if you already know you don’t like warming masks – the sensation on this one is quite powerful. It’s not uncomfortable, but you most definitely will feel that warmth on your skin.

One more warning: you may break out the first time you use this mask – I did! I knew that it was the mask, because I hadn’t been using anything else new. I gave it another try, & noticed my skin clearing up. One more try, & my skin looked clearer than ever. So, just a warning: you might experience a “detox” – but it’ll be well worth it.

Convenient & sturdy: a metal magnetic spatula 

Vegan? I know there’s controversy about honey being vegan, but Farmacy does its work with care & dedication. The honey used to make this mask is made only by bees that live on Farmacy’s farm(s). That’s pretty cool! The magnetic metal spatula that comes with the mask is a big plus – reuseable, & easy to clean, so you can use it for other masks, too. This mask is a winner, that’s for sure.

Glossier Moisturizing Moon Mask – $22 (plus 20% off for Black Friday weekend)

The dreamy, space-themed packaging of the Moon Mask 

Another big win in masking territory – Glossier calls this the “most intensely hydrating treatment we could make.” They’re not wrong.

It’s hard for me to describe the scent of this product, but there’s something about the scent & the consistency that reminds me of the (much more expensive) Korres Greek Yoghurt Mask. It has that same creamy texture & a fresh, creamy scent – but it doesn’t contain any yogurt. I guess that’ll remain a mystery.

It’s plumping: sweet almond oil, plant-based squalane, and hyaluronic acid do the “deep hydration” here. They keep working even after the mask has been washed off; all three of these hydrating ingredients help protect the skin’s moisture barrier.

It’s brightening: licorice root and lemon fruit do all of that. Plus, they help even out your complexion; I’ll even go so far as to say that it does a little bit of retexturizing, which is unexpected for a hydrating mask with this kind of consistency. Lemon & liquorice also help fade dark spots/acne scars, kind of like a Vitamin C serum would. Throw in some honey & aloe for a little extra hydration & soothing properties, & you’re good!

A quick peek at the consistency

In the winter, I love sticking this in the fridge until it’s nice & chilly. Then, I draw a hot bath, apply a thick layer of it to my skin, & sit for 20 minutes, feeling my face soak in the soothing hydration while enjoying a warm bath (who doesn’t love one in the winter?). I also use it as an overnight mask – just use a lighter layer, so you (& your pillowcase) don’t get all messy. Another hack: if I feel like I need a little extra hydration – but only in some isolated areas – I apply my night cream, then dab a little Moon Mask over the areas that need some extra TLC, like the area under my nose, the bottom of my chin, & a few spots on my cheeks, if the wind really picks up speed.

This mask is great for all skin types, & I love using it with the other Glossier mask: the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack. You can get them both with the Mask Duo if you really want to try your hand at multi-masking, but if we’re talking hydration, & hydration alone…Moon Mask has your back. Or your face.

Origins Drink Up™ Intensive Overnight Mask to Quench Skin’s Thirst – $27

My travel size tube of Drink Up – time to go for the full size!

I love this stuff – & so does my mama. In fact, she was the one who introduced me to it (usually, it’s the other way around. At least, lately).

This is definitely a mask intended for dry skin types, & Origins isn’t afraid to let you know that. Described as a “luxurious nighttime mask to quench skin’s thirst,” Drink Up contains avocado and apricot kernel oils, which replenish moisture your skin might have lost during the day, as well as build moisture reservoirs overnight – so you wake up with plump, hydrated skin. The apricot oil also gives the product its amazing, slightly citrusy scent. Japanese seaweed repairs skin’s barrier to prevent future dehydration and signs of premature aging.

Drink Up isn’t just for your face – Origins encourages you to use it on other dry spots, like elbows & knees. You can even use it as a shaving cream in a pinch. I’m all for multi-purpose products, I’m always here for Origins’ products, especially if they’re hydrating – so this one’s another win for me. I need a bigger size now, because we’re truly getting into the cold dry weather – the weather that this mask was probably formulated for.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration – $30 


Alright, everyone – I truly do mean everyone this time – here’s a great moisturizer. For the face, for the body, for the hands…you get it.

