Empties August 25/19: Biossance Squalane+Tea Tree Cleansing Gel, ELF Bounce Back Jelly Cleanser, and Essence Eyebrow Designer Pencil

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  1. Biossance Squalane+Tea Tree Cleansing Gel
    Rating: High-end Hero

    My skin right now is probably the worst it has been in my life, or at least the worst it’s been since the really awful breakouts of my teenage years. I can’t vouch for whether or not this will help with acne as literally nothing is helping with my acne at the moment due to a chronic hormonal condition I am working on getting sorted out, but it did give a nice cleanse and minimized a bit of oil. I really like Biossance’s squalane-strong products. The only potential beef I’ve got with the product is the tea tree oil, as tea tree can be an irritant to so many folks. However, it’s not like they tried to sneak it into the formulation, it’s right there front and centre in the name of the product and prominently featured in the product description online. Though it didn’t help with my breakouts, I did enjoy it’s gel consistency and gentle foam, so I am going to mark it as a high-end hero.
  2. ELF Cosmetics Bounce Back Jelly Cleanser
    Rating: Bargain Beaut
    This cleanser comes highly recommended from a number of skincare Youtubers I follow, including Gothamista. This is a non-foaming gel cleanser that I really enjoyed as a first cleanse to remove makeup. I found it to be fairly gentle, and enjoyed the strong coconut smell. For less than $10, I really can’t complain about it. The only red flag I noticed with my very limited knowledge in the ingredients list was the parfum. So, if you’ve got sensitivities to fragrance, just be mindful of that.
  3. Essence Eyebrow Designer Pencil in Dark Brown
    Rating: Bargain Beaut
    I love most products that I’ve tried from Essence, and I wasn’t disappointed by this one. It retails for less than $3 Canadian, so even if you don’t end up liking this purchase, you’re still only out less than the price of a cup of coffee. It’s a soft pencil, had decent staying power, and I enjoyed the way it looked. The dark brown shade wasn’t too warm-toned, which is often the case with brow products. I think it is slightly less environmentally damaging as it is a wooden pencil that you sharpen, so the only waste is the small plastic cap and the thin plastic wrap it comes packaged in. Though not perfect or zero-waste, I imagine it is slightly less damaging than the plastic twist-tubes many brow products come in. The brush on the cap was the right balance of firm and soft, and I did end up using it a fair bit to smooth out and blend the brows after pencilling them in.

June 19, 2019: Skincare Sample Empties Review

@belifcanada is a brand that is new to me, but so far, I haven’t had problems with it. The True Cream Aqua Bomb has a gel-cream formulation and feels silky smooth on my skin. It had a pleasant, gentle scent and didn’t break out my oily, acne-prone skin. I only used this at night as it was on the thicker side, so I can’t vouch for how well it sits under makeup.

The @belifusa Aqua Bomb Sleeping Mask is the thicker, mask equivalent of the Aqua Bomb Cream. Not my cup of tea as my skin type doesn’t really need hydrating masks most days, but again, very pleasant, and leaves you with a glowy sheen when you wake up. —
@drunkelephant ‘s Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser got the job done. It has a nice lather, removed a fair portion of my makeup, and felt nice on the skin. While not life changing for myself personally, if this is a product that appeals to you, I don’t think you’ll have any regrets in picking it up. For myself though, the cleanser is where I spend the smallest portion of my skincare budget unless it’s packed with AHAs and BHAs, so I’ll probably be sticking to more affordable options for my first cleanse. Drunk Elephant always kills it with their bright, happy packaging though!

EMPTIES: Glo Skin Beauty Oil Control Emulsion and Physicians’ Formula Killer Curves Mascara

Recreating the goldfish cracker meme but with empty products and this is the look I got 😂 In all honesty I’m mad because my cat’s hair is the softest thing in the world, and no matter how many bougie hair masks I use mine will simply never compare.

Anyways,

E M P T I E S
@physiciansformula Killer Curves Mascara: A bit clumpy when you first start using it, but what mascara isn’t? I think this made my lashes look quite nice and I have no complaints! I liked the metallic packaging because it’s easy to find on my dark dresser counter when I’m doing my makeup while visually impaired in the mornings.

