Hello, I’m here to save you some money…
This is extremely similar to Glossier’s Invisible Shield (reviewed here) minus the problematic lack of helper ingredients and essential oil (a big NO in sunscreen) that can cause the release of free radicals. The price per ounce is also vastly better than Invisible Shield. That said, this isn’t a favorite of mine. While the formula is clear and invisible on skin of all shades, it’s also loaded with silicones, which leave my oily skin looking and feeling like a NASTY oil slick by the end of the day. If you have normal or dry skin and like the slip that a silicone-rich formula gives, this could be a brilliant sunscreen/primer for you.
Verdict: if you have oily skin, test a decant first or skip it, especially in the summer
I’m having a hot love affair with this sunscreen. It’s mainly known as a body sunscreen, but I wear it on my face on commuting days, and while it doesn’t offer full PA++++ protection, it speeds up my morning skincare routine by a lot because of the quick drydown time. It doesn’t leave my face oily, white-casted, or super slick due to ‘cones. I like the pump, which makes measuring the right amount really quick and easy. On top of all of this, one 140g bottle is under $13 on Amazon.
Verdict: check this out if you’re still hunting for a great daily (not water-resistant) sunscreen
This sunscreen gets great reviews in Korea, but I can’t even bring myself to put it on my face because I hate the fragrance SO. FREAKING. MUCH. It smells to me like a cross between hairspray and low-end department store unisex cologne. I feel the same way about the Lagom gel cleanser — the idea of voluntarily putting that near my nose, urgh.
Verdict: if you’re particular about scents, dodge this hard
Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser, $34 (purchased with $15 off due to referral credit)
I’m surprised by this product and not in a good way. The outer box (which was so much bigger than the tube that a stabilizing piece of packaging was require to keep the bottle upright) was very nicely done. The tube packaging is a disappointment: the printing, color uniformity of the tube, and thickness of the tube material seem cheap, which is unexpected when paying $34 for 100ml (keep in mind that Cosrx’s low-pH cleanser is 150ml). The gel looks really appealing as it comes out of the tube and it smells phenomenal; the blueberry scent is delicious at first. The problem is that the scent morphs when mixed with water and ends up smelling really chemical-like with only a hint of blueberry once it’s actually applied. The cleanser bubbles (it doesn’t foam) as well as can be expected for a relatively low-pH cleanser. I don’t feel a noticeable film from the product, but it does take some work to wash off and it leaves my oily skin with more something on it that leads to a fairly gross feeling after a few hours.
Glow Recipe’s website claims that the product has a pH of 5.5 (this is an archived page showing that claim live on the purchasing page as of June 15, 2017). I was unable to replicate that. In tests with my fancy (and, yes, calibrated) pH meter, the cleanser tested between 6.9 and 7.0 straight out of the tube and 6.7 to 6.8 when mixed and bubbled with NYC’s excellent 7.0 tap water.
In related news, I haven’t tried the $45 watermelon sleeping mask because it’s a $45 gel-cream sleeping mask (you can buy delicious gel-cream sleeping masks for about $10) and also I’m fucking done.
Verdict: love yourself, hell no
Youth to the People Age Prevention Superfood Cleanser (gift from a beauty industry friend)
This cleanser is about as exciting to me as hand soap. It works fine! I find that the pump dispenses too much product, which results in me working through the bottle faster than usual, but that’s not a huge deal because SNOOZE. The pH level is under 7, but not in the 5.5 or lower range I prefer, the surfactants are good for my bitchy skin, and yet…there’s nothing here to justify the $36 price tag for me. Unlike Susanne Kaufmann’s gel cleanser, this isn’t ultra concentrated, so it isn’t a good value imo. I keep using this because it’s there and it does the thing, but I’d never buy a bottle on my own. Straight out of the pump, the cleanser has a pH level of 6.5, but it drops to between 5.6 and 6.0 when mixed with my awesome 7.0 NYC tap water.
Verdict: unless something about this product really calls to you, skip it
This is like a socially acceptable version of St Ives apricot scrub. This literally has apricot seed powder in the formula. Do not use this and talk shit about St Ives users.
