My 3 Must-Have Actives After 3-6 Months of Differin

Recently I shared my *simple* skincare routine – basically the go-to products in my routine to tackle my top priority skin goals: acne control, hydration, barrier protection.

In today’s post, I’m sharing with you the three extra actives I added to my skincare routine once my skin adjusted to my prescription topicals. They are powerful ingredients that are no one-trick ponies, but have a multitude of functions that contribute to skin’s overall health!


Products marked with * are PR Samples/gifts. Links marked with a * are affiliate links. This means when you use the link to make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thank you if you decide to use them! If you feel uncomfortable, feel free to google a new link.


Niacinamide

Niacinamide is an amazing all rounder ingredient that addresses multiple skin issues, it is actually my favourite ingredient out of the 3! It is an antioxidant, increases skin’s lipid production to improve skin barrier, minimizes pores, helps refine wrinkles, brightens and evens skin tone, helps with sebum control, and fades pigmentation.

Current go-to: The Ordinary 10% Niacinamide + Zinc

  • $5.90 USD, $10.60 USD
  • 30 ml, 60ml
  • Use PM, mixed with Hada Labo Premium Lotion before Differin

Why it’s my go-to:

  • Cheap, lol!
  • A simple, straight-shooter formula that I like to use to mix in with my HLPL
  • Provides pH level and percentages
    • pH: 5.5 – 6.5
    • Niacinamide: 10%
    • Zinc PCA: 1%
  • Skinthusiast perspective: Niacinamide and Zinc PCA are the only star actives in the formula, but the bulk of the formula still has solvents doubled as humectants.

I  currently have a rotation right now of other Niacinamide serums/boosters out of my sheer curiosity (Niacinamide battle soon), but TO’s has been a constant repurchase for me and it’s a staple in my skincare collection.

Where to buy:


Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid is a water-soluble chemical exfoliant. It increases cell turnover on the top-layer of skin, the Stratum Corneum, acts as a humectant, and increases Collagen and Hyaluronic Acid in the dermis, making it thicker and less prone to TEWL. For my skin, GA has also shown to be the most effective with improving my skin texture, most notably in smoothing out my atrophic acne scars.

Current go-to: Krave Beauty Kale-lalu-yAHA *

  • $25 USD
  • 200ml
  • Use AM 1-2x week, before Vitamin C

Why it’s my go-to:

  • Low percentage Glycolic Acid that’s gentle but can still exfoliate
  • KB also provides pH level and active percentage
    • pH: 3.0-4.0
    • AHA: 5.25%
  • Skinthusiast perspective: Also has additional ingredients that promote skin’s health:
    • Aloe, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin B5 – humectants and skin soothers
    • Dark leafy greens kale, spinach, parsley – antioxidants
    • Allantoin – skin soother

KB was a good product to reintroduce after acclimating to Differin. However, after I finish this bottle, I will move on to Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant. KB is still unavailable to Canadians to purchase, and also I am ready to move up in strength. I opted for PC because I find they do a great job at formulating high percentage active products that don’t irritate my skin.

Where to buy:


L-Ascorbic Acid

LAA is the best researched Vitamin C ingredient compared to its derivatives; It is an antioxidant, provides photoprotection, promotes collagen synthesis, brightens and evens skin tone, and fades pigmentation. Combining L-Ascorbic Acid, Ferulic Acid, and Vitamin E has shown to increase the effectiveness of LAA and improve its stability.

Current go-to: Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Booster

  • $49 USD
  • 20ml
  • Use AM daily, freshly cleansed skin

Why it’s my go-to:

  • PC uses the most well studied ingredients in this formulation and tries (or maybe did) dupe the famous Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Serum
  • Provides the percentage of LAA as well as the pH level of this product:
    • pH: 3.0
    • LAA: 15%
  • Skinthusiast perspective: Contains additional ingredients that are good for the skin:
    • Sodium Hyaluronate and Glycerin – humectants
    • Hexanoyl Dipeptide-3 Norleucine Acetate – hydrates, improves skin texture
    • Panthenol and Bisabolol – soothing
  • Only LAA Vitamin C serum at a high concentration that does not burn my skin

I already repurchased my 3rd bottle of this booster! I have tried the infamous Timeless Vitamin C serum – 2 bottles worth actually – and it stung a LOT! And for those of you who may mention MaeLove’s Glowmaker Serum – no shipping to Canada! I believe they’re working on that, so maybe once it does become available I will purchase. In the mean time, I’m content with spending the extra cash on the PC C15 Booster.