@gloskinbeauty Oil Control Emulsion: A very light-weight, hydrating product perfect for excessively oily skin. It did mattify me a little in the mornings and gave me a bit of hydration. I liked to use this during the day when I wanted to be a little less shiny, and then used heavier hydrators and moisturizers at night when I don’t give a damn what I look like. 60mL lasted me quite a long time, and I would use again.

Finished Five: My Impression of First Impressions, Glo-Minerals, Saje, ZO by Zein Obagi, Hylamide, and Kat Von D, and questionable ethics of skincare companies

I want to give a genuine opinion of a product once I know how it works on my skin type through and through, and that is why I’ve started waiting until I entirely finish a product before discussing it. Of course this doesn’t work for items like eyeshadow palettes or powder bronzers, because I don’t think I know anyone who has ever entirely hit pan on every single shade in an eyeshadow palette, but for just about everything else, it does. Particularly for items like skincare and foundation, it’s really essential to see how the product performs over time, especially when you’ve got oily, acne-prone skin like mine.

I understand that many bloggers and Youtubers like to do “First Impressions” because it lets their viewers and readers know that they’ve purchased a product and will be testing it out further, and also because it is easy and quick content to throw out there. I used to watch First Impressions videos back when they first became popular, but I never really understood the purpose of them. Having someone use a product once, or not even use it, but just swatch it, does nothing for me. I can do that online or in a store by simply looking at a product or poking it. If I really want an influencer’s opinion I want a hearty, meaty review. I want them to have used the product for weeks and know all of its strong-sides and weaknesses, I want them to know exactly how to utilize the product, I want wear-tests with different primers, I want before and afters when applicable. I want, well, actual content and an actual review. So while I understand why folks do create “First Impressions” content and can’t really blame them for doing so, First Impressions are of no use to me, so I will continue to review fully-finished and mostly-finished products when possible from here on out.

For myself as well, I’ve found that only reviewing (most) products after fully finishing them has been good for my own product consumption and my skin. If I know I can’t post a review until a product is fully finished, I’m more likely to focus in on that cleanser or toner or foundation and use it consistently until it is all gone. This is way better for my skin than jumping from product to product within a week, and confusing and stressing my skin. I still have a slightly excessive collection of skincare, but in using up products one at a time I’ve been able to rein in this hoard a fair bit.

Finally, here are my most recent Finished Five!

Recap of my skin type:
-Olive, oily, hormonal acne-prone (PCOS), mid-20’s
-White heads and blackheads, rarely have cystic acne
-Redness in T-zone
-Dry hands and legs

  1. Name: Saje carrot nourishing mango & shea body butter
    Price: CAD $24.95
    Size: 200mL/6.8 fl oz
    Cruelty-Free and “Natural”