Truly, this product’s a golden egg. $30 for 6 whole ounces of product – that’s incredible in & of itself. It has a whipped texture that manages to simultaneously feel lightweight & extraordinarily hydrating. Its “whipped texture absorbs with no greasy after-feel” – I can attest to this.

This is suitable for all skin types – especially dry skin. It can be used on all parts of the body, & is child-friendly, too. Colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, ceramide 3, and the (secret) First Aid Beauty Antioxidant Booster provide relief, hydration, & soothes the skin. First Aid Beauty claims that “it is clinically proven to increase hydration by 169 percent immediately upon application.”

Lightweight texture; it’s not a water-based formula, but it most certainly isn’t greasy

I use this during the day when it’s Cold Season – perhaps for someone with more oily skin, this would be more suitable as a night cream – but truly, I think that the product’s whipped texture makes it incredibly easy to wear & adaptable for any & all skin types. Sensitive to fragrances? FAB has your back on this one. You won’t smell a thing. Lots of product – seriously, lots of product – effective, & cheap. It’s a product that I know will always work for me, no matter what. I don’t have to worry about how my skin will react when I reach for this moisturizer in the mornings. I just massage it on, put on my makeup (or not) & go.

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich – $35

Luxury packaging, luxury texture – just skip the luxury price tag

Ah yes. The creme de la creme, truly. Glossier dropped this in January 2017, & I’ve been using it ever since. In the winter, I use it day & night. In the summer, I use it at night…but I never go without it. When I have, I notice a (negative) difference in my skin – so I stick to it.The closest thing I can compare this cream to is the Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Cream – except Priming Moisturizer Rich is $35, & the Rose Stem Cell Cream is $75. That’s a $40 difference, & I think PMR does a better job – that’s just me.

Well, no – it’s not just me. I see people using it left & right in their beauty routines; I was pleasantly surprised to see Paloma Elsesser apply it before putting on makeup in her Glossier GRWM; I don’t come across too many others that use it in the day, too – so let that be a testament! Both Paloma & I use (& love) PMR for daytime use.


Ingredients: Glossier secrets: Anti-Redness Complex and Oxygenating Agent, both of which reduce redness (obviously) hydrate the skin, & prime it, too – see, it can be used under makeup. Shea and murumuru butters give the cream its luxurious texture, but don’t leave a greasy sheen on the skin – it’s more like a healthy, hydrated glow. Red Algae Complex acts as a reservoir for the skin’s moisture barrier, Lavender Oil provides antioxidant and skin-calming properties (& makes me feel like I’m in heaven, because I love the scent of lavender) & five key fatty acids help lock in moisture, so none can escape.

I can go on for hours about how much I love this product, but I think you know enough by now. It’s luxurious, but it’s not ridiculously priced. It’s very friendly for cold weather. It smells incredible. & look at the swirl on that brand new jar of product, would you?

Texture heaven

Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber & Green Tea – $12

Our good old friend Mario

I know. Who hasn’t heard of the facial spray by this time, right? I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t seen this at least once – somewhere, somehow. I’ve been using it in a different way. I forget where I read this, but I saw on a beauty site somewhere that misting the face after completing your beauty routine essentially acts as a “setting spray” for your skin care: it locks in moisture, gives yet one more layer of light hydration, & is cooling & soothing. I used to say that the rose version was my favorite, but I’ve found that this one is even more soothing. Stick it in the fridge – you won’t regret it – & grab a mini bottle while you’re in the checkout line at Ulta. Your bag could use a tiny bottle of this mist; it’s a great thing to spritz over your face if you’re out & the dry cold is really starting to get to you, as it does to me. Give it a go.

Happy Holidays (it’s officially Black Friday now), Happy Cold Season – but most importantly, happy Hydration Season.


Sofia ❤


#MiniReview: Valjean Labs Facial Serums

I know my skin type very well – that’s because my skin yells at me if it doesn’t like something. This is also known as having sensitive skin.

Sensitive/dry is my skin type, so I’m always on the lookout for hydrating serums/moisturizers/cleansers – just products in general. I can always use an extra layer of hydration…provided it’s a good kind of hydration.