Where to buy:


And that is it for this blog post! I know all too well how overwhelming the skincare world is. Lot’s of good ingredients, but not sure where to start or understand what exactly makes it so good! I hope my top 3 helped you out with your own skin journey, especially if it’s similar to mine! (Acne prone, dry, preventative aging…)

xo, M

BRAND REVIEW: Krave Beauty

I know – I’m Canadian, and I have all 3 Krave Beauty products. I was actually super fortunate to win an Instagram contest Krave Beauty was hosting back in September 2018 – suggest a new title for their skincare book!

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I gave my honest input about it, and before I knew it, it was the most popular one in their comment section and I’m being tagged in their story! The prize was full sizes of all 3 following products: Matcha-Hemp Hydrating Cleanser, Kale-aha-uya, Beet the Sun SPF 47+ PA++++, shipped from their Seoul facility.

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When their skincare book comes out, just remember, *this girl named it*

I’ve been rotating these Krave Beauty products in my current skincare routine for a few months now and I am ready to share my thoughts with you all and whether or not Canadians and anyone else outside the U.S. and South Korea should continue their fascination with Krave Beauty. Please note the standard information on the products I share is based on Krave Beauty’s official U.S. website, even though I got the products from Korea.

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If it isn’t clear: I won these products in an instagram giveaway. They were not sent to me for review purposes. I’m reviewing it because I want to.

All thoughts are my own, always. *casts doe patronus*


ABOUT KRAVE BEAUTY

Founded by Liah Yoo (formerly known as YellowyCream), Beauty Youtuber. I’m not sure of her educational background, but she has been working in the beauty world for a handful of years now and has been an avid product junkie since before I started watching her. As a subscriber, I always noticed her thoughtfulness towards acne-prone, sensitive skin like hers when reviewing products. I’m glad that in the past couple of years she switched gears and started getting more educational; She has a research team that debunks skincare myths, talks about efficacious, science-based ingredients, but maintains an open mind about new ingredients coming into the skincare game. Although she is classed as a Beauty Expert, I find her to be a non-BS one. Even if I didn’t win her products, I have had a high interest in Krave Beauty since she launched it and wanted to purchase it for myself. Krave Beauty combines the benefits of plants and science-backed ingredients, all the while making sure it can accomodate the most sensitive of skin types. This sounds like my cup of tea!

Krave Beauty itself is all about pressing reset on your skin. Stop with the 10 step skincare, and just listen and feel for what your skin craves (Krave… get it?). Her line started off with the 3 products I’m about to review, and she has since followed up with another product launch, with most-likely more to come!

QUICK FACTS:

  • Sell only skincare
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Cruelty-free
  • Formulated without fragrance, essential oil, colorant
  • Wants to be a transparent company
  • Wants to #PressReset on your skincare routine and all the noise from the beauty industry
  • Create products that considers your skin’s health
  • Prioritize simplicity in their products while providing quality ingredients and care

A very suitable excerpt from their site:

“Skincare should be easy,
Skincare should be a stress-free zone,
Skincare should be a supplement to our lifestyle.
And most of all, skincare basics should be, basic.

It’s time to #pressreset.”

I also like how Krave Beauty just launches products at its own pace. These past couple of years the makeup market became extremely saturated (how many eyeshadow palettes do we need people!?), and now you see skincare getting lots of hype and making its rounds, especially on Instagram!


Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser

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ABOUT

PRICE: $16 USD
AMOUNT: 120ml / 4.05 fl oz
pH: 5.0 – 6.0
CLAIMS:
– An antioxidant cleanser that doesn’t mess up your skin barrier
– Lifting everything your skin doesn’t want while leaving what it needs—healthy pH, hydration, antioxidants and no irritation
– Matcha and hemp seeds are here to boost the skin’s intake of antioxidants and essential fatty acids
– Contains 40% matcha

INGREDIENTS

HIGHLIGHTED INGREDIENTS:

Matcha

One of the most antioxidant-dense sources on the planet. Basically, we thought it’d be awesome to splash matcha every day on our skin.