    The carrot and patchouli scent of this product seems strange at first, but it changes once applied to the body and ends up smelling really great. I always seem to get compliments on how I smell when I wear this! It’s super thick, hydrating, and isn’t irritating unless you’re applying it over razor burn. I LOVE the product itself (and a decent portion of Saje’s other products as well), but I’ve got beef with the packaging of this product. You’ll notice in the picture above that my lid (shiny brown in colour) is different than the matte black lid displayed on the website. This is not only because Saje finally revamped the packaging of their body line (Great move, imo!), but because the original shiny lids were actually cutting people’s hands. I can vouch for this, as I got a lovely cut right along my palm from opening this, even though I knew about the dangers of the lid as I worked at a Saje at the time. I’m happy that Saje would give refunds for people who had been cut by the lid with no questions asked, but very unhappy that they continued to sell this product that was literally slicing open people’s palms instead of recalling it. Even after receiving the new, re-branded carrot body butters, stores were still told to sell through the old ones first. Not impressed by that! If you do decide to purchase this product make sure you go in-store and pick up one with the matte-black lid. I doubt that many stores still have the shiny-lidded versions in stock as it has been a few months since the rebranded products appeared online, but just in case, avoid the shiny-lidded ones at all costs.
    Will I repurchase? I’ve purchased two of these in the past, but there are other body moisturizers out there, and I’m on the fence about whether or not I will continue to purchase from Saje as I’m a little rattled by the company’s ethics and how they treat their employees (pressure to maintain a specific diet when working in the store, company culture tools and products that appropriate other cultures, etc.) Saje does a lot of great things, but in my my mind I’m grappling over whether or not these good things outweigh the bad things, for myself personally.
  2. Name: Deciem Hyladmide High-Efficiency Face Cleaner Balancing Face Cleaner and Makeup Remover
    Price: CAD $21.00
    Size: 120mL/4 fl oz
    This is about the fourth or fifth bottle of this cleanser I’ve gone through. It’s a strange gel consistency that gets somewhat milky as you lather it up, and it leaves a slight residue after you wash it off. I found with this cleanser that it didn’t strip my skin, and the residue can easily be wiped off with a towel. It’s an excellent makeup remover and can be used on eye makeup as well. HOWEVER, I do not support Brandon Truaxe (founder of Deciem) and what he has been publicly doing on Deciem’s Instagram accounts these past few months. I don’t want to go into detail about it here as I am not the best authority on this situation, but Truaxe fired a number of important members of the Deciem team who genuinely loved the company and were doing incredible things for the company and its social media. Truaxe then took over their Instagram account and has been posting painfully transparent and often aggressive content. Not only has he been tastelessly roasting customers in the comments section (which I am fine with regular people joking around and clapping back when people target them, but not with brand’s attacking their consumers, as it is unprofessional imo) but he has posted Anti-Semitic jokes and other harmful comments. I ethically do not feel okay supporting Deciem and its umbrella of brands (The Ordinary, NIOD, Hylamide, etc.) anymore. I’m not okay with Anti-Semitism, targeting customers, or taking over a company Instagram for your own personal, unprofessional joyride. This is unfortunate, because The Ordinary produces many affordable, incredible skincare products that are widely recommended in online skincare communities. I just don’t feel comfortable supporting Brandon Truaxe anymore though, and will not be repurchasing any products from Deciem as I use them up. We as consumers have the power to voice our concerns of ethics and what sort of behaviour we endorse with how and where we spend our money, and I think it is ever-so-incredibly important to remember that and practice that when we are able to.
    Will I repurchase? No.
  3. Name: Glo Minerals Pressed Base in Beige Dark
    Price: CAD $63.00
    Cruelty-Free
    Size: 9.9g/0.35 oz
    I have so much love for this pressed base. It’s the only powder foundation since high school that I’ve actually entirely hit pan on. It feels great, you can build it up to be foundation on its own or use it on your oily spots after liquid foundation. It just looks really smooth. If there is one thing you ever buy from Glo, buy the pressed base! It works well on my oily skin but also works well on the dry clients at my workplace.
    Will I repurchase? I already have! But in a shade more suitable for summer.
  4. Name: Zo Skin Health by Zein Obagi Oclipse Sunscreen + Primer SPF 30
    Price: CAD $75.00
    Cruelty-Free (non-prescription ZO products are not tested on animals, apparently!)
    Size: 30mL/1 fl oz.
    Honestly it’s not a bad primer! While it’s not super mattifying or pore filling, it does a good job as a general primer and I like the added SPF 30 aspect (but keep in mind you would need to apply some sort of sunscreen over your makeup every 90 minutes after initial application to keep your skin genuinely protected). The one I used was not full-sized as it came in one of their older kits, it was half sized (15mL). The packaging is really sleek, especially with how the pump pops up when you twist the cap. However, the way the pump is positioned in relation to the cap makes getting product out a little difficult closer to the end. The product itself isn’t clear, it does appear to have a bit of a tint, but this tint did not show up on my olive toned skin. Overall I think the product is great, but the packaging could use a bit of improvement.
    Would I repurchase? At the moment I have a lot of other primer and sunscreen options I’d like to use up, but I could definitely see myself using this again in the future.
  5. Name: Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Lolita II
    Price: CAD $24.00
    Size: 6.6mL/0.22 oz
    Cruelty-Free and Vegan
    I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with the Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks. They’re not the most drying as liquid lipsticks come, but they are still a liquid lipstick at the end of the day and are still a fair bit drying. Lolita II is a lovely little terra cotta nude, and this was a favourite summer work shade for me for awhile. I only had a travel sized one (about half of the full size) and despite using it several times a week for a number of months I was not able to use it all up before it expired. If you do want this, I recommend getting the smaller Lolita duo rather than the full-sized full-priced Lolita II.
    Would I repurchase again? I’m not really feeling liquid lipsticks as of late, but I may eventually purchase it in lipstick bullet form when I reduce my lipstick hoard a bit.