However: I also like brightening & clarifying products; I crave a smooth-skinned, highlighted glow without having to put any highlight on. Sometimes, this gets me into trouble. Not all brightening products are sensitive skin-friendly – same goes for clarifying products. That’s why I love Glossier Super Pure Serum so much (check out the #MiniReview of that here). It’s hydrating yet clarifying, reduces inflammation & redness but sinks into the skin without leaving me feeling as though I’m weighed down with too much hydration: the wrong kind.

Hyaluronic acid is a staple for most people with solid skin care routines, no matter your skin type; that’s because it’s lightweight but locks in moisture & protects the skin’s barrier throughout the day. It works for dry skin (layered with something else, of course) just as well as it does for oily, combo, or normal skin. Basically, hyaluronic acid is the girl who walks into the party that everyone knows; the one no one has anything bad to say about.

I love hyaluronic acid…when it’s the right kind. Let me expand: Glossier’s Super Bounce Serum was probably the first hyaluronic acid product I’d ever tried; I really liked it, but since I use another hydrating serum at night (& use Super Pure Serum in the morning) I couldn’t really juggle yet another Super, especially when I loved Super Pure so much – that’s because Glossier recommends you only use one Super at a time (for example: use Super Pure in the morning, Super Glow at night, etc.).

So – I set out on a hunt for a good hyaluronic acid serum that wouldn’t break my bank account. It’s not a secret that hyaluronic acid is affordable; that’s why I first reached for the cheapest option out there: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 serum. It’s less than $7, & claims to plumpen, protect, & hydrate the skin – not just on the surface, but a deep hydration that lasts throughout the day. Needless to say, I was excited by the positive reviews I’d seen & heard, & encouraged by the product description. I bought it, started using it…& I was (sadly) underwhelmed.

Here’s my issue with The Ordinary’s serums: most of them are very tacky. Some of them aren’t as bad as others; some work so well that I don’t mind the tackiness. This one, however, was tacky – & it just wasn’t a good fit for my skin, for whatever reason. No matter whether I applied it in the morning or evening, it would always pill once I applied a moisturizer over top (& yes, I waited a good amount of time to ensure everything sank in properly). I got that tacky feeling with no benefits…so really, what was the point of continuing to use a product that didn’t work well on my skin? I sadly set it aside, & started looking for richer hydrating serums – but not so rich that they’d weigh heavy on my skin.

There are countless options to choose from – but most are over $30, if we’re talking good quality stuff. I go through hyaluronic acid serums quickly, thanks to my dry skin – so I knew that I would be spending a lot of money if I bought & continued to refill a $30+ hydrating serum. Maybe my skin would love it, but I know that I wouldn’t be able to maintain the refills.

So – I turned to the beauty community for help (on Instagram). I got various suggestions, but one brand in particular stood out to me: the Valjean Labs Facial Serums.

The two I ended up choosing: HYDRATE & GLOW 

You can find these Valjean serums on Urban Outfitters’ website, & you can find them hiding in various corners of the skin care section at TJ Maxx. I’ve had friends pick them up there for only $5; they’re $15 on Urban Outfitters’ site, so there’s a clear difference…but still – $15 for a serum isn’t bad at all, especially when you consider the fact that the Valjean serums are 2 fluid oz. each, as opposed to the Ordinary’s hyaluronic acid serum, which is about 1 fluid oz. When comparing price per ounce, they end up being about the same – which is good! More product, longer-lasting…same price.

There are three of these facial serums: HYDRATE, GLOW, & RESTORE.  I ended up buying HYDRATE (the one I was most interested in) & GLOW, as well. Let’s start with HYDRATE, since it’s the one I’m most excited/impressed by.

HYDRATE Facial Serum (Hyaluronic Acid + B5)


HYDRATE is a serum that, just like The Ordinary’s version, contains Hyaluronic Acid & B5. Same key ingredients, but a world’s difference when comparing consistencies – in the best way possible.