Hemp seed oil

HIGH in essential amino acids, HIGH in linoleic acid, oh yeah, it’s so HIGH-drating! Great for all skin types, even for oily skin peeps. Hemp seed oil has a natural antibacterial property that helps to relieve inflamed skin conditions.

Coco -betaine, Coco-glucoside, Decyl glucoside

A group of mild and gentle cleaning agents. These surfactants are less likely to compromise your skin barrier whereas harsh surfactants (like SLS) can strip away everything including your natural lipids. And these, you don’t want to surrender.

Vitamin B5 & Sodium PCA

Skin-barrier strengthening ingredients replenishing hydration.

Krave Beauty U.S. website

FULL INGREDIENTS LIST:
Camellia Sinensis Leaf Water, Water, Glycerin, Coco-Betaine, Methyl Gluceth-10, Ethoxydiglycol, Dipropylene Glycol, Methylpropanediol, Sodium Chloride, Butoxydiglycol, Diglycerin, Glycereth-26, Xanthan Gum, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Powder, Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Seed Oil, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Diethoxydiglycol, Coco-Glucoside, Caprylyl Glycol, Glyceryl Caprylate, Decyl Glucoside, Pentylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Butylene Glycol, Octanediol, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Citric Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sodium PCA, Disodium EDTA

COSDNA

Love that it has 40% Camellia Sinsesis Leaf Water in the formulation; For me, it makes it a standout cleanser and it’s unlike other ones I’ve tried. I’ve washed my face with green tea water before (literally steeped warm water for like, 5 mins and splashed my face for over a minute) and I find I achieve similar results of skin softness and evenness, only the Matcha-Hemp Hydrating Cleanser can actually perform as a great 2nd cleanse. Not sure why they didn’t highlight Oat Kernel Extract and Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract, I personally think they’re worth mentioning about this cleanser!

EXPERIENCE

USAGE: Evening as 2nd cleanse.

SCENT: None!

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TEXTURE: One of the more interesting textures I have tried from a cleanser – A brown, chunky gel.

APPLICATION: From a pea to more than a nickel-size amount and lather on the face and neck.

FINISH: I keep my face slightly damp before going into my humectant products. However this cleanser does speed up water evaporation, and there were times when my face felt unpleasantly squeaky-clean.

INSTANT RESULTS: Face feels soft and hydrated after 1 minute of cleansing.

LONG-TERM RESULTS: Overall skin hasn’t been compromised despite the quick drying feeling it brings. No breakouts, my reliable 2nd cleanse for removing even the heaviest of layers of makeup, face always looks even tone and bright.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON  THE MATCHA-HEMP HYDRATING CLEANSER

PROS:
– Base is 40% Camellia Sinesis Leaf Water
– Good size
– Fairly affordable considering the amount and how much you need to actually use

CONS:
– Dries my skin too fast, even when it’s damp


KALE-LALU-yAHA

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PRICE: $25 USD
AMOUNT: 200ml / 6.76 fl oz
TYPE OF EXFOLIANT: AHA – Glycolic Acid 5.25%
pH: 3.0 – 4.0
CLAIMS:
– Skin resurfacing exfoliator that kicks your dead skin cells to the curb
– Revealing youthful, healthier skin while also feeding it delicious antioxidants from dark, leafy greens
– Kiss good-bye to the appearance of discoloration, sun damage, and fine lines with regular use

INGREDIENTS

HIGHLIGHTED INGREDIENTS:

Glycolic Acid (Sugar cane derived) 5.25%

A real game changer in your skincare routine! Glycolic acid is an effective chemical exfoliant that gently resurfaces skin texture and prevents clogged pores. With regular use, this nudges your skin’s cellular turnover slowly, fading the appearance of hyperpigmentation, sun damage, and fine lines.

Dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach, parsley)

A vital energy booster for the skin, the antioxidants packed in these greens are the best thing you can treat your skin with—and that’s why we call it Kale-lalu-yaha! Not just that, it’s also chock-full of vitamins and minerals too. What more could you ask for?

Aloe + Hyaluronic acid + Vitamin B5

These are all natural hydrators which replenish, hydrate and soothe skin. Once you apply, you’ll feel instant hydration, especially if you pair this with a moisturizer that locks down it all down.

Allantoin

Allantoin soothes skin while buffering any possible irritation from the chemical exfoliation process. This is an absolutely wonderful ingredient which brings both moisturizing and soothing relief to a sensitive, inflamed skin.