Thanks for reading through this lengthier than normal Finished Five! Have you finished any products lately that you genuinely love or despise? I’m curious to hear what everyone is using.

Finished Five: OleHenriksen, TooFaced Melted Matte, Atelier Cologne, Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Concealer, Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Cream

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  1. Name: Ole Henriksen Transforming Walnut Scrub
    Price: CAD $34.00
    Size: 3 oz. 
    Cruelty-Free and Vegan
    For the longest time I loved this scrub. This is my second tube that I’ve used up, and I just love the satisfying feeling of scrubbing the heck out of my face. However, the more I look into exfoliating the more I realize that I’m probably doing a fair bit of damage with this physical scrub, as the walnut chunks vary in size and shape and may be causing micro-tears in my skin. However, if you really like physical scrubs, the smell of this is divine!
  2. Name: Too Faced Melted Matte Liquified Matte in Queen B
    Price: $CAD 25.00
    Size: 0.4 oz/11.8mL
    Like any liquid lipstick out there, this one is a smidge drying, although nothing unbearable. This liquid lipstick will last all day no matter what the weather. I wore this formula for 14+ hours at Osheaga the week I purchased it, in hot, humid, sweaty conditions, and it still looked half decent by the end of the evening. This particular shade is a perfect, soft mauve, and I wore this to work nearly every day Summer 2015. I didn’t quite finish this tube, but after nearly three years (24 months past the suggested expiration period) the smell had changed and I figured I better toss it for sanitary reasons.
  3. Name: Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Concealer in Light-Medium Neutral
    Price: $31.00
    Size: 0.34 oz/10mL
    This concealer is a very light, thin, liquidy formula. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it. It got the job done, although isn’t really ideal for oily skin. Medium coverage, felt light on my under eyes, didn’t break me out, and lasted about a year.
  4. Name: Atelier Cologne Clementine California Cologne Absolue
    Price: CAD $32.00 to CAD $225.00
    Size: Varies
    I received this scent as a deluxe sample and loved it so much that I ordered the actual product, and selected it as another sample when I ordered the full-sized product. It’s light and citrusy, and immediately reminds me of summertime, which is nice when you’re stuck in the midst of a miserable Saskatchewan winter. I’m a fan of each of Atelier Cologne’s scents, and have been hoarding their deluxe samples for years.
  5. Name: Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Cream
    Price: CAD $49.00
    Size: 0.47 oz/14.50mL
    Keeping in mind that I am a 23-year-old with minimal “anti-aging” eye area concerns, I really enjoyed this eye cream. It’s like rubbing a fluffy little baby cloud underneath your eyeballs, I swear to god. It kept my under eyes soft, happy, and hydrated, and that’s all I could ask for. Skyn Iceland’s tagline is “Solutions for Stressed Skin”, and I think that their products would be great for those living in Saskatchewan-esque climate as it seems really similar to Iceland’s climate from what I’ve read. We both have very harsh, drying winters in which maintaining hydrated, non-irritated skin is very difficult. I ordered a few more products from Skyn Iceland during the Sephora VIB sale and I’m looking forward to testing them out!

Biophora Acne/Oily Skin Kit Test Run

On November 25th I started with the Biophora travel set I received from work, and took some before pictures to show what my acne looked like beforehand.

I had a fair bit of acne lingering on the lower half of my face above my lip, on my lower cheeks and jawline, and on my chin.

The kit itself contains their Bioactive Cleanser, Bioactive Solution, Bioactive Gel, Light Hydration, SPF 30, and Antibac Veil. It is recommended that the Bioactive Cleanser, Solution, and SPF 30 be used in the morning, with the Bioactive Cleanser, Bioactive Solution, Bioactive Gel, Light Hydration, and Antibac Veil. The Bioactive Gel is to be “used as tolerated”.