I tried the Regenerating Cleanser, and while it’s not like my skin went wild, I just prefer less abrasive products because I do so much chemical exfoliation. How fancied up St Ives is commanding $42 a tube is beyond me. Like, I get that the particles are smaller, but really? It’s like fine sandpaper paste.
Verdict: if you like this, just use St Ives and save the $$$
NUDE Perfect Cleanse Omega Cleansing Jelly
This cleanser is so freaking cool and I just really really wish it were stocked in US shops. It’s a gel that you rub into your skin dry and then emulsify with water. Think of it as a non-oily cleansing balm, I guess? I wish Glossier’s Milky Jelly rinsed so easily. To top it all off, the pH of the emulsified product is right around 5.5. Cry hard.
Verdict: avoid unless you live in the UK or Australia for fear of falling in love with something that’s impossible to buy
I mentioned these products in my roundup of workout-related faves, but I want to mention them again because they’re a rare hit for me and unless I like a few things people might wonder if I’m just cranky (I am cranky, but cranky with good taste):
My custom Function of Beauty shampoo and conditioner smell freaking amazing and sort of perfume the whole house. My hair profile was “wavy + medium+ normal”. I went with hair goals “soothe scalp+ nourish roots+ deep condition+ replenish hair+ color protection” and selected the grapefruit hibiscus (medium intensity) for my bottles. I’m going to change up the scent next time so the experience remains fresh, but the quality of the formula is great. I haven’t tested how the products work with several days between washings on my scalp because I work out almost every day, but this combo almost hit the legendary Lador LPP original formula hair smoothing level when used in combination. The shampoo is ultra concentrated while I wish the conditioner were a bit thicker. I don’t find that these products cause clogged pores or rough patches on my back like other shampoos and conditioners. You can get $5 off your custom formulas with my referral link.
Verdict: I dig it
Once upon a time, I fell in love with the best conditioner to ever exist. And then the company changed the perfect formula with no warning. When that brand, Lador, began offering samples of their LPP (conditioner), I took a chance and grabbed some to see if they’d returned to the perfect, summer-egg-yolk-color, hair-reviving perfect formula. Not quite. But close enough that I grabbed a ton more samples so I could have “close enough” Lador LPP in my life again. This version is a vast improvement over the drippy, chemical-smelling mess that they sold last year.
Verdict: buy some samples to test if you’re an LPP fan, but always buy cautiously because Lador is kind of a mess company imo
I bought this as part of the Sunday School set, and holy fuck it was a RIDE. Backstory: my skin hates a few ingredients, and this contains an ester of one of those ingredients. Results? My skin was ON FIRE and I actually had dry, slightly scaly, peely skin between my eyelids and brows. This isn’t something that every skincare fan will experience, but omg it was just awful.
Verdict: if your skin has any issues with surfactants, make sure to get a sample before buying
I received a deluxe sample of this cleansing balm in a Cult Beauty Goody Bag, and I tried it while traveling. On one hand, I kind of loved the hot cloth removal method. I think it left my skin more exfoliated than usual due to the physical exfoliation from the cloth, but it was a really nice way to remove a balm. On the other hand, the tiny particles in the balm: I found them to be irritating, and I’d discover them still on my face long after my cleanse despite rinsing a lot. I’m not a particular fan of the earthy scent. The price is fantastical, there’s no reason to pay so much for a balm, it just removes makeup!
Verdict: skip it
With this product, I feel like the last person in the friend group to have sex, the person who finally does what they’ve been hearing about all this time and my response is predictably…that’s it? I think the main problem is that the Secret Essence slightly irritates my skin (it could be one of the essential oils or one of about 10,000 extracts). I’ve also had this product do some sort of fuckshit on-face reaction with a Miriam Quevedo product that literally caused me to cry. I’m never going to review this because I can’t test it long enough to have thoughts about anything other than “a bit of moisture” and “FUCK THAT HURTS.”
Verdict: try a sample before investing in a bottle. Maybe I just got a bad bottle? Maybe my skin is a bitch?