Krave Beauty U.S. website

FULL INGREDIENTS LIST:
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water
, Water, Butylene glycol, Brassica Oleracea Acephala Leaf (Kale) Extract, Glycolic acid, 1,2-Hexanediol, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Spinacia Oleracea (Spinach) Leaf Extract, Carum Petroselinum (Parsley) Extract, Chlorella Minutissima Extract, Malus Domestica Fruit (Green apple) Extract, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Betaine Salicylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Pseudozyma Epicola/Camellia Sinensis Seed Oil/Glucose/Yeast Extract Ferment Filtrate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Bacillus/Folic acid/Soybean ferment extract, Coptis Japonica Root Extract, Malachite Extract, Polysorbate80, Disodium EDTA

COSDNA

I know you can only highlight so many good ingredients, but I’d like to point out this AHA  toner also has Chlorella and Green Apple extract as greens in this product. There’s also Glycerin, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), and Sodium Hyaluronate for moisturizing properties!

EXPERIENCE

USAGE: Evening. Started using it every other day. When I incorporated prescription-strength Differin, only 1-2x a week max.

SCENT: While first using it I didn’t smell anything. Now that I’ve opened it a handful of times, there’s a slight sour smell when you open the cap, but not on application.

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TEXTURE: Watery.

APPLICATION: Sometimes I use my hands to apply a couple of swigs. If I feel particularly congestted, I apply it to a Klairs cotton pad (compressed or sponge).

FINISH: Slightly moisturized.

INSTANT RESULTS: Skin looks smooth and even.

LONG-TERM RESULTS: No surprise that the moment I incorporated this into my nightly routine, my texture improved. I find Glycolic Acid is the most effective when tackling these haunting atrophic scars.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON KALE-LALU-yAHA

PROS:
– Base is Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water and not plain old water
– Improved my skin’s texture
– Not too irritating for my skin – I have used 8-10% AHA in the past, but now that I use a retinoid I’m happy for a lesser percentage.
– Non-drying – skin feels normal and sightly moisturized after use

CONS:
– Crystallizes at the dispense area

IN-BETWEEN FEELS:
The amount 5.25%; I’m an experienced chemical exfoliator user, so I could do with a higher percentage. On the other end, this is a fairly high amount if you consider it in the K-Beauty Market. Most of the chemical exfoliators in that market don’t go past 2%.


Beet the Sun SPF 47+ PA++++

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U.S. NAME: The Beet Shield
PRICE:
 $20 USD
AMOUNT: 50ml / 1.7oz
UV FILTERS:
– Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate (Uvinul A Plus)
– BisEthylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine (Tinosorb S)
– Polysilicone-15 (Parsol SLX)
CLAIMS:
– A gentle, antioxidant-rich day fluid that protects your skin from harsh environmental stressors
-A lightweight, non-white cast leaving formula
– Charged with beet root extract and antioxidants to fight against the free radicals so you don’t turn beet-red

INGREDIENTS

HIGHLIGHTED INGREDIENTS:

Beetroot extract

An underrated yet amazingly antioxidant-rich vegetable, the beetroot holds skin enhancing properties like preventing signs of aging, reducing pigmentation and blemishes and moisturization! A true underdog superfood.

Allantoin

Allantoin soothes skin and relieves skin irritation. This is an absolutely wonderful ingredient which brings both moisturizing and soothing relief to a sensitive, inflamed skin.

Vitamin C, Resveratrol, EGCG

This powerful tag team of antioxidants is proven to shield skin against external stressors and neutralize free radicals.

Krave Beauty U.S. website

FULL INGREDIENTS LIST:
Water, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Dibutyl Adipate, Beta Vulgaris (Beet) Root Extract, Alcohol, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Ethylhexyl Triazone, Glycerin,  Pentylene Glycol, Isoamyl p-Methoxycinnamate, Polysilicone-15, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Tromethamine, Methylpropanediol, Isohexadecane, Caprylyl Glycol, Glyceryl Caprylate, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, 1,2-Hexanediol, Polysorbate 80, Lithospermum Erythrorhizon Root Extract, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Sorbitan Oleate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Allantoin, Epigallocatechin Gallate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Butylene Glycol, Resveratrol

COSDNA

EXPERIENCE

USAGE: AM routine as the last step of skincare of course!