For myself, I found that my skin was too dry to simply go without a moisturizer in the morning routine, so I use the Light Hydration during the day as well. The Bioactive Gel was quite strong, so although I did try it in the morning as well, I cut back to every evening or every other evening. In the evenings too, I found that after the Bioactive Gel and Antibac Veil my skin stung slightly and felt really dry, so I put on additional moisturizing products as well.

After three weeks, my skin looked like this:

I think there have been slight improvements on my upper lip and chin, as well as my cheeks. Nothing drastic, but still a bit of a reduction. I really don’t mind this line. It is quite strong, so I definitely would not recommend it for those with acne and sensitive skin. In the winter it is far too drying though, so additional hydrators are needed. The smell of these products isn’t enjoyable or horrible. I don’t think these products alone would necessarily get rid of all of my acne, because a large portion of my acne can be blamed on PCOS hormonal imbalances, stress, and diet.

Out of all of these products, I would probably purchase the Bioactive Solution, the Bioactive Gel, and the SPF 30. The SPF 30 does wear quite well under my makeup, and has a nice consistency.

Highlighting Moisturizers: Tatcha vs. Doctor D. Schwab vs. Tarte

I’m so glad this dewy, moist face look is still so popular because when you have skin as oily as mine you can basically chuck some glitter on yourself and call it a day. It’s nice to use a highlighting moisturizing product when I go barefaced because I feel that it makes my oily skin look radiant rather than just greasy.

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I’ve tried three highlighting moisturizing products so far. I’ve also tried adding liquid highlighter to my foundation, but if I’m doing that extra step I may as well be efficient and have some nice moisturizing benefits thrown in. Here’s how these three compare in my eyes:

Most vibrant highlight: Tarte Brighter Days, followed by Doctor D. Schwab Flawless Skin Fluid. If you’re looking for a more subtle glow, Tatcha is a great option. It’s not marketed as a highlighting moisturizer, but it does have 23 karat gold bits in it to make you beam without going into Edward Cullen territory.

Lightest consistency: Tatcha Pore Perfecting Water Gel Moisturizer. It’s a very thin, liquid moisturizer that melts right down into the skin. When my skin is really dry, I do need to apply a second round to feel quenched. Flawless Skin Fluid is a smidge thicker, and Tarte Brighter Days comes closest to a runny cream consistency.

Most expensive: Tatcha pulls ahead with the most expensive price tag at $78 CAD. Schwab again is the middle man coming in at $48 CAD, with Brighter Days costing $42 CAD. However, with Tatcha and Tarte you do get 50mL, but with Schwab you only get 30mL.

Featured ingredients: Tatcha utilizes Japanese Wild Rose to reduce the appearance of pores, and 23 karat gold to boost your glow factor. The Flawless Skin Fluid features one of my favourite ingredients, Rosehip Oil. Not only does Rosehip Oil smell divine, but it is known to help reduce scarring and hyperpigmentation.  My tube leaked all over my purse while travelling in B.C., lucky me.  Tarte doesn’t really plug any specific ingredients in their marketing, other than “water” and “mineral pigments” to moisturize and soothe skin appearance.

Out of them all, I probably love the Tatcha Water Gel Moisturizer the most, for it’s ability to keep my oily skin hydrated without going into that greasy, discoball moisturizer type category. I also adore the healing properties that the Flawless Skin Fluid has, and its comforting rosehip scent.Watch out for the packaging though, as the screw on lid makes leakage probable. Though I didn’t have a problem with the Tarte Brighter Days moisturizer, I would never actually purchase it. I received it as a deluxe sample from Sephora, and have mixed it in with my foundation, but it doesn’t really wow me or do anything substantial for my skin or my appearance. For the steep-ish price, it just didn’t seem quite worth it to me with better options available. I may be biased because I don’t tend to go for cream moisturizers, no matter how thin they are, because of my oily skin (with Tatcha Water Cream being the ONLY exception, but that’s another story). All in all, I’d say they are all decent options! I definitely need to look into more affordable options. I’ve seen that E.L.F. has come out with a lot of skin care products lately, so that is next on my wishlist!