HYDRATE has a very watery texture; it’s extremely lightweight. I was a bit skeptical when first applying it because of the watery texture; it made me wonder just how hydrating this diluted serum would be. Turns out: very hydrating. Very hydrating indeed!

I use HYDRATE morning & night – the dropper is very long & is tapered, which makes it easy to drop directly onto my face. You can put some in your palms & gently press the product into your skin, of course, but I personally prefer the first method for this particular serum. Since it’s so lightweight, rubbing it between the palms would get rid of some of the product…at least, that’s how I see it.

As you can see, this serum has a watery consistency – don’t worry, though; it’ll give you all the hydration you need (& then some)
In the vial, the serum is an aqua baby blue color; it’s almost completely transluscent when inside the dropper

It’s extremely cooling; I’d compare the initial sensation to the sensation I get when applying Drunk Elephant’s B-Hydra. It’s like a splash of refreshing water all over the face; it’s a great wake-me-up kind of product because of this.

The serum sinks right in. I give it about two minutes before moving on – that’s plenty enough time. There is no scent (not that I can detect, at least), no burning/tingling, & no tackiness…God bless! There is absolutely zero tackiness. This was a key thing that I was watching for; when I saw (& felt) that the serum sinks in without leaving any sticky sensation at all, I knew that I’d be buying it over & over & over again. I also love how well it works on my extra dry areas, which are mostly around & under my nose. This serum sinks in, provides a good amount of hydration, but doesn’t burn my skin, like The Ordinary’s hyaluronic serum did.

Valjean says their serums can be used twice a day; I most certainly use HYDRATE twice a day. It works well under makeup; it works well under an overnight sleeping mask, too. It’s perfect at any time of the day. It has no flaws – at least, not to me. If you’ve been following my socials these past few weeks, you’ve seeen me rave about this serum quite a bit. That’s because I get incredibly excited when I see a product giving me the instant results – the exact ones that I was looking for. HYDRATE met all my criteria for a hyaluronic acid serum: affordable, hydrating, lightweight, cooling, & plumping. It’s something I’ll continue reaching for twice a day until I run out. When I do, I’ll get another – no two ways about it!

GLOW deciding to peek in on the HYDRATE photoshoot 

GLOW Facial Serum (Vitamin C + Magnesium)

Onwards & forwards: meet GLOW, a lightweight Vitamin C & magnesium serum. Like all Vitamin C serums, this one brightens, tightens, & makes the skin…glow. The consistency is a bit heavier than that of HYDRATE – it’s also opaque; this milky grey color that’s thick enough to drop onto your palms, if you wish. Personally, I still use the direct method: dropper to face, because the droppers on these serums are truly incredible – they work well.

A thicker, more gel-like consistency

I’ve used GLOW much less than I have HYDRATE; I have yet to decide whether or not I’ll repurchase GLOW. It does seem to tighten & brighten the skin without parching it; I think the water-gel texture helps out with that potential problem. It has a slight smell – hard to describe, but it’s a bit…”chemical-y.” It’s not bad at all. I’d say it fades within a few seconds of applying it – definitely not something that would bother you all day, but also something worth noting if you really can’t stand any scents in your skin care products.

I don’t think this one retexturizes as well as some other exfoliating/brightening serums that I have, but it’s a very lightweight serum that wears well under other product, just like its sister, HYDRATE. I’ve come to find that heavier Vitamin C serums really weigh my skin down, especially during the day (for lack of a better term). This is one perfect for daytime use. I can apply it without worrying about blemishes, clogged pores, or overloaded skin. I’m not sure how intense the brightening effects are, but this one might just take a little more time. We will see!


To sum it up: all’s well that ends well. I found an incredible – & cheap – hydrating serum; a new holy grail! I may have uncovered gold with the GLOW serum, too. I’ll give that one a bit more time. Remember: sometimes, results take more than a day or two to show.

New favorites – HYDRATE (& possibly GLOW) alongside old – Glossier Super Pure

Have any of you tried a Valjean serum? Let me know if you have – & which one’s your favorite! If you haven’t, I strongly recommend running to your local TJ Maxx to see if you can cop one for $5; if not, online shopping is waiting for you.


Sof ❤