SCENT: None!

 

TEXTURE: Krave Beauty describes it perfectly – condensed milk! It also doesn’t feel sticky or greasy.

APPLICATION: I apply ~64% 1/4 tsp (I did a rough measurement of my face and I calculated this to be the amount needed to get the SPF and PA protection on my face).

 

FINISH: Shiny and moisturized. The shine eventually fades. No cast.

INSTANT RESULTS: Skin looks smooth and even, feels more moisturized.

LONG-TERM RESULTS: Provides good sun protection. Face feels slightly dry after I use this with foundation. Foundation-free days I do not get this.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON BEET THE SUN SPF 47+ PA++++

PROS:
– The base may be just water, but I love the texture! *Cosmetic Elegance*
– Uses modern, photostable filters
– Despite Alcohol in the top 5 ingredients, it doesn’t dry my skin too much

CONS:
– Some days it stings my face (depending what I used the night before)
– I know this ingredient factors in formulation, but in my personal experience, using a product with Alcohol constantly (even in makeup) weakens my skin. I’m willing to purchase this SPF again, but I am wearing about what my skin would look like with consistent use. This is in a sunscreen rather than moisturizer foundation, so I hope this different formulation will not do the same thing

IN-BETWEEN FEELS:
– The amount 50ml is perfect as a travel-size SPF companion, but you’ll run out of this quickly if it’s your go to sun protection product. I wish they offered a larger size


FINAL THOUGHTS

krave-beauty-products

OVERALL PROS:
– Thoughtful formulations: first set of ingredients are actually key ingredients, and if you look at the ingredients list as a whole, there’s a lot of good stuff in it that look as if it makes up the bulk of the formulation.
– Affordable. Considering the quality of these products, I find the pricepoint very good, and you get a considerable amount for most of the products.
– Liah herself actually uses her products consistently. Sure it’s self promotion, but she DID want the formulas to work with her skin type as well. She’s also the public tester for her brand and we can see her skin’s progress.

OVERALL CONS:
– Not. Available. In. Canada. I wish they made it available in Toronto at least! Their U.S. facility is in New Jersey and we’re but a mere 6 hour drive away :3 We also sell SPF with Tinosorb in it so I’m sure it can get approved to be sold as an SPF here.

OVERALL IN-BETWEEN FEELS:
– Suited for MOST skin-types. Like I mentioned, the SPF was mositurizing at first but throughout the day my face dried if I wore foundation with it, and the cleanser leaves my skin feeling very dry if I don’t act fast with my humectants.
– You can make it work and you don’t have to alter your routine significantly when using these products.

I will make this clear: If I COULD purchase, I WOULD. I even want to try their new release, Great Barrier Relief! But alas, Canadians are always jipped, jipped I say!! I hope the Krave Beauty team offers international shipping soon, I know a lot of fellow skincare lovers want to try what they have to offer. Aside from that, if you are able to purchase Krave Beauty, I hope this review helped in solidifying your decision!

WHERE TO BUY:
U.S.: kravebeauty.com
SK: kravebeauty.co.kr

xo, M

BEST OF BEAUTY 2018: Skincare

I feel like with every passing year, I always learn a different aspect of skincare. I found this year I focused a LOT on scientifically proven ingredients, as well as new, popular ingredients that are commonly talked about in the beautysphere. This was also the year I showed more interest in drugstore products! Out of everything I tried and used up this year, here are the skincare products that really stood out to me this year and deserve some praises.

Before we get into the individual products, I want to give a shout out to a few brands that have impressed me with almost every product I’ve tried from the line. If I didn’t, I feel like the list would be a lot longer! I also have product shoutouts along the list as well. They may not be my top pick for the year of 2018, but again, they deserve a mention since I did enjoy using them.


BRAND Shoutouts

DRUGSTORE: Cerave – If you need affordable, effective skincare with a simple ingredients list, this is the brand to turn to. Almost any skin type can turn to this brand! I’m looking forward to trying more from the brand and provide you all affordable alternatives in skincare.

MID-RANGE: Krave Beauty – I actually would have featured everything in this post, but since I only started using them near the end of the year a handful of times, I’ll leave the praises for a future post *hint hint*. A new skincare line created by acne-prone, sensitive-skinned beauty Youtuber Liah Yoo. The brand is all about respecting the skin’s natural function and makes sure to promote its helf rather than further sensitizing it.