This fairly pricey cream (it costs over $100 per jar) has received rave reviews from trusted skincare authorities and I think it’s fine. As long as I don’t use too much, it doesn’t fight with my sunscreen and base, it feels ok, it doesn’t smell actively bad, it dries down pretty well. Why anyone would pay more then $100 for a cream that’s merely fine is beyond me — you can do better. Here are other creams I’ve tried and reviewed. I think that the $10 A’pieu Madecassoside Cream actually has a better formula.
Verdict: you can get a better product while spending a lot less, skip it
This is probably the worst skincare product I’ve tried in recent memory. It feels like a fuckton of ‘cones and acts like a fuckton of ‘cones. What that means is that just about anything I put on top, from sunscreen to base, ROLLED off as the silicones fought with it. I’d be trying to do my makeup as usual and I’d end up with a melting face basically, meaning I’d need to roll the debris off my face and then try to get base on that looked normal (all while leaving me with no sun protection, since the product rolled the SPF right off). Nightmare product.
Verdict: run screaming in the opposite direction
This is a perfectly fine HA (hyaluronic acid) product. I didn’t find anything exceptional about it and my oily skin just said “thanks, I guess” and moved along. Why it needs to cost $46, I have no idea. Tons of products offer HA without even making a big deal about it, throw in other skin-helping goodies, and cost less.
Verdict: skip it, buy Mizon’s HA ampoule instead
While traveling in late March and early April, I brought a ton of fairly high-end deluxe samples that I’ve been ignoring for too long. Despite having some of the best of global beauty in my bag, I kept reaching for these Huxley kbeauty products to bail my skin out. They’re mostly geared toward watery moisture, so I wasn’t expecting them to do anything crazy like banishing my persistent acne, but in terms of hydration, they really delivered. What stood out was the formula of the products: everything in this mini kit I bought felt good on my skin and made it look better. The products played well with makeup. The packaging was pleasing. The price of the full-size items in the US stressed me out because I don’t like to pay so much for stuff that just hydrates, but now that Korea-based etailer Jolse carries the brand, ding fucking dong.
Verdict: worth checking out
AmorePacific The Essential Creme Fluid (PR sample)
This moisturizing fluid is an interesting attempt to cut down on the number of steps one needs to do a “kbeauty routine,” but it’s just an expensive lotion that goes on my skin nicely and then dries down to a fairly heavy, waxy finish on my skin. That sort of feel is why I don’t use drug store products…and have…a…multi-step routine.
Verdict: expensive lotion, no thanks
I bought a sample of this after seeing rave reviews. I wondered if the product would work on my eyes since I mainly saw raves from people with monolids who mentioned that the essence helped them fight off puffiness; I have double lids and no problems with the puff. I’m glad I opted for the sample because, while the product added moisture to my emerging fine lines from smiling, it didn’t really deliver much for my eyes beyond that — I can stick to a cheaper hydrating product to get the same effect (thankfully).
Verdict: try to snag a sample before buying, especially if puffiness isn’t a problem for you
The texture of this mask is pretty cool: it’s like stringy sewage, according to my husband. That’s the best thing I can say about it. One quickly used, full-size jar retails for £79.00 ($100) and the formula contains spearmint oil, which I found really irritating. After removing the mask, my skin felt smoother, but that was because of the scrubby mask particles — vastly cheaper products can provide a feeling of irritation and physical exfoliation. I managed to use my whole sample jar in one mask session, seriously not a good value imo.
Verdict: hard pass
I enjoyed using this gel mask. It didn’t irritate my skin and provided a bit of hydration — no exceptional results or anything, just a pleasant masking experience. The reason I’m lamenting the fact that it’s sold out is because it has this really nice cooling feel (without using stuff I don’t want on my skin like peppermint oil or menthol). I really wish I had some to stash in my fridge for after workouts. Fingers crossed that this will come back in stock.
Verdict: I will buy a full-size jar if it returns to Beautibi
Disclosure: This post contains a mix of things I bought, was given as gifts from friends, and press samples (PR samples are labeled). This post contains affiliate and referral links. Clicking those links before you shop means that fan-b receives a small commission or store credit, which helps to support the blog. Please see my full disclosure for more information.