HIGH-END: Dermalogica – She may be pricey, but she works, and a little goes a long way with every product I have tried! I love the combo of science-backed ingredients mixed with botanicals and essential oils in their formulas. This is one of the few skincare brands I’m willing to splurge money on because I’ve reaped nothing but benefits!


skincare-faves-18-1

Makeup Remover

Marcelle Eye Makeup Remover for Sensitive Eyes – Favourited by a handful of Canadian Beauty Bloggers, and I can see why. It is simple, it is gentle, it works really well at removing waterproof makeup, all the while never irritating my eyes or drying out my eye area!

Cleanser

Cerave Hydrating Cleanser – Jesus where was this when I had worse skin problems? Cerave has impressed me this year as a drugstore brand and this is one of their standout products to me. Preferably used for my morning cleanse, I find it softens my skin when massaging for a minute or so and does a decent job at removing overnight fluffs. If you need a very gentle cleanser, I don’t think you’d be disappointed with this one!

Shoutout:
Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel * – She’s expensive, but she also has a lovely texture, amazing second cleanse, and a little goes such a long way it took me forever to finish it!

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Hydrator

COSRX Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence – I seriously miss this from my routine! I’m currently using Secret Key FTE which is nice, but COSRX is pretty much the same but with my preferred consistency! It wasn’t until I started using this that the plateau I was experiencing in my skincare ended. Face felt more hydrated, looked even tone, and I actually started noticing improvements in my hyperpigmentation.

Shoutouts:
Klairs Supple Preparation Unscented Toner *
Some By Mi AHA/BHA/PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner *

I already threw out the COSRX Essence so I couldn’t take a new solo photo :3)

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Moisturizer

Hada Labo Koi-Gokujyun Perfect Gel – I pine for this. Has the different HA molecules, Urea, Ceramide, and Squalane! A seriously lovely humectant moisturizer that I’m highly considering repurchasing.

Cerave PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion – Surprise surprise! But seriously, I really am surprised that I liked a drugstore moisturizer so much. It worked with my dry skin and I see the workings of the 4% Niacinamide.

Klairs Vitamin E Mask * – Love it as my night time moisturizer in the colder months, and it’s also just a joy to use because of the texture and the instant brightening effects. The bonus is that it is a heavier mask that doesn’t aggravate my acne or enlarge my pores!

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Actives / Treatments

Dermalogica Biolumin-C Serum * – I cringe that this is a favourite because of the price point, but it’s SO GOOD! It does everything you could want in a vitamin C serum – hydrate, brighten, create an even tone, lighten pigmentation. I felt like it just simplified my morning routine when I used it.

Differin OTC 0.1% Adapalene – My gateway drug into retinoids (lol). After years of experimenting with skincare outside of prescription, and learning so much this year about its benefits, I decided to go back to Vitamin A. It was definitely a turn for the better, because I’ve only noticed my skin improving since incorporating it into my routine. I now use prescription Differin with a higher percentage, but Americans are very lucky to have easy access to this in your local drugstores!

Benzagel 5 Acne Wash – Simplest, gentlest BP product I have ever tried. It was very affordable, I was surprisesd at how long it lasted, and yes, I found it very effective at killing any spots within a few days. I never thought I’d like a BP product as much as this!

Exfoliator

Dr. G Brightening Peeling Gel – Gentle and easy to use, and I like that I can use it on wet skin!

Secret Key Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel * – Must be used on dry skin, but love how my skin is noticeably softer after using this. This one is particularly good for not just it’s quality but the low cost!

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid – Out of all the products I’m mentioning, this one is probably the gentlest. I always anticipate a stinging sensation when using this, but it’s always soothing and moisturizing! Like I’ve said before, it’s like an acid essence. My skin always looks bright and even, and pores look smaller.

Krave Beauty Kale-lalu-yAHA * – This year’s AHA favourite. Love that it’s gentle, especially now that I am using a retinoid, and still effective as an exfoliant for my skin. I especially like how both this and the PC product can be used under my eyes!

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Sunscreen

Elta Md UV Facial Broad-Spectrum SPF 30+ Moisturizing Facial Sunscreen – We hear time and time again from skin professionals, experts and enthusiasts how important sunscreen application is, and this is the one I used that really made me enjoy applying sunscreen. I also consider this a gateway drug into trying out many other sunscreens!

Klairs Soft Airy UV Essence SPF50+ PA++++ * – How can I not include this? Seriously one of the best Klairs releases. Chemical sunscreen with photostable UV filters, doesn’t sting my eyes, is slightly moisturizing, doesn’t have a cast, and comes in a great size for a great price.


And there you have it! I’m impressed that I managed to keep the list * rather * short this time around. Hope you enjoyed this post and be sure to check out the related content below!

xo, M


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BRAND REVIEW: Dear, Klairs
I tried Dermalogica’s Double Cleanse Routine ft. the PreCleanse Balm
Skin Update [#1] December 2018: Acne + Scars


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Skin Update [#1] December 2018: Acne + Scars

It has been ~6 months since I stopped dermarolling and started using OTC Differin 0.1% Adapalene. I have done quite a few things for my skin since then, and I thought I’d do a Skin Update if you were curious about my progress and my current approach to achieving healthy skin! As seen in the title and main image, these will be the main focus of this update.

Before we continue, please be sure you’re caught up with the following, that way you have a better understanding about my skin and my approach to this post!
I’m Finally Sharing my Current Skincare Routines 2018
My Morning (AM) Skincare Routine 2018
My Nighttime (PM) Skincare Routine 2018
REVIEW: Banish Acne Scars Banish Starter Kit

RECAP:
– Did 4 at-home dermarolling sessions with the Banish Kit. Stopped microneedling in general because I had no control over my acne breakouts. (March – April 2018)
– After microneedling, used OTC Differin for ~6 months. (May 2018)
– Sun not as strong, reintroduced chemical exfoliators back into my routine. BHA in the AM only on days when I workout, and AHA every other night. (September 2018)
– Tried Banisher 2.0 and did another 2 microneedling sessions. (Novermber 2018)
– Saw a dermatologist after 10 years of not seeing any skin professional; Got prescribed Aczone Gel 5% Dapsone + Differin 0.3% Adapalene to heal acne lesions and prevent breakouts. She was okay with my at-home microneedling. (November 2018)
– Created a more focused skincare routine in consideration of the new prescriptions. (Decmber 2018)
– Spoke with a Medical Esthetician about a PRP (Vampire) Facial. (December 2018)


Acne

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Differin 0.1% Adapalene for 6 months
After using OTC Differin 0.1% Adapalene for 6 months, here’s what I have noticed:
– Skin is subtly smoother, but not by a lot
– Quickly reduced pain caused by active acne
– Helped acne to quickly heal
– Red acne marks fade faster

Overall, OTC Differin was a great introduction into my skincare routine. Any skin professional will tell you Vitamin A is the most superior ingredient for improving acne and anti-aging, and this one is easily available for Americans (*shakes fists of jealousy*). However, after half a year of use, my skin plateaued. By that I mean it was working okay, but not great – not significant. Quite frankly, I really disliked how I was still breaking out into large, painful cysts. Definitely a sign to me that 0.1% was only doing so much.

Dermatologist Visit
My family doctor booked me an appointment to see a dermatologist about a few spots I noticed on my body (FYI: no skin cancer, yay!), so when I went in for the visit I also expressed concern about my persisting acne breakouts after YEARS of trying to get it under control (antibiotics, birth control, previous prescriptions, cleaned up diet).

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The derm prescribed me Aczone Gel 5% Dapsone to help heal current inflamed acne lesions (painful AF cysts) and non-inflamed acne lesions (blackheads and whiteheads), and upped the Differin to 0.3% Adapalene to better prevent blocked pores as well as treat inflamed skin. I’ve currently been using Aczone in the day and Differin at night (since Nov. 27th), and I, as well as family members and BF, have already seen a difference. Current inflamed acne lesions subsided a lot, and I find my skin way more even tone and smoother than usual *no placebo effect, plz*.


Scarring

I’ve hoped for years topicals could help me with my acne. I’ve been trying this for 5 years. Half a decade. And only recently I decided to incorporate Vitamin A into my routine and speak to a professional. I feel like a dummy, but at least I’m still in my 20s and I got over my fear of prescriptions (due to my poor routines years prior) and understand my skin concerns enough to address them with a professional.

As I previously mentioned, Differin 0.1% Adapalene made my skin appear subtly smoother, but frankly, there was no significant change. In attempts to take a Before/After photo (the Before photo being my last picture in my dermarolling post) I found it not only difficult to remember the exact lighting angle I used, but also my atrophic scarring didn’t look THAT different. On top of that, I am still breaking out so you can see red marks despite previous ones healing fast, as well as active acne *le sigh*.

I’ve seen Chemist @kindofstephen post a study on 0.3% Adapalene helping with acne scarring just before I got prescribed Differin 0.3% Adapalene; After reading the study, I am more enthusiastic about my higher prescription and the potential results.

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Reintroduced Acids
Before I saw the derm, I began using chemical exfoliants in my routine once the sun became less strong and we started moving into the fall. I’m currently using Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid in the morning only on days I workout. In the PM I was using Krave Beauty’s Kale-lalu-yAHA, a 5.25% Glycolic Acid toner *, but now rotate it 1-3x a week due to prescription use. PC’s BHA Liquid makes my face lovely and smooth every time I use it, but AHAs seem to always be my bestie when it comes to scarring. I’ve been using KB’S toner for just under 2 months now and I already notice my face looking smoother. I think I’ll keep using the AHA all year round just because it’s probably the only topicals easily available that I notice makes a difference in my skin. Also I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this, but I got 2 free BHA Peels done by George Brown College Students in downtown Toronto last year (2017) because it was free.

At-Home Microneedling
If you read and watched my brand review on Dear, Klairs, I did mention that I started microneedling again. I had the opportunity to review Banish’s new Banisher 2.0 * and have done 2 microneedling sessions since receiving it. These were done before my derm visit, so now that I have new prescriptions to get used to I won’t be using the Banisher 2.0 for another month or so until I get a better understanding on what’s happening with my skin.

original vs. 2.0

Considering a Professional for Microneedling
I told the derm I’ve done 6 microneedling sessions total with 0.5mm titanium needles and she was okay with that. Actually, she said microneedling or Fraxal laser were my best options for getting rid of my scars completely since topicals can’t do it themselves *le sigh*. My boyfriend’s mom (Medical Esthetician) discussed the Vampire Facial (PRP) with me and suggested to have the facial done through her friend who is an RN. I’m planning to meet her soon for a consultation. I also asked my sister (who’s now in Seoul working) to scope out the prices for PRP. In the meantime, at least the at-home 0.5mm dermastamp will assist in the appearance!


My Current Skin Goals & Routine

After all I have just said and done, my skin goals have not changed much. Acne Control, Hydration, and Barrier Protection are still my top priorities for maintaining and achieving healthier skin! Instead of using so many products like my previous routines, I want to achieve these goals by attempting a more minimal approach *key word: attempting*.

I’ve also been watching way more skin professionals online, including dermatologists, so I have a better idea (and patience in general) on how to incorporate the prescriptions in a routine with products I like to use. I’m going to try my hardest to keep an efficient daily routine, and leave the fun stuff for bath time or lazy times. I’d say my approach is inspired Dr. Davin Lim’s Vitamin ABC’s, but it seems like my routines always had them!
Vitamin A – Differin 0.1% Adapalene to 0.3%.
Vitamin B – Niacinamide (B3) is da besttttt.
Vitamin C – Using a derivative at the moment, but will try to focus more on L-Ascorbic Acid with future products.

TBH, I’m having a hard time with the C. I currently am using Dermalogica’s Biolumin-C Serum * and in November I received the Banish Oil * when testing out the Banisher 2.0 *. I just find the effects I usually get from Vitamin C (even skin tone, brightening, glowing, reduced hyperpigmentation), are also coming from/being assisted by the other Vitamins, and I don’t know if there’s really a purpose for the C. Or maybe, they all just work best together, which is why I haven’t noticed anything individual! I’ve heard great things about Melano CC Essence and have ordered it from DokoDemo along with a couple of other items. I’ve also been curious about Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma, but we all know that shiz is esspenssive. Skincare peeps, what do you think?

Now that topical prescriptions have been introduced to my routine, I want to make sure what I use with it has effective ingredients and helps offset any dryness or irritation I may expect.  I will share my updated skincare routine once I have comfortable used all the products.


And that’s that for my skin update! I hope you found it informative, especially if we’re on the same healthy skin journey! Stay tuned for an updated skincare routine with Aczone and Differin!

xo, M